I’ve never been much of a numbers girl. When my oldest started fractions, I decided it was time for me to hang up the math part of homeschooling and let the principal take over. But give me a calculator and I can figure some percentages. There’s a math problem I calculated not too long ago that deflated me like an elephant stepping on a balloon.

We were riding through a village in remote Kyrgyzstan. Dodging mud puddles that would take out a Monster Truck. Stopping for sheep to cross…or goats, cows, horses, kids. I inhaled the most beautiful landscape I’d ever seen.

The three rows of seats behind me bounced and weaved as little girls giggled and filled the air with nonstop Kyrgz. I threw my phone up in the air, holding it over my head, “SMILE” and they stopped just long enough to show me their whites. I looked at my phone, one of them had thrown me some deuces, another had her hand propped under her chin. Go ahead girl, you’re a model in my book!

Then their percentage hit me. Like a right hook in the nose. Where your eyes water no matter how hard you try to swallow the lump in your throat. 70%.  That’s how many would be dead or prostitutes by 18…how many of these girls would that be? Let me do the math for you. That’s 13 of the 19 girls that were in our van. And that was only our van. What about the others?

That’s 13 that won’t make it. Some of their bodies will be picked up off the streets, breathless, and thrown in a grave marked “unknown”. Some will spread their legs to any man that will throw a dollar their way, then put their clothes back on, only to have them off again when the next coin and zipper drops. Others will be snatched off the street and forced to sell their bodies, for sex or work. Or both.

That percentage is not much different from most countries. Every day kids are thrown to the streets with minimal education, an empty stomach, and a tattered heart. And we expect them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and “git r dun”.

Did you know that 40-50% of the kids in our foster system become homeless within 18 months of leaving foster care? And 80% of our prison population were in the foster system in America.

Just trading out one broken system for another.

It’s so easy to bypass them. The least of these. To scroll on by. To let the busyness of our every day, drown out the cries of the broken. To allow our indebtedness to dictate our offering. And so, we do.

But I can’t.

There was this one.  She had spent all day practicing her English with me. She waited to be the last one on the van. She wrapped her arms around me and squeezed tight. Barely taking a step back, her brown eyes fixed square on my blues. “Don’t forget me. I want to come to America one day. To your house. Don’t forget my name.”

I won’t forget. Her name. Her face. Her dreams.

I won’t forget the numbers that are stacked against her. What becomes of the orphan. Those streets that have carried too many lonely feet.

There are some things we don’t need to pray about.  Taking care of the orphan is one of them.

Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.  -Psalm 82:3

You cannot defend someone unless you are standing with them.

Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.  -Isaiah 1:17

You cannot take up the cause of someone without immersing yourself in their cause.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  -James 1:27

You cannot look after someone without drawing near to them.

Instead of praying “if” we should take care of the orphan, the real questions is “how”.  How do we defend, take up their cause, and look after them?

We will never do it by hoping that the next person steps in and does something.  We must be the one who rises to our feet and goes.  Who fixes our eyes on looking after the orphan.  Who steps in and says “no more”, these kids aren’t going to the street…or prison…or to an early grave.

My math problem is simple.  1 + 1= NONE

One child sponsored.  One child adopted.  One child mentored.  One child fostered.

Because when we all decide to help just one, there will eventually be none.

All pictures featured on this blog were taken by Travis McQueen. You can also find him on FB as well as Instagram.

You can read more about the work being done in Kyrgyzstan HERE by John and Julie.  Two of the finest people I’ve had the privilege to hang with!

If you’re interested in international adoption, a great place to start is Rainbow Kids.

For more information on fostering, you can go to your state’s government page and find details or contact your local Department of Children’s Services.  If you’re a Tennessean, you can find the info HERE.