By Kevin Squires | Senior Director of Church Partnerships
From the Dressing Room to a Playground Legend
I remember the day well. It was a hot and humid August day in the mid-1980’s. I was in elementary school, and my mom had taken me back-to-school shopping at K-Mart, where she guaranteed that, “All the cool kids buy their clothes at K-Mart.”
Don’t judge me.
After all, it was the 1980’s.
Being a boy, I could care less about fashion. I knew my place in a store like K-Mart. My mom would buy me a cherry Icee, and I would sit in the dressing room, stripped down to my underwear, and wait for her to toss shirts and pants over the door for me to try on.
But for some reason that year, things didn’t go the way they had always gone. Pants were tighter. Shirts didn’t button the way they use to. As the clothes flew over the door, I tossed them right back because what kind of boy can keep his gut sucked in for an entire school day.
Eventually, as the ping ponging of clothes over the door began to slow down, it happened. She said it. It was a new word to my limited third grade vocabulary. “I’ll try some of the ‘Husky’ sizes,” she said.
“Husky?” I thought. After a brief pause, I said, “Mom, what does ‘husky’ mean?” For a short moment, no one answered. Apparently, she had already darted to the husky section. Then, from the next dressing room over, a boy not-so-graciously shouted, “It means you’re getting fat!”
My shoulders slumped. Sadly, I slurped my cherry Icee and thought, “Husky sounds so much better than fat.”
As school started up in the coming weeks, I decided to confidently wear husky well. I daily took my husky self to the playground and quickly realized I kicked farther and threw harder than anyone else. Sure, I ran a bit slower, but hey, there ain’t no shame in the game!
That year, a new game was introduced to my class during recess. We called it Red Rover. Two teams, standing 10 yards apart, joined hand in hand, staring each other down as if we were on the frontlines of battle. For third graders, it was battle. One team would yell, “Red Rover, Red Rover, Send Bobby right over!” Bobby would let go of his team’s hands and would charge over to the other team like a bat out of hell trying to break through the clasped hands of the weakest link. If he broke through, he could select a member from that team to join his team. If he failed to break the human chain, he would have to join that team.
When it came to playing Red Rover, my newfound husky girth pretty much elevated me to an Olympic athlete! Straight to the pros! No third grader could break my clotheslining grasp, and no one dared to call my “husky butt” right over! When it came to Red Rover… when it came to crashing through the clasped hands of little people, I had quickly become a husky, playground legend.
Fast-forward to the present day, for I understand my story is vanishing as we get farther away from the 80’s and 90’s. Due to an ungodly amount of skinned knees, clotheslined necks, and concussions, teachers and school boards all around the country decided to kick Red Rover to the curb. But the game will always live on in infamy.
Red Rover and the Church
All this to say … I want to bring Red Rover back.
Now, calm down teachers and school administrators! Before you threaten detention, hear me out. I want to bring it back … to the Church.
Recently, I spoke at a church for Orphan Sunday, a day where churches and orphan advocates raise awareness of the global orphan crisis. The Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO) estimates there are approximately 150 MILLION orphans in the world today (not including street kids and children living in orphanages). Of that number, roughly 18 million children have lost both parents, and around 132 million have one parent who is unable/unwilling to care for them, often due to extreme poverty, medical issues, women’s rights, or other international justice issues.
Due to mega million lotteries, CEO salaries, and insane sports contracts, we are becoming more and more desensitized to the value of the word ‘million.’ To help put 150 million orphans in perspective, and to bring some humanity and understanding to that number, if we formed a separate country with all of these children, this newly formed country would start out on day one as the 9th most populated country in the world, edging out Russia (142 million) who would fall to 10th. That country would also have more people than France, Spain, and Canada combined (total of 146 million).
Crazy, isn’t it? All that got me thinking. What if these children, these 150 million orphans, joined hands and stretched out across the globe? How far would it reach? After a quick calculation, I soon realized the human chain would circle the globe … 5 times.
I don’t tell you this to embellish or sensationalize the problem. I tell you this because … we need to bring Red Rover back to the Church. A 125,000-mile chain of 150 million orphans is standing across from the church crying out, “Red Rover, Red Rover, Send the Church Right Over.”
Now is the time to break through the human chain of orphans that is circling our world. Fortunately, God gifted the Church with the means (dare I say, Huskiness) to break the chain and care for those in need. He gave us His Spirit, which makes the impossible, possible. He gave us the Body of Christ, which reaches communities all around the world. And He gave us this declaration in James 1:27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
Breaking Free the Human Chain of Orphans
So, how and where do we start? A recent article by the Christian Alliance for Orphans titled, “Understanding Orphan Statistics,” suggested 3 key areas of focus in orphan care:
- Preserving Families. Work with at-risk families before separation occurs. This expands orphan care to include getting involved in poverty alleviation, global health, community health, education, gospel training, etc.
- Reuniting Families. Whenever it can be done safely and responsibly, we must seek to reunite families that have been separated by poverty, injustice, war, natural disasters, etc.
- Expanding Families. When birth parents have died or are unwilling/unable to provide adequate care for their child, we must work quickly to place children in permanent, loving families.
By focusing on these three areas, the Spirit-empowered Church can blast through the human chain of the orphan crisis. And as the Church breaks through, children will break free and find homes and families.
Church, we need to bring Red Rover back. 150 million children are calling our name. Now that our ears are tuned to hear their cries, it’s time to run towards them.