In my time of living on the celestial sphere, I, Jesse Rivers, have witnessed a lot of horrific tragedies and traumatic situations around the world, personally and through observation. It is almost impossible to try to fully and accurately depict in words many of these realities and their impacts on the population of the earth. In the last couple of years the coronavirus pandemic has drastically and very traumatically impacted life all around the globe. Its impact has been devastating in many ways, beyond just the physical impact.
By far the worst tragedy that I have ever witnessed in my lifetime though, is what I call the ‘Age-Out Pandemic’. Unfortunately this pandemic is even more hidden to the eyes and conscience of most people, as its effects are so much more long-term and so much less visible to the naked eye. If we were honest, without bias and self-interest, this should be the very first pandemic we should be attacking for the preservation and blessing of humanity overall.
With the coronavirus and many other health pandemics, the consequences and effects manifest themselves quite quickly and visibly. When you have, or know someone who has, a sore throat, shortness of breath, fever, or any other of the manifestations of a health pandemic, there are usually solutions available; visit a doctor, go to the hospital, if you feel so inclined to get vaccinated there usually are vaccines available, have a doctor visit you, check online for symptoms and ways to treat them, etc. However, with the ‘Age-Out Pandemic’, the problem is that the effects of this pandemic do not manifest themselves very visibly, at least not immediately. For this pandemic, there is no vaccine and too few people have been willing and/or committed to help with the cure for this problem.
Here I would like to define what I mean by the ‘Age-Out Pandemic’. In much of the world, for far too long, the church has failed greatly in one of the most important calls of God for His people. James 1:27 tells us that God considers pure and faultless ‘religion’ to be the act of, and commitment to, caring for the children who are orphaned and the lives of those who are widowed. I personally believe that this call is not just for the technically orphaned children, but also those in vulnerable situations as well. The responsibility to care for vulnerable and orphaned children should lie directly in the hands of true God-followers, no matter how challenging and inconvenient that may be. However, over the last several centuries, the responsibility of care for these children has been handed over to governments and institutions to handle. The reality is that institutionalization and benefit and gain from these children’s lives have dominated our response to the children’s needs. Due to the institutionalization of so many children, the accepted process of working with these children has become to solely focus on their childhood and adolescence, rather than their lives a whole. When a child in foster care, orphanages, or children’s homes comes to age as an adult, they “age-out” of the system, and no longer have stability, support, or any system of connection on which to rely. This process of ‘age-out’ has become an accepted way of ‘dealing’ with these children. However, the vast majority of these children who now have become adults do not have the stability, love, and nurture consistent in their lives, and a staggering percentage will not live a productive and wholesome life. Their lives are negatively impacted by the disconnection and, if I may be so bold to say so, ostracization from community to an extent most of us will never be able to fully comprehend. If I can be honest, we set them up to fail, and I believe we have more responsibility for their failure than we are willing to admit. To make matters worse, we have allowed for this systemic pandemic to penetrate the entire globe. This is the ‘Age-Out Pandemic”, that I truly believe is ruining way more lives than any other pandemic or tragedy of any time. I will acknowledge here that some institutions have started focusing on the successful transition to independence for the children once they become adults, but this too falls short of what I believe God has called His people to be about.
Imagine, if you would, that your own son, Pete, turns 18 years old, and all of the sudden he no longer is allowed to have communication, encouragement, financial help, or any sort of support from you. The bonds formed in Pete’s life with you and the family are cut off, and now he is expected to just thrive on his own as an adult. He no longer has an address, home, family, nor any real sense of connectivity and stability. Is this really the manner in which you believe Pete should be treated? In my heart I know that the majority of people will say NO. We would never want to treat our sons and daughters in this way. So I want to ask why it has been ok that this has been our approach and system to work with ‘other’ children for so very long worldwide?
Statistical evidence has shown very clearly that if only 7-10% of professing Christians would step up, if churches would each step up, and help just one child to have a life-long family and life-long home, we could eradicate the need for foster care, orphanages, and children’s homes, as well as to clear the streets of children who have had to resort to living in them. We would mitigate gangs and improve overall society. You can call me idealistic, but it is a statistical truth. The problem is that too many are too worried about the current system being changed, and that the ‘funding’ would stop for those said systems. To me, that would be a true miracle and success, if we rose up as true Christ-followers, and strove to change the plight and scenarios of so many precious children. Would it be easy? No. Would it be quick? No. Would it be messy and hard. Yes. Would it be worth it? Yes! A thousand times YES!! Sooo, there is good news! We can do something about this! Let us be that generation that rises up and does not settle for mediocrity. Let us be a people who wholeheartedly embrace God’s heart and call for us to care for these precious children! LET US BE THE DIFFERENCE THAT THEY NEED!!
Having myself lived through abuse and neglect, and then through the foster care system, I personally have experienced the age-out pandemic. I am not bitter about it, nor am I a victim. Fortunately, my intimate love relationship with God and His provision of so many people around me who have cared and shared in my journey have enabled me to lead a productive and successful life. However, I have witnessed and experienced personally the reality of disconnectedness, brokenness, and destruction that our current system of institutionalization and aging-out worldwide causes for so many vulnerable and orphaned children. Praise God that this is not just my opinion or perspective, but is a worldwide movement that is gaining a lot of traction. Many globally are joining a cause of breaking down institutionalization and ending the age-out system, the age-out pandemic! Click here to see even more!
It is time for those who truly follow God to rise up and choose His model for these precious children, a life-long model for genuine home and family, stability and love. May we truly be about His heart! Each child, no matter how challenging or extreme their situation may be, deserves the opportunity to know life-long family, life-long home, and the opportunity to be able to become productive participants and contributors to society. I know that it is seldom easy, and requires great commitment and sacrifice, but I know that we can eradicate the ‘Age-Out Pandemic’, stop the institutionalization of dear children, and that we can bless society and each other so much more when we embrace and care for these children, to truly get to know their life-long family, life-long home, and to have opportunities for learning and growth! Will you join us in this fight? Check out our website here, and see how you can best get involved! Join us today!