No Orphans

Each year, our denomination sponsors a talent competition. It’s really got a two-fold purpose: to give kids a venue to use their gifts and talents in ministry and to offer the teen winners scholarships to our denomination’s colleges.

 

The event is an immense amount of work from procuring facilities and judges to networking the computers to providing mints and bottled water for the judges and volunteers. And from the very first year I was involved (five years ago), my boss cited my English degree and my music background as criteria for me to be a judge as well.

 

Thursday, I got an email from the coordinator of the judges with my judging assignment. I would be in the cafetorium (that’s a large stage at the end of the cafeteria), judging drama and dance for around a hundred 8 to 12-year-olds. I breathed a sigh of relief even as I read the email because after five years, I have found that I enjoy judging the juniors so much more than I enjoy judging the teens. Sometimes, it seems that the teens have forgotten the ministry aspect and they’ve forgotten the fun. To them, it’s a competition, pure and simple. It’s something to conquer—not something to enjoy. And it seems to me that it’s just that kind of attitude that sucks the life out of the program. But the juniors… Well, they are a different story altogether.

 

The juniors seemed to be having as much fun as usual today. Little girls in pink and purple tutu’s with sparkly bows sticking out of their ponytails flittered around the cafetorium, giggling. Little boys in faux shepherds’ frocks picked at their awkward headdresses and rolled their eyes at the little girls running around them. And one by one, each child or each group came to the stage and laid down their small offering of talent at the feet of Jesus, bowed with a smile, and skipped off the stage to the thunderous applause of devoted parents and pastors.

 

Now that I’ve worked here for five years, I know a few of the children. I’ve watched some of them grow and change, seemingly overnight, into young men and women. And so when one of our groups of girls came up to do a pantomime, I smiled at the three or four of them that I recognized. Twelve little girls stood before us in perfectly matching white ruffled blouses and starched black slacks. Nervous, yes, but also excited about what they had to offer to the audience. And then the music started.

 

Who here among us has not been broken?
Who here among us is without guilt or pain?
So oft’ abandoned by our transgressions
If such a thing as grace exists
Then grace was made for lives like this—

 

There are no strangers
There are no outcasts
There are no orphans of God—

So many fallen, but hallelujah!
There are no orphans of God!

 

I sat between our Emcee and another male judge and tried to stop the tears from running down my face, but I failed. I can still see the earnest faces of these girls—the little girl whose life has been forever altered by a diagnosis of juvenile diabetes and the little girls whose father has had to take a job that takes him away from the family traveling all week. And I could only imagine the stories behind the other intense expressions. Who knows but that any of them could be one of the abused or molested or neglected? And with determined and passionate faces, these girls stood unashamedly pantomiming.

 

Come ye unwanted and find affection
Come all ye weary, come and lay down your head
Come ye unworthy, you are my brother
If such a thing as grace exists
Then grace was made for lives like this

 

There are no strangers
There are no outcasts
There are no orphans of God—

So many fallen, but hallelujah!
There are no orphans of God!

 

I could hear parents, pastors, coaches, and judges sniffling all around me. I was afraid our tears were going to distract the girls onstage, but they weren’t distracted. They were resolute. And I knew right then that I was witnessing another evidence of the scripture that says that to enter the Kingdom of God, one must come as a little child. And, Oh Lord, I pray that you give me a heart like the ones I saw on those little faces!

 

O blessed Father, look down upon us
We are Your children, we need Your love
We run before Your throne of mercy
And seek Your face to rise above—

 

There are no strangers
There are no outcasts
There are no orphans of God—

So many fallen, but hallelujah!
There are no orphans of God!*

 

The competition was stiff and they didn’t win their category, but they weren’t a failure because God used them in that room. They ministered to us. To me. And to anybody else there—or here reading the story—that needs to be reminded that God sees us all as His children and that there are no orphans of God.

 

*Song, “Orphans of God” as sung by the Christian music group, Avalon.

About Sarah Salter

Comments

  1. From you description, I would have enjoyed being there. What an honor to be asked to judge the competition.

  2. Very beautiful.

  3. Just beautiful. I need to go listen to this song- sounds great. Thanks Sarah.

  4. Oh wow, that makes me cry

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