Zay Hong grew up in a remote village in Myanmar. His family was extremely poor, but they stayed together and struggled for a better life. There was hope until both of his parents became addicted to drugs. Psychological, physical and financial problems soon overwhelmed the parents. This all worked its way down to Zay who was living in an extremely unstable environment – right up to the day his parents finally abandoned him.

A few years ago, Titus (one of Agape’s partners in Myanmar) was visiting this village. Local residents knew Titus as a kind, generous, Christian man and they begged him to help. Titus brought Zay back to his home where he was welcomed by Titus’ family and the 15 other orphans who were growing up there.

Since that time, God has changed Zay’s life in amazing ways. Zay has gone from being abandoned to living in a safe home with a big, loving family. He was able to begin attending school where he quickly excelled. Instead of worrying about next meals or his safety, he now rides bikes and plays soccer. Most importantly, he went from never knowing Jesus to following Him and leading others in worship.

Zay’s story is an encouraging example of what can happen when loving leaders, a powerful God, and generous donors all band together to change lives.

His story also points to a few truths we’ve been learning:

 

1. The word “orphan” can mean lots of things. Regardless of definitions, we are called to love children who cannot care for themselves and need our help.

Once upon a time the word orphan referred to a child whose parents had both passed away. Then it broadened to include any child who has been left without any parents, no matter the cause. Today the word orphan can include:

    • double orphans (children who have lost both parents)
    • single orphans (children who have lost one parent)
    • social orphans (children who may have a living parent, but they are unable to provide adequate care). At Agape Asia, we refer to these as at-risk or vulnerable children. Zay is a social orphan because although his parents were both still living, they were unwilling and often unable to care for him as they should.

Regardless of the exact background situation, we know that God loves every child He has created and strongly wants to see helpless children nurtured.

 

2. Children grow best in families.

Families are the God-created environment within which children can learn and grow. When this is no longer possible because of death, illness, addictions, poor choices, etc. the number one solution is still family.

Sometimes Agape is able to work with single mothers or other relatives to keep children with their original families. We often hear stories of families who are considering abandoning their child not because they want to, but because they are unable to provide for their future. Poverty is always a factor, but this is usually combined with physical disabilities, social ostracism, etc. In these situations, Agape partners are able to restore and preserve families.

In other situations, Agape needs to place children in loving foster families. This Zay’s story. We are blessed to work with godly church leaders, husbands, and fathers like Titus who open their own homes up to orphans.

In a few extreme situations, children have nowhere to go and there are no suitable foster families in the area. In these relatively rare instances, children are able to live at one of our care centers where loving, Christian leaders ensure their care and provide as close to a family environment as they can. Several years ago, almost all of the orphans in Agape’s care lived at care centers. Today only 15% of our children live in care centers while the rest live in families.

 

3. Helping children goes beyond providing for the one child, it needs to include family units & entire communities.

Agape Asia is all about changing children’s lives. In over 25 years of doing this work, we’ve learned that the best answer to the problem of abandoned children is the Gospel. We desperately want our children to hear the Good News, but we know that the Gospel needs to transform entire communities if we ever hope to see change on a wider scale. That is why Agape is so excited about Community Sponsorship. Community Sponsorship allows our partners to continue changing children’s lives while also sharing the Gospel with everyone in the neighborhood. If we ever want to see a world with no more orphans, we need the Gospel to transform entire communities into places where families stay together, where addiction has no more power, and where everyone is thriving in the ways that God intended.

In fact, this is why Titus (our partner in Myanmar) originally visited Zay’s village. Several years ago, and still today, his hope is to share the Good News of Jesus with the entire village and see their lives changed. Today that is already happening in the life of one child, Zay. Pray with us that we will soon see it happening in his entire village as well!