On Orphan Sunday, 201 churches in all 82 counties of Mississippi will come together to pray for orphans around the world and for each foster child in every county of Mississippi.
Since 2002, churches around the world have been uniting on one day with one voice and one purpose for vulnerable children. With 400,000+ children in US foster care and 15+ million orphans worldwide who’ve lost both parents, hundreds of churches will echo a united message across 85 nations on Orphan Sunday, November 11th, 2018. On this day, Christians worldwide and here in Mississippi will celebrate God’s special love for orphaned and foster children – and what ordinary people can do to put that love into action.
Churches of every denomination across every county of Mississippi will join together through prayer, sermons and various other activities to bring awareness to the plight of orphan and foster children. These special events, prayers, and activities on Orphan/Stand Sunday invite families and individuals of all ages to consider adoption, foster care, and support for orphaned and foster children around the world and here in Mississippi.
Bethel Baptist Church (Senior Pastor, Darby Combs) in Brandon MS is joining the celebration on Sunday, November 11th by having Chris Gray, Founder and Executive Director, of Zacchaeus’ Tree Orphan and Adoption Ministry to bring a message on adoption and what the church can do to support orphans, adoptees, foster children and their families. Jerri Strickland, a social worker with 20+ years of adoption experience, with New Beginnings Adoption Agency, will be on hand to answer questions from families about how to begin the process of domestic and international adoptions. Also, a representative from Mississippi Child Protection Services will also be available to answer questions about how individuals and families can begin the foster process here in Mississippi.
Chris Gray and his wife, Andrea, have two adopted girls. The Gray’s adopted their first daughter, Hannah Claire, in February 2009 from St. Petersburg, Russia. The Gray’s adopted their second daughter, Ava, in March 2016 from Warsaw, Poland. Adoption has been a part of Chris’ family for more than 30+ years as his relatives adopted his cousin’s through international adoption, domestic adoption, and through foster care (Wednesday’s Child on WLBT).
The Impact of Growing Up Without a Family
Every day 39,000 orphans age out of the system that they are in without a mother, a father, a family, or place to call home. These orphans and foster children who age out of the organization they are in, are far more vulnerable to sex and human trafficking, prostitution, and homelessness. Children in orphanages are subject to human and sex trafficking 10x more than other children. Globally, an estimated 15+ million orphan children have lost both parents, and countless others on the streets due to abandonment.
Hundreds of events worldwide
The Orphan Sunday campaign, led by the Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO), and Chris Gray, regional coordinator, in Mississippi has helped grow the vision of Orphan and Stand Sunday around the world. Currently, there are over 1,560 churches participating in the 2018 Orphan Sunday/Stand Sunday campaign. Gray says, “Those numbers will continue to grow both nationally and here in Mississippi with engaged churches supporting the movement.” Gray had one goal and dream in mind for the 2018 OS/SS campaign. Gray’s dream was to
have at least one church represented in all 82 counties of Mississippi to join collectively to pray orphans and every foster child in Mississippi on Orphan Sunday/Stand Sunday!
In 2017, Gray organized 30 Mississippi churches to pray and hold services on Orphan Sunday. Gray states that four families came forward during the 2017 Orphan & Stand Sunday campaign to begin the adoption and foster care process. In 2018, Gray and his team at Zacchaeus’ Tree Orphan & Adoption Ministry along with the help of, Sabrea Smith and Samantha Crimm, at Rescue 100, as well as many other family and friends have organized 201+ churches of all denominations in all 82 counties to pray for and hold adoption services remembering these vulnerable children. As of July 2018, there were 5,243 children in the custody of MS Department of Child Protection Services.
The Orphan/Stand Sunday campaign propels hundreds of events across America on the second weekend of each November. A list of registered Orphan Sunday churches and events is available here: https://cafo.org/orphansunday/check-in/.
“The size and depth of the orphan crisis around the world and the foster care need here in Mississippi is of a gigantic size but I also know my God once used a small boy to take down a giant named, Goliath and I believe that God can do it again by using any family here in Mississippi who will make themselves available to make a difference in the life of these children, especially for each Mississippi foster child. My ultimate dream would be to flip flop these numbers to 5,243 waiting families here in Mississippi.”
The website www.orphansunday.org serves as a hub for the Orphan Sunday campaign, offering event ideas, downloadable materials and ways individuals can partner with orphan-serving organizations to hold local events. The first Orphan Sunday was held in a small church in Zambia, Africa, where the local pastor urged his church to share what little they had with local children who had been orphaned by AIDS. The church responded with immense generosity, and some even removed their own shoes as gifts for orphans.
In February 2009, Gray organized his first Orphan Sunday service at his father’s church, Dr. Ricky Gray, in Flowood MS. While living in Knoxville TN, leading churches in adoption awareness was constantly on Gray’s mind; however, it wasn’t until Gray and his family moved back to Mississippi in that things began to fall into place to put his dream into action. In November 2015 a speaking engagement at the Flowood Kiwanis’ Club ignited Gray’s vision. The Kiwanis’ Club speaking engagement prompted Gray to start, “Zacchaeus’ Tree Orphan and Adoption Ministry” to bring awareness to adoption, orphans, and foster care. Gray has spoken to over 75+ churches and civic clubs throughout Mississippi about adoption and orphan care.
Gray says, “Walking alongside families throughout their adoption journey has been one of the greatest privileges and blessing that our family gets to be a part of. Adoption and foster care is a total “faith journey” and my wife, Andrea, and I along with Hannah Claire and Ava want to help as many families as we can to experience the joy of adoption as much as we have.”
The Gray’s offer adoption grants via Zacchaeus’ Tree to Mississippi families through LifeSong for Orphans, which is 501c3 organization that manages their adoption fund. All donations are tax deductible and can be mailed to: LifeSong for Orphans, Attn: Rich Metcalf, P.O. Box 40, Gridley, IL 61744 and one will need to write in the memo line: Zacchaeus’ Tree Adoption Fund or Account Number: P562.
LifeSong for Orphans has helped establish and manage adoption funds for over 440+ churches across the United States free of charge and they manage five adoption funds here in Mississippi including “Hearts of Compassion” at Colonial Heights Baptist Church in Ridgeland, MS who will be hosting their annual 5K adoption race on Saturday, November 3rd.
Gray and his team at Zacchaeus’ Tree would appreciate your financial support to help other Mississippians be able to afford and experience the joy of adoption. If your church would like to be a part of Orphan Sunday & Stand Sunday, please contact Gray by phone on at Christopher.Gray1@yahoo.com. Gray would also love the opportunity to come speak at your church about adoption, foster care, and what your church can do to make an impact in the life of fatherless children. More information about Gray can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/zacchaeustreeadoptionministry/.
Here is a comprehensive list of churches and organizations participating in the 2018 Orphan Sunday/Stand Sunday campaign:
De Soto 2
Jefferson Davis 5
Pearl River 2