The Truth That Troubles Me

by Jeff Butler
Program Director, Adoption Ministry 1:27

The Truth:
We as Christians believe in and worship an all-powerful, perfect, loving and gracious God.
We as Christians today are part of the richest church in the history of Christianity.
We Christians live in a world that is experiencing the greatest global human suffering.
How can these truths co-exist? How can there be an all-powerful loving God, limitless in strength, knowledge, resources and compassion, yet 1,000 children die every hour from starvation and preventable diseases? 
There’s no lack of power or compassion within God’s heart!  The truth that troubles me is what I discovered within my own heart - this is where I found the biggest problem!  You, I, and the rest of the church are Christ’s hands, feet, arms, eyes and ears on planet earth. We have been given His Holy Spirit therefore we have everything we need to make a global impact.
I was serving as a pastor of a community church a few years ago. I was invited to go to Ethiopia along with a YWAM missions team to visit and serve at their Widows and Orphans Homes.  I had no idea why I was going, but I really believed God wanted me to go. The suffering and loss of the poor - people just like me - shattered my heart. Global poverty and suffering became more real and personal. I came back burdened but unclear about what I was to do about it.
Since then I have been back to Ethiopia five times. My wife and I have adopted three children from YWAM’s orphanages. I helped lead a church mission team to serve with churches in Ethiopia.  I was reading books such as The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns, and Radical by David Platt. God was schooling me. Each trip I took to Ethiopia, I would see more of the bigger picture - what causes poverty, widows and orphans.  
Orphan Care: I saw the work being done to care for widows and orphans. Most of us realize this is our biblical mandate found in James 1:27:  “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”  YWAM has four Widows and Orphans Homes in Ethiopia where widows and children are lovingly cared for, both in the homes and in the surrounding communities.
Nystrand fam
Orphan Reduction: Next I saw the need to reduce the number of orphans in the world through the God-originated idea of adoption. My wife and I had already adopted four children domestically before my trip to Ethiopia so I totally got this one! Orphan reduction though adoption. The minute an orphan is adopted, they become a son or a daughter!
I felt there was something more that needed to be done. I believe God gave me a picture of the crisis to help me understand at a deeper level. I pictured a poor struggling family, like many single-parent families I had encountered in Ethiopia, standing on the bank of a raging river when a crisis occurs. The mother, trying to hold the family together, loses her grip and the children slide off into the raging river. The mother desperately tries to save them but can’t. Downstream, on the bank, are some people that reach out and try to grab hold of some of these children before they go over the impending waterfall and are lost.

This is a true story that is occurring everyday in our world!  When these families, mostly held together by a single parent, fall apart though death, disease or starvation, the children fall into the most perilous of circumstances. They live on the streets where they fend for themselves without protection from abuse and exploitation. Many simply don’t make it.

Some are rescued by those downstream. They may end up being cared for in orphanages and a few are adopted. Should we simply wait and if it’s not too risky, or too costly, or too uncomfortable, to maybe reach out to a few to try and pull them out?  But what about those who don’t get a family? What about those who don’t get a meal or a shelter?
God was already moving to answer the question that lay heavy upon my heart and it seemed that He had laid this burden on a few others of the YWAM Leadership Team. God was also moving to connect the YWAM team with local Ethiopian churches to birth a new work… 
Orphan Prevention: We as the Body of Christ need to come alongside vulnerable families and help to sustain them so that their children don’t become orphans. This can’t be a government solution, or a parachurch solution; it needs to be a local church solution: Orphan Prevention through the local church!
In September of 2011 Adoption Ministry of YWAM Ethiopia launched a new work known as Adoption Ministry 1:27 to partner with the Ethiopian Church to care for widows and orphans. We have developed partnerships with several indigenous Ethiopian churches to care for vulnerable families in some of the poorest regions of Ethiopia where we launched the “Adopt a Family” Program.  Local church pastors identify the poorest, most vulnerable families in their communities – either single-parent families on the verge of collapse or guardian families who are willing to take in orphaned children but need financial help to do so.  We seek those who will “adopt” one of these families for $40 per month. 100% of the money goes in-country to Ethiopia to run the program and care for each family with food, medical care and help with income-generating activities. 
I have visited many of these families who have been adopted through Adoption Ministry 1:27 and have seen radical transformation, revitalized health and renewed hope. 
Waganesh prog
The truth that troubled me is being used to transform me.  You and I, the Church, are God’s answer!  Let’s start being the Church.  We need to get off our comfortable spot on the bank of the river, swim upstream and wrap our arms around a vulnerable family to sustain and support them. 

Jeff Butler serves as Program Director for Adoption Ministry 1:27 and is also on the board of Adoption Ministry.  He and his wife, Chris, have adopted three children from Ethiopia.

If you would like to ‘Adopt a Family’ or just want more information about Adoption Ministry 1:27, please contact us at:

Also, please check out our latest AM 1:27 newsletters:

The Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit is coming up on May 3-4 at Saddleback Church in southern California.  There you can hear Dennis Rainey, Francis Chan, Rick and Kay Warren and many other great speakers address orphan care and God’s heart for the orphan.  Click on the photo below for more information!