FRANKLIN, Tennessee (CNN) -- According to UNICEF, there are 143 million children in the world who have lost one or both parents.
Steven Curtis Chapman's youngest daughter, Maria, who died in May.
In America alone, there are half a million children in foster care, and approximately 120,000 of these children are waiting to be adopted. In many countries, children are too often orphaned or abandoned because of poverty, disabilities and disease; every 15 seconds, a child loses a parent because of AIDS. These are staggering facts that can seem overwhelming and discouraging, but I believe that God has a loving plan for each child, and that plan is you and me.
Caring for these children is not the job of governments or institutions; instead, it is the job of families, people and communities. As Christians, our compassion is simply a response to the love that God has already shown us. Mother Teresa would constantly remind those who worked with her that the Bible clearly teaches that whatever we do for the least of these, we do for Jesus. So in a very real sense, caring for orphans is a chance to meet the person of Jesus in "the guise of human suffering." This is an invitation from the heart of God to know him and to experience his love.
Nine years ago, my wife and my eldest daughter, Emily, traveled to Haiti on a mission trip. Having been exposed to extreme poverty for the first time, Emily returned home with a determined passion to make a difference in the lives of at-risk children.
Only 12 years old, Emily went on an all-out campaign to persuade us to adopt. She bought a book on international adoption with her Christmas money and would read it to us regularly. She began fervently praying and writing letters to Mary Beth and me, encouraging us to consider giving a waiting child a home. Emily knew God was leading us in the direction of adoption; however, Mary Beth and I were not yet convinced.
My wife and I had always supported the idea of adoption, and as Christians, we understood the importance of loving and caring for others. But what I had not yet grasped was that adoption is a physical picture of what Jesus has done for me. I did nothing to deserve God's love; in fact, I was living as an orphan, without hope. Yet God chose to pursue a relationship with me, and through the death of his son Jesus, I was adopted into God's family. Watch Chapman and his family discuss their tragic loss »
My wife and I began moving toward adoption with fear and trembling and asking all the questions people ask. I remember Mary Beth crying herself to sleep at night saying, "What are we doing? I can't do this." However, God kept reassuring us that this was the direction he was leading us. It was a huge journey of faith for us.
In May of 2000, we found ourselves in a hotel room in China's Hunan province, welcoming the newest member of our family, Shaohannah Hope. From that moment, we began our journey into the world of adoption, orphan care and Shaohannah's Hope. iReport.com: Send a video question for Chapman
We went on to adopt Stevey Joy and Maria. Recently, our youngest daughter, Maria, passed from life on this earth and is now safely in the arms of Jesus. We have been completely overwhelmed by the love and support of so many during this time of deep, deep sadness. Through all that we've experienced, one thing we still know is true: God's heart is for the orphan. Watch Chapman home movies »
In our travels to Latin America, Africa and Asia, we have visited many different orphanages. If you look past the surroundings and into the eyes of the children, they all have the same look. They seem to convey, "I don't think this is what I was made for. Where do I belong?"
These children are crying out for the hope of a family, for the hope of community, for the hope of a permanent love. Our mission, and the mission of our adoption charity, Shaohannah's Hope, is to show hope to these children and to mobilize people, families and communities to be living examples of God's love for them.
We started Shaohannah's Hope in order to connect willing families with waiting children, but the reality is that there are many orphans who cannot be adopted. Even though we may not be able to bring them into our homes, we still have the opportunity to show them the hope we have.
If only 7 percent of the 2 billion Christians in the world would care for a single orphan in distress, there would effectively be no more orphans. If everybody would be willing to simply do something to care for one of these precious treasures, I think we would be amazed by just how much we could change the world.
We can each do something, whether it is donating, adopting, fostering, mentoring, visiting orphans or supporting families that have taken in orphans. You can change the world for an orphan