Meeting the Father of the Fatherless, Heart to Heart

The post I’m about to share from a new friend with an ancient heart and an ancient message is so near to the pulse of our home. Many can do His works, but carrying the burden on His heart back to Him in prayer, first, is true friendship with God.

Kinsey Thurlow is a friend of God.

And though I haven’t known her long, it’s undeniable that her life overflows from a place she’s reserved only for Him. Her message, here, is evidence. I love her heart! 

(Kinsey writes regularly for the Orphan Justice Center blog — you can find more of her beauty-on-page there.)

(For the month of May and a week into June, I will be pressing pause on my online writing and this space will become a series of testimonies of what He births in the midst of delay, perplexity and pain. Author friends from around the world, who love words on a page and Him even more, will share, here, how they have seen Him make the bitter, sweet.)

James 1:27 has become a familiar verse to many. 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 stained by the world. But I remember, some years back, asking the question, “Why has the Father defined this as pure and faultless religion?” Of all the other things that show love and mercy and kindness, why has caring for widows and orphans been penned as the definition to true religion?

About ten years ago, I had an interest, maybe even some stirrings, arise in my heart for orphaned children. I acted on this interest and interned with an adoption agency one summer mid-way through college. With a small group of other Americans, I traveled to Russia and spent about a month ministering to the nation’s fatherless, living in their orphanages with them. I was with the children hours each day, and I actually go to know some of them quite well.

As I spent time among these kids, something began to shift in my heart—the term orphan become more than an issue or a statistic. The orphan had become my friend. Orphans had faces and names and stories, and they changed me. After one summer among them, I got hooked, and returned the next three summers as well.  I just had to be with these kids.

Now, some years later, their names and faces remain imprinted on my memory. I remember Masha’s small hand, holding mine. I remember wrapping my arms around Zina’s skinny frame, and her heart-stopping smile wrapping around me. I remember Lena’s embrace that wouldn’t let go, and her tears wetting my shoulder. I remember Oleg’s hopeless eyes, and his silence, despair stealing his words. The injustice of fatherlessness forever disturbed my comfort, and I could not look away from it.

After the time spent in Russia, I had the urge to relocate somewhere overseas, and work among these children. But that 4th summer I went to Russia, I felt from the Lord that this was the last time. I didn’t know if that meant the last time for a while or the last time forever, but I knew when I said goodbye to the children that summer, these who I had come to know and love so much, that I wouldn’t be seeing them again in this age. How my heart ached, wanting to understand the Lord’s leadership, but not understanding.

I came back to Kansas City, where I’d recently joined staff at the International House of Prayer, with the desire to minister to the fatherless so strong in my heart. But there was no orphan ministry at IHOP when I came 6 years ago. And I remember in this season of time, the Lord said to me so clearly, “Kinsey, let that go and let Me hold that dream.” My heart didn’t know what to do with this.  How could I let it go? So, still aching within, I questioned the Lord. “But Lord, what about the fatherless?” His response didn’t seem to answer my question at the time.  “I want you to sit in this room and pray,” I felt Him whisper.

And that’s what I did. Having so much time to pray now, one of the things I prayed for consistently were those orphans I knew by face and by name.  And as I prayed consistently, the Lord began giving me a very precious gift. He started releasing to me His burden and His heart for the fatherless.

It was bigger than what I had felt before. Much bigger.

I had initially thought I was letting go of something, but it actually began to grow in my heart, to such an extent, that I was tempted to say at times, “Lord, I can’t take anymore.” But I don’t think I ever prayed that. Instead someone wisely counseled me to instead pray, “Lord expand my heart’s capacity to hold all that You want to give me.”

The Lord called me away to pray, and something beautiful happened.  When I really began to enter into that place of prayer, the Father of the fatherless drew me into His heart and began to give me a taste of what He feels for a fatherless generation of children.  It was something greater than I could have imagined, something beyond what I could have ever produced in myself, something that could only be found in prayer. A gift found within a gift. There in the gift of simple intimacy with my Father, I met Him heart to heart, felt Him weep, and let His tears overflow into me, becoming mine.  And His love for me, for them, overwhelmed me.

When I met the Father, here in this tender, personal place, I found the answer to my question of James 1:27.  Why is caring for orphans and widows pure religion? Because it is the imitation of His heart.  It is what He has done for me, for us. He fathers us, ones who are weak, broken, once orphaned, and He names us as His own.

I see now what I didn’t see six years ago. My vision will ever remain too small and my ability to bring true justice hindered unless the effort to minister to the fatherless is born out of an intimate prayer partnership with Jesus. God wants to do something beyond our own ability. He wants to impart to us the depths of His own heart, find those who will be a resting place for His emotions, and release through us a movement of justice fueled by the power of His own Spirit.

Kinsey Thurlow is an intercessor at the International House of Prayer and serves with Children’s Justice Initiatives, one of IHOP’s justice ministries. She has worked with fatherless children both overseas and in the United States, and works alongside a number of adoptive and foster families. She has a passion to minister the love of Jesus to the fatherless and to see their hearts healed and restored through Christ.  She also desires to raise awareness in the body of Christ about the fatherless and to call the Church to walk in the James 1:27 mandate to care for the orphan in numerous ways.