When we went into hosting nearly two years ago, we were not thinking adoption. We had a heart for children and we had talked casually and theoretically about adoption, it wasn't a specific call for our family. (At all.) Our first hosting experience opened the door to the possibility. Our second hosting (I.) firmly planted adoption in our hearts. Of course, most of you know that our adoption fell through while we were in country, and when we returned home neither Mark nor I was sure where this idea of adoption would fit in our lives from here forward. I'll be honest - it still isn't totally clear, although we both feel God revealing more and more of a picture as time goes by. The concept of adoption has altered a lot of the life plans we had originally made. And while that is scary, I think I like it.
I was always a little leery of the folks in the adoption community who were almost aggressive about their passion for adoption. Although in our personal experience with other adoptive families we have found well educated, kind, and transparent parents, there have been a few adoption blogs that I have come across that speak borderline condemnation on families who don't adopt. I found those blogs to be uncomfortable to read, I think mostly because I am not convinced the basic premise is correct. Should every family adopt? I don't think so. Should every Christian family adopt? Gosh, even that one is a difficult one for me. Yes, the Bible commands (commands!) that we care for the widows and the orphans. Yes, we are all adopted heirs in the Kingdom as believers. But I think many in the Christian community oversimplify the meaning of the word "care". (And I find it strange that I am using the word "oversimplify" with regards to adoption!) There are many, many important ways to "care" for orphans besides adopting - and in some situations there are more helpful and loving ways to care for orphans. That is not the great escape clause that many adoption advocates think it is. It is true. Helping a family in poverty support their child is as loving an act as bringing that child to a new country and a new life. It's complicated.
We aren't an adoptive family now. Maybe one day that will change, but in the meanwhile I have a heart that has been drastically altered and I don't think my family or I will ever be able to go back. I am not sure what to do with that right now, but I wait and I pray and I try to find ways to care for orphans right where I'm at. If you are in that place, let me offer a few suggestions.
1. Pray. Yes, I know. It's Captain-Sunday-School-Answers to the rescue! Nothing annoys my husband more than people who say what they are supposed to say to sound spiritual. But, I swear, that isn't the case. God's heart is for the orphan, and we need to be a people on our face before Him petitioning for their freedom and rescue. It can be as simple as praying for orphans around the world each time you sit down to eat. Each time you are at a stop light, ask God to protect and guide children who live on the streets who need an example of His love and care. One of the most effective but easily dismissed ways we can and should be caring for orphans is to pray for them. That is not a Sunday School answer...that is Truth.
2. Find an orphan ministry. This is so much easier than you may think. Ask your pastor or missions director. Google it. There are search engines online that can connect you up with an orphanage or children's home in most all the countries in the world. Most of the time, the folks running these places are desperate for more aid, donations, and prayers. If you still aren't sure of where to start with this one, email me or leave me a comment. I can hook you up with some places in Eastern Europe. I'll get you in touch with our family dentist who goes twice a year all over the world to provide free dental care to children in need.
3. Go if you can. Just recently a church in our area took one of several missions trips to their sponsored orphanage in Haiti. One of my friends went on this trip, and something she shared with me blew me away. Many of the folks on her trip were medical professionals there to do health check ups and dental work, but there was also a number of folks who went just to love on these kids. They went to play, hug, laugh, rock, and take silly pictures of these children. It is total ministry. It is the hands and feet of Jesus. Everyone is automatically qualified. Go if you can.
4. Host a child. (You knew I was going to go there, didn't you?) We went into hosting because we had a heart for children, but didn't think adoption was a part of our plan. (Yeah, OK. I know you've heard this all before!) I am going to give it to you straight - hosting is not always easy. The children arrive overtired and often overwhelmed, they don't always speak English, and they don't necessarily know the natural rhythms of family life. I remember when we hosted the first time, Sintija sat down after one day and cried. She was homesick for familiar language, smells, food, and people. I panicked - we were so clearly in over our heads! But through a ton of prayer support (never underestimate the value of prayer warriors who regularly check their email!), we had some neat moments that I will never forget and never be the same for. It was hard work, but over a year later she sent us an email that said how she will cherish that time in her heart forever. She starts her messages out with "My dear mama", and I am blessed and humbled every time I read that. We continue to be in touch with her, and I love that girl! (Young woman now - she has grown up so much!) She is a daughter of my heart, just as I. will always be. Hosting can be hard. But, oh...it is the sweetest hard thing I've ever known! Please contact New Horizons for Children. I was terrified to call and get information the first time, but they are the nicest, coolest, most real folks ever. We love them, truly! They won't badger you, guilt you, or pressure you. They will share their ministry with you and answer any questions you have. They are the real deal.
5. Adopt. You know what prompted this post? I read this statistic today:
Each day 38,493 children age out of orphanages or government protection programs. Over 14 million this year, most with little or no skills to survive. More children age out in 1 WEEK than are adopted annually worldwide.
This about kills me. This summer our hosting friends were in Ukraine on the day that these children (CHILDREN - they were only 16 years old!) aged out. They walked down the street with a backpack and a duffel bag to a new life...somewhere. Most don't have stable family to go to. Many of the girls will be lured into prostitution to survive and many of the boys will turn to crime. This is what happens. It is not made up. It is not over exaggerated. That is the future reality for most older children with no family. Yes, some of these children may be unable to trust or operate in healthy family life, but oh my goodness! SO many could! The hosting program has opened my eyes to that. No. It isn't easy. I can't think of one person who has adopted who would say that it was always easy. What we have been through has been more painful than anything in our lives. Ever. But it doesn't change the fact that there are children who need and want a family.
6. Support those who adopt. I'm not just talking financially, although that is definitely a wise investment of your money! Support means "to bear or hold up; serve as a foundation for". Oh, do this! With your words, with your time, with your prayers! Once when we were discussing our adoption with someone, their first comment was, "I just read a book about a child who was adopted from overseas and she killed the family!" This is what NOT to do. Take an adoptive family a meal, send an adoptive parent an encouraging note, pray for them.
I don't want to be perceived as someone who beats everyone she encounters over the head with adoption this and adoption that. But, I do have to tell you, it matters. I don't ever want to be so consumed by advocating for adoption that I forget to help the widow in need or push my biological children aside or, heaven forbid, love the spiritual high I get from adoption more than I love the One who died to bring me into His family. But it really does matter, friends. And I just wanted to share my heart.