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Archive for the ‘Adoption’ Category

“I can hardly breathe,” I told my wife. And I meant it.

We were in an old elevator headed to the third floor of a battered women’s shelter in downtown Taipei just seconds before meeting our two new daughters. They were 5 ½ and 3 ½ and were just as nervous as we were.

The social workers blandly announced to the girls, “here’s your mama, and here’s your papa.” They handed us a bag of clothes that did not fit and sent us on our way.

No fan fare, no celebration, no instructions. It was one of the greatest days of our life. It was also the culmination of years of conviction, hard work, bureaucracy, patience (impatience!), and prayer. The most common question we heard through the whole process was, “Don’t you already have kids?”

What they meant was, “why would you adopt when you can obviously have kids biologically?” We had three biological children but it never crossed our mind that we should not add to our family through the gift of adoption. Here are the factors that were the driving force behind our decision to adopt.

We are committed to life. For our entire marriage we have supported many pro life causes. But we always felt that if we were going to encourage unwed girls to give birth to their babies, then Christians should be in line to be ready to adopt those who would be given up. It was our way of “putting our money where our mouth was.”

We are committed to the helpless and disadvantaged. James (1:27) makes it clear that one of the evidences of our faith is how we respond to the “affliction” of widows and orphans. Taking care of these two groups is time consuming, messy, and sacrificial. But it is a central part of the Christian life. We wanted to make sure that our family was heavily invested in this important admonition.

We are committed to biblical manhood. Men are called to lead, provide, and protect (Gen. 1-2, Eph. 5, I Kings 2:1-9, 1 Pet. 3, Col. 3). This is a fundamental teaching of the Bible and it does not merely pertain to the four walls of one’s home. Men should be looking for those who need protection and provision. There are fatherless children all over the world. Every year I meet women who are burdened for adoption but their husbands won’t budge. It’s usually something about retirement, college costs, or they are finally able to afford that boat they always wanted. In our home, the men lead and sacrificially give of themselves for the good of others.

We are committed to Gospel-centeredness. The doctrine of adoption is at the heart of the Gospel. We are born outside of Christ, but it is through Christ that we receive “the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry ‘Abba! Father!’” (Rom. 8:15) Physical adoption is a daily living picture of this spiritual reality. It is a constant reminder to our family and others of the grace and mercy of God and His love for the lost and care for the fatherless.

We are committed to the nations. Not everyone is called to international adoption but the result is a reminder of God’s love for every “nation and tribe and language and people.” (Rev. 14:6). Every week the Lord adds people to his church and tells you and I to love them. They may not look like us, smell like us, have the same socio-economic background as us, or talk like us. But that’s the beauty of the Gospel. Twice we have brought into our home children from another country and told our other kids, “they don’t talk like you or look like you, but here’s another one, love them.” It has been one of the biggest blessings in the whole process for us and has dramatically shaped our view of the whole world.

Maybe the next big decision in your life will involve a vacation house or a boat or a car that you don’t need. Maybe it will involve trying to sock away even more money for that early retirement you have been hoping for. It might even involve contributing to a monument or building with your name on it. Or just maybe it will involve an old elevator in another country with your mind in a whirl, your heart racing, adrenaline rushing, and your lungs struggling inexplicably for their next breath. And in making that decision, it might not even cross your mind that you already have kids.
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Randy Stinson is the Dean of the School of Church Ministries and the Vice President for Academic Innovation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. He also serves as the Senior Fellow of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (www.cbmw.org).

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A guest post by Jason Bollinger:

From before the time we were married, my wife and I talked openly and honestly about adoption. Due to fertility issues that seemed to be developing, we were forced to have conversations that had some significant weight to them. Those conversations ended with us believing that God had rooted parenthood firmly in our hearts, and we trusted that He would make us parents through adoption if not biologically by way of a miracle.

Four years into our marriage, the miracle happened, and we were blessed with a biological son. Life was good with him. So good, in fact, that we were never in a big hurry to press the issue of more children. We continued to talk about adoption from time to time. We had even sent some e-mails and gathered information, but we weren’t feeling that it was time to move forward.

A little further along the way, we started walking toward adoption. It was different this time. Walking through some adversity in our life showed us how content we were with our family threesome. Many of our friends’ families were expanding as ours had stalled, but we were strangely okay with that. What we were not okay with was that orphans around the world were laying their heads on their makeshift pillows at night with no hope and no mom and dad. The talk of adoption was no longer about adding to our family, it was about the Gospel. While we did like the thought of more children, our focus became centered on the rescue. There are kids in need of moms and dads. Let’s go get them.

Our theology of adoption was fairly weak at the time. As we walked through the process, it got better. Adoption is a theme throughout scripture. Our relationship with the Father, as follower of Christ, is best defined as a relationship of adoption. As you study Scripture, you see the Lord giving specific instructions about caring for the fatherless. From the old through the new, God’s heart is strong for the orphan. The more aware we became of this in Scripture, the more aware we became of the love that we’ve been given and the love we have to give. We’ve been blessed beyond measure, and we have blessing beyond measure to offer.

In the summer of 2010, we spent three months in Ukraine in pursuit of an orphan. Everything that could’ve gone wrong did, but the Lord used the adversity to bring us very, very close to Him. Through that closeness, we modified our home study and dossier to allow us to have more options. Going home empty-handed was not an option. If the Lord had different expectations of what our adoption was supposed to look like, we were fine with that.

After three months of battling, praying, trusting, hoping, failing, weeping, learning and eventually winning, something became very clear. We had much more to give than we thought. We went after one child, the Lord gave us two. We wanted a younger child so that we could have as much nurture time as possible, God gave us two girls with a very real knowledge of what they lived through. We were going for a smooth transition, we’ve had a pretty rough one. However, we did want what God wanted, and that’s what we got.

We underestimated our capacity for pouring out what God had poured into us. Adoption has allowed us to experience a level of faith and intimacy with God that nothing else in our life has come close to. Biblically, the call to care for orphans is clear. The pursuit of orphans purifies the Christianity in our heart and catapults us into the frontlines of trusting God. We’ve found that the Lord continually has more love to give, and that means we do too. Orphan care is the perfect avenue to test this theory. It seems most people underestimate the potential they have to be vessels of the love of God. The truth is that it’s up to God to do what He wants to do through you. It’s likely though, that He’s got bigger plans in mind for you than you do – maybe even related to adoption, but definitely in the world of orphan care.

Don’t underestimate how God may use you to change an orphan’s life forever. You also have more love to give than you think.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV)

Jason & Holly Bollinger pastor River Stone Community Church in San Marcos, Texas, and they blog on adoption & orphan care related issues at http://www.morelovetogive.com

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A guest post by Sue Barber:

It’s hard to explain why we adopted our boys. We felt God’s call to do it, but I don’t think we even understood it ourselves. We were adopting, but what we were actually doing was watching two boys miraculously transform before our very eyes, learning about who were are as a family, and seeing more of who God is. Seven years later, we still don’t have the whole picture, but we are starting to get some glimpses.

We are becoming convinced that we are treading on holy ground.

This video, (<–click here!) about two special needs Russian orphans who were reunited by the New York Yankees this summer, is amazing. When these former crib mates were reunited, my heart saw a little glimpse of what heaven will be like.

You can watch in the video how these boys were chosen, transformed, and honored. They had a fantastic time with the Yankees in New York. They met the baseball players, and had a wonderful trip. They could have never imagined such a thing when they were starving, and imprisoned in their crib.

Yet the amazing happened. Because God moved His people to work in those boys’ lives, their families, other orphans, the Yankees– were all blessed.

What if those families hadn’t chosen to adopt? What if we didn’t adopt our boys?

Joshua would not have survived much longer without intervention; and Caleb would be in a residential treatment facility, according to his former case worker. Suicide, lives of crime, prostitution, starvation, and early death awaits the orphan in most cases, both here and abroad. Less than one percent of American foster children go on to finish college.

There aren’t any uplifting videos to link for you on that topic.

But in this case, parents did come for those boys. The adoptions (and the special needs) illustrate what God promises to you, personally. We are fallen people, and we have problems, until God comes and chooses us and frees us through His Son Jesus. Christians have a loving Father who cares for us, who teaches us to love and to trust, and enables us to walk. We fall down, we limp, we take wrong turns, but think of the difference in us since we’ve been chosen!

The day will come when we will arrive in the eternal city. Believers will all have a moment when we are shown the city of God and are made new. Can you see yourself being given the tour? Oh how my heart yearns for that moment. That moment when Joshua will be healed of his fears and insecurities, and when his crumbling, nutrient deprived teeth will be solid. Caleb will get up and he will run unencumbered into the arms of the one who was his Great Physician all along. With two strong arms he will embrace his God. All of my children, they will be together, and whole. And then we will know why we adopted.

It will be better than we ever imagined.

Sue Barber is a blogger and the mother of six children. She has never sky dived, run for office, or been unloved. She writes at www.suebarber.wordpress.com.

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In James 1:27 the believer is instructed to visit widows and orphans in their distress.

As American Christians, I think many of us have not considered the implications of what distress really means for kids in foster care and many other orphans throughout the world.

Many North American believers have awakened to God’s love for fatherless children. In some circles, unfortunately, and sometimes dangerously, it is even becoming a badge of spirituality to adopt.

Still, God has given thousands of children the joy of a forever family. The growing adoption movement is a visible illustration of God’s plan to overcome sin and brokenness through His adoption of us, made possible by the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. As for the Christian families adopting these children, the blessings for both them and their children have been nothing short of a demonstration of the reality of God.

However, what many people have not always understood is the magnitude of pain, hurt, fear, need, affliction, or “distress” as it were, that many children bring with them. When we love these children with special needs or who are coming from dark places, that means that this distress becomes a part of us…our marriages and our families. Some, maybe most, who are adopting have no idea of how to prepare themselves, much less their children and spouses.

This includes not really grasping the level of sacrifice that God is sometimes calling families to in adoption. In Hebrews 11, we all remember the recounting of the victories and miracles that God performed through people of faith, but what we forget are those lives talked about in verses 35 through 38. These are equally lives of faith; believers who endured mockery, scourging, chains, stoning, death by the sword and affliction. They, like those who experienced victory, also gained approval through their faith for something better.

Sometimes adoption is full of victory, miracles and joys unimaginable. But sometimes it brings with it the sufferings, confusion, doubts and struggles that can only be faced through faith and with the power of the Holy Spirit. When families are called to such adoptions, they often need help. The Church should be a place where they can turn and get that help.

There is a crisis brewing and spreading almost as fast as God is mobilizing the Church to serve orphans. The crisis is coming about as a result of the rapid increase in believers who are adopting older, special needs and at-risk children, but are not fully equipped to do so. The crisis is manifesting itself in an increase in the number of families struggling to cope with some of the issues their new children bring to their homes, and in an increase of post-placement risk of disrupted adoptions as well.

Next year, some experts estimate that 60% of all children adopted from China to American families will be special needs kids. In Ukraine, like many other parts of the world, it appears that future adoptions will be skewed greatly to older kids and sibling groups, in addition to those with severe emotional and medical needs. In America, we understand more instinctively that children from foster care are often coming from hard places.

At Hope for Orphans, we believe that God’s solution for meeting this crisis (and the whole orphan crisis for that matter) is THE CHURCH. The Church was designed by God to be that safe community where members of the body serve one another when the wheels come off in life. The Church should be a place where families can be honestly prepared, maybe even helped through self-assessment in advance of entering the process to adopt older, special needs, or at-risk children.

This September 16th and 17th, we will be hosting the Hope for Orphans Institute at the Hope Center in Plano, Texas. The purpose of this two-day conference is to equip orphan ministry leaders, pastors, counselors, social workers and others with biblically-based skills and tools to serve families called to adopt older, special needs and at-risk kids. We will have nationally-renowned experts providing insights to help families and leaders to meet this growing need. This event will be hosted and moderated by Ryan Dobson, who is himself an adult adoptee.

We believe that the Church is the key place that the needs of struggling adoptive families can be met in-depth and in sustainable ways. For social workers and professionals partnering with the Church in serving families in acute need, the principles from this conference will give new power to help make a difference. To learn more about this event and how God can use you to help others in your church and community, go to www.HFOInstitute.org.

 

Paul Pennington is the founder of Hope for Orphans. He and his wife, Robin, have six children. They live in Dallas, Texas.

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I see you there hanging on a tree
You bled and then you died and then you rose again for me
Now you are sitting on Your heavenly throne
Soon we will be coming home
You’re beautiful, you’re beautiful

When we arrive at eternity’s shore
Where death is just a memory and tears are no more
We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring
Your bride will come together and we’ll sing
You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful

Phil Wickman

Sunday was Easter. Two weeks ago yesterday, my 6-year-old grandson Benjamin woke up, ate breakfast with his sisters and brothers and then had a “cardiac event” as the medical folks call it. Less than 15 minutes later, he arrived at eternity’s shore and full of faith. Ben had told his family several weeks ago that he was ready to go see Jesus. You see, Ben was born with single ventricle and pulmonary atresia. Basically half of a normal heart. But, the really hard thing was Ben had been put into the care of an orphanage shortly after birth. Fortunately he was born in South Korea and he did have a foster family. But Benjamin was not going to live long in South Korea. His best chance for sustainable intervention was in America. It turns out that God’s plan for him to have a family was in America too.

Our daughter Elizabeth and her husband Mat heard about Ben. It was not the kind of adoption most families, even Christians, pursue. It was a choice to enter into pain and even suffering from the beginning. The doctor here told Elizabeth, “Best case he will live to about 20, and worst case he will make it only to 2.” For a military couple with a biological child with severe heart disease and another little boy, this was a big decision. But as they considered the Spirit’s leading, they came to believe that not only was Ben “theirs” but that if they walked away, he would still have to face this road alone. For him to face it with a family and be introduced to Jesus, was their privilege. Later the Lord brought two more biological children to Ben’s new family; one of these also had a severe heart problem.

So it was that little Ben joined our family 5 years ago. More than once we were told he would not survive for 30 days. The Lord did not read that memo and Ben was here for another Christmas and birthday and another. He was ours and we were his. Robin and I have watched as our daughter and son-in-law have entered into what the Bible calls sharing in the suffering of our Lord. Along the way of surgeries, oxygen tanks and wheelchairs, something remarkable happened…God gave this child faith along with a family.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)

Ben believed in Jesus. He understood that he would not live long. He had such faith that Jesus would take him home, he even told us once that He would pick him up in a red car. We laughed, but listen to Jesus’ words: “And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matthew 18:3)

I was there when Ben’s mom, my first little girl, whispered to him, “It’s ok…you can go see Jesus now,” and because he was a little boy who loved and trusted his mother, and more importantly believed in heaven…he obeyed and his breathing slowed down and he slipped away. The presence of the Lord was strong. The angels were in the room. And a little boy who had earlier been released at an orphanage, left his family to join the family of the Lamb in heaven.

At Ben’s funeral, one of the Pastors made a wonderful observation. He said that this life is like the front porch. It is not the whole house; it is not even inside the house. Once we have been inside, like Ben, for the first million years we will look back at our time on the front porch as so very short. But, important decisions are made on the front porch of life here on earth. Will you change and become like a little child? Will you be willing to join Jesus in His suffering when He calls you? Will you see the lives of orphans with special needs and even terminal conditions as lives worth living, lives worth grafting into your family? Mat and Elizabeth did through God’s grace. As a result, we had a wonderful grandson who taught us that life on the front porch is all about knowing who is going to pick you up and loving those whom you can hug today.

So in the end, Ben’s story was not an adoption story. It wasn’t really a story of heroism. It was about a little boy that was really ours, who taught us in a fresh way how Jesus loved us before we loved Him. How it pleased Him to make us His real children, when we had nothing to offer Him.

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise

Laura Story

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This Saturday night, at 8 PM Eastern, 7 Central, Fox Television will air Change of Plans, a pro-family, pro-adoption movie presented by Walmart and P&G as part of their Family Movie Night Series. Immediately following the movie, there will be a special LIVE 45-minute webcast, sponsored by Chik-fil-A’s WinShape Foundation, in which viewers can submit their questions about adoption, and a panel, which includes Hope for Orphans’ Paul Pennington, will respond.

To learn more about the movie, please click here. To learn more about the webcast, please click here. To share this with your friends on Facebook, please paste this link (http://on.fb.me/FamiliesForAll) to your profile page.

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During this time of year, as we see the excitement and magic in the eyes of our children and grandchildren, if you’re like me, it takes me back to those days of my childhood when Christmas was full of wonderful food, grandparents laughing, speculating about presents and the warmth and comfort of knowing you had a family that loved you. In short, for me growing up and being at my Mam Maw’s house at Christmas meant feeling safe and loved unconditionally.

As we are now the ones charged to help a new generation see and know that a baby came into the world to give us life, we should stop to remember there are millions of children who won’t have such an experience, much less a family, this year.  It’s staggering to think that more than 16 million children under the age of 18 in Africa alone have lost one or both parents to AIDS.

Hope for Orphans believes that the Spirit of the Most High God can mobilize thousands and thousands of churches to touch orphans around the world. We know this because we have seen what He can do through just one church and just one family…one child at a time.

God accomplished a lot of amazing things in 2010 through the ministry of Hope for Orphans. We were able to go near the orphans of Haiti and help almost 25 come home to families after the horror of the January earthquake. We have seen more churches launch orphans ministries. We have seen the seeds of orphan ministry on the college campus come to life and students saved through going near the orphan. Hope for Orphans Kids is bringing vision to children in churches across America. But still it is the stories of specific children that stick with me and show me that God is truly at work.

When Yang Wen Sha was born in China, there was a problem. She could not hear. Soon she was in an orphanage, but through God’s providence, there were Christians at the orphanage caring for her. A few years later, our friends Dr. Andy and Trisha Wells connected with Yang Wen Sha through a Hope for Orphans contact.  Dr. Andy is an ENT, and with his help, Yang Wen Sha was able to receive the specialized hearing aid that she needed.  It was not just a coincidence that Andy and Trisha came into the life of this child.  You see, God had been working on Andy and Trisha’s hearts for some time about adoption, and now they dared to pray and ask, “Could Yang Wen Sha be our daughter?”  They had ears to hear how the Lord wanted to use their lives.

In a story of divine intervention (which perhaps we can share one day through our e-newsletter), the Lord did what only He can do and in July of this year, Yang Wen Sha became Kari Christine Pennington Wells. She now lives in a beautiful home in Augusta, Georgia with the forever family that God chose for her. I sort of think maybe in her little 5-year-old mind that when the Wells welcomed her into their family, she could hear the angels singing in her ears.

Our ministry is about providing the vision, resources and onramps for millions of Christians to step forward to love the fatherless. This month, we have an amazing opportunity to grow our ministry. A donor has agreed to match, dollar for dollar, all gifts to Hope for Orphans received before December 31st. If the Lord leads, please help us help more churches to bring the Hope born in Bethlehem to more orphans in 2011 than ever before.

Happy New Year.

Paul

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