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Posts Tagged ‘Adoption’

When “Jenny” was placed in our home as a nine-year-old in foster care, it was clear to us almost right away that she had some very deep fears…fears that would not easily be overcome.  Those fears were most apparent whenever we would awaken her from sleep.  Her eyes would shoot open…she would almost look petrified until she could get her bearings and see that she was safe.

It took three weeks before we learned why Jenny was so afraid. For years, she and her younger brother had been sexually abused by their mother’s boyfriend, “Mark”.  Their mother had known about it, yet had failed to protect them.  Now, she was scared to death that Mark was going to find her and kill her.  We reported what she told us and eventually, Mark was arrested, and based primarily on Jenny’s testimony, he was sentenced to nearly twenty years in prison.   Still, it took a long time before Jenny felt safe in our home.

Children need to feel safe.  They thrive when they feel safe.  But what happens when they don’t feel safe?  They don’t thrive.  According to Created to Connect: A Christian’s Guide to the Connected Child, by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Michael Monroe, fear cripples children.  It not only cripples them…it can manifest itself in all kinds of negative behaviors.

Could it be that so many children in foster care exhibit negative behaviors due, in part at least, to the fact that they know deep down that there is not a single person on the face of the earth who has their backs?  Could it be that they live in constant fear because they feel threatened and they know there is no one who will step in to protect them from real harm?

Contrary to what the world says, God has made men and women different.  And while moms would certainly do anything to protect their children, it is men whom God has given the role of protector (of their wives as well as their children).

Right now, there are about 125,000 children in foster care who are waiting for forever families.  These kids have a lot in common.  Fear is one of them.  Each of these kids goes to bed at night lacking the security your and my kids enjoy every day.  As Christians, and as men, we can’t allow this to happen.

What about it, men?  Let’s not wait for our wives to drag us into caring for the waiting children of the United States Foster Care System.  Let’s take seriously our God-given role of child-protector and let’s help 125,000 children sleep better at night.  Not only will they sleep better at night, but their behaviors are bound to change as they begin to believe you have their backs.  The waiting children in foster care deserve to enjoy the same security your kids and mine enjoy.  Are we going to give it to them?

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When Minh Ho was born in Korea, it took a whole month before doctors began to realize that something was wrong. He appeared normal, except that his color was not right. It was later learned that Minh Ho was born with a single ventricle, or basically half of a normal heart.  His pulmonary valve and arteries were genetically flawed as well. His birth mom was a teenage girl who handed him over without even knowing he had a heart problem. It was his foster mother who took him to the doctor who discovered his heart defect.

Minh Ho had two open-heart surgeries in Korea.  The only caregivers in his life were paid; he didn’t have a family. This was a child with a very poor prognosis; in fact, he wasn’t expected to live more than a year or so. The only possibility for any sort of repair to his heart was in the United States.

A young American military couple heard about Minh Ho. God led this couple to do something hard — something radical in this world’s eyes. They adopted a child who, even with intervention, would probably not live long. The enlisted man and his wife gave this child something he could not yet appreciate, not because of what he had to offer them, but because of what they could offer him…a family…a family for Minh Ho no matter what would lie ahead.

When Minh Ho came to America (and Texas) to join his big new extended family, it was a day of joy and celebration. A place had already been prepared for the little boy with half of a heart and he got a new name…Benjamin. Through the years to come, Ben has endured more surgery, more needles, more medicine and some days when it was a struggle just to get enough air. But there have also been many, many good days as well.

Ben has a family. He loves his family and enjoys reciting every name. He has even gotten to ride a school bus and open presents on Christmas morning and see the faces of all those he loves singing “Happy Birthday” just to him. God’s solution for orphans is a family. Grace revealed through adopting a special needs child produces blessing beyond measure for those who are called.

Almost three years ago, Ben got very sick. The doctors said it was time to bring in hospice; they believed that they had done all that could be done for his heart. But thankfully, God’s plans are not our plans and after six months of hospice care and then a flu which left him in nearly a coma-like state for 10 days, Ben woke up, saying, “I want spaghetti!!” I think I will always think of Ben when I hear the word “spaghetti” and then I will be reminded how God is the One who gives life and no one else. Ben ate a huge plate of spaghetti that day. He recovered and has now been with us now for three more birthdays and Christmases. You see, Ben is Robin’s and my grandson. His mom, who risked her heart to love and graft this child into our family, is our daughter. His dad, our son-in-law, has served our country in the Army now for almost eight years.

As I write this, Ben is lying in a hospital bed next to me, waiting for a CAT Scan to determine if he may have a blood clot that needs attention. We never know when he might leave us…but the Bible teaches us that the Lord has all of our days numbered and that we cannot add one. Life and family are precious every day. Ben’s mom and dad have walked in faith and given Ben something that the Lord gives to spiritual orphans and physical orphans more and more through His church…a family. Ben’s mom and dad are like so many involved in orphan ministry…ordinary people who give action to their faith by loving the least of these.

This week on FamilyLife Today, Dennis and Bob will be interviewing other folks who have walked in faith…special friends whom God is also using to love orphans and those needing a family. On Thursday, September 16th and Friday, September 17th, you will not want to miss the powerful stories of how God is working in orphan ministry. You just may hear through these stories what God’s invitation is for you in ministering to fatherless children.

Ben, who is now five years of age, told one of my sons this week, “Jesus is going to ride with me in heaven in a red car!!”

Jesus is coming soon for all of those who are called the Children of God and joint heirs with His beloved Son. When Ben rides with Jesus in that red car one day, it will be a very painful day for his family. We will miss him more than we can imagine right now. But I know that he will be there when we get to the banquet of the Lamb and I’m sure he will be eating spaghetti with that huge smile of his.

Paul

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NOTE FROM PAUL PENNINGTON
Executive Director and Co-Founder, Hope for Orphans

When the World Throws Rotten Tomatoes …..Which Side Will You Be On?

“But so that it will not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no longer to any man in this name.”

And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.  But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” ACTS 4:17-20

Over 30 years ago, Robin and I heard an older man speak in Houston who said much the same.  In Swiss mountain attire and with a stylish goatee, we heard him say these words: “If there are no absolutes by which to judge society…..then society will become absolute”. Of course that prophet was Dr. Francis Schaeffer. Now, as we live in a post-Christian 2010 America in which zealous religious secular humanists spread their gospel through almost every means possible, we see the vision of what Dr. Schaeffer warned us about. In Barbara Rainey’s soon to be released devotional book, Growing Together In Courage, she says this:

“To be countercultural means to go against the flow. It means that you will do what is right and true no matter what others are doing, even if you are the only one. You recognize that just because something is the popular thing to do does not necessarily mean that it is the right thing to do.”

“Courage goes against the flow. It is countercultural.”

In March of 1861, in Austin, Texas, there was a large meeting, a convention no less, to decide whether Texas would secede from the Union and its leaders swear an oath to the Confederacy. The Governor of Texas, Sam Houston, was a man almost bigger than life. In fact, he is the only man in American history to be the governor of two different states. He lived much of his early life with Native Americans. His father was a close friend of President Andrew Jackson. He was a Senator, a General; he was the George Washington of Texas independence as both Commander of the Texas armies during the war with Mexico and then as the first President of the Republic of Texas.  Few men in Texas stood as tall as Sam Houston.

But in the days leading up to March of 1861, Governor Houston campaigned against secession. He thought it was unimaginable that Texas would leave the Union. This was not a popular position. It was, by all means, countercultural. But of course, he stood for what was right….

As the votes were counted, it was easy to see that it was to be the Confederacy. Not far from the capitol was the Governor’s mansion where Houston and his family waited for the inevitable results. Crowds stood outside the mansion waiting to see if Houston would pledge his allegiance to the Confederacy. Instead, in dramatic fashion, he addressed the crowd from his balcony and stated that he would not and that instead, effective immediately, he would resign as Governor.

In fairly short order, Houston’s family loaded their wagons to leave Austin for their home in Huntsville. This man who had led the armies of Texas to victory and freedom, road out of Austin with his family through streets of angry people screaming insults, and in some parts bombarding his family with rotten tomatoes.  “Courage goes against the flow.”

This story has always fascinated me because this man’s conviction was put to action when the response was sure to be painful. Peter and Paul lived this life. They understood that there are two different kingdoms in conflict. Each of us, with our actions, serves one or the other.

Another large meeting will be held in Austin, Texas this October, when our friends at Together for Adoption hold its 2010 National Conference.  We at Hope for Orphans are privileged to be a partner in this event. This meeting will not be about secession, but instead, it will be about the sanctity of human life. In particular, it will be about the love of God for orphans. Though much of the church has lost interest in orphans in the last 100 years, there is a movement of God in which thousands are standing up for that which concerns the heart of God.  The world continues to devalue, traffic, commercially exploit and suppress even the conception of children. The Bible sees children very differently than today’s world, saying that each child is valuable and made in the image of God, and we should as well.

Children who have no family should compel us even more to understand how we and our churches can be used by God. At Together for Adoption’s conference on October 1-2, you will be taught by some of the most knowledgeable leaders in the country how you and your church can be used in the lives of orphans. Even if those in your own church don’t understand orphan ministry….and even if they toss a few rotten tomatoes around…..will you come to Austin and stand for the pure worship that is found in loving and caring for orphans?

If you are able, please join us in Austin as we gather to grow and be inspired by those whom God is using in the Orphan Ministry movement. Join us in taking a countercultural stand by saying that all children have value because they are made in the image of God.

Blessings,

Paul

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Last fall, we were part of a life group through our church that looked at God’s heart for orphans, and His desire for His people to care for them through adoption, foster care, and orphan care.

One Sunday afternoon, we invited three adult adoptees from our church to come and share a little about their experiences growing up.  As we listened, it was fascinating to me to see to the contrast, especially between the two young women who shared.  Both women were adopted as babies.  One had a family that seldom talked about adoption.   One had a family that talked about and celebrated adoption.

One of the young women was in three homes by the time she was seven months old.  Her family didn’t discuss adoption very much while she was growing up.  She said it is hard to explain, but she still struggles in some ways as a result of being in three homes and she has a hard time talking about her experience growing up as a child who had been adopted.  She is pro-adoption, but it just isn’t something that she talks about easily.  Interestingly, her job now entails counseling kids in foster care.

The other young woman was placed for adoption at birth.  Her family talked about adoption all of the time and were very positive about it.  She is, in turn, very positive and open and comfortable talking about her experiences.  After working several years as a child abuse investigator for L.A. County DCFS, she is now working for an adoption law firm, counseling birth parents and working with adoptive parents through the birth and placement of the children.

The contrast made me think of my own family and the way we talk about adoption.  With six children, all of whom came to us through foster adoption, and five of whom were already adopted , we want to make sure our children view adoption in as positive a light as possible.  We don’t want them to ever feel like adoption is something to be ashamed of or something to hide.  Because of this, we shout it from the rooftops.  We make it a point to talk to people about the joys and blessings of adoption wherever we go, and we make it a point to do so in front of our kids.

I’m sure there are some that would disagree with our approach, but if we see adoption for what it really is…part of God’s redemptive plan to bring restoration to His creation as He places hurting and lonely children into families, then how can we be anything but positive about it?  How can we not tell everyone we see?  It’s a glorious thing God does when He places a child into a home and gives that child a mom and a dad to love and care for them.

Last night we repeated a ritual that we’ve been doing for years.  We celebrated the fourth anniversary of the date our daughter Aruna moved into our home.  My mom made Aruna a three-layer coconut cake.  We all went around the room and named things we appreciate about her.  We told her “Happy Anniversary” repeatedly throughout the day.  In our family, we celebrate our children’s homecoming days as much as we celebrate the anniversaries of their adoptions.  I think it has something to do with the way we view Psalm 68:4-6, which says: Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds — his name is the LORD— and rejoice before him.  A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.  God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

The psalmist is singing to God and praising Him, declaring Him to be Father to the fatherless.  And then, he tells of God’s great works, with the first example being how God sets the lonely in families.  If the psalmist is praising God for setting the lonely in families, should we not praise Him for placing our children in our home?  Of course we should…to do otherwise would be to discredit God’s plan for our children, our family, and His creation.

Celebrate your children’s adoptions…celebrate adoption for what it really is.  Praise God for placing your children in your home.  And while you’re at it, shout it from the rooftops.  Your children are watching.

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Terri and I have observed a lot in our ten years in foster care.  We’ve certainly seen the best and worst of the system, and we’ve experienced heartache and blessing alike.  One of the biggest concerns we continue to have is that there are many foster parents that are involved in the system for what certainly appears to be selfish motivations.  It is our prayer that foster parents such as these will move on, and be replaced by foster parents motivated by the Gospel to not only care for the kids, but to love them unconditionally.  So many of these kids have suffered a great deal of trauma…they need parents who will stick with them when things get difficult, rather than keep them at arm’s length, or have them replaced at the first sign of trouble.

Thankfully, in our ten years of involvement, we have seen the Holy Spirit move among His people to become engaged in the system like never before…to become what the church was intended to be (and used to be) to the orphans and waiting children among us.

One recent Wednesday night, we were part of an informal gathering of people (mostly from our church) in which families interested in foster care and adoption could ask questions of families that are already a part of the system.  It was a very non-threatening forum in which these families could explore some of the issues, concerns and questions they have.

I was so encouraged as I listened to the conversation as it was very apparent that not only were the prospective foster/adopt families interested in getting involved, but they were interested in getting involved for all the right reasons.  Their concerns and questions reflected a real desire to do this the right way – God’s way, and to do it out of a motivation rooted in the Gospel, and to do it regardless of the personal cost.

I also loved hearing the perspectives of the other families that are already involved.  Both couples have experienced the heartaches and the blessings that come with being a foster parent.  Both have experienced real pain in loving these children so near to God’s heart.  Yet, as I listened to them, it was so evident that in spite of the personal cost, they have been obedient to God’s call on their lives, and that they have put their trust in Him through the trials and joy alike.  As one of the foster dads put it so succinctly, “This isn’t about us.”

He’s right, and it’s a reminder we often need.  It’s not about us, as much as we want it to be.  It’s not even about the kids, as much as we want to make it at times.  It’s about God.  It always has been about God, and it always will be.  And as long as God wants to work to redeem orphans, His children must join Him in that work.

No matter what it costs us.

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By now, you’ve likely either seen the movie “The Blind Side”, or you at least have it on your must-watch list.  Released in Fall 2009, the movie tells the story of the Tuohy family, a well-to-do Christian family in Memphis, Tennessee, who took in and adopted a homeless, traumatized teenage boy named Michael Oher.  With the love of his new family and the help of others, Michael went on to football stardom at the University of Mississippi and eventually the NFL.

On today’s FamilyLife Today broadcast, hosts Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine interview Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy in the first of a three part series airing through Friday.

In part one, called Sharing the Power of Cheerful Giving, Sean and Leigh Anne talk about their childhoods and their early marriage and discuss how God has used their experiences to make them the people they are today.  They talk about how God wants to use us to bless others, which is simply what they did with their son, Michael, in giving him an opportunity to blossom into the person that God created him to be.

To listen to the broadcast, and to read the entire transcript, click here.

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In two earlier posts, I shared about how Terri and I have occasionally put excessive limits on the children we were willing to take into our home as foster children.  I shared that on each of those first two occasions, God redirected us to be open to the children He had for us, rather than the ones we had in mind for ourselves.  And, naturally, on both occasions, when we submitted to His will, we saw that what He had in mind was infinitely better than what we had imagined.  We never would have adopted four of our children had we not abandoned our desires, and submitted to God’s will for our family by being open to the children He wanted to place in our home.

I do think that whenever you open your home to a child, you need to use wisdom.  If you have young daughters, for instance, it might be unwise to take in a teenage boy who has been sexually abused.  That’s common sense.  But the problems come when we start letting our own personal desires dictate whom we are willing to take into our home, and whom we are not.  We really need to go into this with our hands open to what God has for us, not just open to what we think we want.

Well, in spite of the four physical reminders of God’s goodness and grace sitting at our dinner table every night, Terri and I once again decided to close our hands a bit when we told our social worker last fall that we were open to taking in another child.  We specified this time, though, no babies – we were done with the middle of the night feedings, etc…  We asked for a child 2 years and older.  Now, most agencies would be thrilled to have a family that is willing to take in a child over 2, but then, on November 9th, our agency got a call for a six week-old child who needed a home.  Our social worker called our home and talked to Terri, telling her that based on the information she had, this would likely be a very short-term placement – as little as a few days, in fact.  We know the foster system well enough to know not to count on such things, but we also know and trust our social worker enough to know that she was giving us the best information she had.

Terri told me that we had been asked to take in a child who was a month and a half old.  Evidently, I hadn’t had coffee yet, because I know I heard her say a year and a half.  In my mind, it wasn’t 2, but it was only six months away from 2, so surely it wouldn’t be so bad.  We called the social worker and accepted the placement.  It was only on the way to the county office that it became clear to me that this child was only 6 weeks old.  To be honest, I was a little bummed out…okay, I was very bummed out.  This wasn’t the plan.  We were not going to take in a baby this time around.  We thought we had made that clear.  Yet, we had accepted her already, so we couldn’t go back on our word.  And besides, maybe it really would turn out to be just a few days.

We brought her home, and well, a few days turned into a few weeks.  Naturally, the few weeks turned into a few months.  We were in court for her case yesterday, and it is looking more and more likely that I will walk her down the aisle one day.  I would love to share a picture of her, but she is still a foster child, so I have to keep her name and face private for now.  Trust me on this, though – she is beautiful, she is precious, she’s a part of us…and we are so thankful that I hadn’t had my coffee when Terri came to tell me about her 8 months ago today.  Once again, God took our desires and redirected us to be open to what He wanted.  And once again, what He had for us was better than we could ever imagine.

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