Sunday, April 25, 2010

Orphan Ministry

[NOTE: This post was originally written by Paul and Robin Pennington for the Hope for Orphans April 2010 E-Newsletter, which can be found here.]  We had the privilege of Paul and Robin bringing us dinner at the hospital this past week, and we experienced the blessing of being ministered to by their years of adoptive family experience as well as personal heart patient experience as Paul has heart issues himself, they've adopted children with heart issues, and they have grandchildren with heart issues.  Needless to say, God sent them straight to us to deliver His message of truth and hope, encouragement and reality.  I wanted you all to read this article they wrote regarding orphan ministry...perhaps God is calling you to embrace "pure and  undefiled religion...looking after widows and orphans in their distress."  (James 1:27)

From Paul and Robin Pennington:  By now you no doubt have heard about the Russian 8-year-old adoptee sent by his American adoptive mom….alone…back to Russia with a note. The repercussions of this decision on hundreds of Russian children waiting for families are devastating to be sure. What many don’t know is that failed adoptions, or disruptions as they are called, are on the rise and Christians are not immune even if it does not reach such a dramatic level. In fact, Christian families are in some ways more at risk.

Little noticed in the story of the Russian child is that his master-degreed, medical professional mom chose to pursue a “special needs” child because she wanted to get a child more quickly. It also appears that despite the routine communications of her agency post placement, she did not have an effective post adoptive support system.

This story teaches us about two very important trends in the North American adoption and orphan ministry movement. One trend (though a very small percentage of the total number of adoptions) is negative and dangerous, the other positive and encouraging.

In an ever-increasing consumerist American church there is emerging a troubling trend — families who see adoption as a new badge of spirituality. At Hope for Orphans, we stress that those considering adoption should carefully examine their motivations before they ever begin the adoption process.

Common red flags we see are: pursuing adoption as a mission, wanting to please God as a result of sins of the past, desiring a sister or brother for a biological child, or thinking it will help a struggling marriage. Orphaned children do not want or need to be a mission, an act of atonement, a companion strategy or a marriage enhancer….no, they want and need what every child wants and needs…..a mom and dad that loves them unconditionally. Motives that are not geared towards the “unconditional” love of a child, but rather focused more on meeting a need in the parent(s) are dangerous.

It is a sign of a more “me-centered” Christianity that leads to adopting special needs children as a means of getting into the “express lane”. This sort of thinking, which minimizes or dismisses the true needs of hurt children and doesn’t take the time to count the costs, has led to an 8-year-old who sits today confused in a Russian hospital.

On the other hand, more and more there is a wonderful trend and work of God that is the counter to this very sad case. Lay leaders led by the Holy Spirit are launching orphan ministries in their local churches. Many of these new ministries are creating adoption support groups. Typically, adoptive families blessed with years of experience, come alongside new adoptive families, as mentors, coaches, crisis responders, prayer warriors and respite caregivers. This is what the Bible calls “body life”. The Scripture tells us in 1 Corinthians 12: “so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.”

Remember that God wants to use you as an instrument of grace in the lives of your body of believers. He also wants to use that body to help you when the wheels of your life come off. Does your church have a support group for families adopting special needs children? Does your church have an orphans ministry at all? Pastor Chuck Swindoll says: “The test of our morality and theology is passed or failed by our response to the weakest and most helpless among us”. May God use you and your church as a demonstration of pure religion that is pleasing to Him.


Kat said...

I love this. God placed the adoption ministry on my husband and I's heart and reading this means a lot to me. Beautifully said...we always tell our children, "God told us where our children were and we just brought you home."

We continue to pray constantly for Chrissie and all the special prayers the doctors laid out. May God's peace be ever present today.

Laurel said...

Thank you for sharing this.

Yes ... adoption disruptions are on the rise, and adoptive families need help in times of crisis.

We discovered our crisis situation 10 months ago. We new immediately that we could not keep our African son in our home ... we could not protect our 5 younger children, and we could not provide healing to the child that had suffered many years of abuse at the hands of her biological brother, if we were to keep the abuser in our home. We chose to find a new home for this son ... a home without any younger children.

We needed help, and we couldn't find it anywhere. Our pastors did not help us. Our church small group completely rejected us when we spoke of what was happening in our home. And, while our church actually had an "Adoption Support Ministry", they chose not to help, as well. Because they did not agree with our choice to disrupt our adoption ... we were on our own. Fully alone, to walk through our crisis.

While I do not condone what this mother did with her Russian son, I do understand the utter helplessness, despair, and desperation that she must have felt. My heart goes out to this mother. My heart goes out to the many adoptive parents that find themselves in incomprehensible situations ... with no help or support.


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