While orphan care undoubtedly involves changing the life of a child, it inevitably brings about significant and profound change in our own lives as well. For whatever change we may bring about for them, they will no doubt change us in ways we never knew possible.
Our lives were forever changed the night we met the baby girl who would eventually become our daughter. She was born the victim of heinous abuse, the defenseless recipient of an agregious crime. On what would have normally been just another Wednesday night, we now sat at the kitchen table signing legal documents with child protective services while she slept peacefully nearby in the living room, wholly unaware of the events unfolding around her.
Now, over two years later she has a new name, a new reality and a new forever trajectory on life. She's entirely unaware not only of all that has changed in her short 2 years but also of the lasting change she has produced in us as a result of entering our family. In a quite literal sense, it's entirely possible she has changed us more than we have changed her - and perhaps that's all part of God's design in how this whole adoption thing works.
More than just our family dynamic, the number of children in our home or even the skin color and hair style now represented in our family photos, our story forever changed the night her story interjected itself into it. It's impossible to hold such a vulnerable, tragic and broken story in your arms and not have your heart struck deeply by its implications. It moves you, shakes you to the core and changes you in deep, profound ways. For whatever change we may bring about in the life of a marginalized, abused or orphaned child, it will come back on us exponentially. Their story changes ours forever - and undoubtedly for the better.
Here's a few ways orphan care has changed me, particularly in how I view the world around me, embrace Jesus within me and am continually learning all over again how to be embraced by Him more fully.
Healing What Is Broken
Orphan care isn't just about embracing the broken places kids come from. It also exposes our own broken places and forces us to deal with them. As we step deep into the fractures of their stories we're pierced again by the cracks in our own. It's impossible to seek healing on behalf of someone else without first experiencing healing to a certain degree within yourself. We simply cannot give what we do not have.
We were entrusted with the humbling task of caring for a very fragile, vulnerable and defenseless baby girl - and in so doing reminded of our own insecurities and wounds and forced to consider what healing through Jesus needed to take place in our lives before we could rightly extend that same healing through Jesus into hers.
On one hand, we are compelled to respond to the brokenness of others by offering a hope and healing that otherwise would not have been available to them. Yet, on the other hand, the needs of others not only drive us outwardly but also force us to consider our own condition inwardly. Is the hope and healing I'm offering someone else coming from a place of deep, personal experience within my own heart and life? Is the offer of redemption through Jesus I want others to know the same redemption I am working out and walking through myself?
I've learned that their brokenness exposes ours, their vulnerability exposes ours, their need exposes ours and while we work to bring healing and restoration in their lives, they inevitably and even unknowingly do the same in ours. Perhaps in the end, by the grace of God, orphan care is not just a means by which we may introduce a child to the redemption of Jesus but also the process by which a child may draw us into a greater awareness of the same.
Fighting For The Defenseless
Orphan care enlightens you to a very dark reality and awakens you from a spiritual apathy which once said it’s someone else’s problem to deal with. For the cause of the orphan we fight a very real battle against a very real Enemy - an adversary who is unequivocally committed to steal, kill and destroy the lives of kids. It is a spiritual battle at its core - a fight we cannot pretend does not exist and cannot excuse ourselves from participating in.
We learned quickly that the story of our daughter was but one in the devastatingly extensive catalogue of others who could not stand, speak or fight for themselves. Her story opened us up to a much larger one - one which we cannot shake from our conscience, haunts us daily and forces us to continually reframe the question in our own hearts from Should we do something? to WHAT something should we do? A slightly different question with drastically different implications.
The news reports of abused or neglected children sting that much deeper now. The angry parent at the shopping center violently disciplining or verbally assaulting their child with degrading words is that much harder to consider none of my business (and I've on occasion been known to say something, or at least stop and stare to ensure that they have an audience watching and ready to intercede). Hard stories are hard to ignore. Broken stories are hard to not be broken by. Orphan care thrusts us into a deeply spiritual battle - one which, when the fight intensifies, it's increasingly hard to stand on the sidelines of.
Orphan care has taught me much about the presence of injustice, abuse, neglect and family-less children in the world. There's a battle surrounding us all, and once we are given a peak inside of it we can't help but be consumed by the whole of it and thus compelled by the hope that maybe, just maybe, our lives can somehow help redemption prevail over that which is severely and tragically flawed.
Celebrating The Gospel
Orphan care thrusts us into the messy work of redemption and beautifully reminds us all over again of how Jesus sought and saved us in our own mess. It's just as much about pulling a child out of a broken story as it is about us being pulled into the awful reality of another. It's about learning to love others in a way and in a place we never knew possible and realizing in new and profound ways that this is the way Jesus has loved us.
The night our daughter was brought to our home our world was opened up to a darkness we knew existed in theory but only now came to know personally in real and haunting ways. It's been this darkness, and the light which we are called to bring into it for her sake, that continually reminds us of the extent to which Jesus engaged in our dark places in order to set us free into brighter and more beautiful ones.
In the end, this little girl has taught me much about the Gospel – God’s radical, redeeming, consuming, healing, hope-giving love for me through Jesus. Every night as we read a story in the rocking chair I hold her close in my lap and can't help but kiss her irresistible cheeks - and in so doing am reminded all over again that I too am held with great assurance in the arms of a Father who has brought me into His family and called me His own. He changed my name. Gave me a new identity. Secured my future and changed the trajectory of my life forever. I was once an orphan, but now I’m showered in His kisses of grace, and nothing will be ever be the same.
In the end, the story of the Gospel in orphan care is as much about rescuing a child as it is about being rescued by one. It’s as much about adopting an orphan as it is about being adopted by one. It’s about writing a new story of hope and opportunity between the lines of an old story of brokenness and despair. It’s about seeing the love of Jesus towards you in your love towards a helpless child, and being rescued all over again by the beautiful story of your redemption out of darkness and into His marvelous light. A little girl, helpless and wholly unaware of anything that has transpired in her life, has rescued me all over again.
- Killing the Orphan Care Hero Complex
- Orphan Care, the Church and Evangelical Fads
- Why Foster Care is Necessary
- Orphan Care Ministry: When Your Pastor Doesn't Get It
- The Beauty and Brokenness of Foster Care
- Adoption: Giving A Family, Not Just Getting A Child
- Six Things Foster Care Has Taught Me
- The Greater Good of Orphan Care
- 3 Ways Orphan Care Displays the Gospel
- 3 Reasons Why The Church Must Care For Orphans
- The Other Side of Foster Care
- The Generational Effects of Adoption
- The Sovereignty of God in Foster Care
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