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A CHANGED STORY

Several months ago a newborn baby girl entered our lives and changed us forever. 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 papers with child protective services while she slept peacefully nearby in the living room, wholly unaware of the events unfolding around her.

Who we are and who we will forever be changed the night she arrived at our home. Not merely because our family dynamic was changing or our lifestyle would require shifting by bringing an additional child into our home. Our story changed because her story interjected itself into it. Up until that moment, our ideas about caring for orphans were less aware of the story of the orphan and more aware of our own. We would pull a child out of a bad situation and bring them into our good one. We would rescue them from their broken story and offer them a better, healthier one…ours. The end goal was always to leave the darkness of their story behind and move on to a brighter one, with us.

Our story changed because her story interjected itself into it.

Months later, we have found orphan care to be something entirely different and unexpected. Her story runs deep, beyond her short life and tiny, now healthy frame. She’s happy and healthy, so much so that the brutality of where she came from is often lost behind the beauty of her vibrant smile now. But her story, no matter how broken its inception may have been, will always be an integral part of who she is, so it must become a part of who we are as well. To truly love her, to truly offer hope and life and opportunity that transcends the chaos of where she came from, we must be willing to embrace where she came from and step foot into it as our own. We can’t just love where she is now, we must also love where she came from with a hope for redemption and a desperate longing for restoration. This is what real love does. This is what Jesus did for us.

Scripture says that Jesus is God with us (Matthew 1:23), that He took on flesh to dwell among us (John 1:14), that He took on our sin in our place (2 Corinthians 5:21) by embracing the poverty of our depravity and replacing it with the riches of His glory (2 Corinthians 8:9). Jesus loved us by first engaging with us in our sin. He rescued us by taking our story upon Himself and making it His own. He pulled us out of the story of our brokenness by first willingly and humbly being pulled into it. This is the Gospel…the Gospel of our adoption. Jesus came to save us into a fuller and more glorious reality with Himself by first submitting Himself to the oppression and weight of our broken reality. He carried that brokenness to the Cross, or perhaps, in some sense, that brokenness carried Him.

Orphan care is just as much about pulling a child out of a broken story as it is about you being pulled into one. That's what Jesus did for us, so that’s what we must do for these children.

Orphan care is just as much about pulling a child out of a broken story as it is about you being pulled into one.

It’s about embracing the stories of unexpected pregnancies, failed abortions, drug addicted babies, heinously beaten and abused children. It’s about engaging and loving an unfamiliar world that’s outside of your own but still very much a part the human experience. For us, it’s about loving the absent father and beaten down mother of our baby girl who can’t seem to shake the demons that are continually destroying them. It’s about sitting across a deliberation table from mom when the court informs her that her parental rights will be terminated. It’s about watching her weep in that moment over her own brokenness and battles that are causing her to lose her baby. It’s about wanting to wipe away her tears of disappoint and pain and loneliness, and whisper quietly to her, “Everything’s going to be ok.”

In those moments you are thrust into a story that is much deeper than the fairy tale that orphan care and adoption are often made out to be. You find yourself pulled out of your own story and into the awful reality of another. You find yourself broken over the brokenness of another mom and another dad, who just like you wrestle with their own demons and sin. You find yourself loving them in a way you never knew possible. You find yourself realizing this is the way Jesus loves you.

The Gospel is not a fairy tale. It’s the messy, dirty, chaotic story of Jesus interjecting Himself into our brokenness and sitting at the table as the reality of our sin unloads its inevitable consequences upon us. This is where the care of orphans truly begins – in the depths of a story that can only be redeemed by the power of Jesus in the Gospel.

To truly love the orphan we must love as Jesus does. He goes beneath our sin and behind our brokenness and walks with us in the darkness of our story in order to set us free into a brighter and more beautiful one. Caring for orphans begins long before an orphan comes into your home. It starts with a fractured and convoluted story in which an innocent child plays the unwilling participant. It begins with our willingness to step foot into the darkness, not just to rescue a child out of it but to bring light into it.

Orphan care is not a fairy tale because the Gospel is not a fairy tale. It’s a messy but beautiful demonstration of the love of Jesus in action. This is the hard reality of where orphan care begins, where it takes you, what it requires of you and how it will break you.

Orphan care is not a fairy tale because the Gospel is not a fairy tale.

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.

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