Thursday, January 13, 2011

What if I was radical?

I was thinking in the shower (which is a great place to think!) today about this article over at World Magazine. The author basically says that if more pastors and church leaders would adopt, it would create more of a culture of adoption in the church. He writes "Pastors tend to preach and teach about their interests and practices. And American Christians tend to apply the Bible to real life issues after a pastor or recognized leader stirs up interest. So if church leaders would cast a practice-driven vision for orphan care, churchgoers likely would be challenged to participate in one of the most ancient practices of God’s covenant people (Exodus 22; Deuteronomy 14, 16, 24)." More specifically, I was thinking about the comments that followed that article, and the exchange over here.

People get tied up in the comments over what constitutes an "orphan" and if we are called to care for only orphans (no parents) or foster children as well... and the ways in which this is to be done (adoption through the state, private adoption, foster care, etc.) There was a lot of criticism of the foster/adopt system in the US (yes, it's broken) as well as several people who basically said "adoption and/or foster care is not my calling."

Now, to some degree, I agree with all of this. But it also sort of seems like an excuse. I don't have everything sorted out in my head yet, but here are some of my thoughts:

As a Christ-follower, we are all called to care for orphans (the fatherless, or, as I think of them- those who don't have families, which would include both "true orphans" and foster children) and widows. It's our job to figure out the exact nature of our call. For some, it is adoption and/or foster care. For others, it may be financially supporting another family's adoption. Maybe it's providing respite care, providing meals for adoptive/foster parents, or caring for the kids while mom and dad go on a date. Maybe it's providing care, love, and support to birth mothers as they make an adoption plan and after they go through the painful process of placing a child for adoption. Maybe it's coming along side a family in distress so that the children remain in that family in a safe and loving way. Maybe it's entering into a mentoring relationship with a child who is aging out of foster care to support and guide them as they enter the world of adulthood. Not all of us are called to adopt, but we are all called. And if we can't identify a way in which we are responding to the call, saying "we aren't called to foster/adopt" is just an excuse. You are called- find your way to fulfill that call.

It's hard for me to believe, however, that there are not enough Christians in this country to adopt the 115,000 children who are available for adoption right now. I think there is some truth in the idea that Bradley presents; our pastors and church leaders should be making orphan and widow care just as much of a priority as other kinds of giving (tithing, missions, etc.) The church should have a culture of orphan (adoption/foster) and widow care as the norm. Although there are several that are doing this already, I don't think this is the true culture of most churches. And our pastors/leaders are the ones in a position to change that. Now, I don't believe that all pastors should adopt/foster, but I think they do have a responsibility to see how they are leading their congregation in this area. In addition to the ways mentioned above, pastors are in a unique position to council couples (in premarital classes and through other ministries aimed at couples) that adoption is part of God's plan, and may be part of God's specific plan for them. More often than not, it's not God saying "yes" to our desire to adopt--- it's us saying "yes" to God's plan for us to adopt! If we are constantly seeking God's plan and have our minds and hearts open to this, maybe we will hear more "YES!" from God  in this area!

The problem, though, is not that Christians aren't adopting or fostering. Sadly, it's a much bigger problem. It's not the global orphan crisis of 147 million orphans. It's not the AIDS crisis, or the natural disasters or the unethical government practices that is our problem. It's our hearts. Because adopting a child with severe RAD is a pretty radical thing to do. Fostering a child with severe medical needs is a pretty radical thing to do. Bringing an underweight, sickly, HIV+, African child into your affluent white home and then loving them as the beloved child of God that they are is a radical thing to do. We are called to live radically- to do the very things that make unbelievers anxious. We are called to live without fear, to live with faith that God's plan is the right plan, and He will equip us to carry out His work in this earth. But how many of us are actually living this way? That is our problem.

I wrote before about trying to figure out what my role is in orphan care. And as I was in the shower, I feel like God was telling me that the reason this is so confusing... the reason I don't know what it is that I am supposed to be doing... is because I haven't opened myself up to living radically. I'll be honest, when I've thought about my role in orphan care, what I really meant was which organization I should give my time and money to, or if there was a way that my training as a RN could be beneficial to orphans. But the needs are so great. What if God wants to call me to foster... to foster kids with medical needs... that would be pretty radical. What if God wants to call me to go and mentor young women who will soon be aging out of the system- for me, that would be pretty radical. What if God wants to call me to do something downright crazy and adopt a sibling group of teens from the waiting children domestically or internationally? That would be completely radical! Am I ready to say "yes" to what God is ready to call me to do? Am I ready to live radically?

I'll be honest: I'm not. And neither is John. Yet. But let's just pretend for a minute that we were part of a Body that had adoption/foster care as part of the culture. A church where those who were called to do something radical were supported and cared for financially, emotionally, physically, and spiritually? Where there was a group you could turn to and say "This is so hard! I can't do it!" and they would turn around and not only tell you that you can do all things through Christ, but come over and bring you dinner and clean your house and give you some respite? What if that culture of caring for orphans and widows was so "normal" that the announcement of planning to adopt or foster didn't bring 546 questions about the process, but instead triggered a caring response from the Body to love and support you through each step of the process, offering encouragement when times were hard, finances when it was expensive, helping hands when you were stretched too thin, knowledge and expertise when you were dealing with situations beyond your experience, love when you felt like you had given all you had... what if?

What if we did instead of said?

What if we, as the Body, lived radically?

What if I was radical?


Mamá to the best 3 said...

Such a high (hard) calling... but by far, the only way I want to strive to live!

Living for the Lord in 2011 said...

Amazing! I so agree with you... I organized my extended family to skip our Christmas presents to the other adults this year and instead we pooled our money to sponsor 3 orphans through a full year of schooling and care in Tanzania....
I feel (like you) that God is calling me to be more RADICAL...
What will that mean for this SAH mom of 6 (from 18 to 2) whose DH is already freaked out about affording college for the ones we have?
I am not sure...I am praying and waiting on God to find out... I will follow along with you in your journey as well,