Romelia’s head was spinning. She couldn’t believe it. I’m only 15. How can this be happening to me? Coming from a poor, rural region of Guatemala, she had little hope that she would be able to raise the child now growing within her womb. Her family’s poverty has caused her to drop out of school years ago, to enter the workforce and contribute yet another meager wage to survive with her family.
She considered her options, and none of theme seemed very attractive. She could keep the child. In an ideal world, she would love the opportunity to raise a child. But she’s single, 15 years old and too poor to quit her job and have enough to provide for her baby. She could abort the baby. Her eyes welled up at the very thought. She quickly dismissed it. I’ll never resort to abortion. There has to be another way. Besides, abortion is illegal in her country, socially taboo and too costly and dangerous. This left only one option: she could place the baby for adoption. She cringed at how this will pain her heart, but there was no other way. Out of love, she must allow her baby to have the life that the child deserves.
This is the back-story, as best as we can put the pieces together, of how a little baby girl, Eloisa will eventually come into our family. Romelia has relinquished her rights as mother of Eloisa, not because she abandoned her, or didn’t care for her. She relinquished her rights as a sacrificial love. And God has called us to adopt Eloisa and provide her with the life she just simply couldn’t have under the circumstances in Guatemala. This is a huge responsibility for us. We gladly accept the call to rescue a child from a life of poverty and injustice. But it’s not one we take lightly. Nor do we want to neglect the immense sacrifice Eloisa’s birthmother made on her behalf.
My wife and I came to the decision to adopt after much discussion, prayer and searching the Scriptures. Through this process, one thing became abundantly clear: God desires His people to care for the orphan. In fact: God is glorified when His followers care for the orphan.
Evidence abounds in Scripture, but one verse exemplifies this thought better than any other: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: too look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27, TNIV).
In this single verse, two mandates are woven together to create a fabric of authentic faith: moral purity and compassionate caring for the vulnerable (orphans and widows). I think it’s safe to claim that the present day Church fails miserably in both categories. A quick glance at a Barna or Gallup poll will prove this. Why is this? I believe it’s because we fail to consider the call of James—to pursue both moral purity and compassion together—100 percent. To overemphasize one at the expense of the other is folly. It’s nonsensical to James, and it cripples the Church’s witness in the world. James is concerned with neglecting the “living out” of our faith. It’s a wonderful thing to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. But are we willing to follow Him? To live as He lived? To do as He did? That’s the biggest challenge for churches in America, who profess Christ with their lips, but so often fail to follow in His footsteps.
Consider the impact the Church would have if it strived for purity and compassionate caring for the orphan. That sort of Church is irresistible to a world looking for meaning, purpose and love. People would flock to it because of the pure hearts of the people and the impact they have on people’s lives in their world.
Thus, our very witness depends on pursuing both purity and justice with equal passion and vigor as one consistent mission. It’s a mission that flows from the very character of God: morally pure, holy, yet also compassionate. Our God is a God of adoption. He has a unique concern for orphans. It’s evidenced in His relationship with His Church, and it’s part of the very nature of how we relate to God and to other human beings.
Sounds like an exaggeration? Consider Ephesians 1:5: God “predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will” (TNIV). Therefore, we are God’s people only because of His decision to adopt us into His family. It brings Him pleasure to do so.
What better way to embody, illustrate and point to this miraculous loving act than to physically adopt orphans into our own families?
There’s no denying the need for orphan care and adoption in our world today (UNICEF, adoption.com):
· There are an estimated 143 million orphans in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.
· AIDS alone orphans a child every 14 seconds.
· There are 500,000 children in the U.S. foster system, 120,000 of which are available for adoption.
Just as God’s heart breaks for each spiritual orphan not yet adopted into His Family, so our hearts should break for orphaned children forced to survive in a world without a family. Our hearts would break for these orphans, as most will be forced to resort to a life on the streets: a life of crime, prostitution and drugs.
That is, unless you do something about it; unless we, the bride of Christ, decides to rise up to the challenge. God has given the Church a privileged mandate, in James 1:27 and elsewhere in Scripture, to care for the orphans. And it’s a call that should extend beyond conventional “pro-life” politics. I’m passionately pro-life. I believe in fighting for the rights of the unborn. It’s a good, worthy and biblical battle to wage. But a pro-life voting record is only one small part of living authentically “pro-life.” Consider the words of author/activist Shane Claiborne: “I must say that I am still passionately pro-life. I just have a much more holistic sense of what it means to be for life, knowing that life does not just begin at conception and end at birth, and that if I’m going to discourage abortion, I had better be ready to adopt some babies and care for some mothers” (The Irresistible Revolution).
The Church in America must transcend the typical “pro-life” politics and devote as much passion, energy and resources into pro-life adoption, the pro-life fighting of poverty, the pro-life fighting of injustice. Who said that we must choose between supporting “pro-life” policies and justice? Can’t we do both?
I think we can. I think we must. To do so is to embody a more authentic, more biblical and more consistent pro-life ethic. The Church must begin to show the world that it cares enough about the issue of abortion to adopt babies from mothers who are unable to care for their own.
Therefore, I want to challenge each and every one of you to consider adoption, regardless of fertility issues. Adoption should not be merely a last resort for people who can’t reproduce biologically. It should be an assumption of Christ-followers everywhere. This doesn’t mean that adoption is easy. It’s not. There are unique challenges that come with adoption, some of which we may not have any control over. But there are certain aspects of my son’s life (whom we had biologically) which I have no control over either. Parenting is a risk, but with great risk comes great reward.
I implore you, please consider adoption. As you marry and as you plan your family, pray seriously and fervently about adopting, and pursue it until God tells you to stop. There are too many Scriptures on adoption and too many orphans in the world to ignore. We’re patiently awaiting the opportunity to bring our baby girl home. We’ve trudged through the mountain of paperwork, bills and appointments. And trust me: we only know Eloisa through pictures, but it’s already worth it. It’s a joy and a privilege to participate in God’s adoptive work; a joy all of you should share.