My husband William and got I married about seven years ago. When we got engaged neither of us wanted to have kids. (This will be comical later on. Just wait for it.) We learned in pre-marital counseling having kids is biblical. Hmmm… So we decided to adopt. Getting pregnant kinda freaked me out (still does for the record) and there were “too many” kids out there already. Seriously – that was our thinking.
Our son was born in 2008 (surprise!) and shortly after we began the process of international adoption. We were told “the process” would take about twelve months. About six months in we found out we were pregnant again. (Surprise!) And yes, we know how that happens.
<Enter nine month adoption break.>
When our daughter was four weeks old we started the adoption process again. If you aren’t familiar with international adoption, every single one of the bazillion forms you submit has an expiration date. Take a break? Re-do bazillion forms.
We updated all bazillion forms and the day before we planned to mail them, William was diagnosed with stage three melanoma.
<Enter surgeries and cancer treatment and another nine month adoption break.>
In March 2011 William was given a clean bill of health. We let out a long sigh of relief… Ahhhh.
Remember what I said earlier about the bazillion forms? Yeah, they expired again.
We updated everything again and mailed it off. Two and a half years into our adoption journey our bazillion forms finally landed in Ethiopia!
A few months later, Ethiopia deemed us unfit to parent. You can read about that here.
I wandered around the house in my pajamas all weekend. Thankfully, William remained steadfast and we pressed on. This time pursuing adoption from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Less than a month later we were matched with an adorable five-ish year old little boy. We planned to name him Malachi but never got that chance. He went home to live with his uncle and there is now one less orphan in the world. For that, we are thankful.
We went back on the list to wait for another little boy. (Circa February 2012.)
While we waited, God brought two little boys from five blocks away to live us. One of them is named Malachi. God is funny like that isn’t He? Malachi and his brother came to us through an amazing program designed to keep kids out of the foster care system – Safe Families for Children. (Please check it out. It is wonderful!)
We learned early on in our placement with the boys that they might not be leaving anytime soon. In fact, it became apparent they would likely be going into foster care. Since we were not certified foster parents, that would have meant them being pulled from our house and moved into a state certified foster home.
Becoming foster parents was not on our radar. It’s not something we ever considered. But God knew that. He re-wrote our adoption story to include the American orphan. I thought orphans in the US were far better off than orphans in places like Africa and India. I WAS WRONG. God knew we needed to see it for ourselves; in our own living room. So we became foster parents.
And that’s when God went to work on our hearts.
He showed us how the effects of neglect, abuse and trauma in the United States are NO different than the effects of neglect, abuse and trauma in Africa or Haiti. He opened our eyes to the 500,000 orphans in our own country who will go to bed tonight as wards of the state. He taught us that while yes, children in third world countries are more likely to be on the streets in the only shirt they own begging for food and living in a carboard box beacuase their parents are dead or dying, the effect parentlessness has on them is no greater than the effect of parentlessness on orphans right “here”.
Their needs are the same. The same as children in Africa. Children in Russia, India and Haiti. The need for lovers of Jesus to fight for the American orphan is the same.
There are currently over 100,000 children in the US foster care system who are legally available for adoption. Did you know that? One year ago I did not.
Feel the weight of these numbers. 100,00 children waiting for parents. 500,000 children in the US foster care system.
Stop. Feel it. Because they are not just numbers. They are children.
Children in your state. In your town. In your neighborhood. The need is REAL.
And the command is CLEAR.
Remember what Jesus said about children? “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
Scripture is FULL of passages about orphans and the poor. I think we can agree anytime scripture talks about the poor, orphans are included.
You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child.
If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me,
I will surely hear their cry,
Exodus 22:22 – 23
O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.
Psalm 10:17 – 18
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this:
to visit orphans and widows in their affliction,
and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
Father of the fatherless and protector of widows
is God in his holy habitation.
God settles the solitary in a home;
he leads out the prisoners to prosperity,
but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.
Psalm 68:5 – 6
“When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field,
you shall not go back to get it.
It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow,
that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.
learn to do good;
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow’s cause.
Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me
And the King will answer them,
‘Truly, I say to you,
as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,
you did it to me.’
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
Open your mouth for the mute,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
defend the rights of the poor and needy.
Proverbs 31:8 – 9
These are God’s holy words to us, His hands and feet, when it comes to caring for the orphaned, the widowed, the poor and the destitute. To paraphrase our pastor’s Orphan Sunday message, at some point, the gospel has to compel us to practically DO SOMETHING.
There are a lot of myths regarding foster care and adopting from the foster system. Unfortunately, the only stories that receive media attention are ones where a birth parent shows up years later and demands his/her kid back. Or stories of kids who linger in the states care for years and years.
While these things do happen, they are not the norm. More importantly, the system may be broken, but God is sovereign.
The state’s job is to protect children but the state cannot and does not nurture children and point them to the only One who can heal him. His Bride must do that. If not us, then who?
If you’d like to learn more about foster care or adoption in your state visit Focus on the Family. You can reach Lindsy on her blog, email her at lindsy.wallace AT gmail DOT com, find her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, or on Pinterest.
Lindsy and her husband William live in Kentucky with their four preschoolers and are anxiously awaiting the arrival of a toddler from Africa. She blogs about orphan care and Jesus at word from the wallaces.