“The first sibling my family adopted joined our family as a young baby. The second time my family adopted, my new little brother was six. He had Radical Attachment Disorder from spending so much time in the orphanage. First his birth mother left him, and then he had cycled through numerous caregivers at the orphanage, most of whom were female nuns. He couldn’t emotionally attach to my mom. At the orphanage, he learned survival skills that helped him get what he needed: how to manipulate caregivers, how to throw tantrums to get attention. Now that he was in a loving home, those survival skills were a hindrance, not a help.
My Mom knew it would be tough when we adopted him. But she was determined to love him through it all.
He would run away from home sometimes (we lived in the middle of nowhere) and she would let him go, but would follow along behind. Whenever his little legs got tired and he turned around, she would be standing there to pick him up and carry him back home.
When he threw tantrums, she’d wrap him in a blanket, hug him and rock him until he calmed down.
She never got a mother’s day card or a birthday card. More like, “I hate you!” notes. Except a few years ago, she got a card that said
“You’re still here.”
You’re still here.
It’s adoption month in the USA. And there are bombs in Paris, and refugees from Syria, and people of all sorts fleeing ISIS, and things are crazy all over the world. But in all the craziness, in all the tragedy, here are some ways we can “be here” for orphans.
Think about your own adoption. This Sunday, the pastor shared about how a Christian worldview should make us even more open to adoption than other groups: central to our theology is the idea that God has adopted us into his family through Christ, and he loves us unconditionally. In Roman times, while biological children could be disinherited and outcast from the family, adopted children never could. When the apostle Paul uses that imagery, it’s for a reason. We’re part of God’s forever family. Going through the process of adoption helps us understand something special about God.
Think about adopting. The fact is, we need more people who are willing to give adoptable kids a forever home. The pastor showed a picture of the number of churches in each state in the US, and the number of children up for adoption. If each church had one family adopt, there’d pretty much be no more orphans in America.
But adoption isn’t easy, and the story I used to introduce this blog post was shared in the service by one of the church members. It makes me think of the blogger, (I can’t think of who), who talks about adoption as a beauty-from-ashes kind of beauty. It’s a redemptive response to a tragedy, but there is still tragedy, and there is still the bits and pieces, the fall-out of that tragedy, that have to be dealt with.
Think about how you can support a family that has adopted (hint: it’s not just the first month when they come home with their new child—it’s also five years down the road when some of their child’s unique challenges are presented, and ten years down the road, and fifteen years down the road). How can we love, support, encourage and strengthen the adoptive families around us?
Think about how you can be a part of caring for the orphans in your world who are unadoptable. It’s not just about taking children into our nuclear family, it’s also about having a bigger definition of family. As I talked about here, we westerners have a very individualistic mindset when it comes to our resources. Maybe we should think about how to include outsiders, orphans, and widows in our definition of family.
Think about how you can be a part getting to the roots. South Africa has an orphan crisis. But we can’t only care for the orphans here and now. We need to be a part of creating a country where there are no more orphans, where the rapid spread of HIV has been staunched, where parents are living long enough to see their children grow up. It’s not just about compassion, it’s also about development. iThemba Projects is doing just that, by providing education and mentors to a fatherless generation in Sweetwaters, South Africa. Check out their website, and you can donate to the ThanksGIVING fundraiser that I’ve created for them on PureCharity. The challenge is to post a profile picture of something you’re thankful for, donate $2 to iThemba, and tag 5 friends to do the same. Or you can just give, if you’re not into that social media thing. 🙂
What are your thoughts on adoption? If you are part of a family that includes adopted children, what do you wish people knew? How can the church better encourage and support adoption in South Africa, as well as the USA?