Over this last year, there have been so many comments about adoption directed either to me, or to friends of mine who have adopted or have been considering adoption. Some of them are encouraging. Some are rude, or just plain infuriating. Right now, I’m going to discuss the latter, and talk about one of those comments that is very difficult to hear for a mother who is adopting two children from Ethiopia.
“Adopt your own.”
As someone in the middle of the international adoption process, I realize I have so much to learn. I have so much to yet experience, and so many more inconsiderate comments to try to respond politely to. But before I go on, let me say that without a shadow of a doubt, it is all worth it. And for those of you who are wondering how I could possibly know it is worth it when I haven’t even held my children in my arms yet, you can rest assured that I already love my children with everything within me. Just as a mother begins to love her little one as he or she rests inside that growing belly of hers, God floods my heart with anticipation and true love as I wait to meet my babies in person for the first time. It is truly amazing.
Several months ago, a friend of mine had started asking me about adoption. She was in the beginning stages, and knew very little about the process. She didn’t know what country she wanted to adopt from, or what agency to choose. All she knew was that she wanted to adopt a little girl (having all boys at this point). So, just like any of us would do when we have a question, she summoned the great and powerful Facebook. She asked the question, “Which country should we adopt from?” and wow….that brought on the gamut of mostly uneducated and uncompassionate replies. One lady even suggested to her that she make friends with a guidance counselor at a local high school so she could kind of intercept the pregnant teens that might not want to keep their babies. (ummmm….yeah….I’m not even going to touch that comment right now.) Honestly, though, the comments that stung the most for me, were the ones that spoke of adopting American children.
“You should adopt your own.” This is the mentality that was being expressed over and over again on my friend’s Facebook wall. People were mentioning how important American children are, because they are right here where she lives, and so many are languishing in the foster care system. Is this true? Absolutely. There are so many children in the U.S. who are in need of a family. They deserve a family just as much as anyone else. But what makes them “your own?” Why should someone adopt an American child, over a child from Uganda, for example?
Is it because we live in the same country? Is it because we might speak the same language? Did God actually mean to say, “Pure religion is caring for widows and orphans that live in the same school district as you because those are your own?” You can read James 1:27 yourself. I don’t think there is any translation of the bible that will say that.
I don’t think God ever localized orphan care. His heart is vast, and His love goes beyond measure. Who can comprehend it? It is truly amazing.
Let’s look at the great commission for a moment. Matt 28:19, “Go you therefore and make disciples of all nations […]”. Mark 16:15, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to all creation.” And Even John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that who ever believes in him will have eternal life.” So God loves people enough in all nations to die for them and bring them into the Body of Christ, where we are all brothers and sisters, to allow the same salvation that he gave to us to be given to them (and actually, the Jewish people were the first to receive salvation…not Americans). But it seems like what I often hear from my fellow Christian Americans, is that we can all be a big family, but we should seek first to make American children our sons and daughters. Is this truly what so many believe?
The term “our own” is not even biblically supported. We all were with out hope and we were a people who had no name, but He grafted us into the Vine (Jewish heritage, the promise of God, Abramhamic and beyond). He has given us equal share in the Kingdom by His Grace and Blood. Ephesians 2:12 says it best: “Remember that at the time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.”
When I read over these scriptures once again, I am overwhelmed and humbled. If Jesus had simply adopted “his own”, salvation and membership in the family of Christ would be reserved for the Jewish people alone. Wow.
Yes, there are many children languishing in foster homes in the United States (there are also many children thriving in foster homes, because there are many good foster families!). I have experienced the foster care system myself, having been a part of CASA, and also having gone through the foster to adopt classes. It is no easier than any international adoption process, and it is heart-breaking to find out what turmoil so many children go through, being tossed around from family to family. The government gives these children food, clothing, and education, but their longing for a healthy and loving family life often goes unfulfilled, because they are caught up in a system of red tape.
But in Ethiopia, 1 out of 20 children die in their first month of life. 1 out of 10 dies before their first birthday. 1 out of 6 die before their fifth birthday. (http://www.unicef.org/ethiopia/children.html)
In Russia, like many countries, once they are labeled an orphan, their chances at thriving are slim. According to the Russia Ministry of Education, the typical orphan statistics are grim:
- 60% of orphanage “graduates” are unemployed or not in school
- 50% use drugs and abuse alcohol
- 60% fall into prostitution to survive
- 15% take their own lives
India has the largest population of child laborers under the age of 14 in the world. There are conservatively 25 million orphans in India. Many of these are caught up in the sex trade. In 2009 it was estimated that 1.2 million of India’s children were involved in prostitution. (http://www.unicef.org/india/children_2360.htm, http://www.hopechest.org/india/)
Swaziland. This small country in Africa has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the world, giving it the name, “Nation of Orphans”. Generations of people in this country have been decimated by AIDS leaving many children orphaned and alone, without anyone to call mom or dad. 12% of the total population are considered to be orphans. The average person in Swaziland only lives to be about 28 years old. (http://www.hopechest.org/swaziland/)
These four countries represent just some of the statistics for orphans in the world. Unlike the United States (even though I have seen the flaws and weaknesses in the United States own system), they don’t have a system set up to provide food, clothing, and education to their children. Many of these countries want to take care of their orphaned children. They want to provide them with all that the U.S. can provide for it’s orphans and neglected children, but unfortunately, more often than not, they lack the means or education to do so.
Don’t the children of Ethiopia, Russia, India, and Swaziland deserve a home and family just as much as the orphaned child here in the United States? Doesn’t every child in every country across the world deserve this? Yes. And little 5 year old, Melissa, living in a foster home in Kentucky, deserves a permanent loving family, just as much as 7 year old, Amara, living in an orphanage in Ethiopia, does.
I believe in adoption. I believe in it whether you are adopting from the country you live in, or from a country far away from you. I believe in my own adoption story, which reached it’s pinnacle when Christ adopted me, and took me in as His own, with every problem under the sun, called me “daughter”, and saved me from an eternity without Him. Adoption saved my life.
I. Love. Adoption.
Every child is worth it. Every life is worth it. My little Alexander and Eliana are just as much “my own” as any child born in the United States would be. A child being our own has nothing to do with a child’s birth country. It doesn't even have to do with genetics. It has everything to do with the immense love and bond God places in our hearts for our children. It is the most amazing representation of what He has done for us as His children. Thank you God, for allowing me to experience just part of the joy you experienced when I first called you Father. I am in awe. I am overwhelmed. I am overjoyed that I get to call Alex & Elli, son and daughter, and that they truly are….my own.