Thursday, August 26, 2010

Examining starting points

Sweeter than Candy parts 1 & 2 evoked a bit of helpful discussion, and I'd like to provoke a bit more if I can.  Being a disciple of Jesus, I do not want to hold firm to and spout my own opinions if they are not true to God, but rather I want to be humble and teachable as I search His Word and hear the vantage point of others who love Him and may be wiser than I in an area.  It dawned on me as I have chewed on the interaction of these posts that my present views are based more on impressions from the Scriptures, books I've read, and my own experiences than they are on any serious study of what God has to say about the fatherless and how He calls upon us (His people) to minister to these "least of these."  So I invite you to join me in a bit of a study...and as I begin mine, here are some comments that will give you a clue as to my starting point and the areas I want to explore.

The opinions expressed in Sweeter than Candy (all coming from those who state their love of God) seem to have one of two starting points...either they start with the idea that:
  • adoption is a family decision (a way of growing the family which also helps a fatherless child and is a Christian thing to do) which leads to the conclusion that the family is fully responsible to fund the process.
OR they start with the idea that:
  • caring for the fatherless is a ministry of the body of Christ and adoption is one of the ways of accomplishing this mission, which involves families stepping forward to bring the fatherless into their families who may or may not be able to cover all of the upfront costs of bringing this about.  Since the starting point here is that caring for the fatherless is a ministry of the body of Christ, it follows that the body can and should work together to bring children into Christian families (not because they are entitled or have rights, but because we display His glory as we imitate the One who did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many... the world will know that we are His disciples by our love as we live it out together).  
Now keeping those starting points in mind, I want to dive into what I know is even more controversial waters and invite your interaction.  Let's set up a scenario...let's say there is a godly family who faithfully serves in a local church, they have four children already (doesn't matter to me whether they are homegrown or grafted), they home-school, have a good reputation in their community, and the husband/dad makes a sufficient income to add at least one more child to their family and they have the desire to do so by adoption because God has given them a heart for the fatherless.  Looking at their budget and the estimated time line of adoption, they think they would most likely be able to come up with about half of the expenses related to adoption if they were to start the process immediately.  Now:
  • Should they keep waiting and saving til they can cover it all?  After all, in a lot of situations, the lack of funds IS an indicator of whether to proceed with something or not.  Our consumer-hungry society that says we should have whatever we want, whenever we want, money available or not, sickens me in general.  
  • Should they approach their church officers and see if they could offer themselves in the ministry of adoption with the request for others to come alongside them to help?  
  • Should they begin the process and ask God to provide the difference without saying a word to anyone else, trusting that He will provide if He has truly indeed called them to adopt?  
  • Should they jump into a bunch of fund-raising activity that may well put a strain on faithfully fulfilling their other clear responsibilities?
  • Should they ask unbelievers (kind of like plundering the Philistines) to help at all (be it family members or facebookathons, etc)?
  • Are there other options you can think of? 
What does God's Word have to say to these kinds of questions not only to the ones desiring to adopt, but to those who are in the position to come alongside them, pray for them, encourage them, and yes even help financially?  You see, we ALL have a starting point and it affects not only what we will step out and offer to do ourselves, but it also affects how we give aid. 

Here's where it gets more the giving department, will we give if we do not get anything but the smile of God in return?  Luke 14:13-14 says: "But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just."  Do we need a tee-shirt or beads or anything else?  Let me say before I go on that I see absolutely NO problem in selling these things as a means of fund-raising, as long as the work involved in it isn't taking you detrimentally away from clear, God-given responsibilities.  In fact, the tee-shirts often promote the message of adoption and provide conversation starters that can be wonderful opportunities. And things like beads are often also supporting the work of poor people in other countries, providing them with income as well as helping to raise funds for adoption. And puzzle pieces when put together provide a beautiful reminder of God's body working together to bring your child home.  These can also provide an opportunity for fund-raising families to work together in a bonding sort of way as they get ready to bring another member into their midst.  I have NO PROBLEM with those who do these things, but I do ask why the need to do these things is there.  MY POINT is that if caring for the fatherless is the ministry of the body of Christ, then the body should be eager to lift burdens, not add them.  If you are married and already raising children, possibly homeschooling, working at maintaining a healthy marriage, serving at church, blessing your neighbors, trying now to adopt which is not only budget tapping but time-consuming, I think it is sad that there's a need to practically run a business on the side to get a few more dollars here and a few more dollars there.  What is our starting point? 

Let's jump to a different scenario for a minute.  I have an extra 23 month old with me, presently snoozing away in my son's room because his mommy (a friend of mine) is recovering from a medical emergency.  What does a friend do?  What does a sister in Christ do?  She lifts burdens.  "What can I do to help?" comes sincerely out of her mouth.  So, yesterday I gladly went and picked up my friend's son to hang out with us for awhile.  Friends don't say "tough it out" except when the person needs a kick in the pants and saying that is the right thing to do.  They offer to help when they can, and they do so cheerfully.  If you are not in a position to help, a kind word may be all you have to offer and that is fine...we can only do what we can do.  Time is a resource and I'm using it right now to help a friend.  Last week I was busy with getting ready for a fund-raising garage sale so when the request for help with meals came, I couldn't offer.  This week my time was free enough to offer childcare.  As we're able, are we cheerfully willing...that is the question?  Money is just another resource.  Why do we cling so tightly to it and micromanage it's use when it comes to giving.  We do not think twice about going out to eat simply because we feel like it and we can, or stopping in at Starbucks or seeing a movie, but heavens forbid we give $10 away without praying about it first and examining closely the worthiness of the recipient.  Is there room for reasonable discernment?  Absolutely.  I only mean for that to be a bit of an ouch if the shoe fits.  So jumping back to the adoption scene, if  friends (or friends of friends) are adopting and you know they are responsible, Jesus loving people...and you're in a position to help lift a burden, what stops you?  Why do we treat this arena of life like charity and want to see them reduced to eating bread and drinking water before we'll give?

Praise God for friends who know and love you enough to tell you when you're out of bounds, but people who are living faithfully (not perfectly, but clearly in process of sanctification) who are asking for the help of brothers/sisters/friends are not needing to have all our critical opinions poured out on them which tear down and do not build up...Kerri mentioned the tension she thinks she would feel if she were ever a fund-raising family..."tension" is a good word.  Erica mentioned that she was chastised for not letting the needs be known when they adopted Silas (no fund-raising that round), and now that she has laid it out there, she is learning the other side of criticism...seems like no matter how you go about adoption, the critics abound.  Why is that?  And why is it launched largely by those who claim to love God, the Father of the fatherless?  Don't get me wrong...I read a number of adoption related blogs and am moved to praise God often for the kind and encouraging words and the generous giving of many that I witness among friends and acquaintances in blog-ville.  There is a lot of good going on for the glory of God!  It thrills me.  My hope and prayer is to seek to grow in accordance with God's Word by the power of His Spirit, and spurn others on to do the same so that love will abound and God's glorious grace would be put on display more and more in the lives of His people.   I think it is safe to say we, as the people of God, still have room to improve in grasping His heart for the fatherless.  Will you join me in searching His Word, and praying for His heart in this area?


  1. Excellent, my sister! My 2 cetns' worth:
    I listened to the podcasts with the Toueys recently, and what they said about giving comes to mind. God commands us to give, commands us to give CHEERFULLY, and commands us to give without hoop-la. (Scripture available upon request) To give is our responsibility. It is the receiver's responsibility before God to accept it in righteousness, and he or she will stand before God to answer for that. We will not stand and answer for another's sin or lack thereof.
    Keep the discussion going!

  2. Well, I want to clarify when I said what I said about fundraisers I was kind of referring back to Alida's comment a bit back and w/the view of if I was the one adopting. I know I haven't been through it, so that may not be worth much, but I could see how with my analytical type personality it would make me nuts. (Connie, you know how I can get all wound up. :) Anyway...

    I do agree that adoption is a ministry as much as going into the mission field, taking on a pastorate, etc. and I don't think it's reasonable to expect an adoptive family to have to save up the total cost at the upfront. Yes, a family should have a reasonable expectation of being able to take care of a child but barring some major medical crisis there is no where else in parenting where any child would cost as much in one fell swoop (or in a year in a lot of cases!) as the adoption fees cost. And even if I wasn't thrilled with fundraising, (personally)absolutely I think the family should let it generally be known that they are working to raise the money, that progress should be shared (like letting people know what phase you are in in the church announcements, on a blog, etc.) putting out the word for garage sales, etc. Maybe I'm assuming a general knowlege that isn't out there but I would think that anyone would know how expensive adoption is and even families with more generous means than we may have wouldn't have that chunk of change just sitting around.

    And no matter what path one takes I guess critics will always be there...

  3. I have been under a rock or something, and just finally read all of these! Whew! Thanks Connie!

    Erica knows I have been trying to put into words for a few weeks now my thoughts on fundraising and understanding it biblically, not just practically, and I've just been struggling with articulating it in a way that is not defensive. I think you've done it for me--thanks! ; )

    I just love how you speak up, not just for the fatherless, but for those who seek to provide them a home. Jesus is glorified in you and your heart for HIS will to be done and HIS purposes to shine through it all.

    Also love your willingness to open the proverbial can of worms! Great discussion!

  4. Now that I can actually catch up a bit....this is a great post!!

    I echo Rachel, thank you for speaking up not only on behalf of those who can't speak for themselves but for those of us who are willing to welcome them into our families. You are a constant encouragement to me and so many others.

    May HE be glorified through you. Love you friend.