When I was Hungry

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 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.’  (Matthew 25:35-40)

This was all I could think as I spoon-fed the child who was too old to be in a high chair. I’m feeding Jesus. I’m feeding Jesus. As everything in my body wanted to run. To forget.

Why God? Why do these children live in an orphanage? How can this be?

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. (John 9:1-3)

Perhaps the works of God were displayed in this boy, Innocent. To feed him, to sing to him, to tell him that Jesus loves him. He ministered to me. Jesus, living in this boy, ministered to me as I fed him. I reject the love of God. I rebel against it. It can’t be that easy. Just believe that God loves me? No. I must do, work, pay. But Innocent? He can’t do anything. He can barely raise his head. And yet the Father loves him.

Will I believe it? Will I stop rebelling? Believe that Innocent will rise up in the last days. That he will put on a new glorious body. So glorious that we will be tempted to worship him. He will dance. He will shout. He will run. He will laugh. He will know a Father’s love for eternity.

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7)

What other option is there? Can anyone else give Innocent and me hope outside of Jesus Christ? If there is no hope in Christ, then find me a tall building from which to jump. Because I can’t live seeing babies lined in cribs with no mother to comfort their cries unless I know without a doubt that the Father will come for them.

This is it. This is where the rubber meets the road. Will I believe? Will I trust? Will I stop trying to figure it out and just rest in His promises? Daddy, don’t forsake them. You promised.

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:51-56)

 

Mothers

I was sick this weekend, but I’ll focus on the good parts – like how Freddy got to go swimming with his dad, and BB makes a mean chicken soup.

I haven’t posted much about adoption lately since we aren’t in the process, and we’ve been taking part in the greatest transition of our lives that never seems to end – failed adoption, pregnancy, birth, moving to Africa – you know, just a typical year in the life!

Adoption is on my brain again.  We are surrounded by adoptive families (yay!) and ministries that support orphans here in Rwanda.  Truly, one of the big reasons we wanted to come to Africa was to get a better picture of this orphan crisis we hear so much about in America.

I never referred to this article when it came out because I had a few other things going on (see first paragraph), but our story was highlighted in the NY Times back in June.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/01/us/moved-to-adopt-evangelicals-find-children-and-pitfalls-abroad.html?pagewanted=all

I was honored to be a part of this article on such an important topic and in such a widely-read publication.  Also, I’m relieved that the one (and probably only) time I’m quoted in the NY Times, it doesn’t involve me being mugged or an article about eating one’s weight in chocolate covered pretzels.

Last week I was humbled to go with a mother as she placed her 11 year old daughter at a boarding school for children with special needs. I lack the eloquence to describe this bittersweet moment, but it reminded me of so many conversations I’ve had (with myself and others) about birthmothers.  Spend enough time in the adoption world, and the issue of birthmoms relinquishing their kids will come up.  This came up with One World Adoption Services adoptions often because almost all the kids they adopted out had living birthmoms (and often two living parents, as we now know).

Since our experience, I’ve openly stated that if we ever adopted internationally again (and I hope we do!), we would not adopt a child with a living parent. While legal to do so, the standard for immigration in the US is that if there’s a sole surviving parent, the parent must be destitute and unable to provide for the child. Given what I know now, I’m not comfortable adopting because of someone else’s poverty. Reasonable people can disagree on this, but my personal opinion is that there are better ways to solve a person’s poverty than by taking her child away.

When I was with this mother taking her child to boarding school, I saw first hand the reasons why I couldn’t adopt a child with a living mother.

First, this mother was relying solely on word of mouth from other people in the community and her daughter’s counselors in deciding to take her child to this boarding school.  She doesn’t have the ability to do countless hours of research on schools to find the best situation for her daughter. There aren’t many schools to choose from, and her means and circumstances don’t allow her to make the inquiries we are used to in the developed world.  She has to go on trust.  In this case, she was given trustworthy advice.

A mother who takes her child to an orphanage does the same.  She hears things in the community or maybe someone encourages her to do so.  In some cases, it’s likely the right decision and gives the child a more stable environment with his or her basic needs being met.  In some cases, she may understand that her child is now an “orphan” according to international standards and looked upon as a child needing a family.  But how could I, as an adoptive parent, ever know for sure what this mother was thinking at this drop off?  How could I be sure that those who she trusted in making the decision were trustworthy?  Add to it the fact that, in our case (and many many like it), the orphanage director who was counseling mothers was making money off of referrals, and there’s no possible way that this mother had a trustworthy and objective counselor. If the orphanage has something to gain by a birthmom placing her kids with them or placing them for adoption, you can be 100% sure that any adoption would be tainted with corruption and coercion.

The second observation I made was when the school staff was informing the mother about her visitation rights. It reminded me of comments I’ve heard from adoptive parents (and things that I previously thought as well).  I often here well-intentioned adoptive parents justify adopting a child with living parents because if the parents were truly loving they wouldn’t take them to an orphanage and then not visit them.

I have no doubt in my mind that this mother I met loves her daughter.  I watched her wash her child’s feet before we left, nervously enter the facility, and hand the director her daughter’s blanket – her one solitary possession.  But I also can’t imagine the challenge it will be for her to visit.  Between finding someone to care for her other children, walking to the bus, waiting for the bus, paying for the bus, and walking up the mountain the rest of the way, the challenge overwhelms me.  If she doesn’t visit, it’s not for lack of desire or love.

Similarly, there’s no doubt that most mothers who place their children in an orphanage do it as a loving gesture – an attempt to provide a better life (at least by some standards).  Many do so with the intent of returning, but returning and visiting isn’t as easy as hopping in the car and driving over.  In the case of our adoption, the birthparents were a plane ride away on the other side of the country, but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t long to see their children, and it also doesn’t necessarily mean that they no longer wanted to be the children’s parents.

I came to Africa to see this side of things.  It’s easy when we sit in our big homes in our cozy neighborhoods for us to judge the woman who leaves her child with strangers.  It’s something that almost never happens in the developing world.  Now that I’ve seen, I can start to understand a small piece of the life of a parent who struggles to care for her children.  I write this to memorialize the love of mothers for their children and to honor the love and trust that mothers have when they place their children in other people’s hands.  I want the world to know that an African mother loves her babies, just as mine loves me.  We need to do more for her so she can love them in her own home.