by Chelsea Patterson
November 30, 2016
November has been National Adoption Month, and my heart catches on fire whenever I discuss adoption. A large part of my passion stems from the fact that my life has been radically altered by this precious gift. I was born in Bucharest, Romania and adopted as a baby by an American family. Over the years, my parents have adopted six children from Eastern Europe. Adoption has always been a part of my life, and I’m eternally grateful that I was given a life-changing gift that I don’t deserve.
Currently, there are approximately 153 million orphaned children worldwide. It’s important to note that, quite often, the word “orphan” doesn’t necessarily mean that both parents are deceased. In most cases, the parents or a family member is unable to take care of a child, therefore “orphaning” the child. Most of the world’s orphaned children actually have at least one living parent, but are living in a developing country where poverty serves as the largest catalyst for orphans. Children thrive best in families, not institutions or orphanages, and every effort should be made by governments and NGO’s to equip families to stay together. Unfortunately that can’t always happen, and children are in need of a safe, permanent and loving family.
Orphans in the United States
So, what does the orphan crisis look like in our own country? In the United States, there are almost 428,000 children in the foster care system. Approximately 111,820 of those children are eligible for adoption, but nearly one-third (32 percent) of those children will wait over three years before being adopted into a permanent, loving family. The Dave Thomas Foundation estimated that 81.5 million Americans have considered adoption, and if just one in 500 of these adults adopted, every waiting child in the U.S. would have a permanent family.
Orphans and the gospel
Getting involved in the welfare of children is one of the clearest ways to demonstrate and live out the gospel—both in a child’s life, and to display to the watching world what is most valuable to us. Adoption and child welfare should be viewed like the Great Commission—not everyone is called to go, but everyone is called to make disciples. In the same way, not everyone is called to adopt, but I believe we are commanded to take care of the least vulnerable of the world—and orphans are among the least vulnerable! James 1:27 says that “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction.”
Adoption is at the very core of the gospel. John Piper said it well when he taught, “The gospel is not a picture of adoption, adoption is a picture of the gospel.” God pursued us when we were helpless and hopeless. He called us to be his sons and daughters, he chose us, gave us his name, gave us an eternal inheritance and, above all else, invites us to call him “Father”. There’s nothing we can do to earn our salvation—the greater adoption. In the same way, I did nothing to deserve my physical adoption; I was a helpless little baby in Romania.
One of my favorite passages to meditate on in regards to our spiritual adoption is Romans 8:15-16. “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”
My goal in this article isn’t to guilt anyone into adopting if they aren’t called to it. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be diving deeper into some common misconceptions and objections against adoption. I think it’s important to have space to explore these topics in greater depth. Some of the questions that will be addressed are:
I’m not called to adopt. Now what?
What if I can’t love an adopted child as my own flesh and blood?
Where will the financial and emotional support come from?
How do I prepare and walk through the difficult seasons of adoption?
May we be generous with our love, open up our hearts and homes and choose a difficult, but rewarding path. And may our time, talents and treasures be used to care for the vulnerable!
— This article was originally published in The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.