After a week in my life where I was focused on such an earthly luxurious thing (new-to-us vehicle) the Lord brought me back into focus today with a poignant church service focused on adoption, foster care, and orphan care. Our family was asked to participate by presenting "cardboard testimonies." Click HERE for an example of what adoption cardboard testimonies are. [I must say, our church is a bit more lively about this, clapping and woo-hooing for each testimony!] In addition to the testimonies (presented during a beautiful song), 2 people spoke about the needs for orphan and foster care/adoption right here in our own state, and programs that are already ongoing for those who are ready to step up to assist these children. Finally, our pastor presented a short message on James 1:26-27.
After the recent burden on my heart about the way the church needs to "tweak" its message within the Christian Adoption Movement, I felt very convicted that our cardboard testimonies were moving, truthful, AND respectful to my kids' situations. As a new member in the church, I also wondered how this service would be handled. Would MY church be one that painted a "pitiful" picture of "orphans in their distress" and asked every member to adopt? Or would my church present adoption as one option while giving members many ways to fulfill the biblical mandate to care for "the least of these" (which include orphans but also others)?
I'll share our cardboard testimonies later. Even though we presented them in front of our church, they still feel sort of private to me. I suppose this is because I feel like there will be one group of people who will disagree in our choice of wording no matter what we put on them. =-) I will say, it was a happy moment standing there, Eric and I, with our four children, thinking about how a doctor once told us that not only would we not have children biologically without intervention, but also that "nobody will allow you to adopt with your medical issues." Humph! We showed them! =-)
I was so GREATLY relieved with how my church presented the entire service. First, they showed the video Depraved Indifference. Oh my word. If you haven't seen it, take a few minutes now. I wanted to sob right there in the service.
This video speaks my heart beautifully. These children are as important to God as my children are to me. What would I not do to protect my son from the hardships and traumas that many of the world's orphans and vulnerable children endure?! I'm not talking about adoption (only). I'm speaking about tearing down walls to CARE FOR these children in whatever way each of us can do that--and each of us CAN DO THAT in some way--no excuses!!! Speaking of which...
Within the bulletin the church distributed a leaflet from Hope for Orphans* showing 10 Ways Every Christian Can Care for the Orphan and Waiting Child. [Yep--it's a free download on their website.] Adoption was ONE of 10 ways, which I love! The other 9 ways are real, feasible ways that Christians and non-Christians alike can care for these children, both locally and worldwide. You don't HAVE to have money. You don't HAVE to have time. You don't HAVE to have another spot at your table. You don't HAVE to be young enough to parent anymore. But each one of us can reach one of these children. NO EXCUSES!!! Don't know where to start? Ask me. No matter how busy I am, I will help you if you aren't sure where to start. The above linked leaflet gives links to certain organizations they partner with, but there are many. Of course, I recommend Adoption Advocates International. In specific, I have children who *SO* need educational sponsorship at $35 or $40 per month, and people in Ghana always contacting me to ask if I will add more children, but I can't sponsor the ones I already have waiting. Could you consider it? If so, let me know.
We came home this afternoon to a quiet house. It seemed like the perfect day for an all-family Sunday afternoon nap, and it was. =-) I had a very detailed dream with a very sad meaning...
My family and I were living in a nice but simple home. The dream opened with the children and I looking out the window and seeing that the neighbors had knocked down their walls and decided their house church would be simpler if they set up the plastic chairs on the concrete slab each day. We thought it was a lovely idea.
The children and I headed out, like we did each day, to a little landing at the top of a small set of stairs. At the top of those stairs we served food to whomever wanted it. I don't know what kind of food it was, but it was simple and hearty. It was obvious that we knew everybody and everybody knew us. It wasn't America (or no America I knew) but the language was as comfortable to us as if we were speaking English. We just felt so...comfortable and happy.
All of the sudden the door behind our stair landing opened and a fellow American pulled me in, telling me, "We need your help!" I left the children to serve food and went inside. When I went inside there was a very nasty-looking medium size kitten on a table. She had deformed legs, was mangy and matted, her face was full of mucus, and otherwise very "ugly." My job was simply to be there for the kitten as they preformed some sort of procedure on her that would make her better.
Here's where it gets weird. This cat could communicate as if a person. She told me thank you for being there. "I will try really hard not to bite and scratch you. It's just that I've had a really messed up life and I don't really know how to deal with this stuff without hurting people." I said, It's okay honey, I can handle it. I'm tough." With that, the people started doing whatever they were going to do.
As the procedure went on, this brave little kitty was in a lot of pain and she looked up at me and said, "Wow, you're really good at this. I've never made it this far without biting someone before. Thank you." I told her she could do it. I believed in her. It was obvious that whatever was going on, it had to do with her giving it her all as much as these "healers" also doing whatever they were doing.
Then it happened. She lost it and sunk her teeth and claws deeply into me. At first it didn't hurt and I was tough. Even as she was biting and clawing me she was saying, "I'm really sorry. I just couldn't take it any more. This hurts so much and this is the only way I know how to survive." I told her, "It's okay. I'm tough. I can help you through this." I could tell she wanted to believe me.
Time went on and she continued to gnaw through me. The pain was searing. It was scary. When would it end? What about my other kids? Would this damage me? Would she in some way poison me? I got scared. Really scared. All of the sudden I yanked away. At that moment the dream went into slow motion. In that moment I was telling the cat, "I'm sorry, I just couldn't take the pain of helping you anymore." and the cat was telling me, "No! I can't do this without you!" and the entire dream was shifting to an entirely different setting.
We were pulling into a brand new luxury house in our brand new luxury vehicle. I felt a sort of confusion but everybody was so excited. It was as if we had inherited the house. It was fully furnished--"fully loaded" if you will. The people who lived there before us didn't even remove picture frames. The man who lived there before us had been a very respected person in this very close-knit luxury community, and had died of a stroke at 53 years old.
Everybody entered the house and started jumping around on the fancy furniture, playing with all the gadgets (electronic doors and windows, pool, etc.). I kept thinking, "Are we worth all this?" but of course there was a side of me that was excited. Before long the neighbor and his wife came over. They were best friends with the previous owner. They seemed very nice, in that very rich luxury sort of way.
As we sat and talked on the cushy leather sofas, as their purebred pugs played outside, one of the TVs popped on with a very important newsflash. It had been discovered that millions of mangy, deformed, sickly animals were being transported in below-ground tunnels across the world to be used for improper purposes. At that point my heart plummeted and I remembered earlier in the "day" what I had experienced with the "cat." The neighbor said, "Isn't that said! Someone should really do something that about that!" I wanted to shout, "WE should be doing something about that!" but I didn't because (1) I had failed when I had been asked to help and (2) it didn't seem like the PC thing to say in such up-scale company.
At that point in the dream Eric's blood sugar got low and he was acting crazy-drunk. This is often how my dreams end and I wake up. No different here. I woke up.
OBVIOUSLY, the animals were orphaned children in this dream--"damaged" and traumatized orphaned children, being used for whatever purpose unscrupulous adults could find to use them for. In my first "wholesome" place I had a chance to stand up and take the pain for one of those children, but in the end I wasn't able to sacrifice enough of my own self to help her heal. I wanted to. I loved her! But unlike Christ, I was not sacrificial enough. There are adoptive parents in the trenches every single day that need our prayers and our support. I have a friend right now who is battling every day to help her son heal. Just today she answered the question, "Do you still think it was a good idea?" Her answer? "He (God) has a history of asking His people to do hard things that are worth doing."
The other part of this dream that is important to me is how very happy and content I felt in my simple servant-focused life, and how very uncomfortable I felt in the luxurious life that my un-sacrificial behavior lead me to. In the first part of the dream my children were serving food to the hungry (happily). In the second part of the dream my children were totally obsessed with checking out the bells and whistles of our new house.
In what way do we want to build our lives? Where would Christ have us buy our houses? Among those who need support and assistance, who need to see "family" modeled to them, or in luxury subdivisions? I can in no way judge. Obviously, this is something that my own heart wrestles with.
All in all, a very long but very fulfilling day. If you've read this far, God bless you! I'm thankful that the Lord has put us in a church that not only cares about adoption and orphan care, but teaches about it in a way that is biblical according to my understanding.
* I have not looked at Hope for Orphans extensively and am not recommending the organization as a whole, but rather only the leaflet/download linked to on this blog post.