I had been the teaching pastor of my church for 14 years when I announced that my wife, Julie, and I were going to pursue foster-adopt ministry. Over the years, I had been open about being adopted. One tends to use his own life for illustrations—and since the New Testament references adoption (e.g., Rom. 8; Eph. 1:1–14)—telling my story helped folks connect the dots with Paul’s statements.
Being supportive and staying present
The church committed to support us in any way necessary— and they did. When Maggy and Molly stayed with us for the first time, they went to church for the first time. The congregation handled them well, treating them just like any other guests. People didn’t stare. When they spoke with the girls, they asked basic questions but didn’t probe. It seemed like the church was as excited as we were about the expansion of our ministry! The church hosted a gift and toy shower and prayed with us for the day when the girls would move into our home. The church’s enthusiastic support did not wane once the girls moved into our home—and that was when we really needed it.
Most foster or adoptive parents state that the first six months with the child or children are the most difficult. Everyone is in transition mode—and for many children, transitions bring to the surface fight-or-flight mechanisms. It would take two hands and all toes to count how often we called or texted church members pleading for prayer during the first six months Maggy and Molly were with us. So often we saw God’s Spirit bring clarity and calmness to our home as a result of the church’s prayers. Sometimes we would get texts or calls spontaneously as church members checked in on how things were going and told us they were praying for us.
But our church family did more than intercede in the crises. They developed relationships with the girls, creating emotional hooks the girls could grab hold of during the transition into our family. Parents of children in Maggy and Molly’s Sunday school class made sure that Maggy and Molly were invited to all the social events and birthday parties. Older ladies in the church asked the girls to sit with them at fellowship meals. Younger ladies asked Maggy and Molly to help with general housekeeping items and clean-up after church events. It seemed like everyone wanted to engage the girls in conversation, weaving Maggy and Molly’s stories into the plot God was unfolding in our church family.
And the church was literally present when we celebrated the finalization of the adoption. The courtroom was packed—so packed that when our attorney was asking me a set of formal questions during the hearing, he extemporaneously motioned to the audience and said, “Can you assure the court that you will continue to give these children the kind of love you and your church are demonstrating here today?” I replied yes with a sense of conviction rare even for a pastor. In God’s kind providence, a member of our church is a court reporter in our county. She took the day off work so she could sit in the audience and watch the proceedings. In more ways than one she had an insider’s perspective on the proceedings. She used her position to arrange for the judge—from the bench—to give Maggy and Molly gifts from our church. It is not every day that adopted kids get American Girl dolls from the man dressed in a black robe, the one everyone calls “Your Honor.”
Demonstrating the gospel
Yes, what took place in the courtroom was a made-for-TV scene, but it represents so much more. Our adopted daughters were able to see in our church how the gospel shapes relationships, engenders loving service, compassion, and humility. Because of what God has done to rescue believers, the church has the unique capacity to meet the spiritual, emotional, and social needs of orphans. The characteristics of the local church match the needs of orphans. [Many] orphans have been lied to; the church is “the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). Orphans have wounds; the church is a “heart of compassion” (Col. 3:12). Orphans need instruction and the church is the original worldview academy (Col. 3:16).
Since the adoption in November 2016, our church has continued to demonstrate the gospel to our daughters. At ladies’ tea parties or social events, the girls are invited to participate just as our biological daughters participate. If our girls misbehave in Sunday school class, teachers offer loving correction in the same way they would correct other kids. Moms with toddlers invite our girls to help them walk their children around the foyer before and after services. When our girls host a party at our home, moms from church bring their children if they are able.
Our church has been successful in helping us with our adopted girls because our church has been natural. God operates his rescue plan through real people being real. The New Testament describes Christians as those who have been adopted into God’s family. We are called, forgiven, and welcomed. We address the God of creation and eternity as heavenly Father. So magnificent is our adoption that it is to flow out of us into the lives of the needy—like vulnerable children in our neighborhoods and around the world. We are funnels, giving kids safe homes and the message of God’s plan of adoption in Christ.
Excerpted from Until Every Child is Home: Why the Church Can and Must Care for Orphans by Todd Chipman (©2019). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.