By / Nov 29

Our world is marked by war, disease, disasters, and political shortcomings. Jesus guaranteed that every one of us would have tribulations like these in this life. However, thanks be to God, he also assured us that he has overcome the world and the weight of sin which has marred all of creation. As we observe National Adoption Month in November, it gives us an opportunity to reflect on one of the ways we help push back this darkness: by obeying the important biblical command given to Christ followers from James 1:27—to care for orphans and widows in their distress.

Christians are uniquely given this command to fulfill because we have found our permanent home through the adoptive grace of Jesus and love of the Father. We care for orphans because we once were orphans. Our mandate to care for orphaned children comes from the example of our Savior, is a rich picture of the gospel, and transcends denomination, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, and nationality.

If we call ourselves Christ followers, we must embody the compassion and love of our Savior, because he is also our Lord. He spent time with the marginalized, outcast, and distraught women and children in order to bring them everlasting hope. We join our King in this reconciling work as he dispatches us at home and to the nations. Beloved, you and I have a personal responsibility to the widow and the orphan.

Practical ways for Christians to serve

Orphans and widows are are waiting for people like you and me to advocate for them. Christians have a personal responsibility to steward our time, talent, and treasure to bring the help and the hope of the gospel to the most vulnerable. Here are a few ways you can practically serve. 

Use your voice to advocate. Even if you are unable to go and see the faces of vulnerable children, you can do something to help. I could tell you dozens of stories of sibling groups who found forever families because God used someone to share a social media post about their need and the opportunity to adopt them.

Another way to use our voice is by praying regularly for orphaned children. Just recently I was told of a pastor whose family felt called to adopt a particular child they met on a mission trip, yet they had no idea how to find the child. They only shared this with a few people, but one of those ladies had made it a practice to pray over the lists of waiting children on adoption ministry websites. One day as she was praying, she saw this young boy whom the pastor’s family felt led to adopt, and today he is their son.

Sponsor a child or start a ministry. You can sponsor a vulnerable child through Lifeline’s (un)adopted program. This program meets some of the most basic and practical physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of these precious children. You can also get your church engaged with the work of caring for the vulnerable by starting an adoption and foster care ministry.

Care for families in crisis. This is one of the best ways we can care for vulnerable families. Families all over the world are failing at an alarming rate. In order to help these families, we need to help them break the cycle of despair. Unfortunately, most orphans come from families where trauma and brokenness have become a part of their family’s generational story. The majority of children in foster care were parented by parents who also grew up in the foster care system

It’s time for godly men in the church to take on the responsibility of teaching men without fathers how to be men who follow Jesus. It’s time for families in the Church to build relationships with broken families to support them and to show them examples of biblical families. It’s time for single women and men to volunteer as mentors for at-risk youth, to serve as court appointed special advocates (CASA), or to volunteer with children aging out of the systems with ministries such as Lifeline’s Harbor Families.

Champion adoptive and foster families. Helping families includes watching children, cleaning homes, cooking meals, wrestling in prayer for the families, meeting tangible physical needs of the children, inviting the children to activities, and even reaching out to intentionally check on these moms and dads walking through the journey of foster care and adoption.

Use your vote. Let us also not neglect our civic responsibility to vote for leaders who can positively impact policy for children and families. There will always be glaring inadequacies in our local, national and international policies, but even still, we have a responsibility to vote for leaders who hold close to our conviction to protect the family at large. We must steward our vote and prayerfully consider the profound impact policies and legislation have on the lives of vulnerable children. Together, let us support candidates who pledge to use their office and platform to defend, protect, and serve vulnerable children while allowing the light of Christ to shine.

This National Adoption Month, my hope and prayer is that we see a better future for vulnerable children, women, and families. May we live in a way that shows we believe all people are made in the image of a holy, perfect, and merciful Heavenly Father who loves us and works out his purposes through us today and always.

Editor’s Note: When you give, the ERLC can do more in 2024 to continue to advance the pro-life movement in ways like shaping policies that provide care and support for vulnerable mothers and families in a post-Roe America. Consider giving a year-end gift here to bring hope to the public square.

By / Nov 7

Free, downloadable bulletin insert for use by your church on Orphans and Widows Sunday. 

In the days and months following the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs, pro-life
organizations redoubled their efforts to care for vulnerable mothers and infants.
One of the ways that churches can step into this new post-Roe landscape is by creating a culture of adoption in their churches. Below are some ways to help minister to families considering adoption or walking through the process.

Celebrate adoption

Never stop celebrating and championing orphan care. Adoption is not the only answer to fulfilling James 1:27, but for some children it is exactly right. In the church, we need to be intentional about celebrating adoption and championing adoptive families in healthy ways in order to send a clear message that adoption does not have to be perfect to be something that we affirm and praise the Lord for.

Allow for grief and sadness in adoption

Just because adoption is good doesn’t mean that it is always all good. Give people the grace to experience the full range of emotions around their adoption, including pain and difficulty. There is no one right way to feel or experience the layers of emotion around the broken relationships and sad stories that are part of adoption. Just sitting with our hurting friends in their grief can be more powerful than any words we have.

Provide resources

Years ago, researchers did a survey of Christian adoptive families, and what they found was striking. They discovered that the first place they want to go for help and resources, and the last place they are likely to turn to, is their church. When the church becomes among the safest and the best prepared places to care for the uniqueness brought by adoptive families, we become a living picture of the grace of God to a world that is dying to know and follow Jesus.

To see additional SBC event dates, visit sbc.net/calendar.

By / Oct 6

By the end of September 2020, there were over 407,000 children in foster care. And it’s possible that with the overturning of Roe, even more children might need care in the future. Vulnerable women, children, and families in the United States will need help in a variety of ways, and Christians should continue to lead the way in making that possible. One of the organizations that’s doing incredible work in this area is Hands of Hope, an adoption and foster care ministry serving Indiana. Amy Jo Fox, the Communications and Care Community Director, answers questions below that shed light on practical ways we can join in their type of work wherever we are. 

Eli Pattat: What is Hands of Hope, and how did it begin?

Amy Jo Fox: In 2003, our Executive Director and her husband adopted their son internationally. God first planted the dream for Hands of Hope in Suzy’s heart just as they were pulling away to bring their son home. She turned to see the rest of the children that were staying there—with no toys, no playground, nothing to do, and she knew at that moment that she was being called to do more. In 2010, Hands of Hope became a 501(c)3.

Simply put, we believe the very best place for any child is in a family. Oftentimes, fear and finances are the two things that keep families from moving forward. So, the first thing we did as an organization was adoption and foster care informational meetings. Then, we began providing adoption matching grants and interest-free loans to help financially. The mission has always been the same: to uniquely and deeply love orphans at home and around the world. We educate on God’s heart for orphans and vulnerable children, motivate individuals to get involved, and support those who do.

We place a high value on going deep to change the trajectory of a child’s life. We do this by how we relationally engage with the families, churches, and partners we serve. We try to listen well and understand where they’ve been and where they currently are. We build relational equity and lean into opportunities to develop trust, moving at the pace of relationship instead of outcome.

EP: Your three areas of focus are adoption, foster care, and children’s homes. What does it look like practically for your organization to serve in these three areas? 

AJF: We partner with and support five Children’s Homes in El Salvador, Ethiopia, Ukraine, India and Brown County, Indiana. Each partner is carefully vetted. Through our Children’s Homes sponsorships, over 150 children are provided with safe and loving environments in which they receive necessities like food, education, and medical care. The children we support are victims of poverty, abuse, and/or disease.

As mentioned above, we hold monthly adoption informational meetings for those wanting to know more about or considering adoption. We also provide financial support to hopeful adoptive parents through our matching grant program.

Lastly, our largest area of focus is foster care. We act as a bridge organization, linking the various needs of Indiana foster care with those that want to help. This includes support and providing county Department of Children’s Services offices with basic necessities like diapers or belonging bags for children when they first enter care, real-time needs for at-risk biological families, and community wraparound for foster and adoptive families among other things.

EP: In what specific ways does Hands of Hope educate the church on God’s heart for orphans and vulnerable children?

AJF: Multiple times a year, we offer a virtual clinic to train and equip church leaders and advocates on how to implement Family Advocacy Ministries (FAM). Churches are often full of people that want to impact the lives of vulnerable children, but don’t know where to begin. FAMs provide practical and concise onboarding in order to recruit and equip families to care for children in their homes, serve families in crisis, and advocate for and minister to these families by meeting physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

We work to mobilize and resource the Church to teach on what Scripture says about caring for orphans and vulnerable children as well as organize and/or host other awareness events to empower people to understand the need. Nationally, 50% of foster families quit fostering after the first year because they do not feel they have the support they need. However, when these families are surrounded by a FAM’s wraparound support model called Care Communities, we see that statistic drastically improve. With Care Communities, we’re able to retain 90% of foster families, helping them foster longer and stronger. 

EP: What are some of the greatest needs you see in families that you serve through Hands of Hope? 

AJF: The greatest needs for the families we serve is summed up in one word: support. They need the support of the Church and their community. Whether it’s a hurting biological family in need of tangible assistance in order to preserve their home or a weary foster family in need of a mentor for their child who is struggling, families in crisis need to know they’re not alone. It’s sometimes easy for us to get stuck in the “they signed up for it” mentality and assume we’re not responsible if we aren’t able to actually bring children into our home through foster care or adoption. These kids are OUR kids, this is OUR problem, these families are OUR responsibility. 

EP: Are there misconceptions about adoption, foster care, and children’s homes that hinder Christians from serving well in these areas? 

AJF: One misconception we often see is around foster care. Many times, people care about child welfare but since they aren’t able to physically take children into their home, they assume there’s nothing they can really do to help. That’s simply not true! Every single one of us can do something.

EP: What are some practical ways that the church can get more involved with organizations like Hands of Hope in serving vulnerable children? And if there aren’t organizations like yours in our states, how can Christians meet the needs of those in foster care? 

AJF: CarePortal or Care Communities are two nationwide programs that give churches practical ways to serve vulnerable children and families. There are also many other next steps like hosting a support group, organizing a foster supply closet, blessing foster children at Christmas, etc.

EP: How can Christians around our country be praying for those involved in or thinking about being involved in caring for this vulnerable population?  

AJF: Pray for everyone to find their specific purpose in how they can help vulnerable children and at-risk families so that every child has a family and those families have support.

By / Nov 15

This week, Chelsea Sobolik sits down with Herbie Newell of Lifeline Children’s Services to discuss National Adoption Month, how the church can care for vulnerable children, and how we can be preparing for a post-Roe world.

Guest Biography

Herbie Newell is the President/Executive Director of Lifeline Children’s Services and it’s ministry arms including (un)adopted, Crossings, and Lifeline Village. Herbie holds a Master’s degree in Accounting from Samford University. He joined the Lifeline staff in 2003 as Executive Director. From January 2004 to December 2008, he served as the president of the Alabama Adoption Coalition. Herbie was chosen as a Hague Intercountry Adoption evaluator and team leader by the Council of Accreditation and serves in that capacity currently. Under Herbie’s leadership, Lifeline has increased the international outreach to 23 countries, helped Lifeline attain membership in the ECFA (Evangelical Council on Financial Accountability), and led the creation of foster care ministry. Having witnessed the plight of older orphans on many trips overseas, Herbie’s burden for the fatherless was a catalyst for starting (un)adopted during 2009. He worked with WAKM Companies, LLC, a prominent accounting firm, for many years as an independent auditor before being led to Lifeline.  He and his wife, Ashley, live in Birmingham, Alabama, and are parents to son, Caleb, and daughters Adelynn and Emily.

Resources from the Conversation

By / Nov 15

November is National Adoption Month. Each year, we set aside this month to celebrate adoption in our churches and communities with all manner of meetings, special gatherings, and public acknowledgments. The airwaves are full of commercials touting the gift of adoption and the positive place that adoption has in the lives of so many children and families. 

During this month of emphasis, we are intentional with presenting story after heartwarming story of how God has built families through adoption. The beauty of adoption is on full display, and that is an overwhelmingly a good thing. But I believe that National Adoption Month is also a perfect time to pause and acknowledge that the beauty of adoption does not come without a price. Moreover, National Adoption Month represents an opportunity for the church of the Lord Jesus Christ to put the fruit of the gospel on display to post-adoptive families in some needed ways.

Those of us whose families God has grown through adoption know that while our story is good, we did not become a family without brokenness and difficulty. Oftentimes, at points of emphasis like National Adoption Month, we in the Christian adoption community can have an annoying tendency to gloss over the difficult and sad parts of our journey for fear of ruining the good. A Christ-centered perspective reminds us that we cannot because our story ultimately isn’t about us at all. 

In so many ways, adoption is a mixed bag. God has given us children that we love more than we can ever really express. Our kids love us as their parents, and they love their siblings (although it doesn’t always look like it). We are all thankful for God’s providential hand in bringing us together, but we have also learned as a family that significant days and meaningful celebrations are defined in part by the people who are not there and the questions that don’t always have answers. Milestone birthdays are joyous, but they are also tinged with thoughts of unknown birth parents or siblings and a sense of loss from something that we never truly had. Graduations and achievements are always tempered by a little sadness or drama that we can’t quite put our fingers on but that have come to expect. Most adoptive families know exactly what I mean.

In short, adoption is beautiful, but it is also hard, and both aspects can be embraced without fear or anxiety. As Christians, we can accept truths in tension in large part because of the gospel. As we think about God’s adoption of us through Christ’s work, the gospel is a story that is filled with both great glory and real grief. God provided for our redemption and demonstrated Jesus’ sovereignty over life and death, but our redemption cost Jesus his life. For our part, our response to the gospel is marked by our turning to Christ for the gift of salvation, but it also is the story of how our sinful brokenness and rebellion against God created a debt that only Jesus could pay. 

Although I am not trying to stretch the analogy to exactly equate earthly adoptions with our adoptions into the family of God, I do think that their parallels are noteworthy as we think about how we celebrate adoption. The gospel is the ultimate good news, but it is also good news mixed with brokenness because of how far we had strayed and how much we were in need of rescue. 

How the church can approach adoption

In light of these observations, here are a few thoughts as to how we in the church approach National Adoption Month:

1. Celebrate adoption. Just because adoption is difficult or complex, don’t stop celebrating and championing it. Adoption is not the only answer to fulfilling James 1:27, but it is the exact right answer for some vulnerable children. Adoption isn’t a fairy tale. In the church, we need to be intentional about celebrating adoption and championing adoptive families in healthy ways in order to send a clear message that adoption does not have to be perfect to be something that we affirm and praise the Lord for. As local churches, we celebrate what we value, and Jesus is who we value most. When we appropriately acknowledge adoption in the culture of our churches, we are celebrating the grace and mercy of God on display in his people.

2. Allow for grief and sadness in adoption. Just because adoption is good doesn’t mean that it is always all good. Give people in your family and your church the grace to experience the full range of the emotions around their adoption. There is no one right way to feel or experience the layers of emotion around the broken relationships and sad stories that are part of adoption. When we don’t know what to do, we can always feel free to give the gift of presence to our family and friends touched by adoption without having to feel the pressure of providing solutions. 

I have stopped counting the times that people felt like they needed to say something positive about our family and have told me how grateful that our kids should be to be adopted. Some days, they quite frankly aren’t all that grateful. Yet, I understand that my kids don’t really need to be grateful for death, abandonment, neglect, abuse, or anything else that may have contributed to them being adoptable. The ministry of presence is key when we are face to face with the ongoing pain that brought many families to adoption. Just sitting with our hurting friends in their grief can be more powerful than any words we have.

3. Allow adoptees and adoptive families to not be OK. Sadly, one of the most difficult things that I have experienced in the last 18+ years in the Christian adoption community is how many hurting adoptive families and adoptees feel like they have to put on a front and hide their pain in the church. It’s as if we feel being transparent about our pain and difficulties will give the enemy a victory when, in reality, Satan is reveling in those families that are too ashamed to let people in their local church into their suffering. 

Through adoption, we have encountered pain and brokenness that has at times been too much to bear. Without the prayers and the tangible support of our brothers and sisters in Christ, I don’t know how we would have survived. Perhaps the greatest testimony that adoption has given us is an unshakable confidence in the enduring presence of God through it all. One way to celebrate adoption is to ensure that our churches are a safe place for adoptees and adoptive families to find community and support that mirrors the ever-faithful love of God in their lives. 

4. Provide resources. Years ago, one of the leading family ministries in the United States did a survey of Christian adoptive families, and what they found was striking. They discovered that the top place Christian families want to go for help and resources is their church, but the church is actually one of the last places they turn to for help. This should not be. As Christ’s ambassadors we must do better. 

Lifeline and other ministries like ours exist to come alongside local churches and equip and empower them to care for vulnerable children and families in Jesus’ name. When the church becomes among the safest and the best prepared places to care for the uniqueness brought by adoptive families, we become a living picture of the grace of God to a world that is dying to know and follow Jesus.

By / Nov 5

In this episode, Brent and Lindsay discuss the Braves World Series win, Younkin’s win in Virginia, and remembering the SBC’s Orphan and Widow Sunday. They also discuss Ethiopia’s state of emergency, lessons from election night, and churches responding in light of SB8 (Texas heartbeat bill). 

ERLC Content

Culture

  1. The Braves win the World Series! 
  2. Youngkin wins Virginia; Youngkin’s platform
  3. McAuliffe’s debate mistake
  4. New Jersey Gov. Murphy prevails
  5. Lesson from election night
  6. QAnon believers gather while hoping for JFK Jr.’s resurrection 
  7. Ethiopia’s state of emergency; ERLC Explainer

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By / Nov 4

In December, 127 Worldwide will celebrate a decade of ministry. We exist to connect and equip the global body of Christ to restore hope to orphans, widows, and vulnerable communities. And we work with Christians and churches in the West and with respected, driven, and visionary local leaders in Kenya, Uganda, and Guatemala who are taking care of vulnerable people in their communities. 

God has exceeded every expectation I had for starting a nonprofit organization in 2011. This was certainly not my plan in life. I used to think this was a unique element of my story, but does anyone’s life actually turn out exactly the way that they plan? The last 10 years have been full of  the hardest and simultaneously most rewarding adventures that God has ever invited me to join. 

Recently, someone on our team suggested that I reflect on 10 lessons that God has taught me during 10 years of leading our organization. This list is not exhaustive, but I hope it will be encouraging and useful to you as you seek to live out true religion in the various ways God has called you (James 1:27). 

1. Trust that God will open and shut appropriate doors

As an executive director of a nonprofit organization, so many decisions wait for your input. Many times I have prayed, “God, you know me, and you know where I most need help. Please make it obvious to me what you’d have me do.” I rely on the faithfulness that God has demonstrated in the past to grow my trust that he will open and shut the correct doors in his perfect timing. I have learned to walk through open doors and not to push through shut doors. Sometimes this has not been easy to learn, but my confidence in God’s faithfulness has definitely grown in the last 3,650 days.

2. Self-awareness is key and will keep you humble. 

Vulnerability is somewhat tied to this lesson, too. I have degrees in counseling and psychology, so I have always enjoyed personality inventories to learn more about myself. I’ve learned that you have to be honest with yourself and your team as you consider what is the best use of the time you devote to your work. I know where I am strong, and (just as importantly) I know where I am weak. I make it a goal to spend 80% of my time working in areas where I am the best qualified person on staff to do the task. I want to invest my time wisely in things no one else can do as well. Likewise, I am very aware of the areas where I am not the best person for the job. 

3. Surround yourself with people who are gifted in your areas of weakness. 

This was a lesson that my dad taught me at an early age, but it has been consistently reinforced in the last 10 years. It takes self awareness and vulnerability to admit your weakness. However, this has been a huge shaper of our culture at 127. I am quick to announce my weaknesses and even recommend other people on our team who would be a better fit for some tasks. Just as Paul explained in 1 Corinthians 12, we are one body with many members. We need each other to accomplish our best work. Humbly embrace that you need other people to work to your full potential.

4. Trust your gut

Now this isn’t an “always rule.” We know that the heart is deceitful above all else (Jeremiah 17:9) apart from Christ. Of course, we have to examine what the Holy Spirit might be doing and walk confidently in the way that we sense God leading us. There have been times, though, when the logical solution didn’t feel like the best solution. I have learned what “trust your gut” looks like for me. It is not a card that I play very often, but I have grown in confidence when this tactic is appropriate. 

5. The (lack of) rhythm is going to get you. 

Healthy rhythms in ministry leadership are a must. It’s okay to calendar time for reading, writing, and spending time with God, family, and friends. Boundaries are healthy. Saying no is healthy. Maintaining rhythm in your life and work is crucial. The quickest way for me to spiral downward is to lose sight of the disciplines that are tethering me to a firm foundation. Solitude, prayer, and journaling are just a few habits that encourage routine. Prioritize routines as much as possible. 

6. Stop. Collaborate. And Listen

Technically, these could be three separate directives. Before executing your new and fresh ideas, wisdom and maturity requires you to pause, see who else is doing similar work, and make an attempt to work together if possible. Ask good questions, but then do less talking and more listening. Ministry should not be a competition. Find like-minded people who make you better as you spend time with them. Learning this lesson has been truly life-giving for me.

7. The leader in a group may be the quiet one. 

One might assume that the loudest voice in the room is the strongest leader. To that, I say one of the few French sayings that I know, “Au contraire mon frere!” A colleague once noticed that I direct conversations even though I am usually not the one who is doing the most talking. People love to talk about themselves, and you can learn so much if you learn to ask good questions. Also, if you are quiet until you really feel compelled to say something, then most of the time people will listen intently as you provide evidence to support that you have something worth listening to. 

8. Beware of burnout

Burning the candle at both ends will lead to a puddle of wax. I definitely learned this lesson the hard way. I hit the 7-year wall where I woke up one day realizing that I was spending most of my time doing things that I was not gifted to do and that I wasn’t passionate about doing. I was cranking out essential tasks purely out of obligation. Somewhere along the way, I lost my joy for the work. 

You will always have tasks in your job that you don’t love, but operating the majority of your time outside of your giftings greatly increases your chances of burnout. Compassion fatigue is a real struggle in this work of empowering local leaders who are serving vulnerable populations. Taking time out for rest and self-care is essential to prevent the previously mentioned puddle of wax.

9. Don’t shy away from hard conversations. 

I am markedly more comfortable with conflict and difficult conversations than I was a decade ago, and I am definitely better for it. God can use the process through difficult discussions to make both parties look more like Christ as the end result. Advance, don’t retreat. Spend time building trust and respect among your team and ministry partners. Then, when tough conversations are necessary, you have established a baseline for the message to be received on top of a firm foundation.    

10. Stay in a posture of openhandedness. 

Choose carefully the hills that you are willing to die on. These hills should be few and far between. The last few years have been years of growth and clarity for 127 Worldwide. As God has expanded our team, I’ve had to figure out my nonnegotiables for the direction of the ministry. One of my most important jobs as the executive director is to guard the mission and vision of the organization. It is okay if others are forging a path that looks very different than the one you would have taken. You should expect that. 

What is important is that the team is passionate about the work and equipped to succeed in building their path. The results are up to God. Freedom grows as open hands release people, plans, and expectations. Disappointment comes when we hold too tightly to any of these. Open hands are not capable of holding on to anything, but they can easily receive what God has for you.

I am grateful that God gives us opportunities to grow in Christlikeness through every step of obedience that we take. I look forward to seeing all of the new lessons that await me in the next decade. And I encourage you to pray about what steps of obedience God might be leading you to take. 

By / Nov 1

Of those most tragically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the 1.5 million children who lost parents or grandparents worldwide may be the most heartbreaking. In the wake of such loss, international child welfare advocates have bolstered efforts to care for these newly orphaned children. 

Many of those advocates are Christian nonprofit organizations like Faith to Action Initiative (FAI) and Lifeline Children’s Services. Both groups exist to resource churches and communities with what they need to help orphans and vulnerable children in the name of Jesus. 

“COVID has had an incredibly horrific impact on families and children around the world,” Herbie Newell, president of Lifeline Children’s Services. “It’s multiplied poverty, it’s multiplied helplessness and hopelessness.” 

A collaborative movement to care for children

Thankfully, there is a collaborative movement afoot to provide the best care possible. Recently, UNICEF held an annual event in recognition of the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. More than 30 years ago, world leaders committed to an international agreement granting children the same human rights as adults. It wasn’t until 2019, however, that the group signed and adopted a resolution that committed to prioritizing family-based care over institutionalized care for children. 

At the event, FAI presented a letter urging governments to acknowledge the significant role Christian nonprofits play in caring for orphans and to include them in care reform efforts. A report from the Better Care Network found that one of the largest groups supporting orphanages abroad are evangelical, Protestant churches. 

Despite that reality, said FAI’s Executive Director Elli Oswald, at times it can feel as if UN reforms are more like mandates than collaborative solutions. “We think it’s important for Christians to share their experiences,” said Oswald. “They [can then] build their ownership over changes that need to happen.” 

In the letter, FAI proposed that countries be required to regulate the funding investment from Christian nonprofits, to ensure their contributions go exclusively toward their family-based care goals. 

A move toward family-based care

The 2019 resolution and move to recognize Christian leadership in orphan care is even more important today, as the unanticipated outcome of a worldwide pandemic left so many without nuclear families. A move toward family-based care on an international level -— through economic support, kinship care, foster care, and adoption — will help create better results for children, who fare better in such environments. 

In the United States, the orphanage is a thing of the past since the 1950s and 60s transition to almost exclusively government-funded foster care as the accepted model of care. But these institutions are still prevalent in many countries around the world. To be clear, orphanages are often the best care available — and are certainly important for children without other options — but institutional care isn’t optimal. 

FAI and other groups ultimately hope to create family-based care options everywhere. In 2019, all member states in the UN committed to moving toward this goal, but the process isn’t quick or easy. While governments have been amenable to working with faith-based organizations, FAI and its coalitions, including World Vision, Bethany Christian Services, and Catholic Relief Services, would like to see Christians get a more prominent seat at the table. In doing so, they could shift reforms to more gospel-centered priorities rooted in the family model God created from day 1. 

Part of this shift, said Oswald, would include reforms to economically and strategically equip vulnerable families before orphancare is needed. Many so-called orphaned children in third-world countries actually have at least one living parent. But because social systems don’t offer them the economic stability they need to continue parenting through struggle, kids often end up institutionalized. Part of orphancare reform would include putting money toward in-tact families who just need a little help to survive hard times. 

Centralizing Christian organizations in conversations about orphancare matters greatly. It puts the gospel front and center and amplifies the voices of those most committed to caring for children with their pocket books and their lives. The Bible calls all Christians to “look after orphans” (James 1:27) — and it’s clear from the Creation story that the family unit is God’s intent for the flourishing of all people (Genesis 1). 

“It’s vitally important that the Church work together to ensure that institutions are a last resort for vulnerable children who don’t have a family,” said Newell. “Adoption is still a great way to live out the gospel, and we’re grateful to work with so many loving Christian families to facilitate that.” 

With so many divisive issues on the line across the world, there’s one that nearly everyone can agree on: keeping children around the world safe, housed, fed, and loved. There is no perfect way to ensure this for every child, but Christian organizations like FAI, Lifeline, and others are doing all they can to make it so for as many children as possible. 

By / Mar 30

At the very core of who we are exists a deep desire and fundamental need for connection, belonging, and security found only within relationships. This eternal truth can be traced back to the very beginning of time.

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’ . . . So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:26-27).

God’s design for connection

The community between the Father, Son, and Spirit is imprinted on the human soul—we bear the imago Dei, “image of God.” As the creation narrative unfolds, God reflects on his creation of Adam, remarking, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18). God’s response to Adam’s solitude is the creation of Eve, Adam’s partner. The height of joy and depth of trust experienced through loving relationships and secure attachment are fundamentally God’s idea and God’s design. 

More than 2,000 years later, we take our place in history longing for connection—remembering this foundational truth and holding onto this eternal hope for ourselves, our neighbors, our communities, and perhaps most importantly for our children. Yes, God created us to be in relationship—at peace with him, with others, and in our hearts. And yet, with the fall of mankind into sin, we now experience the pain of broken relationships and the vulnerability of isolation. This is the painful reality for many of the children Show Hope seeks to serve—children who have been orphaned. 

It is not uncommon for children who come home through adoption and foster care to have had exposure to adverse childhood experiences such as abuse, trauma, loss, and/or neglect. As these children enter our families and our stories intertwine with theirs, tensions may surface. We must ask ourselves, How do we effectively communicate the truth of the gospel—an invitation into a forever relationship with Christ—to our children who may carry attachment injuries and associate belonging and connection with fear?

As scientific research expounds, our understanding of the human brain is only beginning to grasp the fullness and complexities of God’s design. And as only God could design, the human brain is pliable and can be rewired. Developmental psychologist and advocate for children Dr. Karyn Purvis once said, “Our children were harmed in relationship, and they will experience healing through nurturing relationships.” When we step into the journey of caring for children who have been affected by early loss and trauma, an incredible invitation is extended. We have the opportunity to help rewrite the narrative—to help lead our children to places of emotional, physical, and neurological healing by being the hands and feet of Christ. 

Furthermore, by choosing to love children from difficult beginnings, we are afforded a front-row seat as God’s miraculous work unfolds. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the sacredness, beauty, and peace of imago Dei is reimagined and reaffirmed as our children become at home with our love. 

Surely, no one person could do this work alone or without the encouragement and support of a wider community. This is why Show Hope’s Pre+Post Adoption Support exists. We understand—as many of you do—that the adoption journey doesn’t end the day a child is welcomed home. Because of the difficult beginnings many of our children have experienced, we must work diligently to help them reimagine home and experience belonging and connection.  

Learn how to build trust and connection with vulnerable children

Families affected by adoption and/or foster care can benefit from Trust-Based Relational Intervention® (TBRI®) methods developed by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. David Cross from the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development at TCU, which exists to bring attachment and connection in families. TBRI “is an attachment-based, trauma-informed intervention that is designed to meet the complex needs of vulnerable children.” At its core, TBRI works to promote trust and connection between caregivers and children by addressing physical and emotional needs while also disarming fear-based behavior. 

And, so, while TBRI may be perceived as clinical in nature as it involves the complexities of science, at Show Hope, we believe that at its core, TBRI is an expression of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In Created to Connect: A Christian’s Guide to The Connected Child, Dr. Karyn Purvis, with Michael and Amy Monroe, wrote, 

The longing of the human heart is to connect and belong. We long to connect with our Creator, in whose image we have been made, and by God’s grace such a connection is possible. As relational beings, we also have a deep need and desire to connect with those around us. One of the most important and meaningful human conditions is undoubtedly between a parent and child.

Build a community of support

Another practical step in serving and equipping families and caregivers is launching a support or small group for individuals and parents affected by adoption and/or foster care within your church or faith community. Perhaps you can begin meeting weekly or monthly in prayer, study, and conversation. A great resource to walk through is Created to Connect. This study guide sheds light and goes deeper into the biblical principles that serve as the foundation for the philosophy and interventions detailed in The Connected Child by Drs. Purvis and Cross. 

As part of that support or small group, recruit volunteers who can be on-call to help meet the everyday needs of adoptive and/or foster care families. It can be as simple as setting up a meal train for heavy, busy seasons of life or offering childcare for parents to have a night out for reconnecting. The adoption and/or foster care journey is not meant to be traveled alone. As a local church or individuals, we have the opportunity to come alongside children and families in service and support. 

Find hope for the journey

Show Hope’s new Hope for the Journey Conference will premiere on Friday, April 9, with a broadcast period through Mon., May 31. The conference includes training in TBRI, a new teaching component called The Gospel + TBRI, and Practical Perspectives videos featuring the voices of adult adoptees and foster youth alumni as well as adoptive and foster families. The conference targets parents and caregivers meeting the everyday needs of children impacted by adoption and/or foster care, and remains a resource for churches, agencies, and other organizations as they support and equip the families, caregivers, and the communities they serve. It can be a great opportunity to educate volunteers on the needs of children and families affected by adoption and/or foster care. 

Will you join with us in showing up and showing hope?

By / Nov 12

It’s nearly Advent, but my mind is preoccupied with a different holiday. Four years ago, on Father’s Day weekend, my wife Chelsea penned an open letter to her father. I can only describe it as the most tender description of adoption I have ever read. Reflecting on her own adoption, Chelsea shared what her father’s love taught her about belonging and family: “Blood is the least of what makes a family. Godly love is the real lifeblood of a family.”

Love—and lots of paperwork.

The hard task of waiting

As I write these reflections in 2020, Chelsea and I are on our own adoptive journey. We hope to bring two little ones from India into our home in the near future, and are awash in paperwork. For any couple that has trod this road or is traveling it now, the rote act of filling out forms is a simple reality of adoption, and completing them is an infinitesimal price to pay for the inexpressible joy of building a family.

But in a way, the paperwork is deceitful. Or at least, it deceives me. When I complete a form or upload another document, I feel productive and preoccupied. And rightly so, for there is no way for us to bring children into our home apart from completing it. But the hustle of paperwork is really a façade that covers the deeper reality of adoption: waiting. 

Waiting for restoration. Waiting for healing. Waiting for them.

Chelsea and I can control the pace of paperwork, but we can’t control bureaucrats on the other side of the world. We can manage the tempo of appointments and fulfill obligations on our timetable, but we cannot bind God’s timing. We can position ourselves for success, but no amount of preparation will erase the brokenness and pain our future children will feel—for adoption always, always originates in loss. All we can do now is wait for our children’s safety, pray for their hearts, and hope that, by God’s grace, our meeting is soon.

The waiting of adoption is turning my gaze away from things and people beyond my control, and revealing my own desperate need to be restored and healed.

The lengthy nature of adoption is teaching me to sit in stillness and make peace with these truths, but, in honesty, I’d rather not. Deep in my heart, there is an innate discomfort with waiting, one I would rather avoid. As an American accustomed to the immediate, this disposition isn’t terribly surprising. But this fear goes beyond our cultural milieu to a deep place in my heart, beyond the reach or scope of paperwork or human power.

Facing fears

I want to believe the illusion that, just as it’s possible to perfectly complete an application without mistakes, it’s also possible to build a perfect family without brokenness. When I think of the “origin story” of our future children, it scares me to think that, before Chelsea or I enter the picture, others are already there as “mommy” and “daddy”—and that our kids will never fully understand themselves apart from the parents who were there first.

To put a finer point on it: I see so much that could come between my future children and me. And the only way to know what that chapter will actually entail is to, quite simply, wait for it.

These fears loom large, but I am finding comfort in my wife’s own story. To be sure, no two adoptions are alike. The more I listen to friends and acquaintances who have adopted or are adopted, the more I see this plain truth. But Chelsea’s dear letter to her father reveals, I think, a timeless truth that pervades every single adoption: God’s heart for the orphaned and abandoned. 

He created man and woman knowing our sin would separate us from him (Isa. 59:2). 

He knew we would reject him (Isa. 53:5) and deny ever knowing him (Luke 22:54-62), and that we would even claim the devil himself as our father (John 8:44).

God knew it all. And still he chose not only to save us by dying in our place (Rom. 5:8), but to adopt us and be our “Abba” Father (Rom. 8:15).

When we rebelled against God’s perfect plan, he became our perfect Savior. He didn’t condemn us to utter darkness; he came to rescue us (John 3:17).

As I mediate on these gospel truths, my heart is slowly turning away from the unknowns about my future children and facing what I want for my own heart. Yes, I want my children to look like Jesus (even if they’ll look nothing like me). And I desperately want to look like Jesus too. Of course I want our kids to bond with Chelsea and me and see us as their parents by love, if not by blood—but even more than that, I want to bond with the Father and see myself for who I am: his adopted son.

The waiting of adoption is turning my gaze away from things and people beyond my control, and revealing my own desperate need to be restored and healed. As Chelsea and I wait for our children, my heavenly Father waits for me day by day, moment by moment, to heal me. Amidst the hustle of paperwork and the bustle of anxieties, he promises rest to his children. 

Oh Lord, regardless of what future Father’s Days, Mother’s Days, birthdays, or any other days may bring, give me grace to enter your rest today as we wait.