Monday, December 01, 2008

Is Adoption Missional?

Posted at the Q Ideas blog:
Johnny Carr, National Director of Church Partnerships for Bethany Christian Services, explores the intentionality and service of adoption. Johnny adopted his first son, James, a deaf child from China, in 2005.

I guess the first thing is to define missional. "Missional" is one of those junk drawer buzzwords that has become common in our Christian vocabulary with several definitions floating around. Wikipedia says that "missional" is a missionary-term that describes a missionary lifestyle, and I guess that is as good a definition as any. To live "missionally" is to express the Gospel holistically in the way you live - every day and in every thing. It is a way of life, not a program. It means living like Jesus lived. If you know much about Jesus you know that includes helping to meet the emotional, physical and spiritual needs of others. Living missionally means making a conscious decision to live each day with others in mind, rather than yourself.

In other words, YES - adoption is missional.

Recently, I was speaking with a lady who had asked her church for financial help for their adoption. The church leader responded that the church did not help with "optional" things like adoption. The pastorĂ¢€™s perspective seemingly saw adoption more like consumption than ministry. He saw adoption as a want - much like I want an iPhone. He was not viewing adoption from the perspective of the child.

When I meet with Pastors to discuss adoption ministries, I will often ask them, "Who does adoption help?" The typical response is "infertile couples." That is when I lovingly explain that adoption primarily helps children. Whether the child is an orphan from war, genocide or disease in Africa; whether the child is an orphan due to abuse and neglect and the state has severed the rights of his/her birth parents, or whether it is a new born baby that was born due to an unplanned pregnancy - adoption is (or, at least, should be) always about the health and best interest of the child. Unfortunately, many Christians are focusing on adults (us) rather than the child (them).

When adoption is seen through a child's eyes, it is easy to see the missional nature of adoption. In fact, this may be the ultimate missional decision because adoption is a lifetime commitment. Many people today are adopting children with special needs. Some of these children will never grow up to be independent. The people who are adopting these little ones know that they are making a decision today that will affect the rest of their lives. Instead of raising a couple of healthy kids, sending them off to college, and then sailing off in their motor home into retirement, they will be serving the least of these until one of them "retires" into eternity. That is truly missional.

Someone once said missional living was "religion without all the junk added," I thought that was interesting in light of James 1:27, "Religion that God our father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (NIV)

There are many different perspectives on the best ways to care for orphans, but with 143,000,000 orphans in the world today, something must be done by followers of Jesus Christ. Only 1-2% of these children will be adopted. We need many strategies that will best fit the cultures, values, and environments of the places where these orphans live, and adoption is a one great strategy.

Adoption is not the one-stop cure all for the orphan crisis, but it is a strategic and effective mode to care for the orphans of the world. It's also a commitment of sacrifice, a holistic manifestation of the Gospel, a missional posture and a service to Christ.

Bethany is an international team of nearly 900 people actively involved in ministering to the needs of children, young people, and families. With over 75 offices nationwide and international ministries in 13 other countries, Bethany touches the lives of more than 30,000 people each year. Bethany is supported through fees and gifts received from individuals, churches, corporations, and foundations. Bethany is known by many as an adoption agency, but our family-focused ministries also reach people struggling with unplanned pregnancies, infertility, and a multitude of other human hurts.


Anonymous said...

We may be writing to the converted here, but please see the link >

Mirah Riben said...

With all due respect, and not knowing any details of when the author's adoption took place...adoption today is not quite as noble an undertaking as it once was, or had been thought to be. It has become instead a huge moneyed industry rampant with corruption and exploitation.

I strongly urge you to read the following before promoting or encouraging adoption:

1. The Lies we Love by E.J. Graff

2. Child Laundering as Exploitation: Applying Anti-Trafficking Norms to Intercountry Adoption Under the Coming Hague Regime
Citation: David M. Smolin. "Child Laundering as Exploitation: Applying Anti-Trafficking Norms to Intercountry Adoption Under the Coming Hague Regime"

3. Romania for Export Only

4. The Stork Market: America's Multi-Billion Dollar Unregulated Adoption Industry

5. Finally, read what some of those adopted, now adults, think about it: and:

I also suggest that you familiarize yourself with the United Nations facts and positions on international adoption, such as the fact that 80-90% of children in orphanages globally are not orphans but have family who visit and hope for reunification.

I conclusion, churches should be fund raising to help fasmilies find the resources they need to remain together or supporting programs like Christian Children or SOS Village. Taking children one at a a time from poverty does nothing to ameliorate the poverty of their family, their village or their nation. Many nations have curbed all international adoptions to stop being exploited by unscrupulous baby brokers driven by demand to provide a supply.

Mirah Riben, researcher and author

Anonymous said...

Isn't all parenting missional? Or only if it's parenting adopted children? I do believe adoption is missional. What about those people to whom God has chosen to bring children biologically, rather than through adoption? Are they lesser missionaries? Not missionaries at all? Do they need to adopt in order to live a missional way of life?

J not in the UK said...

I had never even heard of the word "missional," so I guess I'm not in the know of current "buzzwords" in the church today. sure makes sense to me! When we raise money in the church to help people...isn't that typically used for various reasons? Is it not often given to organizations that feed people who are hungry, and share the Gospel with them at the same time? Give people shelter when they need it, and share the Truth with them to encourage and minister to them? It would seem to me that if there is a child in need of a home, someone willing to provide that home and we withhold that opportunity from them...we are depriving the child first and foremost. The adult will still have a place to live, can carry on with her life. But what becomes of the child? To deny him or her the opportunity to be raised by someone who desires to do so...I guess maybe they'd say this child didn't really need a home, a family? That is "optional?"

I don't even know what to say to Ms. Riben, so I'm going to keep my thoughts to myself on that one at present. (I think we've had a discussion similar in the past here, haven't we?) There are some sad and unfortunate cases in adoption that don't work out too well or are done for improper motives or in improper ways. But that doesn't reflect on all adoptions!!!

As for us, you may recall we've talked about the possibility of adopting since before we were married, but we have still not been called to do that. Maybe we will one day, maybe we won't. Only the Lord knows that. We have been called to assist a ministry financially who helps people cover their adoption costs, and we're glad to do it!

I agree with the commenter that all parenting is missional. Adoption most certainly is a part of that! When my husband and I desired to have our children, we also committed to raising them for life, caring for, providing for, ministering to them... It was the heaviest burden on our heart to consider the spiritual needs of our children...nothing has been more important to us. So...I'm curious as to your thoughts on that, as well. Are we doing something less valuable for our world, for the Lord and His Kingdom, because our children came to us biologically? We are so proud of our family members who have adopted, have been humbled by the experience, and adore our adopted family members! We are thankful for the blessing of adoption. Maybe I'm just biased, and am wrong, but I also believe that our children are every bit as valuable...are loved immensely, were desired...and what we do for them counts for God's glory, as well, by His grace working in spite of ourselves. Isn't that missional, too?

jwd said...

This post is not about parenting, but about adoption. The point was not to say that adopted children are better or more valuable than "biological" children, or that adoptive parents are "more missional," but to say that adoption ultimately is more about serving the needs of children than it is about filling the desire to become parents.

Jeremy Dyvig said...

Living for Christ is "missional". Whatever you do in love to the glory of the one and only living God, isn't that "missional"? Adoption can fit there. I didn't adopt to save a child's life, I wouldn't call it "missional" in my case, but what I saw the birthmothers do in 3 cases (two making adoption plans for their kids and one choosing to parent her daughter after wrestling with the toughest decision she'd ever faced in her few 18 years of life) held a greater "missional" quality(as I understand it) than anything my wife and I did in adopting. I do think the adoptions that I've experienced have been pretty cool though.

Is anyone giving Alabama a chance today?