I sat with the laptop on my bed, scrolling through all the pictures. This one loves stuffed animals and hopes to visit the zoo. This boy wants to go into construction as his career. This girl loves music and wants to learn to play the guitar. Kid after kid after kid…it took every ounce of will power to not break down crying, because I was afraid if I started, I wouldn’t be able to stop.
I was looking at the list of children posted by New Horizons for Children, an organization that hooks up families in America with kids in Latvia, Ukraine, and China to host them for 4-6 weeks around Christmastime and in the summer. Many of these kids are available for adoption, some are not due to age or other reasons. In the other room my kids were finishing breakfast and getting ready for school, and I was sitting on the bed trying to hold it together as I looked at all these faces…50? 100? who are hoping to be “chosen” for hosting and maybe adoption. It was breaking my heart this morning.
I also recently read “To The End of June” by Cris Beam…it’s an examination of the foster care system in the US, as well as a discussion of the adoption of older kids. Wow, was that a hard read. You would think that something as basic as the welfare of children would be cut and dry, black and white, but, like so many things in life…it involves actual people, real, living people, and so a blanket solution is foolish and impossible, and yet we continue to try and provide some sort of across-the-board “policy” to try and solve the problems of abused, neglected, orphaned kids.
I found out about New Horizons because two of my dear friends have hosted and are in the process of adopting an older child from Ukraine. (I’ll post links to their stories at the end.) They are very passionate about adoption and caring for orphans. They are an inspiration to me, as well as the many other friends I have who’ve adopted. It seems like an amazing and difficult journey, with a roller-coaster of ups and downs and unexpected twists. It definitely doesn’t seem to be for the faint of heart. I’m pretty sure anyone who has entered into fostering/adopting would tell you the same thing. There’s a lot of heartbreak along with the joy. And while I don’t know if I feel our family is “called” to adopt, I could definitely see us hosting and the more I think about it, the more seriously I’m considering it.
Now, NHFC is a Christian organization, so I’m going to take a second to speak to the Christians in the audience…and, in spite of my many questions and confusions, Christianity is the faith I identify with, so this is where I am coming from as well. Now, I’m certainly no Biblical scholar, and I have many questions about the Bible myself, but what seems clear to me is the mandate throughout to care for the vulnerable among us, the fragile, the orphans and widows. It’s not just suggested as a nice idea. It’s commanded of us. I think most of us take that “command” as a friendly suggestion and not very seriously. Christians make a lot of the abortion issue, citing that as God’s command to care for the “least of these,” the vulnerable among us. I’m not going to get into that discussion here, but I want to remind people that, if somehow abortion were to be abolished, there would be a LOT MORE ORPHANS. I think some Christians want to think if they vote pro-life, financially support pro-life initiatives, maybe picket an abortion clinic or two, that they’re good. They’ve done their part. But what about the actual children?? The ones that do get born, that are abandoned, abused, neglected?? There are actual, living, breathing, named children, MILLIONS OF THEM, who need love. Care. Support. Friendship. That doesn’t mean that if abortion is on your heart that you should ignore it, BUT. We also need to walk the walk and put our money where our mouths are…if we truly care about the “least among us” then that means we need to care for the orphans.
These kids aren’t asking for iPads or expensive sports camps or fancy gadgets or $100 Nikes (not that they wouldn’t like those, I suppose, they are kids…). They want someone to take them fishing. To do movie night with a family, sitting on the couch eating popcorn. To bake with you. To teach them to swim or do woodworking. They want to be a part of the love of a family. Really. Really. COME ON. If we can’t do this, if we can’t do this then, honestly, what the heck good are we????? There are kids who want to be in a family with young kids. Kids who need to be the only child. Kids who want to be with other teens their age. In short, there are kids that could fit in with ANY of us. With ALL of us. For 5 weeks. To be a part of a family’s love. And if it leads to a forever situation, well, God love ’em.
Of course though. It’s not all roses and hugs and sunshine. I know. There’s a huge “what if”, a huge fear factor. I know, I worked years ago in a facility with kids who’d been removed from their families for any number of reasons. There was plenty of hurt and ugliness to go around. What if they don’t listen to me? What if they are destructive? What if they just sit there and are unresponsive? What if I don’t feel anything for this kid? What if they hurt my (biological) children? These are all very real, very legitimate questions. That need to be pondered and thought over and carefully considered. We’re talking humans, messy, broken humans on all sides. There’s never any perfect situation, ever. Even with the family we already have. This is probably the biggest reason why I have not yet acted on my desire to host (that and I actually should probably talk to Bill about this more than just in passing.).
Have you ever seen “Rise of the Guardians”? I recommend it highly. I absolutely love that movie. It makes me cry every time. Go watch it. I love the idea that there are Guardians of the world’s children, guarding their hopes, dreams, memories, keeping the Boogeyman, the dark, despair and hopelessness at bay. Of course I know that Santa, the Easter Bunny, etc. aren’t really out there, (although I adore the image of Santa as a huge, knife-wielding Russian guy with tattoos) fighting for wonder, joy, and beauty. But guess what? That’s our job!! WE can be, we are, we should be, the Guardians of all these things, for our children and the children of the world. As adults, we need to rise up and be the light-bringers, the dream-weavers, the memory-keepers for our kids. And here’s the awesome part, is that this is something we can really do!! We can actually do this! One child at a time, we can do this!! We may not be able to stop the war in Syria or stop abortion or fix the school system or make the government work the way we want to, but we can be Guardians of the good things, the beautiful things, the hopeful things, for children. As a Christian, I believe this is what God calls us to do, this is what loving people in the name of Jesus is doing.
SO. I hope this hasn’t made you feel guilty, I hope this has made you feel EMPOWERED. My friend Katja’s organization Touch the Nations has the motto “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it is within your power to act.” Well, people, it is within ALL of our power to act. Have you felt a tug to adopt or host or foster a kid? NHFC is NOT the only gig going, it’s just one I’ve been pointed to. There are kids, millions of kids, across the US and the world who need people to be guardians in their lives. Not just actual “parental guardians” but guardians of the light in their hearts. Maybe you need to take that leap and start foster parenting classes. Maybe you should sign up and take a look at the hosting list with New Horizons. Maybe you’re already in the adoption process and feeling discouraged. Keep on friend! You are a GUARDIAN. Like Glennon at Momastery says, “We can do hard things!” And these things are hard. Hard, hard HARD. She also says “We belong to each other” and I totally believe that. And if you don’t feel called to host/foster/adopt? Maybe you have a friend who is considering adoption or going through adoption and she/he just needs some encouragement. Maybe they need financial support. There are ways you can give to help people who are trying to fund their adoptions, and even help pay for the hosting program. My friend Jen is raising funds through Amazon…if you click this link www.playtennishanover.com/amazon every time you shop at Amazon, 7% of your purchase goes towards their adoption costs, how easy/awesome is that??? If Christianity is not your faith, find another organization out there that can point you towards something that speaks to your heart. We can do something about this, do you hear me??? THIS IS SOMETHING WE CAN ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING ABOUT!!! We just have to act, in whatever direction your heart is telling you to go.
I’m going to stop now, because this has gotten long. There was one girl though, on the New Horizons list. An older girl, they talked about her struggle with self-esteem, with seeing herself as beautiful. I think they suggested she be the only child in the family. But you know, you know what happens to these girls who don’t grow up experiencing the love of family, love in general, in the right way. Who feel lost and unworthy. If you pay any attention to what happens out there in the world, you know. She may get to America someday. But it won’t be in the arms of a family. Can’t we do something for her, for the millions like her??? Can’t we be Guardians for them???
Check out these websites for more info:
Look for this book too:
*Note: This is not meant to be an exhaustive dissertation on adoption/foster care/orphans etc. This is just me speaking from the heart and trying to motivate us to do better by the children in our lives and in the world. If it makes even ONE of you take a step in that direction, then I guess God’s used me for today. That’s all I’m trying to do.