Monday, March 28, 2016
Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Why I am adopting 5 children from 2 foreign countries
Recently, after hearing that my wife and I are planning to adopt 5 more children to go along with the 5 children that we already have, a friend asked the inevitable question, “Why are you adopting? Do you just really love children or something?” As simple as it should be to have an answer for such a life-changing decision, I found myself fumbling for the right words to say. So, in response to that friend and anyone else who happens to be wondering the same thing I give the following response. There are actually many reasons. If you want the non-spiritually motivated answer, than I would simply say that we want to give a chance at a better life to more people. For the full answer, read on.
First, I want to use my life up in the service of others. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he responded that it was to love God. We show our love to God by obeying His commandments. He followed up by stating that the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor. He then shared the story of the Good Samaritan. Thus, we love our neighbors by serving them. James states, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” Neither of these scriptures implies a responsibility to adopt; only to serve, visit, and provide aid and comfort. While this is true, I ask myself, “What is the greatest good that I could do for these children who are without a home?” Does food, clothing, medicine, and education adequately set them up for success in life? No, not really. The programs that exist to help orphans transition to adulthood vary quite a bit. The United States’ foster care, while probably not perfect, does provide a home environment for children. Many programs exist to give them the opportunity to gain an education and hopefully become productive members of society. Most East European orphanages accommodate children until they reach the age of 16. Those children who are not adopted by this age often find themselves on the streets. Crime and prostitution are a common lot for them. While programs and funding can help these children achieve better outcomes, I can only conclude that the very best outcomes occur when they are raised in a stable home with a family who loves them unconditionally. I realize that I am only one person and am limited physically, emotionally, and financially. However, I feel like I can and should help as many of these orphan children as I possibly can. I may not put a dent in the world statistics, but I will make a world of difference to the five children that I bring into my family. Because of the more bleak prospects for those orphans in poorer countries, I feel that I can have a greater impact by adopting from those locations. This explains, in part, why we are adopting from foreign countries. There is one final scripture that I always think of when I consider adoption. “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” In my mind, I have always included orphans into the “one of the least of these” category.
Second, and closely related to point number one, is that I view the whole of humanity as members of a great family, God being the Father of us all. This makes us all brothers and sisters. I think to myself, “What would I be willing to do to help my brothers and sisters who are part of my immediate family? What would I be willing to do to rescue one of my own children if they were to fall into a tragic situation?” I then try to view people through God’s eyes. I ask myself, “How must He feel when He sees His children lacking the fundamental necessities of life, including the security and love of a family? To what extent would He go in order to help their situation?” His great love for mankind was already manifested in the giving of His Son for our spiritual redemption. He now calls on me to be His hands in serving His children. When I view others through this lens of familial relationships, my motivation to reach out and help becomes a more urgent drive. I’m not simply looking to serve others because God has commanded it. I’m doing it because I genuinely have a love for my brothers and sisters who have been dealt a very difficult hand in life.
Third, I feel a divine commission to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with mankind. A modern revelation reads, “Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people. And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father? And now, if your joy will be great with one should that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!” I had always related this scripture to missionary type preaching. Then one day I realized that I will spend years of my life teaching my children about God and the salvation that is available through the atonement of Jesus Christ. The family unit is the best environment for teaching spiritual principles and instilling a belief in God. Therefore, in addition to giving these orphans the opportunity at a better life temporally, I will likewise be giving them an opportunity at a better life spiritually, and hopefully eternally.
Everything that I have said up to this point is admittedly looking at adoption through rose colored glasses. Many people who consider adoption, think that it is going to be rainbows and unicorns: You will open your home to these poor orphans; they will be so grateful that you are giving them a better life; everyone will be happy forever; and you will be sainted for your great charity. The reality of adoption is something else. Instead of rainbows and unicorns, it is more along the lines of a mule with rainbow colored diarrhea: you spend most of your money trying to complete the adoption process; the children come with a lot of emotional baggage; they lie, steal and manipulate to get what they want; they show no gratitude for anything that they are given; they abuse your other children; you are introduced to the Mr. Hyde that you never knew lived inside you; you spend the rest of your money in counselling trying to restore some semblance of normal to your life; and instead of being sainted you just hope not to snap and do something crazy that gets you sent to jail. Those who have adopted before will be both laughing and crying at this point because I speak the truth. Now, I have painted a pretty depressing picture of adoption by lumping all of the bad into one hypothetical scenario. The truth is every adopted child is unique. Some are able to escape their past trauma relatively unscathed. Others suffer from emotional/psychological disorders which require a lot of work and patience. The bottom line is adoption is not easy.
So, do my wife and I love children? Yes. But it takes so much more than that and more than my previously stated reasons to come to this decision in our lives. Four of the five children that we currently have are adopted. We adopted two of them from Ukraine and two from Russia. We love these children and it is rewarding to see them grow and mature, but it has not been rainbows and unicorns. Raising kids is difficult to begin with. Add to that the challenges of special needs (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, legal blindness, open heart surgeries) and the emotional damage of having been institutionalized for years, and you get a glimpse of the steep hill that we have been hiking. I feel like I have aged two years for each one of the past eight years. So why do this again when we already have five children, which is already a lot by today’s standards. The following and final reason is the only one that really matters.
Some time ago, I started to have some strange experiences. When we would sit down at the table for dinner, I looked at our family and felt that we didn’t have everyone there. I would proceed to count heads and come to the conclusion that we were all there. A similar thing would happen when we loaded up in the van to travel somewhere. Every time we gathered as a family, there was the strange sense that we were missing someone. This continued for about four months. Then one day my wife was driving me to the airport. It was just the two of us, which gave us a few hours to talk alone. Somehow the topic of adoption came up. I didn’t want to share the feelings that I had been having, fearing that it would lead to another adoption. Nevertheless, the Spirit stirred inside me and I shared with Jill my experiences. She told me that she had been having similar feelings. Furthermore, she told me that she had had a dream in which she saw a young boy. As she shared the details of this dream, I immediately had tears streaming down my face. Each time we have considered adopting more children, I have been blessed with a vision of the future. I have been able to visualize our family with additional children. What’s more, I am able to feel the emotional bond for those children as if the adoption had already occurred and that they had been part of our family for years. It’s as if they are already a part of our family and we just have to find them and make it legal. While driving down the highway, we prayed aloud to know if it was God’s will that we grow our family through another adoption. The peacefulness of God’s presence attended us in great measure. With that reassurance from God, we determined to once again begin the adoption process. We figured that we would adopt two, maybe three, children this time around. We just needed to determine from which country we would adopt. In the following days, we had narrowed our search to the countries of Bulgaria and Ukraine. There were a number of things that made Bulgaria an attractive option. Our adoption agency shared the profile of a young girl which was available. Jill and I discussed the idea of adopting this girl and generally felt good about it. However, when we decided that Bulgaria was the choice, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was someone for us in Ukraine. We discussed this and decided that Ukraine would be the choice. Then, we couldn’t forget about the girl. Over the period of about a week, we went back and forth between the two countries several times. Then, one night as I was praying, the thought came to me, “Why not adopt from both countries?” This seemed absolutely absurd to me. There is no discount for adopting from two countries. Each one has its own painful process and outrageous expense. Each adoption would be approximately $35,000. Taking on one is difficult enough. Two at the same time is suicidal. The next morning, Jill said to me, half joking, “Hey, we could always adopt from both countries.” I told her that I had just had that very thought the night before. She said that she had thought the very same thing at the very same time. Neither one of us wanted to present it as a real option since it is so ridiculous. However, once it was thrown out there as a joke, it seemed OK to talk about it. The more we talked about it, the more it felt right. This decision, however, I simply could not accept. It’s too much! Not just financially, but in every way. It’s simply too much! I expressed my reservations to Jill. She has a much stronger and a more simple faith than me. She expressed that God would make a way for us to accomplish whatever He wants us to do. However, she concluded, “You are the patriarch of our family. You need to pray about it and receive an answer for yourself.” Well, I prayed and prayed and did not receive any clear confirmation from the Spirit. I did, however, have one thought come to me that felt inspired. The thought was that I am not getting any younger and now is the time to complete my family. It was a nice thought, but it did not have the kind of spiritual confirmation that you can really hang your hat on. So my quest for heavenly guidance continued. I am willing to do anything that God asks me to do. I just didn’t want to embark on such a mind-numbingly ludicrous adventure with little more than faint impressions ensuring me that I was on the right path. I felt like I was unravelling and on the verge of a total meltdown. The following Saturday I began a 24 hour fast and prayed as intently as I ever have. At the conclusion of my fast on Sunday, I attended church. I pleaded with God to give me a clear answer. During the church service, I joined the congregation in singing the hymn, “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty.” The second verse reads, “Praise to the Lord! Over all things he gloriously reigneth. Borne as on eagle wings, safely his Saints he sustaineth. Hast thou not seen how all thou needest hath been granted in what he ordaineth?” As I sang the last words of this verse, my vision instantly blurred, my breathing constricted, and I struggled to maintain my composure. The power of God’s Spirit which I felt at that moment was as strong as anything I have ever experienced. It ranks among the top three spiritual experiences of my life and gives witness to the truth that God lives and will answer our prayers. So, with that confirmation, the die was cast; we are adopting from Ukraine and Bulgaria. Through various discussions, Jill and I concluded that we will adopt three children from Bulgaria and one, two or three from Ukraine – probably two. [You don’t pre-select children in Ukraine, so you can’t know how many will be available until you travel there.]
I have spoken of the many virtues of adopting. It is not my intention to persuade anyone else to feel that they are obligated to pursue this course. In fact, I think there are many people who definitely should not adopt. They are not cut out for it. You should follow whatever path God has for you.
After reading this, you may think that I am one of those guys that’s super emotional and cries at everything. The opposite is true. I am very rational and logical, and I rarely get emotional. Just saying…
Shortly after making the decision to pursue these adoptions I was notified that I have been selected for a promotion. Based on my calculations, my increased salary should almost exactly offset the added expense that I anticipate with these additional children. I will never be rich, but God will always provide.