Sunday, May 2, 2010

Summit VI Highlights

We are grateful to once again have had the opportunity to attend the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit conference. It is inspiring and refreshing to spend time with other Christians who share our passion in caring for orphans and vulnerable children, whether it be through a non-profit or church-based ministry, through foster care, through adoption, or simply through a single person or family wanting to make a difference and answering God’s command given in James 1:27.
Some highlights of the conference for me were:
  • Hearing about the “Wait No More” campaign started in Colorado by Focus on the Family. The goal of the campain was to recruit Christian families to adopt children from the state foster care system who were eligible for adoption. Colorado went from having 800 children who were “waiting” for families, to just only 365 after the campaign! The Denver Post even published this article in March about the incredible success of this initiative! Focus on the Family is coordinating this event now in multiple states, and seeing similar success. Did you know that right now there are 127,000 legal orphans (ie – eligible for adoption due to severed parental rights) in the U.S. foster care system? AND there are more than 300,000 churches in the United States. If even ONE family in less than HALF of those churches would adopt just ONE of these children, we could EMPTY the foster care system of waiting children. Wouldn’t that be incredible?
  • What would you think if someone told you they were planning to adopt an HIV+ child? Would you be worried that they (or others in their home) might “catch” the disease? Well, you are in fact 287 TIMES more likely to be struck dead by lightning than accidentally contracting HIV from living with a positive person. Thanks to the education and advocacy of groups like Project Hopeful, many children with HIV/AIDS are finding permanent, adoptive families. Many, many HIV+ children who reside in developing countries do not have access to the medical treatment that they need in order to survive. For these children, being chosen for ADOPTION means the difference between life and death. In the U.S., HIV/AIDS is considered a chronic, but manageable disease and children who have it are expected to live long, healthy lives… including getting married, having children, and grandchildren! The operation of day-to-day life in parenting a child with HIV/AIDS is really not much different than parenting any child. Yes, children can share baths, cups, hugs, kisses, etc., etc. :) Consider this statement: “There are over 1 million people in the U.S. today living with HIV. These individuals hold jobs cooking food in restaurants, working in daycares, and hair salons. They are teachers, massage therapists, lawyers, and waiters. HIV+ children attend schools, daycares, camps, and churches in every state. HIV+ people are living healthy, productive lives and benefitting their communities thanks to wonderful advances in medicine and awareness.” Let’s pray that more and more families will step forward to adopt children with HIV/AIDS… the need is so great, and there are still so many with inaccurate preconceived notions about the disease. These children deserve a chance at LIFE.
  • Loved hearing the testimony and music of Mary Beth and Steven Curtis Chapman. A great reminder that God never promises our lives will be full of bliss and happiness just because we are following Him and answering His call to care for orphans. We may not always understand God’s purpose when tragedy strikes. But He doesn’t ask us to understand… He wants us to trust that He is God, and continue to persevere in obedience to Him.
  • Attended a session with the “attachment guru” Dr. Karyn Purvis, other of The Connected Child. This session was inspiring for me on a personal note, due to some hardships we have encountered with Mikayla in regards to this. Though I had heard some of it before, it was a helpful “kick in the butt” to hear it again and be reminded that I am parenting a child who has been through major life trauma… at the very least she deserves my continued patience in breaking through her “walls.” At times the attachment process can feel entirely defeating. It’s difficult to explain unless you have been there, and I’m not in the mood to go into lots of details on this blog. But, the session was great in reminding me I am not alone, and the things I am thinking/feeling are entirely normal. I have faith that we will reach the other side with her, but there are many days when the process definitely takes it’s toll. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13)
  • Hearing this lady’s story pretty much broke my heart. Totally amazing. If you follow the link, she leaves out the part about spitting the face of the father who came to adopt her. Yet he did it anyway. God had called him, and thankfully, he listened… even when the path wasn’t filled with roses and sunshine.
  • One of my FAVORITE sessions was called “Reflections from Multicultural Families.” A panel of adopted teens shared their views about growing up as a black person in a white family. There were so many great stories shared by the teens, and I appreciated the perspective they offered as I consider what my daughter will face as she grows and faces the questions of her peers throughout school, as well as her own search for identity. The teens in the panel all had extremely positive experiences growing up in their adoptive families, and they attributed much of that to the fact that they grew up in Christian adoptive families. Two commonalities they all talked about were: 1) there identities were in CHRIST (not in being black, white, etc.) and 2) they all viewed their adoptions as the perfect earthly picture of the gospel, and the adoption that Christians experience into the family of God.
  • There are a number of key legislations pending before Congress right now that have significant impact on the future of orphan care and adoption, both in the U.S. and abroad. I am planning to write a separate post about the specific pieces of legislation and what you can do to advocate… so stay tuned for this!
  • The final speaker of the conference was John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, and the author of too many books to count :) He spoke on Hebrews 11, the “FAITH” chapter of the Bible. He reminded us that having genuine God-pleasing faith gives us no guaranteed success in this life, our ministry, our adoption, etc. Sometimes great suffering is involved. We must remember, however, that God is on our side… and that has absolutely nothing to do with our virtue. “Having faith is not the factor that decides whether you prosper or suffer in the cause of orphans. God is. God himself is better than any happy ending to an adoption story. God himself is better than what life can give or death can take away.” So true. No matter what, God was, God is, and God always will be. No matter what.
So those are the highlights. Will you pray for Micah and I as we process through everything we heard/learned at the conference? We know that God has called us to adopt again. We knew this before we even completed Mikayla’s adoption. We will probably get the ball rolling on our next adoption sometime in the not-too-far-away future… but to be honest, none of the details are clear to us yet. We previously thought we would definitely adopt again from Ethiopia, but now God is stirring some new things in our hearts and nothing seems so clear anymore. So, in the meantime we will seek God and ask Him to lead us to our child… wherever he or she may be. We would really appreciate if you would join with us in praying for God's direction. We'll keep you posted!

4 comments:

  1. Wow, thanks for sharing the highlights! You and Micah will be in my prayers as you start your next adoption! Such exciting news! I can't wait to see what God's plan for your family is!

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  2. Good to read your thoughts.... I'm sure there are so many more you didn't have time to share =) So glad you felt encouraged about things and your role with Mikayla. Love you guys!

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  3. Thanks for posting, Bethany! I hope to go sometime as it sounds so encouraging. Can't wait to hear about your next adoption adventure!

    Jill

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  4. Thanks so much for your encouraging comment on our blog. I just read your adoption journey (starting with the referral) and was so blessed to hear of a good story of meeting a toddler! Seems like most of them are scared (and who can blame them?) or just difficult. I'm sure your time hasn't been perfect either, but it's still cool to hear about your family's journey, and that you survived a rescheduled court date. =o)

    Your kids are gorgeous. =o)

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