Soon after joining the CoaH staff in March, I learned that developing an adoption initiative and hosting an adoption seminar were a part of the pastors’ goals for this year. After a season full of personal transitions and unknowns, this was a sweet reminder from the Lord that He had led me exactly where I needed to be.
Prior to moving to Boston, I had worked for ten years in an international humanitarian aid program, during which time I had the opportunity to lead teams of volunteers on annual distribution trips in Central and South America, Eastern Europe, and Africa. The teams delivered aid and conducted Vacation Bible School in orphanages and in rural areas of developing countries where the organization had long-term programs underway.
I was given glimpses into the lives of thousands of kids growing up in orphanages around the world through those trips and was gripped by the depth of their need for loving families above any physical need that an organization can temporarily meet. I spent a lot of sleepless nights thinking about whether I should adopt as a single woman or pack my bags and move to Russia to work in an orphanage for the rest of my days. While learning about child welfare systems in other countries and praying for the Lord’s guidance about where He wanted me to serve, I began talking to foster care and adoption social workers in the U.S. about the child welfare system here.
The more I learned about the complexity of the system and the extent of the needs within it, the more convicted I became by the fact that I wasn’t serving or building relationships with kids in my own community who were growing up disconnected from their families. Over time, I developed a growing desire to work directly with children and families through foster care and adoption and eventually left my job to return to school in order to study the impact and treatment of childhood trauma. Through that process, the Lord led me to Boston, to CoaH, and to the intensive foster care program where I’m interning. Over the past several months, I have seen and heard stories of how the Lord has been stirring the hearts of couples and singles at CoaH and other Christians throughout Boston to care for children through foster care and adoption, which has been really exciting.
There are more than 420,000 youth in the U.S. foster care system today, and more than 9,000 of those kids and teenagers are in Massachusetts. Many of them will eventually reunify with their parent(s) but need a stable and supportive home as they navigate life away from all they have ever known. Others who are growing up in foster care are eligible for adoption because the rights of their parents have been terminated due to extreme neglect, abuse, or abandonment, and they do not have other family members who are able to care for them. The number of kids in need of both temporary and permanent homes far exceeds the number of families currently willing to open their home to a child, and thousands of young adults age out of the system each year without the support of committed and caring adults.
Nothing has ever broken my heart to the extent that seeing kids growing up without families has, and nothing has ever made me cry more tears of joy than witnessing the redemptive work of Christ through adoption, so I am excited beyond words to see how the Lord leads those of you whom He is moving in this direction. It has been such an encouragement to hear many of you express an interest in fostering or adopting or a desire to learn more about how you can support families who are who are preparing to bring a child into their home. I pray that attending the Adoption Seminar will be the first of many steps that you take in learning about how we might meet the needs of kids in our community who so desperately need the love of a family.
Here is an excerpt from Adopted for Life by Russell Moore. Anytime book is used, I encourage you to replace it with seminar. Moore’s hopes for readers of his book perfectly describe my hopes for the CoaH family as we seek the Lord’s guidance for how He is calling us to serve vulnerable children in our community.
Adoption is not just about couples who want children or who want more children. Adoption is about an entire culture within our churches, a culture that sees adoption as part of our Great Commission mandate and as a sign of the gospel itself.
This book is intended for families who want to adopt and wonder whether they should…[it] is also, and perhaps most especially, for the man who flinches when his wife raises the issue of adoption because he wants his “own kids” - and who hates himself a little for thinking like that. It is for the wife who keeps the adoption application papers in a pile on the exercise bicycle upstairs - as a “last resort” - but who is praying fervently right now for two lines of purple to show up on her home pregnancy test. It is for the single twenty-something who assumes that he will marry after a couple of years in the post-college job force, find a nice girl, have a honeymoon for three or four years, and then they’ll start thinking about getting pregnant. It is for the pastor who preaches about adoption as an alternative to abortion on a Sanctity of Human Life Sunday but who has never considered how to envision for his congregation what it would mean to see family after family after family in the church directory in which the children bear little physical resemblance to, and maybe even don’t share the skin color of, their parents. It is for the elderly couple who tithe their Social Security check, dote on their grandchildren, and wonder how they can tangibly help the young couple who ask for prayer every month that they might be parents - and who never seem to show up for Mother’s Day services….
What would it mean if our churches and families were known as the people who adopt babies - and toddlers, and children, and teenagers. What if we as Christians were known, once again as the people who take in orphans and make them beloved sons and daughters? Not everyone is called to adopt. No one wants parents who adopt children out of the same sense of duty with which they may give to the building fund for the new church gymnasium. But all of us have a stake in the adoption issue, because Jesus does. He is the one who tells us his Father is also “Father of the fatherless” (Ps. 68:5). He is the one who insists on calling “the least of these” his “brothers” (Matt. 25:40) and who tells us that the first time we hear his voice, he will be asking us if we did the same.
I don’t know why, in the mystery of God’s plan, you were led to pick up this book. But I know this: you have a stake in the adoption issue, even if you never adopt a child. There’s a war going on around you - and perhaps within you - and adoption is one crucial arena of that war. With that in mind, there are perhaps some changes to be made in our lives. For some of us, I hope this book changes the makeup of our households. For some of us, I hope it helps change our monthly bank account balances. For all of us, I hope it changes something of the way we say “brother” and “sister” in our pews next Sunday and the way we cry out “Father” on our knees tonight.
The Adoption Seminar is coming up on Saturday, November 4th, and I hope that you will join us for it. We will hear from Pastor Bland about the theology of adoption as well as from adoptive parents and child welfare professionals about the practical ways we as a church family can serve children and families. Register here today!
Ashley currently serves as the Office Manager at CoaH and is pursuing a Master of Social Work at BC. She previously worked for Buckner International, a child and family services agency based in Texas.