Monday, February 28, 2011

Where You Go, I'll Go

Adoption starts off as completely heartbreaking. Either a birthmother is going to experience grieving the loss of her child, or a child has already experienced the loss of one or both parents. Or the child may have been living in horrific circumstances, experienced horrific events, or been abused and neglected. Or a young teenage girl has been abandoned by her boyfriend who she thought loved her, and now she finds herself all alone, shunned by her family, with no one to help her. I wish none of these scenarios were even possible. I wish everyone could parent their children. I wish everyone had the resources to provide for their families…resources in which we have an abundance of here in the United States. I wish there were no teenage pregnancies or mothers who are mentally unstable and neglect their children. I wish there were no alcoholics or abusive dads or couples whose parenting rights are terminated because they are not capable of taking care of their children. I wish there was no AIDS or malaria or starvation. I wish everyone on the face of this earth had access to medicine and medical care and clean water.

But here is a reality check. We don’t live in a world where everything is fine and dandy. The Bible reminds us that we live in a deeply fallen world. In his book Adopted for Life Russell Moore says this:

Adoption isn’t natural. We have adoptions because we live in a world groaning under the curse of sin and death. Parents are killed. Diseases ravage villages. Fathers abandon mothers. Mothers get pregnant without marriage. It was not so from the beginning. The hard questions about adoption – and the easy ones too – are only with us because something’s gone wrong with the world (page 165).

I’ve heard the comment that other people’s screw ups shouldn’t be our problem. And when this comment comes from someone who doesn’t believe in Jesus, then I leave it as pure ignorance and move on. But for those of us who have put our faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are held to a different expectation. We ourselves know what it is like to have been SAVED from a deadly peril. From a life of sin that only leads to death. WE KNOW what that feels like. Now, doesn’t it make absolute sense to live our lives in a way that offers this same grace and mercy to others? We must not forget about the wrath we have been saved from. We must not forget about when we ourselves were destitute and enslaved.

Jesus warns us that we cannot pretend to be blind and turn away from this world we live in that is in DESPERATE need:

Mathew 25: 34-45
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

As followers of Jesus, we are urged by our King and Savior himself to not neglect the deep needs of the people around us. For anyone who claims to be a Christ follower, this is a command. It’s not just a calling for some and not for others. Jake and I weren’t called to the devastation overseas. We weren’t called to adopt. No. In fact, I’ve even used that silly phrase on previous posts and I don’t like it anymore….here’s why: I do not remember ever reading in my Bible that God was only going to call some people and not others to encourage the oppressed, defend the fatherless, or plead the case for the orphan and the widow. I don’t recall the verse that says only some are called to look after orphans and widows in their distress. I don’t recall the verse that says only some are called to provide for the needy. I think this is an excuse that Christians have come with. “Well, I don’t feel ‘called’ to do this or that.” What exactly does that mean? WE WERE CALLED to take up our cross and follow our Savior, wherever He goes. And that ‘calling’ is for all of us who claim to know Him.

Look at the life Jesus lived during his time on earth. Jesus always showed up for those who were undeserving, outcasts, those who had bad reputations, the lonely, the diseased, the orphaned, the widowed, and those enslaved to a life of sin. These are the people Jesus came for. He didn’t shield himself from unbelievers, he didn’t shield himself from those who were in a lower social class than him, and he didn’t avoid people who everyone else left for lost. Instead, he just headed into the direction of those in desperate need, and he offered mercy and grace. Now it’s our turn to do the same. Today, right here and now this means following Jesus into the homes of the broken, where a father has up and left his wife and 4 children and is not coming back. Following Him into the cafeteria at work to strike up a conversation with an atheist, not to start an argument, but because we should genuinely care about the person inside the exterior. Following Him into Birthright to urge downtrodden, impoverished women to choose life. Following Him onto an airplane to fly to an earthquake shattered land where scabies and horrible diseases have taken a hold of almost every child, where people are still living in tents, and where Satan prowls around looking to stamp out all hope. Following Him into unsafe, unknown places because that is where the need is, and you can’t get there by living in a little bubble. Following Him outside your comfort zone to come into contact with all different races, all different people groups, all different backgrounds, all different lifestyles, all different languages, simply to create relationships in the hopes that it will open up the door to share the gospel. Following Him into mentoring a child who has been deserted, abused, and neglected by his own parents. Following Him by opening up your front door because someone is in need, and they came to YOU. Following Him by loving the unlovable. Following Him by letting go of your picture-perfect life that you envisioned of a two story house, neighborhood block parties, two vacations a year, and a high end car, because your money could be better used by investing in LIVES of people that share no genes with you. Following him by letting go of your picture-perfect family where all your children look like you because He has given you the means to share your life with an orphan. Following Him by exposing yourself to rough environments because people need to hear about the hope of salvation that you hold inside. Following Him by surrendering and sacrificing your wants and your needs and your comfort and your safety for others. Because that is what He did for us. Even while we were still sinning. He came for us. Now, who in turn will we show up for? WE ARE JESUS’ HANDS AND FEET here in this fallen world. We’re up.

I DON’T WANT TO THINK ABOUT THE SADNESS AND DEVASTATION OF ANY OF THESE SITUATIONS EITHER. But I cannot turn away and pretend not to see. I cannot harden my heart, shut my ears and sing ‘la-la-la’ and claim that I didn’t know. I toss and turn at night thinking about the orphan somewhere in Africa, living without a family, without ever knowing what it’s like to be tucked in at night by a loving mommy. My heart strings pull for the adolescent girl floating around foster care homes because she is too old for anyone to consider adopting her and is probably by now convinced that no one will ever care about her. I know somewhere out there a birthmother has just left her child on the doorstep of social welfare because she cannot provide food for her any longer. Thoughts of the underpriviledged who will receive no opportunities to escape the bondage of their family’s poverty are in my head as I drive through Des Moines. As I sit at high school basketball games my mind turns to the hundreds of youth in our cities and towns who have never been told that they were created for a PURPOSE and that their life has meaning. We pass a pregnancy center in the city and I watch as a young girl wanders in alone and I wonder if any of her family is there to support her. When I sit in church I think of the college students on campus not giving a care to their life, living for the pleasures of the world, and I wonder Will someone invite them to a bible study the way someone cared enough and was bold enough to invite me? As I ready myself for our upcoming Ghana trip I wonder if my heart can take anymore hopeless sights, horrific conditions, corruption, tragedy, and encounters with people who have been left for loss.

But I know I can take it.

I know, because I know the calling. The calling isn’t whether or not to adopt, whether or not to move here or there, whether or not to help 20 miles down the interstate or millions of miles across the ocean. No, the calling is simply this: to take up my cross daily and follow my Savior, wherever He goes. I can’t shut my eyes and claim not to see the desperate needs of the world I live in. I can’t put my fingers in my ears and pretend not to hear what my Savior says. I can’t harden my heart and plead ignorance of the example He has set. No, I cannot. I will not. And this I know will be true: Jesus assures me, that when I follow Him, He is there. I hear him loud and clear. I tell you the truth whatever you have done for the least of these, you have done to me. He’s there, and so I want to be too.


d.cohoon said...

WOW, Janeil. Thank you for your words of encouragement. The more I grow in sanctification the more I agree. The adoption question changed from, how could we..., to how could we not. So many points well said!

Angie said...

preach it, sister! I love the truth you speak.

Diers said...

Love ya! The word of God is truth! No way around it! In it with you my sister...for the long haul...following and going where He leads us!!! No doubts, no regrets, no fear!!! If God is for us, who can be against? If He goes, how can we do anything but jump in the passenger seat and go along for the ride?

Linda said...

Hello there! I came across your blog while googles photos of Ghana. My son and daughter-in-law are preparing to move there on a sort of economic mission ( They have lived in Alaska for seven yrs and are in Kansas while preparing. ( Your blog is so familiar to me because my dauther and husband adopted a chinese orphan and my daugher-in-law's sister adopted an Ethiopian orphan. My daughter has met "Katie" and they all follow her blogs. God bless you! (Linda Teakell on Facebook) You can Facebook my son and wife if you are interested: PatnMelissaTeakell.

Jami said...

Hey Sullivans! I came across your blog while searching "ghana waiting kids" and now that I'm here, I feel we're kindred spirits of sorts! :) My husband and I have six kids - 4 adopted (from Guatemala and US foster care). Recently, my heart has been disturbed and stirred for orphans in Africa and we are praying about adopting again. I picture a toddler/preschooler but honestly - I know that if this is God's plan - it will likely look different then anything I come up with! I would love to learn from you - anything you could share adopt African adoptions and specifially Ghana - agency ideas etc. I desire to learn so we can continue to pray educated and walk in obedience! God bless you and your beautiful family!

mike c said...

Hi, You don't know me, but I have reading your blog for a couple years now. I enjoy hearing about the work and people in Africa and enjoy your passion and thankfulness towards Jesus. I read a post today that reflected some of my own thoughts on adoption and hoped you might read it. I have not I am no expert on the subject for sure. We did begin the adoption process and then stopped. We struggled with the fact that many of the orphans are not truly orphans. With the average cost of adoption being $25,000 or more, we couldn't help but wonder what would happen if we used this money to help the birth mother instead. Would she change her mind...would she still place her baby up for adoption with that kind financial assistance? It's a cruel thing for me to even comprehend being put in a place where I felt like it would be more loving of me to give my child up for adoption than to keep them. And honestly, if some rich American came along, willing to adopt my baby, I would probably resent the fact that they were willing to take my baby but not help me keep my baby. I do remember a post that you blogged about where a young baby was found abandoned. Later you found the mother and helped her get the adoption process started. I admit when I read it, I felt a little angry and sad for the mother. I don't know all the details I absolutely believe you love Ghana, the children, and God and want the I'm not making any judgments. Obviously it is complicated and messy, and I don't know all the details. I thought this other blog post might be good and interesting read for you though. Sorry I'm posting this is the comments section. I tried to find contact e-mail on your blog, but didn't see one. Here's a link to the other blog post.