I aim to post something at least once a week against abortion or for adoption. It’s not because I have a platform. It’s not because it’s trendy. It’s because God hates evil and loves good, and so should all His people.
Adoption has been national news the last couple weeks, though, because the draft of the national budget proposed cutting what is called the Adoption Tax Credit. Since 1997 it’s been Federal law that qualified expenses in the adoption process up to a certain amount could be reimbursed by the government as a tax credit, which is even “better” than a tax deduction. The predominately Republican Congress cut the ATC from their budget drafts for this cycle sending every conservative, adoption-loving person I saw online into a conniption. “How in the world could they do this?”
It seems that all our campaigning/complaining has “worked” and, as of a few days ago, the ATC is back in the budget. So what I say next may be moot in more than one way. And while I may get stuck in the rhetorical mud, here goes. Whose responsibility is it to pay for adoption? The government?
I like adoption. I love adoption, our adoption by our heavenly Father and also enacted by earthly fathers. Our family adopted. We’ve talked about adopting again. We’ve given money to support other families who’ve adopted. We started and had a non-profit organization to raise money for adoption for a while. I attend adoption ministry meetings and orphan care summits on an ongoing rotation. Our church gives monthly support to a local adoption lawyer as well as an orphanage in India. I’ve preached about adoption in our church and for other churches, and will continue to do so. And I am opposed to the Adoption Tax Credit in particular and to the government’s financial responsibility to reimburse adoption expenses in general.
“But,” someone says, “the cost of adoption is too high for most interested families. We need this credit.” But, I say, shouldn’t we work to get the government to stop charging so much money for the adoption process in the first place? And certainly we would desire that the government not prohibit Christians and churches or non-profit groups from coordinating giving, sort of an adoption Kickstarter or GoFundMe. One family who gives willingly to another family that desires to adopt is great, and more personal, and Christian. And we would all have more money to do so if all our taxes weren’t so high. As it is now, every little fussy group wants to make sure the State gives them “their money (back)” for “their important thing” so we keep feeding big government and ceding them control.
There are layers to the problem, including how much it costs lawyers to get their education so that they can get government approval to bill clients for filling out the piles of government paperwork. There are other problems in the national budget, including the report that funding for Planned Parenthood remained even when the Adoption Tax Credit was cut. That is broken and wrong.
But nearer to the heart of the problem is the fact that Christians would rather have the government take care of the cost. And Christians prefer to depend on the government because we are selfish. This is yet another reason why we need to celebrate weekly communion because it is potent by God’s grace to raise our thankfulness rather than raise our expectations of what other people need to do for us. It reminds us of our Lord who came to serve not to be served. As Christians take that seriously, even things like the national budget (and federal programs and elimination of federal programs) would eventually, inevitably change. There is no reason for it to change right now because Uncle Sam knows that we love his handouts.
November is National Adoption Month and in this first week of the month elections took place across our country. It may be too much to tie together an exhortation to confess from these two threads, and yet they may be in a knot already.
When we worship God we not only see what He is like but also what He likes. More than that, we begin to like the same things. It is possible to study His interests without becoming interested in Him or the subjects, but we will not sing from our souls about Him having certain loves and then act as if our loving the same persons or things is inconsequential. The godly will be like the God they praise.
Our God cares about the fatherless. In Psalm 10 David celebrated that the LORD “will incline [His] ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed” (verses 17b-18a). He “settles the solitary in a home” (Psalm 68:8). Widows and orphans are His cause (James 1:27).
So then must we also care for the fatherless. It may be providing permanence. It may be helping in transition. It may be working at prevention. It could be adopting, fostering, providing emergency care or respite care, or just helping financially in any part of the process.
We also ought to be voting for officials who will not kill our children before they are born (or kill our widows because they are a “drain on society”). How the wicked have been making men fatherless, not because men grow up without fathers, but because the wicked urge fathers to kill their kids. When men worship the god of their belly (more money and time for themselves) they hate the fruit of the womb. But God cares about them.
Our kids are not a hindrance to our fruitfulness, they are our fruitfulness. Until we get (or regain) that perspective, one that can only come as we worship God, our nation will continue to be barren and barbaric.
Last Sunday was Orphan Sunday. It’s not a holiday, though many churches observe it in the United States and in other countries. For that matter, November is National Adoption Month, at least here in the States. In both cases, the point is to make special effort to heighten awareness of year-round needs throughout the world.
As a church we support Andrew Schneidler and the Children’s Law Center of Washington. He is a lawyer helping make permanency possible for families that don’t have financial resources. We give him money each month and make supplication for him almost every Sunday. As a church we also took up support for the Good Shepherd’s Children Home in India through Kidstown International. Likewise, we send money and make prayers for the kids and for the leaders of that orphanage.
We’ve promoted (and run) in the Adoption Run for Antioch Adoptions. Some of us even organized an event a few years ago to cut adoption costs for a family desiring to take kids into their family. Last Sunday night we also made a large statement through a small party on behalf of the Hall family who are closer than ever to bringing in to their home some kids who don’t have a home, kids who don’t have a place or parents to parent them.
In less brochure-able ways, we are involved in orphan prevention. We do have the obligation according to James 1:27 to help widows and orphans. We also have the obligation to love our wives, respect our husbands, and not exasperate our children but raise them in the culture of Christ worship. It may be too dramatic to call that orphan prevention, but it is not too dramatic to call it obedience to God our Father. We are to lay down our lives for one another, for others, including little others.
From our homes, to Western Washington, to other continents, God created us to love others, especially those who are weak and needy. If we only love those who earn our love, those who make it easy for us to love them, then we do not realize how potent love like God’s is.
November 4th was Orphan Sunday. We planned to have Andrew Schneidler speak about The Children’s Law Center of Washington at TEC that day until I realized that I would be out of town. I’m glad we waited. For that matter, while I’m thankful for the Christians who have coordinated a campaign to raise awareness about the global need for fathers to the fatherless, we aren’t limited to raise awareness on one Sunday only. Not only that, we aren’t limited to raise awareness about only one issue. We ought to love all the things that God loves, but we can’t give attention to each one at the same time. Likewise, we ought to lament all the sins that God laments, the myriad of ways His heart is ignored. Again, we can’t do it all at once.
So we had our own orphan Sunday and, in some ways, every Sunday is. We were all orphans, all of us. We were born by a father who hated us from the beginning. He gave us his nature, his murdering, lying nature. Then he abandoned us to face the wrath for ourselves. Yet because his heart is so twisted, he loves to watch us act like him, because he knows it is the worst thing for us.
Then the heavenly Father sent His Son to earth to find and deliver many brothers. The Lord Jesus Christ is the ultimate adoption advocate, the ultimate adoption attorney, the ultimate adoption donor. He knew the legal requirements and fulfilled them. He paid the cost so in full so that we could be sons and daughters of God. He saved us and brought us into His eternal family and now no one can pluck us out of His hand. He’s given us new names, a new nature, and a new future. The Lord’s Table is full of the Father and Son’s food, and we’re invited as His adopted children.
God wrote through the apostle Paul, “Believe the gospel.” God wrote through the apostle James, “Prove your belief.” In chapter one of his letter, James exhorted his readers to be doers of the word and not hearers only (1:22). He addressed three doings of doers in the very next paragraph, three works to watch to discover if one’s walk is worthless or worshipful.
First, “if anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (v.26). Second, on the positive side, “religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction” (v.27a) And third, God pleasing religion is also “to keep oneself unstained from the world” (v.27b).
The initial talking point is our talking. Whether or not we control our tongues matters. If we use our tongues to bless the Lord but curse men who are made in God’s image (3:9-11), there’s reason to be concerned about the source of the spring.
The third comment is about worldliness. Being stained by the immoral, unmerciful, bickering, self-centric codes of the world is a sign of spiritual adultery. It does not match a life of faith.
In between, James clarifies that we have immediate, temporal responsibilities to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves. Saying, “Be warmed and filled” comes out of dead-faithed mouths (2:15-17). So every Christian would-be-doer-of-the-word must care for orphans and widows if they want to be blessed. It doesn’t mean that every person must adopt a child or take home a widow, but it does mean that we must take to heart our responsibility to give ourselves and serve those in affliction. Otherwise, our words about obeying the Word are worthless.
We’ve all been to family events where the table wasn’t big enough to fit everyone. When I was younger, I remember throwing a fit (on more than one occasion) at being relegated to the “kids’ table.” Looking back, I think that the kernel of my desire to be included was good. What I failed to grasp is that was being included.
My parents could have left me at home, could have left me in the car, could have left me in the kitchen doing dishes. In order to be at the kids’ table, it meant that they brought me along, gave me a seat, and set a plate full of food in front of me. Why? Because I was their son. I was part of the family.
Slaves (and enemies) don’t get included like that. Paul reminds Christians of their family status in Galatians 4.
when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (Galatians 4:4–7 ESV)
God’s Son took on flesh, fulfilled the requirements of the law, and then sacrificed Himself on the cross so that we could be sons. Jesus paid the adoption costs and we are family.
The Lord’s Table is a good sort of kids’ table; it’s a table set for His kids. Believers are included in every way in His divine family. He brings us here, He provides for us, and it all confirms that an inheritance is ours. That inheritance is only for redeemed, adopted sons, and our Father wants us to mature into manhood so that we’ll be ready to receive it.
I don’t always read Challies but, when I visit his site, I typically scan through his A La Carte links. A week ago he started with a post at Paradox Uganda about a young girl in Africa whom the author named “Little Miss Red Shoes.” She’s nine. She had gone to the police and then to the “casualty department” at the hospital to report being raped by a 15 year-old neighbor.
I have a nine year-old daughter. She wears Mary Jane style shoes, too. I can’t imagine if she were in a similar situation.
Read the story and “please pray for JUSTICE, for Little Miss Red Shoes and the countless little African girls (and others all over the world) who are raped, beaten, blamed, sold.”
There are many ways to adopt and/or care for widows and orphans. There are so many, actually, that many people who desire to do something may not know where to start. Here is one opportunity.
Right now, there are approximately 130,000 kids in US foster care. There are 10,000 kids in the Washington state foster care system and between 1,000 and 1,500 of those kids have no legal parents and want to have them, meaning, they want to be adopted. There are also over 5,000 churches in Washington state. It seems as if Christians could do something.
Enter the Wait No More event on September 24. From 1:00-5:00pm on Saturday, at Overlake Christian Church in Redmond, Focus on the Family is arranging information and agencies to get families in the process to adopt kids from the foster system. Here is a one minute overview video.
Focus on the Family has already held eight events in seven other states (two in their home state of Colorado). They only go to states with significant interest and existing infrastructure to make things happen. They are spending their own resources to build trellis, organizing placement agencies and state officials and churches, not only to make the needs known, but also to recruit families to adopt.
The event is free, however they do ask that people register so they can have enough materials for all who attend.
1:00-3:00pm will be a gathered time for education and motivation. Then, from 3:00-5:00pm, there will be time to interact with many of the ministries and adoption agencies. Those who are interested will be able to sign up before they leave and will be contacted soon therefore for the next steps.
Adopting through the foster system isn’t for everyone. For that matter, adoption, whether through foster or private or international, isn’t for every family. But loving the unloved and dying to bring life is. Here is one opportunity, where other people are spending all sorts of effort to build trellis that we can utilize.
Additional things you can do:
- Read Adopted for Life by Russell Moore, a fantastic resource about adoption in general.
- Visit 127adoptions.org and/or read Chuck Weinberg’s blog that tells their family’s story of adopting from China.
- Talk with Esther about serving at the 127 table on Saturdays. Those of you who follow her on Facebook already know some of the updates and that info is now on the church website as well.
- Email me with questions about adoption or about the event itself.
- Pray for attendance and interest in the Wait No More event.
- Register and attend, or tell others about, the event: icareaboutorphans.org
We met her in Denny’s and she told us to be adoption advocates.
The social worker’s exhortation came at the conclusion of our home study interview in early July. The home study was necessary as we pursued an opportunity to adopt a baby girl who was due near the end of July. On December 3rd, we finished the process and our new daughter got our last name. But our adoption advocacy is far from finished.
I’ll back up.
Adoption has been on the Higgins family radar for a long time. During our engagement, Mo and I talked about adopting at some point regardless of whether or not God might bless us with biological kids. When a friend called us on June 7th to investigate our interest, we already had three fantastic kids. We didn’t need more. We didn’t feel like anything was missing. But our immediate reaction was, “Yes! Of course we’re interested!”
Blog readers may remember that a year ago I wrote about our plan to fill out paperwork for Antioch Adoptions. We figured that process would take a while, and actually, after six months, we hadn’t even completed our initial application. One reason that paperwork took so long was because, in the meantime, we helped to start a small non-profit called 127adoptions in order to raise money for another couple in our church who were pursuing an international adoption. The first event ended only three weeks before getting our own call.
Busy with event coordinating, homeschooling, remodeling, normal ministry and church life, and looking forward to an already full summer, we didn’t foresee how much harder and happier our next few months would be.
The first time we met with our adoption attorney he explained that, due to certain complications, we might be in for a challenging, long, and expensive journey. For a while it seemed like every week we would hit another impassable wall. Our story circulated not only around the lawyer’s office, but even around the state as they sought counsel from other lawyers and social workers. I vividly remember one phone call where our attorney encouraged us by saying that we had run out of possible problems. The next day two new problems arose that threatened to derail the train; apparently God wanted to answer really desperate prayers. At our post-placement interview, our social worker said she had never seen a situation like ours in her 20 years of experience.
One of the most important lessons I learned, a lesson I thought I already knew, is that adoption exists because sin exists. In other words, adoption in any specific situation will be difficult because something, somewhere is wrong. Sin brings death and death makes orphans. Or sinful choices result in birth parents who are unable, even unwilling in some cases, to care for the child. No matter whose sin it is–in the birth parents, in the courts, in the adoptive parents, in extended family members, or in others who are seemingly unrelated–sin makes a mess. There is no way to enter the adoption process and expect no difficulties, no cost, and no hurt.
At the final hearing, the judge asked us, “What does this day mean to you?” I don’t remember exactly what I said,1 but I know it culminated an unanticipated, short yet tiring, and exhilarating ride. And as we celebrated Keelah coming into our family, we also celebrated God’s adoption of us into His family with all the rights, privileges, and promised inheritance belonging to His children.
Knowing what we know now, after investing thousands of dollars and who knows how many hours, we would TOTALLY do it all over again.2 We are more excited about adoption than before, not less. That doesn’t mean that every married couple should adopt. Adoption is clearly not the only way to live out the gospel. But we love our daughter and we love every opportunity to advocate adoption, both temporal and eternal.
Photo thanks to Esther Martin