This coming Sunday is Orphan Sunday. It’s a day set aside by the Christian Alliance for Orphans as a day to remember our call to care for orphans. Thousands of churches worldwide will be incorporating some sort of emphasis on adoption this week. Last year we had some of our own families share their experience of adoption during second hour. This year, we’ll have a guest speaker – Mark Tatlock, Executive Vice President and Provost of the Master’s College.
In conjunction with Orphan Sunday, I asked one of our IBC families to share about their journey. Sam and Jenny Lee have been members of IBC for about a year now and have two children, Austin and Bethany. They share with us the anxieties and joy they experienced in their six-year journey to bring Bethany home. Praise God for their testimony! Here is their story from Jenny’s perspective…
In high school, one of my teachers showed us a very moving and disturbing video about the plight of orphan girls in China. It was this video that first opened my eyes to adoption and eventually developed into a desire to adopt.
It was also during my time in high school that I was diagnosed with an auto immune disease called Lupus. Fast forward many years and I was married and had our first child, Austin. It was considered a high risk pregnancy, but Austin was born healthy without any complications. Not long after, the physical strain of having a baby and caring for one eventually took a toll on my health, and doctors strongly cautioned me against future pregnancies. As Sam and I sought counsel and prayerfully considered the potential risks to the baby and myself, it became evident that another pregnancy would not be a wise option.
Although I felt a sense of great loss and disappointment over our decision not to get pregnant again, the desire God had placed in my heart years ago to adopt, as well as the knowledge that God was in control, gave me great peace and comfort.
Prior to marriage, I had shared my desire to adopt with Sam, and found that he was open to adopting in the future. Now, faced with our new set of circumstances, Sam was still open to adoption, but not quite ready to move forward. After several months of prayer, Sam was ready to grow our family through adoption.
Unfortunately, as anyone who has adopted or who is in the process will tell you, adoption is not an easy road, and we faced many obstacles along the way. Due to my preexisting health condition, our initial application was rejected by Korean agencies, and we ran into some agencies whose policies we could not in good conscience move forward with. Disappointed but not daunted, we decided to adopt from China, but only a few months into it, I was diagnosed with stage IV kidney disease, and it was apparent God had other plans for us once again. Sam and I both agreed that the wisest thing to do would be to put our adoption on hold, and focus on getting better.
It took a year of intravenous chemotherapy treatments, tests, and medication before I was well enough to continue with our adoption. By the time we returned to the program, the wait times for China had doubled, but we soldiered on.
After completing all the necessary paperwork, and paying all the required fees, our file was sent to China, and we were officially placed on their wait list. Months passed and we received word that wait times had increased again, and we were looking at several more years of waiting.
I felt defeated. I was frustrated, confused, and tired of waiting. I had to make a choice to either give into the fatigue and disappointment, or choose to believe that adoption was what God wanted for our family. We decided to press on, but I also decided to do some research to find out if there were any other options. I found out that Korea had updated their restrictions on certain medical conditions, and that Korea’s wait time from start to finish would be shorter than the time we had remaining for China. I cautiously made some inquiries, and much to our surprise, the Korean agencies that had initially rejected us three years ago were willing to accept our application.
Sam and I were faced with yet another difficult decision. We had already poured our hearts, time and finances into adopting from China, but more importantly, I had spent the past few years praying for and believing that my little girl was waiting for me in China. After much prayer and discussion, we decided to pull out of the China program and begin the entire process all over again with Korea. Two years later, we were finally matched with a little girl, and just a few months after that, I held my little girl in my arms for the first time.
It’s been three years and eight months since Bethany has been home, and there is no doubt in my mind that she was meant to be my daughter. When I see my little girl, I am reminded of God’s goodness, faithfulness, and wisdom. In total, our adoption journey spanned six years, and I’ll be the first to admit that those years were filled with its share of tears, anxiety, and stress. However, they were also filled with joyful anticipation, faith in God’s goodness, and the assurance that we were following God’s plan for our family. They say hindsight is 20/20, and now looking back, it’s clear as day that God’s hand was in every unexpected turn and in every setback. He took us on that long and difficult journey so we could see what an amazing gift trials can be, and so we could see how great and wonderful a God we have.
During the course of our adoption, I learned that Scripture is clear about God’s heart for orphans. God deeply loves and cares for them, and calls Himself father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5). He warns against those who mistreat and take advantage of orphans (Exodus 22:22-24), and has given us the responsibility to defend and care for them (Psalm 82:3-4).
God has also used our adoption to teach me what it means to be adopted by Him in ways I don’t think I could have grasped or understood had it not been for our own adoption of Bethany. God has used Bethany’s adoption to illustrate the truth that God, in His holiness and perfection, reached down and chose to adopt me, not based on any merit of my own, but because He loves me. He chose me to be His adopted daughter with all the rights and privileges of His precious Son Jesus, and I am so thankful that I get to see a beautiful picture of that every time I see my precious daughter.
Far too often, orphan care is a ministry that is frequently neglected by the church. There are an estimated 163 million orphans in the world, and it is my prayer that as sons and daughters who have been adopted into God’s family, we would share His heart for the fatherless, and be compelled to take action. There are many ways we can take part in the care of orphans, and it should be done regularly and fervently. It is not an easy task, but it is one that will bring great joy to us and others, and ultimately proclaim God’s great glory.