As little girls, most women I know dreamed of adopting a baby someday. I did, but as I grew up, married, and began my own family, those dreams of adoption faded. When they were rekindled a couple of years ago and I began sharing with friends, family, and total strangers that our family was going to adopt, almost everyone I spoke with had one of two replies: “I have thought about adopting, but I wouldn’t know where to start,” or “We would love to do that, but we’d never be able to afford it.” Those statements kept haunting me as my family went through the adoption process. I couldn’t help thinking about all the children who might never have a loving home and family just because the adoption process seemed too difficult and too costly.
When my family decided to adopt, we too did not know where to start, and my husband and I had no idea where we would get the money. We had heard that an international adoption cost $30,000 or more, and that newborn domestic adoptions could run anywhere from $25,000 to $100,000! We knew there was no way we could accomplish an adoption under our own power. However, my husband and I also felt that God was calling us to bring home a child, and to spread the word to other Christians that there are millions of children who desperately need people to be involved in their lives. Without families willing to take care of them or take them in, these children might die, fail to thrive, or grow up with no one to love them and point them to Jesus.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and other humanitarian organizations, around the world there are as many as 143 million orphaned children (meaning that a child has one parent who has died) and at least 16.2 million of those are “double-orphaned,” meaning that both parents have died. With the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) crisis in Africa and recent world disasters, the number is expected to increase. It is obvious that no one family, church, or community can bring home tens of millions of children, and many orphans are not available for adoption due to their laws or other legal reasons. But if everyone who thought about adoption actually followed through and adopted one child, far fewer children would lie sick, neglected, exploited, dying, and forgotten. Together, Christians can make a difference in the lives of children in need. In fact, we are called by God to do so.
Studies show that, like those who responded to my adoption news, many people think about adoption but not many actually adopt. According to data from the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), which was conducted by researchers for the divisions of health and vital statistics for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ten million married or previously married American women ages eighteen to forty-four had ever considered adoption, but only 487,000 women – or not quite 5 percent of those who had thought about it – had ever completed an adoption. To break it down even further, more than one-fourth of all women in America in that age range who had ever been or were currently married had considered adoption yet only 1.3 percent of all women in that demographic actually adopted. (2). If a higher percentage of women who considered adoption actually made the decision with their husbands to adopt, and if more people who had never considered adoption were introduced to enough information that they might consider it, the number of orphans in the US and in other countries waiting for a family to love them could be reduced considerably.
Christians are lovingly commanded by God to love others, particularly the innocent, the young, and the poor. If you have ever felt even the smallest pang of curiosity about adoption, the merest flicker of interest in an orphaned child, ask God if he wants to fan it into a flame. Then trust him to take care of the details. As you consider adoption, focus on the resources you do have and let God take care of what you don’t.
What God Wants for His Kids
So how does God feel about adoption? A look at the scriptures paints a clear picture.
Love one another
The main message that Jesus preached throughout the Gospels was for people to love God with all they have, then love one another with abandon. Look at Christ’s attitude toward children. Whenever children approached him, he lovingly gathered them to him. In Mark 10: 13 – 14, the disciples tired to keep the children away from Jesus, and Jesus was not happy about it. The passage states:
People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them. ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’ (NIV)
If the kingdom of God belongs to “such as these,” then the care of hurting children is not the world’s problem; it is the responsibility of God’s people, who are royal members of his kingdom. Kerry Hasenbalg, former executive director of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, tells this story of God’s revelation to her about the role orphans play in God’s plan:
“I vividly remember when God first spoke to me about his royal family, the orphans. I had invited special friends of ours, two young ladies who became orphaned during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, to spend the holidays with us, and I was furiously preparing my house and decorating it like I had never done before. I can remember standing at my kitchen island and beginning to laugh at myself, thinking, Why in the world am I cleaning like this - as if the Queen of England is coming to stay? And immediately, I heard that still, small voice of God gently say to my heart, Because members of my royal family are coming to stay with you. And so it was, at that moment, I understood that he – the King of kings – is serious about being the Father of the fatherless – so they are the royal family of God. (3).”
The Chance to be Part of God’s Big Picture
Adopting and caring for orphans give believers the opportunity to be God’s hands and feet, to practice serving another human being. What those who have adopted soon discover is that their efforts to become a servant by adopting and ministering to orphans bless them as much as they bless the child or children they bring home. Caring for orphans is mandated by God throughout the Bible – not because he can’t care for them himself – but because it is part of God’s plan for his people to show others what he looks like by their willingness to help those in need.
In ancient times, when Rome ruled the world, infanticide ran rampant – with sick, disabled, or orphaned infants literally cast aside, sometimes sacrificed. The first Christians believed in the sanctity of life and demonstrated that by taking in the unwanted children and caring for them, even Roman children. The Romans took note of this, and it began to change society.
Christians today can change the world by putting their faith into action and showing the world that every human being is wanted and loved. Until we care about orphans around the world as much as God does – enough to surrender our plans in exchange for his call to care for the unwanted and unloved – we miss an opportunity to play a hugely significant role in God’s “big picture,” his plan for drawing the unreached to him.
Adoption in the Scriptures
In the King James Version of the New Testament, the word adoption is used six times. In each instance, adoption is the term by which Jesus Christ has reconciled human beings to God. It is through adoption that God becomes our Abba, our Daddy, according to Romans. Adoption is synonymous with his love. Galatians 4: 4-5 states:
But when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. (KJV, bold added)
This kind of spiritual adoption is mentioned again in Ephesians 1:5. Adoption means that God loves us enough to bring us into his forever family.
But what about actual, physical adoption of one human being to another? Does God have an opinion about this? Does he care one way or the other? Christians can see by looking through Scripture that the answer to those questions is a resounding Yes! God shows that he is concerned about the way orphans are treated not only by commanding his followers to care for widows and orphans, but also he demonstrates the importance of adoptive relationships by placing key adopted characters throughout the Bible.
How God Uses Adoptive Families
Adoptive relationships are obviously special in God’s eyes. He sent his own Son to earth to have an adoptive father, Joseph. He must have known exactly what it felt like to be different, to share the love of Joseph and his name but not his blood or his genes. Joseph played the role of a foster father, knowing that Jesus really belonged to another dad and that he was the earthy stand-in, a significant part of God’s plan for his Son’s human experience.
Adoptive Families Touch Others with Their Stories
Adoptees play key roles throughout the Bible. Many important figures in the Bible stories were adopted, and all were used to save God’s chosen people from destruction. These key characters were the turning point whenever God’s chosen were on the brink of disaster. Adoptees have an incredible call by God on their lives to make a difference in this world. What a privilege it is to be the adoptive parents called to love, guide, and accept one of these special chosen ones. The stories of adoption, in both Bible times and today, touch and change lives. They demonstrate God on the move, at work, and in control. The saving grace in these stories of redeemed lives often inspires people to seek their own redemption.
For example, Moses was placed by his mother in a basket made of reeds and left to float down the Nile River in order to save his life after Pharaoh ordered the infant Hebrew boys be killed. Pharaoh’s daughter adopted Moses as her own son and raised him in the palace. As an adult, God called Moses to lead the nation of Israel out of captivity from Egypt and toward the Promised Land – all because Moses’ adoptive relationship put him in a position of influence (see the book of Exodus).
Adoptees May Influence Their Birth Countries
The Old Testament figure of Joseph was another prominent adoptee. As a teen, he was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. He ended up with a position of power in Egypt and was used by God to save a nation and his own family from starving to death during a famine (see Genesis 37, 39 – 50). The prophet Samuel was taken as a small boy by his mother and given to the high priest Eli to raise (see 1 Samuel 1: 24 – 28); and Esther, the queen who saved the Jews, was adopted by her cousin Mordecai after her parents died (see Esther 2: 7, 15).
The biblical message seems clear that not only has God deemed adoption acceptable, but also that he uses adoptees in great ways to preserve his kingdom. God is still using adoptees today. Some adopted children from nations where their lives were not valued will return to their birth countries to help change laws. Some adopted children may go on to also adopt children. Many are bringing their adoptive families a better understanding of God’s great love for them, and some will even lead family members to Christ.
Adoption is an Example of His Love for Us
Perhaps there is no better correlation on earth for the way God draw us into his family than adoption. When you choose to bring a child home who was not born into your family and make the decision to love that child unconditionally, you experience how God calls each of us to become part of his family. When people reconcile their relationship with God by accepting the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus, he embraces them as full-fledged members of his family. In fact, the Bible states in Titus 3: 7 that those who accept Christ are justified by his grace so that “we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life” (NIV).
When someone dies, who are the heirs to the person’s estate? Family members, first and foremost. God loves us enough to make us his heirs, his children. Adoption provides an earthly picture of that heavenly kind of love.
From Successful Adoption by Natalie Nichols Gillespie. Copyright (c) 2006 by Natalie Nichols Gillespie. Reprinted by permission of Integrity Publishers.
Natalie Nichols Gillespie is the author of seven books and the managing editor of mtl magazine. In addition, Natalie’s articles have appearead in more than two dozen publications including Christian Parenting Today, HomeLife, Charisma, Christianity Today, Spirit-Led Woman, Christian Music Planet, and CCM magazine. Natalie is a happily-married mom and stepmom of seven who range in age from 1 to 23 years old.