2010 World Impact Conference Reflection #1
a key point of reflection for me from the conference was that:
Orphan care must be more organic than programmatic.
- Tools, structures, and resources must be in place for us to be effective at fleshing out our passion to serve vulnerable children. And yet, we must be primarily driven, not by a program, but by the gospel.
Mercy and love are not abstract concepts. They are realities that we experience because of our relationship to the Father. They are what force us to respond to the crisis of the moment for the least of these in society with mercy and love.
The natural and immediate response to the crisis of 145,000,000 vulnerable children in the world has to mercy and love for those who are experiencing mercy and love.
This is why our greatest service to orphans is to continue to preach the gospel in our church, in the world, and in our homes. As we preach Christ and Him crucified to the former and current spiritual orphans among us, we seek to cultivate, not an adoption ministry, but an adoption culture.
For a long-term effective ministry, caring for orphans and widows must not just be something we do. It has to be more of who we are as children of God.
GUEST POST: by David E. Prince
“I thought you said you were having a Mission Conference?” That is not an unusual reaction when people find out that responding to the global orphan crisis through adoption is the topic of our 2010 Mission Conference. The adoption of orphans and the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ are completely distinct categories in the mind of many evangelical Christians.
The adoption of orphans is a good thing that we are glad some people are involved in but glorifying God through the Great Commission is the central task of all followers of Jesus Christ. Such a view ignores the fact that the Scripture describes the unfolding of the Great Commission as God’s work of adoption (Romans 8:15; 23; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5). As J.I. Packer so powerfully stated in Knowing God, “adoption is the highest privilege of the Gospel.” We are not only declared righteous in a legal sense in the Gospel we are also totally embraced in the family of God with a new identity and inheritance.
Human families exist because they are a reflection of the eternal Fatherhood of God and His plan for the eternal Son to be the firstborn among many brothers (Romans 8:29; Hebrews 2:11-18). These brothers in the family of God were not born into His family but they are those who by grace “He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:13). They are the adopted children of God. We look to God as Father to understand and define the role of earthly Fathers and as we live with earthly fathers we better understand His perfect fatherly provision in our lives.
Consider how Jesus reasons when He calls for His followers to forgive others their trespasses and for those who refuse to forgive others He warns “neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15). This plea and warning do not provide a plan for justification by forgiveness but assert the direct relationship between being forgiven by God and forgiving others. Jesus points to the reciprocal relationship between the forgiveness He provides in the Gospel and the forgiveness of the flesh and blood people we rub shoulders with every day. According to Jesus, it is nonsensical for someone who has been eternally forgiven to refuse to forgive.
This reciprocal relationship is the way it always works with Christian living and why the believer never moves past the Gospel. Thus, it is nonsensical for those who were spiritual orphans and have been adopted into the family of God through the atoning blood of Jesus to refuse to be involved in the adoption of the millions of physical orphans in the world today. When we understand this it becomes clear why James refers to rescuing orphans as “Religion that is pure and undefiled” (James 1:27). Not all Christians will or should become adoptive parents but all Christians must be involved in seeing orphans adopted into families and look into the face of an earthly abba, father who will tell them about the Abba, Father and His eternal Son.
As my friend Russell Moore has said, “The Great Commission is a call to spiritual warfare not a public relations campaign.” The same is true for adoption. Christian adoption is not simply a nice thing for kind, charity-minded people. Living the Gospel in the world by adopting orphans is spiritual warfare and Satan hates it because it cannot be severed from the Great Commission. Adoption is a fundamental aspect of the battle against the principalities and powers who hate the Gospel. When we can ignore the cries of the millions of orphans in the world we are not simply saying something about our charity but about our missiology.
“I thought you said you were having a Mission Conference?”
“We are, we really are.”
As we drove through Addis Ababa the excitement about receiving our two newest sons was numbed by the blatant display of poverty along the streets. The mass of humanity before us was sprinkled with ‘outcasts’ whose residence was at best a worn blanket or a piece of plastic. Beggars drug their deformed legs on the pavement. The aroma of roasted corn cooked and sold on the sidewalk waffled through the air. Every now and then, the undeniable odor of refuse was added to the smog. If poverty has a smell, this is it!
I stared speechless out the car window as our driver recounted details of Isaac and Jonah’s life. He recounted the death of a mother and biological siblings. He explained how it was impossible for their father to provide for them.
When they first arrived at the orphanage they both were severely malnourished. Jonah had no mobility. His ankles were like jello. Questions about the beggars with deformed limbs no longer needed to be asked. I now seemed to know firsthand why they drug themselves along the ground.
We finally turned down a gravel road that led us up to a metal gate. I had seen this security gate in pictures and videos. I had imagined this moment for months but it was not happening like I had imagined.
Certain parts of Addis have to share electricity in 24hr shifts. This was a day when the electricity at the home happened to be out. There was also a thunderstorm rumbling in the background. I remember thinking, “This is no hallmark moment!” And yet, the darkness and gloom was about to be overcome by the moment we had been waiting months to experience.
As the metal door was pulled open, I heard some of the nannies yell for Kenesa and Melkamu. I walked down a dark hallway worried that the gloomy conditions would make the transition even more difficult. As I turned to go up some stairs, two little boys met me. I could not make out their faces, but I knew them and they knew me. They reached for us!
Isaac was the closest so I grabbed him. He tightly squeezed my neck with his thin arms. I don’t know if he was scared or excited. I do know he had been waiting for me and was ready for something. With tears in her eyes, Danae went for Jonah. In this moment pictures, videos, thoughts, and prayers became reality. We were holding our new sons.
Jonah brought to us the pictures of our family we sent them months earlier. Isaac showed me with pride their metal bunk beds. Before leaving, they made sure to hug and kiss all their friends. After seeing many others come and go, it was now their turn to leave. Isaac kept saying something that began with words I could not understand, but included, “airplane” and ended with, “to America!” He had obviously been prepared to leave and was ready to go.
I know this is not normal. Many children when leaving an orphanage kick and scream to stay. This is one reason why the details of this day are so imprinted on my heart and mind. To this day I relive these moments every time one of them runs to my open arms.
We talk about this Day alot around our house. I pray we never shake the details that still seem so vivid. This day has often caused me to consider another Day. The Day that is coming when the Eastern sky will be ripped open as the Son sweeps into this present orphanage. The Day when He comes to rescue all who have been preparing to go with Him. The Day He comes to take over the world. On this Day all darkness and gloom will be shot with the light of His glory.
I pray constantly that all our kids begin to look for and hope in this Day the same way Isaac and Jonah looked for the day when we arrived to bring them home.
Unlike Isaac and Jonah, my problem is that I am constantly lulled into forgetting how much bigger and better this Day will be than anything else I have ever experienced. This is why I so desperately need the transitioning work of Spirit in my life. While He has already called me away from sin, He continues to convince me with the authoritative Words of Christ of the glorious details of this coming Day.
We know in part what this will be like if our hearts have been born from above. But on that Day we will see Him, know Him, and be like Him in an instant. For this reason we pray, “Abba Father!” and “Come Lord Jesus! Come quickly!”
Adoption is the highest privilege the gospel offers, even higher than justification. - JI Packer, Knowing God
This is my absolute favorite quote concerning adoption. It’s tragic is that most Christians do not have such a ‘high’ view of adoption. Adoption too often seen as something ‘like’ the gospel. Rather than seeing adoption as central to the gospel.
On September 22nd, to kick off our 2010 World Impact Conference at AABC, we have set aside an evening to rejoice in the privilege we have as sons of God in Christ. We are calling the evening “A Night of Privilege”.
On this “Night of Privilege”, we will have a delicious meal in the AABC family center. As we enjoy this meal together, we will also take in the wonderful music of our very own Pastor Nate BeVier.
Pastor Nate is a tremendous song writer and on this night he will be debuting a series of songs on the privilege adoption. The music will also be interspersed with testimonies from adoptive families and reflections concerning the adoption we experience in Christ as sons of God.
The cost of the evening is free. Any and everyone in the Lexington-Metro is invited to join us!
On August 20th we will be hosting an Adoption Awareness Luncheon at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky. The purpose of the Luncheon is to connect with adoptive families, adoption and orphan care ministries, as well as, church leaders in the Lexington – Louisville metro areas. We are privileged to have Rosalynn Robb of Rosalynn’s Hope join us for the Luncheon. Rosalynn’s Hope is the adoption ministry named after her at 9th and 0 Baptist Church in Louisville Kentucky.
Rosalynn has been able to visit the place she was born and reflect on the grace God has provided her in adoption. And yet, she understands that the greatest gift an orphan can ever received is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Having previously seen fatherless children in three different orphanages, I saw what matters to them: they long for, and dream of, a family of their own. They desire to have a sense of belonging, and they anxiously wait to receive the love of a mom and dad. As believers we have the ability to give more than temporal gifts. The greatest gift we can ever share with them is the gospel. We can be instruments of grace and hope to the millions of children who have no place to call home
I hope you will plan on hearing from Rosalynn firsthand at our Luncheon on August 20th.
Read Rosalynn’s story here
You can hear her testimony here
Ashland Avenue Baptist Church
August 20, 2010
11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Free Chickfila Lunch
AABC is committed to serving the 145 million children around the world who right now are languishing in abandonment. This is why we want to connect our church family with others in our community who are passionate about caring for orphans.
On August 20, 2010, we are hosting an Adoption Awareness Luncheon. If you are family who has adopted or who is looking into adoption, we want you to join us. If you want to know how your church can be more effective in ministering to orphans, we want to meet you. Or maybe you are involved with an organization who helps to assist families and churches in adoption and orphan care. If so, we would love for you to join us as well.
Our prayer is that this lunch will help to increase the network of people in our community who are concerned about serving the fatherless around the world.
The lunch will include a special testimony about God’s grace in adoption along with a discussion, “Creating An Adoption Culture In Your Church.” The discussion will be led by Pastor David Prince and myself.
For more information call 8592664341 or email me here
visit ashlandbaptistchurch.org to rsvp
- Ex-Orphans. The good news of the gospel is that by God’s grace through faith we all experience adoption. In the Son, our status is transformed from poverty stricken spiritual orphans to wealthy heirs of God’s eternal Kingdom. This truth must hit home in every home not just those where children who have been adopted live. The whole church must come to understand that these children, who were at one time adopted into families, are not the only ex-orphans at church on Sunday.
- Together for adoption. As ex-orphans, we are all in this together. The church must be freed from thinking that actually adopting a child into your family is the only way to care for orphans. Creative outlets must be available that include, but are not restricted to, praying and giving toward adoptions. Everyone must be called upon to funnel their own unique gifts toward alleviating the suffering of orphans around the world. Those who are called to adopt will naturally step forward in such a culture, but they won’t be the only people caring for orphans.
At AABC we believe that adoption is a community project. Our adoption ministry is not a segmented group of people who have the ‘adoption process’ in common. All who are trusting in Christ alone have been adopted by God. Therefore, we all have adoption in common. As a church body we must work together to rescue spiritual orphans, who have never heard and believed in Jesus, with the gospel. We must also work together to rescue the 145 million abandoned and vunerable children around the world through adoption. This is why at AABC adoption and orphan care are both woven into our commitment to the Great Commission.
One of the ways we will be fleshing out this church centered vision for adoption in 2010 is through our ABBA Forum. On January 15, 2010 we will have our first ABBA Forum beginning at 6:30p.m. ABBA Forum is for anyone who has questions about adoption. It is for families considering adoption but also for church members who simply want to encourage and support those families who have and will adopt.
ABBA Forum will be hosted on the 1st Friday of each month at David and Jessica Evan’s home. The Evan’s recently brought their daughter Lilly home from China. They cannot wait to share their story and help encourage our church family in the mission of adoption. For more information you can call or email the church office (8594558244).
Orphan Sunday at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church included one of the most powerful songs I have ever heard “Rescue Me” written and sung by Pastor Nate BeVier. All of Pastor Nate’s songs are gloriously Christ-centered, but this one is my new favorite. On Sunday evening, Pastor David E. Prince and myself engaged in a practical conversation on adoption. You can listen to the audio here or visit the AABC sermon page and download the following resources.