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
Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them. Psalm 115:8
In the verse above the Psalmist provides a warning about idolatry. Those who create idols to worship become like them (lifeless, useless, empty). Whatever you heart relies on, clings to, and trusts for security that is your god/God. If it is not the triune God of the Bible then it is an idol god. There is no neutrality or static middle ground; if you worship an idol you become like the object of your worship.
We become like what we worship. Therefore it is equally true that if we worship the triune God of the Bible as revealed in Jesus Christ we will become like Him. And as John Stott has written, “The God of the Bible is a missionary God” and if we worship Him we will be a missionary people. But one of the primary ways that God describes His work of saving and gathering His people from every tribe, tongue and nation is adoption. The children of God through Jesus (His only Son, John 3:16) are those He gave the right to sonship and now these adopted Sons cry out “Abba, Father” (John 1:12; Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 1:5) with their elder brother, Jesus (Mark 14:36; Hebrews 2:11-12).
Therefore, since we become like what we worship, we must be a missionary people who preach the Gospel to every tribe, tongue, and nation and we must also be a people picture that Gospel among every tribe, tongue, and nation through adoption.
What God has joined together let no man separate.
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.”
A few weeks ago, my grandmother told Jonah that she had been to Africa. He responded, as only Jonah could respond, “Really Granny? We didn’t see you there.” Amidst the laughter, I realized something. While Jonah didn’t see his granny in Africa, the mission trip she took there is one reason he is now here 20 something years later.
I was a small child when my grandmother took a month long trip to Africa. She served in a village full of poverty and sickness. She used her spiritual gift of ‘southern hospitality’ to serve the least of these while the gospel was proclaimed where it had never been heard before.
Before leaving for Africa, she sat me down and explained to me why she was traveling so far away for such a long time. She explained that there were people in Africa who had never heard about Jesus. As I began to ask her questions, not only about Africa but also about Jesus, she explained to me my own sin and need for the Savior. It was then that the gospel started making sense to me.
The pictures, stories, and smells she brought back with her never left me. Growing up in her home, I continually found myself thumbing through the picture album created from her trip. She even came to my elementary school to show her slides and explain the issues affecting the people of Africa. With pride, I showed all my friends the souvenir drums and toys she brought home with her. The conditions of the villages displayed in those pictures were forever imprinted in my heart.
Last year, these pictures became reality as I traveled to Africa myself. I was able to witness the poverty and sickness of those pictures firsthand. My wife and I brought home more than just pictures and souvenirs. We brought home two sons.
When we arrived in Lexington, my grandmother made sure she was one of the first family members visit her newest grandsons. With tears in her eyes, she is able to see, touch, and kiss the fruit of an investment she began to make some twenty years ago.
This is one reason I cannot wait for our Care 4 Africa (a virtual mission experience for children) on September 23-26. At Ashland Avenue Baptist Church, we long for our children to touch and feel missions around the world. As they grow in our congregation, we want them to see the mission as central to their life, whether they ever leave the Bluegrass or not.
Our goal is to creatively display the issues that children face in Africa. Our prayer is that there would be many children like myself, who after seeing the sights, hearing sounds, and smelling the smells, will be used of God in years to come to care for orphans and preach the gospel in Africa. Like my grandmother, I long for the day when I will be able to hold some of the children who will be brought home because of Care 4 Africa. Who knows? They may even be some of my own grandchildren!
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!”
This is a sermon I preached on July 19, 2010 at AABC prior to our Vacation Bible School. The sermon seeks to show the spiritual warfare that exists in our thoughts and ministry toward children. Satan hates kids. Jesus loves kids. Whose side our we on?
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
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).