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Monday, November 9, 2015

T4A 2015 God-Connections! ONLY GOD!!

It has been a while since I stopped long enough to share specifics surrounding His never-ending, awe-inspiring...God-connections.  They always take me by surprise and I cannot help but smile and shake my head in disbelief.  This year's Together for Adoption conference certainly was full of them. 

They started during the Thursday afternoon pre-conference.  The presenter had us each introduce ourselves and state why we were there.  There were about 25 of us in attendance.  At the break, one of the other attendees came over to confirm what I had said.  His wife teaches at the Florida school for the Deaf in St. Augustine.  I told him I have multiple Deaf family members living in St. Augustine.  We shared contact information for whatever God might have in store for us in the future.


 

Exhibit booths were open during registration after the pre-conference.  Charles and I dutifully placed ourselves at ours.  Originally, the Signs for Hope booth had been assigned to a rather obscure place. When I saw the map of the vendors and their placements, my first thought was, "No one will even know we are there."  Almost immediately, His Spirit reminded me of the many God-connections He makes even when I do not have a booth at orphan care events.  He's got this!  Two days before the conference I received notification our booth had been moved to a new spot, since one of the vendors had pulled out.  When I saw the new placement, in the auditorium at the back next to an entrance, I was humbled. 

Within a few moments I greeted one of the volunteers standing at the entrance.  He said he had already noticed our booth and told me his daughter was in Deaf Education in Durham, NC.  A few moments later, another volunteer came closer and began to talk about whether or not she would adopt again.  She was afraid she was getting too old.  Of her multiple adoptions one daughter was deaf and another son Hard-of-Hearing.  The exhibitor manning the Bair Foundation booth next to us was fascinated by what God has called us to and wanted to know if she could connect her brother who is working with orphans in Ethiopia to us?  Yes, of course!

Following the general session, multiple folks stopped by the SFH booth and again on Friday and Saturday morning. One couple was thrilled to see us and took a business card so they could connect her sister and brother-in-law in Greenville, SC to us since they are in the process of adopting a deaf child. 

I shared our T4A trip on my FB page on Wednesday and was contacted by a young lady, living in Durham, who had been connected to me by a dear friend a few months ago.  Was there a time we could meet while I was in town?  Of course.  We spent about an hour and a half together during the dinner break Friday night.  It will be exciting to see how God continues this connection.

One of these days, I will have to start keeping up with these, as they happen, so we can all know the exact count.  Suffice it to say, the percentage of folks who had deafness connections was very disproportionate to the number of attendees...which was about three hundred. 

We found out on Saturday, just after the conference ended, a third T4A presenter, I knew of two previously, was a dad of multiple adopted Deaf children. It is always fascinating to see where God has placed precious Deaf children. 

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Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,
to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
~Ephesians 3:20-21
 




Sunday, November 8, 2015

Don't Be Fooled...Pure Religion is Far More Than Just Adoption!

On this Orphan Sunday and following the Together for Adoption Conference, below are my observations, musings and ramblings. 

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
~James 1:26-27

Together for Adoption 2015


As always, God is constantly growing me spiritually by causing my roots to grow deeper in Him and His Word and by His pruning my unfruitful, sinful branches.  Our spiritual growth can be painful and is certainly humbling, but it is great benefit for His Kingdom and His glory. 

If you do not experience this when His Word is read, preached, taught, discussed or meditated upon...well, let's just say you might want to do some serious self-soul-searching and ask Him, "Why not?" 

From the beginning, March 18, 2008 that day I will never forget, when God said, "I want you to coordinate the adoption of deaf orphans in the world", He has made sure I never mistakenly focused on just the first part of James 1:27, but the entire verse.  Not until this past weekend at the Together for Adoption conference, did He lead me to also include verse 26, as well.

In addition, He also led me to a stronger and deeper understanding when grappling with the orphan crisis in our world, today.  His agenda for me is always different from mine when attending orphan care conferences.  He challenges me to think beyond the surface of things and pulls me in deeper to His heart. Confirmations of His past convictions, by His Spirit, were also reiterated during this conference.

As James expounds on the topic of "religion" in these verses, one is not more pure than the other.  It is all three in conjunction with each other, 1) a tight rein on the tongue, 2) caring for/visiting orphans and widows and 3) keeping oneself from being corrupted by the world (Dan Cruver, Thursday night). 

I have learned much about the "orphan" and God's perspective on the orphan, in the past seven plus years, but it is obvious I still have much more to learn.  My limited human understanding pales in comparison to our God's full intent when it comes to "caring for the orphan".  

Our God's own deep relational character demands our obedience to His command for caring for the orphan become more relational.  For many of us this makes things far more challenging.  It may mean sacrificing more of our time to develop relationships. It may mean being forced to connect with others relationally, which is a greater challenge for some more than others.  It may mean our deep relationships forged, may involve heart-break and suffering, at some point in time.  And it might even change the entire focus of what we have been doing, previously. 

This deeper relational aspect does not come easy.  Simple?  Yes...but.not.easily. 

Christ in you and me...the hope of glory!

This is when we realize "caring for the orphan" is beyond something you and I can do apart from God.  In fact, one presenter this past weekend suggested if you and I are "caring for the orphan" without our God and His gospel being central, it is possible what we are doing is in vain. 

Jesus Himself tells us in John 15, verse 5, "
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Sounds pretty simple.  Huh?!  Why is it, then, you and I make it so hard?

Two areas of "orphan care" that are often overlooked, by the Christian Church, is reunification and family preservation or the prevention of more orphans. 

Reunification is when a child has been removed from a family, for a time, with the purpose of providing interventions and empowerment for family members to ensure the child can be reunited with the then strengthened family. 

Family Preservation (the prevention of more orphans) is often focused on providing necessary stabilization aid and strategies for the family suffering from poverty.  

Sometimes we justify this oversight, by saying saving the family just is not feasible; they are too far gone.  Often we become so obsessed with "saving the orphan" we miss the need of the orphans' family needing salvation, too.  Is this always God's plan?  No, but it should be soberly considered and bathed in prayer each time.

It is possible, you are wondering how I can even mention the above?

Along with orphan care conferences God has exposed me to many things "orphan related" via Joseph, our son.  One of his mentor families provided foster care for three brothers over a period of time, recently. During this time, the foster dad spent time discipling and training their biological father on a regular basis.  Reunification was the goal.  After sufficient time, these brothers were reunited with their father.  This gives me a perspective that I cannot ignore or overlook, any longer.

Allow me to unpack the word "orphan" just a bit.  Rarely, does this label mean mother and father have both died.  More often than not, the more accurate label should be "fatherless".  While this does not necessarily mean the father has died, it does mean the father is no longer functioning as a father should, providing for the family and so on. 

These differing definitions of the word "orphan" have been cause for some inaccurate thinking, within His Church, as the following quote from UNICEF's website explains:


"This misunderstanding may then lead to responses that focus on providing care for individual children rather than supporting the families and communities that care for orphans and are in need of support."

Some sobering statistics, surrounding the fatherless crisis here in America, are found on the following website:

https://thefatherlessgeneration.wordpress.com/statistics/

Christ's sufferings include all the suffering of orphans, from the beginning of time, presently and for those to come.  When you and I care for/visit the orphan, we are sharing with them in their sufferings, which all have been translated to Christ.   
Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.
~Romans 8:17


When thinking about this plethora of horrific sufferings by the orphan/the fatherless...I dare say His glory in which we will share in, IF indeed we are His children, will be far greater and beyond anything any of us can imagine.

More so than ever before, I am asking God to give me His perspective on all things relating to "caring for the orphan".  In doing so, I am also asking Him to give me the ability to embrace His promise, below, at the same time.
 
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
~Matthew 11:28-30