A Journey of Love: Adoption and the Pursuit of Racial Reconciliation
By Crystal Stull
How do you spell reconciliation? One way is a-d-o-p-t-i-o-n. At Westminster Chapel in Bellevue, Washington, 25 members have discovered adoption as means to demonstrating reconciliation by providing parentless children a “forever home.”
An Earthly Example
Over the centuries, Christian authors have written volumes about the significance of believers being adopted into God’s family. One can explain every aspect God’s effort to reconcile the world to himself in adoption.
The Old Testament provides numerous examples of adoption as a means to social justice. In the New Testament, Paul explains that God "predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 1:5). This spiritual adoption is outworking of God's love and grace, he went on to explain.
A “forever home” for children is an adoption movement that has reached children both domestically and from China, Africa, Korea, Ethiopia, Russia, and Guatemala. Some of these adoptive parents have gone on to volunteer at orphanages in Uganda and the Philippines. Westminster Chapel also has a thriving support group and fellowship of adoptive parents.
One Church’s Unexpected Mission
Westminster Chapel saw members begin to adopt internationally beginning in China about 12 years ago. The unintentional movement began when our mission pastors, Mark and Melinda Carlson, adopted their first daughter, Sara. The act led to their praying for others to join them when they returned to China to adopt a second child. God answered their prayer by moving five families to join them.
In the fall of 2000, Executive Pastor Gary Gulbranson found himself in front of the church wearing full Chinese dress for a dedication ceremony that included those six children. These adoptive parents found an instant support group in one another, as they began to meet for regular playtimes, birthdays, and yearly Chinese New Year celebrations.
One of these little girls would return to live for two years in Guangzhou, China, while her American adoptive father worked there for the U.S. State Department. His position enabled him to facilitate multitudes of adoptions there as part of his day-to-day responsibilities.
Since then, many congregants at Westminster Chapel have considered adopting a child from overseas. Their openness to make room in their hearts and in their families leads to reconciliation in a way that glorifies Christ in our community. These children have left behind extreme poverty, neglect, minor and major physical struggles, and loss of parents due to AIDS and other circumstances.
Today, we see these children thriving in a faith-based community, where their emotional, physical and spiritual needs are being met. These parents have been making a difference by acting as a conduit of Christ’s love — one child at a time. The following are just a few stories of families active in this process:
The Dideon Family
Lavonne and Scott Dideon are raising four Chinese children — all with special needs and under 6 years old. Lavonne’s own adoption story helped fuel their mission as a couple to adopt children. Their efforts toward reconciliation involve amazing acts of provision and compassion for children across the world.
Each of their children has had his or her own challenges emotionally and physically, and Scott and Lavonne have seen their kids through many surgeries, including those for cleft lips and heart defects. The couple also works with several of the children on attachment and sensory issues, for which they have sought therapy and outside assistance.
They know there will be a lifetime of healing for all of these children, as they deal with the ramifications of early neglect and inadequate living conditions early on. Their story is one of unconditional love and unending commitment, as is the case for all our adoptive parents. The couple maintains a blog so others can witness their family’s journey.
The Rogers Family
In 2000, after adopting their daughter Camryn from China, Amy and Jeff Rogers partnered with an organization called Africa Village Ministries. In 2005, this family helped build a school in Wamala, Uganda, for children orphaned by AIDS. This year, the school serves 85 children, and it is forecasted to double in size by 2010. They dedicated the school to Amy’s brother, who died of AIDS. Since then, they have taken 29 children into an orphan-care program they created to provide for the children’s physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
To date, the Rogers have made multiple trips to Uganda, and have had a chance to take a number of interested teens and adults with them. Around this project, they have created a foundation whose mission is to “put their faith into action” by ministering to these at-risk children. They are seeking to train the next generation in their family to do the same. The Rogers website, doingood.net, describes their foundation’s work.
The Stull Family
For several years now, my husband, Dan, and I have supported an orphanage in the Philippines founded by International CARE Ministries. Friends led us to the orphanage, and now we have visited these children several times. We recently spent several days with them over our Christmas vacation — getting to know them while assessing their needs and planning further ways to help them. We have been able to do this in several ways, from supplying a vehicle, to raising their daily food allowance, and securing a full-time caregiver and wheelchair for a young girl with cerebral palsy. Though we adopted a daughter from China eight years ago, today we feel as if we have adopted 17 more children from the Philippines.
We would never have guessed that God could stretch our hearts in such a way. Our desire is to continue building a long-term relationship with this children’s home, and do what we can to help these kids reach their full potential. Involving our family is has been key to what we are doing. Our 8-year-old daughter says she is so excited to connect with other children who are homeless as she once was. She also says she wants to “go live in the Philippines” permanently; and our teens have had a chance to connect on a personal level with these kids as well.
The adoption community at Westminster supports one another through quarterly gatherings and fellowships. They also plan regular speakers and events to support adoptive families. Members are encouraged to explore the possibility of caring for orphaned children through adoption, thereby living out on earth what Paul explained that God did for his own children — adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ.
Crystal Stull has been a member of Westminster Chapel in Bellevue, Washington, 17 years. She directs the church's Adoption Support Group, and also leads a Bible study. She and her husband, Dan Stull, have three children.
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