Category Archives: Adoption

The Drop Box

Last night I had the opportunity to see a sneak preview premier of the Drop Box; a film by director, Brian Ivie. It is a moving story about a pastor in Korea who literally built a metal box on the side of a building in order to receive unwanted babies. So many of the movie’s themes are dear to my heart: the sanctity of life, adoption, special needs. While it’s a film about a remarkable man, more importantly it is about living out the heart of a remarkable God who loves.

DSC00041Pastor Lee was at the premier and was the first to give glory to God for all that He has done. And while I whole-heartedly agree it is God’s story, I love the fact that God chose to raise up a very ordinary but faithful man to do it.

The even greater story is not the one told in the film but instead the one that developed in the making of the film. Brian Ivie set out to make a movie about a perfectionist, Korean culture’s challenge to address a shamefully, hidden problem. But instead, he discovered the heart of the Father and was adopted by Him through faith in Christ. I had the privilege of getting to know Brian when he shared at our church on Orphan Sunday last year. He is the real deal and God is using him mightily for His glory.

The Drop Box will be released in over seven hundred theaters nationwide on March 3,4, and 5. You can pre-order tickets or even buy out a theater for your whole church. It’s a well-made film worth seeing for all the reasons mentioned above and more. Check out this link for all the info.

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Bring Joylyn Home

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These are my friends, Gavin and Lorraine Kajikawa and their daughter, Brielle. After seven long years, they have been matched with their daughter, Joylyn and are preparing to adopt her from China in the very near future.

Adopt_Product_Shot_largeThe cost of adoption is steep. I can personally attest to that. But the Father loves to provide lavishly for the things near His heart. I can personally attest to that as well. One of the ways He provides is through the giving of His people. One of the ways that you can help is by purchasing a T-shirt. But not just any T-shirt. A cool-looking T-shirt with a great message on the front designed and produced by Zoe Clothing Co.

This is a rare fundraiser in which 100% of the donation for the T-shirt will go directly to helping the Kajikawas bring Joylyn home. This has been made possible by the owner of Zoe, a kingdom-minded friend of mine as well. If you would like to read more about the Kajikawas’ story and purchase a T-shirt (or two or three), you can click on their photo above.

What better way to celebrate the Father’s love in Christ’s resurrection this weekend than to support those who are seeking to be like Him through adoption!

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One Surprising Fact About Adoption

The following video is produced by The Adoption Journey Project, a venture in partnership with Bethany Christian Services, Lifesong for Orphans, and Lifeline Children’s Services. As one of their “partnering bloggers” occasionally I post information from them.

I have a few passing comments about one of the eight facts. The first six facts present the staggering statistics about the number of orphans throughout the world. These numbers are overwhelming but not unusually surprising to me. What I did find surprising was the second to the last fact.

Fact #7: There are more than 1/3 of Americans have considered adopting, but no more than 2% have actually adopted.

I had no idea that 33% of Americans have considered adopting. This number seemed unusually high to me but the more I thought about it, the more I realized this is probably true. In my own experience, I would say that roughly 1/3 of the people I talked to about my adoption have admitted that they had considered adopting in the past as well. “Considered” can probably mean a variety of things from: explored options and prayed about to thought about and forgot about. So maybe 33% isn’t such a shocking figure.

But what still surprises me is that no more than 2% of those people actually adopt. How can that many people consider adoption but not follow through? There are countless reasons but I venture to say the primary one is fear. Adoption sounds like a great idea. A loving one and a biblical one. But, when that great idea is weighed in light of the costs, then fear usually wins the day.

Many people I know say the financial costs deter them but I think it is more than that. I think the fear of the unknown is much stronger. Adoption is a journey that leads toward a definite yet unknown future. Even if couples are convinced of “why” they should adopt, they are paralyzed by the unknown answers to the questions “what?” “when?” and “how?” Most of those questions are eventually answered but not necessarily the way you expect and definitely not until you step forward in faith.

Most couples never make it past “considered” because they simply cannot answer all the questions running through their minds and that frightens them to the point of inaction and apathy. Adoption, like all journeys of faith and obedience, calls us to surrender. Surrender our security. Surrender our control. Ultimately, surrender to the Father. This shouldn’t be frightening because the Father is good and trustworthy. His plans always lead to His glory and, in that, even our blessing. Is fear more powerful than the Father? Of course not but unfortunately, we often let it be.

By doing so, we miss out. Yes, we avoid times of uncertainty and sacrifice but we also miss out on seeing the Father answer those unknown questions in marvelous ways. Surrendering to the Father and then watching him respond in the most unexpected ways has always left me awe-struck of His goodness and His greatness. I would not trade this worship for anything this world has to offer.

If you are part of the 1/3 of the population who are “considering” adoption, let me encourage you to become the 2% who follow through rather than the 98% who don’t. Don’t let fear claim victory in your hearts and minds. Seek first the Kingdom of God and then let all these things will be added unto you.

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Vitaliy and Nataliya

My cousin, Joy, and her husband, Nathan, recently emailed me about an exciting new commitment that they made motivated by the Father’s heart. With their permission, I wanted to post an edited version of what they sent me.

This winter, we (Joy and Nathan) will be hosting two orphans, a brother and sister, from the Ukraine through New Horizons for Children (NHFC). NHFC is a Christian organization that finds host families (and potentially families willing to adopt) for orphans in the former Soviet Union. Vitaly (14) and Natalia (12), whom we will be hosting, are not available for adoption, so that won’t be in the picture for us this time.

Joy heard about this program through a friend who is going to host a girl from the Ukraine this winter. When we heard about this, both of us felt excited to take a risk and open up our home and family to love these two orphans. Our motivation for doing this is to love people in Jesus’ name together as an entire family. We hope Vitaly and Natalia will experience our love for them and, more importantly, God’s love for them as they share this Christmas with us.

While we hope and trust that the experience for us and them will be a good one, there are a lot of things that will be potentially challenging – communication, cultural differences, our kids’ reactions, “Will we all get along?”, the list goes on and on. And so we would really appreciate your prayers and support during this time (about Dec 15-Jan 15). You can follow Joy’s blog (see here) to stay updated and see if there are any specific prayer requests as things change.

We are also looking for people who would be willing to support us either financially or with donations/loan of clothes or other things. It will cost a little more than $6000 for the paperwork, plane tickets, etc, to bring Vitaly and Natalia here. We also anticipate other costs of roughly $1000 for food, clothes, and some special excursions to make their time here special. So, if you have extra clothes you would be willing to donate, or age-appropriate activities we could borrow, that would be a big help. And if this opportunity excites you too, and you would like to contribute financially towards bringing Vitaliy and Nataliya here, you can make a tax-deductible contribution at this link here. If this is something you would like to participate in, we would definitely appreciate your partnership in this!

I wanted to highlight Joy and Nathan’s journey for two reasons: (1) to advocate for supporting their faith endeavor and (2) to advocate for hosting orphans through New Horizons For Children. Ask the Father if and/or how you are to respond. See if He leads you to participate by supporting them and/or hosting an orphan in your own home!

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Adoption is Easy

It’s been a little over three months since we returned home with Eden. Since then, life has been in perpetual motion. Change is the new norm and adjustment has become our new family pastime. We were anticipating this, generally, but specifically, we really had no idea what to expect. It has definitely taken me longer than Sonia to process all that has transpired. Yet, in the midst of the mental haze, so far there are two things that have become clear to me: Adoption is easy. Family is hard. Let me repeat that:

Adoption is easy. Family is hard.

For those of you who are deciding to adopt or are in the process of doing so, I am not downplaying the gut-wrenching process of sacrifice, commitment and prayer that you are going through. I know it’s not easy. But in comparison to family, it is. Adoption is a process with an unmistakable goal that grows in clarity with each passing step. It’s like hiking a trail that leads to the top of a mountain that you cannot yet see but trust is there. With each grueling step upward, there is greater hope as the peak grows near and evident. There is a definite goal, definite steps and a definite end. Adoption is like that. Family is not.

 Our adoption of Eden ended when we received her in Nanning on July 2. She was no longer an “orphan” or even an “adopted” child. She immediately became our daughter. Adoption’s conclusion inaugurated a new journey of learning to be family. I didn’t realize what happened when it did. It was so subtle and I am so dense. Upon our return home, I still had an “adoption mindset.” I assumed there was a few clear steps of adjustment to become a family and then we would move on with life. But family doesn’t work that way. Unlike adoption, family has few universal steps that mark progress. In fact, with every step forward, it feels like we take two or three steps backward. Being family is messy because relationships are messy and unpredictable. Adoption is a one time action motivated by love but family is love in action on a daily basis. Adoption is easy. Family is not.

Some of you may assume that being family is difficult because Eden is difficult. Yes, she is very immature for her age, is easily distractible and can be very, overly emotional. But she is not the main problem. Our other three children are not perfect either. I have never seen them display so much jealousy, selfishness or pettiness in such a short amount of time. But they are not the main problem either. For me, being family is difficult because of me. As I shifted my attention to family, I discovered so many things about me that were shameful and embarrassing. I am so immature for my age and am divided in my attention. I never knew just how selfish and petty I could be.

Family is all about learning to love and I am not very loving. I thought I was but I’m really not. One day, I was walking with the kids in Lowe’s and Eden ran up next to me, grabbed my arm and wrapped it tightly around herself. I immediately pulled my arm away from her and then slowly wrapped it around her loosely. Later on upon reflection, I realized that I pulled back because I felt manipulated. Why? Because Eden’s need for love was outpacing my willingness to give it. There was nothing wrong with what she did. I was the problem. And that’s why I think I stopped blogging for the past six weeks. It’s not because I didn’t want my kids to look bad. It’s because I didn’t want to look bad.

I have been praying, “Father, show me your heart” and “Father, give me your heart.” Since it didn’t take long for him to show me his heart, I figured it wouldn’t take long for him to give me his heart as well. I thought my heart just needed a minor realignment but what was required was an entire renewal. He has had to break my heart of stone before he can replace it with a heart of flesh. This is not easy or glamorous.

In talking to other parents who have adopted older children, I have discovered that, they too, feel a lot of guilt in the first few months of transition. Many withdraw from writing in their blogs or even privately sharing with close friends or with their own spouse. They hide because they feel like the only ones who feel this way. Personal experiences may vary but the shame of unconfessed sin is consistent. It’s humbling and humiliating to come face to face with your sin especially when it is so raw and deep. It’s been freeing for me to confess my shortfalls and realize that I am not alone in feeling the way that I do. Turns out all of us adoptive parents are sinners in great need of a Savior.

Adoption is more like a blockbuster movie-an inspiring story with a happy ending but family is more like a documentary-a gritty story with an open ending. I guess that’s why it was a lot more fun to blog about adoption than it is family. That’s also why I probably stopped blogging-I didn’t want to discourage people from adopting. While I wanted to be honest about the difficulties I was experiencing over the past few months, I also wanted to come to clear conclusions why. After all, if someone is going to be scared away from adoption because of this blog, I want it to be based on the truth.

I want to make it clear that we have never regretted our decision to adopt Eden, not once. We are not hopeless, just helpless. We desperately need the power of the Holy Spirit to transform each of us from the inside out. We need the Son to unite us as a family of faith. We need the Father to give us his heart.

Three months post-adoption, I have come to realize that this ongoing process of family adjustment is normal and needed. This is not the end but only the beginning of a journey of learning to love. God does write grand narratives that include parting of oceans and the resurrection of a Jewish carpenter. But I appreciate that he also produces documentaries where the gospel is revealed in the midst of the subtle struggles of daily life. I have experienced some “blockbuster moments” of faith but more often I have seen his power manifested in the mundane. So, even though being family is hard, it is truly glorious and divine.

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Why We Adopt

Fellow blogger, “2 birds 1 babushka” made me aware of this Francis Chan video. It’s a brief but clear explanation of why adopted children of the Father should want to adopt orphans in this world. Thanks 2b1b!

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Why, Pat Robertson, Why?

Recently on the 700 Club, a single mother of three, internationally adopted children asked why men were so hesitant to date her when they discovered her children’s histories. Robertson replied,

A man doesn’t want to take on the United Nations, and a woman has all these various children, blended family, what is it – you don’t know what problems there are. I’m serious. I’ve got a dear friend, an adopted son, a little kid from an orphanage down in Columbia. Child had brain damage, grew up weird. And you just never know what’s been done to a child before you get that child. What kind of sexual abuse has been, what kind of cruelty, what kind of food deprivation, etc. etc. “You don’t have to take on somebody else’s problems. You really don’t. You can help people – we minister to orphans all over the world, we love helping people. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m going to take all the orphans around the world into my home.

Why Pat Robertson? Why? There are so many things that are disturbing not only about what you said but also about the worldview that underlies it. It’s one that implies that adopted children are more likely to be “damaged goods” because of their unknown backgrounds. It’s one that implies that we are not mandated to love potentially challenging people. It’s one that states that other people’s problems are not our responsibility. It’s one that is clearly anti-biblical.

Your comments are a logical application of a health-and-wealth, false gospel. Because if prosperity is the measure of God’s love then adopting orphans could not necessarily be a loving mandate from Him. Yes, we should minister to orphans because it is the right thing to do but that doesn’t necessarily mean we need to lay down our cross, die to ourselves and adopt one into our homes. After all, why would God want us to risk our comfort for the sake of a stranger, especially a potentially “weird” one?

The gospel of Christ is antithetical to all that you have perpetuated. God loves damaged, weird, sinful people not because they are so lovable but simply because He is love. His love is not measured according to worthiness, ease, or lack of risk. It is lavish, undeserved and extremely sacrificial as demonstrated through the sending of His Son to die for us that we might be adopted into His family. When the Father adopts us through faith in His Son, then His concerns become our concerns. And clearly, He has a heart for orphans and calls all to care for them and some, to adopt them.

Some people may not agree with you, Pat Robertson, but they still excuse your comments as miscommunication, at best or at its worst, a personal opinion which you are entitled to. Either way, I cannot excuse your words because unfortunately, you represent Christ to over one million viewers per day and you are not being faithful to biblical truth and the gospel love of Christ. This latest misrepresentation of Christ joins your past comments that have blamed 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina on homosexuals and that have counseled a man that he can divorce his Alzheimer’s plagued wife.

Please, Pat Robertson, please stop talking on television in the name of Christ. Please stop perpetuating a belief in and outside of the church that orphans are damaged goods not worth risking to love. Please use your influence to teach and demonstrate the love of the Father that adopted us when we were dead in the ugliness of our sins. Please, Pat Robertson, please.


FOOTNOTES:

  • Russell Moore has a cutting but necessarily truthful response to Robertson’s comments on his blog.
  • See Robertson’s statement to clarify his original words, here.
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One Child

Ten years ago, a newborn, barely 24 hours old, was abandoned by the large wall of a textile factory in the Guangxi province of China. There were no details included with the baby girl-no name, no instructions, no hope. Her story was briefly reported in the local newspaper but no one came forward with any further information. Thus, the child was placed under the care of the state civil affairs office and less than a month later was transferred to the care of Mother’s Love, a Christian orphanage located in Nanning. A decade later, that little girl was adopted into my family and became my daughter.

Honestly, I don’t condemn Eden’s birth mom’s decision. She made a difficult and courageous decision to have her baby rather than abort her (see my past post). But, in my mind I can’t help but wonder about the extenuating circumstances. Maybe poverty played a role. Maybe there were enormous family pressures. I doubt Eden’s mom knew her baby had special needs. Most likely Eden was relinquished because of her gender. Families are restricted by China’s One Child Policy and males are revered so unfortunately, many baby girls are abandoned.

This infographic summarizes the history and results of China’s One Child policy after it was instituted officially in 1979. There are some interesting facts to highlight. The first is that the motive was economic. In 1976, China consisted of one quarter of the world’s entire population and was suffering from a sluggish economy. A simple solution was to restrict future population growth. Some might see this as a successful plan since China now boasts the second largest economy in the world, but the One Child Policy (OCP) has had staggering effects on the culture that run much deeper than dollars and cents (I mean, Yuan and Jiao).

The OCP has altered so much more than the total number of people. It has completely redefined the make up of the population and how they relate to one another. Naturally, families are drastically smaller. While eating dim sum in Guangzhou, I noticed a family gathering at the table next to us. From what I could tell, there were two sets of grandparents, one set of parents, one aunt or friend and one baby boy. In 1970, the average Chinese family had five children and would take up an entire round table. Now, an entire extended family could barely fill one. Children grow up with no siblings and very, very few cousins. Lost is a broader sense of family and participation in an extended community.

While the OCP creates an interesting dynamic for men who marry and start a family, those who are still seeking to do so are facing an uphill battle. For every 100 females birthed there are 120 males born. This disproportionate rate has caused deep aggravation for single men trying to find mates. So American guys, no matter what you think, the odds are in your favor. While the OCP did not dictate gender, its strict limitations combined with a Confucian-based culture drastically increased the value of baby boys over baby girls. There is no way to know (I would shutter to know) how many babies were aborted or abandoned simple because they were female.

Who is that crazy woman with four children?

While all of this is already depressing, what saddened me even further was that so many of the people we met in China were not only restricted from having more children but no longer desired to do so, anyway. According to the infographic, 76 percent of the people in China approve of the OCP. People we met told us that having more children was too expensive and burdensome. That’s why our family of six constantly received stares of astonishment everywhere we went. The bewildered looks seemed to ask us incredulously, “Are you crazy? What were you thinking?”

Yet, the Bible teaches that children are a blessing, not a curse. Psalm 127:3-5, “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of  a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!  He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” Sadly, the cultural norm in China is antithetical to this truth of Scripture and many people have suffered because of it. Remember, all of this started because the economy was bad. Today, there is a lot more money flowing in China. They will soon boast of the largest middle class in the entire world. But, at what cost?

This problem is not isolated to China alone. The US may not have an official OCP but unborn children are often valued according to their gender and/or economic burden in this country as well. In a sluggish economy, we must resist the temptation to treat people, especially children as commodities solely based on what they can contribute toward society. All people, male or female, adult or child are made in God’s image and thus have intrinsic value. So while adding Eden to our family may seem foolish in they eyes of the world, biblically I know I am blessed to have one more child in my quiver.

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Good to be Home

Nearly two weeks ago, we departed LAX for a three-city adoption tour through China and last night we returned home. After finding our bags and clearing immigration, we were greeted by an overwhelming number of dear friends and family. Eden was overjoyed to see the banners, the balloons and the open arms of all the people at the Tom Bradley Terminal. I was especially touched by the children who made their way through the crowd just to touch Eden and say “hello.” Many of them have been praying for Eden’s arrival for such a long time, I think they just needed a kinesthetic answer to their prayers. Yes, she is real. And yes, God answers prayers.

After Pastor Daryl prayed for us all at the airport, we headed to Alhambra for a family dinner. We opened my Auntie Kimi’s front door and discovered the dinner morphed into a belated (June 19) surprise birthday party for Eden. It was a blessed time of fellowship, family and fun. I loved watching Eden blow out 10 candles on her birthday cake, open presents and then disappear into the other rooms of the house to play with all of of her cousins. Family is a difficult concept to teach someone who has never had one. It’s much easier to understand through experience rather than through rhetoric. Last night’s party explained it well.

When we finally got home at 10:30pm, we were greeted outside by a banner welcoming Eden home in Chinese characters. Inside, our house was spotless, the front room was decorated and the refrigerator was stocked full of groceries and meals. So many thanks to the sister-in-laws (Lianne, Judy, Lisa) who shopped, cooked, cleaned, planned and decorated. Thanks to the church families (Janet, Cherry, Moores, Oharas, Ramos’) who helped decorate with signage, provided delicious meals and even planted jasmine in the front yard while were were gone. All of you helped to make us feel overwhelmingly loved as we returned. Your thoughtfulness has made the exhaustion and jet lag feel so much less taxing.

Years later, I don’t know how much Eden will recall about her first day in America, but I have a feeling she will always remember that it felt good to be home.

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Departing China

Guangzhou has been such a different experience than Nanning. The city itself is modern and more westernized. It is densely populated registering as China’s third largest city. It’s a busy metropolis focused on international commerce. Likewise, much of our stay in Guangzhou has been focused on business-the business of completing the adoption process. We have made numerous treks to the Chinese Immigration Office and US Consulate for Eden’s physical exams, to submit final papers and to apply for Eden’s visa.

One thing that has made these trips more enjoyable is traveling with the other families who are adopting through Holt. There are a total of nineteen families in our group. This unusually large number of people originate from Alaska, Maine, New Jersey, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Florida, South Dakota, New Jersey, North Carolina and California. While all of us spent less than a week together, we still shared something significant as we expanded our families through adoption all at the same time. I have enjoyed getting to know many of the families and hearing their stories. I think all of us have adopted children with special needs and most are believers in Christ. It is encouraging to know that the Father’s heart of adoption is moving through the hearts of his people everywhere.

I leave Guangzhou with mixed feelings. I am definitely ready to come home. I miss my house. I miss driving on open roads. I miss my church. I miss carne asada. I know “real  life” does not actually begin for our newly formed family until we return to Chino Hills and I am ready to start. At the same time, I am somewhat sad to leaving the country where my daughter was born. I have a greater appreciation and respect for the Chinese culture, history and people. Coming home, I also have a greater heart for the immigrants in my neighborhood.

At this point, I am rambling. It is midnight, Thursday, July 12. After all is said and done, Eden passed her physical exams, we have all the necessary paper work in order and her visa has been issued. Shortly, we will be departing Guangzhou and arriving at LAX, July 12, 3:50pm (PST). We look forward to seeing many of you at the airport and it will be my pleasure to introduce you to Eden Joy Meng Shan Hori for the very first time. See you soon!

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