I had the privilege recently of guest blogging for our friends at Together for Adoption–some simple reflections on the way adoption and orphan care so often blend beauty and sorrow…
Last weekend, my brother and I hiked deep into California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. Our mission: to re-supply my father and his two close friends who are fulfilling a lifelong dream of hiking the John Muir Trail, 210 miles of breathtaking, rugged wilderness. Their faces glowed as they described the glories of God’s creation they’ve encountered, from Alpine meadows to granite peaks. But my father’s friend Henry, though never losing his smile, also reminded, “There’s been real pain, too.” Severe blisters, cramping legs, shoulder pain, biting hailstorms and cold to the verge of hypothermia were just a partial list. It was clear the three hikers were having the time of their lives, but pain was interwoven with the journey.
It is easy to feel it should be otherwise. Something deep inside us still recalls the world before the Fall and joins creation in groaning at all the things that aren’t the way they should be. But the simple truth is that this side of heaven, most anything worth doing comes with pain—care for orphans via adoption, foster care or global ministry as much as any.
Of course, keeping our roots in Scripture (from Jesus’ words about “counting the cost” to Hebrews 11:36-38) disabuses us of any fantasy that health and wealth are guaranteed compensation for faithfulness. Yet still there is a temptation to gloss over the difficult thing or just shove them under the carpet. In adoption ministry, for instance, there can be a pull toward making “ministry” mainly a “cheerleading” for Christians to adopt with little emphasis on support after the child has come home. There’s certainly a place for helping people see the beauty and purposefulness discovered in adoption and other forms of orphan care. But ultimately we need to know: there will be pain, too.
What’s tremendously heartening is that the movement of Christians committed to orphans is coming to embrace that truth. I increasingly hear church orphan ministry leaders talk about the journey—that long, often beautiful, often difficult road that comes with loving anyone for a lifetime, especially a child coming from a hard place.
My prayer is that more and more, church orphan ministry will be a place where this beauty-mixed-with-pain is shown for what it is: an inescapable reality of life in a broken world and a journey worth taking. May it be that in church, like nowhere else, worn out foster parents, struggling adoptive families and weary orphan care workers can speak transparently about their burdens. And where others can help them bear the load in discerning, well-prepared, sacrificial ways. That’s church orphan ministry—and just plain Church—at its very best.