As Christians, we cannot help but identify with orphans. After all, in a spiritual sense, we would be fatherless were it not for the finished work of Christ Jesus. Because of His shed blood and resurrection, we are now reconciled to our Heavenly Father.
Jesus promised in John 14:18 that He would not leave His disciples as orphans. And later, the apostle Paul said to the Roman Christians, “[Y]ou have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Romans 8:15b)
Last weekend, on Orphan Sunday, Christians all over the world celebrated God’s love for orphans. The true nature of God and the truth of the gospel are made visible through believers as we explore and respond in love and obedience to His heart for the fatherless.
And this Sunday, November 18, we will celebrate National Adoption Day here in the U.S. The day is set apart to raise awareness concerning approximately 110,000 children currently in foster care waiting for permanent, loving families.
Since National Adoption Day’s inception 17 years ago, the annual one-day event has helped make the dream of adoption come true for nearly 65,000 children. In 2016 alone, about 4,700 youth in foster care were adopted.
A church in Birmingham, Alabama, has taken seriously the fact that orphans and adoption are themes woven through Scripture. Years ago, David Platt, who was pastor of The Church at Brook Hills at the time, made an unusual phone call. He explained:
One day I called up the Department of Human Resources in Shelby County, Alabama, where our church is located, and asked, “How many families would you need in order to take care of all the foster and adoption needs that we have in our county?”
The woman I was talking to laughed.
I said, “No, really, if a miracle were to take place, how many families would be sufficient to cover all the different needs you have?”
She replied, “It would be a miracle if we had 150 more families.”
When I shared this conversation with our church, over 160 families signed up to help with foster care and adoption. We don’t want even one child in our county to be without a loving home. It’s not the way of the American Dream. It doesn’t add to our comfort, prosperity, or ease. But we are discovering the indescribable joy of sacrificial love for others, and along the way, we are learning more about the inexpressible wonder of God’s sacrificial love for us.
Although Platt moved out of his pastoral role at Brook Hills and into a new position as president of the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board several years ago, the ministry of foster care and adoption is still going strong at Brook Hills.
The church partners with organizations to facilitate a 10-week course designed to prepare members interested in becoming licensed foster care homes.
After years of foster care ministry, the church is keenly aware that walking through its unique challenges can leave parents feeling isolated. In response, the church has formed a weekly support group for members to link arms with others in similar situations – to encourage and equip each other as they strive to care for the fatherless. Through that forum, those new to foster care are linked with those more seasoned in the ministry.
Adam Sudduth is the producer of American Family Radio’s talk show Sandy Rios in the Morning. He and his wife Amy have experienced the realities of foster care and adoption and shared with The Stand some valuable insight:
The Stand: What led you to become involved with the foster care system?
Sudduths: It was a long journey. We actually tried private adoption first, but it just wasn’t where we felt God was leading us.
TS: Were your expectations different from reality?
S: Most definitely. We had a fairytale idea that things were going to be amazing. We thought the children would come in and be so grateful that we had taken them in. We thought they would fall madly in love with us right away, and we would live in perfect harmony.
But that was not at all the case. They are not grateful. In their eyes, you are keeping them from their mom. They don’t love you. Not at first. It is a process that takes time and patience. They need to know that you are there to help them pick up the pieces and help them learn to cope.
TS: Did you have the support of family and church?
S: Our families and close friends were our biggest support. Our church family, toward the end, was great.
TS: How long did the process take for you from beginning to end (to adoption)?
S: About five years total, but that isn’t always the case.
TS: For others who are considering foster care and adoption, what would you say to them? What is your been-there, done-that advice?
S: Foster care and adoption are not easy roads. There is heartbreak and sadness. It is also a joy and so rewarding.
Always advocate for your child. Don’t think the social workers are going to do it all. Also, remember that social workers need friends and people to talk to as well. Sometimes, you, as the foster parent, have a chance to be that person.
Adoption is not for everyone. But everyone can be involved in adoption. You can support an adoptive family with prayers and a shoulder to lean on. Also, adoptive families are sometimes lonely. The children are not well adjusted to society, so society doesn’t have patience with families teaching children to be civil and proper in society.
For instance, restaurants can be difficult for adoptive parents, at least for a couple years as they train the children.
TS: What could others around you have done differently to support you?
S: I wish people would have realized these children can’t be disciplined like normal children. What works for most children doesn’t work for them.
I wish people could have seen that we were parenting them the best way we knew how instead of telling us where we were coming up short. Granted, most people did encourage us; but those who tried to tell us how to parent them or to send them back – those were the comments that stuck with us.
Pictured below are Adam and Amy Sudduth and their children Alex, Adi, Anna, and Ali.