Last week I was able to attend The Christan Alliance For Orphans Summit. (Fancy for - Orphan Care Conference.)
Two days in a row, in a church in Minnesota, with 1500 like-minded people with passions that echo my own, hearing from some of the greatest speakers available to speak on such a topic, I was filled with information and stories from 7:30 am until 9:00 pm. So much information, so many great organizations, so much to take in .... it was like drinking water through a fire hose! And I loved it ! Pages and pages of notes, brochures flooding my bedroom floor, and 15 books later (yes, I did leave with 15 books), I find myself at home in a bit of a daze with a heavier heart than ever before.
I don't know how to begin to wrap my head around everything I learned, everything I now want to pursue. There are so many ways to care for the orphan, but I already knew that. What I went away with after this conference was shocking to me. I expected to gain new ideas, and a more defined vision for me personally and also for the Orphan and Oppressed Ministry at Calvary. What I left with was a little of those things, but with a whole lot of God's heart for me, for the Orphan, and for all man-kind. I don't know why I continue to be amazed at how slow I am to understand such truths, but whatever.
God did some serious re-wiring in my head during this conference. All sorts of truths and realities that have just floating around in my head, are starting to connect to combine a much clearer understanding of Orphan Care .... no .... a much clearer understanding of the Gospel.
I know, right ? Okay, so I know that I've blogged before about my lack of understanding of the Gospel. More specifically - how to live a Gospel centered life. Funny (not really) how I've adopted a child, and still haven't grasped how important adoption is to God. Can I be flat out honest ? When we brought Malachi home, I remember thinking that I didn't make the same connection other adoptive families made. I didn't see what happened in his life (being adopted) mirror what has happened in my life (being adopted by God). I mean, I got the idea. But it wasn't this super huge thing to me. I was more floored that God allowed US to take in this amazing child. I was in awe that God rescued little Malachi Abel from a life of poverty and sickness and lonliness that would have lead to death. But as for gaining a greater understanding of what God did for me, what He does for every one of his children through adopting us as His son's and daughters - um, yeah ... it's clicking finally. Seriously, I think I just "became a Christian" this weekend. Or I am growing through sanctification. One of the two. As a result of starting to grasp this better, I was able to see more clearly how caring for the Orphan is much bigger than anything I had ever understood it to be. Perhaps the best quote I took down on what Orphan care is is this: "The Gospel is not a picture of adoption, adoption is a picture of the Gospel". (Al Molher)
Caring for the Orphans of our world (all 163 million of them) is a missional thing done because of our understanding of God's love for us and what He did in that love. "By God's grace we are brought into the unending story of the Father and the Son". (Dan Cruver) It is because of this love and God's adoptive work in bringing me into his family that I move forward with a desire to see His love come to the Orphans of this world. It's missional. Who knew I was a missionary ? (Or am becoming one, really.) Missionaries will always look at the "unreached people groups" that they are ministering to. Someone told me a while back that when you think of the 163 million orphans, you're thinking of the largest unreached people group on earth. That line was very powerful to me upon hearing it, but as I said - God's been connecting a lot of wires over the last few days for me. That line is now life changing in WHY I care for the Orphan. It's so much bigger than giving a home to a child in need. It's so much bigger than feeding the hungry. "The world sees Orphans, God sees disciples" (Dr. Susan Hillis) God doesn't just see some of the cutest snotty nosed faces on earth, he sees the children He died for, the children He died to redeem.
(Okay, sorry. Random. Just to help you understand the snotty nose comment - every time I see the sweet pictures of orphaned children with snotty faces, I tear up thinking how badly they need a mommy to wipe their little nose. Weird, I know.)
Anyway, your wondering how I didn't understand this, aren't you ? At one point one of the speakers asked us to raise our hands if we ever struggle with the thought/reality that we are adopted by God. I was glad to see half the room raise their hands. Glad because I felt a little less stupid. The speaker addressed it by saying that just because there is an objective reality, it doesn't mean we will always feel it subjectively. (Those are big words for me, but I think I figured out what he meant. :) ) However, just the same, our adoption makes us a part of a new family. (Romans 8:14-17). I don't get why so many people don't FEEL the reality of what God did for us. I don't get why once we either KNOW it to be true or even wait until we FEEL it to be true, we aren't moved to further His kingdom by caring for the "least of these" and pointing them to an eternal life in Jesus Christ who loves them fiercely. The food and shelter and earthly family is just an added bonus. John Piper (YES ! He spoke at the conference, and you should be jealous that you weren't there) worded it the best in saying that "the common denominator between our faith in our suffering (the orphan) and in our prospering (uh, me) is that GOD IS BETTER than what life can give and what death can take." Hallelujah ! Before death can take, however, we are called to care for these precious children. We are called to point them to Jesus. And an orphan will have a rather hard time believing they are loved until they are rescued. We all do. I know that I am loved because I was rescued through adoption not BECAUSE of my condition, but DESPITE it !
I thought that blogging about what I learned would help me to wrap my head around all this a little better, but I think it's making it worse. I cannot describe the level that God is trying to draw me to in understanding that caring for the Orphan is part of living out the Gospel. He's shown me the need for the Gospel to be at the core of my marriage, parenting, relationships, money, possessions, and heart - so really, it seems silly that it's taking this much to grasp this in an area that to many would seem a no brainer. I know I'm not alone either. I know this because of the fact that the number of Orphans is climbing, rather than declining. If just 6% of proclaimed Christians adopted a child, there would be no orphan. But then, adoption is only one bandaid on a gaping wound. This conference addressed the many other ways that we need to care for the orphan, one of the biggest being making sure they aren't orphaned in the first place. Aaaaaggghhhh ... it's never ending, isn't it ? I know we aren't all called to actually adopt. But there are so many other avenues. Be it poverty in families (that cause many to give up their kids and we can help through organizations like Compassion), or getting medicine to the mom who is HIV+, or mentoring at risk kids in our own back yard (and mentoring their parents!) ... the possiblities are endless !
So I ask that we pray then. Pray to be a part of God's redeeming work in these little ones lives. Ask that He would show you how. Then go do something ! I know that I am blessed beyond words and incredibly humbled to be allowed to be part of something so dear to the heart of God. I'm also grateful for His patient work in my life to point me toward the deeper meaning behind everything I do. "If we are motivated only by the need, we will run out of gas rather quickly. Our ultimate motivation comes from a God who adopted us as children when we were alone." (Jed Meddefield)
Just because I can't resist, I'm going to write out a handful of the other great quotes I took down....
- "We westerners excel at getting on with it. We do less well with sitting long enough to feel the pain and let the pain do its work" (Dan Cruver - who was quoting someone else, but I didn't write down who.)
- What Orphans need is life-defining love, not just short term care. Relief, as important as it is, is not the answer. God's adoptive work is. (Dan Cruver)
- Human trafficking is the #2 business in the world bringing in 32 billion dollars a year - second only to drugs. (Tom Davis)
- Less than 1% of children forced into trafficking will ever get out.
- The Cross of Jesus says there is no event in my life that I would be better without, because Jesus made it all beautiful. (Stephanie Fast)
- Orphans are not just a result of social ill, but of sin. (Al Mohler)
- Because Jesus has a name, we have a name. (Al Mohler)
- You cannot talk about adoption without talking about orphans. You cannot talk about orphans without taking about missions. It's through a passion of the Gospel spread that we reach out to Orphans. (Al Mohler ... I should just write a whole blog on stuff he said!)
- There are only 6 countries in the world that have more people in them than there are Orphans. (Dr. Susan Hillis) (Can you even wrap your head around that statistic ? CRAZY !)
- Children are the victims of adult vices. (Dr. Susan Hillis) Okay, seriously, if you have to see where this came from, go here. It's a group of statues in Russia that this quote came from. The centerpiece statue of the adult vices is INDIFFERENCE !
- When we don't have enough faith to act, we pray a lot. (Sergey Demidovich) (That's supposed to be funny. True, but funny. We say we'll pray when we just don't want to do something ! HA!)
- If you can make it happen, it's not important. (Piper)
- Having faith is not the ultimate factor in weather or not you suffer or prosper - God is! (Piper)
- Those who love God more than life and suffer willingly for the sake of the Gospel (for the Orphan) are God's gift to the world. (Piper)
And the entire conference ended on this by John Piper -
Love God more than life !
Walk by Faith !
Pour out your love !