[November is Adoption Awareness Month. As the month ends and the Advent season begins, this article is a reflection of that awareness.]
“Why do you do it?” Christopher Hitchens asked Christian apologist Larry Taunton, regarding his adoption of Sasha, a Ukrainian orphan who is HIV infected. “I’m glad there are people in the world like you who do it,” the late atheist and iconoclastic writer added, “but I don’t know why anyone would.”
Hitchens, who died almost a year ago of esophageal cancer, wrote the bestseller, god is not great: how religion poisons everything. The title states in a nutshell Hitchens’ worldview. Hitchens and Taunton formed an unlikely friendship as they debated the existence of God. Taunton writes about his experiece with Hitchens in his book, The Grace Effect: How the Power of One Life can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief. Taunton uses his adoption of Sasha to illustrate the differences of how worldviews effect the outcome of societies.
So to get back to Hitchens’ question: why do Christians adopt children other people don’t want? For Judi Jany, who wrote about her family’s adoption of Joel in her blog, “Blessed by Chaos”, the answer is simple.
“Adoption is the very heart of the gospel,” she said. “As Christians, we have been adopted into God’s family. And so for Paul and I, the idea of adoption doesn’t seem ‘out there’ or strange, but natural, typical and already a part of our lives, as adopted children of God.”
Judi, a mother of four children, recently returned from China with her husband Paul and their children, to adopt and bring home Joel, a two year old Chinese boy. The Janys used Bethany Christian Services for their adoption, which took 17 months to complete.
Adopting a healthy child, i.e., one with no medical issues, is one thing: adopting a child labeled “special needs” takes a leap of faith; a trust that the “special need” will not overwhelm the desire to become parents.
“The term ‘special needs’ in the adoption world does not mean the same as we think of it in the U.S.,” explains Judi. “An orphan’s special need could simply be that they are over the age of six, or that they have a prominent birthmark, or a multitude of things that would hardly grant them a ‘special needs’ label in the States.” As in the case of Joel, his needs were surmountable.
Still, adopting internationally is not for the faint of heart.
“There were many times where the adoption process got long and the waiting seemed unbearable,” Judi recalls. “Some of our paperwork in Richmond and Fredericksburg was lost. And once in China, our paperwork got ‘off track,’ resulting in more paperwork and longer waiting.”
Taunton spoke of similar trials, of having to pay officials extra in order to keep from delaying the adoption.
It was faith that kept the Jany and Taunton families from giving into despair and frustration. “Over and over I had to remind myself that none of those things were happening outside of the Lord’s vision,” Judi said. “He knew and He wasn’t worried.”
Certainly there are non-Christian, even non-religious families, who adopt overseas, as one commenter wrote in response to an article on Taunton’s experience. Perhaps, though, unknowingly, they have been influenced by what Taunton calls “the grace effect”. By having Christian influence in the culture, he contends, both historically and from Christians like the Jany family, the general population picks up on that sense of compassion.
Taunton spoke movingly of Sasha’s encounter with Hitchens, the irasible atheist who never suffered fools gladly. Through Sasha’s broken English, she smiled and spoke to him using his full name. “How are you, Christopher Hitchens?” she would ask. Hitchens was clearly taken by her charm. Taunton then realized, “Her life trumped every clever argument he could make against the gospel.” Her life found grace.
“Why would you want to do that?” the Ukrainian official asked Taunton, expressing a sentiment similar to Hitchens’. To the secularist, adopting a child like Sasha didn’t make sense. “That’s the sort of mindset you are inclined to have when you don’t see Man as made in the image of God,” Taunton said, “and if you are not motivated by a grateful heart for God saving you.”
[Next: The image of a helpless infant, who is God incarnate, is embedded in every Christian’s heart. Can this image be a reason so many Christians now and throughout history have rescued unwanted children?]