Why doesn’t Katie talk about orphan care anymore? My silence over the last year has probably been deafening. Maybe you wondered why? Maybe you thought we washed our hands of it all. Maybe you were relieved that I finally shut up
I was talking to a sweet friend recently about orphans, and she said, “You were the biggest advocate for orphans I ever met, and then you fell off the map. I thought you must have suffered too much pain and hurt and didn’t want anything to do with orphans anymore.”
Here’s the scoop, my dear friends. In the past, my avenue of advocacy has been to lead by example and offer up my life as an open book. It inspired, and there are kids I can point to whose families launched their adoption journey because of our advocacy. I am deeply grateful to have played a tiny part in those beautiful stories even for just a moment. However, after losing a third adoption attempt, my family was bleeding out emotionally. Continuing to talk about our lives on a public platform would have been unfair to my husband and kids who needed privacy and time to heal and didn’t need me parading their grief around for the world to see. Also, people wondered WHY we lost our last pre-adoptive child and what went wrong. I couldn’t talk about that or explain it, because it would have been an invasion of her privacy as well. Her choices and her hurts are her story to tell. And believe me, her story is not over. Someday maybe she will tell it.
The other reason I fell silent was because I feared NOBODY would want to hear about orphans from me after watching what we went through for 3 years and the pain of losing 3 children we deeply loved and hoped would someday be our own. That doesn’t seem very inspiring. I feared I lost my platform because of perceived failure. I projected my own fears onto everybody, assumed I knew what they were thinking, and just stopped talking. God has been showing me that it’s not my place to decide for others how they will respond and whether they will reject or hear my message of His love for the fatherless. In that respect, I was wrong. Paul was in chains in prison for years and years which would seem like failure to the human eye, but he kept speaking the truth of God
The truth is we did not fail. God allowed a different outcome than we were expecting. We did not rescue her. He did. We were unable to adopt her into our family, but He adopted her into His own. He moved mountains and opened very locked doors in a time frame that was humanly impossible and unheard of in order to pull her out of a very destructive situation and place her in the safety of our home at a pivotal moment in her life. He saved her life… we did not. We only allowed Him to use us as His hands and feet on earth. Then He used the shelter and quiet of our home to reveal Himself to her in the time that she was with us, and she placed her faith in Him and was saved. She is back in her country, and we don’t understand why that was allowed to be the outcome. We will never understand. We will never understand why we must live with an undercurrent of pain and ache that remains beneath the surface of our lives. But she is talking about God to her friends across the world. She is sharing His love boldly. She is wrestling out her new faith and grabbing hold of the truth that no bad choice or mistake is beyond the redemption of God, and that He has not left her side. She is a light in the darkness over there. I see ripples spreading beyond the 4 walls of my home. Depending on your belief about God, you will either feel that one child being granted eternal life was worth the $30,000, or you will feel that the lost adoption was an epic waste of $30,000. I can’t influence your opinion, and I’ve come to realize that it’s not my job to do so. My job is only to speak and to live out my beliefs.
The past year I have not given up on the fatherless. I just played different roles… quietly… away from the public eye. There is not one cookie cutter avenue to live out the command of James 1:27. God uses us in different ways as He sees fit to impact the children that He loves. He will direct each person on His team to fill a gap and play a role that only they are positioned and gifted for. My role the past year has been to show what unconditional love means and to be a mentor and a light to children who expected us to give up. I am also now part of a mentoring program to reach out to orphans and be a positive influence in their lives via the pen pal route. I’ve also been positioned in situations I never expected where I’ve found myself standing before teary-eyed mothers spilling out their own story of loss that I hadn’t even been aware of. Let me tell you… adoption loss is a very unique grief that is difficult for people to understand. Most families who have endured this specific loss feel completely isolated, because the people in their lives don’t understand why it hurts so much and why they aren’t getting over it and moving on. To be able to come alongside mothers and be a safe place has been a role I didn’t really want or ask for, but I have seen beauty, healing, and friendship come from it. If I had to walk through that pain in order to help others, I am grateful for the emotional “limp” I will always walk with.
My friend said to me while we were on the phone the other day, “You still love and greatly desire these kids even though they hurt you so badly. You still see them as your own children and not charity cases. You still want them. That’s not normal. That’s not earthly. God put that love in you.” I’d never thought of that before, but I think she’s right. In our own selves and our own strength and capacity for love, we are NOT able to step into ugly pain, trauma, and hurts that these kids have and be steadfast in love. But with God, all of this becomes possible.
I will continue advocating. I will continue speaking. I will continue telling stories of children and families whose lives have been changed. I don’t know what roles God will call me to or what plans He has for me, but I will keep moving when He moves and following Him. I will wrap arms of love around hurting children and hurting families and speaking out.
The world of orphans is MESSY. You step into that world… you’re gonna get hurt. Plain and simple. There is no easy adoption. There is no easy foster care. There is no easy mentoring. Picking up shattered pieces means you’re going to get some of those shards lodged in you. Sitting with an adoptive mom who is struggling with impossible situations in her home is NOT easy. Remaining in her life when you have no answers, solutions, or fixes and other friends have backed away is hard. When you engage and reach out to brokenness, you will be broken… just like Jesus was broken for us. Human nature is messy, and yet He reached into our world and allowed Himself to be crushed because He did not give up on us. He was raised from death and had the power to completely transform His body, but He didn’t. He kept every single scar. Why? Sometimes I think it was to show me daily why my own scars are worth it… to show me the purpose for the pain… to grow me up and strengthen me… and to show me that following Him and being on His team is not fun or easy. It’s like being on a football team. The players are going to walk off the field rejoicing over their trophy even with grass and dirt in their mouths, bruises everywhere, and maybe even bloody noses or cracked ribs. They will tell you the beating they just took was worth it because it resulted in a glorious win. Following God into the battle will be worth it. Matthew 5:43-48 says what credit do you get for loving those who are easy to love? Everybody can do that. But loving those who are difficult to love… that’s what it really means to be on His team. That’s where your life will launch ripples into eternity.
I still believe… even after all that I’ve experienced in the past 3 years… that none of it was wasted, regardless of whether I ever understand the reasons. I still believe there was a purpose for the pain. I still believe it was worth it. I still believe with everything that is in me that we followed God’s leading and did exactly what He asked of us. None of it turned out as we expected or hoped, and it got VERY messy. Still I can rest in the peace that if He asked us to do it, He had a reason. I don’t have to second guess or wonder. If I could turn back the clock and start over, I would do it all again.
I will continue to advocate for orphans. But I will be openly honest with you about the truth. I will never paint Little Orphan Annie pictures, and I will never be one to say that everyone should adopt. I don’t believe everyone should. However, I see a myriad of different avenues besides adoption that impact orphans, and I will always say everyone should do SOMETHING. More than likely there is a family near you who has adopted or is fostering and is feeling completely isolated and alone right now. Go be present in their lives when others have backed away. It doesn’t take long to look around and find there are missionaries working with orphanages who are crying out to God for the financial support they need but are too exhausted to ask and beg. You can be an answer to their prayer. There are foster kids in America EVERYWHERE. Be a mentor. Be a big brother or sister. I could give you a million other ways to be involved. Keep your eyes open… God will point you to something. Whatever it is, I promise your efforts will make a difference, and you will not regret it.
After several years in the trenches, here are the 3 things I know for certain about orphan care…
1. You will get hurt.
2. God will not shield you from hurt, but He will heal you and use it for His good purposes
3. It WILL be worth it.
I look forward to the day I stand before God, and He pulls away the curtain to reveal a tapestry that makes complete and perfect sense, and all the threads of pain and struggle and unexpected outcomes will suddenly be part of a greater beautiful picture. I hope I will also see your threads woven in with mine in the great unfolding story of redemption and relentless love.
“Anyone who sets himself up as religious by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.” –James 1:27 (The Message)