Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The India Story - Adopted

One of the other results of this trip was a major change in attitude in my heart about another topic. Matt and I have considered adoption for years now. Neither of us has ever given international adoption any thought at all. Recently, I had begun to become pretty comfortable with our family: 2 kids, 2 adults, its fun, its easy, it makes sense. I had begun to move away from the idea of adoption for 2 reasons – life would be harder with 3 kids, and my questioning whether I could really love a child that wasn’t my own.

On this trip God showed me that it is possible to love a child that isn't biologically yours so much that they feel like your own. And this can happen in only a matter of days. I fell in love with a 9 year old girl who is part of the orphanage we visited in India. When I left the orphanage I cried like I cried when I left my own children, because I felt like I was leaving a child behind. This was so surprising to me, because I wasn’t sure I was capable of bonding like that with any child that quickly, let alone with a child from another culture. Again, as I recognized that I was not promised a comfortable life, I began to see that this might apply to my family as well. While 2 parents/2 kids might be the most comfortable life, it may not be the life God has for me. We all become adopted as God's children through Christ: "For he chose us in [Christ] before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves." I believe if God is capable of reconciling me to himself to where I have truly become His daughter, then He can bring a child into a family that is not of their bloodline, but who becomes their own.

The ServLife orphanage doesn’t adopt out, or you would all be hearing that I was in the process of gaining a new daughter! It was so hard to leave "my child" behind, but God showed me something in the pain of leaving her as well: I cannot claim any child as mine - they all belong to him; the ones He's given me to care for and every other child in the world. As hard as it was to leave my own children in His care while I went across the world, and as hard as it was to leave my "spiritual daughter" in India, they are all in God’s care. I learned that God can care for the people I love without my help – I need to live into the place He has me for the time that I am there and love the people He puts in my life. When I am not with them, I can be praying for them. That is the way that I can be actively serving God. Who knows, that may include another child in the future. One from another culture I'm not familiar with - a child I haven’t even met, but who will truly belong to our family.

My "daughter" in India

Monday, January 05, 2009

The India Story - Sacrifice

Another lesson I learned while in India was this: I have no right to a comfortable life. Jesus didn't come to make things easy; he came to bring his kingdom to the lost and needy. This was exemplified in the sacrifices I saw made by "A.L.D" (the overseer of the orphanage and the head of the pastor training school) and his family and many of the pastors who attended the conference.

Bihar is a State in Northern India and shares its northern border with Nepal. While Bihar is a very fertile land, it "lags behind the other Indian states in human and economic development terms, whilst ethnic Biharis living in other states of India are victims of racist hate crimes and prejudice" ( Basically, it is very poor and lacks the infrastructure needed to provide adequate resources to the people living there. The city we visited is most definitely a poor city and, for many, quite undesirable to live in. Part of the problem is that when people there become educated, they move away instead of staying to provide economic stability and growth.

A.L.D. chose to move his family to Bihar, knowing the undesirability of the city he was going to (read more about A.L.D.'s story here). This was a sacrifice he made in response to God that his daughter has also made. After attending college to become a teacher, A.L.D.'s daughter returned to her family to help teach the children in the orphanage and the surrounding community. Instead of moving away, as many educated do, she is sacrificing a comfortable life in a large, modern Indian city to live in the poorest state in India. A.L.D.'s family of 4 adults and two children are responsible for caring for over 20 orphans who range in age from around 6 - 15 years old, and they are building a facility that will allow them to care for up to 100 children! For A.L.D.'s wife and daughter, their daily lives revolve around caring for and loving these children. Not much time or energy is spent to make their own lives better or simpler. Life in Bihar has not been easy: A.L.D. has been threatened at gunpoint to leave the city; children have thrown rocks at his home and his family; but over time, the local people have accepted his presence there, and they have begun to have a positive effect in the surrounding city.

A.L.D and family*

A.L.D. not only oversees the orphanage, he runs a pastor training school to educate local and regional Christians to be capable of teaching God's word and leading a church. We had the wonderful opportunity to meet and talk with some of the pastors that A.L.D. has trained during the time we were in Bihar. They shared stories of Christians, both pastors and lay-people, who have been threatened and/or murdered in the violence following the killing of a Hindu leader that was blamed on Christians in August 2008 in the Indian state of Orissa. A.L.D. shared with us that many of the pastors he knew from that region would call him and say they have been threatened and would ask him what to do. He reminded them that God was their protector and that He would keep them safe. None of the pastors that A.L.D. spoke with have been harmed in any way, but many Christian families and missionaries have been chased from their homes or killed.

Meeting these people made me recognize that persecution is real. And, it comes not just from religious sects - in many towns in India and the surrounding countries there are laws that affect Christian lay people and pastors. One pastor shared that he has been refused entry to certain towns because the leaders know he is a Christian and an evangelist and do not want him "converting" their people. We also heard of laws that limit a Christian's political rights and ability to do business. We were told that some states require you to register with the government before you adopt Christianity as your religion so that they are aware of the Christians in their region. The part that was life changing to me was that even amidst this persecution, these men stand steadfast and praise God loudly and passionately!

The pastors worshiping at the Christian Worker's conference*

*Photo and video courtesy of Steve Hurry