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"Why Adopt Internationally?" - Dec 7th, 2011

"Why do you adopt internationally when there are orphans here in the U.S.?" As we get ready to travel for Hannah, our fourth child adopted from overseas, we've been thinking about that question. It's one that we get asked a lot… sometimes it's in a very direct way, and other times it's just in the look we see on people's faces. Regardless of how it's asked, the first part of our answer always involves an explanation about how we know there's an equally important need for domestic adoptive families, and we think it's just as strong of a calling, but that in our own lives, we've both clearly felt God calling us to travel overseas to grow our family. The biggest reason is that He has completely broken our hearts for the way orphans are devalued by many societies around the world, and how they often don't even receive the most basic care. In fact, hundreds of thousands of orphans around the world are struggling to survive right now for a number of reasons including a lack of medical care, insufficient nutrition and sometimes, even the complete absence of adult supervision. In fact, just the other day I saw an article in a Chinese newspaper about a boy who became an orphan when his mother and father died form aids. According to the report, ever since the parents died, he had been living completely alone, "doing everything from cooking to laundry for himself" and no one had done anything to help him out, or offer him a place to stay. On top of it all, he had recently been diagnosed with AIDS and the public school where he was going barred him from attending due to complaints from other parents. The sheer thought of a six year old child living by himself is shocking enough, let alone the fact that he is now being shunned by society because of his condition.

It's stories like this that prove the biggest thing many orphans are missing is societal acceptance, especially when it comes to "differences" they may have. The boy in the news report was being systematically shut out of society because of his situation, but so many children are rejected, hated or even feared for much less. No child should ever have to go through this kind of sorrow, suffering and fear, but it's so common in other countries to just turn the other way and ignore, or even discriminate against children who are orphaned or in some way different.

Again, this point became even more clear to me when I was recently waiting for a flight at the airport. During a layover in Honk Kong, I met a first-time adoptive family coming home from China with their brand new daughter. The parents were beaming with pride, and the eight year old girl was absolutely ecstatic to finally have a mom and a dad, but what especially caught my attention was that they were all little people (both the adoptive parents and their new Chinese daughter). In swapping stories with them about the experience of adopting from China, I heard a common theme come up over and over; their new daughter, who had a bright personality and perfect health, had been rejected by her birth family and cast off to an orphanage all because of her different size. Even the people on the streets looked at her with a certain amount of disgust because of her difference. While I was overwhelmed with sorrow for their daughter, I was inspired to hear about how these new parents had never even thought about adoption, but when told about a girl in another country who was thrown-out because of a so-called "disability", they were moved to action and immediately began the process to bring her home.

What is it that makes people see different "classes" in society? Why can't people accept others as equals, even if they look different, or come from a different status level? It's something that we haven't perfected in the U.S. (obviously many Americans still have biases, at least internally) but after having spent a time in many other countries, I can say first hand that things are so much worse overseas.

It's never easy being an orphan; the absence of parents to tuck you in at night, or kiss you goodbye on your first day of school, or even to claim you as their own is something that no child should ever have to experience, regardless of where they grow up. We feel very strongly about the plight of children who need a home here in our own communities; in fact we have many close friends who are just as passionate about adopting domestically, and we applaud and support them on, just like they do for us. However, we can't deny the fact that God has given a specific calling to us, by putting a burden on our hearts for the conditions of kids in other parts of the world. Maybe someday he will call us to domestic adoption as well, but for now, our calling is overseas.


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