Here is the third part of my interview with author Randy Alcorn in which he shares his thoughts on how local churches can care for the fatherless. Read Part 1 and Part 2.
Jason: We’re seeing a lot of churches recognizing God’s heart for adoption for the first time, or realizing that this is so clear in scripture, which is so encouraging as we hear from more churches around the country. But one of the questions is, what can we do? What is the role of the church? As they recognize the Biblical call to care for the fatherless and the poor, and they look out in the world and see the horrors of what AIDS has done, and fatherlessness around the world, how would you encourage a church that’s at that place, and wanting to be consistent with their Biblical values and God’s heart?
Randy: Well, I think there are many different things churches can do in regards to adoption. Certainly visibility is huge. It can’t simply be spoken about from the platform. People have to see before their eyes what adoption is about and the difference that it makes in lives. In our church the way that adoption was highly valued was through the choices of four of our pastors over the years to adopt. In one case, we had a pastor who, along with his wife, adopted three children. Because the pastor was visible, the children were visible and would talk about adoption and the reasons for adoption. Now this is pretty extraordinary. We had one pastor who was our children’s pastor, and he and his wife ultimately ended up adopting nineteen children, including a number of special needs children, children from different countries in South America, a Down Syndrome child from Israel, on and on all over the world. He was our children’s pastor and then went on to become a teacher, and then went on to run an orphanage in Mexico, where they still work. In fact he and his wife recently adopted a Down Syndrome child from the orphanage. People from the church continue to support them financially and in prayer, so adoption has been before our church constantly. You do not think of the Norquist family without first thinking about adoption. That’s it, they live it. Now certainly a family can have five adopted children and you can think of them for other reasons, but when you get up into twenty children it’s hard to think of anything else before you think of that. So that would be an example of visibility.
By the way, because of the whole pro-life connection that we’re making, here’s a story that happened years ago. I was actively involved in pro-life work and I invited Rick Norquist and a number of people from our church to go to a peaceful, non-violent protest at an abortion clinic in Portland. This clinic does, by far, the largest number of abortions in the state. Here we were standing across the street from the abortion clinic holding signs. We weren’t saying anything ugly or horrible except the truth, that abortion kills children. I was holding a sign that showed pre-natal development and what the children look like that are being put to death in this abortion clinic. Well, Rick Norquist, was with me and the local media was there. Of course, this is a big story and so they come up to us and they’re filming me and the television reporter is saying, “What gives you people the right to come out here and tell people that they must have children? You seem to be concerned about these children now, but what are you doing to help these children once they’re born?” I said, “Well, since you asked, a significant portion of my family’s income goes to helping children who come into the world who are needy and need to be fed and clothed and sheltered. Not only through our support of pro-life work but through the royalties from my books that go to these different causes, famine relief, helping street children and all of these kinds of things.” I went on to say, “In fact, you may want to talk to this man next to me who is also a pastor at my church, who has adopted nineteen children.” This reporter literally looked at Rick after I said that and instead of interviewing him, she looked at the camera people and said, “Cameras off, let’s find somebody else.” What I thought was so remarkable was not that she wouldn’t tell that story, because I had seen that kind of bias pretty routinely from both the print and televised media, but what was so striking was that they had been silenced. There was nothing that could be said. It was self evident, it stood on its own. I also told her we opened our home to a girl who was homeless and had been kicked out of her home when she was a teenage girl who had had an abortion and became pregnant again. We had helped her in the decision making process and she placed the child up for adoption into a Christian family. The reporter could have said, “Okay, right, he says he gives some money, and he says he opened his home to this girl, but maybe that’s not that significant.” Well, you cannot deny that your life is forever changed when you adopt nineteen kids and a number of them are special needs kids.
Going back to the question about what the church can do, certainly the church can have adoption support groups, it can have adoption speakers, classes, conferences, or bring people in. That particular pastor I was talking about actually lined up numbers of people in our church with adopted children. There are dozens and dozens of children who were ultimately adopted in our church. The number could easily be over one hundred not simply adopted, but adopted as a direct result of being influenced by the fact that several pastors adopted a number of them and spoke highly of adoption. When I would give pro-life messages I would normally speak about adoption as well. In order for adoption to have a significant part of a church life, models or examples of adoption need to be visible. We both know that not all of those examples turn out the way everybody hopes they will, in the same way that not all natural birth parent-child relationships turn out the way we would want.
Are there distinctive problems and issues sometimes with adoption? Well, of course. One of my closest friends, after they had their four natural born children, took in two foster care children who were born with their mother’s drug addiction and then adopted them. That addiction that they had when their adopted parents opened their home to them has had a significant influence on their lives. One of our other pastors, two of the three of his adopted kids were seriously affected by the drug related behavior of the biological parents, and to this day struggle with certain issues. These are not picture book lives. As I’ve often asked both of these families when they’ve been discouraged about what their kids have experienced, “What would have happened to them if you hadn’t intervened?” One boy, a schizophrenic, had brought great grief to his family and has gone through a lot of things himself and went through a period of great violence . Now it’s under control and he’s doing reasonably well. Again, not picture book, but way better than he was. I believe with all my heart that that same little boy, given his tendencies, raised in a foster care situation, or ultimately abandoned on the streets, would have killed others, and would possibly have killed himself, and almost certainly if he was still alive would be in prison, perhaps for a lifetime. That’s how serious the problems are, yet that boy did come to faith in Christ and after years of a lot of grief, is now experiencing at least some level of stability. Now, is that redemptive? Yes, I believe it is. I think part of it comes down to leaving the results to God. Doing what’s right, and leaving the results to God. Don’t assume it’s always going to be story book, because it isn’t always going to be. That’s okay because what other parts of our lives are always going to be story book?
Read Part 4