The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Harare, Robert Ndlovu, has told the BBC that there are now at least a million orphans in Zimbabwe - with many facing sexual and physical abuse from their extended families. With numbers like that, you could despair of being able to do anything about the destitute and dangerous lives these orphans lead, and if you multiply that number by the number of similarly situated countries in Africa, much less the world, the effect can be numbing. And yet Russell Moore contends that if the church --- the whole church --- supported adoption and made it a priority, significant inroads could be made. Many orphans could come home.
Moore's recent book, Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches, is simply the best single book on adoption that has been published. He roots adoption in the context of the Gospel, clearly setting forth its biblical parallel in our own adoption by God. He says that "[a]doption would become a reality in our churches if our churches themselves saw our brotherhood and sisterhood in the church itself rather than in our fleshly identities." "When we adopt," he says, "and when we encourage a culture of adoption in our churches and communities, we're picturing something that's true about God. We, like Jesus, see what our Father is doing and do likewise (John 5:19). And what our Father is doing, it turns out, is fighting for orphans [that's you and me], making them sons and daughters." This could be dry theology, but it's not. It's warmed and made personal by being rooted in Moore's own practical experience in adopting two Russian orphans. That story in itself is compelling.
Beyond theology, the rich wisdom and practical advice Moore offers is tremendous. In one chapter he takes on all that couples should think about as they consider adoption. He deals gently and yet directly with the fears of those who believe they may be infertile, counseling against the notions that adoption is the "second-best option" or really just "long-term babysitting." He also deals with those who have existing families and are considering adoption. Can they love the child they adopt as much as the ones they birth? Sure, he says, "[y]our affection for the child and the permanence of your relationship will be as real to you as if you've birthed him or her yourself."
Moving on, he considers and offers advice on all the practical aspects of the adoption process --- domestic or international, closed or open? He discusses all the paperwork that will be needed, anticipating questions all adoptive couples have, and addresses the sometimes daunting challenge of paying for lawyers, home studies, and birth expenses. It's all helpful and all relevant. He even talks about what to do while you're waiting for the call, a not insignificant part of the process, and what to do when the child comes. Finally, he addresses the difficult issues of race, health problems, and prejudice in entering the adoption process.
Most of this was not entirely new to me. I have read it elsewhere, though never with quite the winsome mix of biblical theology, grace, wisdom, and practical advice that Moore offers. However, one chapter should be mandatory reading for pastors and other church leaders. In "It Takes a Village to Adopt a Child: How Churches Can Encourage Adoption," the author makes a passionate call for creating an adoption culture in the church, encouraging pastors to preach in such a way as to allow people to "see the goodness and glory of adoption as an icon of the gospel they embrace." More than that, he encourages pastors to preach with specificity on adoption, making it a priority. For example, he encourages church leaders to highlight adoptions within the church and has practical suggestions about Mother's Day (a sensitive day for infertile couples), wedding ceremonies, small group ministry to adoptive couples, and financial assistance to adoptive couples. More than this, he encourages pastors to "proclaim the fatherhood of God and concretize in. . . preaching what this fatherhood looks like." He calls on churches to recognize adoption as a part of global mission, concluding that "it takes more than a village to adopt a child, at least for those of us in Christ. It takes a church."
I recommend Adopted for Life as an excellent resource to potential adoptive couples. More than that, though, it should be read by pastors, missionaries, mission ministry groups, and church leaders. If we cosmic orphans can come home, so can the millions of orphans in Zimbabwe --- one child at a time. It just takes a church that sees and does what the Father has done.