September 2006

Like many Christians I know, my wife, Erin, and I had discussed whether adoption is something we would ever do. We liked to think that we would. The topic never really came up more than a handful of times.

Then some friends of ours who had adopted invited us to an “If You Were Mine” adoption workshop. We thought, “Sure, why not?” We weren’t committing to anything. Going to that conference was the catalyst that God used to change our lives by adopting our daughter Kelly.

At the time, the thought of adopting was scary. Erin was seven months pregnant with our son Joe. Our daughter Kate was two. Adoption would mess up our family of four. It would be inconvenient. It would be expensive.

There were several moments from the conference that God used to lead us to make the decision to adopt. I remember one of the speakers saying, “Christians are known more for what they are against, than what they are for. How does the world see Christians—and by extension, our God?” If you ask non-believing strangers how they would describe a Christian, many would use words like, “judgmental” or “hypocrite.” I suspect that “loving” would not even be in the top ten. But through adoption we have the opportunity to show this love in a tangible way. As John 13:35 states, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Another moment from the conference stood out in my mind. Dennis Rainey asked the audience to raise their hand if they were adopted. A handful of people raised their hand. He then read the following verse from Ephesians 1:5 which states, “His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure.” He asked again and, of course, many more people raised their hand after that. It was eye opening to think of myself as God’s adopted child.

A little later in Ephesians, Paul writes “Follow God’s example in everything you do, because you are his dear children” (Ephesians 5:1). God’s example was to adopt me, and I want to follow His example. That was the primary motivator in our decision to adopt.

Of course, seeing pictures and video of children without families made me cry like a little baby. At the conference, they had people who adopted from different countries talk about their experiences. I’m not sure why, but I was drawn to China. There is something about little girls who are abandoned at birth that just tugs at my heart.

I remember just staring at the children who were crawling on their parent’s laps. It was such an incredible sight to see these happy children who looked nothing like their parents. In every other way, they were such a normal family. This contradicted some of the horror stories that I had seen on the news about adopted children.

After making the decision to adopt, we started the paperwork. Due to Chinese law, we couldn’t submit our paperwork until we were both 30. Because of this, it was 16 months from when we decided to adopt until we met our daughter. For the newest member of our family, we had decided to name her after my youngest sister, Kelly. We also decided to keep her given Chinese name, Chun Shuai, as her middle name so she would have some connection with her past.

At two years old, Kelly was terrified when she met us. We smelled, looked, and sounded strange. It was so heart wrenching for us as she would reach out her arms to be rescued from me, and then turn around and beg me to rescue her from Erin. We were the only two people in the world that would comfort Kelly and yet that day we were the very cause of her distress.

When Kelly joined our family, my daughter Kate (three at the time) showed such love and compassion for her new sister. Here was this stranger getting so much of Daddy’s attention, and it didn’t seem to bother her one bit. She was rejected time and again by Kelly, but kept coming back to try and comfort her. It was the most natural thing for Kate to love Kelly. She reflected God’s love so beautifully. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” This must be what He was talking about.

God has certainly used adoption to help us grow closer to Him. Every morning I wake up and see Kelly’s beautiful smile, I am reminded of God’s love for us. God has blessed our family more profoundly than I will ever understand.

Adoption is not a fairy tale, and we’ve had our share of challenges. It is humbling to realize that I am not the most wonderful, compassionate, patient, and completely loving father that I thought I would be. I’ve had to show my children more frequently than I’d like what it looks like to ask for forgiveness. Even so, God is faithful and is binding our hearts together as a family.

I have discovered you can’t out give God. I thought by adopting, I was giving an orphan a home. Instead, God used adoption to give me my daughter. She’s sleeping right now, but I need to sneak in and give her a kiss.

Copyright © 2006 by Jason Rowland. All rights reserved.