Caring for Orphans, Part 1
About the Guest
When ordinary people come close to the orphan, something unusual usually happens. Today, we hear from three people whose heart for the orphan led them down paths of mercy, advocacy, and eventually adoption. Join us as we go near the orphan.
VariousFamilyLife Today features marriage and family experts who have devoted their lives bringing biblical principles to people in ways that positively change their lives. With each program, we are continually reminded that people throughout the world are receptive to the messages of love and hope offered by our radio guests.
When ordinary people come close to the orphan, something unusual usually happens.
Caring for Orphans, Part 1
Jedd Medefind: Working in government, I believe government certainly can do a lot of good.
Bob: Jedd Medefind first became concerned about the plight of orphans all around the world, when he was working in the Bush White House in the office of faith-based initiatives.
Former President George W. Bush: Our hearts are broken when we see the scenes of little children struggling without a mom or dad or the bodies in the streets.
Jedd: Government and very large organizations can do a great job at times of delivering things on a mass scale, food and medicine, and other things.
President Barack Obama: Search and rescue teams are actively working to save lives. Our military has secured the airport.
Bob: Today Jedd is the Executive Director of the Christian Alliance for Orphans and he is doing something government could never do.
Jedd: When it comes to children that don’t have families, the deepest need for love and nurture and permanency, the only place that can come from is the church. Government can't touch that.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday September 16th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey and I am Bob Lepine. We will hear today how God is using folks, and folks just like you, to make a big difference in the lives of orphans all around the world.
Welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I can always tell when a program is going to be one of your favorites.
Dennis: I am pumped.
Bob: You love these kinds of stories.
Dennis: I do love these kinds of stories because, you know I don’t want to make any of these people out to be just normal because they are heroic, but they are people like those you go to church with and work with.
Bob: Or like you.
Dennis: Yes, they are just people who have a very simple faith in Christ and they stepped out to make a difference on behalf of orphans.
Bob: We met these folks when we were together back in April at the annual Orphan Summit, I think this was the 7th annual event back in Minneapolis. This is put on by the Christian Alliance for the Orphan and we help with that through our Hope for Orphans Initiative to help make this event possible and hosted it here for a couple of years.
But we sat down with just some of the folks we ran into up there and heard some great stories of the work of God in their lives and then their work in advancing because of the kingdom and caring for the plight of the orphan.
Dennis: We had a friend who sat in our makeshift studio there, you and I were operating out of and they skipped all of the optional seminars all afternoon. They are from Eagle River, Idaho and they came out of there going, “Man, this was better than any optional seminar.”
Bob: They said, “I don’t know what we missed, but what we heard the stories are powerful.”
Dennis: Exactly and the reason is you are just going to hear up some great stories of courage and of people who are making a difference where they live.
Bob: Well, the first story you are going to hear is a guy by the name of Rocky, he is from east Texas from Tyler, Texas. In fact I think he goes to Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler one of the churches that hosted our If You Were Mine adoption seminar.
Dennis: Just a little Baptist church down there in the hills of East Texas.
Bob: Little Baptist church.
Dennis: About 15,000 people go there.
Bob: Rocky is like you said just an average guy and God grabbed his heart and said I got a job for you.
Rocky: We were sitting in a restaurant and a couple walks up the sidewalk with a little two year old Chinese girl. The couple was Caucasian. I saw her first and I was captivated by this little girl and it wasn’t primarily her beauty. I didn’t know what it was. Well, they passed us and my wife saw her and she made a comment. Now the strange thing is if we are neither one of kid people. We don’t sit around and look into other people’s kids and saying they are beautiful and I would love to have ten of them.
So my wife made the first comment, she said that’s a beautiful little girl. And immediately I shot back, get up and go find out where she came from. She looked at me like I was crazy. Well, I had been sitting there, thinking about it and hadn’t said a word. She said, well if you want to know get up and go ask them yourself. I said no, I would look like some kind of pervert going to chase down this little two-year-old girl, you do it.
She said, well how would I do it? I said, well get up and go to the bathroom and pass their table and say, she is beautiful, is she yours? I mean we can look at her and tell that they didn’t have her biologically, so that’s exactly what she did and we ended up in a conversation with them.
In the course of the conversation, the man said to me, it's a distinctively Christian thing to care for widows and orphans and having been ordained a deacon, every deacon bone in my body jumped. So I told my wife after they left I said, we are going to be adopting a little Chinese girl.
Bob: We met a mom while we were up there, who today is involved with her little local church in Southern California, a church called Saddleback Church. But this mom, her heart for the orphan really began when she and her husband, and her name is Elizabeth, she and her husband decided they were going to expand their already big family with few extra kids.
Elizabeth: All seven: 23, 17, 14, 12, 11, 10, who have I forgotten? 5 I forgot a 19. Let's just, to get you an idea of our family.
Dennis: Well at least you can get them at church.
Elizabeth: That’s why exactly. Oh I have done that too, every good parent has. Of our four bio kids, we were the kind of family that had them every three years. So starting at 23, just deduct three years down to there and then adding into the bottom of our family with our adopted kids then, the youngest now is in first grade.
Adoption is what God does to me as a believer, so that I am learning to parent the way he parents me. My favorite definition of grace is getting from the outside what I don’t have on the inside. And so as he gives me grace to parent, he is teaching me about his love in ways I never understood.
I understand, for example, the first time my daughter came up and asked me for something. I realized that she was asking me for something she thought I was good. That’s why, prayer, I understood for the first time, God loves prayer because when I ask him, I know he is good, but it took her a while to believe that about me.
The first time that we were eating together or one of first times, and the food is scary. They didn’t like it and for my other kids, we said, you don’t have to eat your food. Put Saran Wrap over it and you can eat it tomorrow morning. But we couldn’t do that with them.
We had to say you don’t like your food. First of all, we didn’t have same language. I have to get really close to him right next to him. You could see in his eyes, he was waiting to see are you going to hit me? What you are going to do? To just get close to the fear and get close to him. For his papa, his new daddy, to sit there and say, “It's okay, what else sounds good?
Many countries around the world are not sure that adopting children outside of a country is a good thing. I think that’s good caution. All of us should take this idea of adoption very seriously. What's the best for the child?
There would be a lot of loss for a child leaving their culture. There would be a lot of adjustment. It's not something to do glibly without preparation, without prayer, without support, without lots of resources.
We met your organization. We met Paul Pennington with Hope for Orphans and we began to read and pray and to go back to our children. We really had to say to them we believe that family is God’s idea and that family trumps culture. Let's take the next step and just see what God wants us to do.
In our case, it really was talking to the churches in Rwanda and talking to the local government in Rwanda and even the head, President Kagame and asking them what is your heart for your children and how could we serve you? Not to be full of pride or arrogant that we know what is best for the children of your country, but what can we do?
And they actually offered that intercountry adoption could be something that they would like to consider.
So we actually sought out some of your resources and the best counsel of how we could help the country. They began and are very slowly beginning to open the door to intercountry adoption, because they care about their children and they know that children need a family and the family trumps culture.
We began to start to unpack the idea of romantic because we realized that whoever would come into our home they were going to be our children forever. And they were children that were very wounded and that they had really experienced some tremendous loss.
It wouldn’t be parenting as usual and we were going to have to really, as you say, commit that this is something we believe God has called us to. So we did the biblical thing, looked in God’s word. God has a heart for orphans. We need to have a heart for orphans. God believes in adoption, we believe in adoption, but does he think we need to adopt?
We began to get godly counsel, talk to our small group, talk to our church. What do you think? We talked to professionals. What do you think of our family? Are we a family that could take on these extra charges and talk to our children?
I remember one day they were fighting over the TV changer and I just stopped at the moment to get the romantic out of it and I said you know we are in the process of adopting here. You are going to have some other brothers and sisters here pretty soon, and they are going to be fighting over the TV changer. This is not a romantic temporary this is a very long term commitment.
We said to our daughter at that time, “This is going to really ruin your life as you know it. We were trying to take out the romantic, but then on the other hand, the Lord had already impressed on her, her response to me. Because when I said to her, your life as you know it is ruined, she said back to me, “No mom, losing your mom and dad to HIV ruins your life.”
So God really put a call, I think, on our entire family that we were deliberate. We were cautious. Even now we stay with the best and the brightest including the resources that you all have. We are constant learners, how to parent. We tell everyone, if you are considering adoption then ask the Lord, do you want me to? But ask Lord.
For my husband and I we really said what in our life requires faith? What in our life requires him? And what is there in your life that God cannot ask you to do? So in that place of surrender, you say, Lord do you want us to? Then as you keep on traveling, and as you open each door, he will make it very clear whether he wants you to or not, but whether you adopt or not everyone can do something.
Dennis: This next person that we interviewed, Jedd Medefind, who is the Executive Director of the Christian Alliance for Orphans, is just a superb guy. Jedd has become a personal friend. He worked at the White House for a number of years with the faith-based initiative for President Bush. Jedd just has a personal heart for the orphan, but also a global heart that leaks out as he talks about how the church needs to engage and come near the needs of the orphan.
Bob: He has given great leadership to the Christian Alliance for Orphans, but as you hear in his story, this is something that’s very personal to him.
Jedd: What certainly is going to be most significant in my memory is beginning the process to adopt from Ethiopia. There is a long process with a lot of twists and turns.
Dennis: At the time, you had --
Jedd: We had two, two little girls, yeah, who were at the time three and one. But we knew it was the time and didn’t initially know where, we were looking in a lot of different countries open to just about anything, but then bit by bit felt like the Lord let us towards Ethiopia and we began that process. And Dennis, as you know there were some real rocks along that road, but we are so thankful Lord let us through it.
As any adoptive parent knows, after an awful lot of paper work and quite a bit of funds and fundraising and long journey, we were matched with a precious little girl. We named her Liana Rachel. My wife’s name is Rachel so we named her after Rachel.
Even from a distance we began that process of praying for her and feeling a sense of bonding with her and our family celebrating with us as if there had been a birth and planned to go travel to Ethiopia and get little Liana.
Dennis: She was how old?
Jedd: She was about six months old. She had been found abandoned and was very malnourished and so was just about six pounds actually even at that age of six months, so just very, very frail. I will never forget the day I got the call, I was working at the White House and got the call from our adoption agency and they said, “Jedd, we feel like you need to be home with your wife for what we are going to tell you, would you mind going home?”
I actually had a little sense deep down of what it might mean and so got home with Rachel and we called them together. They gave us the news that we had began to dread, which was that the Liana had died, very suddenly of pneumonia and her little body was so weak, that it just took her in a moment. I will tell you, it's amazing how deeply you can love a child that you never actually met before and it tore us apart inside. Yet at the same time we were tasting the smallest little bit of Africa’s pain and yet it was such a bitter pill.
We knew that there was no question that the God have called us to adopt from Ethiopia and so we just understood that the road was going to be a little different than we planned. So you know within about a week, we told our adoption agency we definitely wanted to continue forward with the process.
We were still in midst of grieving. We actually had kind of a funeral service at our church and it was a beautiful thing to have a couple hundred friends join us for that. They were grieving with us and it gave us a chance to share about adoption and our love for Liana and Africa’s need and just all the different things. It was an amazing time even in midst of grieving, but then as we emerged from that we definitely just kept on the adoption path.
So we got back on the adoption process and we were headed towards another match with another child. Right about the time we were expecting that call from our agency to tell us that we have been matched, the Lord matched us with another little one. A biological baby. We found out we are pregnant, kind of unexpectedly an unexpected blessing. And so of course we had to really rush with the decision of whether to continue forward with adoption process.
Rachel was six months pregnant when we went over to Ethiopia to get little baby Eden and brought her home and just with great rejoicing and then four months later Lincoln was born.
Previous to working in the White House, I had worked in the State Legislature in California, so I was a chief of staff member there so I had had a legislative experience. I find the political world fascinating. I have loved the time there. You are always learning stuff, always challenged but at the same time it wasn’t necessarily my sense that this is going to be where I would be always. So the White House was incredible, such a privilege to get to serve the country and our President there, but when the time was up, I was just saying Lord where exactly do you want me now?
Working in government, I believe government certainly can do a lot of good, but when it comes to children that don’t have families, it cannot meet their deepest needs. Government and very large organizations can do a great job at times of delivering things on mass scale, food and medicine, and other things, but the deepest need for love and nurture and permanency, government can't touch that.
The reality is the only place that can come from is the church, globally. Local communities of believers rising to say these children will be ours. We will love them. We will be known as people who defend the cause of the fatherless as it says in Isaiah.
The division between living out our faith in action and concern for the least of these and discipleship and evangelism has been a false dichotomy that many people have fallen into. What we are seeing in the best of cases is recognizing those two things are so intertwined that we cannot be true disciples of Jesus unless we are very serious about things he cares deeply about that includes the heart of things, orphans and widows.
I just specifically remember in Rwanda looking in the eyes of a child who had lost their parents in the genocide many years before, but had grown up as a result as an orphan and realizing and seeing it through the lens of my own daughters. The thought of my own precious little girls waking up one morning and my wife and I not being there and our extended family not being there. And them calling out in the night and having no one to answer it literally brought me to tears. I knew for sure that if I were not to act on that emotion that each time I felt that it would be less and less and at some point I would stop feeling at all and I knew I needed to act on it.
Whether I am in San Francisco or Chattanooga or Chicago, I consistently hear the same kind of words. Christians are saying, “Hey something stirring in my heart. I don’t entirely know what it is.” They are stepping forward and they want to engage the cause of fatherless. I really believe that that is God working across the country and beyond to call those people to what they have always been at their best which is people known for defending the fatherless and caring for orphans in their distress.
Bob: That is Jedd Medefind, the Executive Director of the Christian Alliance for Orphans and you believe like he does, don’t you?
Dennis: I do.
Bob: There is something going on.
Dennis: There is and I am going to tell you it's a set to a spike in volleyball terms. When the ball is just hovering right above the net on your side and you have the ability to jump like I used to or you could just step on a step-ladder or whatever you could and whack the ball and spike it.
Well you know what? Right now, there is a tremendous opportunity for individual people who care about orphans to step up and spike it in their church by starting an orphan care adoption foster care ministry that pulls together people in the church or as we have heard today from Elizabeth earlier, adopt. You and your family consider and prayerfully think about giving a child a forever family.
Bob: When you go to our website www.familylifetoday.com there is a link there to the Hope for Orphans area of the website where you can get more information about the tools we have available to help you with whatever God may be calling you to do in response to the needs of orphans.
We hope some of you will start an orphan care initiative in your church or do something in relation to adoption or whatever it is. We have got the resources to help you, go to www.familylifetoday.com and click on the Hope for Orphans link.
And don’t forget the event that’s coming up the weekend of November 5th, 6th and 7th that’s Orphan Sunday Weekend. A lot of churches all around the country are going to be bringing to light the plight of orphans and talking about how the church can respond to the needs of orphans. If you would like your church to be involved in that, get more information when you go to www.familylifetoday.com and click on the link for Orphan Sunday. And then start thinking now about attending the Orphan Summit in Louisville, Kentucky next spring and you can find more information about that at www.familylifetoday.com as well.
Or if you need to call us 1-800-FL-TODAY it's a toll-free number, 1-800-358-6329 that’s 1-800-FL-TODAY. And by the way, thanks to those of you who help support FamilyLife and who help make the Hope for Orphans initiative possible. Your financial support of this ministry not only goes to make this radio program happen and our website and other resources that we put together, but it also helps us to draw attention to the needs of orphans all around the world and mobilize people to get involved.
So we appreciate your financial support. I want to say thanks to those of you who have helped in the past with a donation to this ministry. If you would like to make a donation, you can go online at www.familylifetoday.com or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY and again thanks for your support and for your partnership with us here in the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
Be sure to be back with us tomorrow when we are going to hear more stories of those whose lives have been touched by God in response to the needs of orphans.
I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team on behalf of our host Dennis Rainey, I am Bob Lepine, we will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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