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Counting the Cost of Adoption

with Michael Easley | November 14, 2007

The idea of adoption often gets romanticized and can become a fairy tale to those who desire to bring a child into their home. On the broadcast today, Michael Easley, president of Moody Bible Institute and a father to three adopted children, tells Dennis Rainey about some of the realities of adoption.

The idea of adoption often gets romanticized and can become a fairy tale to those who desire to bring a child into their home. On the broadcast today, Michael Easley, president of Moody Bible Institute and a father to three adopted children, tells Dennis Rainey about some of the realities of adoption.

Counting the Cost of Adoption

With Michael Easley
|
November 14, 2007
| Download Transcript PDF

Michael: Jesse is our first adopted child.  She's 17, the delight of my life.  Nobody makes me smile like Jesse.  I remember when we adopted her, they gave us a list, and it said "What will you accept?"  And the list had things like cleft palate, Down syndrome, fetal alcohol trait, and I'm reading this going, "How do you answer these questions?" 

 Cindy and I prayed through it and said, "You know what?  If God gave us a Down syndrome child in utero, what would you do?  You would deal with it.  You would accept that son or daughter, and you'd love them like crazy and do all you can.  But when you adopt, they're asking you to make a decision.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, November 14th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  We're going to talk today about caring for the least of these and inviting some of them into our homes, into our hearts, and into our families.  Stay tuned.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition.  This week we are joining with our friends at Focus on the Family, Crown Financial Ministries, there are other organizations involved.  We are trying to do what we can do to get the word out about the needs of orphans all around the world – 143 million orphans worldwide.  There is a need for those children to be loved, to be cared for, to be provided for, and we believe that God is calling us, through His Word, to care for those needs, to reach out to the orphans, to the widows and the fatherless, to care for those very real needs. 

 And that's really what we're focusing on all week on FamilyLife Today.  And whenever you talk about orphan care or you get into the subject of adoption, I think it's important that you de-romanticize the subject, you know what I mean?  Some folks look at adoption, and they think of it in kind of a fairy-tale-like scenario.  And it's critical for a mom and a dad to recognize this is a very real choice you're making when you adopt a child, and it comes with some very real consequences that can be challenging consequences for you and for your family.

Dennis: That's exactly right, and we're going to have a conversation like that today.  We have asked Dr. Michael Easley to join us here again on FamilyLife Today.  Michael is the president of Moody Bible.  He and his wife, Cindy, spoke at our Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences for a number of years.  He's a great friend; been on the broadcast many, many times.  Michael, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.

Michael: It's always great to be with you guys in the studio.

Dennis: It is good to be with you.  You and your wife have four children.

Michael: Yes.

Dennis: Three of them grafted in by adoption.  Barbara and I have six children, one of them grafted in through adoption.  And I'd have to say I was like Bob.  Barbara and I were a bit like Bob was describing earlier.  We had romanticized the idea of adoption.  Had you and Cindy done that as well?

Michael: A little bit more her than me.  When we first started having children, Hannah was conceived the first time, you know, boom!  I thought maybe we were going to have 25 children. 

[laughter]

 And we never were able to conceive again, and I often share a Genesis 30:1, I believe, Rachel says, "Give me children, else I die."

Dennis: Infertility is tough.

Michael: It's very hard.  And so five years of the OB and the infertility specialist and then one day she says, "We're going to adopt."

Dennis: She said.

Michael: She said, "We're going to adopt," and she brought home the packets and did the research and the dining room table took on an office look with all these application forms, and I was slower to turn the corner than her.  So she was bent on having four kids, and I was along for the ride.

[laughter]

Dennis: You won't so sure about that.

Michael: You know, well, I was happy with my firstborn daughter.  I loved her like crazy and, you know, that's okay.

Bob: Well, I'm curious.  If somebody today was in the same circumstance you were in 15, 20 years ago, they'd had one child or maybe had been unable to have a child, they were experiencing infertility, they were thinking about adoption, and they came to you, and they said, "Okay, we're thinking about this.  What words of wisdom would you have for us both from a cautionary standpoint but also from an encouragement standpoint?"

Michael: Number one, there is no altruism or social work when it comes to adoption.  I think the Christian community is a little deceived in this area.  We're sort of taking on this is a social cause, and I applaud that, but I'm very cautious that we sort of rush Christians into this next thing, and it seems so good, and we look at Dennis's family or the Easley family and say, "Wow, look at such a noble thing they did."

 And Cindy is really good on this.  She'll tell women, "Do you want to be pregnant or do you want children?  And you need to decide that?"  Now, from a woman's perspective that communicates to me it sort of falls flat.  But what she's saying is do you want to carry that child in utero? 

 And so I think you need to dispel a lot of myths about adoption and why you're doing it, and our motivation was we wanted children.

Bob: You're saying if you're doing it to try to rescue, you may be doing it for the wrong reasons?

Michael: Cindy and I, and I know we're not in the main opinion here, but Cindy and I would caution couples, "If you're going to go rescue a child, you're going to be altruistic and help save the baby whales, you know, you need to be very careful about your motivation because after that son or daughter is in your home, that stuff no longer matters."  You are not doing this as a social work position.  Now, this is going to be your imprimatur.  This person is going to have your name.  You're going to try and share Christ with them and train them in the way they should go.  It's a whole different deal than just sort of saving the world.

Dennis: I know a pair of girls who were adopted by a family like that, and when things got tough, they gave them back to the foster care system.  And …

Michael: That just puts – the hair on the back of my neck stands up.

Dennis: I cringe, because it's twice rejected.  And so it's very important, and I couldn't emphasize this enough, as well, Michael.  If couples are thinking about adoption, they need to count the cost.  You know, Luke 14 talks about discipleship and going to war and becoming a follower of Christ.  You have to die to self and follow Christ and pick up your cross and follow Him, and I think adoption, in a very real sense, is a lot like discipleship.  There has to be accounting of the cost as much as it is humanly possible in advance to say you know what?  We are going to go after this child.  We will graft them into our family, and we're going to love them.

Bob: Now, I have a friend who adopted a child, and in that child's adolescent years, the child became disruptive in the family, and they didn't give the child back like you're talking about, but they did have to put the child outside of the home for a period of time, and I thought to myself, you know, you might have to do that with a biological child as well as an adoptive child.  This is not a situation where they're abandoning the child they adopted, they're trying to do what's best for that child in the context of what's best for the whole family and how you negotiate this long term.

 So when I hear you say "Don't give the child back," I know what you're saying, but you may have to have some tough measures with a child that may include taking that child for a period of time and putting them outside the home where they can get special help.

Dennis: You know, I think what both Michael and I are saying here is that this thing of adoption is very serious, and you just have to be very careful that, as he put it, you don't make it this noble cause because you know what?  Parenting is hard work, whether they are your children through birth or your children through adoption, each child comes into a family with a unique set of needs, and I think because of being adopted, I think an adopted child has a unique set of needs as well, and I know right now there are couples who have adopted and have younger children, and they're going, "You don't understand.  You don't understand.  Our kids have just flowed into our family, and it's perfect."

 Well, you know what?  I hope it is flawless for you.  I hope that the journey doesn't know a deep valley, but for many, Michael, they experience a deep valley.  What about you and Cindy?  Have there been those valleys for you all as a couple?

Michael: Oh, sure.  I was telling someone earlier today, you know, on a good day I look at my four kids, and I bless God.  On a bad day, I look at Cindy and go, "Remind me, why did we do this?"

[laughter]

 Whether they were biological or not, "Why did we do this?"  I have a great friend who has three biological kids, and he asks the same question every day, you know?  So I think you have to come to that place.

 Dennis, you taught me this a long time ago – you're dying to self raising children, and if you adopt these little creatures, you know, you don't know where they're coming from emotionally. 

 Jesse is our first adopted child.  She's 17, the delight of my life.  Nobody makes me smile like Jesse; love her like crazy; she adores her daddy, even at 17.  She'll hug me and kiss me, you know, it's just a precious relationship.

 I remember when we adopted her, they gave us a list, and it said "What will you accept?"  And the list had things like cleft palate, Down syndrome, fetal alcohol trait, and I'm reading this going, "How do you answer these questions?" 

 Cindy and I prayed through it and said, "You know what?  If God gave us a Down syndrome child in utero, what would you do?  You would deal with it.  You would accept that son or daughter, and you'd love them like crazy and do all you can.  But when you adopt, they're asking you to make a decision.

Dennis: It's an interesting situation.

Michael: It's very bizarre.  And so we were wonderfully naïve, but God, in His kindness, put our family together, and, Dennis, I tell them that almost every single day because the abandonment issue, the identity issue –

Dennis: Yes, it's a huge thing.

Michael: It is always there.  You talk to adopted adults, and they will tell you, you know, they wrestle with that, many of them, to this day.

Bob: You know, couples who listen to us talk about the issue of adoption, hear us talk about 140 million orphans worldwide, and the fact that there is a dramatic social need for something to be done, and they say, "Well, we want to help."  How can a couple know when they've gone from that social justice, we want to help, to a point where they really are ready to assume a covenantal responsibility to raise those children?

Michael: Number one, I think you pray like crazy.  You've got to be lock-step as a couple, and Cindy and I learned that through each adoption.  Our first adoption, she was more pro.  It took me a while after we got Jesse home, there was never a doubt. 

 Secondly, talk to other couples who have adopted children and some complicated adoptions.  We're stupid in the body of Christ if we don't go to others who are four or five years ahead of us, and we did that.  And now couples come to us nonstop because we've got this little poster-child family, right? 

 And I say, "Look, you know, it is not easy.  Now, I don't want to scare you, but you've got to be sober and understand the ramifications."  We had a couple that had never had children, they were older, and they were talking about adopting three children out of the D.C. foster system.  I said, "Come spend the evening with the Easley's before you do this."

 And they came over to our house from the preparation of dinner to the mealtime referee to the bath to the devotions, the whole nine yards and then, you know, it's romantic.  And I said, "This is every night from now on." 

 And I think we need to sort of give each other a spiritual dope slap once in a while.

[laughter]

Dennis: Michael, I want you to speak to something that – well, we speak about here on FamilyLife Today on more than one occasion – racial reconciliation.  You adopted a biracial child.  The Gospel is all about reconciliation.  Reconciling us to God and giving us the hope of being reconciled to one another.  You stepped out and did something that those on both sides, racially, might question.

Michael: Oh, yeah.

Dennis: What are your thoughts about a biracial adoption?

Michael: Well, you know, we did get it from both sides, and I asked some African-American friends of mine who I love like crazy.  I said, "What do you guys think?  Tell me straight.  Tell me the truth," and we got varying opinions from them.  At the end of the day, you make a decision before God with your husband and wife lock-step on this thing. 

 I love Devon like crazy.  He is my son, and I don't make [pause] …

Dennis: Yeah, I understand, a little.

Michael: I had a leader's wife say to me when her daughter was dating an African-American gentleman, "Don't you think this is wrong?"

Dennis: Wow.

Michael: And I said to her, "Who is going to marry Devon?"  And she turned on her heel and walked away from me.  You know, Devon didn't opt to be biracial, right?  Devon had no say in the matter.  And I think it's the greatest privilege of my life to try and show him I love him unconditionally, and God loves me unconditionally.  I am an illegitimate orphan throwaway person, and Jesus Christ loved me.  Can I show that to him?  And if I can't, I've got no business being a dad.

Dennis: I've said many times here with our daughter, Deborah, I've looked Deborah in the eye, and I'd like to know how many times I've said this to her, "Deborah, 1,000 times out of 1,000," even on some of those dark days like you're speaking of, Michael, "Barbara and I would adopt you.  One thousand times out of 1,000."  This was God's will for her and for us in Christ Jesus.

 And, you know, having that confidence when you face a dark day, you can do it.  It doesn't mean it's not still going to be hard.

Michael: Well, and we have biological children who drive us crazy.  You know, we have biological children who get into drugs and sex and take left turns in life and those type of things.  There are no guarantees so you have to intellectually remind yourself of that, and you can't play the game, "This isn't my son or my daughter."

Dennis: Exactly.

Michael: It's like all of our adopted children that I say, "God put you in our family.  I am so thankful He put our family together."  Because I want them to hear it's not just about them individually; that this is a unit, this is a body here, and you see a little smile on their face once in a while, you see that little gleam in their eye, they're an Easley.  They're part of the clan.  And we want to reassure them over and over and over, at the end of the day only two things I can do for any child.  I can love them unconditionally and teach them of Jesus.

 And I have to repeat that over and over and over again with all my children.  No matter what you do …

Bob: You know, adolescents ask the question often, "Who am I?"  For a child who is adopted, is that question deeper and more profound than it is for a biological child?

Michael: Absolutely.  And because we have three, our table conversations are delightful sometime.  As one of them will find out something about a birth parent or there will be some connection perhaps.  Two of our three are pretty bent on meeting their birth parents, if possible, one day.  And we've told them, we will do whatever we can to facilitate that at the right time.

 And so when you're talking about that at the dinner table, it's natural for each child to be processing what does that mean for me?  And I think the more open you are, and I tell parents the more matter-of-fact you are about it, if you get defensive or irritated, you know, then you're toast.  But say, "Man, it's a great question.  I wonder about that, too."  And I think the identity issue is one they're going to deal with.

Dennis: I think they experience a double identity crisis.  It's the normal one of an adolescent but there is that added crisis of who am I because they're looking around and, as parents, we don't realize how many times we'll say to our biological children, "Oh, you get that from your mother," "Oh, you're just like me," and an adopted child is sitting there listening to the conversation and at that point they cannot enter in in the same way, and they go, "Where did I get that?" and "Who am I?" 

 I want to change our conversation a bit here because you were a pastor of a local church.  There is one other thing we can do as we talk about the crisis of orphans.  We did some research and found out that 80 million Americans have thought about adopting, and of those 80 million, overwhelmingly the number-one place those Americans look to for help and hope as they think about adopting is the church.

Michael: Yes.

Dennis: And so we pieced those two numbers together, and we said, "It's time to help the church be able to answer people's questions," and so we produced a book called "Launching an Orphan's Ministry in the Local Church" DVD along with it, it's a very simple, short book, eight steps in how you can do it.

 I personally believe one of the greatest ministries that starting a church after church across the country are laymen who are grabbing hold of this concept and saying, "You know what?  Maybe we can't adopt.  Maybe God's not calling us to adopt, but He has called us to care for the orphan, to go after the foster care child, and also be the champion for adoption in a local church."  Speak to that and challenge those who are listening right now to maybe be the leader in their local church alongside their pastor, championing the cause of the orphan.

Michael: Long before you all launched this great ministry, we had a little thing called James 1:27 in our church.

Dennis: You did?

Michael: And Cindy spearheaded that.  We had someone give us a little bit of money, and we were paying for home studies for couples who were freight train serious about adopting.  And our prayer was we'd adopt one or two kids a year in our local assembly.  And, in God's kindness a lot more were adopted.  I remember speaking in a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember conference in Boston telling our story.  And a year later this family showed up on the front row.  They had moved from Boston to Northern Virginia, and they had five children, stairsteps with glasses, sitting on the front row at Emmanuel with their Bibles in their laps.

 And I went down there an introduced myself, and they said, "We heard you speak in Boston, and we adopted these five kids as a result."

Bob: Wow.

Dennis: Wow.

Michael: And Cindy and I went, "Wait, wait, time, time."  You know, but the power of speaking the way you're speaking Dennis, and the local church.  We had a great ministry that supported one another.  You've got couples who have adopted, you've got couples who have done the Russia thing, the Korea thing, the China thing, the interracial thing, and you've got to have that body around you if you're going to do that.

Dennis: There is no better place than the local church.

Michael: It is.

Dennis: And about three years ago, we established a goal of 1,000 churches establishing an orphan care, adoption foster care ministry.  And right now we're right at 300.

Michael: Wow.

Dennis: You know what?  We've got two years to go in our goal of reaching 1,000, and we've heard from a lot of people, and they're doing this, and they're starting to multiply.  One of those churches that was on the front end has now see over 100 children adopted in their church, and they said their youth group and their Sunday school system looks like the United Nations.  It's a cool picture of what heaven is going to look like.

 I'd like to challenge a listener right now – are you one of those who needs to step forward and say, "I would like to be the champion in my church.  I'll go to the pastor, I'll explain it, but I'd like to take a step of faith."  You know, there are so many believers in the local church who never step out and ever see God use them in a significant way. 

 I'm going to tell you something – God is at work in unprecedented ways around orphans, and if you want to join Him, as Henry Blackaby says, "If you want to join God in His work, I can, on the basis of this book, right here, the Bible, I can promise you God is already at work in the midst of the orphan and those who need to be adopted in the foster care system and the local church, I believe, is the place where this needs to begin."

Bob: And there are a lot of different ways that folks can respond.  We've got a resource we've put together called "Ten Ways Every Christian can Care for the Orphan and Waiting Child."  Adoption is one of those ways, but most folks aren't going to adopt.  That doesn't mean that those folks don't need to be involved in caring for orphans.

 In fact, we've put a whole kit together that includes that resource on how Christians can care for orphans, along with a book that lays out eight steps toward adoption for those families who do want to consider that possibility. 

 There is another resource we've put together called launching an orphan's ministry in your church.  It's a book that comes with a DVD that you can use to help encourage others to join you in making this a ministry in your local church.  And then there's a DVD of a message that features, Dennis, you and Barbara talking about the needs of orphans all around the world, and you can use this, again, as a way to raise the awareness of people in your community, in your church, in whatever setting you're in, raise their awareness to the needs of the orphan all around the world.

 We want to make this kit available to as many folks as possible this week, so we're making it available to anyone who calls or goes online to request it and makes a donation of any amount for the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  Anything you can do to help us cover the cost of getting this out to you and help cover the costs associated with this ministry as well.

 Go to our website, FamilyLife.com, click the red button you see in the middle of the screen that says "Go."  It will take you to an area of the site where you can request the Hope for Orphans kit and, again, it's available for a donation of any amount.  As you're filling out the donor form there, when you come to the keycode box on the form, just type in the word "orphan" so that we know that you'd like to get this kit, and we'll get it sent out to you.

 Or if it's simpler, just call us at 1-800-FLTODAY.  Tell us that you'd like the Hope for Orphans kit, and we'll send it out to you for a donation of any amount to help us cover the costs on this.  Our website is FamilyLife.com, our toll-free number again – 1-800-358-6329.  That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and we hope that as many of you as possible get in touch with us this week and then once you get this kit, you'll look through it and decide what does God want me to do next and how can I get something going in my community or in my church or what can we do in our family?  And adoption may be one of those things that God would lead you to do.

 In fact, I noticed, Michael, when we started our conversation on this subject, you reached in your Bible, and you took out a picture, and you set it on top of your Bible, and it's a picture of you and Cindy and your children.  Why'd you do that?

Michael: It's the most important thing in my life.  I mean, He saved me, and He's given me three adopted souls and one biological soul and the best partner in the world, Cindy, and that's where it starts and stops.  If I fail here, everything I've done is for naught.  And I'll die for them, I'll die for them.

Dennis: Yes.  You know, Swindoll said it's at home among family members that life makes up its mind.  That's one of my favorite quotes.  There's a lot of life that happens right there in a family.

Michael: Yup.

Bob: FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. 

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