Author, KnowOrphans, (2014)
Serves as Vice President of Engagement for Lifeline Children's Services, a full service adoption and orphan care ministry serving families and children in the United States and around the world
Cofounder of international orphan-hosting ministry Promise 139
Former Seminary Professor for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS), Bryan College and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Received a BBA, University of Memphis
MA, Christian Education, NOBTS
PhD from NOBTS
Father to three transnationally adopted children
Why Adoption Matters to Jesus
The 700 Club
After years of struggling with infertility, Rick and his wife, Denise, felt they were being drawn toward adoption. Initially Denise was pursuing the idea while Rick was still not certain adoption was right for them. Then Rick took a look at what the Bible had to say about the subjects of orphan care and adoption. “What I saw as I studied Paul’s writings on adoption was that God is an adoptive Father. He is my adoptive Father. He is the adoptive Father of all who have repented and followed Jesus. In Christ, I am the adopted heir of the Most High God. I found myself grateful that He had shown none of the hesitation in adopting me that I was showing about adopting a child,” reveals Rick.
After discovering that adoption and orphan care came straight from the heart of God, Rick’s previous doubts melted away. He and Denise decided they would indeed adopt. Although they had no idea where to start, looking back they can see that God was with them each step they took. In 2003, they adopted their first child Erick from the Ukraine at eighteen months old. Six years later, they added their second son, Nicholas, who was seven years old and also from the Ukraine. Then in 2011, their soon-to-be 15 year old daughter, Nastia, came home from the Ukraine. Although Rick was overjoyed with the adoption of their children, he also felt a deep sense of sadness for all the children they couldn’t adopt and bring home. God has used Rick’s concern for these orphans to fuel his passion for the fatherless.
CRITICISMS OF THE ORPHAN-CARE MOVEMENT
The evangelical orphan care and adoption movement has attracted criticism over the past few years. Rick discusses the following criticism the movement has received:
- Critique #1: The crisis is inflated by adoption demand of evangelical Christians – adoption by foreigners, who are often westerners, of children from developing nations presents challenges. The pressures on the nation’s social services and legal system are substantial. However, when there is viable adoption or foster-care options in a child’s native country there is no arguable reason they should not be transnationally adopted.
- Critique #2: Rampant corruption in transnational adoption - We cannot deny that corruption has existed and does exist in transnational adoption. “I think God has given the church the resources to come up with better answers,” shares Rick. One productive change that has already been made is the passage and implementation of the Universal Accreditation Act of 2012. Adoption agencies that provide transnational adoption services from the United States have to be accredited.
- Critique #3: Transracial adoption to combat racist history – We should adopt because we love children and because Christ loves us. “I do not advocate adopting transracially out of some ill-conceived racial reconciliation plot, says Rick.” We should adopt transracially because God is colorblind and matters of race and culture are outlying concerns according to Scriptures.
- Critique #4: The over diagnosis of foreign adoptees with attachment issues – As a parent of a child who struggles with issues related to attachment, Rick takes these comments very seriously. To families who adopt older, institutionalized orphans, he would say, there will be a cost. “We serve a God who is in the business of redemption, taking old things and making them completely new creations. God can do that with children who have started their lives in tough places,” he says.
MOBILIZE THE CHURCH
Many orphans aren’t adoptable to westerners, but according to Scriptures we are responsible for them. The needs of orphans around the globe are both vast and complex. “As believers, we all have a responsibility to take the gospel to all nations and to care for orphans…adopting is only one way that a few people care for orphans.” In order for the church to understand and become passionate about orphan care and adoption, it is essential that the Bible be taught differently. Often times the church has approached the Bible as if it were written to fix our problems. Rick says, “It wasn’t.” The Bible was written to reveal God and His story of redemption for His glory. When the storyline of Scripture is taught in this manner, orphan care just becomes logical and natural rather than being a forced aspect of church programming. In order to raise awareness/funding for gospel-centered orphan care in the church Rick offers the following suggestions:
- Participate in Orphan Sunday on the first Sunday in November.
- Host an information session after church or include an insert about the global orphan crisis in your church’s bulletin.
- Host a 5K fun run on the weekend of Orphan Sunday.
- Take up a special offering on Father’s Day with the proceeds going to fund adoptions.
- Look for global partners – mission trips are a great way to establish a relationship with orphans if your church does have a long-term plan for involvement.
- Teach orphan care related skills in the church – train people as ESL (English as a second language) teachers and tutors to assist adoptive families and orphan ministry partners.
- Teach preadoption classes to give families an opportunity to explore whether adoption is really for them.
Take advocacy training by organizations such as International Justice Mission (IJM) to teach you how to engage with government and business leaders to be a voice for the voiceless widows and orphans of the world.
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