"They love one another, and from the widows, they do not
turn away their esteem; they deliver the orphan from him who treats him harshly … And when they see a stranger, they take him into their homes and rejoice
over him as a very brother."
The Apology of Aristides the Philosopher, 125 A.D.,
quoted in Orphanology.
The gospel & adoption
By Stacy Long
"They love …" With these words, Aristides, an
eminent Athenian statesman, began his description of the Christians of the
early church - those who plucked unwanted children from garbage dumps,
children who would have been trapped into lives of slavery and sexual
trafficking or left to die. From the earliest days of the church, Christians
have remained at the forefront of those who step out to rescue these most
vulnerable of the world's citizens.
Almost 2,000 years later, Tony and Kim Merida traveled to
the Ukraine to adopt two children. They returned home a family of six. Their
two children had become a sibling group of four. Some months later, an Ethiopian
son joined them, transforming their family from zero to five children in 15
The most vulnerable people on earth
While the orphan receives heartfelt compassion in the
modern scene, the plight of the fatherless is still desperate. Countless children,
every day, in every country, are abandoned at orphanages and on streets;
countless more are surrendered because of parental neglect and abuse, and even
more become victims of human traffickers.
"Orphans are among the least powerful and most vulnerable
people on earth." Dr. Tony Merida said. "They are vulnerable really from a
very early age, they are vulnerable in the orphanage and they are vulnerable,
definitely, when they transition out of the orphanage. An orphan does not have
a voice. No one sees them on the news at night, and they are very weak and easy
to take advantage of."
Merida, pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, North
Carolina, and a professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, speaks
on adoption throughout the country and co-authored the book Orphanology.
Waging war for the fatherless
A Christian understanding of adoption and the gospel
message is vital to waging an effective war for the fatherless. What led the
Christians to take orphans into their homes in the first century should
motivate the Christian to intercede for orphans today, not by whitewashing the
evil that wreaks such horrible devastation, but by recognizing that it is only
through adoption by God that sin does not destroy our own lives.
In the midst of Satan's fierce attack, Christians
became the brethren of Christ. In the same way, the love and grace of God is
extended to the fatherless to bring them into a family "after the spirit and
Is adoption plan B?
However, some view adoption as a way to "fix" what is
wrong - to sidestep infertility, to do a favor to a child, to make the world
better. While such motivations do not make adoption any less praiseworthy, it
does little to distinguish adoption within the church from adoption in any other
segment of society.
"I think a lot of people do view adoption as plan B,"
Merida said. "Most people who think of adoption want a little baby who is the
same color as them. I think that is where the gospel can really transform
Special needs adoption
Without this gospel perspective, many of the most
vulnerable of orphans are overlooked. In adoption terminology such children are
defined as "special needs," which refers to older children, sibling groups,
racial minorities or the disabled.
In the world of orphans, a landscape characterized by
those who share one preeminent need - a family, Merida agreed that special
needs orphans are more difficult to place.
"Couples should not enter the adoption process with a
dream baby in mind," he said. "There are no dream babies in adoption. I
would rather see couples walk in and say, 'We are going to see where the Lord
leads us. We want to be wide open to any race, any age and any health
The recognition that adoption takes place by the hand of
God makes it clear that a child enters a family because God placed him or her
there and defined who that child will be. In this way, there is no distinction
between those who enter a family through birth and those who enter it through
However, adopting any child requires what Merida
described as the "radical reorientation of our lives for the sake of the
fatherless. The real cost is reorienting your life. It calls for a
reorientation of our lives, an adjustment of all that we hold dear, which is
really our time and treasure."
The church at the center
In the end, it must be recognized that the real issue is
not social improvement, fulfilling one's desires or rescuing the destitute,
but of fighting against Satan's war on families, on life and on the gospel.
This is why the church must be at the center of adoption.
Merida pointed out that leading the adoption movement are "churches with
pastors who are speaking in favor of adoption." Adoption should begin within
the church, and the church should support and minister to the family before,
during and after the adoption process.
There are many ways the church can fulfill the ministry
of orphan care. While not every Christian will adopt a child, all can participate
in the adoption of physical and spiritual orphans around the world. "I don't
think that every Christian is called to adopt," Merida clarified. "But
every Christian is called to display the adopting love and grace and mercy of
God, caring for the poor, the widow and orphan."
Churches can care for
orphans through foster care, orphan hosting programs, interim care and
transitional care. Merida's Orphanology provides a wealth of resources and
tips for creating orphan ministry within the church, as Christians of the 21st
century, like their first century forbearers, continue to stand at the front
lines and display the vivid reality of God's grace to those who live
face-to-face with the horror of sin and brokenness.
Orphan care resources
Find a way to participate
Christian Alliance for Orphans
6723 Whittier Ave
McLean, VA 22101
Create orphan care ministry in the church
Lifesong for Orphans
Bethany Christian Services
From Tony Merida
A real life 'Paper Dream'
Paper Dream is the first original short film written and
produced by American Family Studios, the new moviemaking division of AFA. It's
the story of a young couple dealing with infertility. AFA received this recent
email from Kevin and Michele H.:
"My wife and I were blessed by AFS' movie Paper
Dream. We were amazed by how it was our life on film. We struggled with
infertility and wondered where God was in the midst of it. God led us to adopt
a little special needs boy from China. … After our first adoption experience,
we became addicted to experiencing parenthood through God's blessing of
adoption and returned to China and adopted our daughter, Lydia."
Follow their journey at journeytolevi.blogspot.com and
Paper Dream is available at store.afa.net or 877-927-4917.