Tuesday, July 13

Church helps families with adoptions

This is a heart pulling article from the Tuscaloosa News this past Sunday about my home church, University Church of Christ in Tuscaloosa.

Church helps families with adoptions

University Church of Christ ministry helps families with the adoption process
By Tiffany Stanton Special to The Tuscaloosa News Published: Sunday, July 11, 2010 at 3:30 a.m.

Logan and Lindsey Thrasher know enough about international adoption law to teach a class.

By May they’d already been preparing to wait at least a year and make some extended visits abroad to bring home the one-year-old boy they’d expected to adopt from Uganda.
But last week, the Northport couple filled an unfinished nursery with twin girls born May 4. And Lindsey Thrasher says she’s not sure how she and her husband would have handled the twists and turns of their adoption experience without the prayers and support of the 13 other families at their church who were also in the process of adopting.

“When the opportunity to adopt the girls came up, we had many people on their knees in prayer,” Thrasher said, recalling the way others involved in University Church of Christ’s orphan care ministry responded to their news. “They were so encouraging and also challenged us to be putting our beliefs into practice.”

The other families in the group knew that she and her husband had decided to adopt from Uganda. The couple had shared their progress as they completed the paperwork and research necessary for an international adoption.

So when Thrasher received a phone call on May 3, asking if she and her husband would like to adopt twins expected in July, the other families were able to help the couple make their decision. And when the twins were born the very next day, they urged the Thrashers to search their hearts and Bibles for an answer.

That’s exactly what Duane Dixon, the church’s campus minister, hoped would happen when he brought the families together in the ministry, created to help adopting couples keep their faith in God. Dixon said the process is one Christians are called to endure.

“Faith-filled churches must take the lead, and should be the No. 1 advocate for children without families,” he said in a recent e-mail. “The very scriptures which should direct our lives as Christians could not be more clear — the people of God, as described in the Bible, are charged to care for orphans.”

He says he became convinced of the need — and of Christians’ call to fill it — after a night of prayer in spring 2009, when his wife, Jenny, said she wanted to adopt. He wasn’t so sure, until he awoke that morning convinced that the care of orphans was a Christian duty as well as a joy.

In the following months, as he, his wife and three biological children began the process of adopting an infant girl from Ethiopia, he discovered that several others in their church were also adopting.

“It wasn’t like a bunch of us got together and said ‘Let’s all adopt,’ ” said Tesney Davis, who, along with her husband, comprised one of the first couples to join what had originally been a support group. “It was many of us just realizing that we were all going through the same thing at the same time. And I strongly believe it’s the Holy Spirit working.”

Dixon said he’s modeling the church’s orphan care ministry after one begun at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif.

The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham also has an orphan care program, Dixon said. But he says he doesn’t know of any others, and he’s hoping that University Church of Christ might help lead the way.

“Many families choose not to adopt because the task simply seems too daunting,” he said. “This new ministry team hopes to blaze a new trail and create a support network that makes adoption completely possible for many more.”

Lindsey Thrasher said the group’s prayers and support alone might have been enough to carry her and her husband through their adoption experience.

But the families in the ministry went a step further, buying two new cribs and a roomful of nursery necessities for the twins, then lending the couple a van so they could bring both girls home from North Carolina. And Dixon says the group has started a fund so they might be able to help others with the costs of the adoption itself.

Davis hopes the ministry will introduce many more Christians to the idea of adoption and convince some to make a commitment. She wants more people to think about adopting children with special needs, as and her husband Greg are doing. The child they’re adopting lives in Russia and has Down syndrome. Davis and her husband are waiting for the documents they will need to set a date and meet him, but they’ve been at this point before — and it’s a story Davis isn’t not sure she wants to tell.

“It’s tough, because we don’t want to scare people away from adoption,” she said. “But I think that one of the things that is most true about adoption is that it’s a rollercoaster ride, and a group like what we’ve started here is a wonderful thing, and makes the ride so much easier, because we have the support of others who are going through some of the same things.”

The Davises were eight months into the process of adopting a little boy named Sergey when they received a phone call. Tesney Davis said they were excited to hear the phone ring.

“We got the call, and we thought it would be our travel date,” she recalled. “But it was our agent telling us that the adoption had fallen through.”

She said it felt as though she’d experienced a death, and they were crushed. They grieved for days, but the support came pouring in, as did reminders that they were doing this for a higher purpose.

“We really feel that adoption is close to the heart of God, and Satan does all he can to make the process difficult,” Davis said. “So we face it with that kind of mentality, as a group prepared for challenges.”

Families in the orphan care ministry called, emailed and prayed for the Davises. Their encouragement helped the couple, who have a biological son, decide to try again with another child from the same area.

“I think God takes care of things,” Davis said, describing the feeling of peace she said she’s felt ever since. “You’ll face difficulties and hiccups, but God will sustain you.”

The Thrashers agree.

Lindsey Thrasher said she and her husband are thrilled with the way things turned out, and hope to continue in their effort to adopt a boy from Uganda once the twins are settled in. But the couple has realized that even good news can turn the world upside down.

“We had learned so much about international adoption, and we were prepared for a long wait,” she said of the day a distant relative called to tell her that she knew a young girl who was looking to place twins. “It was a little shocking, but the more we prayed about it, the more we realized we wanted to pursue it.”

She and others in the ministry said they hope their adoption stories will educate the community about the ups and downs of adoption. And Dixon wants to spread the word about what he sees as a world crisis.
His night of prayer opened his eyes, he says, and led him to conduct extensive research and make a congregational confession regarding orphan care.

He discovered that, according to some estimates, 12 million orphans are added each day to the 145 million that exist throughout the world. As he read his Bible, he said he saw more evidence that Christians are charged with their care.

Psalm 10:14, for instance, told him, “The helpless put their trust in you. You defend the orphans.” Psalm 68:5 says “Father to the fatherless, defender of widows — this is God, whose dwelling is holy.”

His reading also convinced him that by caring for orphans, Christians are imitating God.

Deuteronomy issues the reminder, he says: “True justice must be given to foreigners living among you and to orphans ... always remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God redeemed you from Slavery.”

“We believe God has adopted us into his family through the work of Jesus,” Dixon said. “And so, if we are to imitate our creator, we must be people who adopt and show concern for orphans. How can we not? It’s our own story.”