What If We Treated Foster/Adoptive Parents as Missionaries?

I’ve long held the belief that adoptive/foster parents are missionaries. When I tell people about our international adoption, I like to say that not only did I visit the country, but I also brought some natives home.

This true for all adoptive/foster parents. We don’t clock out and go back to our dorm or hut or whatever the missionary lives in. We also don’t get on a plane and go back to the comfort of our own home.

What if We Treated Foster Parents as Missionaries_

As foster or adoptive parents, our home is a long-term (forever) mission base. We bring these kids who have been discarded by the culture, hurt by their parents, and harmed by trauma into our homes. There is rarely a respite.

I talked to Elizabeth King, a full-time missionary with twenty-two years under her belt. When she and her husband were presented with the opportunity to adopt two girls, they said, “More ministry? Yes!” They were up for it. Hadn’t they been practicing this for years? She says:

“But we were not really ready for the total onslaught of doing ministry right from the very core of who we were. Always before we had ministered outside of our home or had temporary visitors in our home. Our residence was a place of refuge from the rigors of ministry. But now, by accepting these broken girls into our lives – there was nowhere left to retreat to. Nowhere to relax. No escape from the desperate needs and destructive behaviors of the two hurting souls. We found that all our weaknesses, which we could hide pretty well in the course of normal ministry, were now staring us in the face every day.”

If we change the way we think about adoptive/foster parents and slide them into the missionary category, there will be changes in four areas:

Our Prayers

First, adoptive/foster parents will be prayed for more often. Think of how often we pray for missionaries. We tack their photos up on the fridge to remind us to pray for them daily. If we see adoptive/foster parents as missionaries, we will do the same for them.

  • Pray for safety. Adoptive/foster families need a hedge of protection prayed around them. They are in the midst of a battle.

“The protection of children isn’t charity. It isn’t part of a political program fitting somewhere between tax cuts and gun rights or between carbon emission caps and a national service corps. It’s spiritual warfare.” – Russell Moore

  • Pray that they can minister the gospel. It’s tough to be in the middle of the battle and keep ministering the gospel at the same time. While there may not be actual bullets or bombs, foster and adoptive parents face many spiritual and emotional battles.
  • Pray that adoptive/foster parents will be able to teach and reach across cultural lines. Kids that have come from hard places have come from a different culture. Many of them have come from a culture of abuse and neglect. They don’t speak the same language or believe the same things. Most often when a kiddo is being fostered and he is brought to church with the family, the assumption is that he will immediately speak the language of religion. He won’t.
  • Pray that “the natives” will trust them enough to listen. Once these kiddos walk through the doors of our homes, we expect them to feel safe and secure and attach immediately. They won’t — and beyond that, they can’t. When kids come home through foster care or adoption, the foster parent isn’t automatically held in high esteem. Mom and dad aren’t regarded as trustworthy. They may be viewed as just another pit stop for kids with a garbage bag full of belongings. These kiddos may be thinking that these people will hurt/abandon/molest them too. These kiddos have never felt safe. Why would they feel safe with foster or adoptive parents they just met?

“With “normal” families, you can assume that if they haven’t asked prayer for something specific, they probably don’t have any really urgent needs. But foster/adoptive families kind of habituate to a higher level of chaos and urgency, and you feel like this is what they signed up for, so they won’t usually ask prayer for specific things.” – Kristin Peters, adoptive parent

Our Expectations

If we really, fully understand the full-time ministry that is fostering or adopting, we won’t be shocked when these families aren’t at church every Sunday. We would just assume they are doing their job.

Sometimes foster/adoptive parents are so deep in the trenches, they can’t escape. They’re working so hard on attachment with these kids that any break — even just to come to church — can destroy the work they have done. When my newbies first came home, we didn’t go to church or homeschool group for a while. After a while, I heard the gentle grumblings of the leadership wondering when I was coming back to teach.

When we did come back, I kept my kids with me. It was my primary job to attach to them. All of my other commitments were secondary.

Our Contributions

If we view foster and adopted parents as missionaries, we will do everything we can to make sure they are equipped spiritually, emotionally, and physically before going on their “mission.”

When my family traveled to Poland to adopt our four, we had Rubbermaid containers of supplies, suitcases, and books. On the second trip, the children’s church filled those same containers with supplies to leave at the orphanage for the kids and staff.

Missionary families need physical supplies. They also need training. Would you travel to another country to preach the gospel if you didn’t speak the language or at least have an interpreter? And wouldn’t you go to a Christian source for training instead of a secular one?

So, why don’t we offer spiritual and physical training from a Christian perspective for our adoptive/foster missionaries? It does exist. Why not offer it within the four walls of the church?

Our Involvement

Finally, if we view foster/adoptive parents as missionaries, we will consider it an honor to invest in their journey.

“God asks us to reach out to those who need Him. Adoptive families have done this in a more sacrificial way than most people could even comprehend. It is the right thing for the body of Christ to support those who have given themselves so fully to the care of the little ones God has sent them.” – Elizabeth King, missionary and adoptive mom

This is probably the most difficult one for the body of Christ to swallow. I’ve been told that since I chose to adopt, I just need to suck it up, so to speak. In case you are wondering, I did not receive or ask for money from the church to fund my adoption. But I sure wish it were available for other families. We pay monthly support to missionaries so they can do their thing. Why not do the same for foster/adoptive families on some level?

And there are other ways to invest in foster care/adoption, too.

“You’re either called to bring a child into your home or support those who do! – Real Life Foster Mom

You can take them dinner, offer to babysit, buy school supplies, get them a gift card, buy Christmas gifts, or — my favorite — take a foster/adoptive Mom out for coffee and LISTEN. Not all investments require tons of money. What they do take, however, is time. Sacrifice a bit of your time for those who have surrendered all of theirs.

“Adoptive parents are like missionaries on steroids. There is no furlough from this job, no let-up in sight. If missionaries should be honored and supported, adoptive families – especially those who have adopted children from trauma – need our love, our respect, and our support just as much – and likely more. Maybe finances aren’t an issue. But finding time for friendship when you know your friends will never understand what you’re going through anyway and the demands at home are overwhelming – it’s just so hard.” – Elizabeth King

 

 

 

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Adoption – GEESH… It’s a Wild Ride

* Guest post by Kylie Gray

Adoption, geesh! It’s a wild ride.

When we first brought our boys back home almost two years ago, we didn’t have a CLUE what the heck to expect. No one can prepare you for adopting a 6-year-old and two 4-year-olds. I remember when we first got the boys being in dire need of someone to come alongside me and show me the ropes, or so I thought. In fact, not having someone who had gone through the same thing brought me closer to the Lord than ever before. He had gone before me and that’s all I needed.

When people ask about our adoption…

I get asked often about our adoption, whether people are curious about their own adoption journey and wanting advice or just wanting to hear our story of how we did it, I always say the same thing:

1. Make sure your spouse is all in as much as you! I cannot stress this enough. If my husband wasn’t wanting this as much as me then anytime there was conflict or an issue to come up, our marriage or adoption would have failed. Start together on the same team so no matter what comes up you can tackle it together. And by golly, crap will hit the fan, it’s a matter of when not if.

2. DO IT! It’s a big step and people are always a little leary when it comes to officially pull the plug. At the least go take the intro class, its free so what is the harm. I believe adoption is not right for everyone, but I always encourage people to find out if it is.

My Biggest piece of Advice…

3. PRAY! That’s it. If you are like me adoption will drive you to pray more than ever. It’s changed me. I now have 3 children but that’s not the only reason why I am different. I believe my prayer time changed my whole life. Relationship with my husband and children certainly, but also my extended family and close friends. I am still a workin’ on a lot, don’t get me wrong but, heck I have come along way.

Finally, I came to terms with this…

And lastly…..

4. Okay, this is the first time I am saying this out loud to anyone, but it needs to be heard and will be added to my repertoire from now on. When these children come into your home they come with hurts of all sorts. I don’t mean physical hurts, that can happen too, I mean emotional hurts of baggage, trauma, triggers, and so on and so on. You want it to go away. Just leave!!! I wanted to pretend it didn’t exist for a good solid… oh who I am kidding. This week, this week is when the Lord really spoke to me and allowed me to see what I didn’t want to see for the past 2 years. Their baggage doesn’t just go away. I heard on The Whole House podcast this week Kathleen saying how I am feeling, “their past doesn’t go away, as much as I wanted it to” I am paraphrasing here, but essentially that’s how I feel. I want their horrible past to vanish! But it doesn’t.  And that…. Is…. OKAY! It’s okay for them to be able to have the feelings that come with that too. It’s okay for them to have triggers. And you know what?? It’s not your FAULT! It has taken me this long to be able to come to terms with this, it’s hard, man. I love my children and I hate seeing pain come back onto their faces. I didn’t cause the pain and didn’t have any CONTROL, that’s why I wanted it to go away. But they have the pain, nevertheless. Not taking their actions and mainly behaviors personally is one of my biggest struggles still. Like I said, this week I finally let the Lord show me this, imagine if I had allowed this into my life from the get-go. I know one thing, it sure would have saved me a lot of embarrassment, guilt, anxiety, worry, and tears!

 

So, is adoption worth it?

Adoption is 100 million percent worth it, I would never take it back if could. Although at the beginning you might second or the twentieth guess yourself, but don’t give up!

“Trust the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”

-Proverbs 3:5

Listen to Kylie’s podcast and read her bio below!

Episode 67

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I am Kylie Gray, 29 years old, I married Trey, my college sweetheart. We live on a small 5-acre homestead in Central Oregon with our 3 boys! We adopted all three of our boys out of the foster care system here in Oregon about 2 years ago. It’s been a wild crazy road, but totally worth it! We keep busy by fixing up our old farmhouse, taking care of our growing population of farm animals, trying to figure out gardening, all while homeschooling all 3 of our boys! Come follow along with our journey on my blog blackwhiteandthegrays.com and Instagram/Facebook at Black White and the Grays.

 

https://blackwhiteandthegrays.com/

Peace in the Process

I was going to share a post about the Thanksgiving holiday today. I had it written up in my notebook, ready to type up and add a cute graphic. I changed my mind when I saw Kristin Hill Taylor’s book, Peace in the Process, kindle version is free today! I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to support another adoptive parent and author.

Kristin runs an online support group that I belong to. She is an encourager and an activist for adoptive parents. She rocks.

This is her story of the heartache of infertility followed by the blessing of adoption! She found peace in the process. ❤️ Also, weaved into her book are little writings of other adoptive Moms (including me).😍Get your copy today!

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(Click on image to go to Amazon and grab your free Kindle copy!)

Here’s my excerpt from her book: Make sure you get your copy to read Kristin’s story and hear from other Moms like me!

 

In Their Words :: Kathleen Guire

Adopting an older child is like reading a novel from the middle instead of the beginning. We parents enter in the middle of the story. The child, or children in my case, have a history. Their history usually has trauma. Child development expert Dr. Karyn Purvis calls referred to them, as “children from hard places.”

My children were just that; they didn’t have a picture-perfect beginning. They had two years of orphanage living under their belts to boot. When my four adopted children “came home” from Poland to the Guire household in West Virginia, they had nothing to their names, physically, but so much emotional baggage that it barely fit through the doorway. These beautiful, half-written stories entered our household with their survival mode in full swing.

My three biological children were learning the language of grace as my adopted children learned the language of family. It was an interesting dance. Some days it flowed like milk and honey in the Promised Land and other days we seemed to be lost in the wilderness. But we persevered. We laughed and cried together. We fought the demons of their pasts linked arm in arm and often fist to fist.

What does adoption look like later? With sixteen years of our forever family behind us and most of my children grown into adults, I’d say it looks good on the Guires.

My bios have come to me and thanked me for adopting. It has given them a sensitivity to pain in others they would not have had otherwise. When one son took a job in a homeless shelter, he had compassion built in from early life that poured out of him into relationships he formed there. The residents could tell he cared.

My adopted children have thanked me, all but the youngest (give him time). Truth be told, I didn’t adopt for a showering of thanksgiving. I did it to build a forever family. However, it is a true sign of maturity and healing my children – all of my children – recognize the gift of adoption. It is the gift of grace offered one day, healing another and daily dying to self. Isn’t that what family is?

Kathleen Guire is a mother of seven, writer, teacher, and encourager who blogs at thewholehouse.org.

Peace in the Process and Thanksgiving!

kristin hill taylor head shotKristin Taylor is guest posting today, visiting from kristinhilltaylor.com. Kristin is the author of Peace in the Process

The same year my middle-child Ben was born and adopted into our family, our small group from church started a tradition. I’m not sure we knew it was going to be a tradition, but this group – equal parts kids and adults – gathered around a table for a Thanksgiving meal.

That was 2009. And, actually, Greg and I didn’t get to go because Ben was born on that Monday afternoon. We brought him home Tuesday afternoon, just hours before they had our first Thanksgiving. Not only did we not go, but my friend Sarah – who had a boy just shy of a month old – made the green bean casserole I was supposed to bring. And then our friends brought us plates overflowing with delicious food. We weren’t at the actual table with them that first year, but we were with them and they were with us.

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Community works that way.

Four years later, we still gathered around the table for a Thanksgiving meal, and it was when I broke out my china plates for the first time. For more than eleven years, that china has been sitting around, supposedly waiting for a “special occasion.” Truth be told, I was persuaded to register for the china and really wouldn’t regret had I not added it. But I have it. And I decided having it sit there was pointless.

Really, everyday community is a special occasion.

We’re not technically in an official small group with these people, but they are our community. Together, we’ve mourned and prayed and dreamed and hoped and planned and played and cheered and cried and laughed.

My girlfriends even washed, by hand, the china plates I probably would have put in the dishwasher. They’re into the ordinary details like that. They’re helpful like that. We’re in this life together like that.

In 2013, I snapped a picture of the nine kids who ranged in age from seven months to seven years and were gathered for the Fifth Annual Thanksgiving with Friends. I noticed Ben being part of the group in his school uniform, little blue shirt. He was a day old when this group first gathered around a table, literally, to give thanks for how we gather around the table, figuratively, with each other in our daily lives. He’s grown up knowing those other kids who surround him on the couch and their parents. He’s grown up in community.

In 2016, the kid contingent had grown to eleven for our Eighth Annual Thanksgiving with Friends. I still didn’t have a clever name for the gathering, but we still had each other, even though one family had moved several hours away. That was the year we traded the china for paper plates – and nobody cared.

God made Greg, Cate, Ben, Rachel, and me a family. But He’s expanded our family because we’re part of His family.

Truth be told, this community amazes me. God built community around me with these families and others when I wondered if it would happen. He surprised us with community in a town I wasn’t sure would be able to offer us new friends. Some friends have moved. Other friendships have changed with the normal rhythm of life. We’ve made new friends and kept the old.

 

Thankfully, that community continues to happen right here around my table.
*This is an excerpt from Kristin Hill Taylor’s new book, “Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family.” Kristin believes in seeking God as the author of every story and loves swapping these stories with friends on her porch. She lives in Murray, Kentucky, with her husband and three kids and shares stories at kristinhilltaylor.com.

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Book link – bit.ly/PeaceInTheProcess

 

Getting to Know You- Our Adoption Story in a Nutshell

“A tiny plane blipped across a map of endless ocean at the front of the cabin. I gripped the plush blue arms rests. I battled claustrophobia while my three children, courageous and ready for this overseas adventure, raided the snack cart every time it squeezed past.  My husband Jerry snoozed. It was November 1999.

Focus on the goal, I commanded myself. You are going to adopt your new children.

I grabbed my purse and fished out the precious Polaroids of Damian, Gregory and Ania, sent airmail from the orphanage. The prospective members of the Guire forever family looked directly at the camera, as if staring straight at me instead of the lawyer who had snapped the photos in a hallway of the orphanage:

Ania, a pumpkin-faced four-year-old gripping the drapes behind her, willing them to swallow her up; Gregory, a Peter Panish five-year-old sporting an Indian feather cowlick and mischievous eyes; Damian, a somber faced seven-year-old with a worried soul in a young body.

What compelled me to board a plane, fly to a foreign country and adopt strangers?

God in His wisdom built the foundation of society on the family: Adam, Eve, a beautiful perfect home, and the command to be fruitful and multiply. Adam and Eve ate the only forbidden fruit and sin entered the world–the great divorce of heaven and earth. The first family was torn apart.  Adam and Eve were ripped from the garden and from the connection with their heavenly Father”

Adoption is like walking in the middle of the movie and taking a seat. You didn’t see the beginning. You’re not exactly sure what sort of plot or family  you stepped into.  This paragraph gives you a bit of my story and you have joined me in the middle of it.

Jerry and I had the seed of adoption in our hearts when we married in 1985.  We were in the midst of communications with a  pregnant teen mom to adopt her infant (early in our marriage). She changed her mind at the last minute.

Ten years and three kids later, we opened the door to adoption again. We started with phone calls, information packets and not a lot of headway. Then an adoption coordinator called us from Huminska’s Anioly and asked us some pointed questions, “Are you going to fill out the paper work? Will you take three children?”

We said, “Yes!” to three and headed down the adoption road at full speed. Of course anyone who has traversed the adoption road knows that means at a snail’s pace most of the time. And yet, every time we filled out a document or put our finger prints on paper or had another visit for the home study, we felt as if we were one step closer to those children.

Two weeks before our travel date, we got a call from our adoption coordinator,Tracy, “there’s a baby!  A younger sibling! Do you want him?”

“Of course!” We couldn’t imagine leaving the little on behind. Tracy didn’t know the sex of the baby or if he was eligible for adoption. She only knew through some research on the attorney’s end and a question while interviewing Damian who asked, “what about the baby?”

The judge said “NO!” to our pursuing the adoption of the infant. He was easier to adopt out and other Polish couple should get the chance. The Guire family flew to Poland with INS approval to bring back four children.

Christmas in Wheeling
Back row: Amerey, Damian, Audrey 

Front row: Hunter, Gregory, Ania and Rafal

The first meeting in Warsaw with our attorneys in a hotel lobby was tense. Jerry asked about the baby. “Forget about the baby! Focus on the three you came to adopt!”

We couldn’t let it go. We prayed. It was all we could do. We were in a foreign country with no power, no say in what would happen next.

“The next day dawned gray and cold, just like the one before. I felt as if I had entered an old black and white movie and I hoped it wasn’t a Hitchcock. I packed everything back in the suitcases and we hauled the luggage down to the lobby. We were traveling with Walter and Bartek  to Pietrokow, where we would meet the Director of Orphans.

Walter was already surly-faced when he arrived. He rushed us out of the lobby into the stinging gray air. I was stuffed in the back of a small taxi with a seat belt embedded in my hipbone and a child on my lap. The windows remained permanently fogged, blocking my view of the city we were leaving and then the countryside as it flew by. My children, tired from the previous day, settled back into their seats and ventured an occasional, “How much longer?’

When dad came to pick us kids up for summer visitation, the departure was swift.  We packed our bags in the trunk of his current car and rushed down the lane, leaving a trail of dust behind us, Mom growing smaller in the distance.  This is the moment the fear gripped me. The familiar faded and the unknown lay before me. The tense anxiety choked me while my stomach churned. Down the highway we sped to another unknown destination; Dad rarely bothered to sit down and explain where we were going and what it would be like this time. The landscape changed from the hills of West Virginia to the bluegrass of Kentucky or the plains of Iowa, where once we raced beside a tornado as it ate up the fields beside us.

Every year, it was a new home in a new state. And every year, it was the same unstable summer, with our travel and activities dictated by someone else’s moodiness or alcoholism. New places did not fill me with hope. They were foreign landscapes with no known retreats or safe hideaways from the too-familiar emotional climate. The unrest filtered down to me and cemented my fear and presupposition: There is nothing good in the world.

This journey was not on my terms, it was on God’s. There was absolutely nothing I was in control of: when I could go to the bathroom or what mode of transportation I would use or what foods would be available to me. This was not about my comfort level. It was dependent on my trust level.

God does not hand out easy passes. What God requires of me is always greater than I think I can handle. If I would have succumbed to my fears, I would still be at home. I would probably be living comfortably with three children, but it would not have been God’s perfect will for me. It would have been trading something of eternal value for temporary ease. I would have gone through life feeling as if something were missing if I had ignored the still, small voice and listened instead to the bawling fear.

After several hours of driving, we pulled into the snowy little city of Pietrokow. The taxi wound around into the heart of the city through snow-covered narrow streets of old stone buildings. We skidded into an icy drive: the office of the Director of Orphans. She came outside to meet us. I leapt out of the car to drink in a breath of cool fresh air. Walter had already stepped out of his taxi and was speaking to her. Bartek appeared by my side and asked,

“She wants to know if you want to meet the baby?”

My mind whirled.  See the baby?  Meet the baby?  Was this some sort of cruel joke?

“Well, yes, of course,”  I answered quietly, scarcely daring to hope.

Walter spoke again and Bartek interpreted, “She wants to know if you want to adopt the baby. She says that she will speak to the judge for you.”

I suddenly felt giddy. In one day the impossible had become possible.”

The Guire family increased by four in January of 2000 and the four new Guires were able to join us in the states in February of 2000.

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Damian, Adam, Audrey, Ania, Gregory, Hunter, Seth, Amerey, Rafal, grandsons Sam and Theo being held.

There is much more to the story and you can read it by ordering Positive Adoption: A Memoir  in which I weave the story of my childhood with the story of my children’s adoption.

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Ania, Amerey, Me (Kathleen), Jerry, Damian, Rafal, Gregory, Hunter
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Ania, Amerey, Audrey, Me (Kathleen), Jerry, Hunter, Gregory and Damian in background. Amerey has no idea what happened to Rafal. He is behind Gregory.
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Thanksgiving at the Guire Shire

*All quotes from Positive Adoption: A Memoir