Sunday, August 28, 2011

Second Chances

He was malnourished. She was sick. They took her to witch doctors. They left him at the orphanage for years. The Dad can't hold a job. The mother is HIV+.

It's HARD to return kids you love to these situations. It sucks. All you want to do is hold onto that baby tight and never let them go. You don't want to trust their parents- they've messed up once and they'll mess up again. You don't want to trust God when he whispers in your ear that these babies deserve a chance to live in their homes. You ignore His gift of grace- extended to you and longing to reach those families too. God is working in you, calling you to extend his grace to those families. To give them second chances. And all you want to do is yell no and take all those babies home with you.

You don't want to stop and wonder if he was malnourished because they didn't have money for food. If she was sick because they couldn't get medical care. If they took her to witch doctors because they figured that was better than watching their baby die. If they left him at the orphanage because they doubted they could give him more than the orphanage could. If he can't hold a job because jobs are disappearing all around Uganda. If she could get ARVs and still be able to care for her baby.

You don't want to stop and realize that you are no better than them. That you are a sinful human being that God has poured his grace over time and time again. That you have never faced these hardships and you have no idea if you would make the same choices.

That his mercies are new every morning. For you and for them.

Because is we stop and realize all these things and give these families a second chance we will be blown away. We will see kids transformed into happy, attached, and well-adjusted kids. We will see parents doing everything they can to give their child a good life. We will see families built and grown.

We will see images like these:


Now sometimes these second chances don't work. We have had to remove kids from their homes because their caregivers aren't committed to them. They don't love and care for them even when given the ability to do so. And sometimes second chances can't be extended because of blatant neglect or abuse. Those situations do happen and when they do the child should absolutely be removed from the home or not returned to it to begin with. BUT we're finding this is rare. We are finding a majority of families love their kids and when given the means care for them wonderfully. And we can't let the minority where it doesn't work out cloud our vision so that we don't give the majority a chance at living in their homes with their families.

Families deserve a second chance... because every child deserves a chance with their family.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

An Introduction

Hey all- my name is Kelsey. I felt it appropriate to at least introduce myself, as this is the first time I've posted on Megan's blog- the blog which has been taken over as the Abide Family Center blog. I am a 21 year old social work major at Temple University, in Philadelphia. I took the Fall 2010/Spring 2011 semesters off to live in Uganda, and completed some independent study work on the side. Over the last 2 years, in and out of the country, our eyes have been opened to the generation of children growing up in institutional settings because of extreme poverty, not because they are totally unloved or completely orphaned or abandoned. We have found parents and extended family members who love their children, they just have no way to provide for them. We believe in strengthening families/reunification being the first priority, and if that is not possible kinship care (adoption through the extended family) or domestic adoption should be the second option explored. As we understand the current situation surrounding orphan care in Uganda, we realize we do not hold the popular opinion. As we follow through with our vision for Abide, we pray and we discuss the controversial not just to create a stir, but in hopes that others will understand we are not anti-international adoption, but we are pro-ethical permanent placements for the children in Uganda. Yes, there ARE cases where international adoption is the best option for that child (cases of abuse/neglect, older children, children with medical needs/disabilities) we have just seen many cases where this was not so. As Megan stated in the previous blog, when God calls us in scripture to care for orphans, we are called to care for the widows and the poor as well. I just can't imagine that God calls us to "rescue"children from poverty, separating them from the family God placed them in, while ignoring the needs of their natural families.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Holistic Approach

We land in a third world country full with poverty and hunger and disease all around us. And that is all we see. Our eyes skip over the beauty, the simplicity, the clouds forming in the sky, the tress dancing over the horizon. We see the children playing in the yards and the mothers nursing their children. And because we don't see new toys and hugs and kisses we assume the love is not there. Love may look different in this culture but we don't take the time to learn that.

We walk into orphanages and joke how we "want to take them all home," without stopping to wonder whether they already have one. When we hear a child is being adopted internationally we tear up at the new wonderful life they are going to have, without stopping to mourn the country and culture they are losing.

Some of us even go as far as to take children from their homes and fly them off to America. We justify it because the parent agreed or the family is too poor or the mother is HIV+. We don't wonder, did the parent agree because they didn't see any other choice? Did we even think to offer them one? We take the child away instead of helping the family out of poverty. We take the child away instead of getting the mother on ARV treatment.

But Adoption is ALWAYS okay we argue... just look at James 1:27. We love the first part- the caring for the orphan. Because we all love to cuddle cute babies. But what about the widows? How are our actions caring for the widows? How is adoption caring for the widows?

It's not. Adoption is good. Adoption is necessary. But if we as a society, as a church, as a country, as a generation, really want to address the orphan crisis we better stop putting all our eggs in the adoption basket. We better start creating and supporting programs that reach the ENTIRE family. Programs that prevent orphan status. Programs that re-unite families.

Because the truth is God didn't just command us to care for the orphan. A majority of the caring for orphans scriptures are followed by a command to care for the widow or the poor as well. So let's go out and serve the orphan but let us remember that we cannot effectively address any problem unless we look at the whole picture... and for orphans that means their families too.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Maybe Radical is Really Ordinary

People have told me i'm amazing. People have congratulated my "calling."People have made sad faces at the sacrifices i'm making.

But the truth is I love every minute of these "sacrifices".

I LOVE Uganda... being there is like being home. When i'm there I feel like everything was made for me... like God created me to be there and every strange weird thing about myself suddenly becomes my strengths. The experiences i've had in my life all seem to have been pointing to this very moment and this very country. My soul is at peace and is saturated in joy. And although the hard is so very hard the good is so very very good- and it cancels out the bad every time.

So do I get the luxury of believing i've got it all figured out? I know my calling i'm following God. Look at my i'm being radical like David Platt said, i'm loving like crazy like Francis Chan wants me to. I'm following God's call on my life- aren't I so obedient? Five gold Jesus stars for me.

The last few weeks i've been really struggling with these thoughts. Am I really following Jesus? Am I following his call on my life or am I just doing what I really want to do? I do truly believe God has called me to Uganda but I wonder if I didn't want to go would I still go? I'm starting to realize i'm not chasing after God with my whole heart because my motivation isn't really him.

I justified my calling by my joy. I concluded because Uganda felt so right and I felt so happy it must be God' will for me. What a completely ridiculously idea. Did Jonah want to go to Ninevah? Did Mary want to a pregnant teenager? Did Abraham want to leave the only home he knew? The truth is none of this is about me. It's all about God.

If my motivation truly was God I would find him here in America too. If my focus was Jesus I would be able to find just as much joy here as in Uganda. I would learn to be content in all situations, as long as I had Him by my side.

So i've been asking myself the "what ifs"

What if God said no Uganda? What is He said wait a few more years? What is he said there wasn't a husband coming? What if he said I wouldn't be a mother?

Would I still follow him to the hard places? The places I don't want to go. Would I trust there are rewards there too?

Because this whole radically loving God thing has nothing to do with what great things we accomplish but everything to do with obeying God. Even if that means being completely ordinary. Even if that means a quiet life in a dead end job. Even if it means just being an amazing stay at home mom.

Because I don't think missionaries in Africa are as radical as them. The Christians who get no recognition. The one's whose accomplishments aren't viewed as such here on earth. The one's who just follow blindly where God leads, even when there is no earthly glory.

You are my heroes. I want to learn from you, I want to be like you. And I have a feeling in heaven you'll be the one's everyone's patting on the back.