It's about time I explain the vision I wrote about before. Time has passed and the initial thrill has subsided due to reality setting in. Or are these just doubts to discourage me? Maybe I'm crazy. Let me know if you think this is an impossible dream.
I need to give you the background on how all this came about. Our whole church is reading a book by Rick Warren called Better Together. The book shows us how to deepen our fellowship in the church and then how to reach out in love to our surrounding community. He says participation in a small group is essential. We can't do this alone and we can't do it in the large congregation. He says, "You can attend church services your entire life and still feel lonely and disconnected." This shouldn't be.
We've always had small groups within our church, but now there was a major push for everyone to be involved with one. Many new groups formed until the number was over 140. The book confirmed to us all that the small group can be a warm, nurturing place to encourage, support and care for each other, and a good place for deeper Bible study and worship. But we learned that the small group should go beyond these confines and serve the community. Our own small group has discussed this before but somehow we never moved forward with it. But Rick Warren's book gave me the first glimpse of a bigger picture.
Not too long ago I attended an international dinner at a nearby church. The room was filled with people from all over the world, mostly immigrants who came to our country to work or to study. In touching and humorous stories, many shared their testimonies of struggles they had in a new country. Here I am, the mother of two immigrants, and sitting next to me are good friends who came from three different countries at different stages in their lives. I've heard their personal stories. This is where my heart is.
Another piece of the vision came through an e-mail. We have an adoption ministry at our church. Some of its goals are to encourage people to adopt, to help finance those who want to adopt but cannot due to income, to locate and share resources for adoptive and foster parents, and to support the children left behind in orphanages who will never be adopted. Also each year the ministry participates in the Welcome Home program for Russian orphans. These children come to the U.S. for three weeks in the summer and stay with host families with the goal that either the host family or someone who meets them during that time will adopt them.
I have been only marginally involved in this ministry due to other commitments. Fred and I did speak at a Family Life seminar in the spring so we are on an e-mail list to keep us updated on what is happening. I learned the Welcome Home program is expanding to include children from the Philippines and Guatemala. I read it with interest, but so far Fred has never expressed any desire to host a child in our home. I never mentioned this bit of news to him.
Now came the final piece of the picture that culminated with an explosion in my heart and set this idea on fire. I walked into the bedroom and heard Arielle asking her dad why we can't adopt another child since she wants another sister. So far, we have not entertained the notion of adopting again since I was sick three years ago. We realized then we were too old and we regret we don't have more years to share with more children.
So Saturday night when I heard Arielle ask this question, the whole Philippine/Guatemala project just burst from my lips. To my surprise and delight I heard Fred say, "We could host a child here and try to find her a home." Then I thought, why can't our small group sponsor a child, each of us networking with our own friends and family and acquaintances with the supreme goal of finding parents for this child? Each of us would use our own gifts and talents to minister to this child. Of course, the child would stay in one home (ours!) but we would all be involved. Then, what if each small group in our church (140 of them) took in a child and found him or her a family? The idea is huge! Homes for many, many children! Right now our church sponsors a whole village in Africa. What is every church supported one poor village? What if every small group in churches across America found a home for a child? God could move in mighty ways if only we each did a small part!
I know, I know. Orphans are not everyone's calling and ministry. (Should they be?) The small groups in our church are reaching out to the community in many other ways, all good, all needed. But what if some of them focused on the parent-less and homeless?
Sunday morning I was lit up with this idea. We sat right in front of my friend who coordinates the Welcome Home program for Russia. I rattled on and on about my plan. She is not quite so excitable, but she listened. She said that even as we spoke someone from a participating adoption agency was in Guatemala choosing children to bring to the U.S. in the spring. She then added, "You know, at our age we might not be eligible to adopt again." True. But who said anything about our family adopting? We want to host.
The first thing I did when I got home was go on-line and find out the parent qualifications for adopting from Guatemala. Guess what? There is no age limit. Parents only have to prove they are physically able to care for a small child. Well, we already have two!
"Find the intersection of God's will and your gifts." (Rick Warren)
"Each of you has been blessed with one of God's many wonderful gifts to be used in the service of others. So use your gift well." I Peter 4:10