“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
James 1:27 NIV
Have you ever came across a verse in Scripture that you wish you just hadn’t read? You know, the kind of verse that makes you think, Now that I know, I have to…. No more pleading blissful ignorance. Then after reading it, you stick it on the back burner of your mind (and heart). I’ll come back to that later, you say trying to soothe that nagging in your spirit.
For me, this was one of those verses. I’m sure I heard it growing up in church, but it wasn’t until a few years ago, that I truly registered what it said. One particular phrase stood out: “to look after orphans.” What did this mean? Was it saying that I need to pursue adoption? Can my unstable, sometimes highly dysfunctional, never-a-dull-moment family even handle that? Like Moses before the burning bush, I was full of excuses. So, I resolved to come back to it later. All the while, I was secretly hoping that I would forget about it, and the Holy Spirit wouldn’t bring it to my attention again.
Thank the Lord that was not the case. The Holy Spirit continually pursued me just as He had pursued Jonah so many centuries ago. If I am to grow in the Lord, I cannot run from His commands. The Gospel of John reminds me, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (15:10). For me and my family, obeying God’s direct command to care for the orphans took on the face of a little nine year old boy from Kenya. Just before Christmas last year, I sat down with my children and we scrolled the World Vision website. We looked at so many sweet faces and read their stories. Finally, we settled on Bilton. At this, the beginning of our journey, we have prayed for him, wrote to him and financially supported him. What more will the future hold?
I have come to realize that the command that God expressed through the writing of James has many faces. Whereas I once believed the verse was commanding me to adopt, I know believe there are other avenues to fulfilling this command. For us, it was child sponsorship. Bilton is not completely alone, but he is a child in need, and God has put us in a position to help. I want to share with you stories of three other families that I believe are also fulfilling this command of God to every believer. They are all dear to my heart and don’t even know I’m writing about them yet! However, they have been an inspiration and a blessing to me. I’m praying they will be to you as well!
“If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?”
My dearest and best friends are so much more than friends. They are family, and not just because we share the same Heavenly Father, but because they have made us feel like family. I would do anything for them. They live their lives with an open door and an extra seat at the table. No hour is too late to call for help, and no time is inconvenient to welcome someone in for a stay. Seems like someone is always there—countless family members have found solace in their home. Several months ago, I was struck again by just how welcoming they truly are. They had received a phone call that an unwed family member would soon be having a baby, and the baby was going to need a place to stay. I received a text requesting prayer. Almost immediately, they began preparations to bring a newborn into their family for an indefinite amount of time. Their display of extravagant hospitality convicted me. Too often, I shut my doors because it is not convenient for me—the house is not clean, I had other plans, or more selfishly, I really just want to be alone and rest. Here they were, despite having a full plate and other financial concerns, yet still willing to obey the Lord’s command selflessly once again!
Fulfilling the Great Commission
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
They are a family that serves the Lord . . . wherever He calls them, whenever He calls them. They are full-time missionaries. Their eldest son will be traveling to Panama this summer—another extension of their ministry. Yet, their willingness to serve didn’t stop at the doorstep of the church. They carried the Great Commission (and the call of James) to their home. This past fall, “the end of earth” came to the States to find them! In a miraculous turn of events, they welcomed an exchange student from Brazil into their home. Later, when another student living in a dorm was homesick, they began steps to include him as well. Although, the second student’s path took him in a different direction, I believe our Brazilian friend was truly blessed by his time with their family. So many miles away from home and his family, they embraced him as their own. What love! When so many of us would say, Lord, am I not already doing enough? They asked instead, Lord, what more can I do?
“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have you received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” [Daddy, Daddy!] The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”
Adoption. I would be remiss if I did not talk about adoption for this is truly the heart of a child and of our Heavenly Father. After all, if you are a Christian, you have experienced adoption. Rejected by this world, you have been fully embraced into the family of God. Family. We were made for belonging. From the very beginning of creation, family existed. Psalms reminds us that God is the father to the fatherless (see Psalm 68:5). God is calling families, moms and dads, to welcome orphans into their homes as well. My husband is eternally grateful for his chance at adoption—not as a baby, but as a young boy, and not alone, but with his two brothers! So the following story of adoption, doesn’t just include one family, but two.
The first story tells of a loving couple with a beautiful family. They have two amazing children, and they are crazy about them! When I think of their story, I think of the Casting Crowns’ song “So Far to Find You.” The chorus of the song says, “Will you let me hold you in my arms tonight / I have come so far to find you / So far to find you / Will you take my love and give up the fight / I have come so far to find you / So far to find you.” I know only a fraction of their story, but I know this—they have fought desperately to be a mommy and daddy to those precious children! Their journey has included many tears and heartaches, oh but I bet they say that every time they hold their son or daughter, it was all worth it! What joy to belong!
Finally, I want to mention another family that is just beginning on a path to adoption. Their story too has had held much grief. Only weeks before their wedded bliss, a dearly beloved parent passed away. Then a few short years later, they experienced the tragic loss of a child. How much more could they hearts possible handle? Yet, I have seen so much grace in their lives, such unwavering faith and determination. As they embark on this journey to expand their family through adoption, I wonder if they realize how their faithfulness to God has been a witness and a blessing to others. Do they see their actions as a fulfillment of James’ command? Do they trust God will bless their efforts? What little child will one day have the great privilege of being a part of their family? How my heart prays for them!!
You, too, can be obedient to God’s call to “look after the orphans.” You can pray for this family who is looking to adopt. Pray that God opens doors and directs their paths. Pray that He continually provides their needs and that He comforts and heals their wounded hearts. You can pray for yourselves. Pray for wisdom to know how God wants you to fulfill His commands. Pray for strength and courage. I have also included at the bottom a few resources that may be of help to you on your quest for obedience. May you serve with passion, and remember the words of Matthew: “whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward” (10:42).
Barnard Adoption: https://www.facebook.com/barnardadoptionpage
Show Hope: http://showhope.org/