|A quiet Wednesday about two months ago, we received an email from a pastor at Osborne Baptist Church in Eden, NC, sharing how they had been using If You Were Mine, a HFO online workshop introducing families to adoption and orphan ministry.|
The pastor explained that their church’s orphan ministry had become “really more a part of our DNA than a program.” So what does that look like? We followed up with them to hear more of their story. Here’s what they had to say:
How did you first become interested in ministering to children through adoption and foster care?
One woman in our church felt led to make adoption and foster care a part of our everyday conversations within our church community. She was driven to give a voice to the voiceless, and that is exactly what she’s done. (Thank you, Stephanie Long!)
Could you tell us a little about your church?
Our church is pretty large for our area—we typically see between 1,500 and 1,600 in attendance on Sunday mornings. To people who don’t attend a church that size, that often sounds overwhelming, and I don’t blame them for thinking that. But I encourage them to come anyway because, honestly, Sunday mornings feel like home.Our church has an atmosphere of redemption, and we are driven by Christ—His sacrifice, His love, and His promises. In fact, our church’s vision is “helping people love Jesus and everyone else.”
In your note to HFO, you said that If You Were Mine had changed the culture of your church. Could you tell us more about what that change looked like?
Adoption had been mentioned in passing in our sermons, but when it began to be woven into our lives, the culture of our church definitely changed. Prior to that change, adoption was seen as a nice thing … for someone else to do. And I think maybe people had the urge to adopt, but it wasn’t talked about. People didn’t know where to start. It was almost taboo.Thanks in part to If You Were Mine, adoption has been brought to the surface and addressed for what it is—a command by God. More and more people have began to minister to orphans in various ways. If You Were Mine inspired our church to get connected with more information and opportunities, including fostering, adopting (both domestic and international), and caring for orphans in both India and Haiti through a partnership with Hope Givers International.I believe this has drawn us closer to God’s heart for orphans. As a church, we get to share in the experience of providing an opportunity to someone who wouldn’t otherwise have it (a picture of the gospel), and we get to share together in Christ’s own suffering, as each adoption is born of trauma.
Could you share one or two stories from how your church has ministered to orphans and at-risk children?
You can see some of the ways in the previous question, but I’ll share here a bit about our own personal experience… We felt led to adopt and initially thought that would be through foster care. After taking If You Were Mine, however, we were clearly called to adopt internationally, more specifically, from China. We were terrified! But God.
A series of amazing events led us to our daughter, who incredibly enough, has a special need strikingly similar to two of our biological children. Our church family supported us all the way and due in (extremely) large part to them, we got on a plane with our new daughter in Guangzhou, China, in September of 2014, owing not a single dime for our adoption. After being home for a few days, we visited her pediatrician. At two years old, she weighed a mere 16 pounds. He examined her closely and told us that had she been in country another month, she would have died. Thank God that He led us to her in time and that she has the opportunity to come to know, love, and serve the God who made her!
Here’s another story from Sally Woods, a member of our church: “A couple of years ago, we took the If You Were Mine class offered by our church. We had thought about adoption in the past, but we did not fully understand the reality or the process until we experienced this class. We stepped out in faith that same year, and our church family supported us in prayer, fundraising, and in partnering with LifeSong for Orphans to help bring our daughter home from China.”