March 5, 2011
“To minister” as defined by Noah Webster is “to attend and serve, to give things needful, to supply the means of relief, and to relieve.” I was once warned by a well-meaning advisor not to look at our adoption as a “project.” Initially I ignored this unsolicited advice even though it stung a little bit; however, after some thought it began to deeply irritate me. It appeared he was comparing our adoption to a “pet adoption” or to an anti-litter “street adoption” campaign. The longer I pondered this comment, I realized he missed it. He missed the motive behind my family’s desire to adopt.
Why did we adopt? We became painfully aware of the children world-wide who are in desperate need of relief. They need relief from poverty, hunger, disease, human predators, and from being unloved. They needed nutritionally balanced food, warm clothing, meaningful education, a bed, a home, and most of all a family who loves them unconditionally and teaches them that they are of great value. Their life matters!
I’ve also been told that I cannot save the whole world. No, I realize I cannot save anyone. I was not trying to “save” them. But I can make a difference to one child. Did the Tuohy family not meet immediate needs in the life of their adoptive son, Michael? They attended to his most basic needs: food, clothing, shelter, and love when he needed it most. They ministered to him. They changed the course of his life. I have changed the course of my adoptive children’s lives as well. While I wish their biological families could have had less trauma and disastrous circumstances which led them to not be able to care for their children, I could not give relief to them when they needed it most. But I can give relief to their children now. I can give my adopted children the needful things in life that will help them to experience happiness and fulfillment. They are united with us as mother, father, and siblings through adoption so that I can minister to them – give them all things needful.
This is the same unity provided to us by God Himself. Romans 8:15 says, “…but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’” It is this spiritual example of adoption by our heavenly Father that burdened our hearts and refused to let us abandon these children by not adopting them. Jesus supplies spiritual relief to me and gives me all things I need. Guess what? Sometimes He supplies it before I even know I need it. And, sometimes, I reject His relief. But I have come to rely on His power, His grace, and His saving acts. It is through His example that I can love my children unconditionally, even if they reject my love. It is through His example that I can give my children the hope they need – the hope to try to understand what has happened to them. I am a minister to their needs. It is a ministry.
Are they projects? No. Am I saving them? No. But I am committed to attending to their every need and to serving them faithfully (even when I’m tired and emotionally drained). Because there’s another principle I believe in – sowing and reaping. If I sow unlimited love and grace into my children’s lives, then I will reap a lifetime of blessings and fulfillment. Sally Clarkson in The Ministry of Motherhood challenges us with this question: “Is it possible that there are people in our everyday lives whose needs are going unmet because we have neglected to do the loving work that Lord has set aside just for us?” Being a mother to all my children, biological and adopted, is my ministry.