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About the Guest
Adoption is close to the heart of God; so says Russell Moore, father of two adopted sons and author of the book Adopted for Life. Today Russell talks about the challenges of adapting his adopted children to their new life and the blessings they’ve seen since expanding their family through adoption.
Russell MooreRussell Moore is President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Prior to his election to this role in 2013, Moore served as provost and dean of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he also taught as professor of theology and ethics. A widely-sought cultural commentator, Dr. Moore has been recognized by a number of influential organizations. The Wall Street Journal has called him “vigorous, cheerful, and fiercely articulate” whi...more
Adoption is close to the heart of God; so says Russell Moore.
Welcome to the Family
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, April 27th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I am Bob Lepine. We are going to talk today about some of the challenges that face adoptive parents and about the joys that come with adoption.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today! Thanks for joining us. What we are going to talk about today is kind of different than what you may think we are going to talk about today. Because we are going to talk about the gospel, right?
Dennis: We are going to be talking about being adopted for life.
Bob: And that is at the heart of the gospel, isn’t it?
Dennis: It is. In fact back last Christmas I spoke to a group of college students, about 960 of them, on the east coast, and I challenged them to go address the physical orphans and the spiritual orphans of the world. Six hundred of them said they would give one year of their lives to go address the needs of the spiritual and physical orphans.
Now that is what James 1:27 is talking about. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this, to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
There is not a lack of clarity in that verse. It’s basically saying adoption and visiting orphans and widows is close to the heart of God. It is a part of what true Christianity and truly walking with Christ really represents. We have with us the author of Adopted for Life, Russell Moore. He joins us again. Russell, welcome back.
Dr. Moore: Good to be with you Dennis and Bob!
Dennis: Russell is the Dean of the School of Theology of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. Am I pronouncing Louisville correctly?
Dr. Moore: That’s it. Louisville. Not Lou-ie-ville.
Dennis: It’s got one syllable.
Dr. Moore: That’s right.
Dennis: You have two adopted children and you have two biological children. In fact we’ve been talking about how God led you to adopt. Before we go back to that story, how did you end up having the two biological children? What’s the story behind that?
Dr. Moore: Well, we just suddenly wound up pregnant and we assumed it would be a miscarriage again, and so we were prepared for that and we were getting ready for another miscarriage, and we kept waiting and waiting for the miscarriage and it never happened and his name is Samuel now.
Dennis: How many miscarriages had you had?
Dr. Moore: We had had three.
Bob: This was years after you had brought your boys home from Russia, right?
Dr. Moore: Yes, it was a couple of years later. That’s right.
Bob: So when Maria said to you, “I think I’m pregnant,” did you guys just prepare for what had been the experience of the past?
Dr. Moore: By that point she said “I’m pregnant and so we should be experiencing the miscarriage anytime. We need to pray.” And so we did. We were fully expecting a miscarriage and to go through the trauma of that again and the grief of that.
Bob: When you get to month five and month six and month seven what are you thinking?
Dr. Moore: Suddenly we begin to think, “You know we may actually have another baby!” The Lord is being gracious to us.
Bob: And then the same thing happened a year later?
Dr. Moore: The same thing happened a year later with Jonah. That’s right.
Bob: Wow. So your family now is two seven-year-olds –
Dr. Moore: That’s right. Two seven-year-olds and a three-and-a-half-year-old and a two-year-old.
Dennis: One of the fun things about that Bob, is when he is asked how old they are, “Are they twins?”
Dr. Moore: I’ll get asked “Are they twins? and I’ll just say, “No, they are not twins. The oldest two are three weeks apart.” And then I’ll just leave because you don’t need to explain everything to everybody in the grocery store. But I’ll leave with these puzzled expressions on people’s faces. Now how did that work?
Dennis: That is exactly right. As you’ve gone about the process of grafting these boys into your family, you have undoubtedly faced some challenges. What would you say is the number one challenge you and Maria have faced?
Dr. Moore: The number one challenge we faced very early on was making sure that as soon as the children came into our household they were really our children, which meant discipline as well as affection. So we were hugging the children and telling the children “We love you.” We also were disciplining the children. And so we would establish parameters and rules in the household.
My dad didn’t want that to happen. My dad was saying, “Oh they have been through so much. They were in an orphanage. Just let them do what they want to. If they want to take the coasters and bang the table in the living room, just let them do it.”
I had to say, “No, Dad. They are our kids now and we want to show them that they are a part of this family and that means that we have rules at our household and we have an order. They are a welcome part of our household, but they are not the new owners of the household.”
Dennis: So you are saying you treat them the same as your biological children.
Dr. Moore: Exactly the same. Exactly the same.
Bob: You did bring them in with a year’s worth of experience, a year’s worth of life that your biologically born children did not have.
Dr. Moore: That’s right.
Bob: Did you have to take into account in some way these kids have been through -- you described it as a “hellish existence” -- for the first year of their lives.
Dr. Moore: Yes, and that meant, for one thing, learning to eat was a trauma. Frankly, teaching one of my sons to eat solid food was the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life, and I think that I will ever do because he wasn’t accustomed to solid food. It made sense to me of the milk-to-meat passages in the book of Hebrews in a way I had never understood before, because he would gag when he would try to eat solid food. And they were a year old.
Dennis: So he had no practice eating solid food.
Dr. Moore: No practice eating solid food. Ice cream was the trauma of the year because putting something that cold into his mouth he just went into fits.
Dennis: Ice cream? That was one of the real treats as we had children. I would always sneak around when Barbara wasn’t watching and I’d take one of the babies -- and you weren’t supposed to do this. I know that, okay? – but sneak off to the side and just a little teeny teaspoon, and you know the first bite, yeah, it was trauma but after it hit the taste buds it was like, “Give me some more of that, daddy. We are buddies forever.”
Dennis: That didn’t work with them.
Dr. Moore: No, they took time. They also would hide food for a while. When they stopped hiding the food, we realized they knew there would be another meal.
Dennis: I want to ask you about that. They were only a year old when you got them and yet they had understood the need for basic survival instincts to hide food?
Dr. Moore: They had not learned to trust somebody. They had not learned to have the regularity -- There is going to be another meal. You can trust that it is going to take place. They had to learn who these people were who now were their mom and dad.
Bob: Russell, the first year of any child’s life is formative.
Dr. Moore: That’s right.
Bob: It is a huge part of that child’s development. Did that mean that as your boys came into your home there were lots of developmental hurdles that had to be dealt with and unpacked and addressed as parents?
Dr. Moore: Yes. We had developmental issues but the great thing for us is we didn’t know what they were because these were the first children we had. So everything seemed normal to us. So I think that prepared us just to be able to roll with the punches in a way that now, having known what a nine-month-old and 12-month-old and 14-month-old is like, we probably would be thinking “What is going on?” We didn’t know any better. We were blissfully ignorant and that actually – that served to help us.
Bob: Do you expect there will be a day when either of your boys will say, “I’d like to know about my biological father or mother?”
Dr. Moore: You know, Bob, the worst moment I think that I have ever had in my life was being in the orphanage about to go in to see the children. We had never seen them before, and they said to us, “We have very limited information about their biological mothers but we do have one passport photo of one of their biological mothers. You can look at it, but you cannot take it, you cannot make a copy, and it will be destroyed.”
I looked at that face of this girl, this 22-year-old girl, and that’s when I think I became a father, because I knew there was going to come a day when he is going to ask me about her, and I have to remember what she looks like. If I don’t remember no one will be able to tell him about that. It’s a great burden on me even now, because sometimes I’ll wake up in the night wondering, “Do I remember her face?” to be able to talk to him about that when the day comes about.
It will be very difficult for our boys to be able to find their biological parents just simply because of the way the Russian system works. But I do plan to take them back to the orphanage. When they are 12, we are going to go to Russia and I’m going to take them to the orphanage, I’m going to show them where they lived the first year of their life. I’m going to show them their original home town and I’m going to show them what they’ve come from.
Dennis: Why are you doing that?
Dr. Moore: I want them, number one, to know that I’m not ashamed of that and I’m not ashamed of them. I also think it’s important for them to have an understanding. Scripture speaks to us as children who have been adopted, constantly saying “this is what you came out of, this is what you used to be.”
Scripture says that often; I want them to see that and know that, because I want them to be able to tie that when they are old enough to believe in Christ, to know the kind of shift that’s taken place spiritually in the same way that it has taken place for them in terms of their family.
Dennis: You want to show them what they were redeemed from?
Dr. Moore: Yes, I do.
Dennis: Now you know what they are going to see.
Dr. Moore: Yes.
Dennis: If it hadn’t been cleaned up, it is going to be smelly; it’s probably going to have water the color of coffee.
Dr. Moore: Yes.
Dennis: It’s going to have cribs full of babies that are rocking themselves because no one will pay attention to them.
Dr. Moore: Yes, and that is going to be a hard day. I’m going to have to be a dad and explain to them why hard things and difficult things happen. That’s the worst thing. We are already experiencing some of that.
One of my sons asked me one day, because they’ll ask “Was I ever in Momma’s stomach?” when they see her pregnant with a baby. I’ll say, “No, you weren’t. There wasn’t room in Momma’s stomach at that time for whatever reason and God put you in Russia. You were in an orphanage and God showed us where you were so that we could go and get you and bring you home.”
They’ve not asked many more questions beyond that but one day one of them said to me, “So I was in some other lady’s stomach.” I said, “Yes. You were.” And he said, “Why?” That was a horrible moment for me because I don’t know why and it’s very difficult to be able to explain that to a six-year-old child. It will be very difficult to explain that to a 36-year-old child.
Bob: You’ve heard people talk about the challenges that adoptive children face and I know I’m using that term in a way that you counsel me against in your book.
Dr. Moore: Sure.
Bob: Children who have been adopted often face this dual identity crisis in their adolescent years. Every adolescent is saying “Who am I?” A child who has been through an adoption is saying “Who am I really?” How are you going to address that with your kids?
Dr. Moore: Well, part of that is I’m going to address that because they are living in a culture in which it is assumed that whoever you are genetically is who you are, and that is not what the Scripture teaches us. I’m going to say “You are part of this family. You are the person that God has created you to be and you are not biologically and genetically predetermined to be anything else.”
Dennis: Your book goes back and forth between being an adoptive parent and creating a culture of adoption in a church.
Dr. Moore: Yes.
Dennis: I want you to speak to a couple of issues that you write about. The first one is, you say “Adoption is not just about couples who want children or who want more children. Adoption is about an entire culture within our churches, a culture that sees adoption as a part of our Great Commission mandate and as a sign of the gospel itself.”
Dr. Moore: Yes.
Dennis: Explain what you mean by that.
Dr. Moore: I mean that when you bring a child into a family and you say this child is now part of our family, you are picturing and showing to the outside world—we believe this is what a family can be and we believe this is what the gospel is. So a church that cares for orphans is a church that actually is picturing the gospel. It is showing the gospel and then able to explain to the outside world this is why this works.
One of the things that I deal with all the time are couples who are adopting and they are adopting outside of their race. They have family members who are all upset. “I can’t believe you are adopting outside of your race,” and they’ve got all of these things going on.
I stand back and say I’m interracially adopted. I’m brought into a Hebrew family of the Lord Jesus and He is not ashamed to call us brothers, the book of Hebrews says. This is a picture of the gospel taking place when you have pastors who are standing up and saying we believe that there are unevangelized children in orphanages in North America and around the world who need to hear the gospel -- not just one time in a gospel tract or in a gospel presentation but every day of their lives, from Christian families. That is a Great Commission issue.
Dennis: Right. It really is and I want to say thanks to our listeners who support this broadcast financially, because when you do that, you make possible the ministry that we have here called Hope for Orphans.
Hope for Orphans is challenging lay men and women to establish an orphan culture in the local church. In fact, our dream is to have 10,000 local churches in North America that have orphan care, foster care, and adoption ministries in the church. I believe this is a cutting-edge ministry. In fact before the broadcast is over, Bob, I want to talk about how listeners can call in and get a packet of information for how they can start an orphan care ministry in their local church and establish that kind of culture.
Now, I also want to make a comment here from your book. You say “an adoption culture in our churches advances the cause of life even beyond the individual lives of the children adopted.” And you say, “Imagine if Christian churches were known as the places where unwanted babies become beloved children.”
Dr. Moore: Because that sends a signal not just to those babies. It sends a signal to all of those unwanted people who are wondering “Could anybody love me? I’m a former prostitute,” or “I’m a man who paid for an abortion,” or “I’m an ex con. Could anybody ever love me?” A congregation that says “Yes, we will show you how we love our own, because we love life and we believe that God gives second chances.” We do that through adoption. We do that through the preaching of the gospel.
Bob: You really see this as a part of the Christian mission. You talk about it being a part of the Great Commission.
Dr. Moore: Yes, that’s what James says when he says, “This is what pure religion looks like,” which is coming from the Old Testament, that says this repeatedly. Caring for orphans and those who are widows, that’s part of what the church is about. When that is not taking place in a church something is going awry and something is atrophied and wrong. That is why we need to prophetically call the church to pay attention to orphans.
Bob: I have a friend who, he and his wife adopted a couple of children who were 8 or 9 years old when they were adopted from Russia, and as they went through their teen years and as they went into their college years they started making choices that were very painful to mom and dad.
Dr. Moore: Yes.
Bob: They were moving away from the foundation that mom and dad had tried to pour into their lives. Have you imagined that that could be the case with your boys?
Dr. Moore: That could be the case with any of my boys, whether they were adopted or biologically birthed. I know there are many parents who know the pain of a prodigal. What I would encourage any parent to do is not to then turn around and to label, “Well, that’s our adopted child,” to kind of distance . . .
Sometimes you have parents who are embarrassed by the prodigality of their children, and so they want to try to find “Well these are the reasons why I’m not to blame for that,” rather than imaging the Father who loves, who prays and who says “I’m your dad no matter what, and I’m going to be here at the end of the day when you get out of that hog pen and come home.”
Dennis: I think there could be another slant to that, too, Russell. I think some parents may watch a child become a prodigal who was adopted and they are going, “I chose him,” or “I chose her,” and despite the love that was displayed there they still have chosen to go another direction. I think your challenge is a good one to parents who do adopt in terms of labeling their children.
I just want to say thanks for you and your book and for stepping forward and tying this to the profound theology that is found in Scripture around the theme of adoption. I want to turn to our listening audience and challenge you with this. Would you think about starting an orphan care, foster care and adoption ministry in your local church?
All across the country we are seeing a new breed of churches arise that are willing to speak up with the love of Christ, the compassion of Christ, and step into these children’s lives who do need to see the gospel preached at an orphanage, but also need to hear it preached and see it lived out in the life of a family.
Bob: You’re not talking to the pastors at this point. You are talking to a couple that is just going to church and saying start a ministry in your church.
Dennis: Yes. In fact I don’t think this is going to happen because of pastors. I think pastors have already got more than they can say grace over. It has to be championed by a lay couple. It doesn’t mean the pastor shouldn’t be for it and set it up, but I think the great passion that exists for orphans is in the pews.
Dr. Moore: That’s right.
Dennis: I believe they are out there, by the tens of thousands, leaders who can help birth these ministries. I think over the next decade we can begin to see a number of the 130 plus million orphans that are in the world, can see their needs addressed in a number of ways.
Dr. Moore: You know who we need involved in that is not just the young couples who will be adopting. We need senior adults and middle-aged adults who have money that God has blessed them with so that they are able to equip people to adopt and rescue orphans. This isn’t just a “young couples building their families” issue.
Dennis: I agree.
Bob: You are training the next generation of church leaders at Southern Seminary in Louisville. Do you think it is possible that the church might step in and make this the priority that Dennis is talking about?
Dr. Moore: I think there is no question that that is happening right now. Whenever you have a church that has two or three families who are adopting, rarely does it stay at two or three families, because people then see the glory of this and it’s fueled and then it grows. I think we are on the cusp of a wave of orphan care.
Dennis: It is coming from the place it needs to come from— from the church.
Dr. Moore: That’s exactly right.
Bob: If folks want know “How do I step in and do” what you have challenged them to do, we have resources available. Go to our web site FamilyLife Today.com. There is information available there about the If You Were Mine DVD workshop that you can put on in your church. Get the parents together from your church or from your community and start exploring what is involved in adoption, and how do people do it, and how do you afford it, and where do you go, and who do you talk to?
All of that is in the If You Were Mine workshop that we produced here at FamilyLife as part of our Hope for Orphans initiative. You can get the information on our website, FamilyLifeToday.com.
Get a copy of Russell’s book, Adopted for Life, an outstanding book for all of us to understand what it means for us to be adopted by God, and then the reality of adoption in the Christian family and what that looks like as well. Again the book is called Adopted for Life, and the information about that book is on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com as well.
Then let me also mention this event that we’ve got coming up in Louisville May 12-13. It’s the Seventh Annual Summit, put on by the Christian Alliance for Orphans. It’s taking place at Southeast Christian Church. Dr. Moore is going to be speaking at the event. Dennis, you and I will be there as well. Looking forward to connecting with folks from all over the country and really from all over the world who have a heart and a burden for the needs of orphans.
This is the place to get together for networking, for more information, for coordination, for resourcing, and to learn and grow. So whether you’re involved in a local church outreach to help with orphans, or maybe this is just something that God has put as a burden on your heart and you want to come and find out more about how to start something.
Find out more about the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit Seven coming up in Louisville May 12 –13 at the Southeast Christian Church. Go online at FamilyLifeToday.com and click on the link you see there for the Christian Alliance for Orphans and that will get you all the information you need about the upcoming summit. Hope to see you there.
Let me also mention that most of the time when we talk here on FamilyLife Today about our financial needs as a ministry and we ask you to make a donation, it’s to help keep FamilyLife Today on the air on this station and on our network of stations all around the country. We appreciate your financial support that makes this radio program and our website and our other ministries possible.
Today we want to give you an opportunity to do something a little different. If you’d like to make a donation to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today and have those donations designated to support our Hope for Orphans outreach, you can do that. All you have to do is make an online donation at FamilyLifeToday.com, and type the word “ORPHAN” in the key code box on the online donation form.
When you do, 100% of what you donate will be directed for our Hope for Orphans initiative. This is what we put together to help equip and establish churches and individuals who are involved in orphan care. So again you can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com and make a donation online, just type the word “ORPHAN” in the online key code box, or call 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329, that’s 1-800- “F” as in “family,” “L” as in “life,” and then the word “TODAY.”
When you make your donation over the phone, just say, “I’d like my money to go to Hope for Orphans,” and we’ll make sure that that happens. We appreciate your financial support of FamilyLife Today and your concern for the orphans as well.
Now tomorrow we want to encourage you to be back as we talk with a couple who have decided to mark spiritual milestones in the lives of their children with some significant events, and they’ll talk about that when we get a chance to meet them tomorrow. Hope you can be with us for that
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I am Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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