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Hopefully there will be good news in September!
In a few years, I believe we’ll look back on the Seed Adoption conference I was able attend this June in Ethiopia and see it as nothing less than the spark of a national spiritual and cultural transformation for adoption and the orphan. It just might have been the beginning of the end of the Ethiopian orphan crisis.
I was blessed to participate (along with Pastor John Patterson from Grace Covenant in Austin) in one of three trainings in which hundreds of Ethiopian pastors, elders, and nonprofit leaders (both husbands and wives together) heard powerful messages about the nature and extent of the Ethiopian orphan crisis, scripture’s clear call to care for orphans, God’s invention and use of adoption as the means by which we join Him in right relationship, adoption in an Ethiopian historical and cultural context, and the practical aspects of adoption in Ethiopia. Session presenters included a member of the Ethiopian federal parliament, the former Africa director of Worldvision, the General Secretary of a large Ethiopian Christian denomination, a senior Ethiopian leader from Compassion International, Nick Ostermann (pastor of The Rooted Church in Fort Worth), and many others, all of whom were Ethiopian except for Nick. There were 150+ people in attendance, including 46 from Zeway and Food for the Hungry where our current orphan care and indigenous adoption initiative is centered.
My major take-aways from the conference include:
There were many moving testimonies presented by attendees and speakers, and some of the key quotes I recorded include:
I am so grateful for the Seed Adoption organizers, the individuals from Grace who helped underwrite the costs of the conference, and for my wife for making it possible for me to experience such an amazing event. Please pray for this movement to continue and for God to change the hearts of Ethiopians to give the millions of lonely orphans in their midst the families God intends for them to have (Psalms 68:5-6).
There are many barriers that inhibit many families from adopting children from within their own community especially in Zeway, Ethiopia. First, the level of poverty hampers the lives of so many people which would not let them ‘adopt’ a child into their family. These families normally have large families. The average number of children per family is six and mainly the father wins bread but the mother in most cases is a housewife or else makes a very insignificant amount of income. Thus, impoverished life situation makes them have a blind spot on orphan crisis. It would not let them bring in a child to include as a permanent family.
Second, many people are insensitive to the orphan crisis. It is a spiritual or social sense ‘leprosy’. Their antenna could not detect the danger. They comfortably live with the orphan crisis. The community at large the church in particular lost their sense for many reasons. As the crisis inundate like a tsunami no active response is being seen!
Third, the wrong assumption of the solution to the problem, that is, many think that the problem of the orphans can be resolved only via the adoption agencies or NGO. This has been reflected as I work in the area. Many families who can afford to help at least one child come to our project office along with orphaned child with the intention that we (as NGO) assist the child. These mindsets cripple them to care for the parentless. These agencies are erroneously considered as “parents” for the unparented. Many state that “these children are yours”, thus as I decipher the concept, it marks a shift of responsibility. However, what I actually appreciation with the BOG, FH/E Zeway and ZECF is that it is a partnership which saves itself away from this danger!
Fourth, many parents afraid that the ‘adopted’ child would spoil their children in character, discipline etc consequently they do not want to include them in their family. However, it is preferred to temporarily help a child away from their home. No one would dare to take a long life commitment of these kinds of children. Fifth, children are cheap! Culturally no due attention is given to children. Many are passive when they see orphaned, homeless, hopeless children sleeping on the street, begging daily for food on the street. Finally, if they ‘adopt’ they fear that the child when grow up would leave them to get connected with his or her distant or close relatives. This takes place occasionally.
To sum up, the stated problems should not leave us with gloomy future for these orphaned children. However, better strategies need to be designed and implemented via the families, community, church and government. I would argue that the church is the best solution to the stated problem because the church is given God’s heart for the orphans!
To hear more from Dawit and his work with the poor, listen to this FH podcast.
A story from today's Seed Adoption conference:
After attending the first day of the conference, a woman went to the director of Kidmia and asked if there were specific children she could consider for adoption. The director said yes and gave her photos of two children who were available. She said she felt her heart move for adoption but she needed to talk with her husband. She went home and prayed and talked all night about God's heart for adoption and these two particular children.
In the morning the couple agreed that those two children were meant to be part of their forever family! She announced to the conference attendees on the 2nd day that her and her husband were going to learn more about the children and adoption that very day. The entire conference erupted in praise and they prayed for her in that Ethiopian power prayer way!