Saturday, June 18, 2011

Seeding Adoption in Ethiopia

It was a lot like watching a president’s victorious speech on election night, or maybe how it must have felt to witness Lincoln unveiling the Emancipation Proclamation.

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:

  • The training was very professional, motivational, theologically sound, and spirit-filled
  • Several key messages were repeated by almost all speakers (evidence of the Holy Spirit moving):
  1. The church must be the answer to the crisis
  2. Adoption is the most effective solution for orphans (as opposed to foster care or orphanages)
  3. Individual action by everyone there was expected (“Each of us here can add one more child to our family.”)
  • The ancient Oromo (a large Ethiopian tribal people group) practice of “gudifecha” can serve as a strong foundation to build upon for Ethiopian adoption, but it needs the influence of scripture and other more acceptable modern practices to be truly effective
  • Adoption is the “heart of the gospel”, and all of scripture can be seen to be about God’s vertical adoption of each of us, which should motivate us to respond to His calls to care for orphans (through adoption ideally)
  • A new national Task Force on adoption and the church was formed, and two pastors from Zeway were elected to serve

There were many moving testimonies presented by attendees and speakers, and some of the key quotes I recorded include:

  • “I believe that God has raised Seed Adoption Ethiopia with a great and different vision to reach children who have no families/guardians and caregivers.”
  • “This is about you, not someone else.”
  • “Just like the stories of Moses and Esther, God can use adoption in Ethiopia to can change the story of our nation.”
  • “The orphan crisis is bigger than you think, not just children who have lost parents, it is humans who have lost our God.”
  • “Pure religion calls for men of courage and boldness, men who will march into dark and diseased places, take a child with difficulties and look at them and say you will be mine. Your identify will be in me and in this family, I am your father and you are my child. Pastors, men, my brothers, we must be the ones to lead the way in rescuing the fatherless.”
  • “God invented adoption, and it is at the center of His plan.”
  • “Local adoption is a lasting solution for the orphan crisis.”

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).

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