Ecclesioporosis Case Study: Adoption

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Well, nothing like a nine-month hiatus to get your thoughts together! I am terribly sorry about that, for those who might have wondered where I’d gone. There have been a couple big things in my life that have kept me from writing. The first of which is the adoption of our daughter, which has had us back in the States for the past six months. That is about three months longer than I had anticipated, but we are nevertheless overwhelmed with joyful gratitude. God has blessed us in a great way in allowing us to adopt a baby girl from here in the U.S. Strange, I know. We had always assumed that if we were to adopt, it would be from China, as that’s been our home for five years. But the waiting list for adoption from China turned out to be discouragingly long. Research showed that the fastest route to adoption would be a newborn program in the U.S. Anyway, the Lord was so good to us in allowing us to be matched with our baby girl after waiting just one week! She was born a week after we were matched, and we met her in the hospital the day after she was born! Many prayers were answered that day in September!

All these months later, I have yet to post the third segment of the Ecclesioporosis series. That will come shortly. But I’d like to say that if the adoption process taught me nothing else, it is that the church is truly a force of good in the world in a way that non-profit organizations and government agencies can’t hold a candle to. Since being back in the States, I have had the opportunity to speak a couple times on the subject of the church’s place in global mission. And our adoption experience has given me plenty of handy illustrations of the points I’ve tried to make in those talks and in the previous two posts.

The adoption process is an arduous journey with many stations and checkpoints on the way to your goal. Each station has its own set of challenges and obstacles. Having passed through most of them now, I can affirm that most all of these challenges were put in place for the good of the children. Checks and double-checks, reports and investigations, applications and interviews – piles and piles of paperwork – all for the good of the children. The process is as badly mangled by bureaucracy, waste, and redundancy as any business or government office I’ve ever seen. And, though there are some very wonderful people you encounter along the way, there are more than a few ‘bad apples,’ whose good deeds became a desk job decades ago.

I’m certainly not against ensuring that children who need to be adopted only go to homes where they will be loved and provided for. But let’s not be naive. I don’t know anyone who would imagine that the process as it stands is anywhere close to the best way to make sure this happens! Everyone is bogged down by the system, and many submit to becoming just another rusty cog.

There was one shining, exemplary (even human) interaction on the path to adoption. And that was the interaction with the independent adoption consultants. These consultants (who naturally are disdained by the powers that be) almost single-handedly made our adoption go through! Our primary consultant was an immeasurable help to us (if anyone reading this is looking to adopt, please write me and I will send you her contact info). She made the process understandable, she took the guesswork out of the equation, she checked our work for us, she told us specifically what to do and when, she networked with other consultants to find a match for us, and she fought for us when it looked like our match would fall through. She knew the broken system, disliked the broken system, and navigated the broken system. In short, we only waited a week (instead of years) because of her and consultants like her.

Now, doesn’t the helpfulness of such consultants do some harm to my argument of church-based ministry? Yes and no.

First of all, I don’t think I ever (and if I did, I shouldn’t have) disallowed the possibility that there might be an exception to the ‘futility rule’ (human agencies organized for a commendable purpose over time tend towards ineffectiveness in achieving that purpose). By hard work and ruthless focus, an organization might fight the rule for a long time. It’s always a long shot, though, due to the kinds of factors described in earlier posts.

Second, the trick about these consultants is that they’re just barely organizations! Most of them are one-woman shows (with maybe a secretary or an accountant tacked on as a side-act). If they tried to add a measure of complexity to their work (such as adding employees, clients, or services), my money would be against their fighting the futility rule. Besides this, it seemed that all of the consultants that we worked with have only been in the game for a few years. I wouldn’t bet that many of them will navigate the slough of time well.

Third, the fact that there are some wonderful consultants out there implies another fact: there are some terrible consultants out there! If you want to read some horror stories, google some reviews for independent adoption consultants. Therein you will read some stomach-turning tales of greed, deception, and vengefulness. I am sure many of the reviews are false. Which means that there’s yet another point against the likelihood of the survival of helpful consultants: the slanderous attacks of wicked clients.

Fourth, and most importantly, it remains to be considered whether or not churches could do the job better. In other words, even if consultants are wonderful, churches might be wonderful-er! And I think they just might. This is no place to go into all the intricacies of what a consultant does. But their main distinctives are 1) knowledge of the beginning-to-end processes of adoption, 2) networking with other consultants, and 3) general guidance to the prospective adoptive families. There seems to be no reason why a small group of Christians in a particular church could not master these same services and provide them at no charge as a ministry!

I am not here concerned to present a practical proposal for such a ministry. I only want to show one thing: if you are a Christian who desires to do good in your community, your best bet for doing so is from within the church, not without. Before you think of starting a non-profit or becoming a social worker, why not consider how, as a disciple-making member of a local church, you could make a truly radical change. A change more radical even than the one our wonderful adoption consultant made for us!

Now I gotta run. My six-month-old wants to eat mashed-up squash.

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2 Comments on “Ecclesioporosis Case Study: Adoption”

  1. Jason March 28, 2013 at 9:33 am #

    This is Jason Reinhardt in Cusco, Peru. I have some questions for you concerning this post. Just wondering if you could send me your e-mail? My wife and I have adopted twins here in Peru as residents and I had some questions for you about your adoption in the U.S.

    • Jake March 29, 2013 at 7:30 am #

      Hey Jason
      I will get an email to you this morning!

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