Is There Hope for Russian Adoptions? Tears and Heaven


Original flavor Sun Chips in the bag

Original flavor Sun Chips (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On December 28, 2012, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a life-wrecking edict to stop Russian adoptions. The story below is my attempt to capture the agony and offer some hope.

A bag of Sun Chips broke my heart. I saw the half-empty bag with its twisted, crumpled top dangling gingerly over the side of the white countertop. The bag was unmistakably Misiker’s. It had been held tightly in his little brown fists all evening long.

Misiker is my (now) three year-old son, who came to live with us in Kentucky last March. The Sun Chips episode occurred in his native land of Ethiopia. I share the story because it offers a hint of the agony now endured by 46 adopting parents in the former Soviet Union.

The Sun Chips broke my heart because of what they symbolized: A baby boy trying to hold what tiny bit of life he could in his little two year-old fingers.  My wife and I officially adopted Misiker and his younger brother Jack last December in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. However, because of the quirky immigration policies of the USA, we had to leave Misiker and Jack in Ethiopia and return home to Kentucky, even though Ethiopia had awarded them to us as our children.

We bonded with the boys. Misiker stayed with us throughout the day. He was always busy running around the orphanage compound, playing with the other children, kicking a ball, and talking with anyone who might listen; yet he kept an eye on his mom and dad. He played, but checked to see that we were watching. And we were, until the night arrived for our departure.

When I handed Misiker over to the nanny so she could take him to bed (while the driver took us to the airport), the little boy’s eyes looked scared. His countenance was confused.  His nose crumpled upward, while his smile broke uncontrollably downward, muffling his tearful cries just enough to make them more unbearable for his mom and dad. We had to let him go, but neither he nor we really understood why. Through tears, we prayed, then went back to our room to gather our bags.

In the room, I completely fell to pieces, feeling very much like someone had drilled a hole in my stomach and was slowly pulling out my intestines at a tortuously slow pace—delightfully increasing my agonizing cries. When I thought I could not cry any more tears, I gathered our bags and walked down the stairs. When I turned the corner, I saw the Sun Chips bag his little hands had held.

This two year-old baby owned nothing in this world. Everything from his underwear to his pink slippers was borrowed from the community basket. All he had in this world that he could call his own was a single bag of Sun Chips, and there they sat on the edge of a counter awaiting his return.  Would he remember them in the morning? More importantly, would he remember me in the morning? I would likely be flying over the Atlantic when he awoke in the morning. Would he remember? Would I ever see my little boy again? When would he finally have a mommy and a daddy he could not lose?

From December to March, my life was agony. My wife and I prayed for our boys often, but longed for them even more. We finally were able to bring them home, but I doubt I will ever forget the horror of having to let them go.

I have experienced a small shadow of the pain now clouding the lives of the 46 parents who were in Russia to get their own little boys and little girls, only to be told by a hateful, political edict: You can’t have them!  May God have mercy on these parents and their babies.

For me, the greatest comfort was the thought of Christ’s return.  If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am,there you may be also.” (John 14:3). As I was leaving to prepare a better life for my little boy, I was also imitating the Lord Jesus Himself, who is returning for us.  Our time on this earth as believers is time spent just like the orphan who is waiting for all to be made right at his father’s return. Christ is returning for us. He will receive us to Himself and take us to our heavenly Father forever to dwell in perfect righteousness where there will no longer be a need for tears.

Adoptions Down


The 2011 adoption statistics were just released, and they showed that adoptions are down in the U.S.  Indeed, adoptions were down a significant 15% from the 2010 numbers, and down a mind-boggling 60% from the peak numbers of 2004.  One must go back nearly two decades (1994) to find a year in which there were fewer adoptions than there were this past year.

What is going on?

Apparently, government interference is going on.  I’m not an anarchist. I’m not an anti-government libertarian.  I’m not even an “occupier.”  I am a parent who is caught up in the process of adopting 2 orphan boys from Ethiopia.  In 2010, Ethiopia completed 2,513 adoptions to parents in the U.S.  Last year, the number dropped to 1,727—which means 786 fewer orphans were brought into a forever family.  The reason for this is not that Ethiopia has fewer orphans needing to be adopted: There are still more than 4 million orphans awaiting adoption.  The reason for the decline is government intervention.

Of course, the government was compelled to intervene after dozens of serious irregularities were uncovered in Guatemala back in 2007.  The nadir of the Guatemalan adoption program came when 6 year-old Anyelí Liseth Hernández Rodríguez was adopted legally by a Missouri family who were told that she was an orphan. In truth, Anyelí was kidnapped from her home in Guatemala and sold as an orphan through the criminal actions of an adoption attorney and an agency worker in Guatemala.  The attorney and the agency worker have been found guilty of kidnapping and sentenced to 21 and 16-year prison terms respectively.  They have also been forced to pay heavy fines to the mother of the child.

The Guatemalan kidnapping sent shockwaves which have reverberated throughout the sea-bed of the inter-country adoption ocean, causing a literal tsunami of regulations to flood out orphanages from Ethiopia to Manila.  As regulations increased, adoptions decreased.

Everyone appears to understand the dynamic, but who is prepared to correct it?

No one condones kidnapping and child-trafficking (at least no one with a moral compass).  Obviously, little Anyelí is caught between two families who each appear to love her and call her their own, though she can only be with one of them—and not the other.  Her case has hamstrung the will of many adoption proponents who are now forced to ask whether it is worth it if even one case comes to separate a child from her parents. No doubt, any parent would answer in the negative if it were her child who was kidnapped.

Still, as tragic as Anyelí’s case is, it is but one—one case in more than 100,000. In fact, even though Guatemala’s adoptions have been shut down because of numerous infractions (such as forged birth certificates and falsified papers), the problem cases in Guatemala represented only 3% of the total adoptions which took place in 2007.  This means, of course, that 97% of the adoptions which were completed in that year ended with needy, abandoned children being united with a loving, familial embrace.

To state the matter another way, more than 15,000 orphans in Guatemala have not been available for adoption since 2007.  Instead of being united with families in the U.S. who desire to nurture them, many orphans have been left in orphanages to formulate their own family structure, attaching to workers and children who, no doubt, come and go throughout their lives.

Even more to the point (for it is understandable that extra precautions must be in place in Guatemala), in Ethiopia, adoptions have been cut in half because of increased fears of improprieties in the adoption process, even though no actual improprieties have been discovered.  What this means is that people like me must wade through the slog of paperwork, while patiently enduring a two-year process which winds up costing about $40,000.  Other countries are more difficult than Ethiopia.

Tragically, this means that little orphan boys and little orphan girls are forced to remain alone, abandoned, and, most likely, never adopted into a family.  By some estimates, there are more than 4 million orphans in Ethiopia.  Adopting at the current rate, it would take more than 2,300 years to get current orphans in Ethiopia into an adopting family; and that is operating on the impossible assumption that no further orphans will be added to that number. The task appears impossible.

Efforts of governmental agencies—no matter how well-intentioned—are hurting thousands and thousands of children in need of familial love.  The current downward spiral of inter-country adoptions needs to be reversed.

Chuck Johnson of the National Council for Adoption gets it right in this quote from a USA Today article: “This trend is not right, and it is not good for children.  Given the increasing number of orphaned children worldwide, the continued decline in intercountry adoptions means that children’s most basic needs and rights are being denied.”

May the Lord raise up more advocates to speak up for the little ones who need familial love.

 

Path to True Blessing?


How do you know when you are blessed?  On first blush, you might respond that you know you are blessed when you have peace with God and peace with your wife and family.  Many of us would think we are blessed when we have plenty of money.  We think that NFL players who get paid 6 million bucks a year to catch passes are the ones who are blessed.

But what about Abera Ongeremu, is he blessed?  Ongeremu—a traveling evangelist—was visiting at a church in Olenkomi, Ethiopia, when members of the Orthodox Church there stormed the evangelical church building in which he was staying. They ordered him to burn his Bible.  He replied that he would not burn the word of life. So, they decided to burn him.  They tied his hands, poured diesel all over the room, started the fire, and locked the doors.  Ongeremu was certain this was his day to die, but his persecutors weren’t satisfied that their diabolical scheme was a sufficient outpouring of torture.  Thus, they dragged him back out of the burning church and beat him until he fell unconscious on the ground.  He did not die that day (you can read his story here).

Would we call Ongeremu blessed, or cursed.  According to the Scriptures, Jesus calls this man blessed:

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:10).

I doubt that we mean for anything like this to happen to others when we say to them, “God bless you.”  Indeed, when we seek the Lord’s favor and ask for His blessing, we are not at all hoping to be treated by the world the way Ongeremu was treated.  Quite the opposite, in fact, we are usually hoping that the blessing will cause the world to look on us with favor (thus giving us the job, the award, the contract, the admission to the school, etc.).

In the New Testament, however, persecution is a blessing.  “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me” (Matthew 5:11).  As we contemplate persecution (and the persecuted) we realize that blessedness is something more than (and something strangely different from) what we had imagined.  Blessedness is directly related to relationship to Christ—not to material prosperity.  The Lord does not say “rejoice and be glad” when you become rich.  Instead, He warns that it is hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven (cf. Matthew 19:24).  But Jesus does tell us when we are persecuted that we should “rejoice and be glad” for our reward in heaven is great.  This is, in fact, the way it has always been for the people of faith (Matthew 5:12).

To be blessed means to be in the presence of Christ.  Or, more specifically, it means that Christ is present with you (Matthew 28:20).  Such divine presence tends to make one invincible.  It means to be in right relationship to the Living God.   When we are made alive in Christ, no death will be a final threat to us. We cannot be threatened with death or any of death’s allies because death only promises to bring us nearer into the presence of Christ.  To be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor 5:8).  In Christ, we, too, are blessed like Ongeremu and will never be defeated.

 

Where Peaceful Muslims Stand


I don’t understand the outrage against Representative Peter King.  He is asking whether there is a problem with Islamic terror within the population of Muslims in America.  The sensible nature of his inquiry is on display in the shootings at Ft. Hood and in the attempted bombing of Times Square and in the attempted bombing in Detroit and in the attempted bombing in Oregon—not to mention the fall of the World Trade Center and the more than 3,000 souls who perished in a single day of Islamic terror.

Muslim Rep. Keith Ellison weeping at hearings on extent of radical Islam in America.

I watched a news report concerning these hearings, and the audience appeared overly eager to pronounce the patriotism of Muslims in America because there was a Muslim man killed on 911 in the World Trade Center.  Yes, he was a courageous American, but the 19 other Muslims who carried out the terrorist attack that day certainly were not.  The question being asked by Representative King is not whether Muslims are patriotic in general.  The question is not whether the majority of Muslims are terrorists. No one thinks that the majority of Muslims are terrorists.  But anyone who doubts whether the majority of terrorists are Muslims is a lunatic.  The majority of terrorists in the world and in the United States are Muslims. It is a fact.

This fact needs to be admitted by all so that a measure of sanity might again prevail.  The question is not whether the average American Muslim is a terrorist.  The question is whether the average American Muslim understands the nature of Islamic terror.  Indeed, the question is whether the average American understands the nature of Islamic terror.  We desperately need to get a handle on the reality of Islamic terror.

Calling a member of congress an Islamaphobe because he is asking important questions is childish, and, worse, it is deadly.  The case of Major Hassan in Ft. Hood, TX, shouts as an indictment against our feigned outrage concerning Muslim inequality in America. Major Hasan was propped up in his position as a Captain and a therapist in the army, even though he was known to have sympathies with Jihadist terror movements. So, while he was plotting the murders of 13 innocent and unsuspecting Americans, our military leaders were appeasing him at every turn so as not to give the impression that there is any bias against Muslims.  Granted, there should be no bias against Muslims, but there should be no bias toward them either—especially when those Muslims are known to have ties to terror cells!  How many Americans have to die before we wake up from our drunken stupor of political correctness?

I am glad Representative King has the fortitude to ask some basic questions to find out how many Major Hasan’s are plotting to kill American citizens.  I don’t want America to become like Egypt or Ethiopia, where Muslims slaughter non-Muslims at an alarming rate.  I don’t think anyone living in Soul (Atfif), Egypt, really cares that the majority of Muslims are peaceful.  All they know is their village was ransacked and burned, and their relatives were killed by Muslims in the name of Allah.  Likewise, in the Jimma zone of Ethiopia, 59 churches have been burned, 28 Christian homes have been destroyed, and more than 4,000 Christians have been displaced in the name of Allah.  Do these thousands of displaced people need to be told that the majority of Muslims are patriotic and peace-loving?  It hardly matters to them.  What matters to them is finding a place to live now that Muslims destroyed their homes.

The sad reality is that Egypt and Ethiopia are not as bad as other Muslim areas.  To act as though there is no problem with Islamic terror is to act as a fool who naively offers the hangman his own noose.  Moderate Muslims are irrelevant.  They do not speak for Islam.  If moderate Muslims wish to become a relevant part of the conversation, then let them speak out against Islamic terror rather than speaking out against an American representative who is trying to do something about it.

When has there even been such an Islamic outcry against acts of terror as there is now an Islamic outcry against Representative Peter King of New York?  When there is, then we will know where the peaceful Muslims stand.

Persecution in Ethiopia


Earlier today, I posted a blog about our Ethiopian adoption.  In that blog, I noted that one of the factors of our adopting from Ethiopia was the fact that the children suffered there in a way they did not suffer in the Philippines.  Sadly, two new incidents out of Africa demonstrate the point all too plainly.

Over the past 2 days, Muslims in Ethiopia have been raiding Christian villages and burning Christian churches.  According to International Christian Concern (ICC), five Christian churches have been razed over the past two days.  In addition, two homes of Christian evangelists have been razed as well.  Thousands of Muslims have taken to the streets to participate in the violent outcry against the Christians.  The present violence appears to be centered around Asendabo, Ethiopia.  No Muslims have yet been detained or arrested.

This present violence is only the latest episode of Muslim violence in Ethiopia.  Just last week a group of 17 Christian college students were mobbed while they were conducting a mission trip to Oma Village, Ethiopia.  In both of these cases, the Muslim mobs overpowered the police to get at the Christians who were the targets of their ire.  In this instance, the Muslims beat the students and stoned them, but they were unable to kill them.

Both instances demonstrate that Muslim violence is growing as Muslims become a larger percentage of the population of Ethiopia.  ICC suggests that we encourage the Ethiopian government to crack down on such violent persecution.  Of course, the New Testament urges that we pray for our brothers and sisters in Ethiopia.

You may contact the Ethiopian embassy at (202) 364 1200.

Are You Blessed


How do we know when we are blessed?  On first blush, we might respond that we know we  are blessed when we have peace with God and peace with our wives and families.  Many of us would think we are blessed when we have plenty of money.  We think of NFL players making $6 million a year as the ones who are blessed.

But what about Abera Ongeremu, is he blessed?  Ongeremu—a traveling evangelist—was visiting at a church in Olenkomi, Ethiopia, when members of the Orthodox Church there stormed the evangelical church building where he was staying. They ordered him to burn his Bible.  He replied that he would not burn the word of life. So, they decided to burn him.  They tied his hands, poured diesel all over the room, started the fire, and locked the doors.  Ongeremu was certain this was his day to die, but the persecutors weren’t satisfied that this was a sufficient manner in which this evangelical Christian ought to die.  Instead, they dragged him back out and beat him until he fell unconscious on the ground.  He did not die that day (you can read his story here).

The question is whether we would call Ongeremu blessed, or cursed.  According to the Scriptures, Jesus calls this man blessed:

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:10).

I doubt that we mean for anything like this to happen to people when we say “God bless you” to folks.  Indeed, when we seek the Lord’s favor and ask His blessing for ourselves, we are not at all hoping to be treated by the world the way Ongeremu was treated.  Quite the opposite, in fact, we are usually hoping that the blessing will cause the world to look on us with favor (thus giving us the job, the contract, the admission to the school, etc.).

In the New Testament, however, persecution is a blessing.  “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me” (Matthew 5:11).  As we contemplate persecution (and the persecuted) we realize that blessedness is something more than (and something strangely different from) what we had imagined.  Blessedness is directly related to relationship with Christ—not to material prosperity.  The Lord does not say “rejoice and be glad” when you become rich.  Instead, He warns that it is hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven (cf. Matthew 19:24).  But Jesus does tell us when we are persecuted that we should “rejoice and be glad” for our reward in heaven is great.  This is, in fact, the way it has always been for the people of faith (Matthew 5:12).

To be blessed in Christ means to be invincible.  It means to be in right relationship to the Living God.   When we are made alive in Christ, no death will be a final threat to us (Hebrews 2:14-15). We cannot be threatened with death because death only promises to bring us into the presence of Christ.  To be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor 5:8).  In Christ, we, too, are blessed like Ongeremu and can never be defeated.