Sunday, February 7, 2010

When good is good…

Many of you know that my niece Grace was adopted from Ethiopia. The story goes that my sister Blaine’s church, one Sunday, hosted a U.S. missionary who’d returned from Ethiopia. The topic of international adoption arose, and Blaine felt a deep stirring in her soul. She and Will, her husband, talked and prayed about it for some time. They discussed finances, did much research, and eventually decided God was calling them to adopt.

That’s when the waiting began. From start to finish, the adoption process took Blaine and Will about eighteen months. I’d never witnessed that process, so I hadn’t realized how much paperwork and planning adoption required. And apparently, Blaine and Will’s timeline was shorter than many others. There were regulatory agencies from the U.S., local and national, as well as from Ethiopia, that needed reassurance. No, they weren’t ‘adopting’ children and selling them to sweatshops. No, they weren’t involved in international sex trafficking of minors. Yes, they were able to support an adopted child, emotionally and financially. A caseworker toured their home, interviewed them and their other kids. And they both had to travel to Ethiopia for three weeks before everything was complete and Grace was finally in California. Phew, what an adventure!

We don’t know everything, but it seems Grace began life tragically and miraculously. She was abandoned not long after birth. Grace’s birth mom struggled with AIDS, they think, and desperate poverty. She had no hope of properly raising the kid, so she let Grace go. Someone found her before she died, thankfully, and placed her in an over-crowded orphanage (Grace’s story isn’t unique in Ethiopia). Fortunately, a loving American family wanted to adopt her, which happened approximately five months later. Now she’s my niece.

Some questioned why Blaine chose international adoption, rather than domestic, and that’s fair. From my rudimentary knowledge, there is some unmet need for U.S. born adoption, particularly for African-American children and teenagers. But regardless where they’re from, adopted kids are children who needed stable homes. And what challenged Blaine and Will to open their family to a parent-less child were stories of severe Ethiopian poverty, which was reason enough for them.

I’ve thought about those circumstances a lot ever since hearing, this week, about that group of American missionaries arrested in Haiti. In case you didn’t, ten Baptists were stopped at a border crossing, and accused of child trafficking. It seems these do-gooders tried taking 33 kids to an orphanage they were building in the Dominican Republic, which promised better living conditions than the earthquake/poverty ravaged Haiti. But the missionaries didn’t have the right paperwork, and weren’t up-to-speed on international adoption protocols. They were, from all appearances, simply folk who wanted to help kids, and thought they’d found a good way.

But as my family learned, there’s A LOT to consider if you want to help orphaned children. And given the multi-billion dollar evil sex trafficking industry, that’s probably for the best. Think of how easily devious criminals could target vulnerable Haitians these days. Tens of thousands of parents dead. A non-functioning government. If I were a border guard, I’d be especially wary. Now, it doesn’t seem like these missionaries intended such harm. Quite the opposite. But are they, therefore, without fault? In other words, is wanting to do good enough? Or are Christians called to put effort, as well, into finding a good way to do good, particularly if you have the capacity to do so? Being married to a researcher, I’m of the latter opinion. The law of unintended consequences concerns me, as does the ease with which our compassionate hearts can muddle our thinking in times of crisis.

But it also seems this story is just beginning. New details emerge daily, so I’m reserving full judgment. What do you think? Should Christians act first, and ask questions later? Or is there a spiritual imperative to make sure, as best we can, that our efforts will bear good fruit? Or is that just a convenient excuse for inaction? May your weeks fill others with goodness. Please pray for these imprisoned missionaries and all the children of Haiti. In all things,

Grace and Peace,


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