Saturday, May 24, 2008
Book Review: Adoption as a Ministry, Adoption as a Blessing
My reading interest has shifted slightly, from infertility readings to adoption-related readings (though I still have a few IF books on my list). Adoption As A Ministry, Adoption As A Blessing, by Michelle Gardener, is the first adoption title I finished.
I was intrigued by the title of this book. For so long I’ve campaigned that adoption be viewed and treated as more than just a solution to infertility, but as a rightful ministry, to be considered by Christians of varying degrees of biological cooperation. When I saw her title, I thought “can it be that someone else thinks that way too?” and I eagerly scooped it up.
I was not disappointed! Ms. Gardener presents a thoughtful, complex, honest picture of adoption, including her family’s story of their three children who were adopted. Infertility is never even mentioned. The Gardeners chose to adopt as an outpouring of the love and resources they had—perfect for a child with neither. Through that passion, they chose to adopt 3 older, special needs children from 3 different countries. Children who were, by the world’s standards, hopeless, unlovable and thoroughly unadoptable. As of the book’s writing, they were also pursuing foster care licensing.
I was so encouraged by Ms. Gardener’s bold convictions and proclamations. I was blessed and inspired by her courage and touched by her honesty as they shared very real questions they asked as they considered expanding their already established family of 5.
The book makes a solid case for adoption, both biblically and practically. At the same time, it withholds judgment on those who do not consider or choose it, and makes no value distinctions on domestic or international, infant or older child, “healthy” or special needs adoptions. The author is (rightly) convinced that all are equally good and that we are all equipped and called differently. To people who do not feel called to adoption, she exhorts shorter term or more indirect support, such as foster care, child sponsorship, financial support of adoption programs and families, and the gift of tangible assistance to families who do take children in to their home. She maintains that is the church’s biblical responsibility to care for orphans in need, and we can all help in some way.
She also offers practical advice for the church in meeting the needs of adoptive families in their churches. The advice is not extensive, but it is sound.
My one critique of the book is that it is mainly “Adoption as a Ministry,” with less focus on “Adoption as a Blessing.” Recently, we were counseled by friends who adopted 4 children many years ago, to resist the thinking that adopting is a social campaign. While I differ somewhat—my opinion is that your heart can be equally full for growing your own family and for ministering to a chlld in need—his basic premise was to make sure the child is always treated as a loved son or daughter, and not as a solution to a problem (ours or or the world’s). I appreciated the input and so I try to be mindful of that when thinking, talking and praying about adoption. I would have wished that the author had taken a little more time to focus on the beauty of their children in their own right, and how much their lives were enriched and hearts expanded by their addition to their family, for the reason of communicating that these are children loved as their own, and not just part of a crusade. Don't get me wrong, I don't for a second doubt her authentic love for her kids, I just would have liked to read more about it.
However, each of the children (biological and adopted) writes a brief passage about their thoughts (past and present) and none seem to convey that they feel like anything less than beloved children on their parents. So while the author may not have focused on her love as a parent as strongly as I would have perhaps appreciated, the writings from her kids solidify its undeniable existence- it’s just that it's not the subject of this book.
I would love to read an updated postscript with current info on the kids. (The existing passage is 5 years old).
Overall, I would encourage this book for a wide audience. Adoptive and prospective adoptive parents will find themselves encouraged, and perhaps have their own passions about this process expanded. Prospective parents will find useful, practical information about the adoption process. Curious readers may find their own hearts soon challenged with the question of how to help the world’s needy. Family and friends of adoptive families will get a special glimpse in to the hearts of an adoptive family, from the infancy of their considerations of it. Church leaders and members will receive insight in to how they can better minister to adoptive families, and better expand their own ministry to God’s littlest children.