From the bottom of our hearts, we want to thank you! Thank you for praying for us during our adoption wait. Thank you for buying our fundraiser t-shirts. Thank you for donating some of your bazaar earnings to our family. Thank you for allowing us to use your fellowship hall to host our spaghetti dinner fundraiser. Thank you for donating items to us for our garage sale. Thank you for taking up a collection for us the Sunday before we left for China. Thank you for praying for our safe journey while we were traveling in-country. Thank you, thank you, from the bottom of our hearts!
But church, the work of our adoption is not done. In fact, the opposite is true. Now that we’re home with our precious child, the true work of adoption is just beginning.
James tells us to be doers of the Word, and not hearers only (James 1:22). We HEARD the Lord call us to adopt and we did it. But, there is still much work to DO.
“But,” you might ask, “How can we help you? What can we do? And what is there to still be done? We thought the adoption process was the hard part, and that once you got your child home, things would settle down and ‘normal’ would return.”
Let me explain. You see, the work of getting to our child, while sometimes difficult, nerve-wracking, and time-consuming, is EASY compared with the work of attaching to our child, helping our child attach to us, overcoming language barriers, and figuring out what our new “normal” as a family really is. There are several stages after bringing our child home where we still need your help.
Stage #1: Re-entry (the period of time immediately following the return from our trip), is comprised of between two and four of the hardest weeks of our lives. Jet lag, language barriers, and fear serve to cause doubt to creep in. “What have we done? Are we crazy? Was this child better off in China? Have we ruined her life?”
Paul tells us in Galatians to bear each other’s burdens*, and in so doing, we are fulfilling the law of Christ (6:22).(*Quick clarification: We do not mean to imply that our children are burdens to us. Rather, the act of grafting our new child into our family can pose its own set of struggles that, while temporary, can cause added stress on our family and child. It is this stress that we refer to by the word “burdens” and which you can help us bear by walking alongside us on this journey.)
Church, here’s what you can do to help bear our burdens with us during re-entry: provide meals for us, offer to do some of our laundry, take some of our older children to the park/movies/your house for some time away from the chaos, grocery shop for us, offer to clean our house. These are some practical things that we probably won’t ask you to do for us, but that we would greatly appreciate.
Stage #2: Transition. After re-entry, we are working on language acquisition, possibly going back to work, and maybe figuring out if we can put our child in school yet or not. This is a difficult time for us as parents. If we have to go back to work, we feel guilty for leaving our new child. If we don’t go back to work, we perhaps are facing financial hardship as a result.
There are a couple things that you can do, Church, to help bear our burdens through transition. Providing meals is still a great thing to do. Our family still has not yet figured out our new “normal,” so sometimes it is hard to regulate our schedules and eat at “normal” times. Gift cards to fast food restaurants, grocery stores, or gas stations also really help. When we aren’t at work/school, we are still “cocooning” (staying home with our new child to allow him/her time to learn that mom and dad are her sole caregivers and to help build trust), so sometimes it’s hard to get out as much as we would like or need to in order to get to the bank so we can get groceries, food, and gas. Also, if you have any puzzles, word games, or other language-type activities that you can loan us, that would be great. We might think we have all that we need in this area, but sometimes trying something new with our new child can make a world of difference as we attempt to help her overcome the language barrier.
Stage #3: Attachment and bonding in adoptive families is a process that takes months, if not years. It is not a quick-fix-now-let’s-move-on kind of thing. How can you, Church, help bear our burdens while we are still fostering attachment and bonding, even if our child has been home with us for quite some time? A practical idea is to call us or write us encouraging notes. You have no idea, unless you’ve been in the trenches, how lonely it can be parenting a child who is having difficulty attaching to you (or vice versa!) or whose transition into your family has been traumatic. Knowing that people care about us and what we are going through makes a huge difference! Sometimes, getting that note in the mail can be the difference between giving up or holding on for one more day. It can be like the “streams in the desert” that Isaiah talks about (43:19).
Also, if we have not yet brought our child to Sunday school, you could ask us some questions about what our child will need to foster her spiritual growth once she is able to attend Sunday school. Perhaps you can order a Mandarin-English Bible. It is also likely that our child has special needs. What accommodations can the church body make to help our child feel more welcome and comfortable when at church? While it might sound strange to you, church is often a very unwelcoming place for children/families with special needs. Our family will feel much more comfortable attending church if we know that the church body is attempting to meet our every need as best as it possibly can.
Stage #4: What about the long-term? How can you continue to support us, Church, months and even years down the road after an adoption? There is a chance that we can use your professional help. If you are a doctor, counselor, therapist, psychologist, teacher, or nurse, there is a chance that we might come to you for professional help/advice as it relates to our child. Please be willing to listen and not judge us. If you cannot help us, perhaps you can refer us to someone who can.
Above all, Church, please pray for us during each of these stages! James tells us that the fervent prayer of righteous people can accomplish much (5:16). Please keep us in your prayers. The enemy of our souls HATES adoption. He wants to keep our children trapped in their orphan status and to keep us trapped in our doubt and fear, so he will try to thwart our efforts to bond and attach every chance he gets. We covet your prayers! We will never know this side of heaven what the prayers of Christ’s Bride will accomplish.
Again, Church, we want to say thank you. Thank you for the support you’ve already given us, and thank you for all the support that you can provide as we move forward in the strength and love of our heavenly Father. Thank you for coming alongside us and helping us bear our burdens as we walk this adoption road. You are Christ’s hands and feet to us here on earth.
An Adoptive Family
– guest post by Amy