“Why are we here?”
It is a question many people ask themselves through their life journey. Answers come in many forms through prayer, hope, and helping others.
But now imagine yourself as a person who was abandoned by his or her biological parents. How can you, and that child, find solace? You are reading this for the same reason I am writing this, because we share the belief and value of finding families for children who will always be asking the question of, “Why am I here?” The answer is the same for the child as it is for us: to bond, to hope, and to love.
We do this through advocacy.
There is a ripple effect to our actions of advocacy, compassion, and love. We give hope of finding the children a forever family. It reaches far and wide, by empowering potential families to have faith to give the children what they need the most: a mother, a father, a brother, a sister. It is amazing, the gift God gave my wife Michelle and me, in having a voice and strength to be on a stage to rally our friends, families, and co-workers to help these children.
For our family, since embarking on our journey of child advocacy, we can map our actions to the adoption of more than 30 children to 26 families. This result was not championed solely by Michelle and me, but was the result of the ripples we sent out.
You too have the ability to create that ripple effect.
We are sharing our story here to provide insights of our process to help these children and connect them to new families. We invested very little time in relation to the profound effect it had, but we helped change their lives, one child at a time.
Our adoption story started by building our family through international adoption. We adopted two boys through the Korean program. After our second adoption we knew God gave us two great gifts.
With each adoption, we were given the chance to visit the orphanage nursery. We held infants in our arms. Fed them their bottles. We looked into the oceans of their eyes sharing emotions of sorrow and hope. We cried silently, and not-so-silently for them. This experience left a hole in our spirit and our hearts. But that hole was something unnoticed as we got into the routine of being parents to two boys.
After putting the boys to bed one night, I realized we needed to pay back for the gifts we had been given. Michelle and I decided we needed to have the faith, extend ourselves, and challenge ourselves to give another child the most important gift they could be given.
When we went to China to adopt our third son, we were able to spend the day at his orphanage. We played with the friends of our new son, many of whom were older children who also needed the same thing we were giving our son: hope and a family. But something was different about our new son and his friends. They needed extra help to grow stronger and help adapting to life with various special needs.
To get them help, we knew their stories needed to be told.
In the short run, we got caught up in the craziness of doctor’s appointments, surprise diagnoses, and overall parenting our three sons. After the dust settled, we allowed ourselves to think about how we could do more. How can we be the voice for the children that are left behind? How can our voice ripple across our network of family and friends?
The ripple effect has worked well for us. This is how we have gotten it to work.
1. Identify children who need advocacy.
– Listen to your heart! You may see children come up through your Facebook feed. Some of these children may speak to your heart. Share their posts. Share their stories, and you’re amplifying their chances of their forever family seeing them.
– Turn your passion for children into words. Say something personal in sharing your story. It may be something like, “This boy reminds me of my son.” Or, “This girl spoke to my heart, and I feel the need to share her photo. Are you her forever family?” Let your heart speak.
2. Contact your adoption agency’s matching specialist.
– Every agency needs your help! They will have many children who they need to connect forever families. They often can help you write a short bio on the child. Add your heartfelt thoughts to it, and your friends will see your passion, and may be led to do more.
– Continue to share that child’s story. It often takes time for the seeds you plant in a person’s heart to take root. You may not see hearts changing, but there are most likely shifts, just from telling a story.
3. Build a community.
– Not everyone is a potential future parent. Telling the child’s story will build a community of people who have been moved by the story. They will become your disciples in your advocacy journey by sharing the story, helping fundraisers, and empowering potential adoptive families to say YES.
– Use your resources. Some advocacy mediums we’ve found useful are the following. If you have more to add please do so in the comments of this post. Consider the child you pick as a stone you cast into a calm lake and the story you tell while expanding ripples across the smooth surface.
(Please note: on the FB groups, these are “closed” groups, so in order to share their posts, simply cut and paste the photos and verbiage onto your wall. On your post, make the post “public” so your friends can share it.)
4. Encourage potential parents.
– Be ready and willing to advise. Consider potential parents as other rocks tossed into the calm lake near the child’s rock. Think of the potential parents as the stone casting out ripples of interest and curiosity. As an advocate you will help extend those ripples through advising them in how to gather more information about the child and the adoption process.
– People are watching. Our friends, coworkers, church family are all watching. They are often curious, but many think, “Oh, that’s not for me. That family is doing an awesome job, but it’s not for me.” But many of these watchers can do it. They need to be encouraged and given permission to think the seemingly impossible. Tell them it’s OK, and that you understand there are a lot of obstacles. Be the voice for the children. The children wait. They need love. They need a family. You know families.
This list is just a small sampling of ideas on how you can be the voice of the children. We’ve found the most effective tool is to take a direction that speaks to your heart. You will have passion and momentum when you’re following your heart, and that will keep you focused, to be the voice of the children who need your help.
The gift you have been given is to help people find their power and strength to fight for these children who will bring joy to their homes.
Michelle and I are thankful and blessed with our friends, family, co-workers, and church to help with our advocacy. We would not have connected a single child without their help. They just needed to know how they could help and know they could make a difference.
Our family’s favorite quote is, “We cannot change the world, but we can change the world of one person.”
Let’s rally in being the change that starts the ripple. And watch the profound ripple effect grow.
– guest post by Stefan Wahe