Mission Monday: getting educated

Okay, okay, Mission Monday is a day late this week. I almost skipped it altogether, but since I skipped last week, I decided better late than never, right? I just really wanted to share how much my heart has been changing as I educate myself more and more about the orphan crisis, orphan care and adoption. It's amazing how God has taken the little seed of me wanting to serve orphans through my photography, and has multiplied that seed into full-blown passion for the orphan and an intense desire to make adoption part of Matt and I's story. Over the course of the last month or so, since learning that I was part of the team traveling to Uganda, I've been consuming SO much information about adoption. I had so many questions. How does international adoption even work? How do you choose a country? How do you choose a child? Why does it take so long? Why is it so expensive? Do you worry about what people will think about your mixed race family? Are you scared that your kids will have severe issues that you don't know how to deal with? How can adoption play into our life?

I've been reading books, blogs and last weekend, Matt and I watched a moving documentary called "Stuck."

[embed] http://vimeo.com/59302895 [/embed]

I cried throughout much of the movie, thinking about all the sweet little souls I met in Peru volunteering at an orphanage there a couple years ago. I hope they're okay. I hope someone has come for them. I hope they know they're loved.

But aside from pulling at my heartstrings, the movie helped me consider some pretty powerful questions. Why is there an orphan crisis in the first place? Is adoption really the answer, or can we focus instead of helping communities become sustainable so that families don't feel the need to give up their children to orphanages to begin with? And I think it's important to ask those questions, to be an informed person and really think through this deep, complex issue from all sides. Which is why I am SO excited to be serving at the particular orphanage in Uganda that we'll be serving at. Sharon, the director, is committed to re-uniting families that have had to give up their children and give them the tools to create a better life. I'm thrilled to be partnering with an organization that believes in the good of adoption, but also the importance of strengthening families and communities. I couldn't ask for a better combination.

3 months ago, I knew NOTHING about adoption. Today, I still have a lot to learn, but I feel so much more educated, so much more prepared to answer questions. And so much more open to the possibility of adoption in our own life. When I was younger, I knew I wanted a large family. Friends would talk about wanting to someday adopt and that was so far from my heart. Why adopt when you can have your "own" kids? But this trip, and my teammates, and everything I've been reading to learn about adoption, has lovingly challenged me. Its opened my eyes. First of all, "your kids" are simply kids you love and commit to raise, to walk through hell and high water with, to never give up on. Adopted kids are no less important or claimed or loved than biological kids. You don't have to wait until after you have "your own" kids to adopt. There is no formula, no timeline. "God calls the unqualified, and qualifies the called." 3 months ago, I never would have believed that adoption could be in Matt and I's near future. I thought you have to be a bonafide grown up to adopt. I thought you have to have money to adopt. I thought you have to have a big house to adopt. But really, you just have to be willing, to adopt. You just have to have a heart full of love and a desire to pour out all that love to a fatherless child if God so calls you. The money, the adulthood, the big house seems so much less important now. We have a heart to serve these little orphan souls and I really believe that's all God needs.

Big things are happening in my heart and in my marriage, thanks to this trip. People keep telling me "you're going to do so much good. you're truly going to change these kids' lives." What no one realizes is that these kids, perfect strangers to me, have already changed mine.