Monday, May 12, 2008

Orphan Conference, Adoption, and Multi-Ethnicity (or the lack thereof)

My wife and I recently attended a conference in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida called “Hope For Orphans”. It was probably the biggest gathering of Christian men and women from various organizations and ministries that focus specifically on orphans to ever take place. Represented were people with a passion for foster care, local and foreign adoption, and international ministry to orphans. It was an amazing and refreshing time for us, as we have never been around so many people so passionate about the same things as us. It was exciting to network with others laboring in the fields of the fatherless, and it was fun to hear the same language being talked about- from the church's desperate need to recover the front lines of orphan care (both locally and globally) to the church's need for a solid understanding of spiritual adoption and what it means to be adopted sons and daughters of God. It was also fun to see so many families exemplifying the doctrine of adoption in their own families through adopting children from around the world. Just a glance around the room and one would quickly notice children from China, Ethiopia, and various ethnicities from within America. How beautiful!

Yet, even as I smiled at such beautiful diversity within various families, my heart was yet saddened by one stark reality- the room itself lacked diversity. Granted, there were a few African brothers and sisters in the room, mainly because they work with orphans in Africa, and there were a few brothers and sisters of color scattered here or there, but overall, a good 95% of the people in attendance of this Orphan Summit IV were white American. My heart could not help but feel saddened. Is this really a conference reflective of the church in America in terms of orphan care, concern, and ministry? Where are my African American brothers and sisters? Where are other established minority church groups? Are these church's simply not involved in orphan care or was the conference targeting one specififc ethnic group (white churches)? I don't have an answer to these questions(though I have some ideas), but I've been thinking about it non-stop since the conference. I am really interested in your feedback in this situation, because I think this is a sad reality on a much bigger level than simply this conference.

It also seems to me that a people so passionate about and so committed to the doctrine of adoption and its implications for the church in both life and practice (in terms of the adoption of orphans from various different ethnicities) should be just as passionate and just as committed to pursuing multi-ethnicity in both church life and ministry practice. It also seems to me that the doctrine of adoption provides a paradigm for multi-ethnic ministry (or the pursuit of unity within the ethnic diversity within the body of Christ)- something I'm working on teasing out in an article form (I'll post that when it's done). How beautiful it will be one day when families, men and women, who are passionate about the doctrine of adoption and who reflect the beauty of that doctrine in their own families, form but a small picture of the larger gathered diverse Body of believers, whether gathering to talk about ministry to orphans, or gathering to worship on Sunday morning.

I guess for now, I'd love to hear your take on these things.


Aaron said...

Wow! Keith! What a great post! I have so many things I want to say but first I would like to ask you a question first. After you respond to this I think I would have a better informed comment.
You said that you had and idea of why there weren't any established ethnic minorities represented. Please let me know why you believe this to be so. You are very perceptive so I would love to hear your take on that. I am sure you have some "inside" info as well like whether or not a specific dynamic was targeted or not. Help a brotha out!

You can just call me if you like and we can discuss it. I miss you man! I need to talk with you anyway about some stuff going here in California!

Love ya bro!

Tremonisha Martin said...

Uncle Keith, thanks for raising some pivital questions! Awesome blog! :)

It is true that there is a lack of precense in foster care and adoption in America by African American families today.

The disheartening thing about it, is the fact that for so long the African American community was a place of “non-scructured” adoption. For example, during slavery, when children were stripped from their families, it was oftentimes unrelated slave “parents” in their new community that took them in as their own. There was nothing legal about it, but nevertheless, this was their new family!

All the way up to the Civil Rights Movement, particulary in the South, oftentimes whenever a child was orphaned, they went to live with their extended family. In my mother’s case, who lost her mother at age 8, she went from “family member ” to “family member” until she graduated from high school and got married at age 18.

Today African American families are in a much better socio-economic position than they have ever been in the history of America. Unfortunately, it has been a curse as well as a blessing because when discrimination was prevalent the African American community- particulary black brothers and sisters united by the blood of Jesus-were bound together by a common cord of oppression. This led them to “protect and watch over their own” and fatherless children were often mentored and provided for by a local body of believers.

Post Civil Rights Era, the African American community has a long way to go in stepping up and confronting grevious statistics such as ½ of black children being raised are being raised without a father and one out of three black men were in prison according to a report from 2000. This has resulted in caous within the community, as risks are greater for dropping out of school, alcohol and drug use, adolescent pregnancy and child bearing, juvenile delinquency, mental illness, and suicide.

This is a call to African American Christians of all ages that we need to repent for our negligence and indifference and ask the Father how we are to get involved on behalf of the fatherless in our midst.


Keith said...

Wow guys- first off, I apologize for the extreme time away- something about moving across the world (once again)! But we are back and settled, so I'm here in full attention.

Trem, great history and overview- thanks for bringing that to the table. I know little about the African-American history. I am not up to date, so I could make no claim of "negligence" or "indifference" on behalf of that community (in terms of actual care for or involvment with orphans/adoption). What is being done today? That would help me a lot.

Aaron, I'm not exactly sure who was targeted or wasn't, so I can't speak on that. I could only guess that the minority community was not targeted.

One thing I'd like feedback on, though, is that one person suggested to me that there were no African Americans because of money...that it takes money to adopt and to be involved in orphan care. I reject that. What do you think?

Aaron said...

I reject that as well. I think a more accurate conclusion is that the African-American community has been all about "adopting" their own for years.

Aunties raising their nephews, Grandma's taking in whoever, Uncle's fathering their cousins, etc. One of the beautiful things about the "community" that I grew up in was the willingness for relatives to take in their family members.

My Grandmother raised my two brothers and I along with anybody else who needed a place to stay and food to eat.

So in this I think adoption has been very much "in house" and hasn't gone outside of the community.

Their are a lot of "adoptions" that take place in the community that may not fit the definition of the agency but they are still just as equally important and legitament.

These are just my thoughts! Love ya bro!

Still waiting to see what is the best website for finding Ugandan phone cards. Also I need to know when to call.

Holla at your boy!

P.S. Take the word verification of your blog!!!!!!

Keith said...

Aaron, I'm with you- I think it's the same with a number of minorities. So, I think the issue with the conference wasn't necessarily that minorities (or in this case, specifically African-Americans) are not interested in caring for orphans, nor that minority Christians don't practice orphan care. I guess it's more a sign of the lack of general dialogue between many white churches/large organizations and churches made up primarily of minorities. Yet, they (and I mean "we") desperately need what that experience and practice brings to the table.

Oh, and I figured out how to take that thing off- man! Help me get this things up to par!

Keith said...
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