I remember the first time my heart broke for orphans. My husband and I stumbled across the Michigan Adoption Resources Exchange (MARE) website. We saw beautiful photos of a sibling group of three boys. Their bios talked about the things they liked: pizza, football and video games, but what they really wanted the reader to know was that they wanted a family. They had been on the site for years and the oldest was 17. It hit me that it wasn’t very likely that they would realize that dream. I cried.
After this, adoption was on our radar.
I am an attorney. I was driving to court and got stuck in construction traffic. During this divine delay, a radio program came on about adoption. It again moved me and I knew that adoption was in my future. The program was about starting a church ministry for orphans.
I wasn’t qualified to start an orphan ministry, I wasn’t even an adoptive parent! To get started, my husband and I became licensed for foster care. We didn’t really have a goal, but we knew children needed families and we had to do something. We called Bethany Christian Services and were surprised to learn licensing is free. We simply had to complete training and paperwork. Through Bethany we have provided respite and fostered some children on a longer term-basis.
In 2010 we went on a mission trip to Chihuahua, Mexico, with no idea what to expect. We were greeted by children hungry for love and approval. We bonded with the children, painted nails, played games, gave hugs and in broken-Spanish told them how beautiful and wonderful they are. We were warned prior to arriving that most of these children were not “adoptable,” they were orphans to poverty. Their parents are living but for various reasons, can not care for them and left them at an orphanage.
One little girl looked at me and said “Adopción?” What was I supposed to say? I panicked and just hugged her, allowing our language barrier to let the question die.
The next day we were outside and a game of soccer started. Several kids brought us their snacks. They said “cuida”, and ran to play soccer. I understood this to mean, watch this, care for this, I’ll be back.
Leaving the orphanage was hard. We had quickly fallen in love with these children, but more importantly, our eyes had been opened to another part of the world where thousands of children were parentless and would do anything for a hug and a kind word. My small offering of time, money and love could make an impact. I knew that home wouldn’t be the same.
On the flight home I was reflecting and it was as if God was saying “cuida”, these are my children, please care for them. The Bible says that God sets the lonely in families¹, defends the cause of the poor², and that God is a father to the fatherless³, but the way that he is all of those things is through us, his people.
Friends who went on the trip with us moved to Mexico to start LOCO Ministry. They help prepare older orphans for life through education and trade school.
I would love to move to Mexico, but for now, I have directed my legal career to helping children get adopted and I started an orphan ministry in my church.
I share a passion for orphans with Eric Phelps, adoptive parent and adoption attorney. I asked him, “How can we make adoption more accessible?” There are 153,000,000 orphans in the world¹¹, many literally dying of starvation or preventable diseases, yet the cost for international adoption is between $30,000.00 and $50,000.00. Much of the cost comes from the government’s many requirements in an effort to keep corruption out of the adoption world. After all, these children are incredibly vulnerable.
I began working for Eric at his law firm, Phelps Legal Group. We have recently started a licensed Child Placing Agency and our first international adoption program is in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We are working diligently to keep the cost well below $30,000.00 for international adoption and we will also help families navigate the grants, scholarships and loans that are available for adoption.
The name of the Child Placing Agency we have started is 1:17 Center for Global Adoption. The 1:17 represents Isaiah 1:17 which instructs us to “Defend the cause of the fatherless.” We hope to do this through adoption work wherever there are children who are in need of families.
At West Side Community Church, we started an orphan’s ministry called One Less. Children from the Mexican orphanage receive letters and gifts from West Siders.
During a recent mission trip, one child excitedly showed a West Sider her few possessions. Next to her bed were photos and letters from the family who sponsored her. Taped to the front of her math book was a picture of the whole family. She was so proud to have this relationship.
One Less also supports individuals who are fostering or adopting. We partnered with Bethany Christian Services and hosted our first-ever “date night” for adoptive and foster families. The kids had a fun evening at the church so the parents could have a date. We are brainstorming more ways to support these families.
This passion is the most exciting and rewarding “calling” that I can imagine. It is messy, difficult and scary at times; there is a lot of heartbreak and pain. But the joy I experience when I go to Mexico, or put on the “date night” vastly outweighs the fear or pain associated with this call and I know that it is right for me.
Morgan G. Shier, Associate Attorney at Phelps Legal
- ¹ Psalm 68:6
- ² Jeremiah 22:16
- ³ Psalm 68:5
- ¹¹ UNICEF 2009, http://www.childinfo.org/hiv_aids_orphanestimates.php