This past week, our family attended the Christian Alliance for Orphans' (CAFO) annual summit. We joined several thousand who are on the front lines in the care of vulnerable children around the globe. Those who gathered in Chicago for CAFO 2014 represented 35 countries. Each brought his or her own stories of God at work. Each came to be refreshed and renewed in their commitment to answer God's clarion call woven throughout the Bible to "defend the orphan" (Isaiah 1:17).
Most likely, when orphan care is mentioned, adoption is the first thing to come to mind. While that may have been one of the few ways to make a difference for the 147,000,000 orphans in the past. Global orphan care takes hundreds of different forms and more and more is emphasizing care for the children within their own country. Globally, creative efforts to meet the countless needs of the "least of these" have grown exponentially during the past decade. Adoption is now just one manner of caring for the fatherless.
Adoption does happen to be the orphan care arena to which the Lord has called our family. Adoption is how Jim and I became parents when the Lord placed our oldest daughter, Anna, in our arms through the courageous choice of her birthmother. Several years after the birth of our twins, the Lord grew our family through three separate adoptions as we added trios of older Russian children to our number in 2001, 2005 and 2010. As my beloved husband once put it, "Adoption is what we do as a family."
Attending CAFO 2014 reminded Jim and me of God's heart for the orphan. Being surrounded by so many who love the vulnerable renewed our determination to shepherd well the children who have come to us through adoption. While at CAFO 2014 we were deeply blessed to meet a handful of Eastern Europeans who are serving the orphans sacrificially in their countries amidst difficult circumstances. They embraced our role as an adoptive family wholeheartedly, and we were deeply encouraged by their love.
The two days of CAFO 2014 stretched us from early morning to late in the evening. We learned much during the plenary sessions and in workshops. We came home tired, but it was a good kind of tired. We returned home empowered by the Holy Spirit to continue on in the work we've been called to by Christ. Jim and I also returned to home ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with others who are called to "visit the orphan" in whatever manner the Lord might call them.
On our way home yesterday, we stopped briefly for a refreshment break in the incredibly picturesque town of Galena, Illinois. Galena was founded in 1826 and is the birthplace of U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant.
|Sarah - age 20|
While Dad was purchasing a snack for the kids at a coffee shop, I took advantage of the day's beautiful lighting to snap some photos of some of our precious kiddos.
|On the left, Christina, 16 and Faith, 14|
|Matt, age 18|
|Nathaniel, age 14|
Once we had food and drink, we slowly wound our way up main street. We weren't alone! A good portion of the mid west seemed to have decided Galena would be a perfect place to celebrate one of the first truly spring-like days of in the northern part of the country.
In addition to many food shops that emitted tantalizing aromas, the town is also home to a number of antique stores and shops carrying home-decorating treasures. I was drawn to this unusual peacock wall hanging.
As we ambled down the street, a fierce-looking watch dog eyed us warily from one of the shops.
We finished our stroll by taking a group photo.
(Sadly, John was unable to join us due to work.)