Visiting Africa Upended My View of Adoption

The importance of building home-grown families
Visiting Africa Upended My View of Adoption

“Family is taken for granted until you don't have it. No one thinks there's a crisis of family—It's like breath. The only time you think of breathing is when you can't breathe. When you don't have family, you realize how important it is.”

—Tendai Masiriri, Vice President of Bethany Global

The smells were unfamiliar. The food was unique. The language was foreign. I had been preparing for months for a ten-day trip to South Africa, Zambia, and Ethiopia with Bethany Christian Services, a child protective services organization out of Grand Rapids, Michigan, so I was anticipating the culture shock, but what I wasn’t prepared for was how my beliefs about adoption would be upended.

What if, as a global church, we truly invested in the communities around us?

Growing up, I was always thankful for the U.S. families who adopted orphans from these countries. After all, what better way could we meet an orphan’s needs than by bringing them into our families and giving them the love and support that every orphan craves? Although international adoption has made a world of difference for almost 25,000 kids globally every year, Bethany has shown an even greater gift that we can give to meet the needs in these communities. We can give them the gift of local or domestic adoption—adoption within their own country of origin.

“If we are truly concerned about orphan care, international adoption simply cannot be where we concentrate all our efforts. It leaves too many children behind,” Jen Hatmaker, a popular Christian blogger and an adoptive mom of two Ethiopian kids, says. “It isn’t even remotely comprehensive, nor does it affect the millions of families on the brink of poverty-induced relinquishment.” Hatmaker challenges Christians to reallocate a percentage of the millions we spend on adoption toward community development—to train, empower, and equip struggling families so they don’t face “poverty-induced relinquishment” and are able to care for their own children.

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Natalie Lederhouse

Natalie Lederhouse is the administrative editor for Today's Christian Woman. You can follow her on Twitter at @nataliejean.

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