This is the second in our series of interviews about adoption. One of my primary responsibilities at Carolina Hope is to help Christians increasingly think about orphan ministry and adoption from a theological perspective. Carolina Hope has commissioned me to explore and articulate the beautiful gospel-connection between uppercase Adoption (i.e. God's gracious adoption of us) and lowercase adoption (i.e. our adoption of a child) so that Christians become more firmly grounded in the gospel and grow in their understanding of its profound implications for all of life. We are committed to helping Christians in general and both prospective and adoptive families in particular think theologically about all things adoption. We believe that this interview series will help us accomplish this.
Our first adoptive parent interview is with Dorothy Bode. She and her husband are members of Bethlehem Baptist Church of Minneapolis. Dorothy is the mother of a large adoptive family with a beautiful story. You can see pictures of her family here.
(1) You and your husband are members at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis where there is a strong adoption culture. Tell us a little about it.
A significant part of our adoption journey is that our family has been blessed by
spending the past 12 years as members at Bethlehem. Over the past 16 or so years God has established at Bethlehem a culture of adoption that embraces the truth that it is the heart of the gospel. God adopts us into his family through Christ and God blesses with the earthly expression of that act as we embrace the children He brings to us through adoption. As a body at Bethlehem we are all connected to the adoption of children - either by opening our homes, helping to cover the costs (the MICAH and LYDIA funds and individual members) or serving in covenant care for each child the Lord brings into the fellowship.
As a family that has adopted 6 times in 7 years, it is amazing to see the community at Bethlehem rejoice with us over each child, be he/she number 1 or number 9. And it is a humbling testimony to watch as they respond to the Holy Spirit’s leading as each of our adoptions is prayed for and paid for, exactly as the Lord intends. A part of what God has deeply established at Bethlehem, and which is particularly precious to me, is that he is creating families blended from every tribe and tongue – to the point where we hardly notice anymore.
(2) Introduce us to your family.
As of this summer we are a family of 11. We have been blessed with 3 biological children and 6 adopted children so far. Our children range from 11 years old
down to 6 months and we strive to live a wartime lifestyle in the inner city of Downtown Minneapolis. We are not rich or talented, but we are sold out to living our lives fully for Christ and for us that means being open to however many children he places into our arms. It also means understanding and joyfully accepting the gift when those children are not necessarily ‘healthy’ or ‘easy.’
(3) What initially motivated you to adopt?
Robert and I were both saved through Christ’s mercy in our adult years. He adopted us and took us in as his own children – therefore laying the foundation and example for us to follow in earthly terms. When we looked at our Bible and saw that we are to care for the ‘least’—who is less powerful in our world than children whose parents can’t care for them?—we were greatly challenged. There are very few people more vulnerable. We have taken that call to care for the ‘least’ and worked it deeply into our life-fabric. As a result, we have opened our home 6 times in 7 years to the beautiful testimony of adoption.
(4) What kind of responses have you received from extended family and friends about your decision to adopt?
Adoption made some sense to our extended families when we had two children.
By the time we had 7 under the age of 6 they were loudly voicing their negative fears; and now that we are looking hopefully toward #10, they are just resigned to the fact that we are….beyond their comprehension. Amen! That’s the Lord at work in our lives – beyond comprehension! Now it’s sort of a joke with our family and friends: “Are you done YET?” I can honestly say that the response nowadays is for the most part very positive.
It helps that our family is thriving, our home school is successful, and we are seeing behavioral fruit from all the hours of training we have invested in our children. The biggest thing that I have learned is that when friends and family speak negatively about adoption it is not really about us, it’s about their own fears and misconceptions which they project into our situation. When I look at negative comments that way, they no longer sting and I can extend grace to the speaker. Keeping this in mind during a conversation has all but alleviated those uncomfortable moments when someone says “But don’t you…..” Actually, I don’t!
(5) How do you think the gospel should influence the decision to pursue adoption?
I believe that the gospel is the foundation of adoption. Outside of it, we are just ‘good people doing good things.’ That’s not a strong enough basis to stand on during the storms of life and the trials of parenting.
(6) How is the gospel shaping your relationship with your adopted children?
Since we have the gospel as a foundation, the discussions about better, worse, real and fake are quickly ended. We look to truth in our conversation, that God chose to adopt us as His children and that He creates our families according to His plan. Birth is no better or worse than adoption – it’s all under God’s authority and anyone who says otherwise is acting like they know better than God.
(7) How have you sought to help your adopted children understand the gospel better through his/her adoption?
Adoption is just our life and so is the gospel. Every time we go out as a family we are a testimony. Through the gospel we talk about the fact that God knows the end of each one of our lives from the beginning, and that He has a beautiful plan laid out for each of us. From the fact that our adopted son Jesse was breech and had to have a rather hurried c-section to the fact that Ms Keisha chose to place him into our arms hours later, it’s all about God and never about us making things happen the way we want.
(8) Did you or do you have any fears related to your adopted children's future as members of your family? If so, what were/are they and how have you sought to apply the gospel to those fears?
Fears? That’s a funny question. Each day our family walks through life in a sometimes very tough inner-city neighborhood by simple childlike faith. We live under the reality that each day has its own troubles and that we don’t’ need to go looking for more than we already have. Honestly, the only ‘fears’ we have are regarding paying for college. And those are just silly, human things that are a problem for any large family!