October 24, 2007

Interview with Jeff Rickett, Father of a Multi-Ethnic Family

Jeff Rickett is one of the church planting pastors of City of Hope Church, a multi-ethnic congregation in Columbia, Maryland. City of Hope Church is a diverse community of worshipers who have been gripped by the gospel of grace and are committed to bringing gospel-hope and freedom to the diverse people of the Columbia area. Jeff serves a congregation that boldly pursues ethnic, socioeconomic, and generational reconciliation through the power of the Gospel.

Jeff has been the father of a multi-ethnic family for 9 years. He was kind enough to share some of his family's experiences below. It is our desire that this interview series will address struggles that adoptive families face and provide real answers that are grounded in the Gospel of grace.

1. Tell us a little about your family.

My wife and I have been married for 16 years, and we have two living children, Samuel and Amanda. Samuel is 9 and enjoys playing, riding his bike, and skateboarding. Amanda is 8 and enjoys cooking, scientific kinds of experiments (look in our freezer, hehe) and horseback riding. Both are in the 3rd grade. Val enjoys reading, walking on the beach, and a good conversation with friends. I enjoy tennis, running and a good conversation as well. I am a pastor who just recently planted a new church in Columbia, MD, with another pastor. We are a racially diverse pastoral team that desires to reach this diverse community with the gospel. Just to clarify, Val and I are Caucasian and our children are African American.

2. What initially motivated you to adopt?

After struggling a few long years with infertility and then losing our son, Scott, after 5 months in utero, we were moved to begin the process of adoption. Even before these painful and yet God strengthening experiences, both Val and I wanted to adopt even if we had children biologically. God has always placed that as a priority for us.

3. What kind of responses have you received from extended family and friends about your decision to adopt?

When we chose to adopt transracially, my parents had some concerns. But what is so awesome is that after we shared our desire with them, God placed a mixed race family in their lives that helped ease their concerns. Most were supportive in our decision, and our family and friends helped us through the process.

4. How do you think God's story of adoption (i.e. God adopting us as His children) should influence the decision to pursue adopting children?

I remember coming home after a very hard day of work a few years ago. I was discouraged, frustrated and wanted to quit and start anew. I walked into the kitchen, saw my adopted infant son, and quickly walked toward him to pick him up. After hugging and kissing him, I began to say how much I loved and delighted in him and how thrilled I was that he was my son (of course, he was clueless about what I was saying). As I began to tell him these truths, my heavenly Father reminded me of how much He loves and delights in me, His adopted son, for no reason other than because He does. When we understand, rest in, and drink of the great mercy and grace that was shown us when God sent His Beloved and Delighted-in-Son to live and die for those who didn't deserve or earn or even care about it, then we will be moved to do radical things.

Adoption is not for everybody, but God chose to design our family this way. When Val and I hear from friends and strangers that we have done this great thing, we just smile because we really don't think of it that way. Yeah, sure, we would have loved to have kids biologically, and not being able to have any is painful at times, but believing the gospel has helped us not only to move on and find healing, but also to help others in similar situations. Plus, we wanted to be parents so we did what made sense for us. It wasn't a hard decision.

I am probably going to be a little controversial here, but I think that there are couples out there who should seriously consider adoption, but they don't because they are determined to have a child biologically. They are willing to put themselves through so much stuff just to have a child when there are many babies and children, both locally and internationally, that need the loving, Christ-centered homes that these couples could provide.

On another note, I know of a pastor of a small church in Texas that encourages his congregation to adopt. I think families in his congregation have adopted over 100 children from the state foster care system.

5. How is God's story of adoption shaping your relationship with your adopted children?

It has definitely helped us better understand and experience God's love for us. As we rest in this reality, it helps us move toward our children and face their questions, their reactions and their own struggles with us as their parents. One cute but telling example of this happened a year ago. My daughter and I were walking in the Mall when a group of ethnically diverse kids were walking toward us. She said very loudly to me, "Babysitter, can we go to this store?" and I said "Sure, my beautiful daughter."

We feel that our children must grow in a continual understanding just as we as Christians understand our own adoption from God through Christ. We attempt to put that into perspective with our children on a regular basis. Both have a good understanding and can articulate their adoption story. When they were younger, we would introduce their stories of adoption with "Once upon a time..." As they've grown they have asked good questions: "What do our birth parents look like?" "Why didn't they keep us?" We have tried to answer them honestly and appropriately depending upon where they are emotionally when they ask.

6. Did you or do you have any fears related to your adopted child's future as a member of your family? If so, what were/are they and how have you sought to apply God's story to those fears?

If we are honest, certainly we have fears. Identity issues are one real concern. How can we help them find their true identity in Jesus as they wrestle with being adopted and work through what it means to be in a multi-ethnic family? We strive to be real with them as we struggle with our own identity issues and model what it means to find satisfaction and contentment in Christ. Again, it goes back to the gospel and daily reminding ourselves of God's story for us.

0 comments on “Interview with Jeff Rickett, Father of a Multi-Ethnic Family”

  1. Jeff,
    I enjoyed reading your family's story. Don't know if you know, but I was adopted as an infant. I struggled a lot with it, esp. during my teenage years. Knowing a different woman than your mom was pregnant with you is a little mind-blowing! I still struggle some with connecting with people and feeling like I belong, but God has always been with me through the trials, tears and triumphs.

    When I was 17 though I met my biological mother and a few years later my bio father. Now I have a great rel'ship with Angela, my biomom who lives only an hour away from us. I really feel like I have two moms now and they both supply different things for me; one is more emotional and deep and I can really share openly about anything whereas one is more reserved, but more dependable.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing with me. I enjoy hearing how you all are doing. Keep up God's work!!

    Sandy Shute

  2. I've had the pleasure of knowing Val & Jeff for 25 years! I remember them coming to me after the death of their son Scott and asking me what I thought of transracial adoption. I told them that I believe God creates families in many ways and that perhaps there was a child or children that in His sovereignty He had already planned to be theirs. And I encouraged them to be open to who that child might be, regardless of his or her race. I know their family's path has had some unique challenges, but Samuel & Amanda are no less Val & Jeff's children than any who would have been born of them biologically. I'm sure they'll face many more tests, too, as do any parents of teenagers, but I firmly believe that God created this family for His pleasure & by His good will!

  3. I agree with that "controversial" statement from Jeff. There are couples who spend a tremendous amount of resources on scientific methods to increase the chances of pregnancy. There are children without homes who desperately need them. I have for years believed that God intends that some couples not conceive for the express purpose of leading those folks to a path of adoption. Some obey and some do not. I am an "African-American" and I see no problem with inter-racial adoption. If it were not for some white couples (and singles) many minority children would never leave foster care. My grandmother was adopted by a Christian family. The legacy she left me was greater than it would have been had she remained with her birth mother. Her birth mom did not act as though she knew Christ at all. I know Jeff personally - he's my pastor. Through Jeff and Val I see love in action!

  4. What if Jesus decided who to love based on the color of our skin? Jeff and Val are love in action. They love their children just as if they were their own biological children. Accept the challenges as they come. For certainly they will come ... as they do for all parents. Thanks for honestly sharing your story and may you be an encouragement to others considering adoption.

    1. Thank you, Angela. You are right, respect is ndeeed for adoptees and our counterparts produced by IVF.What saddens me most is that, for the now 36 years since my shocking reunion at age 18 and my involvement with the Adoption Reform Movement, is that there has been very little change in pre-adoptive and adoptive parent attitudes. Attitudes of adoptive parents in the 1970s was gimmie, gimmie, gimmie and mine, all mine . And their attitude to me has always been you ungrateful little bitch! Nothing has changed.I am not grateful to have been taken from my existing family! That is kidnapping santioned by a signed piecce of paper because my father was tricked into signing relinquishment papers! Then, all the adults around me colluded to keep me away from my own blood kin, all the while, keeping my father out of thier secret deals to communicate around the sealed adoption in which my father was told to stay away! No one else abided by the law but him!!!Listen, Lola, with your ChinaSweetiePie: adoptees do not like what you self-righeous child-steallers do. We are people with feelings. If you cared enough about the feelings of your little China Doll you would make China a better place to live for all Chineses people. You would fight the injustices there. Your Little ChinaSweetiePie will grow up devoid of her own people and culture and language because all of the adults around her conspired against her best interests to her family, her name, and her country. THOSE are values and rights stated by the United Nations Rights of the Child, of which, you have violated by adopting a child out of her own country.What's your China Doll's real name? Where's her real birth certificate? Do you have an Adoption Certificate that correctly documents that you adopted her? Or, do you have a new (fraudulent) birth certificate that states YOU gave birth to a CHINESE girl in America? THAT is morally, ethically, and inhmanly wrong! YOU should be ashamed of yourself! Go on, LOOK at that new birth certificate that the government gave you! I know it states you gave birth to that Chinese girl. SHAME ON YOU!!! SHAME ON THE GOV FOR ALLOWING THIS FARUD TO CONTINUE!!!

  5. I too am a product of adoption so I can relate to the struggles. I remember a time when I set out to find out who my biological father was and I was frustrated and angry that the search kept coming to a dead end. It was during this time that I sensed Gods spirit telling me that he had blessed me with the family that he gave me and I should be thankful for it. So even through there questions and musing, I pray that your children will know for sure that God has blessed them with the right parents. You guys are awesome for sharing your story.

  6. Thank you for being real in your story of adoption. I see that God gives special grace to those who have the courage to exemplify Him in adopting. Your story also reveals that this courage has to go way beyond the initial decision of adoption.

  7. Lola My adoption exeierpnce was very different from Joan's but one thing we have in common was the state-sanctioned erasure of our births, heritage and culture. Joan found out she was adopted much earlier than I did. I was 31. My (adoptive) parents NEVER acknowledged that I was adopted not even after I found out. It took me nearly 25 years to find my first mom and I'm glad she's lived long enough for me to find her. Would it surprise you that even when adoptees are in contact with their families of origin, New York State (and most other states) still will not release the original birth certificate?The Bible's exhortation to care for widows and orphans, to care for the fatherless, should not be taken to mean that we should take those orphans from their widowed mothers and from their extended families and their culture in order to save them. Your average adoption fee would go a long way to feed, clothe and care for many more than just one of those orphans in their own countries but adoptive parents wouldn't get ownership rights, would they?The fact that most prospective adoptive parents would never consider sending large amounts of money to an orphanage but are willing to give that money to lawyers and facilitators in order to obtain a child of their own speaks volumes. The fact that many prospective adoptive parents view older children in foster care as damaged goods and are only looking for an infant or toddler speaks loudly of ownership . Falsified birth certificates are just tangible evidence of this ownership focus.What do you have against Permanent Legal Guardianship? It gives the child (this IS about the child isn't it?) all the benefits of adoption but does not legally and physically sever the relationship with the family of origin and does not erase the child's identity, family, and heritage. Sounds like a win-win situation to me. Of course some adoptive parents would object to being renters and not owners . Get over it. It's about the CHILD.

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