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‘Gospel above all’ as theme for SBC Birmingham
Keeping the “Gospel Above All” is Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear’s main goal going into SBC’s annual meeting. Greear noted there will be other issues demanding attention – among them, confronting sexual abuse. Greear also will be promoting the “Who’s Your One?” evangelism campaign in partnership with the North American Mission Board. Other meeting highlights will include racial reconciliation panel discussions and “The Value of Women in God’s Mission.” The annual meeting in Birmingham, Alabama is set for June 11-12.

One GRAND April: churches report baptisms
IBSA churches baptized nearly 500 people during the first three weeks of April, according to reports from congregations around the state. The number is expected to increase as churches share their stories from One GRAND Month, a month-long, statewide emphasis on evangelism and baptisms. Pat Pajak, IBSA’s associate executive director of evangelism, encouraged churches to share their baptism reports and add to the statewide celebration.

Churches eager to evangelize, but distractions abound
A 2019 LifeWay Research survey found that despite Protestant churchgoers’ excitement and eagerness about the idea of evangelism, few actually engage in the practice on a regular basis. More than half of churchgoers (55 percent) say they have not shared with someone how to become a Christian in the past six months. A majority (56 percent), however, say they pray for opportunities to tell others about Jesus. In the study, Hispanics (36 percent) and African Americans (29 percent) were more likely to offer those prayers compared to whites (20 percent) or other ethnicities (17 percent).

Christian adoption agency to accommodate LGBT community as part of settlement
The largest Christian adoption and foster agency in the United States, Bethany Christian Services, will begin placing foster children with same-sex couples for the first time after a legal battle in its home state of Michigan. This comes after the agency was sued for refusing to work with same-sex couples. The agency insists that its mission and Christian beliefs have not changed but did announce it will start placing children with LGBT families as part of a settlement with the state, opting to change its longstanding policy rather than lose the opportunity to help find homes for the thousands of vulnerable children who live in the state.

NC governor vetoes ‘born alive’ abortion bill
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed a bill that would have required doctors to try to preserve the life of any infant born alive during an attempted abortion‘G. Under the proposed law, health care practitioner would be required to preserve the life and health of a child born alive during an abortion attempt. The “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Act” bill was passed by the state April 22. Cooper vetoed the bill for reasons that laws “already protect newborn babies.”

Sources: Baptist Press (2), Illinois Baptist, Christianity Today, CNN

The Briefing

Church’s roll purge incites media ‘circus’
Cave City (Ky.) Baptist Church, some 90 miles north of Nashville, sent a letter July 16 to nearly 70 members it alleges were not attending “habitually,” giving “regularly” or sharing in the congregation’s “organized work” as required of members in the church’s bylaws. The letter stated, “Cave City Baptist Church cherishes you as a member of this fellowship,” but “your name has been removed from the membership roll,” according to a photo of the letter published on Facebook. Within two days, newspapers and television stations had reported on the letter in Nashville; Louisville, Ky.; Lexington, Ky.; and Bowling Green, Ky.

First State Dept. Ministerial on religious freedom will be ‘More than talk,’ Pompeo says
The US State Department is gearing up to host what is being described as the first-ever three-day ministerial to promote and advance religious freedom in Washington, D.C., which will be attended by delegations and leaders from over 80 countries. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expects to host nearly 40 of his counterparts from countries around the world for the event taking place from July 24 to July 26.

Adoption agency protection moves forward in Congress
The House of Representatives Appropriations Committee included the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act (CWPIA) in a spending bill it approved July 11. The proposal, H.R. 1881, would bar the federal government — as well as any state or local government that receives federal funds — from discriminating against or taking action against a child welfare agency that refuses to provide services in a way that conflicts with its religious beliefs or moral convictions.

Turkey keeps American pastor behind bars
A Turkish court ordered 50-year-old American pastor Andrew Brunson to remain behind bars until at least his next hearing Oct. 12. On July 18, the court heard testimony from members of Brunson’s church who made “vague, unsubstantiated accusations” against him. When the judge asked how Brunson would respond to the testimony of the prosecution’s witnesses, he said, “My faith teaches me to forgive, so I forgive those who testified against me.”

Most US faith groups say country is on the wrong track
A new poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic shows when it comes to politics, white evangelical Christians stand apart from every other religious group. The poll found 61% of evangelicals say the United States is headed in the right direction. By comparison, 64% of the overall public — including majorities of other Christian groups — believes the country is seriously off track.

Sources: Baptist Press, Christian Post, Baptist Press, Christianity Today, Religion News Service

The Briefing

Moody Bible Institute affirms biblical inerrancy
In wake of allegations that not all its faculty affirm biblical inerrancy, the Moody Bible Institute (MBI) took a step to define and strengthen its position on inerrancy, and to hold its faculty accountable. In an e-mail to faculty and alumni, the institute announced it is adopting the Short Statement of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, as well as its Articles of Affirmation and Denial. The institute further stated that all faculty will be required to sign an affirmation of the Chicago Statement as a condition of employment beginning with the 2018-2019 academic year.

The end of international adoption?
New regulations and a $500 monitoring and oversight fee for adoptive families announced by the U.S. State Department in February could spell the end of intercountry adoptions in the United States, according to adoption advocates. Most agencies, or adoption service providers (ASPs), believe their costs to attain accreditation every four years will triple under the new schedule of fees. But the costs are not the main concern, according to Daniel Nehrbass, president of Nightlight Christian Adoptions. In requiring the new fees, he said, adoption agencies are being forced to buy the rope that will be used to hang them.

‘Pronouns matter’: Georgia college suggests ‘ne’ and ‘ve’ as gender-neutral words
The LGBT Resource Center at a Georgia college may want to pay a visit to the English department after a new controversial pamphlet lists several gender pronouns as “ne,” “ve,” and “ey.” The words are featured in a pamphlet titled “Pronouns Matter: A guide to using gender neutral pronouns” that administrators handed out in Kennesaw State University’s Student Center Tuesday, as reported by

LGBT advocates threaten to kill pastor over Bible workshop
A pastor of a Detroit-area church along with his family have received death threats, arson threats, and bomb threats from LGBT advocates after advertising a Bible-based workshop for teenage girls struggling with their sexual identity. The six-week workshop for girls 12-16 — which was canceled due to a planned protest by LGBT advocates — was promoted as “a safe place for teenage girls to learn what the Bible teaches about sexuality.” FORGE Ministries designed it “for those struggling with the thoughts that they are Trans – Bi – Gay – or other.”

IL couple featured in Annie Armstrong Week of Prayer
Kempton Turner and his wife, Caryn, have dedicated their lives to helping restore hope in East St. Louis, an area known for gangs, drugs, and staggeringly high murder rates. Their church plant, City of Joy Fellowship, focuses its ministry on the tough inner city where Kempton endured his own struggles growing up, including never knowing his biological mother.

Sources: Julie Roys, World Magazine, Fox News, Life Site News, Annie Armstrong

61226bigtaskDoug Devore didn’t grow up in a Christian home.

“I never knew my father, and I had three stepfathers,” Devore told the Illinois Baptist. Maybe that’s why family is so important to the long-time executive director of Illinois Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services. Devore will retire January 15 after nearly 44 years at the agency, including 21 years as executive director.

BCHFS has four residential cottages for children and teens in Carmi, and also operates Angels’ Cove Maternity Center in Mt. Vernon for expectant and new moms and their children. The agency has 11 counseling centers around central and southern Illinois, assists with adoptions, and partners with an orphanage in Uganda, among other initiatives.

The IB recently sat down with Devore to talk about his extensive ministry, the challenges of ministering to families in a shifting culture, and the success stories of children who have benefited from the care they received through BCHFS.

Illinois Baptist: Tell us how you got your start at BCHFS.

Doug Devore: I was working at Campbell Funeral Home here in Carmi. Gordon Lanthrup, who was the director of residential care at the Children’s Home, was there at the funeral home one day, and he just started to talk to me. He asked me if I would do some volunteer work at Baptist Children’s Home. I didn’t know it even existed.

I came out here and I met the kids and staff and I just fell in love with the place. God began to say, This is what I want for you. It makes me very emotional now to talk about something that happened 44 years ago, but it just began to click with me that there was a place for me to minister here and to be involved.

Illinois Baptist: When you retire January 15, your tenure at BCHFS will be just shy of 44 years. Wow.

Devore: I owe a lot to Gordon Lanthrup and (former BCHFS Executive Director) Leon Tally. To Gordon who saw something in me as a 21- or 22-year-old that I didn’t know was there. Why he ever asked me to do that is a mystery.

IB: It was a God thing.

Devore: I can’t explain it any other way. I always question, Why me?

IB: When you consider all that you have done and seen in your four decades at BCFHS, what touches your heart or brings a tear to your eye?

Devore: Well, you can see that I cry a lot, and the older I get, the more I cry.
(Devore shared an e-mail he received the day before from a young man who lived at the Children’s Home in 1982. He wrote, “I just wanted to say thank you again for being part of my life and helping me grow physically and mentally and emotionally and most of all SPIRITUALLY.” )

He now sings in a gospel quartet and travels the country; married and a faithful Christian, and sends me a little note like that. You can’t beat that.

IB: You can’t.

Devore: There was another man who is now 57 or maybe older. He has been in and out of prison all his life. But he calls me at least every six months to check in. Sometimes he is calling from prison or he’s out on parole. He calls me just to check in and let me know that he loves me and how he is doing. I try to give him my best advice while we are on the phone, but we are his connection, his touchstone. We are his family and I have been here long enough that I’m the only one around that was here when he was.

IB: Even with so many wonderful stories from your years at BCHFS, there have been challenges. What are some of the biggest?

Devore: The kids I saw in the 70s were coming out of situations when mom and dad couldn’t take care of them, so they ended up with us. They couldn’t take care of them because one parent died, or maybe they were orphans. Not so much behavior issues.

The kids today are coming to us because they are out of control and mom and dad can’t take care of them. Schools have thrown up their hands. We see kids today that have a lot more trauma in their lives.

IB: What about shifts in our culture? How have those affected BCHFS?

Devore: Most of the children we serve are growing up in single-parent families because the concept of marriage and staying together has changed over the years. Or, they’re growing up in blended families. With that comes lots of stress. There’s nothing wrong with a blended family, but it brings additional stress to kids than if mom and dad had stayed married and had a happy relationship.

A lot of our kids have been exposed to violence, abused and traumatized, and have post-traumatic stress disorder issues. We see kids coming out of inner cities that have gang involvement. They have seen people killed in front of them. They have had family members killed. It’s a bad situation for them. They are exposed to things that even I wasn’t exposed to in my wild upbringing.

IB: The concept of “residential care” has changed too.

Devore: Very few kids come here and grow up. Our average length of stay is eight months, something like that. When I came, there were kids who had been here for years. This was home for them. It happens a few times today, but generally, if that happens, we move those kids into foster care. If they don’t have a home to go back to, we are looking for them a more permanent situation.

IB: The need for residential facilities has changed in recent years because of expansion of the foster care system.

Devore: Residential care for kids is not a preferred placement today. There is federal legislation preferring foster care over residential care because some think being in residential care is a bad thing. I don’t think so. I think this is a great place for every kid that’s here. When it becomes not the most appropriate, then we will either move them back home or into foster care or some less restrictive care.

That’s always one of our issues: How do we stay relevant to the needs of society? How do we stay relevant now with the changing values? I guess on top of that, how do we stay relevant and still operate within our own values, without sacrificing what we believe in?

IB: What do you think about the movement urging Christians to
become foster parents through the state system?

Devore: I think that is excellent. If kids are going to live in foster care, my goodness, let them live in a Christian foster home. I think that is a tremendous idea and I would love to see more Christian families get involved in that.

IB: You became executive director at BCHFS in 1995. Did you set any goals for yourself?

Devore: The first thing I did when I became the executive director is that we did strategic planning for the agency. In that first strategic plan, one of the biggest things was to get our own board of trustees. The other big part was to hire a development person.

We worked through those goals and in 1999 we did another strategic plan. Every three years since that time, we have done another strategic plan. We have looked ahead to the future: Where do we want to be? How do we want to get there? How do we better minister to children and families? All that has happened—whether it be the international ministry or the Pathways Counseling ministry or the expansion of Angels’ Cove—has come out of those strategic plans.

IB: Are there things you planned to do that haven’t happened?

Devore: Yes. We didn’t become an international placing agency for adoption. It was very frustrating for me for quite a long time until it finally just sunk in that this just wasn’t what God wanted us to do. I think it was what Doug Devore wanted to do.

We talked about trying to have an on-ground school for some of our kids that have a difficult time making it in the public school, but there has always been something that prevented that from happening.

IB: As a leader, what has been your most difficult task?

Devore: How we find the resources to do what we need to do. I don’t want to say it’s about the money, but that’s been a challenge. When I became the director, our budget was $1 million and we were serving 160 children and adults. Today, our budget is approximately $2 million and we are serving over 1,300. The ministry has grown and developed, and the challenge has been how to find the resources to serve more people and how to develop programs to serve more people.

IB: You and your staff experience a lot of things most people don’t. What do you think to yourself when you see a young mom holding a baby she chose not to abort?

Devore: What a joy to see that baby born. To know that baby could have been aborted and not be here. To see that young mother hold that child and be happy they have made this decision to choose life. What a great thing that is, and now it is our responsibility to enable that mother to be the best mother that she can. Whether she is 12 or 40, she may not be prepared for that child. We have the responsibility to help get her prepared and to help her be the very best mother that she can be.

IB: What about those who choose adoption?

Devore: It’s hard to see any mother give up her child for adoption. Often it is the very best decision they can make and I admire their courage to make that decision. But it breaks your heart to see the pain they go through. Then you see the family who is taking that child, and you see the delight in their eyes that their dream has now come true. What a blessing.

IB: Does a specific story come to mind, something you’ve seen God do recently through BCHFS?

Devore: We had a 15-year-old girl come to our maternity center who had been adopted from Guatemala. She was pregnant and had decided to keep her baby. Her parents placed her at Angels’ Cove and said she and the baby couldn’t come back to live with them.

We just began to pray for her and Carla (Donoho, Angels’ Cove director) shared in a WMU meeting over at Woodlawn about this girl and that we were praying for a family for her. Carla finishes speaking, and a woman comes up and says, “I think my husband and I can take her.”

Really?! God does so many amazing things. The woman, who’s one of our board members, goes home and tells her husband. He says, “I don’t know why we couldn’t.” They had already adopted two kids. So they took the mother and her baby, and since then, they have officially adopted the mom.

IB: That’s an amazing story.

Devore: It was just miraculous. How does God find a family? It’s amazing. There have been hundreds and hundreds of those types of stories where God has worked in the lives of people, kids, and families, and made a difference. It has been very rewarding.

IB: What does the future of Baptist ministry to kids and their families look like, especially in Chicago where the need is so great but Southern Baptist presence is relatively small?

Devore: Baptist Children’s Home needs a presence in northern Illinois. We’ve just not had the resources to be able to do it and to make it work. We tried in 1999 when we opened a Pathways Counseling office but had to close it because it wasn’t financially feasible. I think the future for us would be that we would get a Pathways Counseling office open again in northern Illinois and to be able to provide Christian counseling.

We serve a lot of kids from that area and a lot of young mothers, but still we are out of sight, out of mind. We need a greater presence, a greater awareness of the ministry of the Children’s Home in northern Illinois.

IB: What advice would you give to Denny Hydrick as he takes over the executive director role at BCHFS?

Devore: The ministry faces many challenges in the coming years: competition for philanthropic dollars, managed care uncertainties, staff shortages, changing values regarding marriage, family and group care, and more complex behavior and mental health issues.

Denny Hydrick comes with great experience from working in child care agencies in both Mississippi and Florida. He understands the issues we are facing and I’m confident that he will provide the needed leadership for the days ahead. My advice to him is to trust God, who has maintained this ministry for 98 years, and to trust the people who work here. They have proven their faithfulness to children and families over and over.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Brighton Presbyterian Church in Rochester, N.Y., is the first church to leave the Presbyterian Church (USA) after a majority of the denomination’s districts voted to change its definition of marriage. The amendment to the group’s constitution, which will become official this summer, alters the marriage definition from “a man and a woman” to “two people, traditionally a man and a woman.”

The_Briefing“Our reason for leaving is centered on the status of biblical interpretation within the PC(USA),” Brighton spokeswoman Kerry Luddy told The Christian Post. “We believe that Scripture’s meaning and intent should not be altered to fit a current culture.”

“Heaven visitation resources” like Don Piper’s book “90 Minutes in Heaven” are no longer available from LifeWay Christian Resources. Spokesman Marty King told Baptist Press LifeWay stopped ordering “experiential testimonies about heaven” last summer, and has pulled the remaining products from stores and its website.

LifeWay’s decision followed the adoption of a resolution on “the sufficiency of Scripture regarding the afterlife” by messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting last summer.

Legislators introduced this month a bill that would allow adoption and foster care agencies to operate within their religious convictions concerning placing children with same-sex couples. “This commonsense bill simply ensures that these child welfare providers can keep doing what they do best and are treated the same as the rest,” said Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), according to a WORLD News Service report.

Illinois is one of four states where agencies have discontinued adoption and foster care services because they would have been required to place children with same-sex couples.

More than 83,000 Bibles were shipped to Cuba this month through a partnership between Southern Baptist agencies, churches and individual donors. The Eastern Cuba Baptist Convention, which will receive 32,000 Bibles, reported more than 29,000 professions of faith last year, said Kurt Urbanek, International Mission Board strategy leader for Cuba. “The growth is so incredible, that’s why Bibles are so important.”

“If it wasn’t for the Baptists, I don’t know what I would do,” said one homeowner whose basement was repaired after severe flood damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy. More than two years after the storm devastated parts of New York and New Jersey, volunteers working through Southern Baptist Disaster Relief are still rebuilding and repairing homes in the region.



THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

As Egypt responded to the apparent beheadings of Egyptian Christians with airstrikes on ISIS in Lybia, believers in the west used social media to grieve for the 21 Coptic Christians believed to have been killed.

The_Briefing“These are my brothers, faithful unto Christ even unto death, Russell Moore posted on Instagram with an image from ISIS’ video of hostages and their captors. “King Jesus puts heads back on, and puts worlds back together. Maranatha,” wrote the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

In a guest post on, Southern Seminary professor Tom Schreiner offered a biblical meditation on the executions of the Christians.

“Paul says that ‘to live is Christ, and to die is gain’ (Phil. 1:21). Still, the matter is not simplistic, and life is not easy,” Schreiner wrote. “We ‘weep with those who weep’ (Rom. 12:15). Paul said that if Epaphroditus had died he would experience ‘sorrow upon sorrow’ (Phil. 2:27). Grief floods the hearts of those left behind.”

Only 22% of people agree with President Barack Obama’s 2014 statement that terror group ISIL (or ISIS) “is not Islamic,” LifeWay Research reported in a series of surveys conducted last fall. But almost half of Americans also say the group is not a true reflection of the nature of Islam.

CNN will start a six-part series March 1 that the news channel says “discovers fascinating new insights into the historical Jesus, utilizing the latest scientific techniques and archaeological research.” The Christian Post reports the series, titled “Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery,” will feature commentary from Ivy League theologians and Los Angeles pastor Erwin McManus, among others.

Illinois’ Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services recently achieved Hague accreditation for its adoption program, meaning BCHFS can continue to do home studies for adoptions in countries that require it. The accreditation is also a first step toward being able to complete adoption placements internationally, but adoption specialist Regina Thompson stressed the agency isn’t equipped to do so now.

“Our main reason for getting Hague accredited,” Thompson said, “was so that we could continue to do international home studies.”

Christianity Today reports Family Christian Stores – the largest chain of Christian bookstores in the U.S. by number of stores – has filed for bankruptcy, but “does not expect to close any stores or lay off any employees.”

“We have carefully and prayerfully considered every option,” President and CEO Chuck Bengochea said in a Feb.11 statement. “This action allows us to stay in business and continue to serve our customers, our associates, our vendors and charities around the world.”

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

A California congregation voted May 18 to retain their pastor, Danny Cortez, who had announced three months earlier that he affirms same-sex lifestyles. The decision by New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, Ca., brings the Southern Baptist Convention to “a moment of unavoidable decision” just before its annual meeting in Baltimore, said Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler.

Cortez blogged May 29 on that New Heart will “formally peacefully separate” June 8, when a group affirming traditional church teachings about homosexuality leaves the congregation. The church took three months to study and pray over the issue after Cortez told them about his beliefs in February. Prior to Cortez’ confession to his church, his teenage son told him he was gay and posted a “coming out” video on social media sites.

The_BriefingIn May, the church voted to keep Cortez as pastor and become a “third way” church that stands in the middle ground between condoning and condemning same-sex relationships.

“So now, we will accept the LGBT community even though they may be in a relationship,” Cortez wrote on “We will choose to remain the body of Christ and not cast judgment. We will work towards graceful dialogue in the midst of theological differences.”

Despite the church’s decision, “there is no third way,” Mohler said on his blog.

“A church will either believe and teach that same-sex behaviors and relationships on sinful, or it will affirm them. Eventually every congregation in America will make a public declaration of its position on this issue. It is just a matter of time (and for most churches, not much time) before every congregation in the nation faces this test.”

That New Heart’s decision is in conflict with The Baptist Faith & Message, the SBC’s statement of faith, could result in discussion and/or action when messengers gather in Baltimore.

“I am confident that the Southern Baptist Convention will act in accordance with its own convictions, confession of faith, and constitution when messengers to the Convention gather next week in Baltimore,” Mohler said.

“But every single evangelical congregation, denomination, mission agency, school, and institution had better be ready to face the same challenge, for it will come quickly, and often from an unexpected source. Once it comes, there is no middle ground, and no ‘third way.’”

Other news:

Poll: Most believe same-sex couples should be able to adopt
A new Gallup poll shows 63% of Americans believe same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt a child. The percentage of approval is higher than approval for same-sex marriage, which, according to another recent Gallup poll, is at 55%. Read more at

Imprisoned pastor still sharing the Gospel
The wife of a U.S. pastor imprisoned in Iran says his sentence may be extended because he’s leading people to Christ. “I don’t see him [witnessing] as an act of defiance,” Naghmeh Abedini told Baptist Press about her husband, Saeed. “Knowing Saeed’s heart as a pastor, he’s seeing people in such a dark place…on death row for murders and rapes, and just seeing people who are in prison whose future is so dark. Knowing Saeed’s heart, I know that his heart was to give them the hope that he’s found in Christ that no one can take away, even in prison.”

Abedini, a U.S. citizen, was sentenced last year to eight years in prison for his involvement in the Iranian house church movement. He moved to the U.S. in 2005 and was arrested two years ago during a trip to build an orphanage in Iran. Read more at

SBC leaders call for ‘renewed passion’ amid declining numbers
Southern Baptist churches reported more than 310,000 baptisms in 2013, but the total was 1.46% less than the previous year. The Annual Church Profile report, compiled by LifeWay Christian Resources in cooperation with Baptist state conventions, also showed declines in church membership (down 0.9%) and primary worship attendance (down 2.2% to 5.8 million worshipers).

“I am grieved we are clearly losing our evangelistic effectiveness,” said Thom S. Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources. “I continue to pray for revival and a renewed passion for the Great Commission in our churches. May God renew all of us, including me, with a greater heart for the lost.” Read more at

A Southern Baptist task force addressed declining baptisms in a report released in May, ahead of the denomination’s June meeting in Baltimore. Read their report here.

Viewing habits: What do we all have in common?
Sheldon Cooper, at least according to research by the Barna Group. Their survey found “The Big Bang Theory” is the most commonly watched show among American adults (30%) and the Millenial generation (31%). And with 23% it was #2 on the list for practicing Christians. Among that group, Sheldon, Penny and the gang lost out by two percentage points to “NCIS.” Read more at

John and Lindsey Teefey and their four sons (from top left): Elijah, Manning, and Owen and Andrew, born in 2011.

John and Lindsey Teefey and their four sons (from top left): Elijah, Manning, and Owen and Andrew, born in 2011.

HEARTLAND | Lindsey Teefey

On March 24, 2010, we received the call we’d been waiting for from the adoption agency. “There is a boy, 27 months old, that we’d like to refer to your family,” said the woman on the other line.

Adoption had been a part of our conversation before we ever got married. My husband, John, and I knew God had called our family to look different. We started the process when our biological son, Manning, was almost two, and felt very led to Ethiopia because of the overwhelming number of orphans there. We traveled to that beautiful country in July 2010 to meet our new son, whom we would call Elijah.

What we saw when we pulled up to the Children’s Home stuns me to this day! Elijah was waiting in the doorway all by himself. Not a soul around. He was waiting for us, and was ready to have a mommy and daddy to hold him. This was a miracle. Although very reserved and shy at first, he immediately called my husband “Daddy.”

On the 22-hour flight back to Illinois, though, fear started to take over. I felt guilty that our biological son would have to adjust to so much, and sad that maybe I would never love Elijah like I should as his mother. And why was I feeling so grief-stricken, since we had been called to do this and knew we’d been obedient?

The next several weeks were some of the hardest of my life. The boys battled for toys and attention almost constantly. Elijah screamed because he didn’t know how to fully communicate with us. John and I sank into depression and felt overwhelmed with anxiety, needing medical assistance on a few occasions. All of this mess made us wonder if we had made a mistake. Why were things so hard? Did God abandon us here, in this place?

pull quote_TEEFEYThe next year was full of hard days. Although we saw Elijah bond to us quickly and he and Manning become really good buddies, we felt as if we as his parents were not bonding to our new son. I remember thinking that it felt as if I were babysitting a child that would soon need to go home.

I struggled daily with the thought of him being my son. Elijah was not acting out, his English was remarkable within months, and he and Manning were true brothers. I wasn’t struggling because of anything Elijah was doing or not doing. I just did not “feel” in love with him, and he did not “feel” like my son. I begged God to give me that feeling, and I found myself mad at Him for allowing me to go through this after we stepped out in faith.

Thankfully, the story doesn’t end there. Because of God’s grace, he was allowing me not to “feel” in love with Elijah. I believe God wanted to show me love can only come from Him. If I had felt it right away, it would’ve been boasting about me, not Him! He kept showing me the scripture from Psalm 27:

“Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living. Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes,wait patiently for the Lord.”

We saw God’s goodness. My heart began to soften toward Elijah, and I began seeing things I absolutely loved about him. The bitterness and anger began to fade as he began to feel more like a son to me.

Although fewer and farther between, some days are still hard, and I have to ask for help to be the best mom for Elijah and to love him as I should. I believe those days are reminders of what our loving father taught me and what He wants me to never forget: In order to truly love someone, we need his help beyond belief. Some love comes naturally and feels really good, but he has called us to love our enemies, the poor, the orphans and widows, and the people that are just hard for us. We won’t be able to do it on our own. We have to trust He will mold our hearts to be able to love like him.

Our family experienced another miracle. God showed us that with his help we could love Elijah like our son. We’ve experienced joy beyond explanation.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Russia’s ban penalizes orphans
(Baptist Press) Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to ban adoptions between his country and the United States was a political move, thought by many to be retaliation for U.S. sanctions against Russians accused of human rights violations. But adoption advocates say of all the parties involved, the ban is most harmful to the most vulnerable: Russia’s orphans. Christians are called to take up their cause by praying, speaking truth, and creating a culture of orphan care, said pastor and adoptive father Tony Merida. “We must be a voice for the voiceless.” More

Adoption credit made permanent
(Baptist Press) The adoption community received better news earlier this month, when a tax credit for adoptive families set to expire at the end of 2012 was made a permanent part of the U.S. tax code. The credit makes adoption more affordable for families. “Every child deserves a protective, loving family, and I hope that a permanent Adoption Tax Credit will enable many more families to open their hearts and homes to a child in need,” said Sen. Mary Landrieu (D.-La.), who sponsored the act to permanently establish the credit. More

Hobby Lobby defies mandate
(Baptist Press) Craft retailer Hobby Lobby will face up to $1.3 million in fines every day it refuses to comply with a federal mandate that requires employee health care plans to cover contraceptives that cause chemical abortions. “To remain true to their faith, it is not their intention, as a company, to pay for abortion-inducing drugs,” said attorney Kyle Duncan. Hobby Lobby sued the federal government in September over the mandate, but a judge ruled the corporation isn’t a religious organization and doesn’t qualify for the exemption that covers churches and ministries. More

Thumbs-up for Cooperative Program
(LifeWay Research) A vast majority of Southern Baptist pastors have a high opinion of the Convention’s Cooperative Program, according to a recent study by LifeWay Research. The survey of 1,066 pastors found 81% believe CP “fuels an aggressive enterprise of reaching unreached people groups around the world,” and 73% say it supports ministries valued by their churches. Smaller majorities believe the entities supported through CP are moving in the right direction (55%) and using their contributions effectively (52%). More

‘Flat Lottie’ travels the globe
(IMB) The International Mission Board introduced a new teaching tool in “Flat Lottie,” a two-dimensional version of famed missionary Lottie Moon. IMB tracked Lottie across Asia on their Facebook and Pinterest pages, sharing how giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering makes missions and ministry possible around the world. Her stops included a well-digging project on the grasslands of Mongolia and a slum in Bangladesh where missionaries and ministering to women and children. Follow Lottie’s journey here.


THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Families looking for a break from the holiday hustle and bustle might escape to movie theaters for two faith-themed films, one out now and the other set for a Christmas Day release.

“The Life of Pi,” [PG] is about a shipwrecked Indian boy left with only one friend – a similarly shipwrecked tiger. Critic Phil Boatwright calls it “the most visually stunning film of the year,” and also commends the film’s director, Ang Lee, for making a movie that deals with faith. The movie “doesn’t promote one religion over another,” Boatwright said. “It does, however, what so few films do: It suggests that we become aware of spiritual matters and rely on our faith when the conundrums of the day overwhelm.”

Overwhelming circumstances are also the subject of another, perhaps more clearly Christian, story set for cinemas on Christmas Day. The highly anticipated movie musical “Les Miserables” has A-list stars and a trailer that’s already gotten serious buzz. And the story is a classic redemptive tale: Jean Valjean steals a loaf of bread to feed his family, spends several heart-hardening years in prison, gets out, and spends the rest of his life trying to live up to the kindness shown him by a forgiving minister.

“Les Miserables” is rated PG-13 for grown-up themes and some language, and is likely unsuitable for younger kids. But for adults who choose to see it, the themes of forgiveness, generosity and sacrifice will likely spark many conversations this Christmas season.

Your turn: What movies are you excited to see this Christmas?

Other news:

Economy could make adoption harder for some
From Baptist Press | With Congress embroiled in debate over the so-called fiscal cliff, many in the adoption community are concerned the adoption tax credit set to expire at year’s end could be forgotten, even though immediate action is needed. The tax credit that provided last year a maximum of $13,360 to each adoptive family has helped countless low- and middle-income families afford the costly endeavor. Read more.

How honest is your job?
From | Nurses have the highest ethical standards of any profession, according to Americans surveyed in Gallup’s annual study on the honesty and ethics of various vocations. 85% percent of those surveyed ranked nurses as “high” or “very high” on the ethics scale. “Clergy” ranked 8th on the list, with 52%; journalists were ranked highly by 24% of respondents; and car salespeople were last on the list, with 8%. Full list.