The sad wind down of a sad situation

Last night, friends from the states called saying they had heard that a notorious adoption facility had been raided by the Attorney General of Guatemala. They were calling us for their friends who have been caught in an excruciating process of trying to complete adoptions grandfathered in since January 2008. They wondered if we knew where these children might be taken.

My heart breaks for these parents, even as I wish they hadn't started the process. The State Department, and honest people in the adoption community had warned against initiating adoptions from Guatemala as early as 2006. But the potential parents were hearing different stories. The Adoption agencies as late as the fall of 2007 were still saying these children would die if not adopted. When your heart is inclined to adopt, choosing which of the conflicting reports to believe is a no brainer. Hmmm. Unintended pun there. It is a heart issue, not a brain issue. The only problem is that the conflicting reports on one side were conscientious attempts to protect these hearts. The other, a shameless attempt to profit from the desire of these hearts. And a lie.

The adoption debate is winding down in Guatemala, as agencies reportedly focus on the "next Guatemala" in Nicaragua or Ethiopia. But it still rages in the hoping hearts of these potential parents. And it still lives in the lives of these children...caught in a limbo where their mother cannot be found in some cases, and in which they have no other option than these American parents. Theior legal status is tied up in the adoption started way back when, so they can't even be presented to Guatemalan families.

The debate is winding down, but the residue is all over, staining the lives of women and attorneys, and Chrsitian Agencies and adoptive parents. And especially the children. The children adopted from Guatemala in the past 5 years will grow up to learn of the doubts and even sad facts of adoptions, and wonder.

Parents who love their children need to prepare for that time. They need to do everything they can to determine the veracity of the adoption . But there will also be a portion, who upon further investigation, find that their adoption was a false process. They need to come to terms with the implications. You can't change the past. But ignoring and denying it doesn't work. Truth is the only hope for being free from the residue, for all of the victims of the scam artists.

The parents who care about what their children will face, need to stop listening to the profiteers of adoption, and consider hearing from fellow victims.

Here is an article written by Mirah Riben, who has taken up the cause of honesty in adoptions since she relinquished her child in the 60's. The article's title was provocative, but I don't find her in spirit to be vindictive, and her implication of the Religious Right is not glaring. BUT the idea that false premises have created the fiasco that international adoptions have become here in Guatemala is thought provoking.

Mirah quotes Jae Ran Kim, a South Korea-born/American raised adoptee and social worker in the field of adoption and child welfare laments: “It is ethnocentric and arrogant to think that the United States has any business telling another country how they should manage the problem of orphaned, abandoned or relinquished children. We can’t even solve this problem within our own shores."

I feel like Jae's comments can also be applied to missionaries in general.

Maybe a truth and reconciliation commission is necessary for these children. And their parents.

Let those who have deceived well meaning parents and manipulated and abused poor mothers go swimming with millstones.


Why are we here: to Glorify Jesus or feed and clothe the poor?

Why are we here: to Glorify Jesus or feed and clothe the poor?

It didn't start out as that, but it seems that a lot of Evangelical Christian discussions boil down to this basic question.

I sent out a request for prayer for a Catholic group who was trying to gain hearing in the United Nations regarding the lives of babies at risk of being aborted worldwide.  I guess their acts appeal to my sense of standing against impossible odds.  Sort of like Daniel in the court in Babylon.   A dear friend who I consider a true partner in the kingdom took issue with my request.  He said to me we should not count on the UN for anything, and that the church was the primary agent of real and meaningful change in the world.


I appreciate his reply, edited, and stated here: 

What is real and meaningful change?  It's change with a kingdom impact. 

If the UN feeds a village of hungry people that's a wonderful thing.  It's also shameful that the body of Christ was not there feeding them already.  God has given his bride the means to reach the world and she squanders it on primping herself.  But the UN hasn't made a real and meaningful change. 

Consider this encounter with Jesus:

Matthew 26

6While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, 7a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.

8When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. "Why this waste?" they asked. 9"This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor."

10Aware of this, Jesus said to them, "Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. 12When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her."


My friend concluded:   There's an important principle laid out here.  Bringing glory to Christ is more important than even helping the poor.  We can and should do both, but help to the poor that brings no glory to Christ should not be a priority."

I appreciate my friend's love for Jesus and the poor he meets.  But I disagree with the duality of his summation.  I think it reflects the problem with much modern Evangelical Christian theology.  My friend does not allow this to hinder his incredible work for the poor.  But that just makes him a rarity as a pastor in our churches.  It causes people like him to almost be apologetic about obeying Jesus.  "Kingdom impact", must be the litmus for programs, as if it is separate from Loving our neighbor as our self.

Here is my attempt at answering the title's question: 

Jesus and the woman in these verses showed proper priority of actions.  Jesus was about to CHANGE EVERYTHING.  It was good to treat him in that moment in that special way.  Hardly matched what he was about to accomplish, really.  She might have sold the perfume for money, and given it to the poor in His name, and He would have accepted it too.  But it would have been almost formulaic, and not what really moved Jesus. 

A good teaching emerged:

1) It is good to treat Him at all times in special ways, and

2) our special treatment does not in and of itself mean much in light of who He is and what He has done and is doing. 

But, to make my point by pushing grammar:  which way should we adore him when? 

A good way to gauge the best way to honor him might be by listening to his own words about it.  This precious woman's simple private act of worship delighted him.  And so if I am ever close enough to do something similar, you bet I will sell all, and get that alabaster and perfume!

Today, we are in the time of "always" that Jesus spoke of in verse 11.  We indeed have the poor with us, and now we can honor Jesus in a very special way.  We can treat him as our lord, and give honor and weight to his words and commands. Allow me to boil down the sum total of his commands: 


"Be like me, and do what I do." 


Yet the church worries that it will not bring glory to Jesus if it chooses to minister to the physical needs of the poor, marginalized and disadvantaged as he did continuously.   Various reasons are given, such as fear to mingle with those like the UN who are doing it already.  One reason given too often resonates with that of the original disciples:   "Our budget won't allow it."

The disciples were right there next to Jesus, but they blew it.  Their hollow argument was exposed in the Gospel of John's version of this scene, as a ruse that used the poor to resist giving glory to Jesus, but had no base of real compassion for the poor.  I wonder if we don't today see an inverse reflection of the disciple's error… a ruse using Jesus to resist showing real compassion to the poor, but with no real desire to give glory to Jesus.  Remember the 5,000 hungry souls and stomachs? (Mt 14:15) 

Remember who Jesus said should feed them? 

Remember who got the glory?

Jesus said the Pharisees used "obedience to God" as an excuse to not do right by their families and neighbors.  Sometimes very good leaders use focus on "the gospel" (e.g. theological preparation, tithing, evangelization) to excuse them from acting like the people who will be welcomed by Jesus in Matt 25:34ff.  The teaching there clearly states something about Jesus, as comes into his ultimate and earned glory, and the method of determining who joins him in that glory. 

The strongest terms are used in describing both happy reception of the obedient sheep, and utter damnation of the disobedient goats.  Jesus was serious.   Shouldn't we also take this passage seriously?

Back to Jesus as our example:  notice how He moved from the Spiritual to the physical part of His presence and work seamlessly.   His preaching was part of and consistent with His ministry to the poor, and His healing and touching, holding and welcoming was part of His preaching. We don't have Him physically to adore, and wash with perfume, and feed, and clothe. But He has chosen surrogates: the least of these, and widows and orphans in their distress.  Why don't we preach AND touch?  Why don't we as a church consider these to be vital?   We sometimes worry that "doing" will hurt our "being"; our relationship to God through grace.   He will not be glorified in that. 

Can we give what we have to the poor and sacrifice all without adoring him?  Apparently.  (I Cor 13) 

But that does not mean that it is not the proper form of worship, and relationship, and even "true religion".  It is true religion, and causes what real religion should.   It creates that relationship with Jesus, and the Father, and the Holy Spirit that is mandated in the First and greatest Commandment. 

It will transform the world.  Starting in the church.

This transformation will not happen under our control or by our power.  That is the difference between true religion and magic.  

Determining to live in obedience of Jesus' teachings and commands will bring about a transformation in us that brings about a transformed society.  The transformation occurs through God's grace and redeeming atoning love FOR us, not FROM us.  It occurs because trying to obey Him leads to being overwhelmed in our inability.  When faced with true discipleship, and true religion, and true love, we are undone, and must cry out "God have mercy on me, a sinner!!   And He does.  You can enter His rest assured, He does!

Unfortunately, we have allowed reason to rule our churches.  Reasonable and prudent men respond to being overwhelmed, by retreating to lesser goals.  They focus on attainable things: things they can achieve without miraculous intervention.   Things like theological consistency.  Doctrinal integrity.  Church growth programs.  Good things, in their way.   For 2000 years, we as a church have succeeded at that level, and probably will continue to succeed.  Many will continue to be content with that.


But they will miss Jesus. 

Stephen Osborn
Love the Child
Amor del Niño