About the Guest
Does God want to bless your life through adoption? Today Russell Moore, author of Adopted for Life, fondly remembers the days when he and his wife waited for a word from their adoption agency to go pick up their sons. Hear Russell describe the orphanage in Russia where his sons lived and the emotions they felt as they prepared the boys to travel to their new home in the United States.
Does God want to bless your life through adoption?
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, April 26th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey and I am Bob Lepine. We are going to talk today about infertility and adoption and the needs of orphans with our guest Dr. Russell Moore.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today! Thanks for joining us! Our listeners have heard you share your story of how you and Barbara decided to adopt. You’d talked about it just kind of as a theoretical idea for a number of months, right?
Bob: But it was a call that came over a weekend that forced the theory into reality. You had to decide pretty quickly, didn’t you?
Dennis: We did but we had been praying. At the time we had four children and Barbara and I had been talking about it. Anyone knows if you have four biological children the chances of someone who has that many having the opportunity to adopt is simply not likely.
But the phone call came and, frankly, because of the circumstances that had occurred in our marriage we prayed again but it was a pretty simple prayer. Lord, thank You for this provision of this little girl who is being born and we think we know what we are supposed to do. We did call a friend and ask a friend for some advice just to confirm it and have an outside wise counselor speak into our lives. We’d been praying about it for so long and talking about it that it was clear it was what God wanted for us.
Bob: How long did it take for your heart to go from I don’t know that I’m even interested in this to getting a phone call and saying I’m ready.
Dennis: Unlike other people I don’t remember a struggle. I just know my wife was incredibly persuasive.
Bob: So when she said, “I might want to adopt some day,” you said, “that would be okay.”
Dennis: I think it pretty much went that way. It may have been a foreign thought initially. It would be interesting to know what Barbara would say at this point but I don’t remember struggling with her much. I do think what had already occurred in my life is a transformation from what we would consider to be a cultural or worldly perspective of children, where children were a burden. They cost so much to raise them through high school or college. Everybody knew how many of thousands of dollars that was and all the emotional anguish and all the negative stuff.
We’d really abandoned the cultural view and had moved toward more of a biblical view and had seen children for what they were, a blessing of God, a reward.
Our guest on today’s broadcast also came to that conclusion as well. Russell Moore joins us again on FamilyLife Today. Russell, welcome back.
Dr. Moore: Good to be with you, Dennis and Bob!
Dennis: That’s kind of the same process you went through. You had to be weaned from the world’s perspective of children, right?
Dr. Moore: That is exactly right. I had to be weaned from the idea that there are biological children and then there are adopted children and that having an adopted child was somehow “plan B” and second best.
Bob: But wait, there are biological children and there are adopted children, aren’t there?
Dr. Moore: But that doesn’t define the identity of those children any more than the fact that we have been adopted into the family of God. God doesn’t speak of us as you are the adopted children. He speaks of us as “you are my children, you are my sons and daughters.” The adoption tells us how we got here.
So sometime people will ask us which ones are the adopted ones. That’s not the way we view them. One of our kids, Jonah, who we had biologically, was three weeks early, premature. But he isn’t our premature son. He was born prematurely and we are happy to say that to people but that doesn’t define his identity for the rest of his life.
Dennis: There is a reason why, Bob, and you know this, why our guest on today’s program has a pretty airtight theological perspective of adoption.
Dennis: That’s because he is the Dean of the School of Theology of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. So he has thought this through biblically.
Dr. Moore: Right.
Dennis: He’s got a few thoughts. His book, Adopted for Life, which I’ve already talked about this week is really a two-fer. It’s a book about adoption and equipping couples to better process perhaps becoming adoptive parents.
It is also a book on our identity of who we are as His adopted children and how He grafts us into His family and helps us better understand who we are. I have to say, Russell, I really enjoyed reading through your book because it does bring to a new level the whole understanding of us being His children and brought into His family through His adoptive process.
Dr. Moore: Dennis, you know that it all came about as a result of some rude questions. We have found that when you are adopting children people will ask you anything, just as they will with a pregnant woman. They will ask any kind of question they want to ask.
One of the things we were facing was when we were in the process of adopting our sons, people would ask, “are the brothers.” It was really important to people because it was almost as though if they are biologically brothers then at least they will have one another for the rest of their lives. So people would say, “are the brothers?” and I would say. “they are now.” And people would say, “Yeah, but are they really brothers?” and I would say, “Yes, now they REALLY are brothers!” Well, you know what I mean?
That is exactly what the New Testament is about. In Christ we are really and truly brothers and sisters in the household of God. I recognize that the very thought behind that question is exactly what all of us want. I want to be my own man or my own woman and I want my own right to be here rather than having been brought in through grace.
Bob: Let me back you up to that point in your struggle with infertility which we have already talked about this week.
Dr. Moore: Yes.
Bob: You said that your heart had started to soften to the idea of adoption. You were driving down the street and all of a sudden it was warm to what it had been cold to before. Did you go home and tell your wife, “You know, I’m ready to think about this?”
Dr. Moore: A couple of days later I said let’s at least move through the process of the paperwork and we’ll see what happens.
Dennis: How did you decide to go international in adoption and not do it domestically?
Dr. Moore: The only reason… People will often think of this was some really carefully planned out mystical idea. It was only because I said, “Okay, if we are going to do this and let’s do it the quickest and easiest way that we can do it right now.”
At that time, Russia just happened to be the quickest avenue that we had to go in there. My wife had been to an adoption seminar where she had heard from an agency that worked through Russia and that is just the way it worked out.
Bob: Where there any times during that season when you were filling out the paperwork and getting the home studies done when you thought maybe this isn’t worth it?
Dr. Moore: Yes, we thought that several times. When the social worker came to see us and Maria and I had agreed ahead of time, “You know, we’re going to be honest” and we are going to answer whatever questions she asks honestly. Our social worker had a very different view of parenting than we have.
As a matter of fact, she counseled us not only never to spank a child, but never to use a negative word to a child. Never say “no.” Never do any of these things. She said instead distract a child when he is doing something wrong with a big red ball.
Dennis: So how did you feel about that as a theologian?
Dr. Moore: Well, I said we are not going to argue with her. We are going to be honest with her. So we listened to what she has to say. When she left I said to Maria, “I don’t ever want to be caught in dark alley with that woman’s children.”
Dr. Moore: And Maria said, “Well not without a big red ball anyway!”
Because how does this even work? But we made it through that.
Bob: Russell, in the midst of that every month you are wondering whether you conceived biologically. Were there any miscarriages that occurred during that year?
Dr. Moore: No, and one of the things I think sometimes people who have infertility issues will sometimes think I’m going to let a thousand flowers bloom. I’m going to go through the adoption process and I’m going to be working on getting pregnant and doing whatever I need to do to do that. That’s what I wanted to do and my wife said, “Honey, let’s just please, I can’t emotionally take on all of this and going to the doctor and doing all of these things for the pregnancy. Let’s just please concentrate on this.” That was a wise bit of counsel from my wife.
Dennis: So here you are. You fly across the ocean and get off the plane in a country that immediately lets you know you are no longer in Kansas.
Dr. Moore: That is exactly right!
Dennis: Russia is an interesting place. You use a word to describe the orphanage when you walked into it. Instantly, because Barbara and I have visited a number of orphanages in Russia, I know exactly what you are talking about.
Dr. Moore: Quiet. It was a nauseating place. There was stench and squalor all around but the thing that was most shocking to me was when we walked in I said to Maria, “we are in a place filled with babies and it is absolutely still and quiet.” No one is crying. No one is whimpering and all of these babies in cribs are just rocking themselves and that’s when it hit me. They are not crying because they are not accustomed to anybody responding to them when they cry. Eventually a baby who doesn’t have anyone hearing him is going to stop crying.
That is when it hit me what the Bible is talking about when it says we cry Abba. I always thought of that as kind of a sentimental “we look up and say daddy.” But it is a scream in Romans 8 and in Galatians 4. It is the same kind of cry that Jesus gives in the Garden of Gethsemane. It’s a screaming out to one’s father because one knows he is going to be heard. God is going to hear you. In that orphanage you had children who weren’t being heard.
We had to go on two trips. The first trip we were able to be there in the orphanage every day with our kids but then we had to leave so that the paperwork could be finished. We had to wait in the United States to get the call to come back. The last day I went in and put my hands on the heads of both of the boys and I said, “I will not leave you as orphans I will come to you.”
We walked out the door and all of sudden we heard the one who is now Benjamin fall down into his crib, filled with excrement and waste, and start screaming out crying. It was the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard because as we walked out I said, “he recognizes us as his parents.” He knows that we will hear him.
Dennis: You mentioned a scene of cribs and children rocking themselves. I know what you are talking about. The listeners may not.
Dr. Moore: The babies in these cribs would be moving themselves back and forth, comforting themselves. The cribs would just rock back and forth and there is no one there to rock them or comfort them. There is no human contact. So they simply have to comfort themselves.
Bob: How do you keep from thinking we have to adopt every one of these kids and bring them all back home?
Dr. Moore: That was exactly what we were thinking and I’ll tell you, Bob, honestly, I’m haunted by the face of a little girl who was about, probably, three years old. She would come running into the room where we were with Benjamin and Timothy and I’ll sometimes wake up at night and wonder whatever happened to her.
Bob: You referred to the one who is now named Benjamin.
Dr. Moore: Yes.
Bob: What did you mean by that?
Dr. Moore: Well, their names were Maxim and Sergei. We renamed them Benjamin Jacob Moore and Timothy Russell Moore. One of the things that became really evident to me as to how they knew they were our children is when they started responding to their new names. We would not have to say Maxim Benjamin. We would say Benjamin and he started responding to that.
Bob: Why did you choose to rename them?
Dr. Moore: Because we wanted to make it very clear that they are a part of our family now. One of the things that people would ask us sometimes when were in the process of this is, “are you going to make sure your children grow up to appreciate their cultural heritage?” I always said, yes, absolutely.
What I mean by that is they are Mississippians now. They come from a long line of Mississippians so they listen to Hank Williams and they eat friend shrimp and red beans and rice and the things we do. We want to make it very clear they are not kind of Russian guests in our home.
They are now part of our family. Just like all of us come out of all of these backgrounds but now we are brought into this story in which we have these ancestors in this family and these brothers and sisters. That is what is true of them now.
Bob: Benjamin, though, wasn’t your first choice of a name for Benjamin was it?
Dr. Moore: No, it wasn’t. We wanted to name him Andrew. When we arrived in Russia one of the things they told us was, after we had been there in the orphanage with him, they told us you are not going to be able to take this child because he has a strain of hepatitis that they are not going to let him in the U.S.A, the immigration authorities are not, .and he’ll probably be dead before he is three or four years old. They said, but maybe not, we’ll do another test and we’ll know by tomorrow afternoon.
I went back home, to the house where we were staying, and Maria and I prayed all night long. I fasted. I was reading in Genesis when Joseph sends his brothers back to the land to bring the brothers back to Egypt. They say to Jacob, “we need to bring Benjamin the youngest child as well.” Jacob responded, “if I am bereaved of my children I am bereaved.” That was kind of the prayer that I offered to God. I said, “Please don’t bereave me of this child.“
When we went back to the orphanage they said everything is clear. He has no hepatitis. I said his name is Benjamin Jacob. We are reminded every time we say his name of the fact that he was preserved by God in so many ways.
Dennis: You know, mentioning disease reminds me of a couple of times when Barbara and I have had the privilege of helping place babies. We know a number of doctors around the country who have had babies born that were being placed for adoption and we have known some families who wanted to receive a child. One of the things that surprised Barbara and me was the number of parents who would really count the cost of adopting and would be unwilling to take a step toward adoption because they couldn’t know what the health issues were in advance.
Dr. Moore: Exactly.
Dennis: In your case, it was not just the hepatitis issue. You actually were given a grocery list of diseases and yet you and Maria stepped toward it.
Dr. Moore: Maria and I had agreed whoever God shows us, whoever God gives us, that is going to be our children and we are going to receive them whatever is involved there. There were all kinds of issues, fetal alcohol and everything else. We said these are our children and we are going to receive these children.
One of the things I tell people is you are not going to have a child who is risk free. Whether you birth the child or adopt the child there is no such thing. None of us is risk free. If you are able to say I’m not going to adopt a child who might get sick or who might have something wrong, then you shouldn’t be married or parents anyway because your child can always get cancer or anything.
Dennis: I’m going to push back on this because I can hear a listener who is listening to us right now saying, “but Russell, fetal alcohol syndrome? Do you realize what you are buying into here?”
Dr. Moore: Yes.
Dennis: How did you and Maria sort through all of that? It’s one thing to be a theology professor but it’s another thing to absorb something into your family that could completely reorient your universe.
Dr. Moore: I think that is why the Lord put us through a time of infertility first so that we were able to receive children as a gift and not to receive children as a commodity that we have. As He says with Israel and with Jesus in the temptations, the Lord made us hunger so that we could know what it would mean to be fed. So we recognize these children are a gift and we are going to receive them as a gift. There are going to be struggles that are going happen with children who have difficulties but we are special needs children in the kingdom of God.
Dennis: Has your marriage ever been tested by these special needs?
Dr. Moore: I think only in the way that all parent’s marriages are tested, but no. We have never had a time where having the children in the house has been anything other than a strengthening of our marriage.
Bob: Tell us about when the papers were all signed and they came out with your sons and they said, “here are your boys.”
Dr. Moore: It didn’t happen the way I thought it would happen. I thought it would be a hallmark special, soft music in the background, and the boys would be reaching out and saying Mommy and Daddy. Instead when we got there to the orphanage, the boys, when we got them, they were screaming because they had never been outside. They had never seen the sun so shadows scared them to death. Wind in the face scared them to death.
Dennis: Wait a second. They had never seen the sun?
Dr. Moore: They had never been taken outside.
Dennis: How old were they?
Dr. Moore: They were a year old.
Dennis: No one to take them out doors?
Dr. Moore: No because you had a limited number of personnel in the orphanage dealing with all of these children. They were not able to walk the children outside. So the boys went into absolute shock. The sound of a car door scared them to death. One of them broke out into hives, literally, and they both were reaching back toward the orphanage while we were driving off, crying.
I’m whispering in their ears, “Listen this place is a pit. You have no idea. You are going to a place where you are going to have a mommy and a daddy and grandparents and cousins and Happy Meals, and Legos and air conditioning. You just have no idea.”
It hit me then that is exactly what God is saying to us in Romans 8 when He says that you are not able to understand the glory that is to come because we are so accustomed to this orphanage of a universe that we live in and this world of the flesh. We can’t even experience what it means to be brought into this family.
Dennis: God is telling us. You live in a pit.
Dr. Moore: That’s right. That is exactly right.
Dennis: ”I have gone and prepared a place for you that where I am you may be also.”
Dr. Moore: Part of that is getting us ready to experience that. One of the difficulties we had with our children is teaching them to eat. They were used to hiding food in their chairs and all they had been given really was milk with a little bit of rice. They were traumatized by solid food and I’m sitting there as their dad teaching them to eat that solid food so they can eat these wonderful things later to come. That is exactly what my Father has been doing to me all of my life and I count it as torture rather than counting it as blessings.
Dennis: Like those boys we unfortunately reach back.
Dr. Moore: That’s right.
Dennis: …toward the world. We keep wanting to go back to the world for our satisfaction and happiness and pleasure. I can’t talk about adoption at this point without turning to the listener and saying are you sure you are adopted?
I’m not talking about physical adoption into a family and whether or not you grew up as an orphan. I’m talking about being a spiritual orphan. Have you been adopted into the King’s family because He has a better place for you than this world.
Bob: And do you understand what it means to be adopted? I was thinking about your book and thinking I’m sure there are folks who are considering adoption or who have already adopted who will look at your book and say we ought to read this. But I’m thinking every believer ought to read your book because we all need to understand what the Bible teaches about our own adoption. What a great picture that is of God graciously taking us, as you said, out of the reality of our own corrupted situation and bringing us into the kingdom, bringing us not merely as subjects but as sons and daughters with an inheritance that He has promised to us.
We have copies of Russell Moore’s book, Adopted for Life, in our FamilyLife Resource Center. Go online, FamilyLife Today.com. The information you need about the book can be found there. I want to encourage you to get a copy. It’s called Adopted for Life and you go online at FamilyLifeToday.com for more information.
There is also information online about the upcoming Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit that’s taking place in Louisville, Kentucky, May 12th through the 13th at the Southeast Christian Church. Dennis, you and I are going to be there. Dr. Moore is going to be speaking there as well.
This is a great hub for people who are involved in orphan ministry, organizations, churches, people who have a heart and a burden. There is networking that takes place. There is great information that gets exchanged, a lot of resources available. We are really looking forward to the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit. This is the seventh annual event. It’s in Louisville, Kentucky, May 12th through the 13th at the Southeast Christian Church. You can find out more about the summit when you go online at FamilyLifeToday.com and click on the link you find there for the upcoming Summit. Hope to see you there. It really is a great event.
Now for those of you who do have a special burden for the needs of 140 million kids all
around the world who don’t have a mom, who don’t have a dad, many of whom live in
very dark circumstances and you’ve thought I want to do something to help, we have a
ministry here at FamilyLife called Hope for Orphans that’s designed to mobilize people
to help. We work with churches and ministries all around the world networking,
coordinating, resourcing, equipping, and making sure people are aware of ways
they can help orphans in this country and in other countries.
If you’ve always wanted to do something to help but not been sure what to do, here’s
one thing you might consider. You can make a designated donation to FamilyLife and
indicate that you’d like 100% of those funds to go to Hope for Orphans. Now obviously
we’re a listener supported radio program so, most of the time when we mention to you
about our financial needs, we’re asking you to consider supporting the FamilyLife
Today radio program.
But today if you’d like to donate to help support the needs of orphans, you can donate
online at FamilyLifeToday.com. If you do that, just type the word “ORPHAN” in the key
code box on the online donation form and when you do, 100% of what you donate will
go to hope for Orphans.
Or, call 1-800-FLToday. Make your donation over the phone and just say, “I’d like the
money to go to orphans” and we’ll make sure that that’s where the money gets directed.
Again, we appreciate your concern and your heart for the needs of these kids and
thanks so much for your support for Hope for Orphans.
Well, tomorrow we’re going to be back to continue our conversation with Dr. Russell
Moore on the subject of adoption. Hope you can be back with us as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.
On behalf of our host Dennis Rainey, I am Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.
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