Monday, December 5, 2011

"I no longer wish to parent this child..."

That was how the note started.  It was stuck inside the 7 year old boy's pocket as he boarded the plane to Moscow.  Artyem Seviliev (known as Justin Hansen in the US), had been adopted in Russia by a Tennessee mom just 6 months before.  Fast forward to April 2010 - the mom couldn't handle the psychological issues, seemingly didn't ask anyone for help (including her adoption agency), and chose to simply return him like an unwanted Christmas gift to Wal Mart.

This news story really angered me when it happened.  Our adopted Russian daughter was home with us for just 2 years at that time.  There were challenges, of course, in integrating her into our family, overcoming the tragedies of her past (familial, educational, social, institutional), and bonding as a family, but we stuck through them.  Friends of ours were in the middle of adopting another girl from Russia, and that adoption (along with about 3,000 others) was disrupted as a result of this woman's actions.  Praise God our dear friends continued the process and now their Russian daughter is part of a wonderful family!

But what happened to little Artyem?  Despite calls and offers from around Russia to adopt this child, the last article I read stated that he was still in an orphanage there.  Imagine his heart and his mind right now - abandoned multiple times, wounds that are too deep to fix, distrust of all authority, and a distorted view of family.

So what does this have to do with your passion, your calling?

Are you in the process of creating your own little Artyem of a ministry?

Are you really called?  Or is your "passion" really an understandable emotional reaction to a mountaintop experience?

I've known a lot of people that have served on mission trips over the past 9 years.  Many go to another country, learn a little about a new culture, eat and smell things foreign to them, and for the first time in their lives, truly put themselves in God's hands and watch Him do His thing.  I'm sure He's done His thing for years around them, but now their eyes are open for the miracles and they see people change in front of their eyes.  And then they come home, having met a child in need, built a new wing on an orphanage, or watched someone they've studied with put their faith in Christ.  These are all awesome things!

But then they come home.  Back to the daily grind at work.  Eating the same familiar foods and seeing the same people as before.  And they wonder why all of their days are not as world changing as the past couple of weeks.  I know I did.

I remember sitting at my computer looking at the hundreds of pictures of Russian kids after returning from my first mission trip, and simply crying.  I called the missions organization the next week and volunteered to lead the team the next year.  It's an intensely emotional state to know you did something that made a difference in the world!

I took a full year pondering, praying, and discussing it with my wife and kids.  God opened up doors, gave multiple confirmations, and worked in His perfect timing to allow it to happen.  One year later, while returning from our second trip on a debriefing layover in Oxford, England, He gave us a final confirmation.  It was at that point that we jumped...   and we've never regretted it since!

I've also known others that returned and the following week decided to adopt that child they met, or made up their minds to quite their jobs, sell everything, and move away to solve the world's problems.  That is amazing passion!  Or is it?

Sometimes it all works out great.  But sometimes, 6 months later, they realized that they really hate the country they're living in, can't speak to anyone except asking where the toilet is, and they aren't prepared at all for the task that they set out to do.  I know one couple that moved to the other side of the world after a single short-term trip, ignored the advice of missions professionals, moved back a very short time later and ended up partnered with scam artists.  Their missionary life ended with threats on their lives, armed men coming to their home, and a quick escape from the country to be back in the dear US of A wondering, "what in the world just happened?"

My advice during these times of great passion is to ask people, "why don't you take 6 months and pray about it?"  Give it time to settle in, for your world to get back to normal, and really give God a chance to speak to you. Don't make a life-altering decision based on a purely emotional response.  Take a cooling off period, and see if it's truly your passion.  Let God call you to your specific mission.

I promise you that the problems, issues, kids, and opportunities will still be there when you get back to them.  And you'll be much better prepared.  And you'll know if this is truly your calling.

Or not.  Or you may realize that you can help in other ways, but upending your life is not what God is asking you to do for this mission at this time.

And you won't have to tuck a note into the pocket of your ministry saying, "I no longer wish to parent this child..."

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