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Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Change of Heart

I hope you'll indulge me a bit here.     This is one of those "fighting to get out of me" posts but it has little to do with The Bartimaeus Project or our specific work here in The Philippines.

It has to do with my own personal convictions being turned on their heads.

Those who know me "in real life", or even as long-time blog readers know that I am direct. I am
resolved. I am unapologetic about my convictions - whether they be controversial or widely accepted.

Living in The Philippines has caused me to rethink a few tenants I once held dear.

Among them are:

There was a time in my personal journey as a wife and mother that I firmly believed EVERY married Believer should throw away the contraception and let the Lord choose his family size. I still do believe that SOME families are called to walk this path.  I can no longer justify it for all. First, it is not clearly mandated in scripture (although I would have called it "God's Best" in years gone by). Second, there is NO WAY IN HADES I could look into the eyes of parents here, in The Philippines, who struggle to feed their three children and are only in their 20s and tell them that God forbids them from controlling the number of children they have.  And if something is not universally applicable among all Christians, it's "gray matter" and gets tossed aside (cue sound of brick breaking a window).
That being said, I would still love to adopt (or even birth) more children if God deemed it. I welcome as many children as He gives us. But that is OUR path . . .  If I ever judged any of you for choosing to limit your family sizes (by non abortifacient means, of course), please forgive me. I am learning and growing. I pray that never stops.

This is one of the most scalding of hot-button issues among families, especially Christian families. SUPER "especially" HOMESCHOOLING Christian families.  I have been on internet forums where women proverbially "rip each other new ones" over whether or not vaccinating children against common childhood diseases is effective, necessary or even abusive.
If you live in a country where you can choose NOT to vaccinate and your child can still live a healthy, long life, stop RIGHT NOW and thank HIM for that freedom.  In this country, vaccines DO save lives!  Now, before I get 357 comments asking for proof and documentation, let me just share something anecdotal here.  I can not PROVE that vaccines have saved specific children but I can prove that non-vaccinated children here die often of diphtheria, rubella, complications from measles and  that POLIO still lives on here in remote areas.  Again, I would NEVER EVER EVER (even with Dr. Fred Mercola holding my hand) stand face to face with a poor family and encourage them not to vaccinate their children.  Likewise, I would never encourage you to send your child to a country like this  for a mission trip unvaccinated.  The responsibility is too great and the stakes too high to play around with this issue.  All of my children are now caught up on their vaccines and if, later in life, there are autoimmune consequences, I'll be sad.  But if they have made it through years of living here without rubella maiming their unborn child or diphtheria shortening their lives, it's a trade worth making. 

I don't want to scare anyone with this change in me but, here, I see people of different faith streams working together VERY WELL for the common cause of the poor.  As a person of reformed theology (Calvinist-ish), serving alongside those who are very, very Pentecostal, staunch Catholic or even doctrinally liberal has not been a problem.  Again, there was a time in my pre-missionary life when I would have assumed it untenable to work on a project with those who hold such varied beliefs because we would, inevitably, come to an impasse over some issue and have to part ways. Serving here has not changed my own personal convictions about the  reliability of scripture (as 100% inerrant) nor about God's sovereignty in ALL things (including salvation) but it HAS helped me to understand that it is possible, and even desirable, to work in harmony with other Believers who hold different doctrinal beliefs.   I don't have to agree with these people in all areas to find enough common ground to "get the job done".  As long as we all agree that salvation comes only through Christ and HE is the ONLY way to the Father, I think we can cross other bridges as we come to them. And we may never come to "other bridges".  When the needs here are screaming out at us and families are shattering before our eyes, doctrinal differences hardly seem discussion-worthy.

Adoption is amazing, wonderful, beautiful and one of the best decisions or family ever made.
That being said, I believe children, EVEN POOR CHILDREN, belong in their original families whenever possible. Just because I can give a child more "stuff" does not mean he should join my family.  Adoption is a radical measure for a child in crisis, not a "first,best plan" for a child who's parents don't have a nice house or money for the dentist.  I think about my own adoption as a daughter of the King.  It would have been BEST, of course, if the Fall of Man never took place and I was born into a relationship with HIM and stayed there. It was because of a huge crisis, the disaster of sin, that He enacted spiritual adoption.  Now I don't have to live as an "orphan" with the grim prognosis of one who has no lineage.   THIS is why, when I share photos of ministry we have done with children who still  have families, and comments like "I wish I could take them all home with me" are typed, I cringe.  They don't WANT to go home with you. They want to stay with their  first family, right here in their shack with no running water and no electricity.  Sometimes they NEED to come home with you because they are unsafe or alone. Sometimes the first family has had to sign them over for permanent adoption or has dropped them at a shelter and never returned.  Adoptive parents are the "soft place to land". We get to be used by God to fill a gaping hole left by sin in this broken world. But for the grace of God, we could BE that "first family", unable to keep and raise our own offspring.  Trying to keep first families together should be the goal of any ministry working with the poor. When that just can't happen, adoption BECOMES the best option!

Those are the major changes that have taken place in my worldview since moving over here. Maybe I'm just typing this post for catharsis and it doesn't mean a hill of beans to you readers.  Maybe you haven't even read this far down.  MAYBE I'm going to get some "hate mail" now.  I don't get much of that, thankfully. Maybe it's my turn  to get "ripped a new one" by some of you??  That's okay, too.
But I'm a person who will say I'm wrong when I believe I am.

In some places, I have been wrong.

In others, I'm still wrong.   Just trying to prayerfully examine my convictions, line up with scripture the best I can with this fallible, finite mind. . praying I do no harm in my areas of ignorance. . . clinging to the knowledge that when I am weak, HE is strong!


  1. Your thoughts were beautifully expressed, and I wholeheartedly agree with them.

  2. No hate mail from me. I agree with just about everything. It is best for children to be with their birth families if at all possible. Adoption is difficult. There is loss that children must deal with. There is grief and anger. It is a last option. (And I'm glad that you are holding to your reformed tenants ;) And as always, beautifully written. May the Lord continue to use you in mighty ways.

  3. Wow! Thank you for opening up your heart to us, Nikki. No hate mail from us is forthcoming…lot's of love mail, however!

    I agree on every point that you make. It seems that our differences as Christians in America are amplified because we are not in want. However, if our children were sick, unclothed, or went to bed hungry, those differences would most certainly fade. Survival of those we love and the people in our communities would take precedence over doctrinal differences.

    Yes, Jesus will always be the Way, the Truth and the Life…the only way to bring us to the Father. Most side issues distract and do little to advance the unity of the believers.

    I realize that I am a father only because two mothers in a distant land released their children to us as there were no other options available for them. Ruthie connects better with this knowledge and parental loss than I do, but as I read your words I acknowledge the depth and reality of your first family comments.

    Thank you for continuing to raise awareness of what is going on in your part of the world. It keeps us focused on what is really important and has us turning to God to intercede. Our own challenges may continue, but none of us take this journey alone, rather it is the catholic (universal) Body of Christ that helps sustain us.

    God is awesome!

  4. I spent 5 months in Nicaragua to complete our adoption of a sib group of 4. I found God also opening my eyes to the "other side of things" out from under the beautiful covering curtain of America where we have the luxury of being black and white in areas that God is not and "Christianizing" it (I think I made up a new word!). That made it a bit hard coming BACK to America but also refreshing to be shown some good old fashioned REALITY!!
    Cool how God grows us! He doesn't "rip us a new one" , he just gently shows us!

  5. This was so wonderful to read! I will be praying for you and your family as you grow together.

  6. Thank you for sharing! God changed our hearts through our travels as well. His Word is true for all people, in all places, for all times.

    May God bless you as you minister in His name.

  7. Yes, yes, yes, and a resounding YES!!!!!