I am continuing to enjoy having the time to read lots of books; before bed and on the train I am able to read for about 2+ hours a day – pure delight! I finished an excellent book about two weeks ago called “Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches” by Russell Moore. While I didn’t agree with several points in the book, I heartily recommend it to anyone who has adopted or is thinking about doing so. As I have mentioned before on my blog, Matthias and I are open to adopting one day in the future.
I have been taking the time to keep a book journal with reviews of each the books I have been reading. It’s a great exercise to digest what you read and I highly recommend keeping one. I thought I would share my review of this particular book – any feedback would be appreciated.
Review of Adopted for Life:
This book is truly excellent, and deserves all the amazing reviews on amazon.com! Thank God for Russell’s encouragement to the church to adopt more children, not only because of infertility but because it reflects God’s heart for adoption. The author covers the doctrine of adoption and shares the beautiful story of his personal experience of adopting of his two boys from Russia (the story made me cry). He dealt so honestly with thorny issues of adoption such as his experiences with miscarriage and infertility, reluctance to adopt, the practical issues of the adoption process, uncomfortable adoption questions, etc. From the book: “As we become more attuned to the gospel, we’ll have more of a burden for orphans. As we become more adoption-friendly, we’ll be better able to understand the gospel.”
I was especially touched by the section on infertility. My parents were not able to conceive a child…that’s why I was adopted! Moore encourages couples who are infertile yet do not want to adopt that they are not horrible people. He honestly shares his inner struggles with despair and bitterness, shares about his struggle to understand God’s ways, and offers sensitive ways to encourage infertile couples towards adoption since he’s walked in their shoes.
This book led to very good discussions with Matthias since we are considering adopting a few years down the road. However, I have to honest, I was shocked by one thing in the book: the idea of downplaying one’s birth heritage and instead emphasizing one’s new American heritage. Perhaps I misread him (please correct me), but I am referring to lines such as:
“As Maria and I went through the adoption process, we were encouraged by everyone…to teach the children about their cultural heritage…But as we see it, that’s not their heritage anymore, and we hardly want to signal to them that they are strangers and aliens, even welcome ones, in our home. We teach them about their heritage, yes, but their heritage as Mississippians.”
“Yes, I’ll read Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy to them one day, I suppose, but not with the same intensity with which I’ll read to them William Faulkner and Eudora Welty. They wouldn’t know an arrangement of “Peter and the Wolf” if they heard it, but they can recognize the voices of Charley Pride and Hank Williams in seconds. When we sit at the table for our holiday meals, they don’t eat borscht. They eat what we eat- red beans and rice or fried catfish…. They share our lives, and our story. They belong here. They are Moores now, with all that entails.”
In a nutshell, this is why I disagree: one should be careful not to overstretch the beautiful analogy of adoption so as to nearly obliterate the connection to the birth country. It is not spiritually harmful to teach a child one’s cultural heritage. I believe that to neglect teaching an adopted child about the culture and history of the birth country can potentially be a huge loss not only to the child but to the people of the birth country.
I was adopted as a baby and I know nothing of the details surrounding my abandonment as a newborn. My parents made me feel totally loved and accepted and I don’t even feel adopted. I look a little like my dad but I look nothing like my mother, and she always discussed my adoption openly and frankly. I’ve always known I was from El Salvador and dreamed of going back for many years (out of curiosity and interest).
I am thankful I have been able to visit El Salvador, and I am especially grateful that I was able to learn Spanish fairly well. As an adult, total strangers from Latin American regularly come up to me and start conversations (because of my appearance of obviously being from Latin America) and I am delighted to be able to engage them, help them, and befriend them. Even in Japan, a Japanese woman came up to me and started speaking to me in Spanish, assuming I was from Central America. If I were not connected to El Salvador and never learned Spanish, I might have felt a sense of helplessness and fear (or annoyance). El Salvador will always be written in my American passport as my place of birth; every time I travel I am reminded of this fact. As an adult, I explored my roots by traveling to El Salvador to work in an orphanage, and I was able to tell my adoption story (in Spanish) to many people in El Salvador who were deeply moved by God’s goodness in my life.
From the time I was a toddler until I was 10 or 12 years old, my parents put in a play group with other Salvadoran kids so that I would feel a connection to El Salvador. When I went back to ES and volunteered in an orphanage it brought back a flood of memories from the kids in the play group. So, here is where I might disagree with the author: I think that adoptive parents should try to give their children some connection, even small ones, with their roots: if your child is from China, find a young Chinese college student who can teach your child some Chinese writing and basic conversation. If your child is from Latin America, encourage him or her to learn Spanish and learn it together with your child, etc.
If Matthias and I adopt, we will teach our child about his or her birth country and do our best to enable him/her to learn the language, culture, and history of their birth country. I believe that the way and the degree to which the birth country is presented by adoptive parents has a great deal to do with whether or not the child seeks to know more about the country. If you don’t teach them very much, why are they ever going to want to go back and visit or know more? I think it’s important for an adoptive child to go back to the birth country if it’s possible. It’s a great loss to the community of people of the adopted child’s country if a child loses all of his or her connection with the birth culture. In my case, I think that it encourages Salvadoran people to hear my story and marvel with me at God’s kindness in giving a poor orphan with no hope for a future such wonderful parents, love, and opportunities I never could have had growing up in an orphanage.
Two other small things to keep in mind: as nice as it might sound to take your child “back to the orphanage” (I was a bit taken aback at the author’s hypothetical idea of going back to Russia with his boys and taking a photo in front of the orphanage to hang on the wall), I would recommend being extremely careful and cautious about doing such a thing too soon. I am really glad I was an adult before I went back to my birth country because I had the emotional and spiritual ability to process the most difficult moment in my life. Of course, every child is different, and maybe a 12-year old is ready…or maybe not.
Also, in my experience, adopted children may not want to have the story surrounding their birth to be overly public or casually discussed, so parents need to be sensitive to that (i.e.-not chatting casually on the phone about the story with the child in earshot). Of course, the author is sharing his boys’ story with the whole world to be a blessing, but in general, I think parents should exert wisdom and discretion in telling others all the gory, tragic, or wretched details surrounding the adopted child’s birth. For the adopted child, the details may feel very private, but for the parents, it may not seem like a big deal to share all the details with others. Each person is different, but I know some adopted kids with horrible stories of how they were discovered in wretched, disgusting conditions, removed from their families, and later adopted. If I were in their shoes, I am not sure I’d feel comfortable sharing that story with everyone.
If anyone else has read the book and has any thoughts, I’d love to hear from you!