KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP) — When Todd Chipman and his wife Julie finalized their adoption of two grade school-aged sisters, the courtroom was packed with excited members of the Kansas City, Kan., congregation that he pastors. Members of The Master’s Community Church even arranged for the judge to give American Girl dolls to the sisters from the bench.
So overwhelming was the church’s support that the Chipmans’ attorney extemporaneously added to a formal set of questions for Todd: “Can you assure the court that you will continue to give these children the kind of love you and your church are demonstrating here today?” He replied with a confident yes, and they have.
The congregation’s enthusiasm was palpable because it had learned a vital lesson about adoption and foster care: They are not just ways to help orphans, but also channels of blessing for churches. Three years later, Chipman has written “Until Every Child Is Home” to help other churches learn that same lesson.
The adoption “brought our church to a deeper level of intimacy with the Lord and gave us a nearer sense of ministry,” Chipman, a biblical studies professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said. “And because of that especially, I wanted other churches to know the ironic blessing of this kind of ministry.”
The blessing is “ironic,” he said, because adoption and foster care are costly, time consuming and unappealing to some believers — not the type of ministries pastors typically opt to pursue. Yet when Christian families take orphans into their homes and the local church surrounds them with support, the entire congregation gains “a sense of nearness with the Gospel” it “couldn’t have otherwise.”
Resources like Russell Moore’s book “Adopted for Life” have lent momentum to adoption and foster care efforts among evangelicals, and the Southern Baptist Convention Calendar includes Orphans and Widows Sunday each fall. Still, Chipman worries the difficulty of adoption and foster care eventually could stymie the orphan-care movement. He hopes Until Every Child Is Home — released in August by Moody Publishers — will advance the cause.
Joining him in that hope are current and former SBC leaders whose own stories of adoption and foster care are recounted in the book. Among them are Moore and his wife Maria, David and Heather Platt, Kevin and Lynette Ezell, and Paul and Michelle Chitwood. Their testimonies are interspersed with biblical teaching on orphan care.
The book’s opening section recounts the Chipmans’ own adoption journey. An adopted child himself, Todd Chipman long had been open about his story with The Master’s Community Church. But it wasn’t until the first of the Chipmans’ five biological children departed for college — freeing a bedroom in their house — that they felt God’s leading to adopt.
Throughout the adoption process, the church provided prayer and emotional support at difficult junctures, Chipman writes, as the girls worked through emotional and behavioral issues stemming from their previously rough life. Church members “developed relationships with the girls, creating emotional hooks the girls could grab hold of during the transition into our family.”
Subsequent sections of the book recount benefits of orphan care for local churches. They include:
— forging greater theological depth;
— spurring increased participation in the Great Commission;
— channeling blessing to church members who support adoptive families;
— exhibiting the Gospel’s power to combat racial pride as interracial families emerge from the adoption process;
— allowing pastors to exemplify compassion before the church; and
— disrupting the sex trafficking pipeline.
Learning how foster children are uniquely vulnerable to sex trafficking was the most eye-opening aspect of writing the book, Chipman said. Girls who are bounced from foster home to foster home often run away, the book says, then become entangled with sex traffickers who promise them food, shelter and safety in exchange for the sale of their bodies.
When Chipman interviewed a child sexual assault expert for his book, she reported that “100 percent” of the sexually assaulted children she saw “have a background in foster care,” Chipman said. As the expert described to Chipman how pimps prey on foster girls who long for identity and acceptance, “I really thought I was going to become ill,” he said.
Prevention is “where the church can step in,” he said. “The more believers who step in to foster and adopt, the more likely we will have children who have a safety net around them so they don’t run after they’ve been in a vulnerable environment.” By making children feel loved and safe, “we can prevent some human trafficking.”
Churches of all sizes and settings can participate in orphan care, Chipman noted. He commended the Texas Baptist Home for Children (TBHC) as a resource to “help churches to see” that “orphan-care ministries advance rather than inhibit the vitality of the local church.” Last year, TBHC facilitated foster care for 287 children and oversaw 24 adoptions, TBHC President Jason Curry told the SBTC Executive Board in July.
“The kinds of stories that echo through the walls of TBHC locations fill the pages of Until Every Child Is Home,” Chipman said.
Assisted by ministries such as TBHC and other orphan-care organizations, all churches should see themselves as candidates to raise up foster and adoptive families, he said. Doing so is “an opportunity to practice our faith” and be blessed.