If you will be my father, then I will be your son I
Daren Redekopp Special to ChristianWeek
t happened at the end of their first counseling session together. According to Todd Sellick, child and family therapist, the boy’s biological father had just been shot and killed in the line of duty as a police officer. The boy, about 10 years old, took a long look at Sellick and asked, “Would you think, would you maybe... be my father?”
What do you say to such a question? Sellick pondered: “I don’t know if I can do that, but what I will do is I will stay in your life,” said Sellick.
And he did. Over the next seven or eight years, he simply stayed involved. “We have no idea how hungry people are to be parented, and how hungry especially we are to be fathered,” says Sellick. “When you look at the kids that are filling the youth detention cen- ters, the kids that are getting into trouble later on are often the fatherless.”
Which might have been the case with 32 year- old Zig Thiessen, had Child and Family Services (CFS) not removed him from his biological mother when he was five months old and placed him with adoptive parents.
“I am so crazy thankful,” says Thiessen. “It’s like I won the lottery.”
But did he ever feel a difference in the rela- tionship between him and his adoptive parents compared to the relationship of children with biological parents? “I don’t remember feeling anything different,” he says. But what he does remember is a story his dad told him about when he was younger.
The family had guests over at their house, and some of the kids were making fun of his status as an adopted child. “I went to go talk to my dad about it, and he said, ‘If I buy a car, whose car is it?’ I said, ‘It’s your car.’ And he said, ‘Same thing with you.’”
What did Zig have to say to his father’s expla- nation?
“‘Oh okay, that makes sense.’ And I went off playing and I never ques- tioned it again.” Still, many assume that adopted children think they are in a second-best scenario. But it’s actually quite the opposite, says Sellick. “The adoption pro- cess has a delight and a power to it that is very
We have no idea how hungry people are to be parented, and how hungry especially they are to be fathered.
special,” he says. And he doesn’t mean that it’s merely as good as biological family situations. “No, it’s uniquely powerful.”
But where does that unique power come from? Could it be the aspect of choice—that an adoptive father sets his love upon one who is not his child, and by that very act, makes him his child? Tom Harder still remembers when he first
set the adoptive love of a father upon his son, Ryan. When CFS delivered the five-month old into their foster care, he found himself “lean- ing over his crib every night and praying he would grow up in a good home, with parents that would love him.” But soon, Tom’s prayer changed. “I began to pray that he would be able to stay with us, because I just could not fathom the thought of Ryan leaving.”
Tom chose Ryan. He set his love upon him, and that made Ryan his son. And for the child who is chosen, the time will come when they may return that act of love.
Sellick portrays it like this, voicing the inner decision of the adopted child: “You will be my father? Then I will be your son.”
Daren Redekopp is a writer, speaker and pastor at a church in downtown Winnipeg.
Adoption is not for the faint of heart B
Challenging dynamics can’t stop our yearning for the child of our hearts
Jamie Arpin Ricci Special to ChristianWeek
efore this summer is out, my wife and I will welcome our first child into our home and lives. Unlike most families, our “pregnancy” has lasted five years and our “baby” is an extremely active three-year-old little boy. After reams of paperwork, several home studies and a painfully long wait, we are thrilled to be bringing home our adopted son Micah from Ethiopia. There is no way, when we started the adoption process, that we could have anticipated the jour- ney we would have gone through to get where we are today. Yet when we first saw our child’s face, first heard his voice, first held him in our arms (and first fell exhausted after three straight hours of relentless playing), we knew it was worth it. We had no idea what we were getting into all those years ago. Can any new parent ever truly be prepared?
Adopting a child is complex and challenging endeavour, especially internationally and cross- racially. And while we would not trade our expe- rience for anything, we have come to learn that adoption is not for the feint of heart. Sure, we might have been aware of the significant costs and inevitable delays. Of course we knew that the challenges of integrating a child of another culture, language and race would be signifi- cant. However, we were not prepared for other dynamics that exacted their own high price. Challenging issues
When we first told people that we were adopt-
ing our first child from Ethiopia, a well-inten- tioned friend commented, “Well, it certainly is a popular thing to do these days. A lot of celebri- ties are doing it!” While international adoption is gaining more attention in mainstream culture, our reasons for adopting had little to do with pop culture trends, but like many adoptive families, it was a necessity due to fertility issues. As a result, our ability to start a family ceased being just our decision and became the affair of hundreds of others, such as social workers and immigration officers.
Many of the challenges that come with adoption are understandable, or at the very least accept- ably inevitable. Both the Canadian and Ethiopian governments have to perform due diligence to protect the interests of the children being put up for adoption. The complexities of international law and the vast mountains of frustrating (but surpris- ingly necessary) bureaucracy consume time and resources. With some exceptions, we have come to see that these are most often necessary. However, there is a significant sense of disempowerment that comes with the experi- ence. In addition to being subject to the system to start our family, adoptive families also find themselves subject to all kinds of comments and questions that people wouldn’t dare ask non- adoptive families. Often they are said out of well- intentioned, but ignorant curiosity. “Where is his real family?” they might ask. What they mean, of course, is, where are his biological family members. While awkward, these are easier to respond to, as it becomes our responsibility to
help people better understand. Other times, however, it exposes the darker side of people’s biases and assumptions. “Oh, he’s not too black,” some have commented, as though paying a compliment. “He’s from Africa? Does he have AIDS? I hear lots of them have it over there.”
It is times like these that my commitment to non-violence is truly tested. While we can and should celebrate how far our culture has come in the last century, adoption can be an effective way to expose how deep the roots of racism still go. And while I am eager and willing to work to overcome these dynamics, I am not willing to drag my child into the ugly crossfire. Talk about it
It is not my desire to paint a bleak picture of adoption. I cannot give adequate expression to how beautiful and exciting this process has been. I could not love this child any more than I do, even if he had been born to us biologically. He is the child of our hearts. Rather, my hope is that people would begin to discover that adoption is far more difficult and compli- cated than what we see or hear about the latest celebrity head- line.
As adoption becomes more common and cel- ebrated, you will inevitably have more and more people in your life who have adopted (or who were adopted themselves—or both!). The only way we will overcome the ignorance, stereotypes and fear is if we talk about it. While adoptive parents cannot always answer your questions— after all, some of our children’s stories are theirs alone to tell—we welcome it when people genuinely want to understand. And perhaps, in asking your questions, God might bless your family by calling you to become adoptive parents yourself.
Jamie Arpin-Ricci is a writer and pastor in the inner-city of Winnipeg. He is the pastor of Little Flowers Community (www.littleflowers.ca
) and the director of Chiara House (www.chiarahouse.ca
). He is also the author of The Cost of Community: Jesus, St. Francis & Life in the Kingdom (InterVarsity Press, November 2011) and blogs at www.missional.ca
• August 2011 • 13
| Page 2
| Page 3
| Page 4
| Page 5
| Page 6
| Page 7
| Page 8
| Page 9
| Page 10
| Page 11
| Page 12
| Page 13
| Page 14
| Page 15
| Page 16
| Page 17
| Page 18
| Page 19
| Page 20