Last weekend, I went on a retreat with my church’s singles group. It was out in the middle of nowhere near a small lake (where I grew up, we would call it a tank) and the weather was nice, so basically I stayed outside the entire weekend. I got to see several shooting stars (a rarity when you live on the outskirts of a metropolis), sit by a fire, and listen to the rain hit the roof of the back porch as I sipped a cup of herbal tea. It was a good weekend, for sure.
The singles pastor based his retreat talks on Joshua 24, mainly on remembering what God has done for us and where we came from. He talked about how this chapter encourages the Israelites to remember their heritage, their heroes, their hard times, and their high points, and encouraged us to do the same on Saturday morning. He also encouraged us to find one person and ask them about their story, and in turn tell one person about your own story (seriously, I’ve been asking people what their story is upon meeting them long before this retreat, so this was kind of amusing to me). So, I thought I would share the story of how God broke my heart for Asia and adoption with my blog readers.
People always ask me how I became obsessed with Asia and why I want to adopt so many kids from there. I’m going to back way up to elementary school to answer that one. I moved to a small town with my mom when I was in first grade. I don’t know if I was just an odd child or if the other children had already formed their cliques at age 6, but I didn’t fit in and had few friends. I was bullied a lot (like until I graduated high school) and the teachers did nothing about it.
Life went on like this until I went off to college, got called by Jesus, and started making real and lasting friendships. One of these friendships was with another freshman named Daniel. He gave me a book called Revolution in World Missions. I didn’t read it until the summer, but it lit the spark that would eventually ignite into a full fledged passion for south and southeastern Asia.
I didn’t really do much Asia-wise until the summer between my junior and senior years of college. I didn’t realize until I started taking upper level classes that any organization needs marketing in some form or another to stay afloat, and that includes non-profits too. Energized by this new discovery, I applied for a summer internship with Gospel for Asia and was accepted. I spent 5 weeks praying for the countries where GFA works, spending time with people who were passionate about seeing the people of Asia come to know Christ personally, and using my marketing abilities to help get the word out about GFA. You know, there is something magical about praying for a people group; you fall in love with them. Really. It only took a week or two before I was completely and utterly obsessed. I even went back to college and went crazy decorating my dorm with all things Asia. And watching K-dramas. And listening to Bollywood music. And making my own curry. It’s only gotten worse since then.
I can’t really put my finger on what specifically about Asia draws me in. Is it the emphasis on family? The laissez-faire approach to time? The rich history? The delicious food? I don’t even know. Maybe it’s all of the above. Maybe it’s just God.
I do think my childhood experiences had a lot to do with my desire to adopt. I really wanted (and still do) kids to know that they were loved and accepted and that they belonged. Even as a child, my desire to make others feel welcome drew the misfits like moths to flame. I think that’s part of the reason why I was drawn to the Karen people during my mission trip to Thailand; they’re not recognized by their own government as citizens, and many have fled the civil war raging in Burma and become refugees, an even more stateless position. I really have a soft spot for them.
This all came together during Passion 2013, where God reignited the passion to adopt from Asia and introduced a new passion: loving those who were rescued out of sex slavery. I watched the story of one young woman in the Philippines who ran away from home and was tricked into the industry at the age of 9, believing she was unlovable and worthless and deserved nothing better in life. As a teen, her brothel was raided by the police and she was taken to a halfway house run by a Christian organization. There, through the sacrificial love of counselors and the healing power of the Gospel, Christ restored her. As I listened to the story of how she ended up on the streets, my heart cried, “I would love you, little one!”
That’s when it clicked: this is what I was made to do. It all fits. The childhood bullying. The inexplicable connection with misfits. The longing to make others feel like they belong. The internship at GFA. The mission trip to Thailand. It’s all connected.
That’s one of my favorite things about God. His plan for his children was formed before we were formed. He guides our steps before we take our first. He uses everything for good, even bullying. He takes the broken and makes it beautiful. I am so thankful that my little story is a part of His master story that goes all the way back to creation.