Sunday, May 12, 2013

Summit 9

Last week I had the amazing opportunity to go to Summit 9, which is a large annual conference put on by CAFO about adoption, foster care, and responsibly dealing with the worldwide orphan crisis.  

I still can't believe that I actually went, and got to be a part of it.  This is the kind of thing I read about in blogs and on Facebook and think "wow, I will do that one day when my kids are bigger."

But I have been realizing lately that, for me, waiting until my kids are grown is not going to work.  So much of life will pass me by before all of my kids are grown.  And, especially because we are homeschooling now, there are not going to be many child-free opportunities that just happen to fall into my lap.  I am going to have to be very intentional about finding time for things that matter to me.  

Plus, I am wasting so many opportunities to show my kids what faith in action, and living for others looks like.

So, off to Nashville I went.

I also cannot believe how blessed I am that my sister/friend/kindred spirit, Zoe, was able to join me.  I just can't believe were able to get away!  We haven't seen each other without kids since Zoe's wedding!  Even if Zoe and I had met each other in a cornfield I would have had an amazing time, but the fact that I got to see her AND got to delve into my passion at the same time was a small miracle.

Summit was held at Brentwood Baptist Church, and I have never been to a church quite like this.  Zoe said it looked like a college campus, and she is so right (this picture just does not do it justice).  It was enormous and it was easy to get lost.  The building had its own coffee bar, and basketball court, and so many wings I can't tell you.  Just one of the rooms looked about the size of a church in Princeton. I am guessing they can't hold the next Summit in New Jersey because we don't have churches like that here!

One of the most exciting thing for me was meeting Adeye Salem (above).  Her blog, No Greater Joy Mom is one of my favorites.  It has been so inspiring and challenging, and it has honestly changed me and my view of what I can 'handle'.  Before reading her blog, I had never really thought about what it would be like to adopt kids with special needs.  I mean, Nicholas and Ellie are considered "special need" adoptions because of their cleft lips and palates, but that special need always seemed minor to me because it is correctable and does not hinder 'normal' life.  Sure, we have more surgeries and therapies going on than most families, but that is really manageable.  

What seemed unmanageable to me was something like Downs Syndrome, or Cerebral Palsy, or blindness.  Adeye has children who have all these diagnoses.  And she counts herself as blessed by them.  What a gift is has been to read her blog daily for years.  It has changed the way I see Downs Syndrome, in particular.  I think that most special needs seem scary because they are unknown to us.  Once they become part of your 'normal,' they no longer hold the weight they once did; they become no big deal.  Reading Adeye's blog, getting a glimpse of her life, has normalized parenting Downs Syndrome for me, and I really thank her for being so transparent and open with her family.  

It was really fun to meet (and hug) Adeye.  I told Zoe I felt like was meeting Beyonce!

I hope that one day John and I are blessed with a child with Downs Syndrome.  (Which reminds me, I have to record how my prayers for a certain little girl with DS was just answered…I'll save that for another post…)

Show Hope was another organization I was excited to see (that's their Big Red Bus above).  Show Hope was started by Steven Curtis Chapman, and is an organization that helps to support families who want to adopt but need financial help to do so.  They also built Maria's Big House of Love, which is a phenomenal care center for orphans with medical needs in Ellie's home province, Henan.  

Zoe and I saw Mary Beth Chapman speak, and Steven Curtis Chapman perform (below).

More special to me than all of the speakers, performers, and organizations that were at Summit 9, were just the other attendees walking around, some of whom with their adopted children, many of those
special needs kids.  It was so wonderful to be surrounded by "my people," others who love adoption, parents who know without a doubt that you can love your adopted kids as much as you can your bio ones, people who know that caring for the orphan goes beyond politics, or convenience, or practicality.

The words on this prayer wall below say it all:

it is really that simple. Every kid needs a bed, a place to belong, a family.  

Although CAFO has been criticized (you can read that here, if you dare), and Stuck, a documentary about international adoption, has been criticized here, as has international adoption in general, all of the arguments seem like such nonsense to me after actually seeing orphanages, really meeting kids without parents or who are in crisis situations, AND after seeing what that adoption community, the Christian adoption community in particular, has done to make great strides in alleviating the suffering of our young.

You can talk all you want about imperialism, conservative Christian imperatives, trying to minimalize corruption, and striving to keep children in their original families or birth countries…but in the meantime, lets work together to get those kids out of institutions where we can all agree they do not thrive.

Nothing is improved by letting kids sit in orphanages.

And EVERYTHING is to be gained by loving these children.

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