(Photo: Vivian Carroll)
Families adopting children who do not have families is part of God's plan, according to Brian Luwis, CEO of America World Adoption.
Luwis works for AWA, an organization that helps families with international adoptions, as a full-time volunteer.
"Like the Apostle Paul who made tents, I enjoy having the ability to earn my income through a source that is separate from my primary focus/ministry," Luwis writes on the AWA website.
Parts one and two of this series looked at families who faced difficulties trying to get their adopted children back to the United States. Part three discussed how differing views on what is best for an orphan, particularly within the U.S. State Department, has impacted the international adoption process. For part four, CP interviewed Luwis on Feb. 24 on how Christians should respond to the needs of orphans globally.
CP: How did you come to be concerned about the needs of orphans globally?
Luwis: Initially, it was a selfish motivation. My wife and I were unable to have children biologically, so my wife kinda dragged us into the adoption world. When domestic adoption closed its doors on us 18 years ago, Caucasians adopting children of other races was not preferred. It has subsequently changed. We looked overseas and found out that China was a good fit for us. That got us into adoption and knowing that orphans existed, and their plight came through a film called "The Dying Rooms," that I saw after we adopted our first daughter. Subsequently, in China, they have changed the care level for institutionalized kids.
CP: Why should a family adopt a child from another nation when there are still orphans in the U.S.?
Luwis: A lot of times, it's more difficult in the U.S. State governments aren't the most efficient, or favorable toward Christian families in terms of their belief systems. There are about 250,000 children available for adoption right now in the U.S. They are primarily older, sibling groups, kids that have been in multiple placements. Some of them are high risk or difficult cases. These kids, obviously, they all deserve homes. It really takes a parent who is willing to parent a child who has had trauma in their life, been abused, all those things. So I think people tend to go internationally because in some ways it's easier. I wish we had more families come forward so we could place all the kids in the U.S. then go work on the kids overseas.
CP: As CP reported in Part 3 of this series, for some, it is important that an orphan be kept in or near their community of birth, or adopted by a family of their race or ethnicity. How important should that be?
Luwis: I've heard that argument many times and I'll tell ya, you go interview a 5-year-old kid that doesn't have a mom and a dad, ask them what culture is, ask them what race is, ask them what ethnicity is, he's not going to be able to tell you. But he can tell you what a mom and dad is. He can tell you what it means to not have someone to hold and love him and a place to call home. It's really a moot point. Culture and race is something that adults put on kids. There is beauty in different diversity, in food, dance, music, art, but people are still people. Love is not defined by race.
CP: Your mission statement reads, "to build Christian families according to God's design of adoption." What do you mean by "God's design of adoption"?
Luwis: We believe that God made this world and Adam and Eve's sin didn't catch Him off guard. He didn't say, "oh my gosh, look what happened, now I have to come up with all these new systems." God knew there was going to be a Fall. God knew there was going to be wars, famines, orphans. So, just as He designed kids to be in a family through birth, He designed adoption.
It's modeled on how we know we get into God's family through spiritual adoption, but earthly adoption is a practice that I believe God really implemented to break down those racial bonds. How do we define family? Is family really physical DNA? More and more studies are showing it is not the physical DNA, how we relate to each other, it's through spiritual things. How we communicate with one another. How we nurture and treat each other. That's relationship.
There is trauma and abandonment, there is damage that comes to a child that, through adoption, God can fix those things. God designed it that it's part of His plan that other families raise other children, because he knew that this world was going to have sin. It's not a system that God is unaware of, that it doesn't work. A kid can come into a family through adoption and it can work.
CP: Suppose a Christian couple came to you and said they're considering international adoption, but not sure if it is right for them, what would your advice to them be?
Luwis: Motivations to adopt are important, so I always ask, "what are your motivations?" If you're looking to be a parent and have a desire to have children, sometimes if you can't have one biologically, God does that on purpose because he has a child in another place.
I probably would ask them, what are your reservations? Is it a child of another race? Is it that the child will not bond with them? In the Christian community, some of those are easier to deal with. God looks at the inside. We don't look at the outside package. Spiritual bonds are stronger than physical bonds, you can bond with a child that is not from your body. A child is looking for relationship. We were designed for relationship. You don't have to be connected to the child genetically.
CP: Suppose they decide they would like to adopt a child internationally, how should they prepare for that?
Luwis: There are a lot of great materials, a lot of great books. Dr. Karyn Purvis wrote a book, The Connected Child, it's about how kids who have been abandoned come with baggage, they've had trauma in their life, the trauma of being rejected. But God designed us so that we can overcome that. We can rebuild, we can rewire, so that we can bond with the child.
That's probably one of the biggest things families talk about, it's either the ethnicity of the child or bonding with the child. It seems unnatural, taking a kid, not from our body, does this actually work? We convince people that, yes, God designed the world, it does work, kids are looking for moms and dads.
CP: I heard that you're working on a project to improve the adoption process in Ethiopia. Can you talk about that?
Luwis: We've made some gestures to the Ethiopian government and they are interested. They want to improve their system. It's not a lack of intellect or will, it's a lack of resources. They don't have the money, the number of social workers needed, trained people to do what is needed. So, private people have filled the vacuum and the government has allowed it.
It's a third world country that is just coming into the modern age. It's doing a great job even under the circumstances. Ethiopians are very determined, intelligent people. They care about their kids. AIDS is affecting so many people and they're dying and they realized an institution is no place for a kid to live and grow up. They realized, we don't have enough families here, let's let international families provide homes for them.
It's important to put them in a family as quickly as possible. Find a family, find a relative, but don't let them be stuck perpetually in institutions. The damage, it's proven that it's so hard on kids.
There's a quote we've been using, it's from Mother Theresa, "the hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread."