One of the perks of my work with Together for Adoption is the opportunity to see firsthand a little of what God is doing in other places of the world to awaken and empower churches to care for orphans. I had one such opportunity earlier this month as I participated in the first annual Together for Adoption conference in South Africa.
To see the way God is awakening our brothers and sisters in South Africa for indigenous adoption and orphan care is really quite breathtaking.
Donovan Drew first approached me about the possibility of holding a T4A conference in South Africa back in the fall 2009 after he had attended our T4A conference in Franklin, TN a couple weeks earlier. He told me about Josh Mack, the lead pastor of Living Hope Church in Pretoria, South Africa, and how Josh, his wife, Marda, and family (pictured below) were committed to equipping and mobilizing churches in South Africa to care for orphaned and vulnerable children (make sure you visit Josh and Marda Mack’s blog).
Since one of T4A’s primary desires is to see churches all across the globe grasp rise up to care for orphaned and vulnerable children, the possibility of taking T4A to South Africa excited us. We know that inter-country adoption will never be the solution to the global orphan crisis, nor should it be. The only viable solution to the global orphan crisis is flourishing movements of indigenous, in-country adoption and orphan care all around the world. So, what excited us most about the possibility of holding a T4A conference in South Africa was that Donovan Drew and the Macks shared this very same conviction with us.
The 2009 dream of holding a T4A conference in South Africa finally became a reality this past February 28 – March 2.
My time in South Africa began February 28th with a theological bootcamp that I taught for 40+ South African pastors and pastors-in-training (pictured to the right). I was a good bit nervous when the bootcamp began, but as the day unfolded, my nervousness was replaced with rich encouragement.
My many interactions afterwards with several of these pastors made it very clear to me that God is doing some wonderful work to raise up churches all across South Africa to care for its orphaned and vulnerable children. The work God’s doing within these pastors to equip and empower them theologically for orphan care is not “a mile wide and an inch deep” either. It’s wide and deep, and I find that deeply encouraging.
Clint Archer (Pastor for Preaching at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Durban, South Africa), who attended both the bootcamp and the 2-day T4A conference, wrote an excellent blog post summarizing his thoughts about his three days with us. His conclusion?
There is no conclusion. This problem will be ongoing until Jesus returns and fixes this world once and for all. But what I learned at the conference is that our heavenly Father predestined our spiritual adoption as the way of fixing what was broken in the world (Eph 1:5). One vivid way for us to participate in His story of redemption is to mirror our Father’s heart for the vulnerable, and to act on that compassion in the most tangible way on earth: getting together with other believers for adoption.
If Clint Archer’s blog post is any indication of how pastors in South Africa are understanding and expressing the why of orphan care/adoption, just imagine… Read Clint’s entire blog post.
The next day almost 200 people came together for the first annual Together for Adoption South Africa conference (see the picture at the top of this post). Wow, what a wonderful conference it was! From the main sessions to breakout sessions, it was clear to me that God was at work within South Africa to raise up churches to care for its orphaned and vulnerable children.
A conference highlight. One of the main session speakers was South African Chris Woolley, pastor of Midrand Chapel Baptist Church in Johannesburg. Since Chris is both a pastor in South Africa and an adoptive parent, I was especially looking forward to his talk: “Why we Adopted: Biblical Truths that Compelled us to Adopt.” I told several people after his session that I had never heard a preacher so wonderfully weave together his family’s adoption experiences with the teaching of Scripture. Chris’ sermon was deeply moving. If you have time to listen to only one talk from the conference in South Africa, let me encourage you to listen to Chris’ talk (found here). You’ll find his transparency about their family’s difficulties and his skill at bringing the teaching of Scripture to bear upon those difficulties very encouraging.
The conference gave me the wonderful opportunity to see firsthand a little of what God is doing in South Africa to awaken and empower churches for indigenous adoption and orphan care, and what I saw encouraged me deeply.
Earlier this week, I received a very encouraging email from Newton Chilingulo, one of the pastors serving with Josh Mack at Living Hope Church. Newton attended both the bootcamp and conference. His words below are one example of how God is working within South Africa.
I don’t remember any explanation of God’s love hitting me as it did at this conference. I was awed that I have been invited into the fellowship that has eternally existed between the Father, Son and Spirit from eternity past. I have been invited into this fellowship not because the triune God had any need. But ‘in love’ He has called me. What manner of love? What sacrifice?
As I’ve already written, to see the way God is awakening our brothers and sisters in South Africa for indigenous adoption and orphan care is really quite breathtaking.
Newton and his wife, Vanessa, are waiting to finalize their adoption of Aya. Below is a short video of Newton talking about their adoption journey.
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