Yes to Adoption

Author: Kristen Lunceford  |  | @kristenlunceford

The good news was we finally had our legs under us. The bad news? We didn’t know we were standing on a rug. 

It came flying out from under me first.

It was the spring of 2007. The dust from a season of successive life changes had finally settled. Ryan and I had two boys in diapers, a cross-country move, two real estate transactions, and a nearly complete seminary degree show for our first three years of marriage. By that spring, the room had stopped spinning and we were standing blissfully still on unshakeable Midwest ground.  

It looked secure enough, but something was off.

I was four chapters into Shane Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution when I felt the rug lift.

“I asked participants who claimed to be ‘strong followers of Jesus’ whether Jesus spent time with the poor. Nearly 80 percent said yes. Later in the survey, I sneaked in another question. I asked this same group of strong followers whether they spent time with the poor, and less than 2 percent said they did. I learned a powerful lesson: We can admire and worship Jesus without doing what he did. We can applaud what he preached and stood for without caring about the same things. We can adore his cross without taking up ours. I had come to see that the great tragedy of the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor.”

A few weeks later, Shane spoke at our church. Over dinner that evening, Shane asked Ryan if he thought anyone still believed Jesus meant the things He said. Shane reasoned that if a few of us would just start asking, ‘What if Jesus really meant it?’ we could probably turn the world upside down.

If Jesus really meant what he said about caring for the poor and oppressed, then what does that mean for our family?

That question was all we could think about for weeks. We didn’t know the first way to go about knowing the poor from our suburban, middle-class perch, let alone do it with two toddlers in tow, but God wouldn’t let us let it go. The question followed us everywhere. No matter how we tired to bob and weave, we couldn’t outmaneuver it.

On May 12, 2007, the answer arrived, singing through our TV.

The African Children’s Choir was performing with Josh Groban on American Idol’s charity episode, “Idol Gives Back.” As the kids sang, the screen’s lower third barked, “Donate Now,” and all I could hear was Shane’s voice:

“Jesus is not seeking distant acts of charity. He seeks concrete acts of love: ‘you fed me…you visited me in prison…you welcomed me into your home…you clothed me…”

A rumble straight out of Acts 2:2 stole my breath as I watched Groban, Seacrest and the choir bask the audience’s warm appreciation.

“Charity wins awards and applause, but joining the poor gets you killed. People do not get crucified for charity. People are crucified for living out a love that disrupts the social order that calls forth a new world. People are not crucified for helping poor people. People are crucified for joining them.”

I sat bolt upright on the edge of our couch and shouted to Ryan, “Give me one! If Jesus really meant what he said, then give us an orphan!”

I knew that I would lose my nerve if I hesitated for even a second, so I stood, raced to my computer and typed the one and only thing I knew about international adoption: the name of the agency our neighbors used to adopt a toddler from China.

I requested an information packet.

It arrived a week later, tucked curiously in our mailbox beneath a letter from our World Vision sponsored child’s mother in Swaziland, Africa. I knew better than to dismiss that as a coincidence. God had dropped a breadcrumb.

After a few days spent considering the different programs the agency offered, we decided Ethiopia made the best sense given our existing pull toward Africa (and a host of other reasons I can explain in the comments if you’re curious).

Our next step was to complete the online application, pay $200, and wait for a response. There were just two problems:

  1. We didn’t have $200. We were embarrassingly broke.

  2. We were only 75% sure of our call to adoption.

So there we sat late one evening, application open on our laptop, balking at moving forward on account of the staggering price—and uncertainty—of it all.

We suspected our parents might loan us some money to get started. We thought our friends would maybe fundraise a portion of the tens of thousands of dollars it was going to take to see the adoption through.  But we hadn’t asked them yet, so we didn’t know. In the end, we decided that our willingness to obey Jesus was keeping us from saying yes to adoption, not our financial reality.

If we believed Jesus meant what he said about caring for orphans—and if he was clearly opening doors for us to do just that—then we could either trust and obey him or doubt and ignore him. 

We could say yes or we could say no, but we had to say something.

“Let me ask you this,” Ryan said. “What if we tell our parents and friends about this and they won’t help us pay for it? Will we still want to apply?”

“Yes. Absolutely yes,” I said.

“Then let’s do it. Right now. Before we even tell anyone. Ready?”



Nearly two years (and a village amount of help) later, we stood blissfully still on Ethiopian ground, arms heavy with grace.


Selah Grace.

She’s 10 now, and we still do not deserve her.


If you are considering adoption, or any endeavor daring you to ask Jesus if he really meant what he said, know this:  

You aren’t going to be 100% sure about any of it, ever. So start with what you know, and take a little step. Then another. Then another. Google something. Talk to someone. Request more info. Keep your eyes peeled for breadcrumbs. See if what your gut is telling you lines up with what God has written. If it does, then do the next right thing. If it doesn’t, then readjust. But don’t hesitate. Don’t stand still. Move your feet.

Someone, somewhere, is waiting on your yes.

Whitney Parnell1 Comment