The biblical doctrine of adoption has come alive for me. I no longer view it as dogma in a dusty book. I now see it as a joyous article of faith and life. I have begun to understand this great truth from God’s perspective, because a former orphan now calls me “Daddy.” The story of our little adoptee expounds blessing, sovereign choice, grace, and unbelievable joy. What follows is a living theology lesson.
September 1994, China. An infant lies in the back of a city bus, abandoned. In the months to follow, she will live the tragedy of the orphan. Orphanage workers will call her Wei Wei, a meaningless name.
October 1994, Dallas, Texas. As parents of four children (two teenagers and two in their twenties), my wife Jan and I reflect on the inevitability of an empty nest. We anticipate the prospect unenthusiastically. Then we learn of the need of China’s children—hundreds of thousands of them living in orphanages. We have talked about adopting for years, but have now passed the age limit—except in China, where they still respect maturity. So, at the age when we should start collecting grandchildren, we decide to start over with our own baby. Long months of paperwork convince us that bearing our own homemade children demanded less labor. At last we turn in the final notarized form and wait.
June 1995. Wei Wei nearly dies of malnutrition, pneumonia, and a ravaging bacterial infection. A volunteer who has earned the confidence of the orphanage workers welcomes her into his own home and saves her life. He then places her in foster care where a Christian doctor and nurse daily administer intravenous antibiotics. After she recovers, an international adoption agency assigns her to a family for adoption. But these first-time parents decline the assignment out of uncertainty about the possible long-term effects of her illness.
July 1995. Someone at the adoption agency sees a possible match for the recovering baby. How about the Regiers in Dallas? They have experience. Will they accept her? Yes, we decide to embrace her as our daughter. Suddenly the pile of papers takes on a face and a name. Wei Wei’s pictures go up on our bulletin board. My wife Jan can’t wait to fix her upside-down smile.
A big surprise awaits one little girl on the other side of the world! We ask God to protect her and bring us safely together. We pray daily that this physical adoption will ultimately lead to her spiritual adoption into the family of God. We wait for instructions to travel to China to claim her.
September 1995. The phone rings in Dallas. The good news—Beijing has finally approved us as adoptive parents. The bad news—someone has lost Wei Wei’s papers, making her unavailable for adoption. Would we be willing to adopt a different child, a healthy one with no special needs? Sadly, I remove Wei Wei’s photos from my bulletin board. I try to love the baby barely distinguishable in the new picture. Love slowly builds for her, but we pray earnestly that our Wei Wei will find a Christian home. The next day the papers reappear. No, we can’t have both girls! We accept Wei Wei for the second time and continue to wait for the call to bring her home from China.
October 1995. Arriving home one evening after an exhausting trip, we find the call came in our absence. Surprise! We have three days to get ready for our journey to China. As the myriad details fall into place, we learn that the Lord Himself orchestrates international adoptions. We try to relax and cooperate with His project.
Arriving in Hong Kong, we reflect on Ephesians 1: “He chose us”—when we had no clue of what He was doing or how lost we were. “He predestined us to be adopted as his sons”—when we were outsiders to His family. “In accordance with his pleasure and will”—this act of love fills God with delight, and He does it simply because He wants to.
Adoption provides a beautiful insight into the Father’s heart. When He saves a person from sin’s orphanage, He makes a sovereign choice. He performs a loving act. He thoroughly enjoys the experience. And the angels in heaven rejoice over one orphan who comes home.
Wei Wei travels 12 hours by train to the rendezvous with her new family in the capital city of her province. Of course, she has no inkling of the impending change in her fortunes. Crying much of the way, not eating or drinking all day, she arrives in the capital city exhausted. She meets Mom, Dad, and sister Heidi 30 minutes after we check in at the hotel. She gazes steadfastly into her new mother’s eyes and falls asleep within minutes. She has found peace.
The next day Wei Wei officially becomes Hannah Noelle Regier. Chosen. Adopted. In accordance with the pleasure and will of her family and the loving Heavenly Father.
The benefits she receives remind me of what happens when God adopts. He gives us:
- A new name. Believers, who were “not His people,” are now called “children of God,” and in the Book of Revelation He promises them “a new name …known only to him who receives it” (2:17).
- Freedom. Just as Hannah no longer spends her days confined in an orphanage, so the adopted child of God enjoys emancipation from the old way of life.
- Assurance. When Hannah fell asleep in my wife’s arms that first night, one of the Chinese aides commented, “She knows who her mother is.” She even possesses a document that declares her a member of our family! Paul writes in Galatians 4 and Romans 8 that the Spirit within us makes us so confident of our standing that we can talk with God using terms of endearment such as “Abba” and “Father.”
- An inheritance. In the same texts the Apostle reminds us that we share in all the rights and privileges of the firstborn—“heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.” And that includes all the family resources.
December 1995, Dallas, Texas. A former orphan sits under a Christmas tree. Her family has found her, and she has come home. Her upside-down world has turned right-side up. Now she will hear the Christmas story, and in due time she will learn of the wonderful doctrine of adoption from the scrapbook of her life.
May 1997. Hannah’s old life fades from her memory as new blessings flood her days. She runs around the house contentedly, a living theology lesson, unaware of the blessed spiritual truth she has taught her family.