". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


This Advent, Extend the Hope of the Faithful. Embrace Children Awaiting Adoption

December 22, 2023

During Advent, we wait. We wait in the dark and the cold and the quiet for the birth of our Savior. But we don’t wait in despair — we wait in hope. 

We wait as the Jewish people waited through 400 years of silence after the post-exilic prophets, before John the Baptist began preparing God’s people for the coming of Christ. Through the centuries, “the people that walked in darkness” prayed for the Messiah and hoped for the salvation he would bring, trusting that God would remain faithful to His promises.

And we still wait, not for Jesus to come but for Him to come back. We wait in a broken world as a child might wait for adoption — with all of our pain, our fears, and the hope of expectation fulfilled. Advent is the season we acknowledge our groaning and waiting. Christ was born, the Messiah has come, and we celebrate His love and strive daily in this world with the true hope of Christmas, a story to which we are confident of the end. 

A child awaiting adoption holds hope, but without a clear sight or even the assured promise of a joyful end. 

Children in the United States stay in foster care for an average of 9-12 months, and afterward, many still lack certainty and permanent stability. Many children return to their biological parents, for better or for worse. Others are placed into loving homes for adoption. Yet, the majority linger in foster care for years without any certainty of their future. Too many of these children will age out of the system without ever finding a family to call home. 

Internationally, millions of children spend the majority of their childhood and adolescence in an orphanage before being forced to find life on their own. For institutionalized children around the globe, fewer than .5% find a family through intercountry or domestic adoption, and the process is long and arduous, commonly taking anywhere from 18 months to two years. 

The wait for international adoption is difficult for everyone involved. For instance, American families have endured agonizing waits of four years to adopt children from China, which shut its borders after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The ensuing delays in the adoption processes forced these families into prolonged uncertainty, enduring digital means of contact throughout the last four years, still unsure if they will ever meet the children whom they have pursued.

Lifeline has advocated for these families and fought for their opportunity to be united with their waiting children. Most of all, we pursue every possible option to uphold the rights of these Chinese children to not be denied loving families who have consistently pursued them. Lifeline continues to employ every legal avenue with the hope and expectation that a way can be made to ensure these placements happen as soon as possible.

All children deserve a safe and loving home and unwavering hope, whether they reside in U.S. foster care or in the institutions of Ukraine, China, or any nation. Christians, who have been endowed with the hope of Christmas, in particular, are called to show pure and undefiled religion to vulnerable children in distress. 

Lifeline urges Christians this Christmas season to prayerfully consider how the Lord is calling them to be generous, specifically with their time, talent, treasure, and family on behalf of vulnerable children as a response to the biblical call to care found in James 1:27 and throughout God’s Word.

While not for everyone, some families may be called to adopt or open their homes to children in the foster care system. Although this may seem like a daunting task, we at Lifeline have seen over and over the Lord’s faithfulness to prepare and abundantly equip those He has called. Through a calling to adopt, we put on display the adoptive love of God that is captured in Paul’s letter to the church at Rome in chapter 8, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God[.]”

The arrival of Emmanuel, God with us, at Christmas showers Christians with overwhelming love and hope, and compels us to extend that same love, grace, and hope to others. We have been embraced as the children of God, redeemed and called to joyful surrender and obedience to our Father’s commands. God’s infinite love prompts and drives us to extend help and hope to neighbors in need. We are therefore called to share the blessings of our redemption in every way imaginable for the fatherless and vulnerable. 

The call to adoption and foster care is not for all families, but the biblical command to care for orphans is for all Christ followers. We must equip our churches and families to support those foster and adoptive families within our congregations and in our communities with support and consistent presence. Churches should be a bastion of help and counsel for adoptive and foster families by meeting the tangible needs of children and families, by wrestling in prayer for these families, and by mentoring and equipping potential foster and adoptive families through training and fundraising. 

We at Lifeline work in a broken and fallen world to put a taste of the true hope of Christmas on the lips and hearts of vulnerable children and vulnerable families in the U.S. and around the world. We work tirelessly to provide homes where children can receive and experience true grace and God’s love through a faith-filled relationship with their heavenly Father. Children deserve safety, stability, love, nurturing, and a clear endpoint for the dark, lonesome waiting they often face. 

Advent is a present reality for the Christ follower as we wait anew, not for the coming of the Messiah, but for the consummation of God’s kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven — the everlasting consolation of Christmas. This Advent season of prayer, celebration, and waiting is not without purpose — our blessings come with a calling.

This season, may we celebrate the gifts God has given us by considering the ways in which we might extend our hope to another. The Lord often uses His children to answer the prayers of another. May we consider afresh this Advent how He might use us to bring hope to vulnerable children so that their longing can ultimately be answered in the coming Christ.

Herbie Newell is the president and executive director of Lifeline Children’s Services, the largest Evangelical Christian adoption agency in America, host of “The Defender Podcast,” and author of “Image Bearers: Shifting from Pro-Birth to Pro-Life.”