My brother’s keeper

September 29th, 2012

Adoption of children with more significant special needs, particularly when they involve cognitive disability, is really a whole different kind of adoption than the typical kind of adoption that most people are familiar with.

Very often the considerations that apply to the standard kind of adoption don’t apply to this kind.

However, just as with all adoption, it is a task for parents.  It’s a task for those who are open to loving children, seeing children as rewards from God, and receiving the children He chooses to send them, whether the children are profoundly academically gifted or profoundly mentally disabled, or somewhere in between.

Wait a minute…

Academically gifted children?  Oh yes.  Of course everyone knows they are blessings, and highly coveted ones at that.

Mentally disabled children?

Gifts from God?


Those who receive them are blessed?

What do you think?


What does God say?


Do we believe it?

What do we as His people really believe?

Are we guilty of holding the unexamined assumption that “perfect” children are intrinsically more valuable than “imperfect” ones?

On some level, do we write disabled children off as more or less useless?  And undesirable?  Not really worth the extra effort it takes to care for them or even just to get to know them?

I mean…yes…I know that God created them and He doesn’t make any mistakes, but I have to ask, what good are they, really?  What good do they do for anyone?  I just can’t understand it.  Could I ever actually want to have a child like that myself?


What about a child who was abandoned, hidden away, and permanently hurt by neglect because he or she has special needs?

Is such a child a desirable gift from the Lord?

Or a Mysterious, Frightening, and Burdensome List of Diagnoses Alien?   *Eeeek!  Run away, run away!*


What about a child who is not healthy?  Who is unlikely to live to see his old age?

Is an unhealthy child really a good gift from God?

Harvey, age 3, showing more signs of malnutrition the longer he waits in Pleven.  No one has yet committed to adopt Harvey.


What about a child who doesn’t respond to us in a way that is familiar to us?  A child who can’t look at us when we talk to her?

Is a child who can’t interact normally really a good gift from God?

Oh yes, and a child who drools?  Is she as valuable as a child who doesn’t drool?

Tiny Brandi, age 6, waiting in Pleven.  No one has shown any interest in adopting her at this point.


What about a child whose face is forlorn and whose body is twisted?

Is a sad and broken child really a good gift from God?

Kramer, age 8, waiting in Pleven.  No one has yet asked about adopting this precious little boy in the prison pajamas!


What about a child whose face would never be chosen for a Gerber commercial, because people don’t see as God sees?

Is a child whose special needs show on his face really a good gift from God?

Chad, age 9, waiting in Pleven.  No one has shown any interest in this little child.  No one at all.


What about a child who makes odd noises and odd faces, and who moves his body in odd ways?

Is a child with socially-unacceptable behaviors really a good gift from God?

Theodore, age 10, waiting in Pleven.  A few people have asked to see the file of this happy guy, but none have chosen him.


What about a child who looks like she would be a lot of work to care for?  Who needs things like therapy to help her progress?

Is a high-maintenance child really a good gift from God?

Sweet, beautiful Penny, age 12, waiting and waiting and waiting in Pleven!  She has had several people ask for her information, but none have said yes.  Penny’s family, wherever you are, we have been praying for you for a long time!  Come and claim your treasure!


Friends, my heart aches and tears fill my eyes as I bring these children before you tonight.

I will not mince words.  The children’s needs are all the greater because their needs were neglected.  Their vulnerable brains and bodies have been hurt by how they were treated.

Even without my words, the photos of these precious, innocent children will scare most people away.  Oh, where are the words to communicate the life and death reality that faces them?  Where are the families to see them as God sees them and long to receive them as the priceless gifts they are?

How I pray for every last one of you to see them as valuable human lives, even if God has not opened the door for you to adopt them!  When I see hearts open toward seriously damaged children, I see the moving of the Spirit of God, just as He moved our family from there to here.

We have observed that even those who love Christ sometimes struggle to articulate the purpose and place of a child with cognitive challenges.

You may hear things like this, “Well, Johnny may be in a wheelchair, but he’s smart as a whip,” as if we must give some generally acceptable justification of the child’s value.  It is logically equivalent to the statement that a pregnant mom shouldn’t abort her baby because he may be the one who will grow up to find a cure for cancer.

Some folks see children with special needs almost as little pets.  They have value because they’re reasonably cute, love everybody, and are happy all the time.  But what of those who are not photogenic, cannot love, and are aching with grief?  What do we do with them?  Where does their value come from?

Do we as Christ’s people really believe that human life is created in His image and is therefore inherently precious?  

Then we had better be ready to articulate it with our words and back it up with our lives as never before, friends, because ready or not, the battle is now upon us.

Our actions in response to the need will flow out of what we truly believe.  Hollow words will be shown for what they are.

The whole of Scripture reveals that standing up for, loving, sacrificing for, and welcoming oppressed and helpless innocents who are being led away for the slaughter is unequivocally God’s territory.  You need not waste one moment wondering whether your desire to help them is really the will of God for you.  It’s not a gray area, like wondering whether it’s God’s will for you to purchase a luxury boat or second vacation home.

Even further than that, by showing us the need of these children, God has made them our responsibility.

Are you a disciple of Jesus Christ?  You don’t answer to me or any other human being.  You answer to Him for how you respond to the need of orphans who have been sentenced to life imprisonment and death because they were born with special needs.

Are you His disciple?

Then you are your brother’s keeper.


“Rescue those being led away to death;
hold back those staggering toward slaughter.

If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this,’
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it?
Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?”


For more information about adopting any of these six little ones, please email Andrea Roberts at



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14 Responses to “My brother’s keeper”

  1. Cinderellamommy says:


  2. Stori says:

    Oh Susanna!  May I reshare this on my blog???  This cut me, especially the proverb at the end.

  3. Susanna says:

    Stori, yes, please do! Thank you!

  4. Katie says:

    Thank you.  Thank you for screaming for them.  I have had to put my blog on private temporarily and am working on one to stand in for it for a bit.  I want to share this on my facebook in the meantime.

  5. Kim says:

    Thank you for not mincing words.  Precious babies.  Thank you for sharing their faces.

  6. Jennifer says:

    Oh Susanna thank you for mentioning Penny. MY HEART IS SO BURDENED FOR HER.  Of course all of the children, but I think meeting her was the most touching.  She’s lovely. I so pray – please let her Mama be found soon.  For all of the children – of course. I just think of her little face in that playroom with the volunteer and long to know where her mother is. Thank you for these words!

  7. JessicaD says:

    Every time I see Kramer’s picture my heart breaks a little. I dream of rubbing his tight muscles and easing his body. I dream of snuggling him close, kissing those sad quiet eyes….  

    Where o where is his Mama? Sadly, short of a lightning strike for my reluctant dh, I am not she.  

  8. Jessica says:

    “Our actions in response to the need will flow out of what we truly believe.  Hollow words will be shown for what they are.”

    This sentence gives me chills…
    I so wish we qualified right now to adopt.  I wish I could scoop each one of them up and run out of there. 
    I find it so frustrating when I try to advocate for any of these kids on any of the social networking sites or even just with family/ friends and I just practically hear crickets chirping.  They really don’t get it at all.  “Why would you want to do that?  It would make your life so hard.”   So exasperating!  I wish I could show them with something other than just words.  I would love to show them with actions. 

  9. Blessed says:

    Thank you so much for this post, Susanna.  God really did a number in my heart this morning after I read it.  I cried and blogged and cried some more.  I feel led to share it here, in case anyone else reading this post needs to walk through similar thoughts.

  10. Tara says:

    Oh, Susanna. You know we’re traveling soon to Serbia to rescue a precious wee one, and still your post moved me. I want to do MORE! Do you know that I actually had a church member say to me yesterday, “Be sure and guard your heart while you travel or you’ll come home wanting to save the world.” …like that’s a BAD thing!?! Too late, buddy! I love that you speak the bold truth, but somehow do it with grace. Will you teach me that skill? I don’t think I was very gracious to that poor guy. ;) Love you much!

  11. Susanna says:

    Tara, when I’m all grown up, I *might* qualify to teach other women how to always speak with grace. I still have a way to go myself before my immediate reaction to some comments is consistently grace-filled. On the journey with you, friend!

    Do you have your travel dates yet??

  12. Becky says:

    Can I share this as well?

  13. Galit says:

    Thank you for another moving post, Susanna!  The “Flames” link inspired several followup posts for me. Serious stuff!

  14. Deborah says:

    Susanna, you are one incredible woman!  I am inspired every day by your writing.  God bless you and your family and I will keep praying for you all.

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