In families

December 14th, 2012

No matter how good or how bad the news from any orphanage ever is, one thought is always blazoned across the forefront of my mind.

Please don’t forget…

What makes an orphan an orphan is not the lack of nice clothing, good food, adequate care, or pretty surroundings.

It’s the lack of a family.

The greatest single basic need of an abandoned and neglected orphan is not for improvements in his living conditions or institution, as necessary and humane as the improvements may be, but for a loving and committed family.

Thousands of years ago, King David wrote that God sets the lonely in families.  He could have watered that word down, but he didn’t.  He spoke the plain truth.

God designed families; we humans didn’t come up with that concept ourselves.

God designed families to be the place where children are nurtured.

That was thousands of years ago; is this still true?

Is God still setting the lonely in families?

Yes, He is.

There’s another side to this truth, isn’t there?

For Him to set the lonely in families, there have to be families with willing hearts and open arms to draw in those lonely outcast human beings.  Redemption does not and never can happen at a distance, at the end of an outstretched arm.

He is calling, calling, calling to us, knocking down barriers we’ve set up around our lives, going all the way down into our innermost hearts, cleaning them out and opening them up, until we see as He sees.  Until we comprehend the enormous privilege it is to live God’s plan to set the lonely in families.

We are His plan for the lonely.

We are His plan to provide families for the orphans.

Will we make excuses?  Will we quench the Spirit?  Will we stop up our ears to His call?

Or will we listen?

Will we obey?

“Go get this little girl and draw her into the heart of your family as your beloved daughter.” 

Garnet’s family could have made excuses, quenched the Spirit, and stopped up their ears to His call.

Garnet’s family said YES.





“Go get this little boy and draw him into the heart of your family as your beloved son.”

Kramer’s family could have made excuses, quenched the Spirit, and stopped up their ears to His call.

Kramer’s family said YES.



God sets the lonely in families.

For with the LORD there is mercy, and with Him there is abundant redemption.

Praise Him!!!!!!!



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9 Responses to “In families”

  1. Sarah says:

    Amen and Praise God!

  2. Psalm127Mommy says:

    Thank you for this, Susanna.  I have been stunned a few times by people saying that if it is a good institution, wouldn’t it be better for them to stay there?  (Our daughter Yu-Chi is in a good institution in her country)  This is usually in reference to a child being added to an already large family – but it is a question nonetheless…  I have started saying that if that were true, then we are saying that we are merely physical beings and as long as the physical is taken care of, there is nothing else needed.  Obviously, the subtle lie is easily exposed when looked at that way.  We know that we are body, mind, and soul – all designed by God to need nurturing, love, and His truth.  Encourage people to see that subtle lie for what it is….another trap to keep these children neglected and alone.

    Much love to you, my faithful friend!  

  3. gail says:

    “Go get this little girl and draw her into the heart of your family as your beloved daughter.” >>
    Upon looking at a picture of 6 year old twin Russian orphan boys, I heard an audible Voice speak, “these are your boys, go get them.” That’s all it took. THe Holy One speaks (not always in an audible voice mind you) and His people respond. We are soon to celebrate 8 wonder- filled years with our sons.

  4. Kim says:

    Reading your blog lifts me up, reminds me, inspires me, and loves me up with your words.  Thank you for continuing to write and speak the truth. :) Kim

  5. Andrea Ellett says:

    Hi Susanna,
    Thank you for your beautiful words. We have 4 bio kids and are in the process of adopting from China, and I desperately want to adopt “Marci” from Reese’s Rainbow. I have prayed and fasted, prayed and fasted, and prayed some more, but my husband remains unchanged in his decision for us not to adopt a DS child. My feelings are: we already have 4 beautiful, healthy, “normal” children, do we really need another? Shouldn’t we be adopting the non-beautiful, the sick, the delayed children? But he doesn’t see it that way. It’s hard when I feel like only God could place this desire in my heart but my husband, to whom I submit, doesn’t agree. But God calls me to submit to my husband, so of course I will. But my heart grieves, grieves, grieves. Out of respect for him, I haven’t expressed my sadness to him because I don’t want to manipulate him or make him feel bad. Thank you so much for all you do!

  6. So beautifully written. This post really touched my heart. All children need family and a good orphanage is still an orphanage. I have been following your blog since the summer of 2011 and have really enjoyed it. I have loved watching Katie change and blossom in your family. You have a beautiful family. Our two little girls from Bulgaria will be here sometime in January and I can’t wait to welcome them into our family. Reading your post today makes me want them here more than ever — thinking of them being lonely today with no family near. But, it won’t be long. I will pray that this adoption goes smoothly and quickly for you. May God bless your family. 

  7. Barb says:

    I have followed your blog for over a year and one question haunts me. It is not an easy question to ask. Why not adopt a child from the United States? There are MANY children in this country who are in desperate need of a home and a family. Some have never had the security of a one place to live. Yes, the orphange in Pleven is awful, but there are children in this country who have been abused much worse than those in Pleven.
    So my question – is why go overseas when they are children in this country who would love to be in your family?

  8. Susanna says:

    Barb, this is a very common question, and a good one. Thanks for asking it!

    1. God has given me a very specific passion to focus on, in an area of need that has been and still is little-known. With the limited time I have, I must keep the focus that He’s given me. I must balance time for writing with the time it takes to be a wife to my husband and mother to a large and growing brood. I hope the rest of my answer helps you to understand that this is not an excuse, it is simply the reality.

    I am fully aware that the abuse and neglect of children with special needs in Eastern European institutions is not the only important area of orphan care that exists in the world today. The sheer magnitude of the total need of orphans in the world can be overwhelming, and even paralyzing. I have to trust that He is sending others to do work in other places in His kingdom, and I know that He is. (I was told by one of the higher-ups in our local school district that every foster child who is enrolled in the district is with a “loving, devout, religious” family.) There are large and growing numbers of blogs and websites for other ministries that God has sent others to do. I have to keep my eyes fixed on what He is calling me to do, and not look to the right or to the left, so to speak.

    Difficult as it is to keep this focus, it would be counter-productive to the calling God has clearly given me to attempt to spread my attention around to every single possible need of orphans in the world today. (Then it could logically be asked, why do I only focus on orphans? There’s a seemingly endless list of other urgent needs in the world that Christians could be taking on in the strength of our God.) More importantly, I believe it would be dishonoring to my Master for me to be driven by guilt-trips or the pressure of others’ expectations. This pressure can be enormous at times, especially for a relationally-oriented person who has been thrust into a small amount of publicity.

    I do believe that if all of us as God’s people were throwing ourselves wholeheartedly into what He called us to do, the world would look very, very different. But superseding all this is the firm underlying belief that I have only to look to Christ for my marching orders and rest in the knowledge that it is His job to give out the marching orders to others. This is why I must speak boldly about our responsibility in the MACRO, but don’t have the slightest desire to try to play God and examine the lives of people I know in the MICRO. There is always a danger for people who care deeply about something to turn and point fingers at others and ask why they aren’t doing anything about it. That’s a pit I pray I never fall into.

    God is the ruler over all, and I’m pinning my hopes in Him for the work that needs to be done, and if something doesn’t make sense to my human mind, that’s simply a reminder to me that He is God and I am not.

    2. Did you know that in the US, children born with special needs are guaranteed access to health care and therapeutic intervention, and often are successfully integrated into society, whereas in many other countries in the world, children born with special needs are stripped of basic human rights and hidden away from society? Many, many people were unaware of this, just as we were before watching the Serbia video, and even more are still unaware. I have corresponded with many lovely people from Katie’s country who had NO idea this was going on. God has laid on me the responsibility to help spread the word, and it is up to Him to take that and accomplish what He wills to accomplish with it. It is an enormous privilege to be in a place where I get to see God moving hearts. I get an inner glimpse into families becoming aware of this need, and then get to watch the marvelous ways He tears the barriers down for them.

    3. Abuse and neglect are two separate issues that have separate definitions and different effects. Some may see outright abuse as being more damaging to a child than neglect, as it certainly seems more immediately horrifying. However, many people are unaware that neglect can have pervasively damaging and permanent effects on a child’s ability to ever function normally in life. The greater the lack of human interaction, the more the neglect prevents the child from even developing the basic tools with which to overcome and learn to navigate life. In addition to this, so much of our brain development depends on interactions with other human beings that neglect in and of itself can cause irreversible brain damage, thereby rendering the sinned-against child all the less likely to receive the love and care he or she needs. For more reading about neglect, here’s one informative article:

    4. Did you know that there are extremely strict laws regarding housing space and how many children per bedroom for foster parenting, foster-to-adopt, and domestic adoption? In our state at least, there are no such laws regarding international adoption. So families like ours who do not have an 8 bedroom mansion for our large family to live in :) are automatically disqualified from any other type of adoption.

    In addition to this, it can be difficult to find home study agencies or home study social workers who will work with large families, period, regardless of the actual laws. So much depends on their foundational beliefs about children. If they have made up their minds that “children” equal “burdens,” then “more children” equal “greater burden.” If they see, as we do, that children are a blessing, then they will be open to understanding the great potential of a large family. How functional or non-functional the family is a separate issue from the family’s size. There are small and very dysfunctional families, and large and very functional families. The health and functionality of the family is what should be evaluated.

    Did you know that the first home study agency we looked into for Katie’s adoption refused to work with us after hearing the basic demographics of our family–the number and ages of children we had, that Verity had special needs, and that we have a borderline income and small house? We didn’t fit into their box, and they were unwilling to give us a closer look. God was in charge of this, though, and led us to the next option, who has turned out to be a PERFECT fit for us. Even she, our home study social worker for Katie and then Tommy, told us that she’s the ONLY social worker in her agency who would give a large family like ours the time of day.

    God put us into a unique position by first connecting me with a very large number of big families both in real life and online, THEN sending us on this journey and asking me to write it down as we went. We have seen Him use our story to propel many other large families to adoption, now that they can see that HE is bigger than what we used to think were impossible barriers. Families who have experience with caring for many children make wonderful adoptive parents of kids with special needs, because they’ve already developed an understanding of how different children are from each other and have learned vital skills like the ability to be flexible. Living outside the cultural box by having large families and educating them ourselves is good preparation for living outside the box by deliberately welcoming children with special needs into our families. Most of us would have previously thought that international adoption of waiting children was for financially wealthy people with much smaller families. :) So we have seen God use our family as a public example, often to other big families, of how many seeming barriers are not barriers at all to Him. Like pregnancy during adoption. :)

    I hope all this helps you to understand the answer to your question, Barb. I do not at all want to offend you, and don’t know you or your possible involvement in the US foster care system, but for the sake of others who may have had the same question and are reading this comment, may I encourage you as I have at times encouraged others who ask why we aren’t doing some other important work, or think I should be blogging about this family or that child, etc? If God has laid the need of children in the US foster care system on your heart, I would strongly urge you to look into all you can possibly do to minister in that area. It’s not an accident that this is in your heart, and the need is certainly great. Go for it!

  9. Barb says:

    Susanna, Thank you for your thoughtful answer. I better understand your perspective on this issue. I have the utmost respect and awe for what you are doing and have done for those beautiful children in Pleven. My prayer is that all of God’s children receive the love and homes they deserve. Blessings to you and your family and again thank you for not being offended but encouraged to share your beliefs.

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