A few years ago, Carl and Anna walked into my office at church.
A successful and attractive couple, they looked similar to many of the successful and attractive couples in our upper middle-class congregation. They had three young children, ran a thriving business and, I assumed, had similar goals and challenges as most young families in their life stage. I expected they wanted to talk about their marriage or a particular parenting issue. I was wrong.
In the previous few weeks, they had been given the opportunity to foster a special needs baby boy. Only 3 months old, doctors had determined that he would likely be dependent on others for his entire life. Even though they had never given much thought to fostering or adoption, Carl and Anna felt like God was putting this medically fragile child into their lives. We talked about how difficult it might be to care for such a child, especially with three other small kids in their home.
However, Carl and Anna kept on coming back to this truth: God cares deeply for this fatherless child, so they should, as well. They couldn't get around the fact that God was calling them to step into a difficult situation and play a small part in the redemption of this little life. Within a few weeks, Isaiah was in their home.
Fast forward a few months. Isaiah became a part of their forever family when Carl and Anna chose to adopt him. Little Isaiah moved from being someone they would care for to one that they were fully committed to parenting for life. In my mind, Carl and Anna were rock stars. Throughout their journey, they have given all credit to God (and downplayed their part), but their willingness to "do hard things" stuns me. They were modeling Jesus' sacrifice and selflessness more radically than just about anybody I have ever known.
But Wait, There's More...
Some months later, Carl and Anna got a phone call about another special needs child. A baby girl had been born a few days before, essentially without a brain. She had enough of a brain stem to maintain life (basic respiration), but was without any sensory perception. The call was to ask Carl and Anna if they would be willing to foster this little girl. They said yes.
So picture this family: three small (but active) children, a recently adopted child with extreme medical care needs, and now an infant foster child who is both fully dependent on her caregivers and without the ability to give anything in return. A circumstance that most "normal" people would run from, Carl and Anna jumped headlong into it. Rock. Stars.
Wouldn't you know it, Carl and Anna fast-tracked the adoption of their daughter and "Hope" became an official part of their family. Why? Because every child is valuable to God and deserves to have a family; even those whose bodies don't work like we think they should. Also, because Carl and Anna chose to do something that few Christians ever consider doing: actively modeling Jesus' love. Most of us are a whole lot of talk and a lot less action.
When I would see this family in church, they had smiles on their faces and joy in their hearts. They would guide their little ones to class while pushing a couple of strollers decked out with medical gear. They were committed to caring for the lives that God had entrusted to them with faithfulness and sacrifice. I can't think of anybody I know who has modeled the unconditional and extravagant love of Jesus better than they have.
On Tuesday, Hope Went to Be With Jesus.
I could keep on going with more details of their story and lessons learned about the activity of God through Hope's brief life, but I want to let Carl and Anna do that. They both (bravely) spoke at Hope's memorial service yesterday. With their permission, I want to simply let these two parents share their perspective on the glory of God that they saw reflected in the life of their daughter.
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