Ezekiel’s River is a pastor’s network under Global Effect, where pastors from the Kilimanjaro region come together twice a month and discuss theological topics and catch up on whatever is going on in their communities.
This past Ezekiel’s River meeting the Kingdom Families interns attended, as Brandon Stiver talked about the chapters of the orphan care and adoption book Kingdom Families is developing. Brandon passed out the chapters of the book throughout previous weeks and the pastors have been reading along. Here are some observations I had, as I listened to Brandon speak and as the pastors gave feedback.
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” -James 1:22
Brandon began by talking about the first chapter of the book of James and how hearing something is easy but going out and actually doing something is much harder. The book of James challenges us to go out and do something. There is a contrast of what a hearer of the word and doer of the word is. Jesus gives us freedom, therefore, we should give freedom to others. There is the power of the tongue, but pure religion is to be doing something. Doing something is to meet orphans and widows in their distress. It’s important for us as Christians to understand orphans and widows are always in distress. They don’t have a protector. Our religion is to be the people who help widows and orphans.
“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families.” -Psalm 68:5-6
The second part of the book Brandon wrote is about who God is and what He does. Brandon talked about taking a step beyond religion. If we want to mimic God we must do what He does for us. God is a father to orphans and a defender of widows. If we are going to follow God, we have to decide whether or not we are going to do what He does. When we are in our homes, are we being a father to the fatherless? Because there are children who do not have a father or a mother and they need a mom and dad. God brings them into his family so we must do the same. God sets the solitary into families. God’s heart is for the lonely to be placed into a family. Brandon continued on how children in orphanages are lonely.
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children.” -Romans 8:14-15
Jesus says we are born of the spirit. One of the chapters in the book talks about this. How we must receive the spirit of adoption. Before God brought us into his family we were bonded to fear. When someone is constantly in fear it keeps them in a cage, but when someone receives the spirit of God you are free, you are a son or daughter of God. This is a picture of what God has done for us. We were the orphans.
“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.” -Psalm 127:1
Solomon writes in Psalm 127 how there are two ways to build a house. Build it to your plans or build it in God’s plans. Unless the Lord builds, it it won’t last. God has given us certain plans to how God’s people will relate to one another. Brandon referenced how in garden he brought marriage and family together with Adam and Eve. Secondly, we see it with the early church, the people of God. God’s plan is family and the church. God didn’t establish any other institutions. Even when we talk about orphans and widows, we must start with the family and the church. When we talk about the church of Tanzania, the families in the church, and we understand we are adopted into God’s family we can then understand the solutions God set in place.
“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.” -Psalm 127:3
Children are an inheritance from the Lord. In Tanzania, people don’t want to adopt because it robs other children of inheritance. That is not true in the Kingdom of God’s culture. When we talk about bringing a child into a family we are saying yes to a larger inheritance. Parents are giving up their inheritance, especially mothers in Tanzania who go through a hardship. When they realize it’s simply too hard to provide for their children, they send their children away to an orphanage. That parent whether it’s a mom or a dad, is losing their inheritance. We as church, have a part to play in keeping families together. It’s God’s heart families stay together. If vulnerable families need help, where are they going to find help? The church.
“Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. -Galatians 4:6-7
Receiving the Spirit and becoming a son or daughter is becoming an heir. It’s important for us to understand as Christians that the basis of our faith is that he brought us into his family not because of what we have done but simply because He loves us. One of the things Brandon comes across when talking about adoption is people saying “but Tanzanians don’t adopt, it’s not a part of their culture.” It could be possible that’s true. Uncles and aunts take in their nieces and nephews and it is considered normal. However, someone who isn’t related to the child adopting them, is not as common. Brandon ended his discussion of the book with this, “Adoption is not a characteristic of any nation. It’s a characteristic of being in the family of God.” We must hear this and be called to action.
At the end of Ezekiels River many pastors had feedback about the book. A few pastors responses stuck with me. One being how he had realized that orphanages are now the popular thing to do when families are in a vulnerable state. Whereas in years past, people within the Tanzanian community stepped up and took the children into their homes. The pastor went on to say that he believes himself that children belong within community and in families.
Another pastor talked about how the mindset of adoption is often a financial and governmental thing for families. He began talking about how there are many people who would love to adopt but the legal hoops, and financial aspect of it is just too much. He continued saying that within communities there are a lot of people taking care of orphans but it isn’t a legal adoption. The biggest thing we can take from this are, there are Tanzanian families who are willing to take children in.
The bottom line is this; we were once orphans and we are adopted into the Kingdom of God. We are now sons and daughters of the King and knowing that we as the church have the opportunity to do the same for orphans here in Tanzania and all over the world.