Speaker 1: Welcome to the Adopting and Fostering Home Podcast. Whether your family has been on this journey for years, or you’re just getting started, we are here to support and encourage you along the way. And now your hosts, Lynette Ezell and Tera Melber.
Tera Melber: Welcome back. Thanks for joining Lynette and me today. We recently came across an excellent new resource entitled, Until Every Child Is Home: Why the Church Can and Must Care for Orphans. And we are so excited to share this outstanding new book with you because it really does take James 1:27 and the call to care for the most vulnerable among us to a much deeper level. So today we are super excited and honored to have the author, Todd Chipman, with us today for the very first part of a two part series. So welcome, Todd.
Todd Chipman: Thank you, Tera. My pleasure.
Tera Melber: Well, I know that you live with your family in Missouri. So share a little about them and what you do there.
Todd Chipman: I have seven children. My wife, Julie and I, we have five biological kids and we have adopted a couple out of the foster care system, and that experience as a pastor and a seminary professor is the stimulus for this book, Until Every Child Is Home. Our children range from 22, the oldest, down to 10, the youngest. And our two adopted kids are 10 and 11 and have been with us for about three and a half years. I’m just happy to see God work in our family in these days and in our ministry at church and at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary where I teach.
Lynette Ezell: Well, I tell you, first of all, Todd, I love the book. And I love the inspiring stories of faith that you share. They just really encourage me. I know they’re going to encourage future readers. And I can’t wait to get this in the hands of our listeners. So we’ve got a little treat for everybody at the end of this podcast. But I think everyone will appreciate the format. I love the format you used. Because not only is it for the individual reader, but it’s also a great tool for a group study.
Todd Chipman: Yes. The folks at Moody helped me along the way, and I’m grateful for their encouragement. Our goal was to provide a resource that was structured in such a way that could be easy to read on your own, but that could stimulate a small group as well. So the chapters are short. Ten pages at most.
Tera Melber: My kind of book.
Todd Chipman: It’s something you can read in one setting. Our lives are full. And even folks who are considering adopting or fostering, their lives are really full. And so we wrote this for someone who is in that place of considering or just starting out, as well as those who have been in it and can get some encouragement from it as you have mentioned, Lynette. It’s for someone who’s busy in the evening and, before bed, here’s a chapter to read. You can move through the book in a fairly efficient way but there are also some questions for discussion and reflection, with friends as well.
Tera Melber: Yeah. I love that part. That’s great. Well, Todd, of all the books that are out on adoption and all the foster care trainings and blogs that are available, what led you to write Until Every Child Is Home?
Todd Chipman: I wrote the book from the perspective of a pastor. I wrote it from the perspective of an adoptive parent. I wrote it from the perspective of a seminary professor, a scholar, theologian. I wrote it from the perspective of someone who is adopted. So I sort of have several sets of lenses that I can take up to address this issue. And when I was growing up as a kid, one of my first memories – I write about this a bit in the book – it when my parents sat down with my older sister and I who’s also adopted and shared with us that they were not able to have children in the natural way. And again, I was early elementary school. This was one of my first memories, and it didn’t ever bother me. And for many kids, as your listeners know, that is a very tough conversation and for some kids, it’s traumatic.
It can be very difficult, and we want to be sensitive to those kids and their needs. I think it’s helpful as well to be sensitive to kids who it’s not a big deal to. If it’s not a big deal, hey, don’t push it. It’s a blessing from the Lord. Sometimes we don’t take those as easy as we should. And for me, it was just not a big deal. I would forget about it, honestly. I would not even think about it unless the conversation came up in the back of my mind. It was as if a trigger went off. I can contribute a comment here because I am adopted. And so it wasn’t a problem for me. And growing up, I had a great family that the Lord put me into. And when I began to date my wife, in those early conversations of dating, most couples will share their history and background, and it was a part of my story, so I shared that with Julie who is now my wife.
She had some mentors in life whom she had seen foster and adopt and appreciated that. So those are the early memories and what is one of the four lenses, if you will, through which I write the book. One reason why I think the book can have value is I try to approach it from different angles. And note that all of these angles sort of work together. They’re symbiotic. And I think folks will see that. And those who have adopted or fostered realize that this is tough work, but they also recognize that over time God blesses one area of their life and that leads to another area of blessing and the work of fostering and adopting is often a part of that.
Lynette Ezell: I totally agree and I love how you bring that out. And, of course, we focus on the Church. The “big C” Church. I love what you said about when you brought the girls home. When you adopted the girls. You said, “What brought stability amid tantrums, anger, fear, hatred, biting, kicking, scratching, and sleepless nights? What kept us from giving up? Our local church.” I love that, Todd. How did they do that?
Todd Chipman: Well, the Lord showed us this through the metaphor of adoption that’s in Scripture, and so as a preaching pastor over the years, when those kinds of themes came up, I would talk about the fact that I was adopted. And so I was open about it, that just led to natural illustration. I had been pastoring our church for about 15 years before we stepped into this ministry. And so people who know my story, know me and know that I’ve shared about that. But when the Lord began to prompt Julie and me to pursue this ministry, we went to other leaders in our church. I still remember the Sunday that we went around and talked to various couples, just privately, pulling them aside saying, “Hey, want to talk to you a minute. We’re getting ready to start foster care classes and for licensure and want to talk to you about this and want you to pray for us.” And we didn’t want to make it public just yet but just privately with some individuals. And they began to pray as we went through the classes.
We talked with other leaders in church and then began to make it public on a Sunday at the end-of-worship gathering. I just laid out what we were doing. And at the end of the book, I write about five relationships to cultivate as you foster or adopt. And so these are just individual snippets, if you will. It’s information, sort of like a set of appendices, for what you could do in terms of cultivating relationships. So for your listeners who are thinking about this, one of the first relationships to cultivate is with your pastor and your local church. For us, that’s what we began to do. And then as things progressed, it took about nine months from the time of beginning foster classes to having the girls in our home. It just works out in different timetables for your listeners. And as they progressed, the first time the girls stayed the night with us was over a weekend.
And so we took them to church. It was the first time that they had been to church in their lives.
Tera Melber: Oh, wow.
Lynette Ezell: Wow.
Todd Chipman: And we had prepared the church and we just said, “Hey, just act normal. Don’t make them feel different. Just walk by. Say hi. Introduce yourself. Move on.” And our church was great, ladies. They were so good. They just … they welcomed them just like normal. Took them to Sunday school class just like normal. When the girls moved in, they continue to do that. And I want to piggyback for just a minute here, Lynette. You asked me this question about what our church did. I want to piggyback on a podcast from a couple of weeks ago on birth order.
Lynette Ezell: Yeah.
Tera Melber: Oh, yeah.
Todd Chipman: I just listened to the one on birth order. And you all are just really providing us some great insight there on how we go about this process and the ordering of our kids. One thought that struck me is we need to think about birth order. I think that is an important concept. We also need to think about the capacity of our church to provide relational support at different ages. We need to think about the birth order of relationships in our church.
Lynette Ezell: That’s brilliant. Yeah.
Todd Chipman: So that we can connect these kids with.
Lynette Ezell: That’s a great thought.
Todd Chipman: This is one of the stimuli for the book. So this is my lens of being a pastor. I saw how older women in our church began to just come alongside our girls. They’re older women of a different race and older women of different life situations would come alongside these girls and begin to care for them on Sunday mornings. “Sit by me. Here, let me show you this. Oh, let me teach you how to quilt. Let me bring some yarn. Let me teach you how to crochet. Let me teach you some artwork. Yes, come over here with me and let’s set up the meal or the service elements for the fellowship meal after lunch. They just began to do this and there are a handful of women in my church that have changed these girls’ lives.
Lynette Ezell: Yeah. I can see that.
Todd Chipman: It wasn’t just my own family, but these older women, these grandparent kind of figures. And in a sense, when we take kids into our homes, we need to think about the birth order of our church and what relationships can be established for the kids in that regard. So our church was great and not just in relationships but praying for us in those early days. Your listeners know and you all know that the first six months when you bring a child into your home, boy.
Lynette Ezell: I hear you.
Tera Melber: It makes me feel tired thinking about it, Todd.
Todd Chipman: Yes. It does. My wife and I talk about the pit in our stomach that we got. And even just talking about it now, I have a little bit of one that just comes back because you remember those days. Relational stress and tension and anger and your walls hearing words that they’ve never heard before. And from the mouths of little kids. Just the difficulties. Well, I remember a group text that we had and we would just text group a people like, “Please pray right now. This child is just in crisis mode and we don’t know what to do. Pray.” And I remember so many times within 30 minutes, an hour, the Lord bringing a sense of calmness, helping us to adjust. And this groups was not just praying for the kids, but people prayed for us. We needed the Lord’s enabling grace to just keep it together. And He provided that.
So that relational support but also the prayer support from a distance that the Lord provided. And what we have seen just thinking about this connection with the church, we have seen – and here’s the irony and another stimulus for the book – we’ve seen how our girls have helped our church.
Tera Melber: Oh. For sure.
Todd Chipman: And here’s the irony of it. We as pastors often think that this kind of ministry – and I’m talking to pastors here, especially – pastors will think, “This is going to suck the life out of my church. I want a program that I can announce with a celebration. I can have a massive sign up and start up and I want a program with an end date that I can schedule a PowerPoint presentation with music and food and we can look at what we accomplished and have an end date and walk away from it.”
Tera Melber: It’s in a perfect box.
Todd Chipman: Then two weeks later, have an evaluation of that ministry, plan if we’re going to do it again. We have a rubric that we’re going to use. And all of this. And foster care and adoption blows that up.
Tera Melber: That is right.
Todd Chipman: It’s not there. But here’s what I found: For our church, our fostering and adopting these girls has been one of the best things for our church that we have experienced. I’ve been at my church almost 20 years. I just can’t pinpoint something that’s been as good because this has provided our church an opportunity to think about race in a new way. It’s brought relationships across generations to the surface. It’s provided especially these older ladies an opportunity to connect with the younger generation and to mentor them along. It’s helped families in our church. Our church is blessed with stable families. It’s helped these stable families to be stable for someone besides just themselves.
Tera Melber: That’s really good.
Todd Chipman: To be stable. To give their stability to kids who don’t see that and who hadn’t seen that. And it’s brought so many giftings to the surface and helped our church in so many ways to think beyond its own walls.
Lynette Ezell: You said in the book, “By doing good for kids, we’re doing good for ourselves.” And you just explained that. Because it is so true.
Todd Chipman: Yes. And we have seen, again, just how relationships have been enhanced from this. Not just relationships for our kids, but for my wife and I. And for me as a pastor. And the last section of the book, I write to pastors directly and this is one of the chapters that was among some of the first written because these kinds of chapters were just on my heart. This was really the initial thrust. As a pastor, I saw how helpful this was for me in leading the church. James 1:27 states, “Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows and their distress, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”
Lynette Ezell: That’s right.
Todd Chipman: That “and” is an explanatory kind of “and.” In other words, if you do this, you’re going to help keep yourself unspotted from the world. Our churches – even the best of our churches. – are all in process. There’s no perfect church. But many of our churches, and again, talking to pastors, we’re in a rut of trying to be attractional for the wrong reasons. We use worldly methods and not necessarily relationships in the Gospel. By taking in these kids before the Lord and before the congregation, we were doing something that was not worldly. There’s nothing attractional about it. It’s simply demonstrating who God is and what he has done for us. I felt a sense of integrity in ministry. Russell Moore talks about this in Adopted for Life. He forwards the book and I write a bit about his story. He shares of one time at the end of a birthday party for his adopted sons, one of them, had his little plastic birthday hat on and he was writing late in the night after the party. He still had his hat on.
He writes that he learned more from that hat than he learned from his regalia hat. That statement struck me when I read it because I said, “Amen.”
Lynette Ezell: That’s right.
Todd Chipman: I have a regalia hat. Someone who has a PhD knows that they don’t just give those away. And yet I realized that by doing this, I’ve learned so much about God. And in some ways, it’s been a fulfillment of my academic career. So that’s sort of the angle I write about from a scholarly perspective. And how this kind of work, it just squares with the macro themes of the whole Scripture, especially the New Testament and the coming of Christ and God’s plan to draw us to Himself and adopt us, all nations. So, this process of thinking about taking in kids as a pastor gave me a sense of integrity before the congregation and a model. Here, I am demonstrating for you what God has done for us and I am giving that to these kids and I want you to join me in it. And it’s been a precious process. Not always easy. There have been tough at times. But helpful for our church in that regard.
Lynette Ezell: When you talked with Kevin and I, we were talking about how we started our adoption journey. What led us on this path. And I knew early on in our marriage that the Lord was moving our hearts toward adoption. But I have to really say, it was the days I spent volunteering at a local crisis pregnancy center, very low-income and just on a shoestring budget, that anchored my heart to the preciousness of every life. And these young girls would come in. They’re terrified. They don’t want their moms to know. They’re scared of what the results are going to be, so I’m sitting there with them. But seeing their countenance when their baby’s life would appear on the ultrasound machine, Todd, that was a miracle. And I’ve never gotten over it. You spend a lot of time in the book explaining this, and we want to help people to understand how this relates to the sanctity of life. You add that we are God-created. God created humanity as His bearers. So how does this truth give purpose to the call of foster care and adoption?
Todd Chipman: Lynette, the question really sets up the aspect of sanctity of life ministry that goes beyond being anti-abortion which certainly is necessary and important. Those babies in the womb bear God’s image and the thought that they could be murdered is just repulsive to believers and evangelicals, and should be because of what Scripture says. But there’s another aspect to this that, in the Lord’s providence, He has allowed many of these children to be born into families that are not healthy. And because of that, these children don’t have parents in homes. So to be pro-life, we have to step in to help these kids, too, who are out of the womb, but whose families are fractured or whose parental rights have been severed all together. Truly orphaned right here in the United States. And I write about this somewhat from my perspective in that the personal lens is taken up in the early part of the book. I mentioned earlier that I am adopted and I’m the product of a one-time encounter.
My biological parents met in February 1971 somewhere in Eastern Nebraska. They met at a party and everything I know about them is on a two-page letter from Nebraska Children’s Home through which I was adopted. And my biological mother, when she found out she was pregnant, was kicked out of her home. Her parents didn’t have a great family situation. And in the Lord’s goodness, she boarded with a family in Omaha and the head of the home was a physician. I wonder if he was pro-life early on. Benevolent man for sure. But she boarded with him and they took care of her until I was born, and that’s all I know. But I know the date I was born and I know the date in which Roe v. Wade was passed. And the amount of time between those two dates is 500 days, roughly. So, if I am born 500 days later, this conversation’s probably not happening.
Tera Melber: That’s right.
Todd Chipman: I am the perfect candidate for abortion. Coming from a 17-year old mom. Poor family situation. Ready to kick her out. Hey, I’m something that can be exterminated. I’m negligible. I’m fixable in the modern language. I’m inconvenient. So, get rid of me. As a result, Mom stays home and hopefully has a better life. And so it is personal in that regard. And this is not just personal, but it is theological. Throughout the Old Testament, the Lord speaks of humans as His image bearers, and His warriors. That God demonstrates His greatness in people. He demonstrates His greatness in people who are co-regents with Him. Ruling over creation. Caring for the dominion that He has created. And as we do that, He is glorified as the one alone who can create. This is spiritual warfare language that God is showing off His greatness to the principalities and powers by creating image bearers who come alongside of Him and rule over what He created and we do this and God triumphs through His image bearers.
Tera Melber: I tell you Todd, this has been a really incredible conversation. I don’t really want it to end.
Lynette Ezell: No.
Tera Melber: So we would really like to ask you to hang tight with us and have another conversation continuing on about the book. So in talking about the book, Lynette, we have a really exciting, first-time event that we’re doing with the podcast. We’re going to give away some of Todd’s books. And so in our show notes, you’re going to see an e-mail and you can e-mail us there, and the first 100 people that we hear from, with your address, we are going to mail you a copy of Todd’s book, Until Every Child Is Home: Why the Church Can and Must Care for Orphans. We’re super excited to get this resource in your hand and know that you’re really going to be blessed by the stories in it. And we’d also like to remind you that we would love for you to leave us a review on iTunes or wherever you’re listening to our podcast. That helps us get the word out and get the podcast out there so that the resources and the incredible people that we get to talk to can be listened to all over the place. So, thanks so much for listening. We look forward to talking to you again.
Speaker 1: You have been listening to the Adopting and Fostering Home, a resource of the North American Mission Board. For more information about today’s podcast, and other relevant resources, visit sendrelief.org.