Cindi and I are still in the process of adopting our 6 and 1/2 month old son Judah from Uganda. Right now we’re waiting for the orphanage to get his birth certificate and send it to us. Once we get that, we can send in an already-filled-out application to the U.S. government. We’ve been told that it normally takes 5-6 weeks for them to process the application. If they approve it, we can get a court date scheduled in Uganda where we fly over, do all the official stuff, and bring Judah home.
We’ve been told for about 3 months now that we’ll receive the birth certificate “very soon.” Suffice it to say that we’re no longer sitting on the edge of our seats. Legal stuff in Africa is far less organized and far more unpredictable than in America.
We hear people say that kids grow up really fast (and we see it with our own eyes as we watch kids we know). We’re having to watch Judah “grow up” via pictures and weight statistics, from afar. We’re incredibly blessed to have multiple friends who have gone to Uganda on missions trips and have held Judah and taken pictures for us. But it’s still not the same as having him here and holding him and playing with him and delighting in him in person.
It could be easy to grow discouraged and frustrated. It’s definitely easy to be impatient (which I don’t think is necessarily wrong in this case). We love Judah and we want to be able to take care of him.
In all of this, though, I continue to remind myself that this is a long ride. The fact is, we’re bringing Judah into our family for life. If we get him now or 3 months for now, that commitment doesn’t change. It’s the long run that’s important, not the details or the waiting. We didn’t start this process in order to get a child. We started this process in order for a child to get a family. A family for life. So whether his birth certificate arrives next week or in September is not significant in the long run. There have been setbacks, but the goal is still before us, and we’re not wavering from it.
I think this applies to lots of areas of life. Take a relationship you’re building for the sake of evangelism, for instance. It’d be wonderful if your new co-worker or your little-known neighbor just came up to you out of the blue and said, “I hear you’re a Christian, and I want to know all about Jesus. Do you have some time to talk right now?” But we all know that it usually doesn’t happen that way. Usually it takes time and purpose and planning and realness and relationship and waiting and praying. The door isn’t always open. There aren’t always abundant opportunities to talk (especially when on the job). Your neighbor might be gone a lot during the summer. There are a lot of variables and twists and turns in a slowly-growing relationship. Yes, there are certainly times when you have to push the envelope and take some risks and almost force a conversation. But even then, evangelistic relationships should be long-term.
All of this is an encouragement to persevere and to keep trying. Try to create opportunities, but also be willing to wait for the Lord to open doors if that’s what wisdom dictates. Sometimes I think that our evangelistic tendency in the church is to jump right into a cold gospel presentation and then jump right back out. I’m not trying to deemphasize the gospel or to say that cold turkey evangelism and out-of-the-blue evangelism and door-to-door evangelism aren’t appropriate methods. I think that they are legitimate methods that should be used often and wisely. But I also think that overall, we need to have a marathon mentality when it comes to our mission. We need to live among people, to breathe their air, to understand the twists and turns of their hearts. We need to get to know them and them us, to meet their kids and their needs, to let our light shine in deed while letting it shine in word. Sure, not all of these are prerequisites to bringing the message of repentance and salvation to bear on their lives. Jesus never laid out a “first-second-third” program for sharing the gospel.
But the reality is that all of this should happen over the long haul as much as possible. Yes, I try to share the gospel on airplanes when I have 2 hours next to a person who I’ve never seen before and will never see again. But if my day-to-day evangelism is get-in get-out like that, it might be a sign that I’m more interested in the comfort of preaching from afar than the arduous and Christlike privilege of hanging out with tax collectors and sinners until they see the grace and forgiveness of Christ.