Being in Africa for an extended period of time and attempting to finalize our adoption is not without its challenges. But they’re probably not the ones you might think. Below are some specific things you might pray for as you think of us. Just this morning I finished listening to John Piper’s sermon from New Year’s Day 2006 entitled “Prayer and the Victory of God.” It reminded me of many things, but most broadly that prayer is not insignificant and it is not ineffective. I have often wondered how many 80-something Christian widows are sitting in nursing homes and praying all day and accomplishing more for the kingdom in a day than many of us who rush around anxiously and prayerlessly accomplish in a month. This is not to say that prayer and labor are antithetical, but to say that often we act like it (and usually in favor of labor). Thank you to all who are praying for us. Our conviction remains strong that Judah’s family is much bigger than his parents.
1. Ask God to help us walk by the Spirit. As I said before leaving and as has been confirmed by our experience here, our most important need is the Spirit’s control of our hearts and our affections. We can’t predict the situations and the trials and the temptations we will face here (just like we can’t in the States), but if our hearts are heavenward, we will respond rightly. We need the grace of Godwardness every moment. Last night I asked Cindi if she thought she had been walking by the Spirit during our first week here. This led to an hour and a half of conversation where we talked about many of the things that I’ll share below. This is normal Christian life in a fallen world — need and grace, desperation and dependence.
2. Ask God to give us discernment with Judah and the children. We are in an interesting spot with Judah and the other children in terms of discipline. For the most part the children are well-behaved because the orphanage is a well-run and the kids have a healthy and strict routine. But they’re still kids. And while the mama-and-volunteer-to-child ratio is very low and the children get a lot of love and attention, there are many instances where the kids are obviously testing the adults. And since the kids are being raised by the entire community, it is obviously a challenge to be consistent with each child since each has different disciplinary needs. Over the past few days Cindi and I have found ourselves dealing with children (including Judah) acting manipulatively or with a sly defiance. At those times I’m not nearly as uncertain as I thought I might be when it comes to how I think I should respond. The challenge is how to administer proper discipline in this context when (1) we’re not Judah’s parents yet, (2) we’re not even technically volunteers, (3) the other children don’t even expect us to discipline them which can make them more daring, (4) we don’t know the methods of discipline at the orphanage, and (5) we’re in somewhat of a fishbowl as we’re the only adopting parents around and some of the Ugandan mamas already have the impression that Americans are pushovers when it comes to training their children (which is for the most part true). We’re going to ask a number of questions to the administrators when we get the chance, and we trust that they will clarify things quite a bit. But we will still need patience and situational discernment.
3. Ask God to give us wisdom with people who view us only as rich mzungus who sweat money. I don’t disagree with this perspective, because we are rich by African standards and there are many foolish mzungus (white people) who have not been discerning in the way they’ve treated their money in Africa. But when it comes to the people that we see consistently over the next few weeks, Cindi and I would like to get beyond that. We want to be Christian in their eyes, not mzungu. Even if we’re rich Christians to them, we want them to see that we are wealthy in more than just money, and that we are wealthy in ways that they also can be — in the fruit of the Spirit, especially love. There are clear opportunities to encourage and impact both believers and unbelievers here, and we want to redeem the time (and our white skin) in that regard.
4. Ask God to provide opportunities to edify the administrators and volunteers. On the mission field it’s much harder than it is in the States to be fed spiritually. Differences in church styles, education levels, theological resources, depth of preaching, and spiritual fellowship create both an atmosphere of refreshment as well as need. We want to be a source of spiritual encouragement to those believers who are serving here, not in a condescending way but in an edifying way.
5. Ask God to make us focused and driven in our pursuit of Him and others in the midst of a relaxed, often-lackadaisical society. Due to a lot of factors that I can’t explain here, I have both appreciated and needed the relaxed African culture. No one is in a rush here, busyness is not an idol like it can be in my environment back home, efficiency is relatively unimportant, there are few technology-related distractions, and life is simply simpler. It might be easy for a weary, scheduled-out American to read this and think, “Wow — African culture is so much better.” But that’s not necessarily true. It’s different, to be sure. But cultural betterness is determined by biblical standards. And by biblical standards, Africans can be a bit directionless and slow (just like America can be distracted and noisy and too-fast-to-fear-God). While I want to enjoy the down time and make the most of this God-given breather, I also want to be biblically earnest and focused in my pursuit of God and those around me. It is very easy to be relationally purposeless here because it’s so normal. But that’s nothing less than sinful, even if it matches the culture. Read Acts 20:17ff. and you’ll see a picture of biblical relationships and ministry. That’s how I want to live, in America and in Africa (Cindi and I talked a lot about this last night). Please pray to that end.
6. Ask God to soften the heart of our judge so that we and many others after us might bring these orphans into our families and raise them in the fear of the Lord. It would be easy to pray that the judge would hear our case on April 25 and would give us a positive ruling just so that Cindi can come home with Judah sooner rather than later. That is certainly something we will be praying because it is good for the family to be stable and together. But that’s not the primary request. God cares deeply about the orphan, and the Christ-like affection and biblical training that all of these children can receive from the families that are waiting to adopt them will be incredibly significant for their lives. So please pray that God would guide the judge down the path of understanding and compassion for His own name’s sake as He provides parents to raise these children to fear Him and represent His Son to the world. If God were pleased to soften the judge’s heart, adoptions could begin to flow out of Amani and into Christian families both here in Uganda and overseas.
7. Ask God to give continued strength and vision to the Randolph family who started the Amani Baby Cottage and continue to be its main source of funding. Corky Randolph and his daughter Danyne started the Amani Baby Cottage through Corky’s business background and financial generosity and Danyne’s heart to serve African orphans hands-on. It is a wonderful family partnership. Corky and his wife are here in Jinja for a month to visit their daughter and adopted grandchildren and to take care of orphanage-related business matters. You might pray that God would make their labors fruitful and would continue to fuel and expand their vision. The table below (Judah is in yellow at the head of the table) has food on it and the Ugandan mamas prayed with the kids before they ate because a plain Christian businessman from Texas decided to live out James 1:27 in a way bigger than most of us tend to think. Don’t take that as a statement that only orphanage work matters. Take it as an exhortation to fully obey the call of God on your life with a heart that cares more about principles and people than consequences and sacrifices. And may you be encouraged to always think faithful but to sometimes add big.