Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?
James 2:14-17, The Message
When the planning team for the Imagine Conference joins together, it is always foremost in our hearts and minds that this conference be way more than a great event. We desire to plan an excellent conference, to fill the days with encouraging content, knowledgeable speakers, and worship that draws you into the heart of God. But if all the months of planning and all the great speakers and exhibitors does nothing more than leave someone saying, “Wow! That was a great conference!”, we’ve missed the mark.
It is our deepest prayer that each person who joins us for Imagine will gain God’s perspective on heart-breaking issues and will in turn choose to respond with His love and make a difference in our neighborhoods, in our nation, and in our world.
This is why it is our great pleasure to highlight some of the many stories of ordinary people, just like you and me, who attended Imagine, and then have taken the next step. We know we serve a creative God who will stir the hearts of each individual differently to meet the vast needs of our world. Maybe your next step is small. Maybe it’s big. Maybe you embraced it with joy the day after the conference. Maybe you’re scared and are dragging your feet. It is our hope that by reading some of the stories of the ways the Lord is working in the lives of His followers, that you will be encouraged to take that one next step of obedience of your own.
Today we share with you Sharon Ross’ story:
My husband, Dan, and I have been married for 7 years. We have two daughters, Annalise (5 yrs) and Aurelia (2.5 years), and a little black lab/cocker mix, Zeppelin. We live in Pittsburgh, PA. I have always had the call to adopt on my heart and have wanted to attend the conference in the past, but the timing has never worked out. With the expanded focus on other issues of social justice, I knew I wanted to make it a priority as social justice is something to which I am personally and professionally committed. I was so excited when I found out it was on a weekend I wasn’t teaching and would be able to go. I was more excited when I learned of other friends from our church, including another mom from my small group, who were planning to attend as well.
As I prayerfully prepared for the conference, I knew that I was most interested in attending the breakout sessions on adoption and foster care. But my prayer leading up to the event was just for God to keep me open and soften my heart to what He would have me take away from the two-day experience. I ended up attending the breakout sessions: First Steps in your Adoption Journey, The First 90 Days, and Keeping it Real with Foster & Adoptive Dads. I took so much away from all of the sessions. I got a lot of great materials in the first session (cost & debunking myths, understanding the differences in the processes between domestic, international, and foster to adopt, etc.) and asked (way too many) questions of the facilitator. In the second session, we opened by watching a short film, “ReMoved”, about one girl’s journey through the foster care system. This broke my heart and I was sobbing the whole time. The third session was more light-hearted and the facilitator opened up by saying “Okay ladies, we know you’re here today because your man was just begging you to come to this conference and this session and wants your heart to be opened to adoption” and we all kind of laughed. It was great to get the dad’s perspective on the whole process, and they really did “keep it real.”
I came away from Imagine with a more normalized view of adoption.
I’ve realized that it’s not for the super humans with all the money and patience and holiness in the world, but rather it is for normal people who are being obedient in an act of faith to live out an extraordinary call to love the broken and fatherless children of our world.
This conference gave me a more biblical view of adoption and broke my heart for what breaks God’s regarding these children and His plan for their lives. God also made it clear that this journey will not be easy. It will be messy, dynamic, and filled with challenges and trials. I have confidence that if we are called to adoption/foster care, God will walk with us through the journey. And I know that He is faithful, loving and will supply us with all of our needs, including finances, wisdom, and other interpersonal support.
Through the course of the weekend and the time since, I have discerned that My One is transracial adoption. My husband and I have begun educating ourselves in preparation for adoption. Leaving the conference, I went home and immediately purchased two books: Eugene Cho’s “Overrated: Are We More In Love With the Idea of Changing the World Than Actually Changing the World?” and Pam Parish’s “Ready or Not: 30-Day Discovery for Families Growing Through Foster Care and Adoption” which was recommended in one of the breakouts I attended.
I will be studying Eugene’s book in the spring with my colleague, and my husband and I have started working through the adoption devotional book together. It is a 30-day journey and it has taken me over a month to get to day 15, but I’m remaining faithful and journaling the process along the way. We also have plans to attend the Exploring Adoption Workshop in February through the OrphanCare Ministry of North Way Christian Community.
God used Imagine to open my eyes to the needs of vulnerable children in our world today. I look forward to the adventure He sets before us.
What’s your one? We’d love to share your story on the blog.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org