Nathan and Jennifer Washburn rank parenting among their greatest joys, but a desire to have children was not their main motivation in adopting.
Instead, the couple who married in 2004 point to spiritual value as their main motivation for their 2010 adoption from Kazakhstan of Kara Victoria Washburn, now 5, and, in 2014 from China, Owen RenLi Washburn, 3.
“It was primarily a theological motivation to adopt,” said Nathan Washburn, pastor of First Baptist Church in Greenbrier, Tenn.. “It’s such a great picture of our spiritual adoption in Christ.”
As Southern Baptists mark Jan. 17 as Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, which was placed on the SBC calendar in 1988, Washburn describes adoption as a practical application of honoring the value God has ordained in all of human life.
“Although there are different circumstance in life and different stages of life, there’s not a spectrum to God’s image in people,” Washburn said. “Every person bears His image and bears it in its fullness. There’s really no difference.”
Nathan and Jennifer Washburn with children Owen RenLi and Kara Victoria.
Christians are called to protect the unborn, the orphan, the physically and mentally challenged, the widow and others equally, he said.
“If you’re looking at people the way that God values people, the way that He’s placed His image in people, His image is there,” Washburn said. “And no matter what circumstances are on the surface, no matter what differences there are in life stage, or geography or nationality, or religion or race or anything, there’s only one image of God. And it’s full in every human being. You see all over scripture the image of God in people, regardless of anything really.”
First Baptist Church in Greenbrier will mark Sanctity of Human Life Sunday with a special offering and sermon, and will continue its work to protect life through the Open Door pregnancy center in Springfield, Tenn., and educational and motivational programs throughout the year.
The Washburns encourage couples undertaking adoption to rely on God to smooth the transition.
“It’s one thing to listen to a sermon or a story about the sanctity of human life, and it’s quite another to open up your home and step up and be willing to apply that,” Washburn said, “and step out in faith and adopt or any other number of ways that you can apply what you believe about the sanctity of human life and God’s image in people.”
Southern Baptist Convention free resources to help churches celebrate Sanctity of Human Life Sunday are available at erlc.com/life.
Southern Baptists are active in a wealth of ministries aimed at protecting human life in its various stages. Working to protect children in particular are 21 Baptist child care agencies with 255 sites in 19 states, according to the 2014 Historian’s Report of the Baptist Coalition for Children and Families. The centers housed 8,959 fatherless children in 2014 and provided various help to 589,323 others, the report said. Services include foster care, adoption, residential housing for expectant mothers and single-parent families, Christian counseling, mobile pregnancy centers, emergency care and other initiatives.
In adopting children from overseas, the Washburns used agencies that handled adoptions in their countries of interest, and used a Christian agency, New Beginnings in Tupelo, Miss., for the home studies in both adoptions, they said. The home study is a major part of the adoption process. Adoptions can also be costly, with each of the Washburns’ adoptions costing $35,000 or more in payments spread over a year. God was faithful in meeting their needs, the Washburns said.
“When God calls you to adopt, it always looks like a huge mountain that is just insurmountable,” Jennifer Washburn said, noting the costs of paperwork, travel and temporary housing in the adoption countries. “Finances [do] seem to be a hindrance for a lot of people in adoption, and that’s where our hesitation was as well. … But to see God’s faithfulness in that area of our lives was such a faith-building and faith-strengthening time for us. We saw God provide for us in ways we never dreamed. And He used godly, loving people around us to help us.”
She compares God’s provision in both adoptions to the story of the destitute widow in the village of Zarephath, whose story is told in 1 Kings 17, who was blessed with an unending supply of flour and oil.
“Every time a bill would come up to be paid, the money was just always there; so we laughed because it kind of was like the flour and oil in that story with the widow. The money just never ran out,” Jennifer Washburn said. “God continued to provide, and provide for us along the way, in a kind of unreal way that was just very faith strengthening.”
Parents should be prepared for the challenges inherent in parenting children who may have suffered anxieties as orphans, the Washburns said.
“Children who have been adopted don’t have an emotional foundation of attachment to a mother and father,” Washburn said. “They’ve seen possibly a multitude of caregivers [or none] and have not attached to anyone.
“This can create a very unstable foundation of trust, fear, and a sense of survival mode,” he said. “It takes much patience, unconditional love and a willingness to be unloved and unappreciated in order to stay the course. With the work comes great reward, however, as you build, brick by brick, a foundation of trust in your child who has so far had no reason to have any.”
The Washburns count many blessings in their journey as parents.
“The simplest blessing is the raising of kids and just having an awesome family that you love more than life itself,” the mother said. “There is nothing like becoming a parent.
“I do have the joy of staying home with them. It’s a labor to lose yourself and lay down your life for another, but that is a biblical idea. I think that has been one that God has continued to teach me,” she said. “Just the joy of passing along a love for Christ to the next generation. How awesome, what a privilege that is for us to be able to do, biological or adopted children.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)