On Friday afternoon, my husband, Daniel, and I, along with our two little ones, walked down to my parents’ shop to join those congregating for the annual Amish adoption meeting which I wrote about last week.
The hard preparation work was completed and the day had finally arrived. The windows sparkled and each blade of grass had been mowed. My husband’s rustic furniture shop had been emptied and cleaned in preparation to accommodate 400 Amish guests from all over the United States, most of whom had adopted children in their family.
Each person was asked to wear color-coded name tags. A blue marker represented adoptive parents, red was for adoptees, green for foster children and black for all other guests. Those who were baby-sitting had bright orange tags to be easily picked out in the crowd. Saturday was the big day. By 9 a.m. everyone was seated. We sang “Jesus Loves Me” followed by a devotional by a bishop. The children’s story came next, captivating not only the little ones’ attention but all the rest of us who were listening in.
Soon it was time for the children to divide into age groups and join the leaders who were asked to care for the children until lunch time and also several hours in the afternoon.
Daniel and I were among the ones responsible for the 37 children ages 3, 4 and 5, most of who were adopted. Needless to say, we didn’t have too many dull moments. A portion of our time was spent swinging and sliding at the schoolhouse. Everyone’s highlight was the train rides, consisting of 10 brightly painted train cars pulled by a John Deere garden tractor, giving the children ride after ride.
We had our fingers full, chasing after the energetic little tykes. It’s amazing how fast those little feet can go. Seldom do I take the opportunity to go running at top speed but I did get the chance several times.
After a while, we decided to organize a plan B. With permission from the staff, we took the girls to our house and the boys to my brother Javin’s house. Julia was thrilled for the chance to host all of those girls her age at our house.
Things went much more smoothly with being divided into smaller groups. This also freed the school grounds for the remaining 60 children and their caretakers. An additional 45 adolescents were in the woods cooking their lunch and pretending to be early settlers.
In the meanwhile, the parents had various workshops they could participate in. Several topics were in succession at once, allowing each of their parents to choose which one they wanted to listen in on. Workshops, led by Amish staff, were also held that counted towards required training for Amish foster parents.
At 3:30 we escorted the children back to the shop where they joined their parents for some fun and celebration to end the day.
By then, suppertime had arrived and the four couples in charge of cooking had prepared a practical summer supper of ham and cheese sandwiches, noodles, baked beans, veggies and snacks.
Daniel and I recently finished our turn of being on the food committee, so we were not responsible for the cooking; yet we did get the opportunity of rolling up our sleeves and scrubbing on the mountains of dirty dishes that accumulate when you’re feeding hundreds of people.
The food, fellowship and adoption information being discussed just made for such an important time of learning and deepening our faith. By the way, various procedures are taken in the pursuit of adoption. While some go through social services, others choose the route of fostering first and then adopting; that keeps the cost dramatically lower.
Now for the question I know is going through many of your minds: “What is it like for a child to be adopted into an Amish home and raised into the Amish way of life without having been born into an Amish home?” That is a fair question. The mother who conceives a child leaves lifelong prints on the life of her little one, yet it’s amazing how swiftly children learn to adjust to a new environment. In many situations the adoptive parents join their children in some point at their lives, to meet their birth parents. From our perspective, there is no difference between when comparing a child who is born or adopted into a family; they have equal value and potential.
It is not uncommon for Amish people to adopt children of various nations and races. Those who grow up being black, Hispanic or Asian in an Amish setting do face challenges of simply accepting their color difference. But as God’s love and the acceptance from their new family becomes a heartfelt, shining and deep reality in their lives, they come to experience the security and genuineness of color-blind love.
Facing fears of being rejected is a difficult and painful struggle for some adoptees; yet we find this to be a common issue to mankind as a whole. Only Jesus can fill the empty spot in our lonely hearts seeking love and acceptance.
Adoption paints a beautiful picture of how God adopts us into his spiritual family through his son, Jesus. As it says in Romans 8:15, “But Ye have received the spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba Father.”
How beautiful! As we accept this unmerited love from God and simply repent our sins, he welcomes us into his family with open arms.
How about trying our baked beans? It’s similar to what we had at the adoption meeting. I often cook my own pork and beans, but I’ve listed canned pork and beans to make the recipe easier for most people, but you can do either.
GLORIA’S THREE-BEAN BAKED BEANS
16-ounce can kidney beans
16-ounce can butter or lima beans
16-ounce can pork and beans
½ pound bacon
2 small onions, chopped
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
Mix the beans together and don’t drain the juice.
Cook bacon until half done and then add remaining sauce, ingredients. Heat. Pour over beans and mix well. Bake uncovered at 350 for one hour.