March 9, 2015
The word strikes emotional chords. UNICEF says that there are 153 million orphans in the world; the designation applies to a child who has lost one or both parents. Only 10% have lost both parents; of those, only 5% are under five years old. In the country of South Africa, the orphan population is estimated by UNICEF to be approaching 5 million.
Six weeks ago, a family of five left Orange County bound for Durban, South Africa. Today, a family of six will land back in OC. Benjamin (his new given name) Wandile (wan-dee´-lay; his birth name) has joined the clan photo; my daughter and son-in-law have made room in their family life for a little man (he was 4 in August) who has no clue what’s about to unfold.
Four weeks ago, a judge in a Durban, SA courtroom pronounced the adoption legal, and then asked the whole family – Jason, Erin, Max, Cate and Avery – to come down the hall to his chambers, with Ben Wandile in tow. When the door closed, the judge prayed a blessing over BW and his new family (only God could orchestrate a Christian judge to invoke divine favor over this holy affair!).
The last month has been a reminder that what God blesses, government complicates. The process has been arduous – meeting the requirements of the South African protocols and obtaining immigration documents from the American Embassy – but necessary. All of the boxes were checked Friday. Without control over the approvals, no advance travel reservations were possible. Walk-up tickets for a king’s ransom, finding six seats on international flights, connecting in Atlanta after a week of winter weather delays; the obstacles continued to be real, but the motivation was robust: they were heading home!
The Krusiewicz family will come to baggage claim to find a cheering flash mob of friends and family who are putting Monday demands on hold as they extend a robust welcome to a little guy who speaks more Zulu than English, but will read the body language that transcends vocabulary.
From a rural orphanage north of Durban to a suburban community south of Los Angeles, he’s getting off a space ship to find life on another planet. Wildebeest and giraffe came calling for BW a month ago; now, he’ll be hiking in Peter’s Canyon with dogs on leashes and coyotes in the bushes. Erin and Jason began the process 40 months ago – before he even arrived at the orphanage – and the whole family started talking with the Father about the son they wanted to bring into their family. He didn’t have a name until Thanksgiving, when the South African social services folks zeroed-in on BW.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will…” (Ephesians 1:3-5).
God uses family – constantly – as metaphor to describe His relationship with us. Jesus described His Father as our Heavenly Father (Matthew 6:9); Paul portrays the relationship Jesus has with His Church as a parallel to monogamous marriage (Ephesians 5:25). And, our individual acceptance into God’s family is imaged using adoption – not natural birth – as the picture of the genesis of the bond.
Next year, our Christmas picture will have a 12th person, on the front line. He’ll be easy to spot; he’s the only African (soon to be American, when all of the final paperwork clears) in the mix.
“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands…” (Revelation 7:9).
Ngiyakwemukela – Welcome home, Benjamin Wandile. Can’t wait to meet you…