A Seat at the Table

A seat at the table is far more than an invitation into our adoption journey; it is also an expression of how and why we feel called to adoption. In James 1:27 God says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” God’s Word has a lot to say on caring for orphans. In Psalm 68:5-6a it tells us, “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, Is God in His holy habitation. God sets the solitary in families.” This is our God Who has brought us out of darkness into light and invited us to partake in His Holy inheritance. We have been offered a seat at His table. We have been adopted, grafted into Gods family through His Son Jesus Christ. His Word also tells us in Isaiah 1:18, “Learn to do good, seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.” And this is what we are striving for now.

There is a story in the Bible–lesser known than most–that gives a beautiful and precious picture of adoption. King David became king under very sad and violent circumstances, including a civil war with the previous king, Saul. By the time David was fully in control of the kingdom, Saul and his sons–including Jonathan, David’s truest and best friend–were all dead. In spite of the hatred Saul had toward him and the resulting battles that were fought, David mourned his death and the fall of his household. Our story comes from 2 Samuel chapter 9:

  • 1} And David said, “Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” 2} Now there was a servant of the house of Saul whose name was Ziba, and they called him to David. And the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?” And he said, “I am your servant.” 3} And the king said, “Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God to him?” Ziba said to the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in his feet.” 4} The king said to him, “Where is he?” And Ziba said to the king, “He is in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar.” 5} Then King David sent and brought him from the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar. 6} And Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and paid homage. And David said, “Mephibosheth!” And he answered, “Behold, I am your servant.” 7} And David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always.” 8} And he paid homage and said, “What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?” 9} Then the king called Ziba, Saul’s servant, and said to him, “All that belonged to Saul and to all his house I have given to your master’s grandson. 10} And you and your sons and your servants shall till the land for him and shall bring in the produce, that your master’s grandson may have bread to eat. But Mephibosheth your master’s grandson shall always eat at my table.” Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants. 11} Then Ziba said to the king, “According to all that my lord the king commands his servant, so will your servant do.” So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table, like one of the king’s sons. 12} And Mephibosheth had a young son, whose name was Mica. And all who lived in Ziba’s house became Mephibosheth’s servants. 13} So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate always at the king’s table. Now he was lame in both his feet.

And so this: A Seat at the Table.

Hunger is a terrible thing. Not the kind of hunger we are familiar with, that is easily sated by any one of a dizzying variety of quick, cheap foods. Not the kind of hunger we feel when we have missed a meal or are recovering from a stomach flu. Not even the hunger we feel when we have fasted for a number of days. There is another hunger, which i am certain very few of us know; it is an uncertain hunger, it is the kind of hunger that never knows how long it will last or if it will ever end. It is a frightful, miserable hunger that consumes the body and mind, and which leaves rational thought far behind raw survival.

There is also emotional hunger, a pining, a longing; a hunger of desire, of near hopelessness and despair. It is no doubt this type of hunger King Solomon had in mind when he wrote “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” {Proverbs 13:12}. It has even more capacity to consume and to control those whom it touches, and we are all much more familiar with its touch.

There is yet another type of hunger: spiritual hunger. Now, eating and drinking are two of the most basic human functions required for us to live, just after breathing; indeed, no one alive has ever failed to eat or drink for long. Without food or water, our bodies will shut down and we will die. This is why we see God comparing His word to food and to water in the pages of Scripture. I have two examples in mind, both of them stark and clear in their comparison and implication.

1) In Deuteronomy Moses is laying out the commandments that God laid out for the Israelites before they went into the desert. He is reminding them of His rules and of the ways that He has watched over and sustained them throughout their long wandering. In chapter 8, verse 3, Moses tells the people, “And [God] humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” So here hunger was used by God as a teaching tool about spiritual truth, and about the supreme importance of His word in our lives.

2) John chapter 4 is one of my favorite moments of Jesus’ teaching ministry. In it, Jesus and His disciples come to Samaria, a land that lay between two Jewish destinations and which was made up of half-breed Jews called Samaritans. To the religious rulers of the day, Samaritans were considered unclean and unworthy, and were barred from worshiping at the temple in Jerusalem. So it is here, in the midst of a rejected and marginalized people, that Jesus, growing weary from His journey, takes a rest at the fountain in the middle of town while His disciples go to buy food. And here we pick up the story:

  • 7} There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8} (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9} The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10} Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11} The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12} Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13} Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14} but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

So here Jesus uses basic human thirst to point to our condition of spiritual dryness. This is something any one of us can relate to, that no matter how much water we might ever drink, we will always be thirsty again. This is just how our bodies work, and our spirits are similar, but Jesus offers a spiritual remedy that lasts: salvation in Him, which is also adoption.

Paul lays this out brilliantly in Galatians 4:4-7, where he tells us:

  • 4} But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5} to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6} And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7} So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

And in Romans 8:23, he writes, “we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”

All this is possible because of Jesus’ willing sacrifice on the cross, as Hebrews 2:14-15 says, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” So it is that because Jesus Christ is the perfect obedient Son of God, we who are His share in that familial bond, and have the hope of glory in adoption as sons. Amen.

This brings us to our own adoption. All of the things we have spoken about apply here: hunger, desire, longing, thirst, rejection, hope–it is all on display in this process. Above all we want to be obedient to God and to Christ who purchased us by His blood; and so we extend the mercy and love He has shown to us to another.

A quick history:

We first became interested in Ukraine by hearing about how it was opening up to the gospel, and how the word was spreading and producing fruit there, in a post-Communist country. Ok, noted. A short time later, we moved to Dickinson, and one of the features we noted right away was the Ukrainian Institute on Villard. Neat. Then, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, no doubt, we found out about a church in a small village in Ukraine that was doing things that we felt were interesting and exciting, so we reached out to the pastor and he invited us to come and check it out. Accepted.

By this point we were ready to go and actually serve there, and put a very small team together and did just that–spending two weeks at Camp LELA, a summer camp for orphans. Upon our return we also began hosting two Ukrainian boys, and we are now working towards bringing one of them home (as only one of them is currently eligible for adoption).

R, left, and A.

Many of you walked through this hosting journey with us, in many different ways, as some brought meals, donated towards the cost of bringing them, and even took time to celebrate with us and get to know them with us.

Molly and Asher, right, without whom none of this would have happened.
Armando giving the boys fly haircuts.
Bowling with Zack, center, whose Russian language skills were indispensable during the boys’ visit. Also present is Amber, who is the same age as R and was a good friend to both boys.

As some of you know, R turned 16 in May, and we only barely got paperwork in to keep him from aging out of the orphanage system.

We feel it necessary to speak a little on what aging out means. At 16 the kids leave the orphanage and head off to technical schools often of very low quality. The live in dorm-like or hostel-like environments with no adult supervision and really no life skills to keep them on track. Of these children around 60% of boys will end up in jail, 60% of girls will turn to a life of prostitution and 10% will commit suicide by the time they are 18. Drugs and alcohol are rampant and teen pregnancy affects about 50% of aged out girls then repeating the vicious cycle placing their children back into the orphanage. It takes one loving adult to change of life of a child. There are over 100,000 orphans in Ukraine which is the highest per capita in the world and although the majority are social orphans they are growing up in institutions that meet a need for food and shelter but rarely go much further then that. Education is limited and as they walk out into the adult world on there own they will always be labeled an orphan on their documents which makes it extremely difficult to get very far in their culture. They are labeled and stigmatized and it is very hard to break out of it without the guidance and care of a loving adult. I will speak to the fact that many ministries are starting up to meet this need, the church is mobilizing doing job creation, Bible studies, transition home living but it currently can not keep up with the rate the children are aging out. Two years ago i had the privilege of attending Christian Alliance For Orphans and it was said in America the number of beds available in prison is often predicted by the children aging out of the foster system. I believe the same could be said for Ukraine. During our process I can say God used one specific man to help us during this time, his name is Dima Murkin, he was formerly the camp coordinator at camp LELA now he works in the community where our son is from. He pours into these children through out the week and is working on building a transition home right there is R’s area. (if you would be interested in helping Dima in any way, you can contact him at: dimamurkin@gmail.com) He has been able to communicate with R, give him work at the church, get him English lessons and get packages to him. Please remember Dima and the work he is doing, pray for him! In fact he will making a trip to the states this spring to share his vision. If any of your churches would allow him to share please contact us. There is such a great need for children who have and are aging out. After the age of 5 the kids chances of being adopted decrease by a large percent. Children four and under have a 1 in 3 chance of being adopted. Children 5 to 11 have a 1 in 15 chance of being adopted. And children 12 and up have a 1 in 100 chance of of being adopted. The chances of them being adopted as a male are even less likely.

Dima, left, who has been watching out for R.

The process from that point has been a roller coaster of paperwork and emotions, and we cannot thank everyone enough for the continued support that we have received. This has truly been a community effort that is still ongoing. So here is a little update on where we are in this lengthy process:

Since the boys left in August, we have been working nonstop to get all of our paper work in order. Our first major milestone was the completion of our home study on Sept 11. We then were able to send that piece of paper work on to US Immigration, were given an appointment for fingerprinting on Oct 10, and are now anxiously awaiting approval to move on to the next step, which is our dossier. As many of you know, with each step of the process comes a new fee. The Lord has certainly been our provision in this time, as we have seen Him move through His church and even through the different steps of paperwork when things seemed to hit a snag. He has been more than sufficient and upheld us along the way.

We have always felt it is best to be transparent. I have always wondered about each step and fee in the adoption journey so we felt it best to lay it out before you. Total cost is $36,375, this includes both the expenses broken down by the adoption agency, as well as home study and travel fees, and all of the additional fees that add up with paperwork submission requirements.

We are still in need of about $24,000 (UPDATE: the dinner raised $3200, bringing our need down to $20,850. Thank you all so much, you are awesome!) We are working hard to raise these funds through working overtime, taking on little side jobs such as paper route and babysitting, selling donated items online, painting parties, and various grants; we also want to give the opportunity to partner with us in getting R home through helping us piece our family back together by sponsoring a puzzle piece (*update to follow regarding the puzzle). If it is on your heart to give and share in the journey with us we also have a PayPal which is linked to the donate button on the top right of the blog page. Please feel free to follow our journey on this blog and share with your friends and families. Finally, and most importantly, we ask that you would continue to pray for our family and our son. The more people we have praying the better. Please pray for our paper work, for God’s favor and provision moving it through the process in a timely fashion, please ask that the Lord would keep our hands from making paper work mistakes, please pray for our hearts to trust and follow Jesus and for our son thousands of miles away to know the love of the Savior and the love our family.

The Armstrongs, complete.
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One thought on “A Seat at the Table

  1. Hi. Thank you for letting me know about your blog when I met you in Sportsman Ski. in Kalispell before Christmas. I liked reading your blog, and would like to know more about your most recent trip on Dec. 26. 2017. I am not sure how to get a hold of you, but if you, Ashley, get this you can text me at
    406-491-4804.

    Like

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