As Luis Bush says in The Yes Effect, Invitation 8: Lead Your Followers, “Whether you look at the abortion statistics in developed nations or the child abandonment statistics in developing counties, it is clear that too many adults see children as expendable or insignificant.”
Even in daily interactions in family life throughout the world, children may be treated as an afterthought. Luis points out that church leadership isn’t exempt as they can get caught up in “materialism, consumerism, and the prosperity gospel, each congregation working to achieve megachurch status” and miss the chance to disciple young people in the key window between the ages of 4 and 14.
Whether through biological parenthood, adoption, extended family, friends, or children’s ministry at your local church, you have the incredible opportunity to build a solid foundation for the next generation to know God and make Him known.
This involves teaching children the Word of God, helping them discern God’s leading in their lives through prayer, and giving them opportunities to activate their faith. As Luis says, “Unless we want to stunt their growth, we must open our hands and let each child embark on his or her own journey of faith and service.”
As today’s guest, Kristin Berry, reflects on her own childhood, she remembers the strong love and mentorship of her grandfather, a man who overcame many disappointments and dysfunctions from his family of origin to build a solid relational and spiritual foundation for her. His influence helped her be attentive to God’s whisper in childhood, which eventually led her as an adult to open her home to 22 foster children and 8 adopted children.
I’ve known Kristin and her husband Mike since the early 2000s when my husband and I played in the youth group band where the Berry family served. It’s been a real joy to watch both their family and their ministry expand over the years. These days, they serve tens of thousands of people as they travel to speak to other families in the trenches, and share honest insights and uplifting words in their books and at Confessions of an Adoptive Parent.
In 60 years, I will be gone.
Oh, I suppose I could be one of those people who live to be 105. In that case let’s just say, in 65 years, I will be gone. I will cease to breathe, my heart will not beat, my voice will not speak, I will no longer write. I will be gone. Logic tells me this is true but often I am convinced that I will be here forever. I see myself in the future. I believe there is work to be done but I forget that I am not the only one capable of this work. Our future lies in this next generation and the next and the next after that. The work I do today will impact the work that is done for thousands of years to come even though in just a mere hundred years, no one will even remember my name.
So what does that mean?
What is my purpose in this very short life?
To answer this question, I must back up 100 years, to another person who no longer lives. His breath has been absent for decades. This person is my great grandfather. For reasons that are unknown to me, he did not value his own children. He did not consider the future of those that were entrusted to him. He did not see a future past his own. I am here because of him. I am here in spite of him. I am here because someone who no longer exists on this earth broke a cycle of abuse and neglect that had been woven through generations. I am here because my grandfather shook the dust off his feet and told his past goodbye. I am here because my grandfather planted his feet firmly and with a soul freed from his past, he looked toward the future. His future, his son’s future, his granddaughter’s future. My future.
When I became an adult, I was challenged with the same vision of the future. I was challenged to look forward, beyond myself to my daughter, to my granddaughter, and farther. When I see past myself I am challenged to use my limited time wisely. I chose to adopt my first daughter as a response to a call I first felt as a small child to provide a home and loving arms. The call to step up for the next generation. I have since adopted all eight of my children.
I believe there is work to be done but I forget that I am not the only one capable of this work.
Our future lies in this next generation and the next and the next after that.
The work I do today will impact the work that is done for thousands of years to come
even though in just a mere hundred years, no one will even remember my name.
-Kristin Berry, author of Born Broken: An Adoptive Journey
My first call toward adoption was in response to a whispered need I heard from this younger generation, however I now see the call as something different. What started as a need is now a force. My children are strong and capable. Their need has been transformed. They are answering a call of their own in this world.
The next generation is filled with leaders, worshippers, servants, innovators. The generations to come are also children of our most amazing Lord. They are being called in that great rushing whisper that I too hear in my quiet moments. They are moved toward change. They are filled with desire to do the work of creating a home here among their fellow brothers and sisters that will be stronger and more loving and filled with even more hope and conviction than my generation could ever imagine. They will build on the work of those who have come before. They will stand on the foundation our generation builds. What a calling to build a solid platform for their future work!
Investing in our children is the key to everything. They are our world. They are the voice that continues on after ours no longer exists. They are the heartbeat of our world even when we close our eyes for the last time.
If I’m honest, I still feel that desire to remain present forever. I hate to think of the day that I can’t tell my children I love them anymore. That’s when I remember that my grandfather can no longer whisper in my father’s ear. But when I tuck my children in at night, wrapping my fingers around theirs in prayer, I whisper ‘I love you,” my grandfather whispers too. The voices of generations before fill my heart and speak through me the words they can no longer say, “My little child, you are so valued, loved and filled with strength.”
One day, my feet will no longer walk this earth but my investment in my children will live on. When they fold their hands in prayer the memory of my love will join their voices as they lift their own praise to our Lord.
Kristin Berry is the former foster mom to 22 children, mom of 8 fantastic children (all of whom are adopted), mother-in-law to two fine young men, and grandmother. She has been married to her husband, Mike, since college, and together they write and speak for Confessions of An Adoptive Parent, a ministry they began after two of their sons were diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Her book, Born Broken, is a must-read for those caring for children affected by substance abuse, early childhood trauma, abandonment, and attachment issues.