“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.'” Romans 8:15
November on the Mexico border can be a miserable time for mission projects. I was on a project in Matamoros and the rain fell steadily, making lakes out of ponds. The mud stuck to your shoes as you walked around, adding a couple of slippery pounds to each foot.
Despite the rain, the group of 130 Atlanta men and 60 Bible school students, translators and staff made quite an impact on the slum in which we worked. Not only did 119 Mexicans give their lives to Christ as the result of their outreaches, but the guys on the project also built 10 houses.
Groups of men along with translators and Bible school students visited the homes in the area. When the rain really began to fall, one group took shelter in the home of Francisco and his family. Inside, the group shared their stories. Priscilla, a Bible school student, talked about her childhood.
“My father used to beat me. One day when I was six years old, I accidentally killed a chicken. My father was very mad. In a fury, he threw me out in the street. I didn’t know what to do or where to go. So I wandered the streets crying. Fortunately, another little girl saw me and took me in to her home. I never was able to go back home to my family.”
“Later in life, a friend shared what Jesus had done to take away my pain. What could I do but accept his gift?”
At this point in her story, the group was close to tears. John, a retired salesman and one of the two American men in the room, knew he needed to do something to reach out to Priscilla. He looked at her and said, “Priscilla, I’ll be your father! I’ll adopt you. You’ll be my daughter and I’ll support you!” Then he gave her a big hug.
John’s gesture was so spontaneous and heartfelt that the rest of the group was dumbstruck. The translator was so moved, he couldn’t interpret John’s words for half a minute. The group came to minister to Francisco’s family, but found that God used the rain and the circumstances to enable them to minister to one another.
Adoption is taking the unwanted or inconvenient and hugging them to your breast. It means grafting into the family. It means sonship, becoming an inheritor of the estate, a keeper of all that is worth passing on in a family. It is also a doctrine, a piece of theology that we need to understand from the inside out – we are all Priscilla, orphaned in a violent world. And just when it looked as though our orphan status was confirmed, God our Father rose up, pointed in our direction and said, “That one is mine, she lives with me.”
Priscilla had learned the doctrine of adoption before in class. But on that soggy day in the Mexican mud, theology became praxis.