Friday, December 26, 2008

A New Version of Christmas

For the first time in my life I didn’t get to spend either Christmas Eve or Christmas with my family this year. Even having lived for years overseas I still managed to make it back to that small town in Illinois to spend the holiday at home. And there is a genuine sadness and loss at not being with them yesterday.

But this Christmas introduced the new reality of my life. The first reality is that home is no longer Illinois, but Boston. And more specifically, wherever Minhee is. The second is that my occupation no longer allows me to travel over Christmas. As associate pastor I could still sneak away for the holidays but as lead pastor I cannot. And the third is that, given the first two realities, I now enter into that group of misfits who, at Christmas, will still be in a city where we have no family to gather with for Christmas dinner.

And that became very real at our home yesterday. Last night we had about 15 people over for Christmas dinner at our home. And as we feasted on ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, candied yams, butternut squash (loaded w/ delicious garlic), green beans and some yummy chocolate cake for dessert, I truly got a small taste of what heaven would be like.

It seemed that the far corners of the earth were sitting at our table last night, a group of geographical misfits all living in Boston and looking for family at Christmas anywhere we could find it. We did have a couple of locals and a few folks whose families are stateside but just weren’t able to make it back to L.A., San Francisco, or wherever they are from. But others were truly a world away from home. Yumi from Japan, Dae and Maria (w/ daughter Olivia) from Australia, twin sisters Noi and Nuchy from Thailand, and Neil and Katy (w/ daughter Jasmine) from the UK… all geographical misfits.

But as we prayed, and ate, and talked, and opened small gifts, my heart was full. Christmas in Illinois is always a really wonderful time and I am very sad to have missed it. Christmas w/ my mom and dad, brother, grandparents, uncle and cousins is a defining picture of where I come from, and I love it. But Christmas this year was a defining picture of where I am going, and I loved that too. Dinner last night made me long even more for heaven, to gather with the nations of the world, those of us who had lived as resident aliens together on this earth, and to once and for all belong, to fit in, and to be with family forever.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Choose Adoption - Day #2

On Saturday morning we took to the streets again. This week Minhee was able to come with me and we were joined by Roger & Phyllis Myung, Paul and Helen Kahn and Jane Chang who graciously provided coffee and donuts!! It was only 30 degrees so the coffee was essential for survival.

Again, this week we had no response from any woman entering or leaving the clinic...and sadly, there were many. And again, there were loads of protesters on the streets but there were also "Planned Parenthood Escorts" standing outside. The escorts had special vests on identifying themselves and were all volunteers, there to help bring the women through the crowd and into the clinic. And it is the juxtaposition between the protesters and escorts that informs my reflection for this week.

Just like last week, the protesters were almost exclusively caucasian men and women, Roman Catholic, and 60 years old or more. Some were standing in front of the clinic when we arrived passing out literature and trying to engage those entering the clinic in dialogue but the vast majority arrived after we were already there. They had formed a large group a few blocks away and eventually made their way to the clinic in a parade-like procession. As they walked they sang songs, shouted Hail Mary's and recited the Lord's prayer. They stopped in front of the clinic and kept vigil there for the next 90 minutes, all the while singing and praying.

These folks could not have been more different from the protesters they stood next to. The escorts were men and women and they were young (most of them in their late 20's and 30's). They stood calmly and silently for the majority of the morning, only becoming active when a young woman was approaching the clinic. Sometimes they would approach the woman to walk her in. At other times they would actively walk/stand between the woman and protesters who were approaching her, standing as a shield between the two.

When Minhee and I arrived there were both a couple of protesters and escorts on the street. I approached one of the escorts to ask about where we were planning to sit. He was courteous and told us where we wanted to settle was fine. On the other hand, the protesters seemed aggressive and angry immediately telling us the escorts wouldn't give us any helpful information. And here is heart of my reflection...

If I am a young woman approaching this clinic I see two very different groups of people. I see older men and woman holding rosaries, shouting prayers (some over personal amplifiers) and marching around. They come off as aggressive and upset and I can tell that I am not their friend.

I also see a group of people standing quietly but approaching to help me. They are young, they look like me, and they are coming to help me. Their job is wholly to cover and protect me and to help me get where I am going. They do seem like friends...or at least like they could be friends.

And as we sat there on Saturday my heart broke again. Jesus stood over the woman caught in adultery and when everyone else wanted to stone her for what she had done it was Jesus who covered and protected her until the crowd dispersed. And as I sat on the street on Saturday I saw a bunch of people holding pictures of Jesus in their hands and claiming to speak on his behalf. And then I saw others who had no pictures of Jesus but were standing as protectors from the crowd just the way Jesus did. And I was confused.

As we enter week #3 of this experiment I find that my desire to protect the unborn and to adopt a baby is as strong as ever. But with that, I also find my compassion for the women who enter that clinic is growing and I hope so much that over time I will find a way to be the voice in the crowd that is able to speak words of protection and compassion over both woman and child. I don't yet know exactly how to do that but those are the words and courage I am now looking for.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Choose Adoption - Day #1

Wow!! Not what I expected. There is so much to process but I'm going to write it raw - literally - straight from the street.

First off, I was very fortunate to have the fearless Yumiko Nakagawa and Dave Swaim out there with me today. It was a huge boost not being alone on day one. Let me give you a brief rundown of what happened and then follow that with a few reflections.

We arrived around 9:30am and immediately found a host of protestors on the street in front of the clinic. They were typical protestors, predominantly Roman Catholic, all over 50 years old, and all Caucasian. Many had signs, some had rosaries and a few were handing out literature to random pedestrians. For the most part they were actually pretty pleasant, simply doing their best to save a life.

The problem came with a priest who was there. He was not respectful or pleasant, but harsh and mean. As women would enter or exit the clinic he would begin to scream "This is a killing facility, don't murder your baby!" and then quickly enter into a song "Lord, have mercy" or he would pray.

There was a biker who stopped and began yelling at this priest, which I find hard to blame him for, but the priest did not relent. Eventually the biker rode off and as he left the priest yelled "Jesus loves you" to which the biker passionately responded "I don't want his f***ing love, he's f***ing dead, and I hope you f***ing die too!" Needless to say, I was sick to my stomach at this point and wondering just what I was getting myself into. And the thought of sitting next to these protestors and perhaps being found guilty by association became a bit scary. So Yumi, Dave and I decided to do some scouting and research first.

We talked to a number of the protestors there and got a ton of information. Almost all of the abortions apparently happen in the morning, between 7:30am - 11am (tues-sat). The organizer of the protestors who has been doing this for decades said that this clinic alone does about 20 abortions per day. If that is correct that means this one clinic performs over 5,000 abortions each year (which is probably about right since this is Boston's primary abortion clinic and there are an average of 1.3 million abortions each year in America).

After about an hour of discussion and research we found a spot, sat down and I put out my sign. We sat there for about an hour and a half. Nobody talked to us but people did read my sign. I heard one young woman say to her friend with a surprised and enthusiastic tone "I like that sign!" So I was encouraged by that. But overall our time was free of any drama or incident.

And now that day one is over here are my three initial reflections:
  1. We need to quiet the voices of those that only serve to harden the hearts of those that pass by. I am convinced that the screaming priest saved no lives but did inspire deep frustration and bitterness. I cannot imagine how hard it must be for young women whose lives are already spinning from an unplanned pregnancy who then have to walk past a priest screaming "Murderer!" in their ears. This Sunday I am preaching on the woman caught in adultery in John 8 and that priest this morning sure looked like a Pharisee with a rock. Seriously, "Lord have mercy!"
  2. This is going to take a long time. If I had any warm and fuzzy visions about the effectiveness of this strategy they are gone now. To find a woman who will make this crazy and difficult decision to let us adopt her child will not be easy. And I'm not sure a clever sign or a desiring couple will change that. We definitely need a little bit of Holy Spirit for this job.
  3. There is hope. One young woman who was going to Planned Parenthood this morning for her abortion did turn back and went instead to a crisis pregnancy center nearby (called "A Woman's Concern") to consider the options of parenting or adoption. So there are women who do change their minds in the last moments.
My greatest sadness is that I will only be there one morning per week which means the women who go in the other 4 days will not see my sign. If that one courageous mother is out there I sure hope God puts me at the right place at the right time.

Thanks for reading...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Choose Adoption

Tomorrow is a big day. I feel like a kid getting ready for his first day of kindergarten. I've thought about what I will wear, what I need to bring with me and about what others will think of me. I am both nervous and excited and not sure exactly what to expect.

Minhee and I have now been married almost 6 years and over the course of our marriage we have grown more and more excited about making adoption a part of our family make-up. As Christians we know very well that we were children without hope. And yet God in his mercy, and through great personal sacrifice, brought us as sons and daughters into his family. And that truth inspires us to invite other children, though not born to us physically, fully into our family and to love them fully as our own.

At the same time, for as long as I can remember I have held deep passions around the issue of abortion. Most obviously for the unborn children who are left unprotected in our nation and are not given their Biblical and constitutional right to life. But also for the mothers who are left with such an overwhelmingly difficult decision and who are often left feeling that there is no right or winning choice.

And in light of these two things I had an idea a few months ago. What if these two issues got married? It turns out there is a Planned Parenthood clinic within walking distance of our new apartment, what if I make a sign and sit out in front of that location asking some woman to consider allowing us to adopt her baby? What if she was given a winning choice and the chance to be the hero in this crazy situation she finds herself in? What might happen?

As soon as the idea came I knew I wanted to do it. In part because it allows Minhee and me the great privilege of starting a family and in part because it gives me the chance to stand up for these unborn children in a way that juxtaposes the traditional Christian protester, instead speaking a strong word with (I hope) love and compassion. But as we thought about it more the concept wasn't quite as simple and straightforward as we first thought.

Not only does this open us up to adoption of any race or ethnicity, but it also opens us up to more complicated issues. What if there is a developmental problem with the baby? What if there is drug abuse? If some courageous mother accepted this invitation but was carrying a child with these issues, is there any way we could deny her? I hope not. But if there is no saying no, then what might "yes" mean? Minhee and I struggled through these questions together until we were ready to move forward - which is now.

And so tomorrow begins the next chapter in this story as I take the sign that Paul Kahn so patiently and skillfully designed (pictured above) and sit down in front of that Planned Parenthood clinic. I am actually really nervous which doesn't happen much to me, but also very excited to be taking the next step.

I've been really inspired by the support I've received from those of you who know what's going on and have also been asked to keep people up to date with how things are going. So, at least in the near future, I'm going to be posting previews and afterthoughts here on my blog so that those who are interested will know what's happening.

Please pray for Minhee and me and even more for some outstandlingly courageous mother.