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KEEPING THE FAITH | The blessings of adoption

Despite this pandemic, the need for Forever Homes continues to exist in our community. I hope you will not ignore the message: Our children need us!
RevLewisMacklin032020
The Rev. Lewis W. Macklin

When I don’t see where things are going or how they will be resolved, Roman 8:28 has always been a reminder to me to just trust God in the process: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” 

Several years ago, I was unknowingly deeply conflicted. As the president of a local professional chapter, its parent body had a position statement denouncing the practice of transracial adoptions of children. While it provided plausible reasoning why the practice of placing children in homes outside of their ethnic heritage and experience should not be the norm, it fell woefully short on offering alternatives and solutions to secure loving homes from within their heritage. 

Not realizing the inner conflict, I pretty much was a detached leader from the organization. Long story short, I resigned from the office and pretty much the organization after mutually recognizing my lackluster commitment. Yet, that haunting feeling continued to gnaw at me. What about the children that desire a forever home that is stable and loving. They deserve a home that does not cease to exist because they age out of the system or become emancipated.  The age of 18 is not that magical number where a person no longer needs any further guidance or support. 

Meanwhile, the principles of Romans 8:28 began its process of preparing my heart and home for the answer. 

Shortly after my resignation, our car was stolen while we attended a holiday event at Stambaugh Auditorium.  A few weeks later, I received a pleasant call from a lady, Mrs. Bradie Higgs, who found the Bible that was in my car on her lawn. While we did not know each other, she was able to determine from the contents and notes within the Bible that it was a cherished possession. Mind you, while the Youngstown area is not that big, she was still able to locate me in a time that was predated Google searches.  

We made arrangements to pick up the Bible at her home. Upon my arrival, I discovered Mrs. Higgs and her now-deceased husband, Robert, had adopted nearly 20 children, including a set of triplets!  She gave me a tour of the home and shared how it was a labor of love for her family. She kept stressing how the home is so complete by having this God- given family. Very casually, Mrs. Higgs suggested we consider adoption. 

I actually dismissed it citing our family of three at the time was more than adequate. However, this encounter is an example of “one waters, another plants yet God gives the increase!” Little did I know her sister-in-law, Sandra Smith-Graves, who is an educator would be just as impactful in this journey of awakening also. Intersectionality.

My wife and I talked about it later but gave it no serious consideration. Our families have an extensive history of formally or informally adopting children, however, I did not see that in our plans.  My wife and I actually only intended to have one child and was taking measures to ensure that, or so we thought! Romans 8:28 knew better! I am so glad God saw what we were not trying to see! 

It wasn't until a few months later that I stayed home from an evening worship service to nurse a pounding headache that it all became clear. I was watching WYTV’s evening news segment which featured "Sunday's Child" showcasing children that were available for a loving forever home. Clutching the hand of a dear friend Gail Waters, I saw an adorable young child who immediately captured my heart and would become our son! 

When my wife came home, I proclaimed that I saw our son on TV! My wife sent my daughter to retrieve a thermometer quickly to take my temperature. While my daughter was on that assignment, my wife grilled me: “What medications did you take while we were gone?” I then explained what I saw on television. I asked her to call Gail so that we could pick up our son. 

I don’t know if it was faith or naivety because I thought it would be just that simple. Not quite. Still, the process was relatively smooth with only a few hiccups along the way. They say that there is a book in all of us and my bucket list item is to write a book entitled “Nine Months Labor” further detailing these Romans 8:28 experiences. 

The power of Romans 8:28 continued in full effect as my wife, an early childhood educator at the time, would have a similar situation where she discovers our daughter who was a student in her preschool class.  My life has been blessed by these God-given gifts to nurture and care for unconditionally. 

Whether natural or supernatural, our children have been a blessing to my wife and I. We cast no judgment upon their biological parents. We are simply grateful they chose to give them life rather than death. 

In true Romans 8:28 fashion, the passion for adoption has taken me to a national platform to advocate. I was privileged to work alongside the Rev. George Clements, a longtime civil rights advocate from Chicago’s South Side, who was the visionary and founder of the One Church One Child concept. In 1981, he became the first priest to adopt a child. When he challenged members of his congregation to adopt no one came forward! Agitated, he declared to the chagrin of the diocese that he would adopt. 

His One Church One Child philosophy is simple: If every church would encourage and support a family to foster or adopt within its congregation there would be no displaced children.  His concept birthed a program that subsequently resulted in the adoption of more than 100,000 children nationwide. 

Father George was a wonderful agitator and motivator, even convincing Deacon John Jemison, a now-retired social worker with Mahoning County Children Services, and myself to host the annual National One Church One Child conference.

Louis Gossett Jr. and Malcom-Jamal Warner brought Clements’ life story to the screen in the 1987 made-for-television movie “The Father Clements Story.” The movie told the story of Clements’ journey to be the first priest to adopt a child. In all, he adopted four sons, and had eight grandchildren. Father George passed away November 2019 at the age of 87. 

That Romans 8:28 internal conflict with an organization and the encounter with such a warm and endearing woman simply seeking to return a treasured possession were the undercurrents of an emerging tsunami. I continue to thrust my energy supporting child welfare. Whether serving on the board of Mahoning County Children Services, presiding as the National Vice President of the One Church One Child Initiative or simply making whatever resources we have available to provide for youth in need it is always the hope to make an indelible difference and impact. 

I don't want to sound like a benevolent hero because, in truth, the lives God has placed within our lives have enriched us in ways that far exceed what we could ever provide. 

Despite this pandemic, the need for Forever Homes continues to exist in our community. I hope you will not ignore the message: Our children need us! The sacred texts cite numerous examples of foster and adopted children who changed the destiny of many, such as Moses. An at-risk child can become a child at-promise with your help. Indeed, it takes a village.  

To learn more about the process to foster or adopt and even to read the profile of children available visit mahoningkids.com or call Valarie Johnson at Mahoning County Children Services 330-941-8888

To all the adoptive and foster families and those who help find placement of our children in caring homes, I bless you! The Macklins’ Romans 8:28 journey is far from over as we formally welcome Emily, our 16-year-old daughter to the family, and we intend to keep the faith.  

— The Rev. Lewis W. Macklin II serves as the lead pastor of Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, chaplain for the Youngstown Police Department and local coordinator for the African American Male Wellness Walk of the Mahoning Valley. He resides in Youngstown with Dorothy, his partner in marriage and ministry. They share the love and joy of 6 children and 7 grandchildren.

All biblical citations are New Living Translation unless noted otherwise

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