Kirsten: Welcome to kirstenkline.com for the latest edition of our “Women Who Move” blog series. I am pleased to host a fellow sister in the Lord and adoptive mama Jillian Burden here today! Jillian recently adopted her son from Russia and is passionate about adoption advocacy as well as children’s ministry. Welcome Jillian!
Jillian: Thank you so much for having me! I love sharing what God has done in my life and it is always an honor to share in someone else’s space!
Kirsten: Can you share a little bit about your story? What first inspired you to get involved in children’s ministry?
Jillian: When I was in high school, I was walking through an airport on the way home from a trip I had taken with a group of peers, when one of my friends said to me, “You know, I don’t know anyone who looks at kids the way you do. You look so happy when you watch them play.” I had been watching a pair of toddlers playing on the ground by their mama’s feet as she waited for her flight. That was probably the first moment when I realized that I appreciated children differently than most. After that remark, I walked through life with a heightened sense of awareness, constantly interested in the fact that I enjoyed the presence and company of children more than most. I started to wonder if God would have me do something with that gift.
Even greater than my love for children, however, was my passion for my faith as a Christian. I went to a Bible College in earned a degree in Pre-Seminary Studies, anticipating that I would go on to seminary and earn a Masters in Divinity to become a pastor. As seminary approached, however, I could not shake the sense that I was taking a misstep. Through a series of events, God led me to enroll in a different seminary degree program: one focused more on the educational ministries of the church. It could not have been a better fit! I loved learning about the Bible and how to equip others to pass on our faith to both new believers and to our children’s generation.
In the years since I graduated from seminary, God has continued to refine my calling and marry my passion for children and the Christian faith in the area of Orphan Care. The first and boldest step I’ve taken in this direction has been to adopt my son, with my husband. Our adoption has not been a “ministry” of course, however I tried to use our story to minister to others through my blog, in which I chronicle our adoption and parenting journey from a spiritual perspective.
Kirsten: Why do you feel it is important to invest in the next generation–specifically at the early childhood age?
Jillian: I feel that way because God has clearly commanded us to do it! In Deuteronomy 6 God’s people are commanded to impress God’s law upon the hearts of their children. Even before the social sciences could confirm it, God knew that our earliest teachings shape who we are for the rest of our lives. I want the children in my life to know who they are in Christ- created, loved, forgiven, purposed people- more than they know anything else. Only when our identity is secure in Christ can we rightly fulfill our purposes in life, family, and career.
Kirsten: What advice do you have for someone who wants to pursue early childhood education (as a ministry or career)?
Jillian: Get used to being on your knees! When you work with children you will be on your knees all.the.time both as a servant wiping faces and floors and in prayer for patience, endurance, kindness, and strength. You will also be on your knees as you are humbled by the grace and joy those tiny little people will show you.
You should also probably get used to tearing up. I was never one quick to cry, but there is something about seeing a child grow in the love and knowledge of God that will move your heart so deeply. It is almost impossible not to cry about it!
Kirsten: Now let’s talk about your adoption. I, too, am passionate about adoption….Seth and I can’t wait to bring our little one home from Uganda! What made you choose Russia?
Jillian: Divine calling. When we started looking into adoption I had my heart set on finding a country that only required one trip and that would cost somewhere between the 20-25,000 range. Russia was three trips and $35,000! But we found our son’s picture and profile on a waiting children list and we knew God was calling us to pursue his adoption. When our hearts told us that he was our son, the country and the trips and the cost all faded into background noise. We wanted HIM and we would do whatever it took and go wherever we had to go in order to get to him.
Kirsten: I definitely understand that longing! We can’t wait to bring our sweet one home from Uganda! Your son has now been home for six months (yay!). What have been some of your greatest joys and challenges during that time?
Jillian: Last night as I put him to bed he put his hands on my cheeks and told me, “Five kisses Mama!” and planted them right on my lips. That’s my greatest joy. I think about all those nights when he climbed into his orphanage bed without a mama to stroke his hair or kiss his lips and I cry. His love is so tender and in his love my joy is complete.
My greatest challenges have been finding ways to cope with the painful realities of my son’s relinquishment. Adoption comes with such a paradoxical set of emotions because while I cannot imagine not having Arie as my son, I deeply grieve the fact that he lost his birth mother and his birth culture. I often think of it as a picture of the Christian faith: we focus on and celebrate our adoption and redemption, however there is always a part of us that grieves sin and The Fall and the fact that we ever needed to be redeemed in the first place.
Kirsten: Was there been a particularly meaningful Scripture verse that encouraged you throughout the adoption process?
Jillian: Yes. Joel 2:25 which says, “I will repay you for the years the locust have eaten.” This might seem an odd verse to rely on through an adoption process, but I would read it and think of the years I had missed with my son. He was 2 ½ when we brought him home and I deeply grieved those lost years. I would have given anything to hold him as an infant, to watch him take his first steps, to comfort him when he was ill, and to celebrate those two missed birthdays. I spent a lot of time lamenting those years in prayer, and I sensed God giving me that verse to tell me that he was going to restore them to me, in his time and in his way.
Kirsten: I love that! God is so faithful to restore the lost years to us! How has adopting your son changed you (besides the obvious ways of becoming a parent)?
Jillian: I am a much more peaceful person now. Before our adoption I would have described myself as Type A, controlling, precise, detail oriented etc etc., but the adoption process taught me to let go of that control and trust in God’s provision for my life. We had so little control in our adoption process that we honestly had no choice but to trust God. I would never have asked God to teach me that lesson in that way, but I am so grateful that he did. I still have the same personality traits, but they no longer define me. Instead of viewing my life as a series of events to control, I know see my life as a story that ebbs and flows. I am learning to breathe and walk more peacefully through the story.
Kirsten: How are you using your personal experiences with adoption to advocate for other orphans in need of homes? What does adoption represent for you personally?
Jillian: I am sharing our adoption story to encourage others toward orphan care. The “tagline” I use is that I write about our journey “and all the blessing, lament, joy, and conviction that happen along the way.” There is so much good that happens when we share our stories with honesty. Stories convict, inspire, warn, encourage, and so much more. In my own life, the best decisions I’ve made have all been results of stories I’ve heard about someone else who walked the path before me. My greatest joy is hearing other people saying, “I read your story and felt God prompting me to…” My prayer is that God will use our story to build his kingdom and reveal his glory.
For me, adoption represents redemption. Adoption is a picture of what God has done for us in Christ. While we were fatherless, God sent his son to restore us to relationship with him. Adoption is an example of how God takes broken situations and broken people and redeems them, giving them new life and new purpose. I was broken by my inability to conceive and God restored me as a mother by bringing me my son. My son was broken by his orphanhood and God restored him by setting him in our family. Adoption is a clear and beautiful picture of our spiritual reality: we are a broken people, redeemed by the love of our Father God.
Kirsten: I couldn’t agree more! What a beautiful journey! To read more of Jillian’s story, you can check out her blog at: addingaburden.com. Thanks so much for taking the time to share with my readers today, Jillian! I pray God’s blessings on you, your family, and your future journey!
Kirsten: Welcome to kirstenkline.com for the latest edition of our “Women Who Move” blog series. Joining us today is Christine, who is a Regional Mobilizer and Missionary with SEND International. Welcome, Christine!
Christine: Hi Kirsten! Thank you for having me on here, it’s so cool to be a part of what you’re doing.
Kirsten: Can you share with us a little bit of your back story? Did you always know that you wanted to go into missions?
Christine: No, I definitely didn’t. When I was younger, I wanted to be an engineer just like my dad. But then I realized I needed to enjoy studying math and science to pursue that. I actually wasn’t familiar with overseas missions until later high school into college. Some of my closest friend in college had grown up in missionary families and I learned a lot from them. In my second year at Cairn University, our chorale group did our end of the year tour in Poland, singing for community centers and church plants. I met some amazing missionaries that week and started to think that this is something God would have me be a part of.
Kirsten: Was there a defining moment where you knew that God was calling you to be a full-time missionary?
Christine: There have been many defining moments along the way. At first I thought, “Would God call me?” I considered it a privilege to be called to serve Him in that way (especially with my love of travel, getting to know people, and learning about different cultures!). I kept taking steps forward in that direction, getting to know missionaries, serving on short term trips, reading books on culture and missions – then just before I graduated from university, I was invited to apply to work with SEND International as a Regional Mobilizer. I’ve been blessed to be serving as a missionary, inviting others to serve as missionaries, while learning even more about what God is doing around the world. In the process of doing that, God has confirmed a call to me for serving overseas in the near future!
Kirsten: So what exactly does a Regional Mobilizer do? Give us an idea of what a day in the life of Christine looks like….
Christine: Two and a half years in and I’m still trying to figure that out! I think the reality is that there’s not a “typical day,” which is both freeing and frustrating. I’ve been blessed to have office space at my church office, near my apartment, since SEND’s headquarters is in Michigan and I’m in Pennsylvania. When I’m at the office, I’m emailing and calling people from the northeastern USA who have written to SEND through our website. I’m also following up on emails with contacts I’ve either met at conferences and schools or connected to through the web. I may be planning a coming trip or filling out monthly expense sheets. I also travel a lot! My region spans from Virginia to Maine and I’ll visit schools and individuals and attend missions conferences in those areas. On these trips, I might stand by a booth at a conference and have meals with people interested in missions. I get to meet incredible people and hear beautiful stories of how God is working. I’ve also been able to lead a few short-term trips and have helped train teams – that’s one of my favorite parts of the job.
Kirsten: There are a lot of pros and cons about short- term missions work. Many critics say that it’s more like a vacation for Americans than actual work for the kingdom of God. Why is short-term missions so important?
Christine: I am a short-term missions success story! It was through short-term trips that God opened my eyes to what He was doing around the world and invited me to join in that. There are indeed dangers in short term missions but with proper training, debrief, and communication with the field of service, it can be extremely effective for the kingdom of God. I see short term missions as important because it can unify the global church in a powerful way – your receivers can be encouraged by the short termers, having more hands to help and provide different opportunities to reach out than they can do on their own. Short termers develop a global perspective, learning more of who God is outside of their own cultural perspective. They bring that perspective back with them and they are changed because of it. Some of them even decide to make a longer commitment because of that change and because of what they have seen. Yes, we could only give money, but as David Platt says in his book Radical: “If we are going to accomplish the global purpose of God, it will not be primarily through giving our money, as important as that is. It will happen primarily through giving ourselves. This is what the gospel represents, and it’s what the gospel requires.”
Kirsten: Do you have a favorite story of when you were on the mission field that you can share with us?
Christine: Absolutely, although choosing which of many stories to tell is the hard part. Last summer, I was a part of a team of missionaries training short-termers for their three weeks in Europe. My good friend, Cindy, led a session on prayer walking and how there is power in physically walking around a place and asking God to show us what we see with His eyes. This is the key difference between walking while we pray and prayer walking – when we prayer walk, we ask God what He wants us to see and what He wants us to pray for, instead of covering a list. We had the students put this to practice by setting photos of their countries of service around the training room and encouraging them to take a “virtual prayer walk.” When we came back together it was incredible to hear how God had encouraged them to pray for the people and places represented in the photos. Cindy shared that prayer walking is something that can be done while won an errand or waiting in line, something simple that may not seem glamorous or productive. I could relate to that as on one of my first short-term trips I did a prayer walk with two missionaries and saw it as interesting but didn’t understand the impact. Later from Cindy I learned something that changed my perspective – when the short- termers came to her part of Europe and prayer walked in her community, doors opened for her weeks and months later to talk with the people who lived in the same community where the team prayed. Not only that, but those students who prayed connected with that community in a deeper way than had they simply walked around. Prayer is powerful. And the way we pray changes people hearts as it also changes our own hearts.
Kirsten: Do you eventually want to go on the mission field full-time? If so, where?
Christine: I do! Actually, I consider a lot of what I do now serving on the mission field. Look at it this way – pretend the task at hand is that we need to dig a hole. The missionaries are the ones going into the hole and doing the digging. But they don’t go alone; they have ropes tied around them for support. Those who hold those ropes for them are their supporting churches and individuals who give and pray so that they can go. So what is a mobilizer? We’re the ones running around outside of the hole telling others that we need more people to go and dig, that we need more people to hold ropes! I get to tell the stories of those who are digging in the holes and I get to find those who God is already calling to jump in. As I do this here in the States, God has been calling me to join Him in doing a similar work in the Philippines as He raises up Filipinos to “dig the hole” around the world as well – the global Church is moving in powerful ways!
Kirsten: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in missions work?
Christine: My first piece of advice is to keep taking steps forward in obedience to God. Sometimes those steps seem small (like doing your daily job or school faithfully when you don’t yet see the bigger picture of what’s next) and sometimes those steps seem huge (like applying to a missions agency of moving overseas). But keep moving forward, trusting God to do His work in your life and that He will lead you each step. He wants you to serve Him faithfully even more than you do. Secondly, do it! If you feel God directing you to overseas missions work and there are still reasons you need to be here (school, loans, etc) – don’t see missions as a future thing. Get involved now! We’re all called to make disciples of all nations, whether we live in our own country or another one. Get involved in your church, pray for missionaries and the Church around the world (gather a group of friends!), financially invest in missions (your heart in giving matters more than the amount you give!), reach out to international students (the world is coming to you!). Do something!
Kirsten: Why is missions work more critical now than before?
Christine: God’s mission has always been the same. At Cairn University’s Global Mission Week, speaker Dr. Joshua Bogunjoko, said: “God’s mission has always been the redemption of His people. The Great Commission is not the beginning of His mission.” Joining in God’s global mission has always been critical and now it’s more accessible. With technology progressing (transportation, the internet, etc.), we have the opportunity to use these resources to take the gospel to places where people have never heard the name of Jesus. It is critical now because there are still people around the world who do not know about God and that He sent His Son to die and conquer death in order that He could view us as clean and we could have life and eternal life in Him.
Kirsten: Thank you so much for being a part of today’s blog! I pray God’s blessings on you and your future ministry. Where can a reader find more information about SEND?
Kirsten: I know the coolest people!
Kirsten: Good morning, Susan, and thanks so much for joining us here at kirstenkline.com for our Women Who Move Series!
Susan: Thank you! I love what God is doing through you to inspire and shepherd other people.
Kirsten: Why don’t you start by sharing a little bit about yourself and your family?
Susan: My wonderful husband Joe and I have three children and have lived in the Mechanicsburg area for about 15 years. Joe is an author and a teacher and serves in ministry in many capacities. We homeschool our children. I am a graduate student at Ashland Theological Seminary working toward a degree in Theology. My passions are prayer and serving in ministry related to human sex trafficking.
Kirsten: For the several years that I have known you, one aspect of your character that has stood out to anyone who has had the chance to get to know you is that you have a strong sense of internal justice. Is that sense of justice what motivated you to get involved in the campaign to stop human trafficking?
Susan: The sense of internal justice was placed in me by God. It has been there all my life and drives many of my decisions. To be candid, I tried to look away from sex trafficking when my friend Lindsey brought this horror to my awareness six years ago. It seemed too awful to know about, and I wasn’t sure that I would be able to make an impact. Knowing myself well, I thought it best to look away so that it didn’t consume or torment me. God had other plans. He began to nudge my spirit and give me dreams about sex trafficking. I jumped in with both feet when God whispered to my spirit, “What would you do if it were Elizabeth (my daughter)? (more…)
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Interview with a Dreamer is a series on this blog where I get the opportunity to dialogue with people who are currently living out one of their God-given dreams. If you are interested in being interviewed for this series, please send me an email at kirskline[at]gmail.com.
Today I am thrilled to introduce you to Tiana who, along with her husband, followed God’s dream for their life to adopt a little girl from Uganda.
Kirsten: Tiana, thanks so much for being willing to share your story with us today. Would you mind sharing a little bit about your background and how you became so passionate about adoption?
Tiana: Really, there isn’t anything dramatic that made me want to adopt. No specific moment I can remember hearing the call to it. It was just something that I first began thinking about in junior high and high school. I was exposed to foster care as a child through my best friend’s family, who had many children come through their home. When I considered adoption, it just made sense. I wanted to have a family, and there were children in the world who needed a family. By the time I was in college, I was certain this was something I wanted to do at some point in the future. I married my high-school sweetheart, and he also held the desire to adopt – we had many conversations about it before we were even engaged.
Adoption has always been our “Plan A.” We have not (yet) gone through the heartache of fertility issues, and we have held off trying to get pregnant in order to complete an adoption first. We wanted our adopted child to have that special place as our firstborn, and to experience being an only child for a time, with two parents able to devote all of our time and attention to that child’s specific needs.
Kirsten: Why did you choose International Adoption rather than Domestic Adoption? How did you make the decision to choose Uganda? (more…)