Belonging is For Everyone

Ever since I was a little girl, I had a hunch that borders were meant to be crossed and different people, connected. Growing up in a bi-racial, multi-cultural home, my very life and the face that stared back at me in the mirror, told me that two very different cultures can come together.

Throughout my life since childhood, God has only continued to confirm the hunch that we were all made to welcome and learn from those who might seem very different from who we are or what we know. From life-changing friendships formed with International students when I was in college, to living as a foreigner overseas as a child and an adult, to becoming an International adoptive mama, God has grown and stretched my heart for the world and welcoming in irreplaceable, life-altering ways.

All of this is why I was thrilled when I began to turn the pages of Kelley Nikondeha’s book, Adopted, the sacrament of belonging in a fractured world. I began the book thinking it would be yet another in our growing collection about adoption, and while it has added to that collection, it’s much more than another book about adoption. This adoption book is honest, full of scripture and insight, and incredibly hopeful. As an adoptive mama, I’ve found a divide in many of the books or articles I’ve read about adoption. Throughout our journey, I found blog posts, articles and Facebook posts that seem to only talk about adoption as a rescue effort and not much else. Then I read memoirs from adoptees and read about their honest experiences of loss, longing for identity, and their grief over losing a connection to their roots. Along with that, I’ve read books about connection and attachment.  While the latter two kinds of books have helped us tremendously in preparation for and the reality of being adoptive parents, Kelley's book has added an all-encompassing perspective that I have found missing and needed. In her book, she writes:

“Every time a family chooses to enfold, to adopt a child, or someone reaches out in friendship to someone unlike himself or herself, they are re-making the world, making a single stitch toward wholeness.  Every stitch is both a personal and political statement about the fracture-making ways of the world.  Our small gestures insist that everyone belongs and that the structures of the world must be calibrated toward inclusion.”


I love how Kelley describes Jesus throughout the book as the “Adopted One.” I had never thought about Jesus as adopted before this book. Kelley walks her readers throughout scripture to illuminate the many ways God worked redemption through families that came together beyond biological ties. 

In Scripture, adoption meddles with genealogies, subverts oppressive empires, secures imperial inheritances, and opens new possibilities for who can be family.  Fracture opens the narrative, and adoption isn’t far behind as a means of repair and integration.  As an adult, I remain convinced that in order to understand the biblical exploration of belonging, we must include the metaphor of adoption.”

I also really appreciated the chapter, Return, and the encouragement and exhortation Kelley gives to adoptive parents about the importance of allowing adopted children the needed space to return to and know their roots, however this might take shape for them as they grow up. She writes the following about Moses’ adoptive mama, Bithiah:

“It is a courageous act for adoptive parents to allow their children to know both of their cultures and engage in the fullness of their own identity.  Following the example of Bithiah, we refuse to be afraid of the other that comes to us.  We will not be afraid of where he comes from or who relinquished him.  We will receive him, and them (his kin), with a wide and generous acceptance.  If we deny our children the crucial chapters of their story, we might risk hindering them from reaching their full potential in the world.  Can you imagine a Moses with no connection to his Hebrew heritage?”

Kelley is both an adoptee and an adoptive mama herself.  Her wisdom, experience and unique voice have so much to offer.  This book is not only for those connected to adoption, but it is for all of us who have ever wondered if we belong to anyone or to any place, and for those who have a hunch that part of our calling as people of the Church is to enfold others in and believe, as Kelley writes in her book, “Belonging mends our world.”

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