one voice giving voice. #summit9

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I did something that I’ve never done before last week. I stepped onto a stage in front of 2,500+ people…people who have a heart for those who have been hurt and rejected and wounded so early in life, people who have a deep conviction to create spaces where healing and love and hope can be birthed, people who believe that God is asking them to respond to the plea of the orphan.

And there I was – the “orphan” – standing right in front of them, ready to invite this orphan and foster care movement to “listen.”

NOTE: It’s important to be careful how we use the word, “orphan,” but that’s another post for another day.

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Christian Alliance for Orphans – Summit 9

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Let me back up…I keep learning about this big adoption world – this mass of people who have chosen to grow and change their family through adoption. But, for me, I never wanted to be in this world. Adoption has often felt like a distant “event” that includes loss and grief and silence, dismissal and denial. It’s been a world where (seemingly) lots of people focus on rescuing the needy and forgotten and hopeless. It’s been a world (seemingly) where the gospel has been twisted and mis-used to help make people feel good about doing good.

But the gospel, the good news, is that Jesus came to initiate new life, hope, restoration, freedom…for ALL of us.

That means we get to be a part of one another’s healing, not just the “orphan’s” healing. That means we need the “orphan” just as much as the “orphan” may need us.

This was my message. This was my one BIG idea.

We need one another.

So, I walked onto that stage feeling the weight of all those little babies represented in that really, really big church. Hoping, praying, pleading that the Holy Spirit would awaken and refresh and reframe the hearts and minds of those really, really good people.

I was nervous. I was calm. I was in total awe.

It felt risky. It felt dangerous.


I had this sense, that that platform, in that moment, was holy ground…for me, for my voice, for the adopted person’s heart.

And it was.

I’m not implying that I know how thousands of people felt that night, but there was something profound and beautiful happening in those 8 minutes – I mean 13 minutes (ha!). Maybe, in that moment, people were beginning to lean in, be still, be present, and listen…to the adopted person’s heart, maybe even to their own hearts.

Perhaps they listened.

I’m quite certain that I (we) was receiving as much as I was giving. I’m quite certain that when all those hands stretched forwards and upwards, God’s Spirit was moving.

My prayer is that all those really, really good people would walk away knowing that the more they are able to connect with the heart of Jesus, the more they will be able to connect with the heart of the vulnerable – those who have been given the title, “orphan” – and in return, together, experience more of heaven on earth.

I offered my voice on behalf of those the world has defined as “voiceless”…and on behalf of the 13-year-old girl who was watching me from the “green room” who turned to her mom and said, “She gets me.”

This is the heart I was echoing. This is the story that needs to be listened to.

I’m so, so deeply grateful and humbled to have been invited to speak…up, on behalf of adoptees, representing their our hearts. Perhaps this is why tears rolled down my cheeks. I just happened to be the live human standing there, speaking, asking…but I tell you, it felt as if the adopted voices around the world joined one another in that moment, rallying together – unified, courageous, hopeful, strong – saying,

“Listen. Please listen. We need you to listen to our hearts.”

And that is why I agreed to do this – this crazy, risky, daring thing.

She…that 13-year-old girl…she is why I use my voice.

Me…that little girl inside of me…she is why I use my voice.

My voice…it’s one voice, giving voice.

Some of my favorite Summit pictures:

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Me, Tara Bradford, Melanie Chung Sherman

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Melanie Chung Sherman (Tapestry), Me, Amy Curtis (Tapestry)

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Breakout Session: Finding Me (haha!)

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Bill Blacquiere, President, Bethany Christian Services and Hudsonville, MI buddy

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Finding my roots in the airport.


17 thoughts on “one voice giving voice. #summit9

  1. I want you to know that I was in that audience. I was leaning forward. Still. Listening to your message to all of us…and I was so touched, so were all of the people around me. Thank you for speaking and sharing yourself with all of us. I was also at your session the next day and I was in tears, I actually bought the recording so I could listen to it again and again. Your words touched many people at the conference and I just wanted you to know that!

    • grateful to have been a voice that others listened to. wow. blows me away. thank you for the ways you “lean in and listen.”

  2. You touched so many hearts, Carissa. Whether in regard to adoption or any other thing, the call you gave may very well be the single most important aspect of loving well: listen. Listen with all that you are. I pray all of us–adoptive parents and foster parents, and adoptees, young and old, and all who yearn for the best for children will do what you urged us to do. Listen — to what others say and to what they do not say. Listen, as best we can, to others’ hearts.

    • grateful, honored, humbled that CAFO allowed me to offer my voice and presence. overwhelming in a good way. healing in a mysterious way. love this 2-way street.

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  4. I was in the audience. I was weary and tired as part of the host church volunteer community. But when you started speaking, I did exactly as you describe above. I leaned in. My weariness faded and my heart was opened. Every word you spoke was truly God-breathed and we are richer for having heard your story.

    • thank you, CJ…sometimes it’s in the weariness that we are most open to hearing. grateful to have my words be impactful to you. and, thank you for ALL that you and the volunteers did to make our experience “full”!

  5. Carissa, I am thrilled to find your blog. I too was in the audience the night you spoke. I cannot thank you enough for putting words to some of the struggles in my heart as we have adopted and brought home our daughter from Taiwan. Adoption is a joyous thing, but it’s also the result of hurt and pain on the other side. Our family is healing together, and when someone tells us that our daughter is lucky to have us as parents, we quickly tell them that WE are the lucky ones.

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