Back in 1999, when Deanna Blincow and her husband adopted two of their four children from Russia, she didn’t know any other families who had adopted.
Fast forward to 2006, when she and three other women from North Way Christian Community began carpooling together to inner-city Pittsburgh to mentor at-risk students, Blincow said. It turned out each of them was an adoptive parent, too, she said.
Focus on the Family and FamilyLife Today’s radio programs also were beginning to discuss adoption at the time. And so, over car rides and dinner and prayer and brainstorming sessions, the women began to discuss what it would look like to start an orphan care ministry at North Way.
Today that looks like a church-wide focus on children who are orphaned, abandoned or at risk through outreaches like Orphan Care, Embracing Life and the Justice Team.
“At the bottom of it, the church is all about bringing the hope of Christ to broken people and taking care of those people, loving them and helping provide for their needs. All of that goes together,” Blincow said.
North Way, a nondenominational community church, recently celebrated 30 years at its main campus in Wexford, Pennsylvania, she said. That campus has about 3,000 people in addition to four more locations in and around Pittsburgh.
Caring for the orphan
The mission of its Orphan Care ministry is to educate, equip and empower the church to care for orphans.
It does that through its Orphan Care Expo, bringing speakers, agencies and other resources together once a year for families interested in adopting or fostering children, she said. It also offers an Exploring Adoption workshop and Bible study for families who are considering adoption, support groups for those who have adopted and those who are in the process of adopting and yearly retreats and respite nights for adoptive parents.
It also administers a fund that offers matching grants or loans to help with some of the upfront costs of adoption. That often can be a barrier to families, ranging from $20,000 to $30,000 for an infant domestic adoption to $40,000 to $50,000 for an international adoption, she said.
And over the years Orphan Care had grown into a community that includes more than just North Way. At least half of the families it serves have come from other churches in the Pittsburgh area, she said.
“When we started our ministry … we really ourselves started reading through the Scriptures. When you read the Old Testament, God talks all the time about caring for the orphans, the widow and the foreigner. So we definitely feel it’s a biblical mandate that God says in His word we are to care for the widow and the orphan,” she said.
The ministry’s website points to Isaiah 1:17:
Learn to do right; seek justice.Defend the oppressed.Take up the cause of the fatherless;plead the case of the widow.
Embracing all life
Currently, Blincow said, about 40 families are either looking into adoption or in the process of adoption.
Since the four women started the Orphan Care ministry at North Way, they’ve seen a “much better awareness of the issues on the part of the church and the Christian community – just the amount of research and resources,” she said. The local church also has started a number of other ministries that care for orphaned, abandoned and at-risk children. Even its global ministries have taken on that focus, she said.
Its Embracing Life ministry is passionate about the sacredness of life – “from the womb to the tomb,” she said. And its Justice Team works in the area of human trafficking, rescuing girls out of trafficking, providing for their needs and raising awareness of the issue. Many times, she said, it’s those children who grow up without families, without anybody looking out for them, who are most susceptible to trafficking.
“All these areas tie together because obviously if you’re embracing life, you are embracing all life, adoptive kids and trafficking victims,” she said.
“We want them to have the hope of Christ, but we also want to provide for them here on Earth and give them a stable loving family to show them that somebody loves them unconditionally.”