Doug and Virginia Webster adopted two children for twelve dollars. You may know someone who spent tens of thousands of dollars to adopt—or perhaps you did!
In the early 1980's, the Websters were living in Canada while Doug attended graduate school at the University of Toronto. The Websters adopted their oldest son, Andrew, from the Toronto Children’s Aid Society and their younger son, Jeremiah, from a Christian adoption agency. The only cost they paid was a small licensing fee, plus seven dollars for the oldest and five dollars for their younger son.
“When I tell people we paid seven dollars for Jeremiah and five dollars for Andrew, they’re shocked at first and then impressed by the Canadian government’s insistence on money not being a factor in adoption,” Doug told me.
Though the Websters thought they would not be able to have children, they still had a great desire to be parents. “Looking back, I find it amazing that we actually took the initiative, filled out all the paperwork for several adoption agencies, and did the interviews, physicals, and home study,” Doug said.
Even though Virginia was working two jobs while Doug was a full-time student, they were poor even by graduate-student standards. They lived in a one-bedroom apartment, not even an office to spare. “Who in their right mind, in the middle of a pressured, over-worked schedule, decides to pursue adoption?” Doug said, joking. “I chalk it up to the gracious providence of God, not to our good judgment. God took the initiative so we would take the initiative. In retrospect, I see that is how life is supposed to work.”
The Websters’ church in Toronto had small community groups that met weekly for prayer and Bible study, so even though they didn’t want to make a big deal about pursuing adoption, they did ask their group and extended family to pray about their situation. “We had no idea how long the process might take, and we thought it best to rely on the prayers and love of our extended family in the States,” he said.
Within a year, God began to answer their prayers. The Websters were able to pick up Andrew at Women’s College Hospital in downtown Toronto within twenty-four hours of his birth. Jeremiah was born in Ottawa, Canada, and arrived in Toronto for the Websters to bring home within seven days of his birth. “We had the privilege of essentially parenting both of our boys from the beginning,” Doug shared.
Doug and Virginia were able to parent a girl from the beginning as well. In the Lord’s providence, Virginia gave birth to a daughter a few years after the Websters had adopted their boys. “The birth of our daughter confirmed to us that there was no real difference between adoption and conception when it came to our sons and daughter. It really did not make a difference,” Doug said. Although he admitted that the boys enjoyed some good-natured kidding at their daughter’s expense. “Our boys teased their sister, saying, ‘We’re special. We were chosen! You just came along!’”
As Andrew and Jeremiah grew, Doug and Virginia were open to them about the fact that they were adopted, though they weren’t sure exactly how much the boys could grasp the concept. They found out one Toronto winter day when the snow was deep. Virginia was bringing the boys home from taking them shopping with her. The boys were six and four years old, and Virginia was pregnant with their daughter. Suddenly, in this snowy scene, Jeremiah plopped his bag down in the snow and announced, “I don’t have to carry this, I’m adopted!” Virginia had never heard her son use the word adopted, so she was perplexed, stunned, and unsure of what to say. Turns out, she did not have to say anything. Andrew told his brother, “Adopted or not, pick it up!” Four-year-old Jeremiah picked up his bag and they trudged home.
Doug and Virginia cherish each of their children. Three children united as siblings in one family but all with different genes. All unique, beautiful. “As it turned out,” Doug said, “all three of our children are firstborn, which is how I think the sons and daughters of God are privileged in the gospel of the kingdom.” What gives Doug and Virginia this perspective?
What the Scriptures state about God’s care for orphans. Both the Old and New Testaments repeatedly describe God as personally concerned for the vulnerable—like orphans—and He desires for everyone, including the least of these, to be privileged sons and daughters in His kingdom. This is why James 1:27 is such a strong command: if we want to offer pure and undefiled lives of faith to God, then we must be concerned about caring for orphans.
The God Who Cares and Calls His People to Care Too
Indeed, both Old and New Testament writers described God’s care for those on the margins of society. In Deuteronomy 10, Moses exhorted Israel to remember not only their privileged status in God’s redemptive plan but also to remember God’s personal concern for the orphans among them (vv. 10:18–19). Psalm 10 places God’s concern for the orphan as a means of describing His care for all who are oppressed. Even though the arrogant scheme and carry out injustice, the psalmist prayed, “The unfortunate commits himself to You; You have been the helper of the orphan” (v. 14). In Psalm 68, David described God as so powerful that He is a father to the fatherless and a judge (a rescuer) for widows (v. 5). The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah prophesied against the nation of Edom, the descendants of Esau, saying that God would care for the orphan and widow even when foreign nations came to invade them (Jer. 49:11). Hosea prophesied similarly, seeing in God’s concern for the orphan a basis of hope that God would care for Israel despite the threat of foreign invasion (Hos. 14:3). Whether concerning foreign nations or Israel, the prophets of Israel wanted the people to understand God’s eye toward the vulnerable.