The following is an excerpt from Emily Chapman Richards’ address to attendees at our annual Fellowship Weekend Impact Spotlight program.
To hope is to expect with confidence.
On March 6, 1997, I wrote the following in my journal, “Tomorrow, I leave for Haiti. … I hope this experience will change my life. I also hope that I will change someone’s life.” My 11-year-old self was expecting with confidence that God would somehow use my experience in Haiti to accomplish his plans and fulfill his purposes.
But to change a life, whether that of my own or that of another individual, is a task that far surpasses human ability and requires a hope far beyond the temporal. Jeremiah 29:11 states, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.’” God is the giver, he is the provider, of hope.
Returning home from Haiti, it was as if God planted a seed deep in my heart to care well for children who did not know the love and protection of a family. My parents faithfully watered that seed as I prayerfully, and oftentimes tearfully, campaigned for them to consider bringing a child into our family through adoption.
What I couldn’t see then, is what I know now … by entrusting to me a hope that I would somehow change someone’s life, God began authoring the next chapter in the lives of my sisters Shaoey, Stevey Joy, and Maria, who joined our family in 2000, 2003, and 2004 through adoption.
But the story didn’t stop there.
As God began to stir in the hearts of my parents and that of my family to somehow serve as conduits of his great invitation to more fully know him by caring well for children in need, my parents felt called to co-found Show Hope in 2003 with a mission to care for orphans by engaging the Church and reducing barriers to adoption.
Now, some 15 years later, more than 6,200 children have come to know the love of a family with the help of a Show Hope Adoption Aid grant. More than 2,600 children with acute medical and special needs have received life-giving care at one of our Care Centers in China, with more than 760 of those children transitioning out of our care into the protection and permanency of a loving family through adoption. More than 20,000 students have been engaged in meaningful dialogue about how to care well for orphans—conversations that have led to students traveling with Show Hope to China to visit our Care Centers, encouraged others to pursue higher education in fields that directly and effectively benefit children in need, while countless others may now consider building their future family through adoption. More than 900 professionals have been resourced with Trust-Based Relational Intervention® (TBRI®) Practitioner Training to more effectively serve children from hard places and the families who have welcomed them into their homes.
It nearly goes without saying that what I could have only conjured up in my wildest imagination or as my greatest hope on the eve of that trip in 1997 has been more than fulfilled and continually exceeded.
Nearly two years ago, Show Hope embarked on a strategic planning process. I was tapped by Show Hope’s leadership to spearhead the process for the organization … a task I was honored to own and see to completion.
After more than a decade-long tenure at Show Hope, in roles spanning from programs, communications, and development, I am humbled to serve as the executive director moving forward into this next chapter of our organization’s history. Having watched Show Hope grow and flourish from a dream in my parents’ hearts, I remain deeply committed to the vision they believe God called them to work unto. As the executive director, I will lead the organization prayerfully, employing Show Hope’s core values, as set forth and defined by our co-founders and agreed upon by our leadership team, as the guiding principles.
“Hope,” in the words of the great theologian Walter Brueggemann, “is on one hand, an absurdity too embarrassing to speak about, for it flies in the face of all those claims we have been told are facts. Hope is the refusal to accept the reading of reality which is the majority opinion. … On the other hand, hope is subversive, for it limits the grandiose pretense of the present, daring to announce that the present to which we have all made commitments is now called into question.”
If the now isn’t forever, what then will remain true for all eternity? The late Eugene Peterson translated Revelation 21 in “The Message” to say, “I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: ‘Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.’” The Enthroned continued, ‘Look! I’m making everything new. Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate.’”
Hope is the affirmation that we belong to a kingdom coming—one built by love through sacrifice as most profoundly enacted in Jesus’ death on the cross. That is our hope.
Under the leadership of incredible men and women, the work of Show Hope has been guided in such a way that hope has, indeed, flourished into a beautiful tree of life.
To say I am indebted to those that have plowed the field ahead of me is an understatement.
To my parents, thank you for modeling what it looks like to faithfully steward one’s time, platform, resources, and calling in obedience to God’s invitation. To the Board of Directors at Show Hope, I am thankful for your incredible expertise, deep concern for the work of Show Hope, trust in my capability to lead the organization, and commitment to carry me prayerfully into this next season.
Mike Hamilton, thank you for leading Show Hope over the past fours years in a way that has solidified our programmatic messaging, strengthened the organization’s financial footing to the healthiest it has ever been, and navigated a thorough and effective succession planning process. To the staff at Show Hope, you bring an incredible amount of passion, care, and concern to this work. I know this isn’t just a job for any one of you. Thank you for investing your whole self in this work.
To my clan—Tanner and our trio of ladies—it is not lost on me all you have sacrificed as we have sought together to answer faithfully the call God put before us. Thank you for being ambassadors of light, love, and life to my own heart in a season of transition.
And to all of you, our co-laborers in this profoundly important work of caring well for children lacking their most fundamental need—that of a family—thank you for your steadfast petitions and continued support that has made this work possible.
Over the years, we have shared with you many stories of all that God is doing in and through the work of Show Hope, yet the work is not done. There are more needs to be met as we continue to move forward organizationally.
Will you prayerfully consider how God might be inviting you to join us as ambassadors of the “beautifully absurd message of hope” to a watching and waiting world? Together, we dare to believe there is another kingdom coming. We dare to believe that the seeds of hope we plant on this day, will serve as the first signs of spring on that day—the day in which the old order of things will pass away and God will make all things new.
Emily Chapman Richards