I was lost in a seeker-sensitive church. I noted the irony as I wandered the massive lobby of Willow Creek Community Church, trying to navigate where I was supposed to be, here at the annual Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit. But I kept running into people, people who reminded me what God has taught me through this movement.

One of the first people I encountered was a woman I’d never met in person but without whom I’m not sure if Maria and I would have made it through the last year. One of our sons with special needs rooted in his very difficult first year in a Russian orphanage is particularly averse to change. He had a hard time transitioning in the move away from Louisville and to our new life. Some friends at Focus on the Family had this woman, an expert on kids who suffered early childhood trauma, call us. She did, and it changed everything.

She walked us through how to love and to minister to our son, and helped us see how kids who’ve been through what our son has been through tend to process stress. She showed me how to communicate to him what I want and need to say, “You are my beloved son, and with you I am well pleased.” She was willing to text with Maria, to talk with me (one day for over an hour) teaching us how to love and to parent well in a more different situation than what we had known.

When I saw this woman, for the first time, I instinctively hugged her neck and told her, “You saved my life.” She did. And she’s not alone.

As I walked around that hallway, I saw one person after another who had taught me much. Some have taught me about how to minister to children with attachment disorder, some about how to mobilize churches for foster care, some how to minister to women in crisis pregnancies, and on and on. I saw Pentecostals and Presbyterians, film makers and social workers and pastors.

When God gave Maria and I a sense of calling to adopt and then, after that, to call the church to the priority of caring for orphans and widows, I knew that he was leading us toward our family. What I did not know was that he was also blessing us with this joyful, gospel-centered tribe of pro-life, whole-life ambassadors for children and for families.

Every year that I come to this summit, I’m reminded of just how indebted I am to be part of this group of extraordinary people, people of whom I’m not worthy. It’s worth getting lost in a lobby, to see some of them by “accident” and to be reminded of the truth that this isn’t really lost at all. This is what it feels like, for me, to be kind of adopted, for life.