Adopted: The Sacrament of Belonging in a Fractured World + GIVEAWAY


Kelley Nikondeha -Adopted3

This past April I celebrated 48 years of adopted living. In July we celebrated with our children 12 years of adopted family life. Adoption bookends my experience of family, both as daughter and as mother.

Several years ago I noticed how more people were writing about adoption, but I didn’t recognize my experience in their words. They used words like “unnatural” and “second best” when referring to adopted children. Some added a theological twist that was utterly unfamiliar–to them, international adoption was akin to missionary work and ought to be supported by the missions arm of the local church. The idea was that bringing a child home from another land allowed you to, essentially, raise a convert. Nothing was further from my own childhood. And still others spoke about adoption as the antidote to a political matter–abortion. It was an option screamed at unwed mothers, so contrary to the true tenor of belonging I’d grown up with in my home.

I remember one article written by an adoptive father. He spoke eloquently about six lessons he’d learned after bringing his child home. Then came the final lesson, number seven. He said that in an ideal world there would be no need for adoption, because justice would permeate the world and no one would ever need to relinquish a child. So, in a perfected world there would be no adoption. He added that this is the world he is working toward.

I understood his words. A flood of justice, the likes of which Amos bellows about, would recalibrate society. Each child would live secure in their family of origin. No mending would be needed, and so no adoption would be required. And yet, I could not share his dream. To long for a world sans adoption would unravel the only family life I’d ever known. How could I imagine a life without my mom and dad who encouraged me to learn, comforted me amid heartbreak and cheered my every success? And what would my life look like without my Burundian babies running into my arms or reaching for a sippy cup of juice?

This is when I began writing about adoption. I wanted to offer my own contribution to the larger conversation about adoption. My first brave attempt was here at SheLoves, where Idelette and Tina cheered me on and made space for me to clear my throat and speak from my heart.

Now, five years later my latest contribution may be available in a bookstore near you. Today, Adopted: The Sacrament of Belonging in a Fractured World officially launches into the world. When you read these pages, you will read my heart. This is what adoption is for me–a sacrament that transformed me and fashioned me into a practitioner of belonging. But not just me–anyone in the company of the adopted has likely undergone this spiritual formation under their own roof and around their family dinner table.

Along the way I found an answer to my angst at number seven, the dream of a world without adoption. Sitting in a small café on a bustling, dusty street in Bujumbura, Burundi, my pen scribbled into the truth. Jesus is the only begotten son of the Father, the biological son, you might say. God adopts the rest of us into the family, making us kin to the Three Yet One and siblings to one another. Adoption is how God forms family.

As I wrote it out, hot tears muddied my cheeks. Even in a just world, adoption endures because it is how we’re enfolded into God’s family. Adoption is eternal, a belonging that isn’t predicated on biology, but God’s generous welcome and durable hospitality. So when God sets the world to right and justice prevails, adoption remains. My family will not be erased, but enlarged.

Since we are all adopted ones according to Saint Paul, it is worthwhile to explore both the experience of adoption and the metaphor as witnessed in Scripture. It informs who we are on earth–siblings to one another and practitioners of belonging–and who we will be as members of God’s eternal family.

However, adoption isn’t only about goodness and glory; there remains some grit. When we talk of belonging, we must acknowledge the sting of relinquishment alongside the joy of redemption. Both are true elements and part of our sacrament. Both are part of the experience of Moses and even Jesus, so we find that we are not alone in our own bouts of loss and not left without hope for a redemptive note in the midst of our pain. Imagine, adoption speaks to all this!

Adoption is my sacrament. It has formed me and I believe it forms the world through those in the company of the adopted. I hope this metaphor found in my life, but also in Scripture, will encourage and comfort you in turn. I pray those who are adopted will see that they have gifts to offer a fractured world. I hope we, the church, will welcome those gifts.


Postscript from Kelley:

I want to offer a special word of thanks to you, my SheLoves community. So many of you have been with me from the beginning when I first started writing in public. You have cheered me on, wrestled with my words and stood fast through the long season of quiet writing. I so appreciate you. I hope this book makes you proud, that you feel this is a good word from me, but also a good word from our community.


GIVEAWAY: We are giving away one copy of Adopted: The Sacrament of Belonging in a Fractured World to our SheLoves community,  as well as two copies to our Dangerous Women Tribe members. SheLovelys, to be eligible to win a copy, please leave a comment on this post between now and Monday, Aug 21 at midnight (PST). We will announce the winner on Tuesday, Aug 22. 

I am happy to announce that Olivia Butz is the lucky winner of Kelley’s book! Thank you for all of your lovely comments and your beautiful support of Kelley’s book launch.


Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.



Kelley Nikondeha
Kelley is co-director and chief storyteller for Communities of Hope, a community development enterprise in Burundi. She is also the author of Adopted: The Sacrament of Belonging in a Fractured World (Eerdmans).
Kelley Nikondeha
Kelley Nikondeha

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  • Sherry Naron

    So proud of you! That you’ve birthed this beautiful book that so many can gain from! Happy release day, my sweet friend!

    • Thanks, Sherry. You’ve been wind under my wings, a rock to stand on and a host of other cliches about best friends who keep it real!!!

  • Aah, your She Ponders articles back in the day were the ones I always clicked through to because there was sure to be wisdom and thoughtfulness there. So excited for this journey you have been on, and for being able to be witness to it in a small way. This book is so good and is already impacting my living here in our corner of London x

    • Fiona – so glad we moved from ShePonders across the pond to dancing in Bujumbura together and singing in Canada together!

  • Deanna Neumann

    My daughter and son in law are adopting 3 boys, siblings, aged 10, 8 & 6. Would love to share this book with them!

    • Hope you do share with them… we need to offer our adopted children good language and Biblical metaphors to better understand the story they are now part of!

  • Gayle

    My mom was adopted at birth, and her parents never hid that from her. To them, and, consequently, to her, that meant that her birth mom did the most loving thing she could, as well as knowing that her parents went to considerable effort to make her a part of their family. Adoption is such a great blessing, and I would love to have some more theological language to articulate that blessing.

    • Gayle, hope you and your mom enjoy the book. Adoption is brimming with love, hope, redemption even as it mends some of the hard things and injustices of the world.

  • Elena Delhagen

    Oh, Kelley. My eyes were wet while reading this entire post. Brava, sister! I cannot wait to read. Thank you for sharing your stories and words with us.

    • Thank you, Elena. I’ve cried a few tears writing it… so pass the kleenex, sister!

  • Olivia Butz

    Oh, so good. This gives new meaning to me to how God “chooses” us – excited to see how you unpack the theology behind this.

  • Debby Pierpoint

    Beautiful. Many of my friends have the joy of parenting because of adoption. Can’t wait to share this with them.

    • I appreciate your generosity, Debby. Hope it is an encouragement to them and offers fresh language for the years ahead.

  • Chelsea

    Thank you for sharing your heart. It resonated with me deeply. I can’t wait to read your book!

  • Truth shimmers through your words, Kelley. So thankful for your story and for your bold and beautiful telling.

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  • Sue Hay

    Love this. Was talking to a friend yesterday about adoption. Your words ‘Adoption is how God forms family’ are gold, healing balm.

    • Thank you, Sue. Adoption is complicated – but there is so much goodness to be named!

  • “My family will not be erased, but enlarged.” I love this! Thrilled to read more of your words.

  • Justine Hwang

    How you describe adoption as “a sacrament that transformed me and fashioned me into a practitioner of belonging”… I love that so much. Even though I am not adopted, my narrative of being a latch key kid with no babysitters, and being a child of immigrants on the margins, has always left me feeling unchosen and alone, to which I have always found comfort in God’s love saying to me, “I choose you. I adopt you.” It is an amazingly beautiful miracle the way that God forms his family!

    • There are adoptive gestures everywhere when we have eyes to see! Glad you have felt adopted – and that it is a sacrament we can share.

  • @Kelley I am adopted, too and so appreciate reading this 🙂 Thanks!

    • Well, love that we are both part of the company of the adopted! Hope you’ll hear echoes of your own experience when you get a chance to read it. I’d love to hear from you and see what connects and what doesn’t. We are always learning from one another on this journey!

  • Ganise C.

    Nothing but love for this post. I promise to read your book, Kelley. Thank you.

  • Sandy Hay

    Bravo Kelley. Your book has birthed a whole new understanding of adoption for me. If I didn’t know you I doubt if I would have read Adopted. That would have been my loss. So I’ll shout praises wherever I can.

    • Thanks, Sandy. You have been such a great cheerleader and fellow learner. When do we meet up next?

      • Sandy Hay

        Will you be on the east coast at all? Or are you going to Israel in January with Idelette?

  • Erin Holbrook

    Can’t wait to read this – the story of belonging never grows old.

    • Right? And belonging always takes us deeper into the heart and arms of God, closer to one another.

  • Helene Burns

    Your book is a gift to this world… you bring such beauty and truth from your own adoption story – it opened my eyes and heart to so much more truth about belonging from your personal and insightful perspective. Thank you for your costly investment of time and thoseh many tears of joy and pain to share it with all of us. xx

    • Helen – always the encourager! Hope to see you when I’m in BC next month. Maybe a cup of coffee to catch up…

      • Helene Burns

        I would love that Kelley. xx

  • Staci

    Beautifully written! I am drawn to adoption and learning more about our adoption into God’s family. I too pray I have eyes to see what gifts I have to offer our broken world. I am currently wrestling with my own heart and mind, and trying to understand His unconditional love for us because of my own childhood and how I tend to experience love from Him and others as ‘transactional’ love – doing something in order to be loved. I want to understand His grace and love more deeply than I’ve ever known. I could be wrong, but understanding unconditional love seems to tie closely to understanding the height and depth of being adopted into His family.

    • Yes, unconditional acceptance and welcome are part of God’s expansive and eternal love. Adoption let’s us enter into that story and begin those practices here on earth!

  • Lauren Frith

    I love the premise of this book. I love it that you are not looking at adoption in isolation, trying to explain it in terms of good vs. bad, or trying to defend God in the face of loss and confusion. I love it that, instead, you discuss adoption in light of the very character of God and His original design for building his family. Mind. Blown. Can’t wait to read this!!

    • Thanks, Lauren. I hope you’ll be encouraged as you read it!

  • Jessica W

    My mom was adopted too, actually. I’d love to read this book! If I don’t win the free copy, I’ll read it eventually – now it’s on my “to read someday” list.

  • becca1612

    Cant wait to read this book!

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  • Kristin Vandegriend

    This book sounds fascinating. We just adopted a sweet little baby from Japan and adoption is so close to my heart. The phrase practitioner of belonging really resonates with me.

  • Adoption as sacrament. This is the most beautiful perspective on adoption I’ve ever heard. I will be getting your book and am excited to read it. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Bonnie Susanna Klein

    I’m an adoptive mother and grandmother and look forward to what this book has to offer.