And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me (Matthew 25:40).
Who qualifies as the “least” in Our Lord’s statement? A homeless person? A patient in a coma? Unborn children with diagnosed medical concerns? If you were perplexed at the last category, note that 80% of unborn children diagnosed with medical concerns are aborted. Yet, there is a group of Christians who actually seeks out and adopts such children, often agreeing to do so before these children are born.
Christian Homes Adopting Special Kids (CHASK), operated by Tom and Sherry Bushnell, is an organization of hundreds of families that is part of a greater umbrella organization of 14,000 families — National Challenged Homeschoolers Associated Network (NATHHAN). These organizations exist to encourage “homeschooling families with special needs children, in ways that glorify the Lord Jesus Christ, and finding Christian homes for special needs children.”
Six months after their third child Tally (born with Down’s Syndrome) died at the age of 3 months, the Bushnells received a phone call from a midwife explaining that a child who was born with Down’s Syndrome was not wanted by his family. The Bushnells agreed to adopt the two-week old boy and Jordon, now 16, has been a member of their family ever since. Along with 8 siblings born to Sherry and Tom, Jordon also has 2 adopted siblings: Sheela, adopted at age two with blindness and no eyes and Sherlyn, adopted at age one with cerebral palsy and autism.
CHASK is not an adoption agency. However, it brings together birth parents who, for whatever reason, feel incapable of raising a child with severe medical problems and prospective Christian families answering the Lord’s call to serve Him in this way. Often it is through Pregnancy Centers, churches, or ob/gyns that this option is presented to a birth mother. CHASK gives her three profiles of candidates that seem suited for her particular situation. The choice remains with her. CHASK is there to refer her to the proper agencies or lawyers that can help bring about an adoption.
Friends of Chalcedon (FOC) recently had the opportunity to interview the Bushnells about their involvement with CHASK.
FOC: You indicated that the writings of Rousas John Rushdoony had a tremendous effect on your theology and worldview. Please elaborate on that.
CHASK: The late Rousas John Rushdoony was a trail-blazing, Christ-honoring man. Those who have studied his writings, such as myself, have come to a greater understanding of the significance of presuppositional apologetics. I better comprehend the spheres of responsibility of the civil government, the church government, and the family government. The crossover lines where these can work together or apart was of great interest to me. Rush’s life work is significant to those who have made a big impact on the body of Christ today, especially in the area of homeschooling. We were particularly impacted by his understanding of the God-given responsibility of fathers to train their children.
FOC: Many who hear your story marvel at your level of compassion and stamina. Do you consider yourself, your family, and the other CHASK families to be extraordinary people?
CHASK: We consider ourselves obedient to whatever God has planned for us, just like you are doing what you feel God has called you to do. Those of us who have children with special needs, probably do not see the whole area of “handicaps” as so daunting. Our experience is that our children are children first, then they carry a label called “disability.”
FOC: Many Christians strive to put the dominion mandate into effect in their lives, seeking how God would have them do this. Do you consider adopting a child with significant medical concerns — possibly with some that guarantee a short life span — to be a dominion activity?
CHASK: We believe Christians should live what they believe. Adopting a child with severe delays may be the way God has called us to further His kingdom. All lives are sacred and have a purpose from God’s perspective, from conception, birth, and on. Our job is to work out daily His purpose. We do not know why certain children are born with particular needs, outside of the fact that there is sin the world. We do understand that God works all things out for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
FOC: What would you consider to be the primary qualifications for parents considering the adoption of a medically challenged child?
CHASK: From a CHASK perspective, we ask adoptive parents to be mindful of birth parents and their needs first. This missionary mind-set is not for everyone. We consider any family that has a desire to work for the Lord and has a solid relationship with Him and each other in the home. The birth parents are the ones who choose the home for their baby.
FOC: What kind of support have you and the other CHASK families needed in order to accept this tremendous responsibility and not short-change your existing children?
CHASK: NATHHAN has a database of over 14,000 families. Many of these parents are experienced in special needs. Their children are older. They are ready to reach out and help others. We have each other to lean on and get resources if we are in need. There are also a lot of folks privately supporting CHASK financially who do not have children with disabilities. This support is how we as families are able to reach out.
One of the good things that has come about because of the ministry’s growth is that we have hired 2 full time workers. This is making NATHHAN more productive and blending CHASK successfully with in-place operations.
FOC: What would you recommend to folks who would like to assist in your mission, but don’t feel called to actually adopt?
CHASK: There are several areas of support that have been excellent.
1. Churches and others have taken a special offering to provide a loving home for a little boy born with only a brain stem. They have provided help for the adoptive family’s legal costs. This is through our “Already Loved Fund” program. Many more families are needed to lovingly support special needs babies like this, saying to the doctors, “We already love this baby and are willing to help provide a home.”
2. With the financial help of families outside of NATHHAN, 100,000 “adverse prenatal diagnosis” brochures are in the hands of birth parents, giving them encouragement to choose life for their baby with special needs.
3. Families in all areas of the U.S. are needed for one-on-one comfort and encouragement for birth parents facing the possibility of disability in their child or even possible death of their baby upon birth. Just having someone who cares makes a huge difference.
FOC: Does the task that you’ve undertaken ever seemed burdensome to you?
CHASK: We do feel a weight of responsibility. Because of our rapid growth, we are constantly reassessing our needs in order to find solutions. We really want to do what God wants, however He wants it done. We are learning to lean on Him daily … even hourly.
Our culture has abandoned God’s mandate to care for those who cannot care for themselves — those about to be slaughtered. Over the years we’ve asked ourselves why the Lord has spared our country — one that makes it perfectly legal to kill a defenseless child in his mother’s womb. CHASK represents a remnant not unlike the early Christians in Rome who provided salt and light to the culture around them. As R.J. Rushdoony relates in his book The Atheism of the Early Church:
Two battles, which marked the early church from the beginning, we still have with us today. The first was over the question of sovereignty or lordship, and the second was over the issue of abortion. Abortion was entirely legal within the Empire, but the early church instituted very severe penalties against any of its members involved in this very common practice. But that is not all. At the same time, the early church began to deal with the results of this world of abortion.
Not every abortionist in those days functioned with the cold and brutal efficiency common to us now. Therefore, they were not always successful in aborting babies. As a result, when the unwanted babies were born, they were promptly taken and abandoned under the bridges of the river Tiber in Rome. In other cities there were places which were routinely used for abandoning babies.
The Christians made it their habit immediately to go to the places where these babies were abandoned — to be devoured, as Tertullian said, by wild dogs — to collect these infants and parcel them out from family to family. This tells us something about the life of faith among these believers. How many members of congregations today would welcome an officer of the church coming by with an abandoned baby or two, and feel it was their duty to rear them in faith!1
May God richly bless these families and raise up more to care for these the least of His brethren. May their example energize and enrich others in their own particular dominion callings.
For more information about CHASK/NATHHAN contact:
P.O. Box 39
Porthill, ID 83853
Email: [email protected]
1. R.J. Rushdoony, The Atheism of the Early Church (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1983, 2000), 10.