By: Kelley McLaughlin
Not long into a conversation with Blake Rogers, it’s easy to see that relationships drive him in everything he does. Spiritually, personally and professionally, relationships are at the center. He builds them, grows them, nurtures them and celebrates them.
This is true of his role as Covenant Students Pastor. He believes student ministry is relational and often finds himself drawn to the words of late pastor AW Tozer: “What you win them with is what you win them to.”
“If you win kids with entertainment, they’ll be out-entertained by that eventually,” Blake says. “Culture is really good at entertainment. But, if you win them with truth in community, that’s what I think will ultimately hold people fast and hold souls fast. We all need truth in community, no matter our age.”
Blake has been blessed with such a community from a young age. Born and raised between two small South Georgia towns, he grew up seeing and experiencing such relationships – ones built on truth – in church, youth group and, most pointedly, in his family.
“Family is the single most important relationship you will have on this Earth,” says Blake.
Furthermore, family isn’t built solely by biology, a truth that became a tangible, yet unfamiliar, reality for Blake at 14 years old when his parents answered the Lord’s calling to adopt.
“My sister and I didn’t really have a frame of reference for [adoption]. I did not understand why and honestly, I didn’t like the idea. My identity was wrapped up in things that I thought [adoption] would effect in some negative way… I was hard hearted to begin with,” he admits of his initial reaction to his parents telling him they were exploring adoption.
It was not until a certain set of paperwork arrived one day in 2003 that his hard heart began to soften. A transformative step in the long and, at times uncertain, journey to adoption is when a perspective family receives a referral from an orphanage. This referral includes a photo of a child in need; a child with no parents, no family; a child whose life experiences don’t span much further than the walls of an orphanage.
“That day, when we received [the referral], was probably when the scales began to fall off my hard heart … Up until that day, [adoption] was just a process that we were going through that would result in this thing that I didn’t really understand.”
Not long after, the Rogers were approved for adoption and the whole family – Mom, Dad, Blake and his younger, biological sister, Kayla – boarded a plane for the very first time and flew 7,500 miles across the globe to China. Interestingly enough, National Geographic was simultaneously filming a documentary on adoption so, in addition to fellow approved families, their travel group also included a full camera crew, producers and journalist Lisa Ling. Together, they spent two weeks exploring China and, of course, meeting their newest family member.
“That was one of the most powerful scenes I have ever been a part of,” says Blake of the moment the orphanage’s nannies brought the children into the room to see their adoptive parents for the first time.
Ten-month old Kanaan joined the Rogers family that day. Over the course of the next 10 years, so did Chloe, Nate, Nolan, Gracelynn, Adelynn and Luke – all orphans from China seeking a mother, father, brothers and sisters; a family unit.
Blake’s adoption journey is one that comes full circle. Today, he serves as State Director of Georgia for Lifeline Children’s Services, the same agency through which four of his siblings joined his family. As director, Blake oversees the social work team and builds and maintains relationships with potential donors and churches.
He is also growing his own family. He and wife Abbie married in 2011 after meeting at their alma mater, Boyce College. They now have a two-year-old son, Cannon, and welcomed daughter Ella Watts in November 2017.
Now, in his roles as Director and Dad, his perspective on adoption – and family – has certainly evolved over the last 15 years.
“Family is the most fundamental unit of God’s creation. [It] shapes how we spend our time and what we prioritize,” he says. “And adoption is a theological reality. We are not biologically God’s children. We are adopted into a family we are not a part of. What is true of us spiritually is true of orphans physically.”
While this truth doesn’t make sense to the world, Blake notes that it should to the believer. Adoption is a legitimate, Biblical way to grow a family and one he hopes Christ Covenant’s families will explore with an open heart.