Editor’s note: “Living on Purpose” is a Kentucky-based religious column provided free to the Bartlett Express. We also welcome local columns on similarly universal topics; send your submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a chaplain for a veterans health care facility, I meet a lot of interesting men and women on a regular basis. I facilitate Bible studies and lead worship services throughout the week and really enjoy the private conversations with these military hero’s. Recently, I had the privilege to spend some time with a man named Tony who is a Vietnam veteran. He suffers from the effects of Agent Orange and has recently lost both legs from diabetes and the use of his left arm to a stroke. I listened intently as he shared about his very interesting life, which included being adopted.
Statistics reveal there are over 100,000 children adopted every year in this country. With all the difficult situations that families face, it is encouraging to know there are many sincere men and women who reach out with compassion and are willing to love a child as their own. Tony was very young when he was adopted by a loving Christian couple that could not have children, and he grew up as their only child. His new dad was a military man and Pearl Harbor survivor and his new mom was so excited to have a child of their own. Tony had a wonderful middle-class upbringing and, while everything seemed normal, he always had a strange feeling that something was not right. When he was 14, his new parents finally revealed he was adopted. They also surprised him with news that he had two brothers and a sister but they did not know their names or where they were. He recalls the school children taunting him and saying that he would never be worth anything, which gave him low self-esteem and a negative outlook on life.
As an adult, he would often think of his siblings and even though he could not remember them, he had a special place for them in his heart. After doing some intense investigating, he finally obtained the name of a man that had been a neighbor and was friends with his birth mother and father. Tony arranged to meet him, and learned about his mother, who gave birth to his oldest brother when she was only 12 years old while his father was in his early 30s. She had Tony when she was 14 and a year later had another son. By the time she was 17 she had four children, with the last one being a little girl. Sadly, Tony’s birth parents were alcoholics and drug addicts and were abusing the children in horrible ways, including burning them with cigarettes. The State removed the children in 1954 when Tony was only three years old, and they were split up with each being adopted to a different family. Now he was determined more than ever to try and find his siblings.
With more research, he learned that both of his birth parents had passed away and that his oldest brother had been killed in a motorcycle accident. He was able to track down his younger brother and sister and called them as he cried and talked to both of them on the phone. They set up a meeting, and when they were finally united it was such a joyous occasion and Tony was amazed at how much they shared in common. He learned how those who are adopted take a chance when they begin searching for their family, because they may not like what they find. However, he emphasizes that it is worth the psychological risks and believes it can bring healing and closure along with answering many important questions. Today, when he sees parents with their children, he imagines what it would have been like to grow up with his siblings and says that he hopes that all parents will embrace the responsibility to allow love to preserve and protect their children. We are reminded that our Heavenly Father has spiritually adopted all of His children and loves us all so very much. It is comforting to know that as a child of God, we will always be a member of His family and nothing will ever separate us from His love.
Dr. Holland lives in central Kentucky with his wife Cheryl, where he is a Christian author, outreach minister and community chaplain. To learn more, visit billyhollandministries.com.