The year was 1972 and the Vietnam war was raging. Daily news reports told of the horrible damage being done to the bodies of children when their villages were napalmed. Napalm is liquid fire, so use your imagination.
At some point, my wife and I learned that a hospital in Da Nang was working to repair these burned bodies and that they were hurting for funds. So we began sending them contributions from time to time. I forget how we got it to them.
One day I came home for lunch. As I entered the apartment, Margaret looked up from the Newsweek where she was reading yet another story of the horrors taking place in Vietnam. She was in tears. “Can’t we do more to help these children?” she said.
I said, “Maybe we can send $25 a month instead of occasionally.”
She said, “No. I mean, like, adopt one.”
I reacted instantly. “What? Honey, you don’t just adopt a foreign child!”
When she saw how closed I was to the subject, she dropped it. But she continued to pray.
Sometime later, a few days or a couple of weeks, I was in revival in Cantonment, Florida, and up one morning watching the “Today” show. Barbara Walters said, “This morning we’re talking about how to adopt a Vietnamese child. You’ll want to get pencil and paper and write this down.”
When have you ever heard anyone on television telling you to write something down? But I did.
On my return home, Margaret was unpacking my bag and a sheet of paper fell out. There it was, in my handwriting: “How to adopt a Vietnamese child.”
We chose an agency on the list known to be Christian, Holt Adoption Program of Eugene, Oregon, and wrote for information.
In the meantime, we both prayed that the Lord would lead us each step of the way. Perhaps He did not want this, but wanted us to be willing. But if we were to adopt a child, we needed His guidance in every detail.
According to Holt, children over four years of age were almost unadoptable. Everyone wanted newborns. But we had had babies. Our boys were 7 and 10. We would request a girl, up to age 6.
In January of 1974, the social worker came to our house. “I have a little girl for you,” Ruth Reynolds said. Holt had mailed the child welfare office all the information on the Asian child we were being offered, and Miss Reynolds, a member of our church, brought it to our home.
Kim Jin Ok was her name. She was 5 years old. A tiny thing. The photo looked like she was about 3. She had lived in the huge orphanage from the time she was 6 weeks old. And then I noticed something.
She was Korean. Not Vietnamese.
The social worker said, “Holt has been in Korea a lot longer than in Viet Nam and getting the child out of that country is easier. But if you reject her, they will turn around and offer you a Vietnamese child.”
We asked for a couple of days to pray about it.
Two days later, I phoned the social worker. “How do you turn down a child because she’s the wrong nationality? We asked God to choose our daughter, and we believe He has, that this is the one.”
That’s how it happened that on May 28, 1974, Margaret and I flew to Kansas City and met the United plane bringing our 5-year-old daughter. We received her, signed some papers, and caught a flight back to Columbus, Mississippi where we were living and pastoring the First Baptist Church.
We kept her Korean name, Jinoke, and gave her a first name of Carla, in honor of my dad Carl. When she married, her husband asked if everyone would begin to use “Carla.”
I told that story to Leah and JoAnne last night over dinner. They are the oldest and youngest of Carla’s three daughters. (Jessica, the middle child, was unable to make the trip down from Missouri for the holidays.) Leah is 25, the firstborn of our eight grandchildren, while JoAnne is 17 and a junior in high school. They are as sweet and bright and loving as anyone could ever ask or pray for.
Margaret and I had taken the girls to a local restaurant for dinner. At the end of my story, I looked across the table at Leah and said, “Honey, your grandmother here is the reason you exist. Were it not for her heart of love and her prayers, you would never have been born.”
God did this, from beginning to end. He gave my wife the heart of love and put in that heart His will that we should adopt a child.
Then He worked on her stubborn husband in ways only He could.
Our daughter is a work of God.
Our three granddaughters cannot not believe in God. That option is not open to them. They are the direct handiwork of a loving God.
We are everlastingly grateful to Him for His grace and mercy in blessing our lives in this way.
That day over 40 years ago, as I stood in the Kansas City airport watching the plane pull to the gate, I was thinking of my grandchildren.
They find that a little hard to believe, but it’s true.
As the reality of what we were doing–meeting a daughter who would be a part of our lives forever–hit us, it occurred to me that “There is a child on that plane who will some day give us grandchildren.”
And my eyes teared up.
That also was from God. From the beginning, He seems to have had Leah and Jessica and JoAnne on His mind and, in His own timing, in our plans.
There are no words to say how grateful we are to such a loving Heavenly Father.
“How precious are your thoughts to me, O God. How great is the sum of them!” (Psalm 139:17)
We cannot end this piece without making the obvious point that each of us has been in the heart of God from the first, that no one is more special or less precious than the others.
While I cannot back this up by a particular Scripture verse–other than “God is no respect of persons”–it surely is true that no one of us is less loved by God or more treasured than another. No one is favored over all the others and no one slighted by His attention nor forgotten in HIs plans.
You are special to the Heavenly Father. The Savior came and lived and died and rose with you in mind and on His heart.
It should be impossible for any of us not to believe in such a loving Heavenly Father. We bless His holy name for His love toward us, His watchcare over us, and His preparation for our eternal dwelling place.
We are infinitely blessed to be His very own creations, beloved by Him for all time.
Surely you will want to join the other members of His beloved family in a house of worship on Sunday to give Him the worship that is His due and to thank Him for including you.
You are so blessed.