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The Miracle of Adoption
By Phil deHaan '84

The de Haan family
Phil and Sue de Haan with Gina and Lee.

Adoption has been an interesting experience for our family since the outset. It's been a road riddled with twists and turns and unexpected bumps. But more so it's been a journey filled with wonder, grace and joy. And my hunch is the adventure is just beginning.

It was half a decade ago that my wife Sue and I began this adoption pursuit. And things got off to a rough start. Our first referral, adoption lingo for a child that is yours in spirit, but not yet in body, was a little boy whom we named Alan Jung or A.J. for short. A.J. was a Korean child, born in February 1996, who became part of our family in March of that year. For almost four months he was part of our hopes and dreams until finally in June 1996 we got the call we'd been anticipating: it was time to fly to Korea to bring our son home. And then, the next day, another call came: A.J. had died during the night, likely of SIDS. And our dreams for him shattered like a January icicle.

There's a Korean form of poetry called the sijo. It's a little, perhaps, like the Japanese haiku. And after A.J. died I wrote some sijos. They seemed like the right way to pay tribute to a son who was ours in so many ways, in spirit to be sure if never in the flesh. One went like this:

Your body stayed, your spirit came,
across the miles, embraced our name.
Young immigrant, we touched your wonder;
wrapped your dreams in downy splendor.
Not our arms to hold you tight;
adopted by a heavenly light.

We'd always been aware, during the early stages of the adoption process, of the Christian connections to adoption. Although the word appears just a few times in the Bible the concept, most would agree, is central to the Christian faith. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, says simply: "In love He (God) predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding."

This concept provided a measure of relief for us as we mourned A.J.'s death. We had hoped to become the adoptive parents of this little boy even as God has adopted us, through Christ, as his children. Now, in death, the idea of God the Father, who also had mourned the loss of a son, became a source of strength and comfort.

Later that summer we received another referral, a little girl we called Gina. And in October we did go to to meet her face-to-face. It was a powerful experience. The instant they placed her in our arms, she was our daughter. Every doubt and every misgiving seemed to evaporate. Her weight in our arms said simply: "This is our child." And perhaps we understood a little more deeply that day, God's love for us, his adopted children.

Last fall we repeated the experience when we traveled to Seoul to meet our son, Lee. He, like Gina, had been with a foster family since birth. And his foster mother clearly loved and cherished him. This, of course, is good. For lots of love is the best way for any kid to begin life. But it makes for an emotional parting. And in November 2000 we experienced the same emotions we experienced four years prior with Gina.

We gathered at Holt, the agency with whom we worked in Korea, and Lee's foster mother met us at the appointed hour. And, of course, she could not bear to part with him. So, tears streaming down her face she reluctantly handed him to a Holt worker who presented Lee to us. And we entered the waiting cab for the 20-minute ride to the airport feeling all the while like both parents and thieves, crying tears that were a mix of pain and pleasure, while, behind us the tears were delivered solely from a wellspring of hurt.

In that moment it is all you can do to keep going forward, for the impulse is to turn around. But you know, too, that this child is at that moment, and from that moment forward, your son. The biology is not important, for where the genes fall short the heart bridges the gap. The months and years of dreaming of this day have created an overwhelming urge and instinct to cherish and protect. And you rock this child, who looks at you with tender eyes, and you say softly: "I love you."

And that, in my opinion, is the miracle of adoption. It's a miracle that Christians around the world know too.

For every day God looks at us, his adopted children, and whispers those sweet words to us as well.

Adoption doesn't mean there won't be bumps and bruises along the way. No more than being a Christian provides an inoculation against the ills of life. Yet we are hopeful that adoption will continue to be a powerful and positive force in our lives, one that daily connects us as a family to each other, but also to a larger family of Christians around the world--our brothers and sister in Christ. And so, on our adoption journey, the daily pointers to our adoptive Father have been unexpected, but appreciated markers along the way.

Bethany Christian Services

Holt International Children's Services

"Children by Adoption"
A devotional mediation written by Phil de Haan for My Heart I Offer, the alumni devotional book

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