When we adopted our daughter Dena, a Korean orphan, at the age of five months in early 1979, we knew only a few basics about her background—that she was given up for adoption by her unwed mother and was living with a foster mother until she could make the long flight to the United States to join our family.
We actually started the adoption process with the Dillon Adoption Agency years before Dena was even born, but unlike the relatively straightforward adoption of her older sister, Heidi, the bureaucratic delays seemed to drag on forever. But our adoption proved to be well worth the wait; Dena has been a wonderful, loving, and happy person who has blessed our family dearly.
Dena’s strong faith and compassion have also blessed the lives of others. During her teen years, she often provided comfort to the sick and elderly. Before going away to college, she often spent time simply sitting and talking to some of the elderly residents at the Waveny Nursing Home in New Canaan, Connecticut. One elderly blind lady there was as sad as we were when Dena went off to Calvin College in Michigan for her undergraduate studies.
As a college student, Dena arranged to spend a semester abroad in China during the fall of 1999. Before her departure, I asked if for our annual trip I could meet her in Korea on her way back from China in December. She was excited by the prospect and I began to plan the trip.
Although Dena had never asked much about her birth parents or the circumstances surrounding her adoption, I thought it appropriate to offer to do everything possible to discover more. That summer, as we were planning for Korea, I asked Dena if she wanted me to try to track down information about her birth parents.
“No, Dad,” she quickly responded, “you and Mom are my parents.”
Sue and I were deeply moved, but, even so, we wished we could do something to fill in Dena’s knowledge of her ancestry Nevertheless, I didn’t think about the matter again. That December, we met in Seoul and had a wonderful three days together despite the cold weather and the difficulty of finding anyone who spoke English. In fact, during the entire trip we encountered very few Caucasians. I stood out quite noticeably as a tall American Caucasian man, but many people approached Dena expecting her to be fluent in Korean. She actually felt quite at home!
After observing Dena’s wonder at visiting this beautiful country of her ancestry, I asked if she’d like to visit one of the many orphanages in Seoul so she could see what life might have been like for her if she hadn’t been adopted. Although I’m not sure she eagerly embraced the idea, she agreed.
The next morning, when we arrived at the local orphanage, we were greeted warmly by its executive director. He took us on a tour, and Dena got to play with many of the preschoolers while the older students were in school. It seemed clean and well run, but it was clearly missing the most important element of an ideal home: loving and nurturing parents. Even though she seemed to be enjoying the visit, I realized that Dena’s mind must be wandering into “what-if” territory.
The executive director told us that twenty years earlier, when we adopted Dena, he was the executive director of a nearby adoption agency and he suggested that we visit—to see what it would have been like for Dena to visit such an agency for periodic medical visits. He wrote down the address and our driver took us.
The place was bustling with foster mothers and infants, and realizing that she was once such a babe in the arms of her foster mother must have given Dena an unusual emotional sensation. How wonderful, I thought, that those women volunteered in such a way with babies who were largely rejected by their society. Thank God for these heroines and for the care such women had given our beloved Dena. Before we left, our young guide had one question. “Do you remember Dena’s Korean name?” she asked me.
“Jung Ja Moon,” I responded and I gave her Dena’s birth date To our delight and surprise, Dena was in the agency’s database, but the only information was the name of the adoption agency
“Why don’t you visit the Dillon Adoption Agency?” our guide suggested. “It’s only a few miles up the road.” In a definite change from her reticent attitude in August, Dena was eager to go. Both of us had begun to sense that this was destined to be—that God was guiding us on this journey.
At the Dillon Adoption Agency, we were once again greeted by a young woman who also found Dena on her agency’s database. “Please wait here,” she told us, leaving us in her small, cluttered office. Then three or four minutes later she returned with a three-inch-thick file. We had been told almost nothing when we adopted Dena in 1979, but now we were amazed to witness the Koreans’ extensive record keeping.
“Shall we look?” asked the guide.
“Yes, please,” we answered. And embedded in the file we found the original handwritten application documents Sue and I had filled out—filling my heart with a present-day reprise of the excitement and anticipation Sue and I had felt at the possibility of adding another daughter to our young family twenty years ago.
For more than an hour, Dena and I listened intently as this young and dedicated agency representative translated the file contents. She read transcripts of interviews with Dena’s birth mother that supplied the details of the family and personal situation that led to her baby being placed for adoption. She was unwed and age twenty-six and was no longer dating the baby’s biological father. The disgrace of having a baby out of wedlock was not easily tolerated in her culture and it was compounded by an additional level of disgrace for placing a baby up for adoption. The solution to dealing with both of these issues was for Dena’s mother to leave home temporarily while she delivered the baby and arranged for an adoption. We were enthralled by this story, and particularly moved by the photographs of Dena and her foster mother.
Even if I had spent months on the phone or writing letters, I could not have located this information. Our success depended on personal visits to the right locations—visits that could only have been guided by the loving hands of God. This was much more than a coincidence. We left with a copy of the file but without making an attempt to locate Dena’s birth mother. Considering the secret circumstances of her daughter’s birth, we felt it would have been inappropriate to track her down and possibly embarrass her in front of her current family.
Nevertheless, we came home with deep satisfaction, gratitude to God, and a sense of closure. We now knew the circumstances surrounding Dena’s adoption and were grateful that her birth mother had decided to offer up precious little Jung Ja Moon. As it turned out, God wasn’t yet finished with this experience.
More than a decade after our trip to Korea, Dena and her husband, Doug, arranged through an adoption agency to travel to Korea in 2010 to make contact with Dena’s birth mother. Although she was initially reluctant to meet, Dena’s birth mother agreed on the condition that it would be a secret and private meeting. We had been right: her current family members were unaware of the birth, and such a revelation would have been shameful and embarrassing for her mother.
The meeting did take place; in fact, the three of them met three separate times during the trip and agreed to maintain contact through the adoption agency. Doug and Dena both described it as the experience of a lifetime. I can only believe that God facilitated this reunion on a timetable and in a way that overcame the very real cultural obstacles that would have normally prevented such an emotionally satisfying meeting for all of them.
My annual trips with each of my five children were marvelous bonding experiences and created wonderful memories that the children will certainly remember long after I am gone. Even as they became adults we continued to look for opportunities for such travel. The trip to Korea with Dena became far more than a simple bonding experience. With God’s guiding hand we learned a great deal about her family origins, knowledge that ultimately led to a wonderful unanticipated reunion with her biological mother.
What we have learned through our experience of adoption is that we are all God’s children and that biological origins really don’t matter that much. We love our adopted daughters as much as our natural-born sons. They are all miraculous gifts from God to us, and we take our parenting responsibility very seriously. This was reinforced through the providential discovery of Dena’s biological mother and Dena’s ultimate meeting with her. We welcomed Dena into our home in the name of Christ, and Matthew 18:5 took on new meaning as we recognized that welcoming her was in effect welcoming the Lord.
Regardless of whether you have adopted a child, can you consider that your children are gifts from God and need to be welcomed in His name? How do they look to you as role models, whether you realize it or not? If they are adopted, can you see how, like Dena, they view you as their mother and father regardless of whether those ties are biological? As Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:3, we can benefit and learn from their unconditional love and unfailing faith. Jesus tells us as adults that “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Comments From the Original Post
God had a plan, that unfolded in all the lives involved over the course of many years. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. May He continue to bless you and your loved ones, and your daughter’s birth mother. Thank you for sharing His revelations in your lives.
What an amazing story! I lived in South Korea as a missionary for 18 mos. and love the country and its people. Incredible how information surrounding Dena’s birth came so easily to you while in Korea. It seemed that God had a purpose for leading you. Perhaps it was a heart cry of Dena’s birth mother…to one day meet her daughter? Terrific story and thanks for sharing. God bless!
George Warren 4.22.13
My wife and I also adopted a beautiful little girl. I know that God gave us this chance. We also have a son with special challenges. She told me yesterday that she loves and cares for him. I know that God wanted them together. Thanks for your story and web site.
Diane Walrman 4.21.13
Yes, The Lord can do many wonderful things as you well know…Dania is a very special girl to have parents like you…I often wonder myself, what it would of been like if I had a Mom and Dad that would of cared for me… but I have been so blessed with our awesome God we serve…I’m also happy that you got that chance to see your mom. You too Dania have been truly blessed…God Bless You and your family…
This is such a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it with us all!
Dr. jur Eddy Collins (JD) 4.15.13
I am indeed grateful to be given the opportunity to read such wonderful text,
Dr. jur Edy Collins(JD) 4.15.13
I sincerely appreciate being afforded the opportunity to read such wonderful writings.
Thanks for sharing your adoption story. While the process and landscape has changed in the decades since you and your wife chose to adopt, there are still many things that remain the same. Adoption is awesome, powerful, and a tremendous blessing. As a parent of a child from Ethiopia, I appreciate the details you outlined here. Thanks!
Lyle Paul 6.28.12
Fred, My own mother had been adopted and twenty six years later her brother who had tracked down his father was able to locate my mother. It was a blessing for all of them and gave me an uncle who was a wonderful role model I would not have had except for diligent searching and God given guidance.
Chuck Failla 6.5.12
Another uplifting story, Fred. I can only imagine how powerful that first meeting must have been and what it meant for both Dena and her birth mother — truly wonderful!!
Dear Fred, What an amazing and moving story. Dena is truly blessed by having you & your wife as parents.Best wishes, Norm
Rob Perry 5.30.12
I give thanks daily for our loving God who does all he can to bless us, lift us and make our lives better without interfering with our free will and agency! Thank you for this well spoken reminder of that!
Tip Cronin 5.30.12
I was so touched after reading this story. Certainly God has been watching over The Sievert’s, as well as Dena’s birth Mother.
Jim Noyes 5.28.12
Fred – This wonderful story has so many parallels to our adoption story. Our daughter was five years old, a tiny 32 pounds and a frightened little girl when we adopted her in 2004. Now, at age thirteen, she’s an honor role student, plays violin, reads at three grade levels above her current grade and is a bright light to everyone she comes in contact with. She has a love for the Lord that is infectious and she’s helped strengthen my walk – which was a very bumpy road for most of my adult life.
God is changing me piece by piece, and my daughter Dania is one marvelous way in which He has reveled Himself to both my wife and me.
Go Forth and Fish
jim Parker 5.26.12
It is only when we realize God is doing it all do we really see.