Cover Image from Bethany Christian Services
Written By Ryan Zies, USA
What if… someone didn’t care about you anymore?
What if someone left you?
What if someone disowned you?
What if your mother who gave birth to you disappeared from your life without a trace?
I’ll be honest, I’ve struggled with this word. It’s a word that stands out boldly on one of my birth documents. The word “abandoned” is defined as, “Left without needed protection, care, or support. Left by the owner, no longer held or thought of.”
Image from Bethany Christian Services
All of this is true in my story, but I think the part I’ve had to wrestle with the most is where it says, “No longer held or thought of”. . . No longer thought of? OUCH! That itself leaves a wound.
Can you imagine, a mother who carries a baby for nine months, delivers the baby through a Ceasarean-section, and then never thinks of the baby again? I find it hard to believe that my birth mother has never thought of me since November 13, 1984. In fact, I believe wholeheartedly that she has thought of me, and the decision she made.
Nevertheless, my story begins with “abandonment.” It is part of my story, but it is not where it ends. Being left in a clinic outside Seoul, South Korea on November 13, 1984, is just a detail in the overall story that God had laid out before I could even breathe.
Ryan Zeis’ original birth certificate (Image from Ryan Zies)
The Hard Choice for Life
In Seoul, South Korea, at the time, abortion was culturally acceptable. There were over 500,000 abortions and just over 650,000 actual births. This meant every time a child was conceived, the child only had a 57 per cent chance of actually being born. I survived the 43 per cent abortion rate.
On November 13, 1984, my birth mother gave birth in a clinic outside of Seoul. She abandoned me onsite, leaving no trace or record of who she was. My official hospital paperwork says, “After the natural mother gave birth to the baby at the above-mentioned clinic (Dongin Clinic in Songnae-don, Kangdon-gu, Seoul City), she covered her tracks. The clinic tried to get in contact with the natural parents, but she left in vain.”
I was placed for adoption.
A Long Journey Home
But before all of this—before me—on the other side of the world, in a nearly all-Caucasian, small suburban town outside of Chicago, God was already crafting the details of my story.
Jeff and Sally, high school sweethearts and married at the ages of 18 and 20, found themselves for years trying to have children, but unsuccessful. Only after Sally overheard a co-worker talk about adoption, did they find Bethany Christian Services in Chicago, Illinois. Even with hope dwindling and family members advising against adopting a baby from another race, they persevered through and decided to adopt. While they were applying and submitting their adoption paperwork, on the other side of the world, I was conceived. God knew I was going to be Jeff and Sally’s child, and was aligning the steps for it to happen.
On February 14, 1985 (Valentine’s Day), I flew from Seoul, South Korea to Chicago, Illinois, at just three months old. The processes were simpler back then. The adoption agencies, Bethany Christian Services and Holt International, placed me and other babies on a plane in South Korea with two bracelets—one with hospital information and the other with the adoptive parents’ names on it. We then flew the almost 13-hour flight to Chicago only attended to and fed by co-traveling businessmen and flight attendants.
When the plane landed in Chicago, my mother and four other mothers boarded the plane to find the baby with a matching identification bracelet, and meet their children for the first time.
My mom always says I’m the greatest Valentine’s gift she has ever received. Every year she still writes me a card and sends a gift to celebrate my “Homecoming Day.” My adoption story is truly an amazing and beautiful story, but it points to a bigger story—a story of even greater love, purpose and forethought.
Jeff and Sally with baby Ryan (Image from Ryan Zies)
The Hand That Holds Us All
I’ve come to realize in this life that our God has a destiny and purpose for each of His children. He protected me when I was conceived and growing in the womb.
“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” Psalm 139:13-16 (NLT)
The story behind my conception and my birth mother’s pregnancy will probably never be known. But what will always be known, is how God had His hand upon my life. He gave my birth mother courage to protect and save my life at a time where she easily could’ve been part of the 43 per cent having abortions. In His sovereignty, she endured nine months of pregnancy, pain, lost hours of sleep, emotional attachment, psychological tear, and physical altercations in order to have me. Given her inability to raise and support me in life, she also made the decision to give me up for adoption.
She gave me up for a better life. She gave me a chance.
Easily, my life story could have been about being left—abandoned—at that clinic in South Korea. But I was left for something greater. I was left to fulfill God’s purpose for my life.Matthew 22:37 sums up our purpose, where Jesus says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
Seeing how God took a situation full of unmet expectations, sorrow, struggle and pain on all sides, but redeemed it to make it a story of being chosen and belonging, allows me to live with the freedom of knowing that God can use any circumstance to bring life and display His purpose. As I walk through my life now, I remember that I am “uniquely and wonderfully made” for a specific purpose on this earth. Everything I experience is part of that journey, and I trust God will use it for His glory.
For whoever is reading this, please know this truth: This world will try to tell you who you are. You might be tempted to look at your circumstances and experience to figure out what to believe or how to live.
But I want you to know that God sees you. He knows you. You are not alone. He has known you since the beginning of your life. Circumstances will tempt you to take your eyes off the One who holds you in His hand, but when you truly trust your heavenly father, nothing can hold your true identity captive. You are loved. You are cherished. You are His child. He will never leave you. He’s sitting next to you this very moment, and that is who you are.
Image from Bethany Christian Services
Watch the video on Ryan’s adoption story here.
Editor’s Note: Do you have a similar story to Ryan’s? Share with us in the comments section below!