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Abandoned But Not Forgotten

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?

Abandoned.

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

See Ryan’s website, “Destined & Purposeful” , to read more stories of abandonment and adoption!

 

Editor’s Note: Do you have a similar story to Ryan’s? Share with us in the comments section below!

Why We Can Have Hope in New Beginnings

Written By Hilary Charlet, USA

You might have heard this saying: “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

It makes sense, but it’s probably not something we might readily welcome. How much kicking and screaming do we do when something ends and leaves us feeling broken and defeated?

For me, it came in the form of a relationship that ended out of nowhere. I was blindsided. All I heard was he “couldn’t do” the relationship any longer. While he was seemingly already out the door, there I was, still stuck in the comfortable pattern of what we were doing. I wanted to try to make it work. I wanted to bask in the happy feelings and hold on to them as long as I could.

There had been someone else in the picture. Yet, I still wanted to forgive and forget. Even though doing so would probably diminish my self-esteem and happiness, I felt that it was what I needed to do. But what I wanted to happen was quite the opposite from what actually took place. Instead of showing grace and forgiveness, I found myself constantly comparing myself to the other lady and wondering why I hadn’t been good enough to be “picked”. As if it should have even been a thought.

When I finally came to terms with the end of our relationship, I couldn’t see how I could still have hope for something good after an ugly end to something I thought was picture perfect. Why would I even want to try to be vulnerable when the same thing could happen again?

However, the more I thought that way, the harder I became on myself and the unhappier I became—until I realized that God was leading me to new beginnings—a new place (well, sort of . . . moving back home was different from where I’d been), new friendships, new Bible studies, new hobbies, new priorities, new outlooks on life, and so on.

I decided to lean on Christ to fulfill the longing in my heart, instead of people. Diving into His Word and His promises, I began to see how valuable and how loved I truly was, regardless of what people said or did. For the first time in a long time, I was so excited to see God move in it. I felt fresh, I felt peace unlike anything I’d felt before, and I felt so much excitement over the anticipation of what God would do. And I saw how our cup can still be overflowing with hope even after things end:

 

 1. God is protecting us from lesser things.

If we are meant to have something which is necessary and required for our journey, God will give it to us. Philippians 4:19 assures us that “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” He will give us our every need, so we need not worry. If He gives us something that we need only for a certain amount of time, He may take it away eventually. He doesn’t want to hurt us; He loves us unconditionally. He isn’t trying to upset us, but to protect us from things that are less than what He has planned for us. What He has in mind is beyond our imagination, we couldn’t even dream it up (Isaiah 55:8-9).

After resting in His truth, I slowly began to let the relationship go and trust that God would provide—not the relationship that I wanted, but the one that He created just for me, the one that I needed and that would glorify Him.

 

2. God is healing and restoring us.

What I thought was “good” for me was actually wearing me out on a daily basis. The feelings of frustration, comparison, and anger crept in no matter how hard I tried to keep them out. How could something good be doing that? I was broken in places I hadn’t been before, and I didn’t know how to get past it.

That’s when I learned to lean into Jesus as the One to fill my heart with love, peace, and joy, instead of looking to others. I didn’t need someone, I needed Him. Jesus wants us to feel complete (Colossians 2:9-10); He wants us to be filled with His love (Eph 3:19); He wants to heal, to restore, to bring new life to the pieces we thought would be forever broken (Psalms 147:3).

Where I had felt broken before, He filled me with His love and promises that I am valuable, that I am a treasure, and that no matter how lonely I felt, He was there every moment of every day. When we place our trust in Him, He will teach us, mold us, and piece us back together in the most beautiful way. He will be our Peace, and He will make us new.

 

3. God’s plan is unfolding before us.

When something ends, it might feel like the end of the world. We might stumble and not know what steps to take. But we forget that our story is simply unfolding before us, and God can see from the beginning all the way to the end. When we look back, we will see that what looked like the end of the world was merely stepping stones.

Now, almost a year after all of this happened, I look back and can’t believe how much I let that relationship control me as it did. By God’s grace, I’ve moved on completely and have learned to embrace the present moment. I’ve found my peace in Christ: He loves me more in one moment than anyone else could in a lifetime, and I make it a point to reflect on that every day.

Though endings may be scary, we have to remember that there are great things ahead, and this will give us peace, hope and even excitement. Each ending we face is simply a moment in time, another chapter for us; God writes the full story. He has a plan, and His plans are good. Each ending is simply the beginning of something greater.

A Family Crisis that Redeemed Me

Photo taken by Becky Roberts
Written By Agnes Lee, Singapore

Three years ago, I was involved in a family dispute. My willful, unforgiving, and prideful character deeply hurt my family and it reached a stage that I eventually left home.

During the worst of the crisis, I often asked “Why me?” or “Why is life so unfair?” When I did not get any answers and finally realized the problem was too big for me to solve, God did the most wonderful thing in my life. He humbled me and began a period of sanctification in my life. He taught me many truths, showed me that He was working in the situation, and redeemed me through this crisis.

 

Rely on the Bible

Living on my own was very lonely. I missed the good times when I would return after work to a spacious home filled with people who loved me. After I moved out, I was confined to a small room with only my own company. My landlord was very kind and allowed me to use his living room as my own, but it still did not feel like home, and so I confined myself to my room most of the time. I sometimes even worked late to avoid the loneliness. Outside office hours, I had a lot of time for reflection. I shed many tears on my own, and those weak moments ultimately drove me to God.

In those desperate times, I ransacked the Bible and found many of God’s promises. I memorized many verses that comforted me, and I treasured them. God’s word kept me from sinking.

Through reading God’s word, I learned to process my emotions in a healthy biblical manner. Becoming familiar with God’s word helped me resist the temptation to hurt myself and others when overwhelmed by emotion (Psalm 119:11). By hiding His word in my heart, I was not destroyed by negative thoughts.

Though I was bitter against the people who in one way or another triggered the crisis, God’s truth set me free from my hatred. God assured me that all things happen for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). I was chosen. I was set apart. I felt God’s love and assurance.

As I read the word of God, I began to shape my thoughts according to God’s truth. I slowly learned to exercise faith and to preach to myself. During the crisis, the Bible that I had once found boring and hard to understand became the book that held my greatest interest.

 

Rely on fellow Christians

Faithful believers reminded me during those dark moments “to cling onto God”. Fellowship with believers was very important during that time, because they reminded me over and over again that I was not alone. They reminded me that God was with me, and that God would work things out.

Church leaders gave me tremendous emotional support and treated me as family. The pastor and his wife reached out to counsel me when they learned about my situation. They gave me the love that I was lacking. They shared in my burden and made me feel better. The pastor’s wife became my spiritual mentor. She taught me to pray about the situation and ministered to me through bible study to deepen my faith. Whenever I went to church, I no longer felt alone.

Members of the small family church I attended showed a lot of care and concern for me. During the Christmas and New Year festive period, I avoided my own relatives since I was not prepared to face their questions as I was still hurting inside. I felt lonely since it was the first time I had to spend festive season on my own. But the Pastor and his family invited me to their home. It was a sweet and memorable gesture. The support I received grew my faith and showed me how important the body of Christ was and how faithful believers could aid in my healing.

 

Sing worship songs

Just like how King Saul found relief from David playing the harp (1 Samuel 16:23), I was also lifted up by songs. I especially loved the song “Be Still and Know”, which reminded me to be still, and became a comfort to me during those times. I began to appreciate worship songs, and learned to lift my hands in praise to the Lord even while going through difficult times.

The songs I listened to also taught me to give thanks, and reminded me the importance of thankfulness in all circumstances. Burdens become strangely lighter when we enter God’s sanctuary with thanksgiving in our hearts.

 

Through this crisis, I learned to read the Bible and find comfort in the word of God. I learned that being in fellowship with other faithful believers helped me stay strong in the faith. I learned the importance of worship in all situations.

By the strength of God, I found healing and courage to approach those who had in one way or another caused me hurt. Just like me, they had emotions and needed love and acceptance too. During one of my devotions, God showed me 1 John 4:18 and assured me that perfect love drives out fear, the one who fears is not made perfect in love. Hadn’t God showed me His love in the darkest night? Wasn’t it His love that sustained throughout this time? What did I have to fear? Even if I were to get hurt again, my God would be with me. As I pondered this verse, my fear of getting hurt again seemed irrational. My heart softened and I was finally able to let down my guard to draw near to people who had hurt me in the past to seek reconciliation and show forgiveness.

Today, I no longer feel the hurt that I once felt. I no longer feel that bitterness that once consumed me. Although the house no longer has room for me, I appreciate staying alone for now as it gives me more freedom to seek God’s face. There will come a day when we will stay under the same roof again in God’s perfect timing. For the time being, I have learned to cherish the solitude.

Had it not been for Christ, I believe I would have slipped into depression during the crisis. But what could have led me astray, Christ used for good―that I come to know Him. In Philippians, Paul says that nothing surpasses the worth of knowing Christ (Philippians 3:8).

How a Message on a T-Shirt Convinced Me to Break Up

Written By Noni Elina, Indonesia, originally in Bahasa Indonesia

Like many other girls, I have wished for a boyfriend since primary school. However, because I was a shy bookworm, I only ever played the part of secret admirer.

Then one day in high school, another student asked me out. Zainul* was tall and athletic, and his eyelashes were the envy of many girls. I had secretly been attracted to him since school started, and we began dating officially in 11th grade.

I was not a born-again Christian at the time, but I attended an annual youth camp that was organized by my church. God used the camp to change me—He changed my views about how I should live. I learned to reflect on God’s Word, and I experienced His beautiful love.

As I learned more about God through my daily devotions, I became uncomfortable about being with Zainul. The Holy Spirit repeatedly reminded me that my relationship with Zainul was not right. Zainul was a nice man and a good Muslim who attended weekly recitation. Though he did not do anything to hurt me, we became more distant because of our different faiths. I couldn’t discuss with him what I learned from God’s Word during my daily devotions, and was therefore bored with our conversations at times. I realized that we were not a suitable couple, and after explaining to him that we would never have a future together, we broke up.

To be honest, letting go of someone as sincere as Zainul was not easy. Most women like to be cared for and admired, and I liked it too. My affection for him did not disappear, and it hurt to be distant from Zainul. Though we had broken up, we still spent time together, and were in an unofficial relationship until we were in 12th grade. All that time I negotiated with God, saying, “I will be your daughter and fully obey you later on, God, but not now. Let me enjoy the time with Zainul, at least until we graduate.”

Attending youth camp and serving in church did not automatically turn my life around. I still made compromises and stayed close to Zainul because I thought I loved him.

One day, Zainul asked me to go shopping with him in a department store in our city. He wanted to buy a T-shirt, and we looked for a long time. Finally, he held up two T-shirts and asked me to help him choose one. I was tired from looking at so many shirts and wanted to leave. Without much thought, I chose the white T-shirt with colorful lettering. It formed a sentence in English, but I was too tired to read it.

The next day, Zainul came by my home as usual, wearing the white T-shirt we had bought together. In the middle of our conversation, I tried to read the letters on his shirt, and couldn’t believe my eyes. This is what was printed on his T-shirt:

For God so loved the world that He gave His One and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. —John 3:16  

How-a-Message-on-a-T-Shirt-Convinced-Me-to-Break-Up-(2)

I told Zainul what his T-shirt said, and Zainul was quiet for a moment. I had chosen the T-shirt because I liked the design, and had not read the words carefully. I would not have deliberately made Zainul wear that T-shirt. Of the hundreds of shirts at the store, how was it possible that we had chosen this very one?

Our meeting ended on a strange note. Zainul gave me the shirt the next day, thinking that it was more suitable for me. I accepted it, and spent time thinking about the situation.

That’s when I realized that the T-shirt was God’s way of reminding me that He loves me perfectly. He is the Lord that died on the cross to save me from my sins. He wants me to spend an eternity with Him, but I had hurt Him by choosing to love another person more than Him. That night, I cried in my room and asked God for forgiveness for all that I had done.

With the help of the Holy Spirit, I ended my unofficial relationship with Zainul. Though he kept sending me short messages, I completely ignored him. It was not that I didn’t want to be his friend anymore, but I knew my own weakness and I knew that to respond to him would only make me vulnerable again. I kept praying and found encouragement in God’s Word, as well as support from fellow believers. God changed my heart. When I focused on Him, my feelings for Zainul slowly disappeared. It is impossible to do anything without the help of the Holy Spirit. Only God can free us from the affection we have for someone if we depend on Him alone (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Attending university offered more opportunities to meet unbelieving male friends, but my principles of relationship have since changed. I do not even consider the possibility of falling in love with a man who does not love Jesus, much less anyone who does not even know Him. This principle has guided me till now, and I have enjoyed my beautiful time as a single—with God.

Spiritual growth only happens when we are obedient, and dating an unbeliever never helps us grow more rooted in the Lord. I need to be in a relationship that would point me to Jesus, helping me live for Him.

Today, I desire to obey God with all of my heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37). To do so, I must get rid of all competing loves in my heart—including letting go of feelings of attraction towards those who do not love God (2 Corinthians 6:14).

 

*Not his real name.