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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!

I Don’t Have A Life-Changing Testimony, And That’s OK

Written By Jean, Malaysia, Originally In Simplified Chinese

I was born into a Christian family. Since I was young, I have been attending weekly Sunday School classes, Sunday services and even family cell groups.

Growing up in church, I often heard stories of people’s extraordinary encounters with God. Some were healed from their sicknesses. Some heard God’s voice when they were invited to church one day. Some were filled with the Holy Spirit and after accepting Christ, their lives were completely transformed.

Such testimonies amazed me. I came to believe that if I, too, had such a powerful testimony, I could definitely bring more people to Christ.

Even though I fully believed that Jesus died for my sins and resurrected after three days,  I was once told that the mark of someone who is saved is a life-changing testimony. After some time, I started to believe that only believers with such compelling testimonies were true Christians. And this bothered me greatly because I didn’t have a dramatic testimony. Was I truly saved?

While wrestling with this question, I continued serving actively in church, reading the Bible, and praying daily. During this period, God faithfully ministered to me through sermons, His Word, and the people around me. In spite of these, I still struggled with my salvation.

In pursuit of a “perfect” testimony, I decided to deliberately attempt to stray from God. I stopped reading the Bible and praying. I also tried to serve less in church. I thought that having such experiences would give me a great story to share about how I had “turned away” from God and then turned back to Him again.

However, my heart was not at peace even as I went through with my plan. I was afraid to pray even though I wanted to. Then one day, I decided that it was time to “repent”, and I began to read the Bible and pray again.

Deep within, I felt quite pleased that I finally had a seemingly “perfect” testimony. However, whenever I thought about sharing this “testimony”, my heart would not be at peace—because I knew that I had fabricated it. Whenever I shared my “testimony”, I would always feel guilty.

I finally realized how foolish I had been when I was 16 years old and read an article that a friend had shared on Facebook, which was written for those who had grown up in Christian families.

It started with a story of a girl who was frustrated at not having a seemingly “perfect” testimony. She asked her mother if maybe she had not been “wayward enough,” and so God had not given her such a testimony? This grabbed my attention. Wasn’t this girl just like me?

I reflected on the article, and it reminded me that God gives all of us different stories. Even though I don’t have a dramatic testimony, I still have stories of my personal encounters with God in my daily life. For example, God has always been faithful in answering my prayers, whether I am praying over exams or friendships. Sharing these little stories with my family in Christ has often been encouraging for them.

And while I do not have any exciting stories to share with non-believers, I can still find many opportunities to share about God and how He’s worked in my life. Friends in school might ask me why I am not worried about exams, for example, and then I would have an opportunity to share about how God is with me in everything. I don’t have to envy the testimonies of others because God will use different stories to draw different people to Him.

Most importantly, the greatest story—the story of how Jesus came down to earth to redeem all men and draw us to God—has already been written, and all of us get to participate in that story.

I slowly came to the realization that I did not need a dramatic testimony to be saved. I was already saved when I acknowledged Christ as my God and believed in Him with my heart (Romans 10:9).

I felt ashamed of my ignorance. However, I was thankful for this experience as it reminded me that our Christian life is not just dependent on dramatic testimonies. What matters most is that I work on building my relationship with God, by spending time with Him daily, sharing my thoughts and feelings with Him, and asking for His guidance in life.

We don’t have to worry about having the “perfect” testimony, or envy others for their testimonies. Such envy is futile! The important thing is that we fight the good fight, run our race, and stand firm in our beliefs (2 Timothy 4:7).

The Day I Could No Longer Deny Jesus

Written By Jefferson, Singapore

“Do you want to know about the Truth?” my religion study teacher asked my friend and I one afternoon recess. We were in the teacher’s room, though I can no longer remember why we were there.

“Sure, sir,” I replied.

My teacher directed us to the library and, as soon as we found seats, he asked, “Who is Jesus?”

I answered right away, “He is the Savior.”

“Correct, though incomplete.” He replied.

I glanced at my friend for help, but he looked just as clueless. I did a quick mental review of the materials from the religion study classes I had attended in my Christian school—nothing came up.

Registering our confusion, my teacher told us to take a Bible from the shelf and read Romans 10:9. “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved,” we read aloud.

“So, who is Jesus?” our teacher asked again.

The answer was clear; the Lord’s plan that had led me up to that moment however, wasn’t as clear-cut.

 

Doubting Christianity

Since I was a boy, I had an interest in existential questions. “Who am I? What is the meaning of life? What will happen after I die?” As I grew older, I began searching for answers.

My first stop was Catholicism. When we were little, my parents would teach my younger brother and I about Jesus dying on the cross to save people from sins so that they could enter heaven after they die. They would also take us to the weekly Mass.

However, as a little child, I neither understood about salvation nor enjoyed the Mass. All I knew was that church was dull and ritualistic. I would rather stay at home and watch cartoons than go there. “If salvation means going to the boring Mass every week, I don’t want to be saved,” I thought. After countless complaints and tantrums from my brothers and I, my parents, who were pretty indifferent about religion themselves, decided to stop attending Masses altogether when I was about eight.

My next stop was agnosticism and atheism. By then, I was enrolled in a Christian middle school. However, the behavior of my so-called Christian classmates was not Christ-like at all. To me, it seemed as though Jesus, who claimed to be God, was unable to turn people toward righteousness. So I concluded that Protestantism was as powerless as Catholicism. I started developing my own philosophy—things I believed could help me live a good life—which was greatly influenced by Eastern pantheism and Western secular humanism.

This only lasted for three years. By the time I entered high school, my beliefs had been battered by constant challenges and setbacks. For instance, I used to believe that by sheer willpower I could focus on philosophical things, which I considered to be more worthwhile than the pursuit of fun. Yet, my mind would inevitably wander and I often found myself distracted by entertainment like comics and movies. These repeated occurrences proved that I was incapable of doing any good on my own.

Having been let down by my own philosophy, and, knowing from experience that human ways always lead to disappointment, I turned to the faith I used to despise: Christianity.

Why Christianity? Three years studying it in middle school taught me that it was different from other faiths. Christianity says that I am saved only because God wants to save me. As I began to understand how His love fills and penetrates every corner of His creation, I found answers to my initial objections to Christianity, including that about my “Christian” friends.

For several months I flirted with Christianity. I began praying but did not treat God as God. I also started reading the Bible for interest but did not believe its theological claims.

This continued until I met this religion study teacher, who talked about the end times as described by the Book of Revelation in his first lesson. Having watched a documentary about this a few weeks before, I approached him at the end of the lesson to clarify several things with him. During our brief discussion, his logical answers intrigued me. I had never thought that the Christian theology was a rational one. This led me to several more talks with him about the relationship between faith and reason.

But though the pull to believe in God became stronger, I kept resisting. Though I found it more and more difficult to deny His existence, I did not want my life to be ruled by God. That is, until that fateful question was asked.

“Who is Jesus?”

 

Struggling with the Truth  

If you declare with your mouth, Jesus is Lord”. . .

“Okay, I can just confess and live pretending that Jesus is not really Lord. I am the lord of myself, after all!” I thought.

. . . and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

I felt like I was cornered. This verse brought me right to the center of Christianity, where I could picture Jesus standing in His glory, very much alive, with His hands and feet still bearing the holes from the crucifixion, His stomach the wound from the spear, His arms spread out toward me, as if calling me back to Him.

My defense mechanism kicked in, my mind trying to argue that this could not be true. Interestingly, every one of my arguments only further supported the claim that Jesus is indeed the Lord. One of my strongest arguments against Christianity was that Jesus was not able to change my friends to live righteously. However, reflecting on my own experience and this verse, I realized that living righteously requires faith: When one believes that Jesus really is the Lord whom God raised from the dead, God’s love will fill and enable him to live a God-glorifying, righteous life.

I began to see that every second of my existence, every single thing I could ever find in this world, points to the existence of God and His sovereignty as the Lord. The fact that He did die and rise again gave me hope that despite having wandered far from God, I can be saved and return to Him. There was no escape. I had to believe.

Looking at my teacher, I found myself saying, “The Lord.”

 

Living with Jesus as Lord

For the first 15 years of my life, I had lived a miserable joyless life. All my attempts at living “a good life” floundered. Only after my repentance did I feel the joy and peace of surrendering to the Lord who makes known to me the path of life (Psalm 16:11).

Since Jesus is the Lord over creation, no one can claim that he has control over his life. We can choose to either live acknowledging Jesus as Lord or denying it. As the missionary Hudson Taylor once said, “Christ is either Lord of all, or is not Lord at all.” And if we do claim that He is Lord, everything we do ought to point to Him and His glory, even trivial things like cleaning our rooms (1 Corinthians 10:31).

It has been more than six years since I acknowledged Jesus as my Lord. I can say that it has been totally worth it.

Soli Deo gloria.

My Daily Struggle Against Negative Thoughts

Written By Kim Cheung, China, originally in Simplified Chinese

I used to feel like I was on an emotional roller-coaster ride—experiencing a huge range of ups and downs in just one day.

In a typical day, I would wake up to a bright and sunny morning that put me in a good mood. Feeling that life was great and all was rosy, I might even buy some flowers to brighten up my room. However, these feelings of happiness wouldn’t last. By afternoon, I would be feeling so down that life itself would seem meaningless and tiring. Ask me why this drastic change, and I wouldn’t have been able to give you an answer. It could be due to something small that frustrated me, or just a helpless feeling of moodiness that day.

I used to experience these feelings almost daily. They poured on me like a huge storm, leaving me helpless and overwhelmed. I would try to get rid of my thoughts by sleeping early or, if I was unable to do so, calling a friend for a chat. However, these conversations would inevitably end up with dispiriting talk and my friends sharing the same feelings of depression.

The worst thing about having such emotions was that they made it hard to concentrate fully on reading God’s Word. At times like these, I tended to give up reading the Bible entirely. At most, I would just ask for friends to keep me in prayer. This often left me crippled with guilt. “Don’t you find joy in the Lord? If so, why are you still so depressed?” I would chide myself. “Look at your pitiful self! You must be in this state because of your lack of spirituality!” These voices in my head would plunge me into an even deeper abyss of negative thoughts and feelings.

I knew this was the work of Satan attacking me at my weakest point. It was a cycle that would repeat itself and leave me like a weak lamb awaiting slaughter.

One day, I decided that I had enough. It was clear that God had told me to trust Him and rely on His strength. That’s’ when I realized that it is only when we put on the full armor of God, that we can take our stand against the devil’s evil schemes (Ephesians 6:10-11). I resolved not to be a victim of self-pity. Instead, I decided to take up the sword of the Spirit and fight back (Ephesians 6:17). Here are some practical things I did that I found helpful:

 

Achieving victory with prayer

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

This verse encouraged me and I decided to stop avoiding prayer. I wouldn’t hide from my pessimistic feelings or deny that they were there. Instead, I would admit that my lack of desire to pray was due to these feelings and ask the Holy Spirit to calm my heart. When these feelings continued to harass me, I called on Jesus’ name and commanded them to leave my heart.

I personally found such prayers very helpful. The Lord would comfort me and give me a sense of peace. I also came to realize that when I didn’t feel like praying, it was because I was ashamed; I shouldered all my burdens and found it difficult to bring them before the Lord. I learned that in times of distress, the only thing we desperately need is the Lord to change our hearts.

 

Meditating on the Word of God

After the Holy Spirit had taken those negative feelings away from me, I needed something to fill the cavity within. I desperately needed the Word of God to fill me.

That’s when I started to read Bible passages and take my time to think about what God wanted me to learn. I wanted His Word to be deeply etched in my heart.

In Philippians 4:13, Paul says that because of Christ, he can be joyful always: “I can do all things through him who gives me strength”. In Revelation 21:3-4, John reminds us about the new heaven and new earth that we can anticipate: “God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Reading these passages gave me great comfort. Through meditating on God’s Word, I came to understand it in a clearer way and was able to stand more firmly in its truths.

Spending Time with God Daily

Ultimately, I believe that daily fellowship with God is important and should not be neglected. It is crucial to set aside a fixed time every day to spend time reading the Bible.

I must admit that I’m not an early riser. Hence, the evenings are a great time for me to read the Word. Recently, I have been training myself to be diligent in prayer. I keep a small book to record my prayers to the Lord, as well as people I pray for individually during my personal time with the Lord.

Having a fixed time to spend with the Lord every day has helped me tremendously in my spiritual growth. My time with Him has taught me that it is only when we have an intimate and personal relationship with Him, that we can resist the strong temptation to wallow in our own negative thoughts and feelings.

If you see yourself in the “old” me, I would like to challenge you to have no fear, for Jesus has already overcome everything­­—even death—for us. Guard yourself from the devil’s sly tricks and put on the full armor of God to fight him. May we learn to rely only on Him and become strong in the Lord.