John Bradshaw - Conversation with Vernon and Debbie Newman
When Vernon and Debbie Newman were younger, they had a life-changing experience. Some years later, they had another life-changing experience. We're gonna speak about both of them. I'm John Bradshaw. This is "Our Conversation".
— Vernon, Debbie, thank you very much for being here. I appreciate you joining me.
— Well, thank you for inviting us.
— Thanks for having us.
— I know we're gonna have a fun time talking about some experiences in your lives that I think many people can relate to. And maybe everybody needs to relate to. So, why don't we start right at the beginning of this story. Take me back to where you think the start is.
— Go ahead, Debbie.
— Well, I guess I could say it started when Vern and I first met each other. We were in elementary school. And he was the new boy in school. Moved to the area and a group of us that were growing up in our area just became really good friends. We all hung out together. And I got older and I think he noticed. So, we started a small relationship and that relationship grew into one that was not a healthy relationship.
— And as a result of that, we had a son, we had a baby boy.
— How old were you at the time?
— I had just turned 20.
— Okay, so you weren't as young as young could be. All right. Sure, you're adults by then.
— Yeah, just turned 20. And just really beginning life.
— And Vernon had just finished college and was working. And we weren't ready to be parents. And we knew we had to tell our parents, so we chose to tell my parents. And, of course, they weren't happy.
— See, my parents, my father was a minister. And for some reason, we felt that it would be easier sharing the story with her parents rather than go to my parents with the story.
— So, we told them and their response was...
— Very negative.
— They were not happy. And I thought for sure they were gonna say, "Well, you're going to have an abortion". And so, I quickly said, "I'm not having an abortion". And then my father said, "Then we're putting the baby up for adoption". So, they gave us really no choice.
— Well, what did that feel like to hear those words?
— I felt broken.
John Bradshaw: Yeah.
— I felt really, I felt that they didn't take the time to see how it was affecting me. I knew that becoming pregnant was not the smart thing.
— Vernon was working at the time for Pine Forge Academy. So, the whole situation wasn't a good one, but I did not think my parents were going to tell me that I had to give my baby up. And I've had people say, "Well, you were 20, you could have made your own decision". But when you're still living at home.
— Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
— And I had yet begun to work. I had just started. And I knew we needed more than just me, if I was gonna keep this baby.
— There's a lot of interesting things going on here. So, you both were from good Christian families, right? Your dad was a minister, so there was some added pressure there. You'd just begun working at a Christian high school, a church-run high school. So, there's a little added pressure there. So, we're seeing kinda two sides of the same coin. You're saying, "I wasn't ready," yet your parents were the ones who sort of made that decision for you. You mentioned it, you were young, you were living at home, but as your friends have said, you said, you were 20. So, how did you wrestle through this when the decision seemed to have been taken out of your hands?
— Hmm. Well, I guess we had to look at each other and see how serious we were with each other.
— Were we ready to possibly marry and raise a family? Were we even at that stage in our relationship? And I think after Vern and I sat and kind of talked about it, we realized as far as a relationship for the two of us, we couldn't really say that we were in love with each other, so we really wanted to be together as a family. And so, I think it was the easy way out by just going along with what my parents wanted.
— Was it the right decision to put your baby up for adoption?
— Not for me, it wasn't.
— No, it wasn't? Vernon, how did you feel at the time?
— Well, at the time, because of social and religious pressures and the shame of it and so forth, I thought that was an option. And probably the more viable option for us. But looking back at it, it was definitely not the right decision. And we'll tell you why in a moment. Because at the time, I felt I was not prepared. I was not mature enough, although I was doing mature things, obviously, that led to this. But I wasn't mature enough to support a family and be a husband and a father. I grew up in an environment without a father, having been adopted at the age of eight from an orphanage in South Korea. I had no father figure to help me in those formative years to see how a father conducted himself. Although later I had my father that adopted me. He was very loving, but I think the formative years set the stage for me. And that plays into later when we talk about our ministry. But I just wasn't ready. And so, we went with the easier course at the time.
— So, Debbie's parents were pretty certain, pretty settled, this is the road you've gotta take. You've had a child out of marriage, we don't see a future for the two of you raising this child, we think. What did your parents think?
— We didn't tell them.
— Oh, now, that's interesting.
— They never knew.
— I don't think we ever told them.
— We never told them and...
— And I don't know that they ever found out.
— No, not until Kory came into our life again.
— Yeah, yeah. Because I guess I need to let the cat out of the bag a little bit here. We're gonna get to the place where the son you adopted out ended up coming back into your life. It's a stunning story. So, let me ask you this. You said you weren't ready. You also said adopting Kory out wasn't the right decision for you. How do you, I'm getting into crystal ball gazing here, but you're been asked this before, I'm certain, how do you see things going, had you made the decision at 20 years old to keep your baby?
— Well, after he was born, the doctor asked me, "Are you planning on seeing the baby at all"? And I said, "Yes. I want to see him". And I also asked to have four days with him. And I think I needed to have a closure of it.
— But when they brought him to me, I knew then that I couldn't put him up for adoption. I did not want to. It was, I said, "No, I," I said, "Whatever happens, Lord, you can help me because I couldn't do this". So, I called home and I was telling my parents, and then my father said, "If you keep that baby, don't you come home".
— You feel like he meant it?
— Boy, that would have changed things.
— What would the future have looked like then? You'd be on your own.
— I would have been on my own.
John Bradshaw: What would your options have been?
— It would have been really rough. It would have been rough because I couldn't make him all of a sudden, now you're gonna have to grow up at this point. I couldn't do that to him. And I didn't wanna do that then to me or the baby. I wouldn't want him to look it up and say, "I only have to do this because," so, I knew then that I had to go through with the adoption.
— Adoption is, I mean, it's a wonderful thing. So, many people have been adopted and they've been given a new life and a new chance at life, perhaps in situations where things couldn't have worked out well in many, many situations. And adoption is a wonderfully, healthy life-changing thing. But for the family that adopts the child out, and really, I wanna talk about the mother, I think, because she's the one who's by far the most impacted. For the mother to adopt a child out very often, it's a real difficult, wrench of an experience, isn't it?
— Yeah, it is.
— What do you say to young ladies, well, young women who are contemplating adopting a child out and they're looking at the pros and cons, and the should I's and shouldn't I's.
— I would tell them to really, really look at their situation. See if there's someone else. I think maybe, it took me off guard, my father saying that. I think had I had time to process it, I would have tried to see if there may have been someone else that could have helped. And so, that would be my advice. If you feel that you can't go through with an adoption, but you wanna keep your baby, but you're not sure how to do it, maybe reach out to someone else, someone that might be able to help you and guide you through what may be difficult or may not be difficult.
— We're getting to, I think, now we're getting into some pretty deep questions, or really impactful questions. I wanna ask you both, and either one of you can answer this. So, a young woman is pregnant, finds herself pregnant. There's no father figure in her life here. No for the child. There's no... She's gonna be on her own. And she's trying to weigh, I know this is very personal and very individual, but she's trying to weigh, do I keep this child and try and raise him or raise her on my own? Or do I adopt? What does that woman go through in her mind to try to come to whatever the right decision is for her? Where's the checklist? Who do you talk to?
— It's a hard thing. It's a hard thing because often I sit back and try to think about what it would have been like for me had I stood up. Because I sometimes get after myself for not standing up. But then, then it goes back with, how would you have done it? How would you have raised him? Where would you have lived? And I think that was the key thing for me. I did not want him to suffer because it was something that I wanted to do, but would it have been the right thing to do? And so, you've gotta go back and forth.
— Your question got me thinking. I wasn't in this conversation with Debbie and her parents. I was never brought in. I was never made to be accountable. And oftentimes, men perhaps get the easy way out and leave it to the woman to deal with. And I think that's, I'm not saying it was their fault, but they certainly should have brought me in and talked to me and talked to all of us to see what was the best path forward. But I was never consulted. I was never reprimanded by them. And I should have been.
— Interesting you say that. So, what happened in your relationship? So, you're pregnant, nine months later a baby is born. What happened to the two of you in that time? Were you still an Item? Were you still seeing each other? Or, did it just...
— Yeah, because of Vernon's situation with work, I moved to Maryland to have the baby and live with my sister and her husband, so that it wouldn't cause any conflict that way. And Vernon would come when he had free time. He even a couple times brought my mother to see me and until the baby was born. And he was there when Kory was born. We were...
— I felt somewhat responsible certainly. And so, I tried to be supportive in ways that I could or I thought I could. But it was after the adoption went through and I saw the pain that she was in, that I looked at her and the situation a little differently. And five months later, I felt a sense of responsibility at that point. Now, why I couldn't have felt that earlier, but I thought I needed to help her through this pain by being with her. So, I asked her to marry me.
— Now, that's an interesting proposal, given the circumstances.
— Yeah. Yeah, but I felt some responsibility, certainly a lot more than I did earlier on. Obviously I wasn't thinking when I went into the relationship with her and got her pregnant and I certainly could have manned up. It would have been difficult. The pay that we receive at an academy is not enough to support a family, really. I think it was $7,000 a year at the time. But I mean, that was not an excuse. And so, over that time seeing her pain and so forth, I felt guilty. I felt that I needed to do something. And so, I approached her and her parents about marrying her. And they gave their assent.
— And for you was this like wonderful or was this, "Okay, that's the right thing to do". Where did duty and love converge here?
— It was confusing for me. And I think part of me felt like "Yeah, you should make this right". I think that's how part of me was feeling. But the thing that I thought about mostly was, "If we get married then I can try to get my baby back". And that's where my head went.
— We've got one minute before we go to a break, so I wanna ask you this. You're in the hospital, you're holding a baby, and you've gotta give him up. Walk me through that.
— I talked with him every day. Every single day I talked to him. I wanted him to hear my voice because I think in my heart, I felt that one day I would see him again, and I wanted him to know my voice.
— Did you understand at that time that there would be a mechanism for you to find him? Did you feel like, did you believe or have reason to believe, "I hand him over, I'm gonna know where he's going, who he's with, how I can find him".
— The adoption agency that we went through was an open...
— It was an open adoption.
— And we had to write a letter to him telling him why he was put up for adoption and giving him the opportunity that if ever he wanted to meet us, he could. So, I'm feeling that one day and with Vernon now saying he wants to marry me, I'm gonna get that opportunity to get my baby. And I did try.
— You did try.
— I tried.
— We're gonna find out more about this. I'm with Vernon and Debbie Newman. A wonderful story about giving a baby up and receiving that baby when an adult, back into their lives. More in just a moment.
— When they were barely out of their teens, Vernon and Debbie Newman found themselves as young parents. They adopted their baby boy out. Later in life, they reunited with their boy and today they're working in ministry. So, a moment ago, you were about to give your baby up, speaking to your baby every day in the hospital. But then comes that moment where this happens. What's it like, considering it's one thing for a young lady who realizes, "This isn't gonna work. Absolutely the right thing to do here is to adopt". And in many cases, young women will hand the baby over with gladness in their heart. Maybe a little sadness or something, but "This is better for you". You didn't have that. You felt like, "I wish this child could be in my life". So, what was that like to hand your baby over?
— Well, the night before, I asked if he could stay in the room longer than normal. And Vernon came that night to say his goodbyes. And he held him and then he started to cry. And at first it made me angry that he was crying, because in my mind I'm thinking, "You can change all this right now".
— You can change this, why are you crying? But after he got over and we talked about it, I think, a while later, about why he cried. I was so wrapped up in my own feelings, I didn't stop to consider the war going on in him. And that night after Vernon left and I still had the baby with me, I just told him, I said, "We're gonna be together one day. I don't know when and I don't even know how, but we're gonna be together one day". And that night after they took him, it was very hard night. I didn't get any sleep that night. And I started a prayer and the prayer was, "Lord, let my son want to know me today". I prayed that prayer for 29 years every day.
— Every day.
— Every day.
— Yeah, because you hear people say, "I prayed that prayer". So, you really, you prayed every day?
— Every day.
— You handed your baby over, you went home. Five months later or so you're married. How often was this a topic of conversation? How often did this come up, "We're gonna see our boy again"? What this something you talked about a lot or you just didn't?
— We didn't.
— We didn't talk about it.
— I just, I kept it within my own heart.
— And what was going on in your heart, Vernon?
— I was torn. And certainly the thought of trying to get our son back crossed my mind. But in my mind, once something is done, it's done. There's no going back. And that's where my mind was. For Debbie, it was quite different. She lived it every day. Although she didn't share that with me very often, if at all, but she was going through her own hell day by day.
— It was really tough. And when we... I had to really have a long talk with the Lord. Because I told him, "I know that I had sinned". And at first I felt God wouldn't forgive me. But then I said, "But you forgive. You do forgive". And so, I just talked with God and I said, "Okay, you're gonna get me strength to get through this". Because when I tried to get him back, I called the orphanage and I was told by the the director or social worker there that it was better that I leave things the way they were. That the adoptive parents had already bonded and that they could not have any children because they just said that we picked parents that could not have children.
— And that I could have children. So, basically, "Why don't you just go on and have more and leave this the way it was". So, I did. I just, I left it alone at that point. And so, it was a struggle for a good while. And, of course, we had children. We had two girls and I was all about being their mother. Everything was wrapped around them.
— She was very protective of them, even from me.
— Oh, yeah?
— She was not going to go through what she went through before. She was not going to allow me to hurt them. Not that I was going to in any way. But that was her, I think that was what was going through her mind. She was very possessive of them.
— So, something happened. Your boy is adopted out. But you've written a letter that stayed on that file, "If you wanna reach out to us, reach out to us". So, something happened. So, what happened to bring the three of you, the five of you, back together? What happened?
— Well, he was at work. We had moved now to...
— The Charlotte area.
— To the Charlotte area.
— Oh, yeah?
— And we got a letter in the mail. And Vernon had a bad habit of when something looked important, not opening it. So, I got in the habit of opening it and making sure it was something. I'd say, "Oh, this looks important, I need to open it and make sure," and then telling him, "You need to read this. This is important". So, this piece of mail came in from Washington, D.C., and I'm going, "Hmm, this looks really important". And I opened it and I start reading. And it starts off, "We are looking for Vernon Newman who lived in Pine Forge and the year. And if this is you, could you please contact me". And I looked at this, I'm going, "What could this be about"? And they changed the name of the adoption agency, so I didn't recognize it.
— Oh, okay, there was no connection there.
— Right. And so, then I kept reading through and I said, "Well, what would they want with Vernon"? And then I looked at the date again. I mean, the year. And I said, "Oh my Lord," I said, "I think our son is trying to reach us". And so I called him at work. I said, "We just got a letter and I know it's from our son. You need to call this social worker. She wants you to call her". This lady's name. Well, he called, but...
— It was in late afternoon and by the time I called her, she had left for the day.
— You couldn't wait for tomorrow to come fast enough.
Debbie Newman: Yeah.
— So, the next day I called her and she says, the social worker says "Are you the Vernon Newman from Pine Forge in the year 1979"? And I said, "I am". And she said, "Do you know what this is all about"? And I said, "I do. It's about my son". And she said, "He's been looking for the two of you for the past three years".
— And so, I was, all the emotions were welling up in me, so I quickly said to her "I think Debbie is at home and she would love to talk to you". And so, I hung up the phone and ran to the nearest private place that I could find, which was a bathroom stall, and I just just broke down and it just felt at that moment that with him trying to reach out to us that God was saying, "I forgive you and I'm going to make things right that you messed up". And so, all of that just crashed down on me and I just broke down.
— Before I ask you about your conversation with the social worker, Debbie, I wanna ask you both about your relationship with God through this. Because you did something wrong, paid a very high price. There is a God in heaven fully aware of everything you did, fully aware of what the Bible says, and you know it. How did this affect the way you viewed God. And maybe it did not. Maybe you grew in your understanding of God through this. What impact did these the set of circumstances have on your personal relationship with God?
— Well, I knew that I needed to get my relationship with him right. And that was one of the things that I really prayed hard about, that God would take hold of me. Because now it's just not me. I have these two little girls that need to know who Jesus is and they need to see it through me. And my prayer life and my study life became really important to me. And doing my, I used to have this devotional book for women. And I went to that book so much, it literally it fell apart. And I remember one time Vernon saying, "I need to try to find you another one of those books". But I really tried hard in surrendering.
— Did you have issues, your parents lowered the boom pretty, pretty directly after they became aware of what had happened. Did you feel like God accepted you? Did you feel the condemnation of God when you were walking through this as young adults? Were you afraid to look in his direction, or did you just throw yourself on him and say, "I know you understand".
— No, there were moments that I was afraid to look upon God. Because I really, that part of me that really felt that because of how strong my parents, and I found out later, it was mostly my father, found out later that my mother really wanted us to keep the baby. But my father was very strong against it. So, with that strong sense of, no, it's not gonna happen, there was parts of me that felt that's how God felt too.
— Right. And that's natural, I'm sure. It's not necessary, but it's natural.
— For me, my relationship with God was Jesus-focused. I had a difficult time and I attribute it to my early formative years where I didn't have a father figure. I couldn't relate to God the Father.
— And I could talk to Jesus and know that he understood and so forth, but I just could not. And then I came to the point where I realized I'm supposed to be addressing my prayers to God the Father in Jesus' name. That's what Jesus told us to do in John. And I would do that. I used to pray, "Dear Jesus," but then I changed to "Dear Father," but it just didn't feel right because I didn't have a real good concept of who God the Father was.
— And so, when this happened with Kory coming back into my life, I felt that Jesus was forgiving me and that's part of what caused me to shed tears. But I still couldn't connect with God the Father.
— Okay. You spoke to the social worker, you told Debbie all about it, now you've got a phone call to make or somebody's gonna call you. Tell me about that.
— Well, the social worker called and at first I was like hesitant to answer, but then I picked up the phone and she said "Hello," and she told me who she was and she asked if I knew what this call was about. And I told her, "Yes, it's about my son". And she said, "How do you feel about it"? I said, "I have praying 29 years for this phone call".
— And then that's when she told that he had been looking for us for a long time and he had to go to court to get the records opened. We never got notification that they had all been sealed.
— And so, he went to court. It took two years of that to get the records open. And he wrote us a letter a year before, hoping that if they found any one of us that we could have the letter. So, she overnighted the letter to us. He told us that he had gotten married, that we were grandparents. And that he told me everything about him. Things that he liked, what he didn't like, and...
— What's it like reading this for the first time?
— It was, oh...
— Yesterday you had a son somewhere. No, no, yesterday you maybe had a son somewhere. He might not even be alive.
— Right. Exactly.
— Today, what he's like, what he likes, you have grandchildren. This is upside down or downside up.
— It felt like I was giving birth again. That's what it felt like.
— Did it? Yeah.
— Yeah, that's what it felt like to me. And it was so amazing because all of his interests, the things that he liked, even down to the colors, was everything that we liked.
— Yeah, this is what I wanna ask you. Did you go, "Oh, he likes raspberries. That's my favorite fruit". And, "Oh, who knew he likes baseball. I like baseball so much". Did you have those moments where you looked and you're seeing yourself in this letter?
Debbie Newman: Yes. Yes.
— Yeah, oh absolutely. I was in software engineering at the time. Well, he went to college to be an engineer. He was a network engineer.
— Oh, come on.
— I was driving a Maxima, Nissan Maxima at the time. He was driving an Altima. I said, "This is just too strange to be coincidence".
— Oh, yeah.
— This is genetics working here or something.
— It was an exhilarating moment.
— But there had to have been a ton of impatience here, because...
— It was.
— You've got the letter. Can we stop by your house? We'll leave now.
— Tell me, was it that?
— It was just like that. Then the social worker told me to write him back. Don't put my name in it and don't put where we live. So, that's what I did. We wrote and I told him, I answered every question that he had. He wanted to know if he was a big brother because he really wanted to be a big brother. And I just, every question that he had in that letter, I answered for him. And then we overnighted the letter and I said to Vern, "I bet he's still in Maryland," because it's coming too fast. Everything's happening real fast. And the very next day after he got the letter, and I'm thinking he has to be, he got that letter just like that, and I'm mailing this to Maryland. So, because the social worker had to give it to him. And she called us and said, "He no longer wants to work through me, he wants to talk directly with you guys". So, we had to sign a paper saying that was okay. And we got to talk to him.
— By phone.
— By phone.
John Bradshaw: Yeah.
— Sounded like we were talking to Vernon.
— When I picked up the phone, it sounded like I was talking to myself. It was just surreal. And I said in a very slow way, I said, "This is Vernon Newman, may I help you"? And that's when Debbie stepped in.
— He was so formal, I'm like, "Oh, no". Because at first, Kory sounded so excited and then he got really quiet because Vernon was so formal. And then I just jumped in, I said, "Hi," and he went, "Hi". Later on what he told me? He said, "Mom, when you spoke, I knew your voice". I talked to him in the hospital. He said, "I knew your voice".
— Isn't that something. How powerful. I can't wait to find out about the day you met, about the day they met. We'll be back in just a moment. I'm with Vernon and Debbie Newman and their phenomenal story. This is "Our Conversation". More in just a moment.
— Welcome back to "Conversations". Vernon, Debbie, you've spoken to your son on the phone. You know his name by now.
— Let me tell you about that though.
— That, yes, do.
— I named him Kory Boris Newman. They gave me his birth certificate and that's what I wrote on, and I put it in an envelope and brought it home. I never told Vernon what I named him. When I talked with the social worker, and when we all signed papers that we could talk together and she gave us his address and phone number, she had on there, Kory. And I thought, "Oh, how nice". Because I had written her a letter and told her the whole story and that I had named him Kory. So, I thought, "Oh, she's being nice to me, she's saying Kory".
— And but when I got all of his information, that was his name, Kory. No one knew what I had named him. But God knew.
— You mean his adoptive parents...
— Named him Kory.
— Gave him the same name.
— Gave him the same name.
— Oh, that's too much.
— So, I said God knew. And I was talking to my brother and I said, "Do you think that he would let me call him Kory like Vernon's mother, his birth mother, calls him by his Korean name"? And my brother said, "Oh, I'm sure he wouldn't mind". He says, "But you know, I have a feeling that's his name".
— Your brother said that?
— My brother said that.
John Bradshaw: All right.
— And sure enough, that was his name. That is his name.
— You spoke on the phone. You said, "Hey, we've gotta meet you".
Debbie Newman: Yeah.
— And it's so interesting that he'd been searching for you all these years. That's really fascinating.
— Right. Right.
— And tell me about that meeting.
— Well, we tried to set up a time. I asked, "When will I get to see you"? And he said, "What are you doing this weekend"? Because this was on a Wednesday. He says, "What are you guys doing this weekend"? And we both said, "Waiting for you".
— "Waiting for you". And I had forgotten that I was supposed to be speaking at a women's retreat that very weekend, that Saturday. And I called him and I said, "Look, you still come. I have to speak, but it's only an hour away. Your dad will be here. You can get time with him". So, my girls took me because they said, "Mom, you won't be able to drive".
— So, they took me and they got to spend time together first. When I got there, I had, there was no real emotion, no tears or anything, I just walked over to him because I was like I was looking at Vernon's face because he looked so much like Vernon. And I just started touching him. I touched his eyes, I touched his nose, I touched his mouth, touched his hands. And he just, "Mom, I'm all here". It was just so real just having him there. I felt like I was holding that little baby in my arms again. And then after all settled down, he got to meet his sisters. And watching the three of them together was magical almost. They were finishing each other's sentences. They started playing around like little kids. Like they were making up for lost time. And they got along immediately. It was like the three of them were one almost.
— You met your son first. You met Kory first.
— Yes. Yes. I was home and his car drove up. So, I went out to meet the car in the driveway and he steps out and I see an image of myself. He looks a lot like my Korean mother. And so, he reaches out to shake my hand and I just ignored that hand and I just grabbed him and held onto him. And said, "My son, my son, my son". I knew then that the Lord had forgiven me.
— What was it like for Kory, meeting his dad?
— I think he felt a little awkward. But I think he relaxed a little bit when his mother got there.
— Yeah. Yeah. Our relationship isn't as close as it is between him and his mother.
— And that's understandable. But we have a good relationship.
— Where do you begin? "Hi, you're my son. I haven't seen you in 29 years". You have a letter or maybe two, I don't know, you've spoken on the phone. Where do you start? Is there a starting place?
— He brought a big suitcase full of pictures.
— So, we opened up that suitcase and we just started going through his life. He had pictures. And I was able to give him his birth pictures.
— Because I had that. And then he just started talking. He told us about his life. I asked why did he feel the need to find us.
— And it broke our hearts to hear that he did not have a good relationship with his adoptive parents. Matter of fact, when he found us, he hadn't even spoken to them in...
— Three years, I think.
— Three years. It had been three years. And his mother was not a loving mother. He said he doesn't remember one time that she ever held him and said, "I love you". So, of course, we did a whole lot of that that day.
— Yeah, sure. No doubt.
— I have a picture of her in a rocking chair holding him.
— In my lap.
— Holding your little boy. Yeah, great.
— But it broke our hearts because we got to choose these parents.
— They gave us a list of parents and we tried to pick the parents that were similar to our family. Had a mixed background, had education-wise was about the same. And so, it just it didn't...
— That they were church-going folks. They had a relationship with God.
— Come to find out...
— That wasn't so.
— That that wasn't the case. They were nominal whatever Christians. But they never took him to church.
— And that he knew at age five that he did not belong there. He said he would wait at the door hoping that one day I would come to the door. Or he would walk down the street as he got older looking for someone that looked like us. They never told him that he was adopted.
John Bradshaw: Oh.
— They were supposed to. So, he never got the package. He never got our letter. So, when he contacted the agency, which his aunt told him that's where he was adopted through, because he found out. He got sick at 19. Grandmother took him to the hospital. And the doctor asked for his medical records and she said, "I don't know. He's adopted". But he said that was the best thing that ever happened to him. He said, "I actually felt better after that".
— Yeah, yeah.
— But it was his aunt that told him where to go. And once everything was final, he got the paperwork. He got to read our letter. Because we asked him "Are you upset with us? Do you need to know"? He said, "No, I got the letter. I understand everything".
— Isn't it interesting that you've been praying every day for 29 years. And your little boy, he's growing into a big boy, and a young man, and then a man, he's got that same longing in his heart. Would have been very, very challenging if you'd reached out and you got an "I'm not interested".
— That would have been so difficult.
— I wanna ask you about his little sisters. So, his little sisters grew up knowing that they had a big brother?
— I had prayed and asked God to tell me when it was time to tell them. And one day I heard them in the bathroom talking and the youngest said, "Sonee, don't you wish we had a older brother"? And Sonee said, "It's strange, but for the strangest thing, I think we do".
— She said that?
— So, I said, "Okay, Lord". I went and got his baby pictures and took it in to them. And they started to cry. And I thought, whoosh, "Are you upset with me"? And they said, "No, we always wanted a big brother".
— So, this was a thrill for them.
— I wanna ask you about ministry because now you've drawn these experiences and you encourage others. How did you end up getting into ministry, into service?
— Well, remember I told you that I had to speak at the women's retreat.
— They had given me the title and...
— The topic. And I was praying, "Okay, Lord, give me what I'm supposed to speak about," and I wasn't getting anything. And then the whole thing started with Kory. The letter came and I had forgotten that I was supposed to be speaking. And so, when I finally realized and remembered, it was a week before it. And I said, "Lord, I have to speak. What are you gonna give me"? And he said, "The Kory story".
— The topic was on love and forgiveness.
— Wow, couldn't have been better.
— Romans, Chapter 8.
— Yeah. And that was the verse that he gave me. So, I shared the story that day at the women's retreat.
— And that's a story that's gonna touch so many people.
— And we have been sharing it ever since.
— And we combined it with Vernon's story of adoption. And how God pulled us all together, because eventually the whole family was pulled together. The kids all got to go to Korea and meet their grandmother, and it was, yeah, so, God just took the whole thing and just brought it all together for us.
— See, I was adopted at age eight in 1961. For 40 years I was not in contact with my mother. I didn't know if she was alive or not. I had been adopted at the same time with another boy, a little older. And so I had searched for him. I knew he was in the States somewhere. I found him in Nashville. And he told me that my mother had died. He said that his mother had told him my mother had died. But I felt the need to still go back and find out where she was buried, pay my respects, and so forth. And I had met a Korean woman during this whole process who was part of a organization called Korean Home Stay, where they invite foreign guests into their homes so they can get a taste for the culture and so forth. And so, when I went over there, she met me one day and took me to her home, made a Korean meal that I hadn't tasted in 40 years.
— And she said, "I hope this will help you remember. Come to find out that my mother was still living in the same village. She, this woman helped track her down. And she called me from my mother's home and handed her the receiver and I heard for the first time in 40 years my mother's voice".
— Tell me about that.
— Calling my Korean name, Yunbong. Yunbong ai. She was crying and sobbing on the other end. And a few months later, I went over. And then, no we...
— Yeah, but we went together.
— Yeah, we went together after my initial trip. And then several months later, I took my daughters over as well. And then this thing of going back and forth, she came over to see us. We went back over to see her. And eventually, I said, "Why don't you come live with us"? And she did come live with us for a little bit. But she couldn't.
— She missed Korea.
— Yeah, she was too old to change.
— Yeah, that's a big change.
— And start a new life in a new place.
— But what a blessing for you to have that kind of reconnection with your birth mother.
— So, then he was able to take Kory then to Korea to meet, to spend some time with her.
— And then she came back so she could spend time with Kory here in the States. So, it's been a good thing.
— Fantastic. Your parents, your adoptive parents, they have any challenge about you reconnecting with your birth mother?
— In fact, no. When I told my father that I was looking to find my mother, he was very helpful. He handed over all the paperwork from the adoption. And he contacted the General Conference to see if they could locate someone in Korea and talk to somebody in the Korean Union. And so, he was very supportive through the whole process.
— It was really, really nice. They invited her to their home and his mother, his adoptive mother said that they were sisters. They were sisters.
— Oh, how beautiful.
— Yeah, so, God was good.
— So, today after all of this, and you've reconnected with Kory, your son, what's your relationship like today? What's it like and what does it look like?
— We talk almost every day. Sometimes twice or so a day. He's a momma's boy.
— And we have three grandchildren from him. And our goal was to introduce the Lord to him. We wondered if he had any at all, but he did because inside of him, he said he knew he needed to know who God was. So, he went to an uncle to say, "Could you take me to church"?
— So, we now have family worship every Wednesday with all of our children on Facebook Time is it called?
John Bradshaw: Yeah, that's fantastic.
— Yeah. And we asked that all of them, "What topic do you wanna talk about"? And they wanted to talk about Daniel and Revelation. So, that's what we're studying with the whole family.
— And, so, ah, God is good.
— Yes, he is. So, let's talk about the goodness of God. Two questions I wanna ask you. One is how has your picture of God evolved? Developed might be the right word. How has that developed? You're a couple of scared 20-year-olds years ago, and wondering what to do after your life took an unexpected turn. Of course, you're gonna look up and say, "How do I relate to God now"? You've expressed some of that, but how has your relationship with God developed? How has this helped you understand God better?
— He's totally awesome. I see him in such a different light now. I see him as the loving God that he truly is. And how he looks and he sees when we are willing to change, how he's there to help make that change.
— So often I felt that God wasn't there. I couldn't connect with him. And when all of his transpired, I realized, finally, that God's been there all along directing, orchestrating all of this. With the bad choices that we made, he was still being patient and guiding and directing. And he orchestrated this beautiful reunion with my mother, birth mother, as well as with our son.
— Okay. Ministry. Talk to me about what you're doing with ministry today and how people can contact you.
— Well, we realized with this story of forgiveness, that there are other people out there hurting.
— That need to hear how God, even if takes forever, because sometimes we pray and we think he's to answer right away. But as you know, 29 years I prayed that prayer, every single day. And God answered it. But he had so many other things he had to put together. And I just thank God that he gave me the patience to keep on praying. We wanted others to know about that. And we felt what better way is to share this ministry, share this story.
— With all the things that are transpiring in the world today, we have a sense of urgency to share our message because so many people go to church and come home and they really don't have a personal relationship with God. That's our sense. And so, we changed the name from Know The Savior to Know The Savior Today. And John 17:3 is our Scripture that we use. "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent". And Sister White says "To know Him is to love Him". And so, this is the message that we want to share because people who don't love God are not gonna end up in heaven.
— Right. If somebody wants to find you online, where are they gonna find you?
— Knowthesaviortoday.com. God has given you a phenomenal testimony. He's been with you. It's a story of redemption.
— A story of divine leading and providence. God is good.
— God is good.
— Debbie, Vernon, thank you so much. I can't tell you how much I appreciate this. Thank you.
— Thank you.
— Thank you for having us.
— And thank you. Thanks so much for joining us with Vernon Newman and Debbie Newman. I'm John Bradshaw, and this has been "Our Conversation".