Na Mo‘Olelo O Hānai
by: Janice Olmstead
*Names of 3rd parties have been changed to protect privacy
Sometimes you meet people and it’s fine, it’s nice, but sometimes you meet people and you know you’ll always be friends, especially when Jesus is involved. That’s how my family and I felt the first time we met the McDaniels! We shared our Adoption Story with them, and they’ve asked us to share it with the rest of you, their ohana, hopefully soon to be ours as well.
My husband Bobby and I have been married for 20 years. We have a 17-year-old biological son, Rocco, and our 10-year-old adopted son JinWoong (pronounced Gene-oong, we call him G for short). After I gave birth to Rocco, we were told he was the only baby we would have. I always knew I wanted to adopt so it was a natural progression for us to investigate the adoption process. As super young pastors in 2000 we didn’t have the money to adopt but God showed me a picture of my child in a dream and I knew there was a little boy somewhere I would hold in my arms someday. When I tell you I KNEW, I really knew God said we’d adopt, so for years I waited. We received a small inheritance around 2013 and Bobby asked me, “You still know what our kid looks like right? You remember his face?” In 13 years of waiting to adopt, the picture never left me, never grew dim. We were always interested in adopting a Korean child because of my husband’s background and God gave me just enough information to pursue adopting a child from Korea.
Fast forward to 2015, we were scheduled to pick up G for custody on our 15th wedding anniversary. We traveled to Korea to meet with a judge and then flew home for two weeks waiting for the visas and approvals to go through. On that first trip we were told by some close family friends, who routinely did business in Seoul, we must have dinner with this family they attended church with when in town.
Little did any of us know the weight, the massive weight that Jesus had assigned to this amazing friendship that developed immediately. We’ll call them the Kims for privacy. The Kims had 5 kids and a HUGE heart for adoption. They knew so much about the intricate layers that made up a Korean adoption and we were stoked to meet such kindred spirits.
When we got home from our 1st trip to Korea, my husband Bobby was reading a blog by a Korean Adoptee, Sung-Ho, who was working with law makers and the heads of the two main adoption agencies to bring needed change to some very troubling issues. He was fighting against the institutionalization of unadopted children. Bobby wondered if Sung-Ho had met our passionate friends, the Kim’s. Bobby thought they needed to know each other so he introduced them online. Little did we know 5 years later it would become very clear the Kims and Sung-Ho had totally hit it off and would turn the world of abandoned and institutionalized children in S. Korea on its head.
Part of the reason babies are raised in institutions in S. Korea is they are very culturally conflicted about how to categorize abandoned children. Knowing your lineage and being able to state how many generations your family name goes back is an everyday necessity we might struggle to understand. There, when you’re in a room full of people the order of respect goes to the person with the greatest number generations. When a baby is abandoned, their lineage is unknown causing a cultural conundrum which deems them “unadoptable” by the S. Korean government and they’re institutionalized.
What happens to these babies when they’re grown and without a family name to protect them, where do they go? At 18 when they age out, they’re sent out to the streets with no social services to support them, no education or even living arrangements. Let the horribleness of that sink in, but don’t linger there long because I’m about to share how Jesus sees every single life and has come to set the captives free!! Sung-Ho got together with Mr. Kim and over the past 5 years they kicked in some seriously big doors effecting great change!
One day, I was reading the news and saw a picture of Mr. Kim holding the very first baby who wasn’t sent to a Korean institution! Mr. Kim and his family were the first foster parents that were allowed to give baby Young-Soo a loving home until he can be adopted. Presently, there is no foster system for abandoned babies. Mr. Kim and his wife continue to break down barriers so other babies don’t have to be institutionalized. Bobby and I immediately jumped on FaceTime with the Kims and met the week-old Young-Soo. We laughed, cried, and praised Jesus for the miracle He allowed.
Bobby and I are not anybody that God should allow us to sit courtside and watch this miracle unfold but now He’s gotten my attention! I’m excitedly awaiting the next two big waves of change.
There is currently a huge effort to set up a foster care system for these abandoned babies. There is an even more impossible and exciting effort happening by a 3rd rockstar and friend of Mr. Kim and Sung-Ho, Kyong. He’s working to get the 200,000 children in Korean institutions placed with a family! Think about the enormous impact to these children someday when they are sitting with their own children sharing how they were rescued and the value of their life restored. Think about the 1000’s of families like Bobby and I who are waiting to provide a safe, loving home to a child, who will not feel complete until Jesus brings their missing piece home.
If prayer is your jam, please join us in asking the Lord to continue to set the captives free! Please make this your battle cry! In one generation, the culture and reality surrounding the value of each of these babies’ lives can be dramatically changed by the hand of God!