Adoption & A Heart for Korea

In our work as Senior Relocation Specialists we meet a variety of some pretty amazing people. Each client impacts us in a different way, revealing something special that causes us to once again fall in love with what we do and the people we serve.

Miss Ellen

When you’re packing up a lifetime of memories for someone’s move, or going through their belongings for an estate sale, you learn a lot about that person. Recently, we did a move and estate sale for Miss Ellen.

We fell in love with Miss Ellen immediately; an accomplished artist, a nurse and a psychologist. She’s 87, but you wouldn’t know it for all her bustling about and tending to countless details with seemingly endless energy and constant smiles. Her home was an orderly explosion of art and color. It was an expression of her.  

Miss Ellen’s home also hosted a great mix of Korean art, furnishings and keepsakes. This intrigued me because my sister, Jenny, is from Korea. Though I’ve never been there, I have an appreciation for the land which brought forth my sister.

Jenny was less than a year when she came to our family. A new child to any family is a gift, but when the child comes from the other side of the world, there is an extraordinary anticipation and a special appreciation. An adopted child and sibling is an exceptional gift.

I was excited sharing a great affection for Korea. “Miss Ellen, my sister is from Korea.”

Miss Ellen talked about their life in Seoul. “You know it was a very difficult time and place for the people there.” She spoke of the challenging dynamics of the culture still tending the wounds of the post Korean War.

I figured Miss Ellen’s family was there on military assignment as most of our clients are retired military. When I asked, she explained “Oh no dear, we were missionaries.”

That made sense. Her love for the Korean people was evident through out her home. She went on reflecting on tender memories, “We’d reach out to the military men stationed there hoping to share with them the dynamics nature of Korean culture, different in many ways from American culture.”

“We spent a lot of time loving on the locals, the military and the orphans.” She touched my arm affectionately, “Shelly, in the aftermath of war and cultural dishevel -the orphanages were so full.”

“We’d just go there and love on all those the little ones…”

I began calculating dates. “Miss Ellen, my sister was born in Seoul. When were you there?”

She pulled out a collection of news clippings documenting the cultural issues of their time there. She paused a moment and looked at me before continuing, “We were there from 1968 – 1973. We worked a lot with Holt Adoption International.”

My heartbeat quickened and tears threatened to spill. Miss Ellen just kept talking.

“Holt would match American families to the orphan children. The children were then placed with in care of eommaleul yang-yughadas. We would visit and help them.”  “We held a lot of little ones.”

I knew about Holt and eommaleul yang-yughadas. Holt was the agency that helped our family find Jenny. They told us Jenny would be in the care of an eommaleul yang-yughada until the process was complete. I hadn’t heard that term since I was a child, waiting to meet my new sister.

Our first photo of Jenny

Miss Ellen was there, working closely with those who were orchestrating the adoption of these young Korean children, among who was my then baby sister.

I stood stunned, looking at this sweet, tiny, white haired woman before me. Had Miss Ellen actually held my sister before I did? What a wild and exceptional possibility!

I was floored with appreciation of Miss Ellen and to the eommaleul yang-yughada who first welcomed my sister to her home.

There is really no way to know if Miss Ellen actually held my sister any more than we know the circumstances that brought Jenny to the orphanage.

The important thing is the impact that resulted because of those who put action to caring for one another; especially those in need.

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of God and Father is this; to visit orphans and widows in their distress…” James 1:27 NASB

Shelly, our niece Miss E and Jenny

The fruit thereof lasts for a lifetime. I am forever grateful to my parents for realizing one of our family would be born in a far away   land. My sister is special to me because who she is not where she comes from. Yes, her heritage matters to me – a lot; because it’s a part of who she is. She’s strong and beautiful, funny and extremely intelligent. I now see that some of her strength, beauty and unique ways are inherent to the incredible land from which she came.

As we finished caring after Miss Ellen’s estate, I pondered the richness of God’s goodness and providence in sharing this intersection of time and people.

You never know what a day or a “chance encounter” may bring. And often we don’t get to see the full reach of our caring; but sometimes we do.

I hope that one day Jenny and I will visit Korea together. In the meantime, I count myself blessed to have siblings, family, friends and an ever thickened network of people to love and be loved by.

“love one another, even as I have loved you.” –Jesus John 13:34 (NASB)

** Holt Adoption International http://www.holtinternational.org/korea/