Our adoption journey begins with a one-night stand in Nebraska in 1970, traverses through Charleston, South Carolina and central Missouri in 2012, and finds its destination in Kansas City. Yes, explanations are in order.
My 17-year old biological parents met, I am told by the records available through Nebraska Children’s Home, at a party in December, 1970. They did not know each other when they arrived, but by the time they left they would have produced a life, me. What is known of my bio parents comprises all of two 8.5×11 sheets of paper. The story progresses something like this: bio mom goes home from that party and in time finds out she is pregnant. Her family was fragile and her parents were inhospitable to her situation. Since Roe v. Wade was, happily, almost two years in the future, abortion was not an option. What to do? In a remarkable turn of providence, the Lord provided her an opportunity to board with a family in Omaha until I was born. My bio mom did light housework, babysat the family’s children and carried me to term. I was immediately placed in foster care and I know nothing else of my bio mom. According to Nebraska Children’s Home, there is no record that my bio dad knows I exist. Their encounter was literally a one-night stand.
When I was just one-month old, I was adopted by Roland and Phyllis Chipman. Upon hearing I was available for adoption, they immediately drove nearly 500 miles from Western Nebraska to Omaha, and welcomed me into their family. One of my earliest memories is my parents telling me, and my older sister, that we were adopted. Somehow I was able to grasp the concept; it seemed natural, fine. So unobtrusive was this news that as I progressed through childhood and into my ‘teen years, I never recall thinking about being adopted. Only when the topic of adoption came up in conversation would I remember that, “yes, I am adopted, I might have something to say here.” I never addressed or referred to my parents as anything but “mom” and “dad.” I knew from experience that parents are not those who enjoy a one-night stand, but those who love, provide for, instruct and correct day and night.
So, adoption has never been an ‘issue’ for me; not something I dwelt upon or perceived as a threat. Early in my relationship with my wife, Julie, I informed her that I was adopted. She, a magnanimous Christian young woman, welcomed the news and during our courtship we discussed the possibility of one day adopting as well. Once we were married, however, those thoughts subsided for a time. We had five biological children before our tenth anniversary in 2004.
But by the summer of 2012, with most of our children in the ‘tween years, we were ready to begin thinking about engaging the statement in James 1:27, “pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” We enjoyed a summer vacation to South Carolina, and while touring Charleston for a day I announced to my family that I was going to carry a heavy back-pack, symbolizing what it would be like to have a foster or adopted child along with us. We would occasionally interrupt our sight-seeing as if to change a diaper or feed or address some other need. Max or Molly we called the back-pack, and thought about the needs of the world and the resources of our family.
That same summer, in central Missouri, a prison inmate relinquished his parental rights of two biological daughters. His decision, like mine to carry a back-pack, set in motion a series of events that would affect the lives of two girls, Maxine and Molly (as I will refer to them here). His leadership and legal authority terminated, Maxine and Molly were at the mercy of their bio mom, and she proved unfaithful. Between 2012 and 2014, Maxine and Molly’s grandma and aunt also let them down. By June of 2014, Maxine and Molly were without a forever family, orphans in the full custody of the state of Missouri.
Shortly after Maxine and Molly’s mom surrendered her parental rights, several months before Julie and I would become acquainted with them, a bedroom opened in our home. In August 2014, our oldest left for college. Less than two weeks after his departure, Focus on the Family hosted a “Wait No More” informational meeting for pastors in Kansas City. Via pastors, Focus hoped to inform congregations in both Kansas and Missouri of the great opportunity to adopt children whose parental rights had been terminated. Being a pastor, I received the mass email from Focus—and went looking for that back-pack.
My wife and I attended the pastors informational meeting and immediately registered our four bio daughters to attend the November 2014 “Wait No More” event with us. The conference prompted us to pursue adoption ministry step-by-step unless the Lord would intervene and cease our aspirations. Where to begin? The internet. We searched websites that profile children with no forever family. In January 2015, before we would begin foster and adoption training with the State of Missouri the next month, we saw Maxine and Molly for the first time. We printed their picture, put it on our fridge and began praying for them daily.
Nine months later, as providence would have it, we completed our adoption certification, and that day made an official inquiry, via that website, about Maxine and Molly. The door was still open. The girls had been living in a stable foster home for two years, were healthy and progressing in school–but still had no forever family. Over the next few months we spoke with and met the foster family, the caseworker and the therapy team—and were approved as the adoptive resource. Maxine and Molly have behavioral and social challenges, and wonderful gifts and beautiful smiles, and hopefully, now, a family and a church. They may move into our home by Christmas, and, we trust, not leave until we launch them out into adulthood.