The year was 1964.
Lyndon Johnson was President of the United States, and the Beatles had just invaded America. The Surgeon General finally admitted that cigarette smoking was bad for our health, and the Warren Commission said—with a straight face—that Oswald had acted alone.
The Cold War was on, and flower children were “getting it on” in the new era of free sex and psychedelic drugs. “The times, they are a changing,” sang Bob Dylan. Indeed, they were changing as America grew into something of an adolescent nation.
What Tom Brokaw now calls “the greatest generation” was then giving way to what President Kennedy called, “a new generation, born in this century, tempered by war.”
The results of that generational passing of the baton proved to be tumultuous. The social fabric of society—which was newly awash in tie-dye—was tearing apart at the seams. The once-sacred institutions of our great country were getting a black eye in sit-ins and sit-coms all across the country.
Our national face was not only getting bruised, it was getting a bad case of acne. Some of our shame was well deserved, but a good bit of the rebellion was gratuitous.
Back in the day, beards and beads were all the rage, as were fondues, fringes, and frolics in the park. In fact, one of the few places you could go to find the clean cut with a crew cut was at NASA, but those guys were trying to leave the planet.
Nearly everybody else was trying to make love, not war. Peace, baby.
In the City of Brotherly Love
In the summer of 1964, there was a young, unmarried couple living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They had gotten together, and they had gotten it on. The new morality said they could. Indeed, the new morality said they should.
But soon enough the young girl became pregnant. When that happened, the guy split, and the pregnant gal was left all alone. “Who would want me now?” she thought to herself.
But eventually she became romantically involved with another man—even while pregnant—and the new relationship seemed like it might fare better than the previous one. There was, however, one small problem. The new guy on the scene was not so sure he could accept—as his own—a child sired by another man.
“I want you,” he said to his lady friend, “but I’m not so sure I want the baby inside you.”
So a decision was made. When the baby finally came, he or she would be placed in a foster home. Abortion was not legal in 1964, so the options were limited. The young woman from Philadelphia had to carry her baby to term.
The Following Spring
On March 31, 1965, that baby was born and placed immediately—as planned—into a foster home. It was a boy. Because he was unplanned and unwanted, he needed a place to stay, and he remained in foster care for 13 months.
Enter the Children’s Aid Society of Philadelphia.
“We’ll find parents for the boy,” they said. “We understand full well that one couple’s mistake is another couple’s dream—the answer to all their prayers—a blessing from heaven.”
And “Miss Andrews” from the Children’s Aid Society went to work. Her labors eventually paid off. On April 20, 1966 another young couple—this one from Reading, Pennsylvania—walked out of the Berks County Courthouse the proud new legal parents of that baby boy.
This couple could not produce children of their own, but they could receive children of their own. And they did so through the miracle of adoption.
In fact, this was their second of three trips down the adoption aisle, and they were thrilled with their new bundle of joy each time.
I am that second child—the adopted child of Carl and Cherie Valentino.
This unwanted boy was wanted after all. And that’s why I am “one less”—one less orphan in the world today.
A Word of Thanks
To all those who are reading this post who have fostered a child, adopted a child, or provided resources for others to do the same, let me offer a sincere “thank you.”
I am here today because of people like you.
I owe my very existence to people like you.
I can write this post today because of people like you.
You are people who are filled with compassion, who genuinely care, and who not only love children but reach out to expectant mothers in crisis.
Charles Spurgeon once wrote, “Before we ever had a being in this world, we had a being in God’s heart.” That’s one of the great truths we find in Psalm 139.
God Almighty has a plan and a purpose for every child—each tiny miracle conceived in the secret place and knit together so fantastically in the womb by the Master Artist.
And those plans are to give the little ones a future and a hope, just like he did for me.
The Beauty of Adoption
It’s an amazing thing for me to think about:
• I didn’t have a home, but through adoption the Valentinos gave me one.
• I didn’t have a name, but through adoption the Valentinos gave me one.
• I didn’t have a family, but through adoption the Valentinos gave me one.
• I didn’t have an inheritance, but through adoption the Valentino’s gave me one.
I didn’t have food, clothing, shelter, money, hope or love, but through adoption the Valentino’s gave me all of those things, and so much more.
Through a binding legal covenant, sealed in a court of law, I became the real child of Carl and Cherie Valentino.
It may sound like a bumper sticker cliché, but it’s true: Adoption is the option everybody can live with. Literally.
A Spiritual Illustration
When I read in scripture that God has “predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:15), I get excited because I have a little bit of insight into that great truth. When we believe into Christ, everything changes.
• Spiritually speaking, we didn’t have a home, but God gave us one in Christ.
• Spiritually speaking, we didn’t have a name, but God gave us a new one, written down in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
• Spiritually speaking, we didn’t have a family, but God put us in one—his church, the Body of Christ.
• Spiritually speaking, we didn’t have an inheritance, but God gave us “every spiritual blessing in heavenly places” and a salvation that can “never rot, perish, spoil or fade away.”
In that sense, I’ve been adopted twice, and I thank the Lord that he has allowed me to proclaim this good news week after week at Fleetwood Bible Church to hungry hearts and seeking minds.
They Told Us Early
Mom and dad told us right from the beginning that all three of us were adopted. They were very proud of that fact and wanted us to be proud of it, too. So they told us when we were very young.
In fact, I think we were a little too young. I was maybe four or five years old, and I just didn’t know what the word “adoption” meant, so I formulated my own definition based upon the context of what they were telling us.
I thought the word “adoption” meant some special arrangement whereby no matter how bad we three kids were, mom and dad couldn’t give us back; they had to keep us!
The other kids in the neighborhood—if they were bad enough, their parents could give them back at any time because they didn’t have this special arrangement called adoption.
Spiritually speaking, that’s not a half-bad definition of adoption! Having become a child of God by faith in Jesus Christ, we’re in the family of God to stay (John 8:35).
The Card That Came with Me
It was fascinating to me—and hopefully encouraging to you—that there was a greeting card that accompanied me back in 1966 on my journey from Philadelphia to Reading. I got to see it for the first time a few years ago.
It was a card from my foster family, and it was addressed to “Timmie’s Parents.”
It’s clear from the language in that card that the foster parents who took care of me for 13 months were people of faith. They were followers of Christ.
I don’t know their names. In fact, I don’t know anything about them except this: They had a very powerful ministry to children in need.
The card indicates that they had prayed for me, for my new home, for my new siblings, and for my new parents.
The Valentio’s were far from a perfect family, but I believe that God honored their prayers. In fact, those prayers are why I’m here today.
And to those prayers I would like to add my own grateful “amen.”