I grew up listening to stories about my mom’s life in South Korea. My mom lost her parents at a young age, and grew up on the heels of the Korean war.
Through a number of circumstances, she lost contact with all of her family and immigrated to the States. I’ll never forget being young and asking her question after question about her life in Korea, and especially about the grandparents I never had the chance to meet. I would spend hours imagining them in my head, wondering what their voices sounded like and which of them my mom most took after.
And then, when I was seven years old, we visited Korea for the first time as a family. My parents had spent countless hours and trips searching for any of my mom’s remaining relatives.
The night I saw my mom with any of her family for the first time is etched into my memory. We walked down a narrow stairway into a basement restaurant and were immediately surrounded by a flurry of bodies and voices. The scents were new and unfamiliar to me – yet there we were, in a room of people I didn’t understand. And they were my family. I was wrapped in hug after hug, and watched my mom weep in a way I had never seen anyone weep before. It was a mixture of joy for what was found, and grief for all that had been lost and was still lost.
Some things made sense to me that day as young girl, even if I couldn’t have articulated it then: family is forever (even in loss), we can belong to those who are at first unfamiliar to us, and God is at work rebuilding and redeeming all of our broken bridges of connection everywhere.
I never would have imagined the way my own family’s journey would someday intersect with the stories my mom told me as a child, and my memory of a basement restaurant reunion in South Korea, but almost six years ago, it became clear to my husband Matt and me, that our family would grow from four to five through an adoption from South Korea. It wasn’t something we’d planned on or thought much about growing up, but God has an unexpected way of connecting the dots and tangibly confirming the truth that we all belong to one another in the most up-close and personal ways.
Our adoption journey was long, but the day we met our daughter for the first time, almost three years ago, all I could think about was the bigger story of redemption that had been playing out for longer than we were alive. It stretched over generations, many families, communities, continents, through trauma, loss, and multiple cultures and languages, like an invisible but indestructible bridge.
And a big part of that bridge being able to connect with our family, didn’t happen with our hands alone. The same way my mom’s retracing and reconnecting with the pieces of her past took many hands, our adoption story would have been impossible without our close community, our church, and the help of a matching grant from Hands of Hope.
It was true for my mom and for me, and I’m praying that all three of our kids would know and live this truth: that family is forever (even in loss), we can belong to those who are at first unfamiliar to us, and God is at work rebuilding and redeeming all of our broken bridges of connection everywhere.
Written By: Tasha Burgoyne