Two years ago, Sam Borrowdale was baptized by his dad, Kenneth. As they stood in the water, everyone could tell that Sam was confident in his faith and completely trusted his father. It’s hard to imagine that eight years before, he was a fearful orphan who violently resisted his adopted parents Jill and Kenneth.
Both parents were very open and vulnerable as they shared their journey to adopt Sam. Jill explained that Sam was abandoned at four months old. He was found in a basket at a farmer’s market with only a note that stated his birthday: December 19, 2002.
He was abandoned as a result of China’s “one child policy.” To regulate control over the population, China has laws that only allow couples to have one child. To promote this, both hysterectomies and abortions are free, and the government gives large sums of money to people who turn in families with more than one child. Typically, baby girls are abandoned within mere days of their birth. She doesn’t know why a family would abandon a four month old baby boy, but she knows that God has used Sammy in their lives to reveal new insights about His faithfulness.
Jill and Kenneth went through the intensive adoption process, and as they walked through it Jill drew comfort from Abraham’s story. “For me, what I remember most was learning about how Abraham let God lead him on a blind walk of faith from his homeland. I was studying this while we were nearing the time to go pick Sam up from China.”
Even when they finalized the adoption and met Sammy, their work was far from over. Both parents talked about how hard it was to calm Sammy once they brought him from the orphanage to their hotel room in Fuzhou, China. Kenneth described how Sammy immediately unleashed and fought them “with every fiber of his being.” He tired himself out and fell asleep only to wake up and fight with the same intensity. He tried running out of the room and punched Jill in the nose. Kenneth had to wrap his arms around Sammy to restrain him. Finally, he got tired enough to calm down. I asked Sammy why he fought so hard and he said, “because I was scared,” and then he added, “I also thought my mom was sick because her skin and hair were so pale.” Which is funny now, but terrifying for him in the moment. As hard as it was at the orphanage, he was being uprooted from the only place he had ever known, by people he had never met.
Kenneth described the day as “amazing” despite the chaos and Sammy’s attempt to open the door and run away. “It had to be what it was.” Both he and Jill knew that Sammy was scared and wanted to flee. Kenneth shared his feelings in that moment, “I knew that I would keep my two other daughters from running out that door, and I would protect my son in the same way.” They understood that if Sammy ran out that door he would only be more lost.
Sam’s adjustment into American culture wasn’t easy. At meals Sammy would often become extremely anxious about whether they would have enough food for the next day. Even though his needs were provided for, the fear he felt while in the orphanage still clung to him. He was only able to break free of it because of his parents compassionately showing him that they did have enough food and he could rely on their provision.
Kenneth described what it meant for Sammy to be adopted into a family, “At that moment he became an heir. Just like those who believe in Jesus Christ are made heirs.” He explained that by Sammy being given the name Borrowdale, he would instantly receive the benefits of his parents love and hard work even though he had done nothing to earn it. Kenneth pointed out that his son’s story reflects a bigger story for all of us; as heirs of Christ we also benefit from His work and sacrifice and we can be confident that we fully belong to Him.
Jill expanded on this idea and shared that if Sammy knew what he would get to experience as an heir, he would have run to be with them rather than away from them. He didn’t know that in America he would have more than enough food, he could go to the beach, he could experience Disneyland, and most importantly, he would belong to a loving father, mother, and large extended family.
In our own lives, we can trust that God’s plans are good, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t terrifying at times. Like Sammy’s experience with his parents, we can be intimidated by the idea of trusting God because His plans may be so different from what we’re used to. How awesome is it that we serve a God who loves us enough to not let us run out the door.
Written by: Robert Heckert