The Greatest Gift

After volunteering at a Winter Jam concert, a Holt adoptive mom discovers that several sponsors supported her son while he was in foster care in Korea.

Asa Portrait-1[1]Our adoption story probably started out like many others.  After two unsuccessful pregnancies, my husband and I came to the realization that God had other plans for how we would create our family.  In 2008, we both felt that it was time to pursue adoption.  We visited Holt International’s website, and specifically their waiting child photolisting.  We knew we wanted a child, and it didn’t matter to us if he or she had medical issues.  As a military family, we have access to wonderful healthcare.

The moment we saw Myeong-Min’s photo, we knew he was ours!  We would name him Asa.

When we traveled to South Korea to pick Asa up, I was very impressed by the childcare facilities and the care the children received. Although Asa spent most of his time in South Korea with a loving foster mother, he spent the last few months in care at the Holt Reception Center run by Holt Korea.*  This made me nervous at first, but the reception center was definitely not what I had expected. You could tell the women loved the children and babies like they were their own.  They were always on the floor playing with them and loving on them.

While in Korea, we had hoped to meet Asa’s foster family. Although it didn’t work out, I ask Asa all the time if he remembers his foster mom, and he shares stories with me.  He tells me that he remembers “Oma” holding him when he was sad.  He knows that Oma took care of him and loved him until we became a forever family.  He was only 13 months old when he came home, so I don’t know if his stories are real, but I like to believe that his memories are authentic.  I love listening to him talk about her. When we go back to Korea for a visit one day, I hope that he will run right to her and give her a big hug.  She is so special to us.

Although Asa Schwendenman was only 13 months old when he came home to his family, he lovingly remembers the foster mother who cared for him in Korea.

Although Asa Schwendenman was only 13 months old when he came home to his family, he lovingly remembers the foster mother who cared for him in Korea.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and when a child is waiting for their forever family, this sentiment is especially true!  The love and support that Asa received from his foster mom allowed him to thrive until he came home.  His foster mother loved him like he was her own, and I believe that played a huge role in his transition to us. Because of Asa’s foster mother, Asa came home to us happy and healthy, for which I am forever grateful. For years, however, I never stopped to think about who may have been helping Asa’s loving foster mother provide that exceptional care.

Not until a volunteer opportunity with Holt International opened my eyes…

Two years ago, I learned about the Winter Jam concert series, at which Holt and Christian music group NewSong team up to advocate for orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children.  It was at one of these exciting concerts that our family volunteered to help sign up child sponsors for children in Holt’s care. After volunteering, I realized that Asa would have most likely had a sponsor or sponsors.**  I, however, didn’t contact Holt until this year, after I decided I wanted to reach out to those families that sponsored Asa.

I wanted these families to know what the $30 monthly donation they gave toward Asa’s care meant to our family, and how much it blessed Asa. This year at Winter Jam, in honor of our son’s sponsors, our family chose to sponsor a little girl from Korea.  Her photo is hanging on our fridge, reminding us to pray for her every time we pass by.

Standing beside NewSong’s Eddie Carswell, Kari and Asa share their story to help promote sponsorship at a recent Winter Jam concert.

Standing beside NewSong’s Eddie Carswell, Kari and Asa share their story to help promote sponsorship at a recent Winter Jam concert.

I am so grateful for the child sponsors who allowed Asa to thrive until he came home.  Today, Asa is a loving, bubbly little boy who always has a smile on his face. He loves to play with cars, blocks and tools and he is all “boy.” He adores reading and usually tries to convince me to read him “just one more book” about three times each night!  He is my little sidekick, and I can’t imagine what life would be like without him.

Recently, I heard a sermon where the pastor asked an open-ended question:  When did Jesus become real to you? He wasn’t asking about the moment you accepted Christ, but rather when you realized the amazing gift that He gave for you.  I was raised in a Christian home with parents who took me to church every Sunday and Wednesday and taught me to love Jesus from a young age.  Since I was raised in the church, I think I took my relationship with Christ for granted.  That all changed when Jesus gave me the greatest gift of all, the chance to be a mom!  That’s when Jesus became “real” to me. When he brought me Myeong-Min… Our Asa.

To Asa’s birth mom who chose adoption for her son, to the loving foster mother who nurtured Asa while he waited to join our family, and to his generous sponsors who provided the care he so desperately needed, thank you for helping Asa come home to me.

Kari Schwendenman | Valdosta, Georgia

Not yet a Holt sponsor? Become one! Already sponsor a child? Sponsor another one!

* The Reception Center provided temporary or transitional care for children waiting to join families through Holt Korea. The center ensured one caregiver for every three children, and was located just around the corner from Holt’s main office in the same building as the guest house and Holt Korea’s travel services.  As the center closed in Jan 2014, all children in Holt Korea’s care will now be in foster homes.

** Holt’s care for children is unique because, in most cases, we are providing the majority of support for the child’s livelihood — not just assistance to the child’s community. This high level of responsibility means that our monthly cost of caring for a child often exceeds $30. To keep each sponsor’s monthly contribution low while ensuring every child has all they need to thrive, children are often supported by multiple sponsors.

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