Testimony Part 2
God is Good
So much has happened since the Spring of 1995, which is where I left off in Part 1. From 1995 to 2000, I continued to work at CAB Health and Recovery Services as a detox nurse. Eventually, I wound up being the admissions coordinator. Lots of challenges! Our family continued to attend Community Church of East Gloucester, and we were thriving. In the fall of 1998, I was running the detox admissions when the director of the agency told me that to keep the detox solvent, and we needed to maintain a 115% occupancy rate. I told him that this was an impossible task, that he was not staffing the detox adequately for the level of client treatment, and that he did not have the admissions staff to accomplish this. He said that it didn’t matter, and that was what I needed to do. So that is when I felt the Lord leading me out of the nursing profession.
Karry and I were doing Nursery duty at our church one Sunday when a good friend of mine suggested that I look into the computer field. I have always had a computer and was still the geek whom people came to for computer advice. Could I make a career out of it? I investigated Clark University and found that I could go to school for 24 weeks and get certificates in PC Service and Support and Windows NT Administration. I attended Clark, got the certificates, and my last day as a nurse was Christmas day 1999. Since then, I have worked for MyWay.com, Alliance Consulting, and Groove Networks. In March of 2005, Groove was bought by Microsoft. I have been working for them since.
In 1996, the fifth anniversary of my last bout with Hodgkin’s disease, Karry and I decided that it was time to think about having another child. The first thing we had to do was determine if I was genuinely sterile from chemotherapy. Through an embarrassing series of events (suffice it to say that the sample had to be less than 20 minutes old and I live 40 minutes away from the lab), we did determine that I was indeed sterile. I also had the annual gallium scan and check-up with my oncologist. When I had the scan, they noticed another anomaly in my neck area. Was cancer back? We quickly set an appointment for a CAT scan.
This development was terrifying. But, unlike the last time, I sought refuge in my God, my wife, and my pastor. We prayed throughout the afternoon that whatever God’s will was – whether or not I was to endure cancer again – that the Holy Spirit would strengthen us and that this would be a testimony to God’s love and grace. We were ready because we had our eyes and our priorities straight.
The CAT scan revealed that there was nothing in my neck and that cancer had not returned. I was very relieved but also encouraged in the way God had led us through this time. After my oncologist delivered the news about the CAT scan, I asked her about the future.
“Am I in remission?” I asked
“Yes, you are officially in remission. However, you still need annual Gallium scans.” She replied
“Why? Why should I have to go through this every year?”
You see, Gallium scans are when they inject a radioactive isotope into your blood. For the next five days, you go into the hospital and lie on a bed and are scanned. The scan takes about 2 hours. No fun.
“Well,” she said, “We need to make sure that the Hodgkin’s doesn’t come back.”
“OK, so let me ask you this. If I check myself and I find a lump and that lump turns out to be Hodgkin’s, would the treatment be any different?”
“No, it would not.”
“OK, is there any difference in survival rates between those caught by Gallium Scans and those caught otherwise?”
“No, there is not.”
“Doctor, it has been nice knowing you! Goodbye, and thank you for all you have done.”
And so ended my yearly oncology visits. What was up next was the process of adoption. Now that I was officially in remission, we felt the Lord leading us to adopt a girl. We needed a daughter, and Ian needed a sister to complete our family. We started the process by researching the laws in Massachusetts. We discovered that in Massachusetts, adoptions are done through certified agencies only. No private adoptions. Also, the rules around domestic adoptions were not very strict – meaning that if we were to adopt a girl, there would be a risk that another family member could sue us for custody down the road. Not cool. So we started to investigate agencies and international adoption.
The first agency we went to seemed to be cool. We went to a seminar held by the agency to find out more. They had several mothers who had given up their children for adoption as well as several adoptive parents testify as to what their experiences were. Karry and I had an excellent feeling about this agency until the next day. That was when we turned on the news only to see the lady who was in charge of the agency (and who gave the presentation the night before) being hauled off in handcuffs being accused of fraud and extortion. OK, so maybe that agency was out.
Then we discovered Wide Horizons for Children. This agency was one that specialized in international adoptions. We did our research, prayed a whole bunch, and decided that this was the agency to go. Looking through the different countries, each one had its process and criteria and cost. My parents gave us the gift of paying for the adoption, so money, thank you, Mom and Dad, was not a problem. But we had some other criteria:
1. We needed to have the child escorted – this eliminated Columbia (2-week visit to work in an orphanage, go back home, then return for three more weeks), China (receive your child and then go on a two-week vacation around the mainland), Russia (up to 7-week stay in-country) as well as some others
2. We had Ian already – this eliminated China again
3. Were not Catholic – did not eliminate the Philippines but would make it harder
4. We wanted a girl – that eliminated the Philippines, Columbia, Ecuador, and a bunch of others who do not allow sex selection
So that left us with South Korea. We applied to the Korean program, went through all the paperwork, home study, and interviews, and were accepted into the program. Now was the time to wait. We started this process in the fall of 1996. We were accepted into the program in the spring of 1997. The waiting began through the summer. In the middle of the summer of 1997, we were contacted by the agency to see whether we were willing to consider a special needs child. Special Needs could mean nearsightedness, or it could mean severe brain damage. We always had the right of refusal, so we said that we would consider special needs. Within a week of that agreement, we had our first referral. This little girl had been born a couple of weeks premature and was jaundiced. We received some pictures (they were faxed, so a bit blurry – remember this was now 1997 when faxes were still a fairly brand new thing) and fell in love with her. We said yes.
But it was not to be. There was a family in line ahead of us that decided to take her. This situation was unbeknownst to us, so we had a week of joy thinking that we were going to finally have our daughter come home, only to have that taken away. Karry and I were disappointed, but we persevered forward. The next little girl that came our way was born with some potentially severe brain injuries. It killed us to do this, but we said no. It just wasn’t the right thing. Ian would already be a bit displaced with the whole adoption thing. Having a brain-damaged child would further displace him. I think about that little girl, where ever she may be. I pray she found the right home. God is good.
But we had no idea how good God is until we received our third referral. This little girl was born a couple of weeks premature (no problem, so was Ian), was jaundiced (again, so was Ian, stick him in the sun for a few minutes each day and that goes away), and had a very odd finding. She has six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot. We received the blurry faxed pictures and completely fell in love. She was our daughter. She was our Abagail (which means father’s joy – we added an “a” instead of an “i” to accentuate Abba, which in Aramaic – the language Jesus spoke – means father). We said yes to the referral. Abagail was born July 29, 1997, and given the name Lee Jung Sun (Jung: Honesty; Sun: Goodness; Lee: common family name, sort of like Jones or Smith). We said yes to the referral in November of 1997. So now it was time to…
Every few weeks, we would receive updates from the agency in Korea on Jung Sun’s progress. What started to unfold as the weeks of waiting went by was that there was some concern over her development. It was around Christmas time that Karry went through a major depression. She missed and wanted to hold her daughter so very much that it brought her down emotionally. She cried many times over the loss of not having any more children on her own and deeply longed for her little girl to come home. Her depression was deep, and it was profound.
So it was between Christmas and New Year’s that I received a phone call from the agency. The counselor stated that the most recent medical evaluation of our Abagail Jung Sun was that there was a suspicion of Cerebral Palsy. I was devastated. How was I going to tell Karry? She had been so down and out emotionally, was this going to send her over the edge? I prayed hard, asking God to bless her and prepare her spirit for the news.
She had gone out that night with some friends and was returning home when I prepared to tell her. She was praying with her friends about her emotions and adoption. As soon as she went up to our front steps and right before she went through our front door, she spoke out loud without any provocation:
“…greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world” (I John 4:4)
“…no weapon forged against you shall prevail…” (Isaiah 54:17)
God prepared her heart for what I was going to tell her. When she came through the door, I hugged her and then told her the news. She told me that God was in control and that all will be all right. As we hugged and cried, we knew that God was going to take care of this.
We told family and friends that there was a possibility of CP, and some of our dearest friends and family even advised us to stop the adoption. However, little Jung Sun, our little Abagail, was our daughter. Even though we couldn’t hold her and care for her, we had already bonded with her. She was our daughter – end of story!
Finally, in March (1 ½ years since we started the whole process), we received word that Abagail Jung Sun Johnston was coming home. Our little family was complete.
Through physical therapy and some investigation, it turns out that Abagail does not have CP. We suspected that the problem was she was held in a papoose like contraption for most of her days in Korea. Her foster mother was in her 60’s and did not let little Jung Sun down to play. However, as soon as Abagail got with other kids, she had a rugged determination (her physical therapist called her “motivated”) to catch up. And catch up, she did! She is now a happy and healthy six-toed (we had the extra fingers removed as they were impeding her fine-motor development) beautiful girl. Praise God, for he is good!
Another massive development for us after Part 1 of my testimony was the diagnosis of my son Ian’s Attention Deficit Disorder. This development came in around the first grade when his teacher felt he needed some intervention. After two psychological evaluations confirmed the diagnosis (one was by the school, and one was from a psychologist that we hired), we agreed that he needed extra intervention at school. We had many meetings with his teachers, school counselors, and special education teachers. We developed an Individual Education Plan that had measurable goals. Throughout Elementary school, Ian thrived. He excelled in math and science – he loved to learn. We asked him once when he was going to stop asking why. He told us he would stop asking why when he knew everything. He read National Geographic magazine (yes, he read them), read all of the instruction manuals for appliances and cars. This kid is a sponge for knowledge. It has been a long road with Ian and his ADD, but he has grown into his own, accepting it as a part of who he is.
At first, we had him taking medication. Each time he started back on the medication, we (and he) felt as if a little piece of Ian disappeared. He just wasn’t himself. That spark of Ian left, and we so dearly missed it. Sure, when he went on a holiday, it was tough for the first two weeks. But our boy returned, and we cherished those times. But the medication did what it was supposed to do, and it worked well up until the 6th grade. The dreaded Middle School years.
When Ian entered the 6th grade, everything changed. The school didn’t care about Ian, didn’t care about his Individual Education Plan, and didn’t care if he succeeded or failed. He was on his own. For the first time in his life, Ian hated school. At that time, we had just switched churches. The church we were now going, Grace Fellowship Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, had several homeschooling families. Could we do this? Would it be worth the effort and time? One evening we had a long conversation with a mother who had graduated a son from homeschool and had a second son entering the high school years. We talked for a good long time, going over every aspect of how to do this. Finally, Karry looked at me and said, “I think we can do this”!
In October of 2003, we pulled Ian and Abby out of public school and started our home school adventure. In all that we have done in our lives, this has probably been the hardest and the most fulfilling. Karry is fantastic at it. She has such a passion for teaching our kids. What has been most encouraging is the self-motivation the kids have developed. Both of them have their times of rebellion, but they overall treasure the gift of having their education at home.
Yes, indeed, He is good. I have touched on the significant events of my life since Part 1. ASI write all of this down, I am amazed by how much God has graced me with blessings that I could not have imagined so many years ago. One thing that I continually praise God for, but will not detail in this testimony, is that my father, at age 63, finally gave up alcohol and entered a life of sobriety. That is a tale and a testimony for him to tell. But suffice it to say…
God is Good!!!