Bridging the Gap of Interracial AdoptionMarch 18, 2013
After Ryan Bomberger’s birth mother was raped, she could easily have chosen abortion…but Ryan and his nine siblings are glad she didn’t. Tune in for this incredible story of life giving redemption in the face of incredible hardship.
After Ryan Bomberger’s birth mother was raped, she could easily have chosen abortion…but Ryan and his nine siblings are glad she didn’t. Tune in for this incredible story of life giving redemption in the face of incredible hardship.
Bridging the Gap of Interracial Adoption
Bob: When Ryan Bomberger was adopted—he was an African-American baby—his new parents were white. It was not common, at that point. In fact, a number of people looked down on it, including Ryan Bomberger’s new grandfather.
Ryan: I grew up in Lancaster County. The area we grew up was a majority white area; but unfortunately, my mom had to deal with a father who could not separate his deep-seated racist feelings. In fact, he said, “If you bring in this black child (he used another word for that) into your home, I’ll have nothing to do with you.” So, she and my dad had to make that choice; and they made that decision between her father and her newborn son.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, March 18th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’re going to kick things off today by taking you to a live recording that took place almost a year ago at the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit in California. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, without looking at your schedule—and I know how crowded your schedule gets—I always know that there are a few dates every year that are blocked out and kind of sacred. You’ve been at every Orphan Summit since we hosted the first one, back at FamilyLife headquarters. There were about 35 people in the room; right?
Dennis: That’s right. There have been eight of them. We’re here live with the audience of—
Bob: Yes! In fact, we have a live studio audience joining us. [Applause and cheers] Yes!
Dennis: Barbara and I really believe in the issue of the orphan, and going near the orphan, and talking about adoption and foster care. We count it a privilege to be a part of giving voice to those who don’t have a voice. In fact, over the years, I’ve said one of the big problems in the Christian community, I think, is we’ve done a fairly good job of being pro-life; but we haven’t done a good job of being pro-life and pro-orphan—pro-adoption. If we could overturn the laws and have abortion overruled, there would be hundreds of thousands of babies. The Christian community—because it hasn’t been pro-adoption—I think they’d be overwhelmed by it. We’ve got someone here with us today—Ryan Bomberger—who has a compelling story of both pro-life and pro-adoption. Ryan, welcome to our broadcast.
Ryan: Thank you. It’s great to be here. [Applause]
Dennis: Ryan is married to his wife, Bethany. She’s somewhere in the audience. Bethany, would you stand up? Where are you? Stand up down there. There she is! [Applause]
They live in Virginia Beach, along with their four children, and give leadership to The Radiance Foundation, which is a life-affirming non-profit. We’ll talk more about that later. Ryan is an Emmy Award-winning creative professional. He’s a blogger, a speaker, a writer, and a champion for the value of human life. Ryan, there have been a lot of folks who’ve invested in your life—a lot of heroes who’ve invested heavily in your life. Tell us about the first hero and her story.
Ryan: The first hero would be my birth mom. It’s amazing! When you think of courage and strength, personified—a lot of times, people don’t think of birth moms as some of the first people—especially, when they face circumstances like my birth mom did. I’m one of those cases that even pro-lifers have an issue with sometimes. I’m one of those marginal cases—the fringe case—that even pro-lifers will write-off.
My biological mother was raped; and yet, despite that unspeakable trauma, she went through nine months of pregnancy—choosing, courageously, life! I’d have to say she’s my first hero—I wouldn’t be here speaking to you—that would be kind of a problem—you’d have an empty seat, right here, or somebody else. She’s absolutely my first hero. I cannot imagine what she went through—the unspeakable violence. But her courage showed that beauty can rise from the ashes of something so unspeakable. [Applause]
Bob: Obviously, you didn’t know the details until later, but you learned that she had a lot of anger, during that pregnancy, and even up until the moment you were born; right?
Ryan: Yes. I actually had the privilege of speaking—I found the social worker who handled the adoption case. She explained to me that my biological mother was angry—as did my mom. These were the notes given to them by the agency. She was really angry and hurt. Of course, you can understand that. She didn’t want to even see me. She kept saying she didn’t want to see me. As soon as she gave birth, she just wanted to separate; but there was a change. The social worker noticed, when I was born, she asked to be able to see me and to hold me. I don’t know what broke, but obviously something broke. The social worker said she even smiled. She felt like there was a moment of healing, at that point in time.
Dennis: You were adopted by a family—of all places—in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Ryan: Oh, yes! Apple dumplings and whoopee pies! [Laughter]
Bob: And when you were adopted, they already had three biological children?
Ryan: Yes, they had three homemade ones. [Laughter]
Bob: You were the first import—is that what we call you?
Ryan: I was the first import, yes! I was an exotic import. [Laughter]
Dennis: An exotic import! That’s a good way to say it; right?
Ryan: Yes. They didn’t know what to do with me. I was special.
Bob: In fact, it was an exotic choice and one that cost your mom—in making the choice to bring you into the family, there was a price she paid.
Ryan: Yes, I mean, I grew up in Lancaster County. The area we grew up in was a majority white area; but unfortunately, my mom had to deal with a father who could not separate his deep-seated racist feelings. In fact, he said—and I don’t know if I can say this on your broadcast—he said, “If you bring in this black child (he used another word for that) into your home, I’ll have nothing to do with you.” So, she had to make the decision between her father and her newborn son. She chose well. [Laughter]
I’m just saying! But, seriously, I mean, the pain that she had to go through. She had to lose a father in order to gain a son. I think it represents that sacrifice that parents go through, on a regular basis. Whether you’re an adoptive parent or not, there is always sacrifice. But she and my dad had to make that choice, and they made that choice. So, she did lose her father.
Dennis: Why do you think she made that choice?
Ryan: She knew there was a greater calling. She was abandoned, as a child. That’s where it all started. She was abandoned, as a child, because her alcoholic father and her mother were separating. She was put in an orphanage. At the age of five, she made a promise to God that she would be a mommy to those who didn’t have one. It was something that was in her heart for a long time. So, that wasn’t enough of an obstacle.
She knew that God had called her to be a mommy and to love the mess out of children who didn’t have someone to call “Mommy” or “Daddy”. It was painful for her—extremely painful—but she knew that God had called her to help unleash purpose in the children that she had adopted—ten of us, by the way.
Dennis: You met Bethany at college. She was engaged in this arena, as a single lady, as well; right?
Ryan: Well, she headed a committee—this is how we met. It was a love-at-first-sight moment. She was heading a committee, where I was singing in this group called Surreal. We were doing a benefit concert for a Crisis Pregnancy Center. We locked eyes and, “Wow!” Anyway, the whole world changed. She has always had a heart for those who are broken. She’s a teacher, by profession; and she is my better half. She’s also the one in charge of The Radiance Foundation—I have no problem with a woman being in charge! [Laughter]
See, all the guys are kind of quiet; the women clapping, “Wooh!” [Laughter] But her heart was in it. Our story—part of The Radiance Foundation story is predicated, even, on her own experience—having been a single mom for a year and knowing what that’s like. That’s why we identify and we reach out to birth moms. So, she knows that experience. I know—coming in, as a father—being a father to our daughter, Hailey Radiance. Our organization is actually named after her. So, we can identify. We know what it feels like to be in that broken place. We have a heart to see how hope, how love, how truth can transform.
Dennis: As you dated, did you guys talk about adopting—about the needs of orphans? I mean, obviously, you were raising money for a crisis pregnancy unit, there.
Ryan: Well, when we first dated, I remember walking on a path outside and talking about, “Yes! We’re going to have ‘x’ number of children!” Whew, it’s amazing how things can change when you get married and have a few first! [Laughter] Just being on this side of the equation—being an adoptee, you have one perspective. Being the parent, you have another. I think what ends up happening is—that we have this openness to where God wants to lead us. We aren’t setting these parameters. We’re saying, “God, use us.” With four children right now—our youngest, being adopted—our most recent adoption—we’re just open to where God leads us.
Bob: You learned some of your story, you said, from the social worker and, of course, from your mom. Did you ever try to seek out your birth mom?
Ryan: I did. It’s amazing how many times people have had this sort of talk show-mentality that there’s always this blissful reunion when biological child reunites with the biological parent. That’s mostly untrue. I know—get that, “TVs mostly untrue.” [Laughter]
I found that—most of my siblings—or some of my siblings that did reconnect—it wasn’t this joyous occasion. But I wanted to pursue finding her because I didn’t want a relationship, but I wanted to be able to thank her. I had written a song called Meant to Be, which is the music behind this video that I call Unwanted. I want her to have a copy of it. It is my way of just saying, “Thank you for going through nine months of traumatic pregnancy. You allowed me to be loved and to love others.”
So, the court unsealed my adoption records; and they pursued her. They could not find her. So, they kept it open for about three months longer than normal; but there was no response. At this time, I’ve not been able to reconnect. But all I really want to do is have that conversation—that is, my song, Meant to Be, and thanking her—even though words are insufficient sometimes to say to a birth mom, “Thank you for giving me life.” But it was my attempt to thank her. I believe that one day—some day, I actually may connect with her. I can’t wait to have that conversation.
Dennis: You are obviously pro-life—staunch—a little bit—[Laughter] —and pro-orphan—pro-adoption. Speak to the Christian community about why we need to keep those in proper tension and be going near the needs of the orphan.
Ryan: Well, being pro-life—I think we’re often too comfortable with a very narrow definition of what that means. It’s kind of like when I think of slavery in America. It’s kind of saying: “Yes, I’m pro-emancipation of slaves, but I’m not going to worry about racism or citizenship. Let’s not worry about the 14th Amendment or the 15th Amendment to give black people the right to vote. It was good enough that they were just emancipated.”
It’s only part of the equation. And, so, what I want to speak to Christians—and a lot of times, it’s simply just a matter of not being aware—which is what we try to do through The Radiance Foundation—which many organizations, represented here, do—it’s education—it’s reaching, heart-to-heart—to have people’s minds and their spirit open up to what it really means to be pro-life.
Dennis: You also are a champion for birth mothers. It seems like—at points, those of us in the Christian communities—as we see a young lady, who is pregnant outside of marriage—we can tend to be on the judgmental side, rather than coming alongside her and cheering her on for protecting unborn life and, then, doing what is almost the unthinkable—being so courageous as to take that life, that has been carried for nine months, and placing it in the arms of another family. Speak, from your heart, about birth mothers and how the Christian community needs to really be advocates for birth moms.
Ryan: I think it should be a natural out flowing of us, as Christians, who are called to love one another. It should be part of our DNA. I mean, there’s no salvation without adoption. Yet, when it comes to birth moms, we tend to forget that we have also been redeemed from something. So, unfortunately, we don’t focus enough on loving and cherishing these women, who are often abandoned, sadly, by the men who were part—you know—the 50 percent of that biological equation.
Well, we launched, through The Radiance Foundation, something called SallysLambs.org.® It’s our way of cherishing birth moms, while celebrating adoption. We want to bring focus to these women who do make that choice and come alongside of them—provide the resources—material, emotional, spiritual—because there has to be that focus. It’s just part of what we do through The Radiance Foundation. I know there are many out there who do the same thing, on a one-to-one level or through their organizations; but I think we need to increase that focus for those of us who consider ourselves pro-life and are advocates of adoption. You can’t advocate adoption without loving all of those involved in that whole equation. [Applause]
Dennis: Yes, I agree with that! The Radiance Foundation, a number of years ago, took on a pretty delicate issue, within the African-American community. You gained national exposure. Explain what you did and what happened.
Ryan: Well, we decided that we were going to take on two of the easiest topics—you know, non-controversial topics—abortion and race—[Laughter] —and launch an ad campaign in the Deep South, where, apparently, the Civil War just ended, there! [Laughter] So, yes, there were like sparks flying. It was crazy! I would read some of the reports—you know, about who I was—because the news media is always trying to divide. If you haven’t noticed, that’s what they love to do—to divide instead of saying what is truly going on.
We wanted to launch this campaign because of the disproportionate impact in the black community. It’s kind of like a breast cancer awareness campaign. I mean, how many of us have seen breast cancer awareness ads featuring men?—none. But it features women because they’re the demographic most impacted. We took that same approach. So, it was the first public ad campaign: “TooManyAborted.com”—billboards that said, “Black children are an endangered species—TooManyAborted.com.” [They are] more endangered, from death by abortion, than any other racial demographic.
In fact, abortion occurs up to 5.8 times more in the black community than in the majority population. Where that happens is the home of Planned Parenthood, in New York City. One thousand black babies are born—1,489 are aborted. So, it has risen to epidemic levels. We launched this campaign—along with Dr. Alveda King, and Walter Hoy, and other civil rights leaders—to wake up the black community and wake up leaders to deal with this epidemic of abortion.
Dennis: I just want you to know I really applaud you, speaking out on behalf of the unborn and also calling the Christian community to go near the orphan. Occasionally, on FamilyLife Today, we’ll conclude a broadcast by inviting the guest to say some words to a person who has been significant in his or her life. In this case, I’m going to ask you to address two people. It’s as though I could seat your birth mother across the table from you right now. I’d like you to address her and express what you’d like to express to her. Then, after you’ve addressed her, I’d like to seat your parents—your mom and dad—and I’d like you to address them. Would you like to make a pass at this?
Ryan: Sure, I’ll take a swing. I think, honestly, the only way I can address my birth mom is to kind of invoke some of the words from the song that I’ve written. Can I do that—a little unconventional?
Dennis: Sure, sure.
Ryan: Okay. So, the song would be the conversation; and it would go like this: [singing]
I know I was meant to be,
This life was meant for me
Though you went through so so much pain,
Oh, your tears—they were not in vain.
Although you could not see
What God had planned for me,
I know I was meant to be.
So those are some of the words. [Applause]
And then, after I finished crying, I would go on to my parents.
I mean, what do you say to two people, to whom most of the world would have said: “What are you doing?! Why are you sacrificing this? You could have had this!” My parents—our family owned a department store. Financially, they could have been much better off. I mean, it’s not every day that you choose to have 13 children. But whether you adopt 13 or you adopt one, there is always sacrifice involved.
I can’t think of any other words to tell my parents—and I still tell them over and over today—I love them. I love them. I love them for giving me life. I love them for cherishing me, I love them for feeding me, for educating me, for clothing me, for putting up with me. Oh, my goodness! I was a little bit of a problem child!
But I would say, “Mom and Dad, I hope to be a fraction of who you are to others.” They’ve taught me to love and to cherish other people. They’ve taught me to serve; and they’ve served, anonymously, most of their lives. They have given up so much—that the world would consider “giving up”—materially, but it didn’t matter to them because what they poured out could never be replaced. So, honestly, I would just sit here and hug the mess out of them—they’re about this tall [motions low]. I would hug the mess out of them and just say, “Thank you. I love you. I love you. I want to be like you!”
Dennis: You know, you’ve really talked a lot today about the power of an individual—and how one person can make a difference in another person’s life and be a generational messenger—touching the life of the orphan.
We don’t think of the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah as being one of failing to care for orphans and going near the needy; but listen to what God said, through the prophet Ezekiel, speaking of the sin of Sodom: “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and the needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them when I saw it.”
America is a blessed country.
Dennis: The Christian community is a blessed community. I just appreciate you, Ryan—and sharing your story and The Radiance Foundation—you and Bethany. I pray God’s best and favor upon you and those four kiddos. May God’s favor be upon you. Thanks for being on the broadcast. [Applause]
Ryan: Thank you. Thank you.
Bob: Well, we’ve been listening to a conversation, recorded with Ryan Bomberger, about 10 months ago, now, at the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit in California. Coming up here, in a couple of weeks—the first week in May—I think it’s May 2nd and 3rd—we’re going to be at the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit IX—in Nashville, Tennessee. We’re going to be recording some FamilyLife Today programs there this year. If you’d like more information about what happens at the Summit—maybe, you’d like to attend and network with other people who have a heart for adoption and for orphan care—go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click on the link you find there that will take you to the Christian Alliance for Orphans website. All of the details about Summit IX can be found there.
Once again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com. You’ll also find resources we have available to help you think through whether adoption is the right decision for your family—whether it’s something you should consider and what kinds of questions should you be asking as you pray about adoption. We have other resources available that can help you understand how you can be a part of caring for the needs of orphans, all around the world. There are a number of different ways that we can be involved in expressing God’s heart for the orphan—in our local church, in our community, and in other parts of the world.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click on the link that says “Hope for Orphans”. That will take you to an area of our website where you’ll find many resources we have available. Finally, there’s a link at FamilyLifeToday.com for The Radiance Foundation—that is the organization that Ryan Bomberger heads up. If you’d like more information about what he is doing, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click on the link for The Radiance Foundation.
Now, I need to talk for just a minute to those of you who are regular FamilyLife Today listeners—you’ve been listening for a while to our program. God has used the ministry of FamilyLife in some way in your life, in your marriage, or in your family. I want to talk to you folks about how you can be part of what God is doing through the ministry of FamilyLife Today. Our goal is to see every family be a godly family. I want to ask you to consider becoming a monthly supporter of FamilyLife Today—become a Legacy Partner. Make a monthly contribution—whatever amount you choose—and be a part of our Legacy Partner family. When you do that, we’ll send you a welcome kit, with resources for your marriage and your family. We’ll keep you up-to-date, throughout the year, with what’s going on, here at FamilyLife. We’ll also make available additional resources, throughout the year, as our way of saying, “Thank you for your ongoing support of this ministry.”
There are only a handful of people in each city where FamilyLife Today is heard who are Legacy Partners. Would you consider being a part of that handful in your community? All you have to do is go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link that says, “I CARE”, and sign on as a Legacy Partner; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and say, “I’d like to be a Legacy Partner.” Let me just say, “Thanks for considering what part you might play as a supporter of FamilyLife Today.”
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to hear the first part of a message from Barbara Rainey—a message about adoption. She’ll share a very intimate look into her personal journey, as she tells the story of the adoption of one of their six children. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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