I guess we must have still been feeling an empty spot in our hearts from the death of our newborn son when a woman came to our door one morning asking if we would be willing to take two little children into our home who had just witnessed their father shooting and killing their mother (her sister). We didn’t hesitate; who would? We asked if this would be a temporary or a permanent arrangement and she felt sure it would be permanent. Bonnie (3) and David (7) were beautiful children who were obviously traumatized. Our parental instincts instantly kicked in and they were soon part of our family. We and our four young children did all we could during the next year to help them heal and be happy again and they made great strides. We made inquiries that year about officially adopting them and were devastated to learn that in Indiana, even from prison, their father had to sign off on an adoption and, in spite of our pleadings, he refused.
When my father became critically ill, we decided to move to Utah very quickly. An army of friends in the church helped us pack up and leave for Utah in 24 hours, and we could not legally take the children out of state. We had no choice but to return them to their aunt. It was a heart- wrenching task as the children clung to us (and we to them) and cried. We never heard anything about them after that day in 1970, in spite of our frequent inquiries and requests. We had been nave in believing we could adopt so easily. One thing we definitely learned during this year: We had room in our hearts to invite others into our family circle.
Indian Placement Program
We lived in Logan, Utah, for four years and then moved to Provo, Utah, knowing our children would soon be attending Brigham Young University. The church was encouraging LDS families to take students into their homes on the Indian Placement Program. Our son John was willing to share his bunk bed, and soon our application was approved. Before we knew it, we were on our way to the bus station to meet our ten-year-old Navajo foster son, Wayne, from Tohatchi, New Mexico. Wayne was slim, with shoulder-length hair, and shyly shook hands with everyone in his new family. Soon boy and suitcase were loaded into the back of our station wagon, headed for whatever the next eight years of school months might bring.
Wayne fit nicely into our family and was easy to love. He loved all sports, was an enthusiastic scout, and a pretty good student. He was also a brave patient when he not only broke his hand playing football, but also, when he fell on the sidewalk and broke off both of his permanent front teeth! Wayne was talented artistically, and especially good at drawing sports and Indian figures. We could foresee a future for him in that field.
One story I remember was how Wayne loved to help Doug make wooden toys in his workshop, but was unfortunately denied this privilege for a week when he fell behind in his schoolwork. On the fifth day, Doug relented, and he was able to work in the shop again. After Wayne had gone to bed, Doug found a note from him attached to the power saw which said: “Dad, thank you for letting me work again. Love, Shopworker.”
Although Wayne was affectionate, he good naturedly rejected my offer of a good night kiss. One day though, I noticed on his bulletin board a list of “Things To Do Today.” Last on the list was “Kiss mom”. That night, after I kissed John goodnight, Wayne jumped out of bed and kissed me. Then, giggling, dove under the covers, pulling them up over his head. Mission accomplished.
Wayne’s mother would come for him and his two brothers in her pickup truck at the end of each school year, and we were always sad to say goodbye to him for the summer. He was a loved member of our family and we had hopes of sending him on a mission and helping him through college. After six or seven years with our family, he was enticed by an older student to try drinking and didn’t come home one night. We searched everywhere for him throughout the night, with our caseworker’s help. We finally learned that he had fallen asleep in the student’s apartment and didn’t come home until morning.
Wayne was so ashamed that he had let us down, he said he could not stay. We explained to him that we still loved him and that this mistake could be overcome, but he had arranged with friends to pick him up quickly and put him on a bus for home. He called from St. George and we pleaded with him to wait there and we would pick him up. We begged him to return and not give up all he had worked for, but he said he had let us down and could not face us.
Wayne never returned, leaving our family deeply saddened. He joined the Marines and called a year later saying that leaving our home was the worst decision he had ever made. He came to see us once a few years later, and we were so happy to see him. But since then, we have heard from a mutual friend that his life has not gone well since that time. With Wayne, as well as with Bonnie and David, we just try to remember the good times- and there were many.
One night during Family Home Evening, a desperate father from our ward brought his sixteen-year-old son Greg* (name changed) to our home, pleading with us to take him for two weeks so he would be safe from his mother’s violent abuse while he started divorce proceedings. Our son Robb agreed, somewhat apprehensively, to let him share his bedroom. The boy was tied in knots emotionally and was clenching his fists and shaking. Robb found him something to wear to bed and when Greg removed his shirt and shoes, we saw iron-burn scars on his shoulders and knife scars on his feet. Doug had previously visited him in the hospital, with broken legs, from his mother running the car over them when he was trying to stop her from taking his little sisters away. We knew we were in over our heads with this experience, but also knew we had to take him in.
Greg spoke at only one volume-loud! He winced at our touch, at first, as if expecting a blow. Doug had to teach him how to receive and give a hug, as I taught him how to tone down his outbursts and respond in a more peaceful way.
Two weeks became two months and then more than a year.I know it was difficult for Robb, and I will forever appreciate him for making it through his senior year of high school.As Student Body President, living with such a hurting, emotionally-scarred young man in close quarters, I dare say they learned hard things from each other.
We gradually became aware of the fact that Greg must have a very high IQ. We had him tested and he scored in the “genius” category. He had failing grades for his first years in high school as he struggled to survive. His grades for his last year were almost perfect and we petitioned the powers that be at BYU to consider only his last year’s grades and grant him a scholarship. To their credit they did so.
During his year with us, I wrote a road show for our ward called “A North Pole Christmas” and asked the kids in the ward to support me in making Greg the star. Soon after, I asked him how long it would take him to memorize an eight page script where he had lots of lines, and he said, “About thirty minutes.” True to his word, he had it all memorized in that time. Greg turned out to be a very good actor and the show was a nice experience for all.
When Robb left for his mission he good naturedly said to Greg: “If I can get along with you, I can get along with any companion!” And Greg said, “Me too!” Robb went to Korea and sometime later Greg went to Sweden.
I wish I could say Greg’s life has been all happy and peaceful, but I don’t believe anyone can survive the trauma he did without having life-long challenges. He served an honorable mission, married and had two children, then was divorced. He married once again and was divorced. We love him and greatly admire him for his resiliency and the fact that he has remained strong in the faith throughout all the years since his mission. When he comes to see us, he still calls us Mom and Dad, and we feel such compassion for him for all he has been through. He has a good heart and determination.
Our Gift – From China
In 1983 our son Steve and our daughter Lynne traveled to the Far East with Brigham Young University’s Young Ambassadors to perform on an extensive tour of Japan, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Taiwan. While in China, one of their tour guides was a congenial young man named Ge-yao who made friends with one of the Young Ambassadors, Robert Neeley. Rob talked with Ge-yao about many things, including the possibility of him coming to study at BYU.
Tragically, Rob was killed by a lightning strike soon after the tour, but his parents helped to fulfill Rob’s dream of bringing Ge-yao to BYU. He lived with students at BYU for a time, but the Neeleys felt he needed the stability of living with an American family and so, brought up the possibility of him staying with us. We were so happy to have him come to our home! He was a wonderful dancer and was the poster boy for the BYU’s International Folk Dancers, performing jump splits high in the air!
Ge-yao lived with us for three years and it was a joy to have him in our home. He was a serious student, frugal in his habits, disciplined in everything he did, and yet he had a wonderful sense of humor that brightened up our home considerably. He frequently danced in our kitchen (sometimes accompanied by Steve and Lynne), always seemed in good humor, and was easy to love.
He graduated from BYU, married a beautiful Japanese woman he met while touring Japan with BYU’s Int’l Folk Dancers, and they are parents of two beautiful and talented children. He has had a successful career supervising a language institute and other related work. We admired his love for his parents and family, and mourned with him when his father died in China. We have missed him greatly since he has left our home. I still make stir-fry just the way he taught me to make it and think of him each time. He calls us on holidays, such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Christmas, and it brings a smile to us when we hear that familiar voice saying, “Hi Mom, hi Dad!”
Our Final Foster Son
When our own children married and left home, we decided that our season for welcoming foster children was probably past. But then a man wrote to us from the Utah State Prison telling us that our music had helped him feel a return of the Spirit and asking if we would come to the prison and do a fireside. We met Mark, corresponded with him, and when he was paroled, Doug and I both felt we should have him come to our home. I have told his story in detail in an earlier Meridian article, but suffice it to say that after enduring some ups and downs together, and a few slips where he had to return to prison for a time, he now has a beautiful life, complete with a temple marriage to a wonderful woman. They have a handsome, little son who brings them (and us) a lot of joy.
Few can conquer drug addiction to the extent Mark has. At times, I admit, I wondered if our faith in his overcoming this problem was misplaced. But through faith in Christ, he has not only overcome what most cannot, but has literally helped hundreds of others who are fighting the same battle. His facilitator and missionary service in the Church’s 12-Step Addiction Recovery Program has been a beautiful thing to watch for a decade. Mark and his family are part of our family and are with us at every family gathering. He and his family have definitely blessed our lives, and continue to do so.
Other Foster Experience
In addition to the six foster children mentioned, there were five others. Jared* (name changed) came to us fresh from drug rehab and seemed bright and happy with unlimited potential. He was with us for a year while attending college, but the pull of drugs was eventually too great for him. We had a special love for him and cried the day he left our home. Cristian came to us from Argentina to attend BYU. We enjoyed his good humor and his talent on the guitar. He left after a year to seek his fortune somewhere in Florida. Ben, from Kenya, needed a place to stay during his final year at BYU. We enjoyed his quiet, well-mannered personality and were sorry to have him leave after graduation. Kent stayed with us for a semester before leaving on his mission, and another Ben stayed with us during a short hiatus from the MTC before leaving on his mission.
A few other young men have stayed with us at different times during a semester or so of schooling at BYU.
We never decided together that we would like to have foster children-it just happened.People brought them to us and it felt like the right thing to do. We never went through an agency with the exception of the Indian Placement Program of the Church. No one paid to stay here. We didn’t need the income, but I guess we might have needed the companionship and love we felt from all of those who came to us. We love our own children dearly, but we had hoped to have more of them! When that avenue closed to us, another avenue opened up that has been very fulfilling. For the most part, our children seemed to enjoy the experience too. All in all we have had ten foster sons and one foster daughter who have enriched our lives and helped us to understand that we are all brothers and sisters and children of God. That we are here to help each other through the challenges of this life. While some of our experiences were difficult, and even heartbreaking, the good times far outweighed the bad. We have never regretted opening our hearts to new experiences and life-long relationships that have enriched our lives.
Music About Foster Care and Adoption
In 2005, my cousin Joy Saunders Lundberg and I were hired by Adoption Media to write fourteen songs that covered nearly every aspect of adoption and foster care. We each had experience in foster care, and Joy wrote lyrics from the perspective she had gained through the adoption of five children. “Do You Have a Little Love to Share” was written as a result of these experiences and in the hope that others hearing this song would open their hearts and homes to foster children who are in need of their love. The idea of having “a little love to share” seemed to encompass all aspects of this album and rose to the top to become the title song.
[Click below to listen to “Do You Have a Little Love to Share?”]
“Do You Have a Little Love to Share?”
Words by Joy Saunders Lundberg
Music by Janice Kapp Perry
Vocalist, Jenny Jordan Frogley
How would it be, to be the one
Who opens up the window and lets in the sun
In a young child’s sad and lonely life
Chasing out the darkness, letting in the light
There are so many lonely children out there
Needing just a little tender, loving care
They are wishing for a place where love is shown
Wishing for a place that they can call home
Do you have a little love to share
Can you find it in your heart to care
Do you have a little corner of love in your home
For a child who’s been neglected and left all alone
Do you have it to spare
Can you find it somewhere
Do you have a little love to share
How would it be, to be the one
To open up the door for a child the world has shunned
For a child who simply tries to cope
Living in the shadows, having little hope
There are so many children needing some love
Who are wishing for the life they’re dreaming of
They are hoping for a place in someone’s heart
Hoping for the chance for a brand new start
Dinner on the table
Homework getting done
A little praise & hugging-
You could be the one
(repeat chorus, then add:)
Do you have a little love
Can you try to care enough
Do you have a little love to share