Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Lady Who Loved The Lord

I was reading today about "Grandma Holt."  Bertha Holt, and her husband Harry, were farmers in the 1950s, raising their six biological children in Oregon.  Then in December 1954, Harry and Bertha watched a documentary film showing children in Korean orphanages after the Korean War.  The images stirred both of their hearts.  First the couple sent money to help the orphans.  And even though they felt they had done all they could, they could not forget about those waiting children.  The money would provide them some food and clothing.  But what the children needed even more was a family.  They needed somebody to love them.  

This is the part I found especially fascinating.  You see, "international adoption" barely existed at that point in history.  There was not a page full of adoption agencies in the phone book to call up to get the process started, because it had almost never been done!  And yet Harry and Bertha both, separately, felt that the Lord was giving them a clear message:  "Go!  Adopt!  Love my children."  As Bertha tells it, Harry announced, "I think we ought to adopt some of these children."  And she told him she felt the same way.  Then Harry asked her, "How many do you think we could take care of?"  Bertha considered the question and told him, "I suppose we could care for six of the Korean war orphans."  And it was Harry's response that is my favorite of all:  "Oh my, we have plenty of room for eight, or ten, or even more."  Love this guy!

So they decided on eight children, and wasted no time in writing to Washington DC to start the adoption process.  They were informed, however, that they would be allowed to adopt only two children from Korea.  They stood firm in their belief that they were being called to adopt eight.  Impossible, they were told.  The only way that could possibly happen would be to convince both houses of Congress to change the current adoption laws.  The Holts did not take that as a closed door.  They took it as a to-do list!  They petitioned Congress.  They wrote lots of letters.  They rallied for support.  They prayed.  Then, before Congress had even made a decision, Harry packed his bags and headed to Korea to search for their eight children.  Talk about faith, right?  He felt that God would lead him to four little boys and four little girls that were to be his children, and he did not want to be away from them a moment longer than necessary!  

Bertha stayed home to run the farm, care for their six children, and wait for God to work a miracle in Congress.  And in just two short months, special legislation was introduced in the Senate and "The Holt Bill" was unanimously passed allowing the Holts permission to bring eight Korean orphans into the US.  When photographers and reporters requested an interview, Bertha told them, "Oh, we're not nice looking.  And I'm only a farmer's wife.  But the children will be home from haying around five."  

Meanwhile, Harry had searched the orphanages for the children he felt the Lord had in mind for them.  He confided to his wife in a letter, "I don't allow myself to get too wrapped up in the cute, fat ones.  They're the babies others will want.  I want the kids that look frightened and lost.  I just wish I could take all of them."  He selected eight children and took them to his hotel room to care for them while waiting on Congress.
He began to get to know his new little blessings and spent his days caring for them, but little Judy, weighing less than ten pounds, was too weak and sick, and she went to be with the Lord before ever making it to America.  

Finally Harry arrived home with the children, and Time magazine covered the story.  The magazine article described Bertha rocking a pair of babies to sleep the first night home as "a picture of contentment."  
The Holts received a lot of criticism from the public for this adoption.  In the 1950s, adoption was supposed to be a secret!  At that time, agencies took great care to match a child to a family based on hair color, eye color, skin color, etc, so that nobody would ever know the child had not been born to those parents.  The fact that the Holts brought home children from Korea, and EIGHT of them, and the fact that they were so open about the adoption, caused many Americans to do one of two things:  criticize, or re-examine their own ideas regarding adoption.  After all, the Holts all loved each other EVEN THOUGH they didn't all look alike!  The Holts found time to nurture a houseful of little ones all at the same time.  Harry and Bertha, a simple farmer and his simple wife, had changed history.  
Harry and Bertha soon received hundreds of letters from parents across the country asking how they, too, could adopt Korean war orphans.  Those letters inspired the beginning of Holt International Children's Services, which is now the largest international adoption agency in the world.  And even after Harry died, Grandma Holt felt led to carry on the ministry of Holt International.  She said, "This work was always God's work.  If He wants it to continue,  it will."  Because of her unshakable faith and her deep love for children, just think how many children are now a part of a loving forever family!  When asked how she would like to be remembered, Bertha replied, "That lady who loved the Lord."  And what better way to remember her?  

(quotes from My Family, A Symphony by Aaron Eske, and


Robin E. said...

WOW! That is an awesome story! Thanks so much for sharing! :)

Amber said...

Love this story! They were true servants.