Many years ago in the mountains of western North Carolina, a young couple fell in love. As folks would say, “This young boy fancied this young girl and had it in his mind to court her and marry her.” And that’s exactly what he did. It wasn’t too long until that little family grew to three –– the couple welcomed a beautiful baby girl. The young parents were thrilled and life was filled with excitement and hope.
It wasn’t long, however, until the young mother fell ill. She would have a few good days and then a few bad days. The sick days increased as time passed. The doctors shared the sad news of cancer and gave her only a short time to live. When her baby girl was only 18 months old, the mother passed away.
The sad reality of his wife’s passing left the young husband and father devastated. He decided to leave his little girl with relatives. She remembers being put on a train at the age of five, all alone with a string and a note around her neck that stated her name and destination. Over the next years, she was moved from place to place.
As a 15-year-old teenage girl living in Dillon, South Carolina, she met a boy. Both were lonely and insecure. But she thought she had finally found love. Now expecting a baby, without the hope of a husband and no family sympathy or support, she was alone and broken.
God intervened in her heart and mind giving her the strength to deliver the baby. She felt that adoption would give her baby something that she never experienced –– a momma and a daddy.
The girl gave birth on Saturday, August 19, 1950. I was that boy! My birth mother didn’t just give life to me, she stayed with me at the maternity home to nurture and care for me for more than a month. She then made her way to the Children’s Home Society (CHS) in Greensboro. She wrote a prayer down and laid the paper over my heart, and left. Her prayer asked three things of God. First, that I would know that she loved me. Second, that God would grant me loving parents, and finally, that God would bless me. She walked away and didn’t look back.
God looked down and saw Kenneth and Gracie Smith without a baby. CHS called my dad at his office and said, “Mr. Smith, we have a baby here and he might be the one that you and Gracie are supposed to have –– can you come to Greensboro?”
Kenneth and Gracie Smith filled out the adoption papers and paid $28.50 for me and then loaded the car and returned home with their son.
Gracie looked at Kenneth and said, “This has to be the prettiest child I’ve ever laid eyes on.”
I had a great childhood. My parents told me about Jesus. They taught me the Bible. I wasn’t always the best son, but God answered my birth- mother’s prayer and gave me the best parents.
When I was in the third grade, we moved from Belmont to Franklin, North Carolina. I continued my growing-up years in the mountains. In 1970, I married Sherry Cabe, my high school sweetheart. In 1972, I was called into the Gospel ministry and followed God’s leading through the years. I pastored churches in South Carolina and in Franklin, Waynesville and Cashiers, North Carolina. Eventually, I had the opportunity to move back to Franklin and live next door to Mom and Dad in their later years. They were there for me in the beginning and I wanted to be there for them now that they were aged. Mom passed away in 1998 and Dad only eight months later.
While taking care of my parents’ estate, I found and read my adoption papers for the first time. Mom and Dad had shared everything that they knew, but I wanted to know more. I didn’t need anything and I didn’t have a hole or void in my life. I was thinking that my birth mother might have a need and perhaps I could lead her to the Lord Jesus if she wasn’t a believer.
In August 2000, I wrote a letter to the Children’s Home Society and requested any information they might be able to send me. In return, I received non- identifying information and a reminder that my records were sealed by law. The information didn’t bring any answers to the increasing number of questions that flooded my mind. But I saw this as an adventure with God. We hired a lawyer to petition the court in Guilford County to release the records. The court at first said I couldn’t know about my birth and beginning. But I shared my heart with the judge and he issued a court order instructing CHS to contact my birth mother seeking permission to release my records. Four days later, I received word that they could not locate her. They recommended that I hire a private investigator.
On October 5, 2001, I was traveling to Hendersonville to conduct a wedding. As I drove through Balsam Gap, just above Waynesville, I received a call. It was from CHS. My birth mother was located.
After corresponding with her a couple of times through CHS, I decided to write and tell her who I was. She shared who she was and we knew we had to meet. I was to meet Vivian Selene Daniels Arrington of Balsam.
I called her. When she answered, I said, “Mrs. Arrington, they tell me I’m your son.” We arranged a meeting for the following Sunday afternoon.
I had lived only a mile from her and her family for seven years while I pastored Ratcliffe Cove Baptist Church in Waynesville.
Our oldest son Grady and my birth mother’s youngest daughter Marty attended fourth grade together at Lake Junaluska Elementary School –– never knowing they were family. I had preached in all of my brothers’ and sisters’ churches.
Knowing my birth mother, her family and the story of my beginning is a rich blessing. It is truly amazing to see just how God did all this. I have such a peace in my heart knowing that God loves us and had brought us together. He intervened in our lives to do the very best for us.
I thought my family was somewhere far, far away. But I learned I was always close in my birth mom’s heart and they were nearby all the time.
Article Written by By Lewis Smith, BCH Director of Development Western Area and Jim Edminson, Charity & Children Editor