I know, it was a joke when the Blues Brothers said they were on a mission from God, but I have to be serious when I say it, because that’s the easiest way to explain all that has happened to Leive and I in 2006 and 2007. I talked a little about the coincidences that brought me to Kentucky in an essay I wrote for The Xenophile Historian, “By the Grace of God and a Female Cardinal.” Now, as Paul Harvey would say, here’s the rest of the story.
It started on April 25, 2006. At 3:15 AM, we got a call from Leive’s sister Mila, informing us that their second oldest brother, Elmo Bendoy, had died after a seven-year battle with cancer. He left behind five children, three girls and two boys, ranging in age from 19 to 8. Now they were effectively orphans, because the mother had run away to Taiwan in 1999, and we do not know if she is alive or dead. In fact, only two of the kids are old enough to remember her.
Needless to say, Leive was upset, and that may explain what happened next. According to her, she came to me while I was writing a history paper or answering e-mail on my computer, said we have to help the kids, and I absentmindedly agreed. Apparently from then on I was committed to the rescue/adoption effort, whether I knew what I was doing or not!
Two days later, I got the job offer in Lexington, and three weeks after that, I was on my way north. Since I had never gotten a job in Florida that paid more than half as much, or had as many benefits, Leive immediately saw that as a sign that God wanted us to help the kids. My health has also improved since moving, so except for taking part in my daughter’s wedding, I haven’t had much desire to go back. Some of my friends think I am mad to move from Orlando to Lexington, when many of them would do the opposite. Well, after forty years in one place, even if it’s nice, you’re ready for a change.
Since May 2006, we have been sending the kids money once or twice a month; currently they are living in the family parsonage (the same house where Leive and I got married in 1985!). In the spring of 2007 we started the legal proceedings to bring them to the United States, after buying a house for them that Leive considers ideal. We’ll see where we go from here, and whether a full adoption is possible. The way I see it now, we only had one child the usual way, so if we want any more, this is our last chance.
Speaking of that child, Lindy would probably be here in Kentucky now, if she hadn’t gotten married. Now it appears that even her marriage was part of the plan, so we wouldn’t be bringing Lindy with us. Last fall, Leive told me that on one lonesome day in the fall of 2006, while she was waiting for our Florida house to sell, she asked God why Lindy had gotten married at such an early age, after only having one year of college. God’s answer to her was “I’m the one who emptied your nest.” In other words (mind you, these are not words I would have chosen), God brought Adam into Lindy’s life to get her out of the way!
Another time, Leive had a vision concerning Elmo. In the summer of 2006, Elmo appeared to her in a dream. He looked 18 or 20 years old, instead of 52, and showed no signs of the cancer that had ravaged his body. He said he couldn’t stay, but wanted to thank Leive for all that she’s doing to help his children. Was that really him?
For years Leive had been praying for a better job for me, and told me to get out of Florida to find it, if necessary. She half expected that we would end up in Chicago, where I have relatives, or San Antonio, where she has another niece. So why did God put us in Kentucky instead? I had never been there before April 2006, and only thought about the state at all because in Florida, my pastor and his wife came from there. Nor am I the only one; it now appears Kentucky has more than its share of unspoiled beauty because most Americans passed it by, and not much has happened here since the Civil War ended; sometimes I think of it as “the state the rest of America forgot.” Most amazing, my standard of living went up, in a state that has a reputation for being backward and poor. Well, I always had to be different somehow.
By contrast, Florida has become a “Paradise Lost.” I got there before Mickey Mouse, in an era when Apopka and Casselberry were larger than Altamonte Springs, so I’ve seen a lot of changes. In March 2007 I saw a National Geographic article about the growth of Orlando. It declared that since 1970, 93 percent of the citrus trees in the Orlando area have been cut down. Well, I knew it was bad, even if some of the bulldozing was done to remove trees killed by hard freezes in the 1980s, but I didn’t know it was THAT bad! Orlando may have been a good enough place to raise our biological child, but now a state off the beaten path may be better for kids from a remote part of Southeast Asia, who have just arrived in the USA. And Leive may be the only person here who can teach them in their native language.
From left to right, in the front row: Joshua (12) and Japhet (9). In the back row: Melody (17), Mercy Grace (20), and Elizabeth (14).
Update: Leive went to the Philippines in May 2008 to get the adoption paperwork going on that end. The message in the link below has some more recent pictures taken of the kids, this time with Leive.