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VI: Adoption in the land of a million ironies

The communist regime in East Germany did not encourage adoption despite vulnerable children existing right within our walls. Orphans and other defenseless children were placed in state run facilities, being cared for socialist style. A foster care system did not exist and private adoptions were pretty rare. Christians in particular were deemed unworthy to adopt or care for children since their worldview did not mesh with an atheist government. In essence the most willing and perhaps generous potential parents were the least likely to receive permission to care for non-biological children.

The land behind the iron curtain was saturated with ironies of this type. People learned to adapt to an endless stream of contradictions, mind numbing local television and never-ending reports of progress and success in our country. Communists, notorious for emphasizing good news, did not offer vulnerable children a strong voice in society. And even if needs became known, Christians would be on the ‘unqualified-to-help list’.

Not surprisingly adoption was not on our family radar. Furthermore, adoption involves free choice and in a way East Germans seemed unfamiliar with the art of choosing.  

But God, who seems to indulge in bits of irony himself, chose our family for adoption. We didn’t even catch on right away. My dad attended prayer meeting at church where a nursing student mentioned praying for children in local hospitals who never got visitors. Presumably they were in custody of the State. My mother, a pediatric nurse, couldn’t get these sad and lonely, faceless kids out of her head. Later she called a state office (similar to DHS) to inquire if any kids in our city were hospitalized, unattached to family or friends. Our family would be happy to pay someone a visit.

We were introduced to Marcel, a nearly 3 year old boy with Cystic Fibrosis who had grown up in the hospital, without a single visitor. His medical needs prevented a transfer to a traditional orphanage and his short life expectancy made him an unlikely adoption candidate. We were told he would be lucky to live until 20. (Luckily, they were wrong- my brother will celebrate his 35th birthday this month)

God matched an unlikely kid with unqualified parents and we became a family. (Read more about how we met Marcel. )

Later the state office designed a special pamphlet about exceptional people working hard to make this wonderful republic a better place. It featured the story of my parents adopting my brother. It didn’t seem to matter that we didn’t fit the socialist mold, held opposing world views. A good story with selfless actions had taken place and socialism shamelessly desired to be credited.

In 1986, another orphan, a friend’s granddaughter crossed our path. She had joined us for a picnic, then asked the bravest question ever. We said yes and the state office who remembered us as outstanding, socialist citizens, said yes too.

After the wall fell in 1989, four additional children joined our family. Together we learned to choose each other again and again in the land of a million ironies.

Foto 1-2

Our East Germany sibling trio, probably in 1988.

me (4) copy

This is part VI in my current blog series “Behind the Wall & Under the Steeple” in which I am telling my story of growing up Christian in East Germany. Part VI will continue next week. Subscribe via email to my blog or bookmark this page. If you are receiving this post by email, any reply goes straight to my inbox. As always I welcome your comments and questions. 


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