By Riley Manning
TUPELO – The BancorpSouth conference center was filled to the brim Thursday night as Tupelo’s New Beginnings adoption agency held its annual Celebration of Adoption event.
“The best thing that can happen to someone is for them to be adopted,” said New Beginnings President Tom Velie.
The 27th year for the event, New Beginnings honored Jay Robertson and Jeremy Guzman, the first adoptions made through New Beginnings more than 20 years ago.
Velie presented the agency’s top recognition, the Adoption Service Award, to Sen. Roger Wicker, for going above and beyond in his commitment to the cause of adoption. When Nepal abruptly froze adoptions to the U.S. last year, Wicker was instrumental in cutting through the red tape bureaucracy so 64 children mid-adoption could unite with their new families.
“Some days you wonder if you accomplished anything, or if you stood for anything. We found fortune with Nepal, and are now met with frustration from Russia,” Wicker said. “But there are children alive today because of what we do here.
Russia closed its doors to adoptions by Americans at the beginning of this year. Domestically, Velie said New Beginnings will work to promote non-infant adoption.
Guest speaker Stephanie Fast headlined the celebration, and told the crowd her story of living as an orphan in South Korea in the midst of the Korean War. Fathered by an American G.I., she was abandoned by her mother at a train station when she was 5.
“For three years, I was one of hundreds of street kids who live under bridges and steal from farmers,” she said. “I would catch myself wondering, when an American G.I. gave me a stick of gum or piece of chocolate, ‘Are you my father?’”
Eventually, she was found near death on a heap of trash by a Swedish nurse who worked for an orphanage. Later, at age 9, she was finally adopted by two Americans.
The feeling of being orphaned, and the sweetness of finding a home, she told the crowd, is an analogy for man’s relationship with God.
“Even before I had heard of him, he knew me,” she said. “Adoption is not all fuzzy and warm. It takes work and faith. It is up to us, not the government, to make sure each child finds a family instead of an institution. Because we are all spiritual orphans God is calling home.”