May 3, 2021

SOMETIMES THERE ARE SURPRISING TURNS

When I first met Laura, she was a young pediatrician working part time at a Columbia practice focusing on health care for uninsured families.  She was soft-spoken and serious about providing excellent care to the young patients she saw at the clinic.  A year or so later, I gave a talk to a large women’s group on women who lived out their faith in the marketplace.  As part of my presentation, I interviewed two women who seemed to model this beautifully—one was Dr. Laura Cooper and the other was Ruth Harper, an African American woman who had become manager of a local Burger King. Very different stories—but both living out their faith in their daily lives.

After Laura’s husband Stuart finished his Internal Medicine training, they made a commitment to go to Istanbul, Turkey, as missionaries.  As they began raising financial support in 1998, I worked with Laura to host a dinner for potential donors.  We planned a delightful Turkish menu. We dined on Birgul’s lentil soup, baba ghannouj and Feta in a pita pocket, lamb pastries, shepherd’s salad, Tabbouleh pitas, Patlicanli pilav, Turkish delight, Kaynakli kayisi and baklava. And within a few months, they were living in an apartment in Istanbul with a beautiful view of the sea, beginning to develop friendships with their Turkish neighbor.

At the Turkish dinner before they left, Laura tearfully told us that she had suffered a miscarriage several weeks earlier.  They very much wanted to be parents!  They made applications with an adoption agency and within the next year were chosen to be adoptive parents of a baby boy.  They were required to be in the state of the adoption for several months before and after the baby’s birth.  Laura and Stuart were thrilled when the healthy baby boy arrived, and for six weeks, he was with them.  Then unexpectedly, the baby’s father appeared and tried to get custody of his son. He had a very unstable life and then the birth mother decided the baby would be better off with her.  Laura and Stuart were devastated—but after painfully considering what was best for the baby boy they already loved so much, decided to return him to his birth mother. They returned to Istanbul, heartbroken and empty handed.  To their absolute delight, they soon realized that Laura was again pregnant! 

This photo shows the happy parents welcoming their son Philip, born in Istanbul.  After several years, they returned to live in the Columbia, South Carolina, area—and two daughters were born. These children have always been enjoyed as wonderful surprises—real grace! 

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