Blest be the Tie is a new booklet that highlights how one of the Christian Reformed Church’s first missionaries to China became the great-great grandfather of a 14-year-old Chinese boy who was an orphan and now lives with his new family in College Station, Texas.
The booklet, which has just become available, recounts how the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. John De Korne, the missionary to China, played a role in the story of Jian Feng Lee Bergeron, who was three-months-old when he was bundled in a blanket and left on a bench in a train station in China. A note was pinned to that blanket, stating his birth date and that he was deaf.
“This really is an incredible story that shows how God works in wonderful ways,” says Carol Lenger, granddaughter of Rev. De Korne, who left with his family for China in a steamer ship in 1920 and eventually became director for many years of what was then called the Christian Reformed Church’s Board of Indian and Foreign Missions.
“This booklet is about my daughter (Shelly) and her family, but it’s also about China and how my grandfather and his family worked there in the same area where Jian was from . . . I see this as showing just how God has a plan for us all,” says Lenger.
Written by friends who lived in China, the booklet sets the stage by recounting how a haunting, many-times-forwarded email landed a little more than two years ago in the inbox of Shelly and Jon Bergeron, Lenger’s daughter and son-in-law, in Texas.
The email, says Lenger, described a 13-year-old boy who was “handsome, smart, energetic and loved playing sports, but had been passed over many times for adoption.” Lenger lives in Grand Rapids, Mich.
While the email didn’t say why the boy had failed to be adopted, it did end with an urgent plea. The email said the boy needed a family to take him in and love him before he reached his 14th birthday when he would become ineligible for foreign adoption.
“He needs a family to love him and enable him to reach his full potential,” said the email.
“Although they questioned the authenticity of the email, it stayed on the forefront of Jon’s mind,” writes the author.
Jon Bergeron, says the booklet, ended up talking with his wife about the foreign adoption. “In spite of too many questions and too few answers, the Bergerons sensed God was urging them to call and find out more. So they did,” says the booklet.
Foreign adoptions normally take many years and are very expensive. As it turned out, says Shelly Bergeron, it is clear to her and her husband that God was behind this adoption.
Red-tape and bureaucratic roadblocks faded away. Four months after starting the process, they were in China, which wasSeptember 2010.
The booklet recounts the ease and the power of God’s grace that led the Bergerons through the adoption process in China. They were allowed to adopt Jian and bring him into their family that includes another son who is deaf.
“Hurdling the obstacles of special needs, finances, time, culture, language and the Pacific Ocean, by God’s grace they came” to China and were able to adopt the boy who loved sports and a had desire to know more about God, says the booklet.
The booklet also describes how Shelly Bergeron poured over her great-grandfather’s journals when she returned home and found to her surprise that their new son had lived in an orphanage, in a city crowded with millions of people, in the same area where her great-grandfather had conducted his ministry for the Christian Reformed Church.
It was a tie that was another example for the Bergerons that the adoption was part of God’s plan in their lives.
Rev. De Korne served for 12 years in China, helping to open the mission field in which the CRC is still at work.
Baldwin De Korne, Carol Lenger’s father, returned with his family from China when he was 16. He eventually started Baldwin Publishing Co., a successful business in Grand Rapids.
Although he never undertook a career as a foreign missionary, he made life choices, says Carol, to ensure that ministry could continue around the world through his estate.
Carol Lenger says her father, who died at the age of 93, would have been happy to see how his granddaughter, Shelly, and her husband reached out and now have a son from China.
“My father spent many of his younger years in China. The country meant so much to him,” says Lenger. “I know he would have loved to have met Jian.”
The Bergeron family, says the author, has been able to offer Jian a new life, including a chance to attend church and to prove himself as a football player by having made many tackles last fall as a defensive end in his junior high school in Texas.
“This is the story of adoption and the power of the gospel to reach across continents, cultures and centuries,” says the author.