As I have mentioned before in my blog, I have a Prodigal Son. He is adopted, and how Ricky came to be adopted by my husband and me is a story that is best reserved for another time.
The part of the story I’m going to share today is about prayer, hope and God’s way of working. It’s also a story about fear, denial and misunderstanding.
The Early Years
When Ricky, our Prodigal Son, first came into our custody, he was just under two years old. We knew his mother, but his father’s name was not listed on his birth certificate. She told us his name eventually, but 30 years ago, searching for him was nearly impossible. Besides, we were led to believe that he wanted nothing to do with Ricky.
As Ricky grew up, he had a loving family and strong male role models in his life, but for him, something was always missing. He felt different from everyone else. All his friends had “real” fathers. While Ricky knew he was being raised by his maternal grandfather, that wasn’t the same.
Ricky asked himself why his father had left him, and why he didn’t want Ricky in his life. Although no one told him he was unwanted by his father, his father never looked for him. He hated Father’s Day.
This, of course, was a major factor in his rebellious, defiant behavior. Ricky didn’t feel as if he really belonged anywhere. He believed that he wasn’t accepted on his own merit because he was different. So he decided instead to behave in an outrageous way to gain admiration from his peers. He definitely stood out, but inside he was grieving.
A Son of His Own
Fast-forward to about 2013. Ricky was living out West. He fell in love and married a sweet young woman named Coriane. In June of 2014, she gave birth to a son–who looked exactly like Ricky. Ricky was over-the-moon happy. Seeing him with his boy brought tears to my eyes. At last, I thought. At last!
Unfortunately, Ricky was still struggling with the demons in his life. He fell hard, back into addiction and criminal behavior. Eventually, he went back to prison. His relationship with Coriane suffered during this time. She never stopped bringing his son to visit him, though, and continued to teach their child to love and respect his father.
As time passed, Ricky’s family continued to pray for him. We still loved his wife and son, and never let Ricky and Coriane’s marital conflicts affect our love for all of them. Eventually, Ricky and Coriane reconciled, and he began to make real progress in his recovery and his relationship with God.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
When he began the step-down process in preparation for eventual release, Ricky began to take advantage of every program available for rehabilitation. We were proud of the progress he was making, and his telephone conversations gave us hope.
One of the biggest issues for newly-released prisoners is that they need strong support from Godly people. and they need a network of peers who will hold them accountable and encourage them when things go wrong. My fear for him was that he didn’t have strong Christian role models in the city to which he was being released.
I continued to pray, in a more specific way, about role models and spiritual support. Living on the other side of the country, I was not directly involved with anyone in his community. So I asked my church family here, where I am, to begin to pray specifically for support for him. I sought advice from more than one prison ministry about the kinds of support he would need.
God Made DNA
Meanwhile, Ricky’s wife Coriane began an interesting process. Curious and concerned about their little boy’s background, she began to do some research. First, she got Ancestry DNA kits for herself and their son. They took the tests and got the results. The results for their son showed relatives as close as first cousins and even gave her an Ancestry user she could contact. Next, Coriane applied to the work camp where Ricky was now incarcerated and asked if they would allow him to take an Ancestry DNA test. Permission granted. Prison officials performed it and sent it to Ancestry.com.
From Ricky’s results, they found some other matches that made his relationships clearer. At one point, though, we thought that Ricky’s father had died. It was actually his grandfather, but we didn’t know it then.
Coriane, however, would not give up the search. She was convinced that something about the details of the story did not seem right. She alone was the one person who was willing to dig for answers for him. She tried to get clear answers from Ricky’s mother. She continued to search for relatives. She was all over social media, looking for leads based on his family name and the DNA results.
Cori to the Rescue
On a Saturday morning, the day before Father’s Day, Coriane called me. “I think I found Ricky’s father,” she said.
Apparently, she had looked up people with his father’s birth name on social media. She found one guy who looked like a possible match and bore a strong resemblance to Ricky. She messaged him with, “I know this sounds crazy, but were you ever in such-and-such a place at such-and-such a time?”
His response was, “I believe you are my son’s wife.”
Mysterious Ways and Answered Prayers
That was an eventful weekend. By Sunday afternoon, Father’s Day, Ricky had spoken by telephone with his father, Tom, and half-brother Jeffrey. Pictures were flying back and forth in the family via text and social media. Relationships began. Connections were made. My facebook friends list increased.
In this process of talking with Jeffrey, Ricky discovered that Jeffrey lived literally around the corner from the home Ricky shared with Coriane. Coriane met Ricky’s brother and family on that busy Father’s Day and realized that Jeffrey and his family go to the same church she attends. The. Same. Church.
Answered prayers? Absolutely! Ricky will be completing his sentence in a matter of weeks. When he steps out of prison, he will have a Christian brother to support him, a strong link to a church, and a father who can speak into his life.
I talked with Tom, Ricky’s birth father, a few days after Father’s Day. A different picture of Ricky’s early months began to emerge. In fact, I even have a picture of Tom holding Ricky in his arms, taken when Ricky was about two months old. Tom later tried to get a DNA test to prove he was Ricky’s father, but for some reason, this was denied.
In putting the pieces together with Tom and his wife, we found that there had been some deliberate withholding of information that would have reunited Ricky with his father about five years sooner–before Ricky’s fall back into addiction. Although this was not done maliciously, trying to control information and keep family secrets usually has a bad outcome. Several people were hurt in the process. Ricky was hurt the most.
But God. But God. Through all the twists, turns, and time delays, God made this situation complete in His perfect way, by His perfect timing. In fact, God has answered all of our prayers with blessings far beyond what any of us could have imagined. To God be the glory!
God Has the Last Word
Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. — John 14:13
Grace is real–
Judy, the Default Mom