There were babies up for adoption at the local neonatal unit. Babies that needed homes. JT Olson was frequently updated on them because he served on the board at Bethany Christian Services. When he would return from the monthly board meeting, his wife would ask how it went, and he would give her a run-down of the meeting and then tell her about the available babies up for adoption at the hospital.
This usually provoked the same response from his wife, “Can we go see them?” They already had four kids, and JT was resistant.
They had just started a new business and weren’t even taking a salary yet. “Do you really want to go into our life savings to adopt?” he asked.
His wife’s response usually went something like this, “Listen, we’ve got four kids, and I can be happy with the four that we’ve got, or one more. The kids can be happy with the four that we’ve got, or one more. I can take either one. What I can’t take is you being up and down about this. Sometimes you’re excited about adoption and sometimes you’re not. When you’re on board, let us know.”
His kids added some pressure as well. Every night as he would put them to bed, they would pray, “Dear God, please let Dad let us adopt.”
Fast forward to Christmas Eve 2001.
“I went upstairs to get the stockings,” JT said “and started looking around. I saw a crib, a stroller, a carseat and high chairs, and thought to myself, we have everything we need to raise another child. And it hit me, what’s wrong with using a life savings to save a life?”
As he was going back down the stairs, he met his wife and began to tell her that he had seen all the baby furniture in the attic. “She thought I was going to tell her we needed to have a yard sale”. But instead, he repeated to her the epiphany that he had just experienced. “Honey, there’s nothing wrong with using a life savings to save a life.” His wife wrote a note for each child that she put in the stockings that evening, they were going to have a new baby brother or sister. The kids found out on Christmas morning the next day.
The little baby that was destined for their home wasn’t even born yet. They had no idea at that point where the baby would even come from. They only knew that they were willing to adopt, and that they were willing to take all the steps necessary to make that happen.
She would soon be born in China. Under intense pressure to abort children in China, and especially girls, her biological mother made the tough choice to have the baby, which she left in a box, with a bottle, at the orphanage. The caretaker at the orphanage named her Grace, not knowing that Grace was the name that the Olson’s had already chosen for her.
“When I saw that they had given her the Chinese name for Grace, I asked my wife if she had told the social worker that we had already picked that name for her. She hadn’t. That was just another confirmation that God was leading us down this path.”
I had the pleasure of sitting down with JT over coffee recently as he recounted this story to me. I met him through someone I know at I Am Second. When you meet someone for the first time, you don’t really have a sense of where the conversation might go. I was blown away in the first five minutes of meeting JT, how much passion he had for helping orphans and widows.
As a follower of Jesus, it’s not hard to understand where that passion came from, because those things are so in line with Jesus’ teachings. Still, seeing someone living that out in real life, in such a real way, is not something I see every day. I found myself feeling challenged. Not in an abrasive or aggressive way, but in a way that made me ask questions about my own life. “What is really important to me? What am I doing in my life that puts others first? How can I pour my energy and time into others more effectively?”
I asked JT why he decided to adopt in China. With tears in his eyes, he gave me this simple response. “Because that’s where Grace was.”
Not all of us are going to adopt a child. It’s not for everyone. But when I was five years old my parents decided that they should do just that. I remember them driving to Denver when I was 5 years old to pick up my little brother, who had flown in with a bunch of other orphans from Vietnam. He too was left at an orphanage. He’s now a successful football coach, a father, husband and teacher who has touched many lives, mine being one of them.
JT’s story touched me deeply. Sometimes living second means reaching out to others who can’t help themselves. No one is more helpless than a little baby.
JT Olson’s concern for orphans and widows is profound, and he’s doing something about it.
Click HERE to get involved and find out more about JT’s journey.
Stan Fletcher’s day job is showing people around Lieper’s Fork Distillery as a tour guide. He writes music, plays the guitar, and performs weekly at various spots around Nashville. He has been involved in various aspects of I Am Second since the beginning of 2016. Stan was a pastor in Seattle and Scottsdale for 13 years.