Nina Hendee: God gave me my experience with life to minister to countless young women for 43 years. To talk to them about life and even when it’s hard, God is God and He honors choices.
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John Fuller: That’s Nina Hendee, uh, describing how her own unplanned pregnancy is given her a platform to share her faith and her pro-life failures. Today on Focus on the Family, we’ll hear more of Nina’s remarkable story and how God orchestrated a reunion between this birth mom and her son 48 years later. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, this is a remarkable story and a great reminder of how God answers prayer, even when we don’t know all the details about who or what we’re praying for. God is faithful and I’m so excited about our guests and their powerful pro-life message that we all need to hear.
John: Yeah, and a short time ago we met with Nina Hendee and also Kyle Poulson in this studio and, uh, Nine and her husband Ed are the owners and the operators of the Taste of Texas restaurant in the Houston area. Uh, the Hendee’s are very active in their community, they have a large family with four grown children and 12 grandchildren.
John: Kyle is a commercial real estate advisor and investor for Transwestern in the Fort Worth area of Texas and serves as a board member and coach for a number of local organizations. Kyle and his wife, Erin, have two children. And, uh, Jim, here’s how you started the conversation on today’s episode of Focus on the Family.
Jim: Well, let me say welcome to both of you.
Nina: Thank you.
Jim: I’m already smiling from ear to ear because I know this is gonna end well. (laughs)
Jim: And it’s such a great story. Nina let’s start with you. Uh, the year was 1971, that’s just a couple of years before Roe v. Wade-
Jim: But, um, like with my mom, I was born in the ’60’s, and my mom in California was encouraged because she was 42-
Jim: that she could get an abortion because of her age, and it was my dad, my alcoholic father who talked her out of that.
Jim: And so take us back to 1971 and what was happening in your life.
Nina: Well, I was a junior in high school and, and at Christmas, I found myself pregnant and, um, terrify-
Jim: As a junior in high school.
Nina: As a junior in high school-
Nina: I was 16 and I was terrified. Um, I grew up in an amazing family, a family of faith, but in 1971, you did not-
Nina: Um, get pregnant. It was unheard of and quite the social stigma. And so I made a decision when I realized that I was pregnant, and it really was life changing. I knew the Lord, I loved the Lord, and standing in my front yard, going in to talk to my family, I made the decision that I would choose life.
Jim: There was something your mother said to you that I saw as we prepared for the program today which really was amazing. What did your mom say to you that was, uh, kind of the statement?
Nina: It really was. She said, “You do not cover a mistake with tragedy.”
Nina: “You choose life.”
Jim: Right. Boy, that’s the, that’s the thing we and so many other Christians have talked about for so many years, especially since Roe v. Wade, because, uh, life is the better choice. Uh, you were sent to a school, back, again, in ’71, where young women went to, um, you know, have their babies and describe it for me, what, what that was like.
Nina: Yeah, they were very common in the ’60’s and ’70’s. They were homes for unwed mothers, and you lived there, you went to school there, you had counseling, you had, um, all of your classes, all of your support was there, and you lived with, I think, probably 40 young women that were in the same situation.
Nina: As young as 14-
Nina: and as old as probably 21. Um, and so I was there from January until Kyle was born in June.
Jim: And in that context, uh, the counseling that was provided to you, um, again, it was good but, you know, pretty rules based, I guess. Uh-
Nina: It was very rules based. So, y- you, you were told legally that an adoption was closed. They prepared you for surrendering your child, and at that time, adoptions were completely closed in this country. From, I think about 1965 to about 1972 or ’73, um, you had no way to open an adoption-
Nina: so we were schooled on, on the rules.
Jim: Right, and what that meant for those that may not’ve been through the adoption process is that the, y- you have no way of knowing where your baby’s going, who’s adopting them, you’re encouraged to never, uh, contact your child ever in the future. That is a closed adoption.
Jim: And that’s what they schooled you on is this is what’s gonna happen.
Nina: And, and schooled that it would be detrimental to the child-
Nina: because they were placed in really wonderful families-
Nina: and given a lot of reasons why, um, you could not reach out.
Jim: And in that context, one of the things that occurred at the point of birth is that the baby, uh, would come into this world and be swept away and most moms would never have a chance to hold the baby, et cetera. It just was complete separate right from that point. But you had a little different experience.
Nina: I did. Um, I was in the hospital, Kyle was born, and, um, they didn’t even want you to know if it was a boy or a girl, so you’re behind the drape-
Nina: and the baby was taken away and, um, the day before I was released from the hospital, a nurse brought Kyle into my room, and that was against all of the rules. And this amazingly compassionate woman walked in and placed my child in my arms.
Nina: I had spent the past six months praying over my child.
Nina: And for 20 minutes, I got to hold him and love him, and pour out my desire for his life. Pray over my baby, knowing that I might n- never see him again.
Jim: Most likely would not.
Nina: Most likely never see him again.
Nina: And poured out my heart to him but to the Lord.
Nina: Father God, give this child the life that I cannot provide for him.
Jim: Nina, I want, just before I move to you, Kyle, I, I just, ih-, for you to express the anguish that you were going through, I just think for women listening, it’d be so good that, um, it was a struggle.
Nina: It was an incredible struggle because mothers love their children, it doesn’t matter your age. You love your children.
Nina: And the anguish is deep, but the Lord was present. I, uh, knew the Lord, loved the Lord, and that is where I learned to pray.
Nina: And to pray without ceasing.
Nina: To pray nonstop for him, which I did.
Nina: And I prayed for his entire life. Very specific things for his life.
Jim: Even though you had no contact with him?
Nina: Had no contact.
Nina: Did, and we called him “The Baby” because I had no way of knowing what his life was, so-
Jim: Right, of course.
Nina: We would pray over him.
Jim: Mm. Uh, Kyle, man, all these years later, you’re born, obviously, in ’71 and, uh, you, you grew up knowing you were adopted, you had wonderful adoptive parents, you can talk about that. I’d like to hear about that. They were Christians and they took you in. Um, uh, h- how special did you feel being adopted?
Kyle Poulson: Yeah, I think, um, I think a lot of adopted kids may feel different and I felt special. And I had my, my mom would always tell me, and I had an aunt that kind of explained that I was picked, chosen. You know, and as a little kid, you just kind of felt special like, “Man, this family wanted me.”
Jim: Yeah. Mary Jo, your adoptive mother, she had a wish for your life. What was that wish?
Kyle: Sh-, well, she always wished every year on my birthday, she would cry and get very emotional and just say, “I wish your birth mom could see you and be part of your life.”
Kyle: And it was, it was til she died.
Kyle: She would tell me in front of my wife and kids and other people that she really wanted me to find her and, um, it was just more out of respect to my mom and dad to not do that while they were, while they were here.
Jim: Mm-hmm. Um, and that’s the reason you hesitated at first to reach out to Nina, your birth mom, sitting right next to you. Um, that was a, a kind of a gut check for you to, to wait until you felt a little more, uh, at ease with it. Is that a good way to say it?
Kyle: Yes, for sure. And it was, uh, I prayed about it, and it just wasn’t the right time.
Kyle: And it’s funny, after my mom passed away in, uh, November of 2016, I prayed about it and prayed about and then I, with some help, some family friends, I went to DePelchin, the adoption agency just to see what the process would look like, and I started that process and it was, um, it was tough to even get in the door. The first thing they said after I met with the sweet lady there, is it was a closed adoption. She sat down with me and said, “It’s closed. There’s records in here. You’re never gonna find her. This is 1971,” and she goes, “But” I think she thought my intentions were pure, she goes, “The last, your last step is to go to the courts, and I can tell you it was this court, 152nd court in Houston,” she goes, “You can check with them.” She goes, “But don’t get your hopes up. This is, this is not gonna work out.”
Jim: So she did give you a little mustard seed-
Kyle: Of hope.
Kyle: Oh, I was fired-
Jim: Obviously it was enough.
Kyle: It was enough.
Jim: Because you followed up on that, right?
Kyle: I did.
Jim: How, how, did you feel like God was saying, “This is a good thing to do”? Were you even considering what the Lord might want in this? How did that discussion go?
Kyle: At that point, I was pretty determined to at least go to the next step and that was a dead end, and it was a dead end and I’ve got one around, well, let’s see, and it was done. They said, “Sir, it’s, it’s closed. We can’t give you, uh, anymore records,” and I just happened to look at the judge’s name of the court and knew of a family friend and I called the family members and said, “Listen, I think your, your uncle or your cousin is the, was the judge in my adoption records and would you call them and just say I’m not crazy and I don’t want, I don’t have any bad, uh, intentions.” And this is 9:00 at night and an hour later, he’s gonna open your records.
Jim: Wow. Oh my.
Kyle: After dead end, dead end, dead end and then they, I had another break in the light.
Jim: Wow. Mm.
Kyle: So I called one of my son’s classmate’s moms, who’s a private investigator. I said, “We’re real close.” I said, “Lisa, here’s this file, it’s redacted. I’m adopted. This is what I’ve found, this is what the court gave me, and I can’t find anything.” And she was crying, she was so happy to know the whole story, and she goes, “Let me get on it.” An hour later, 5:03, she calls and says, “Nina Hendee is your mother. She lives in Houston, she’s married,” and gave me, (laughs)-
Kyle: she’s crazy.
Kyle: Social security numbers-
Jim: It’s one hour.
Kyle: every phone number, every address they’ve lived in since the ’70’s-
Kyle: all the kids, aunts, uncles, I mean, she spit it out. So I was overwhelmed.
Kyle: At 5:03 on October 30th. And so I was just trying to process, and I was like, “Okay, she’s alive. She’s not living under a bridge. She’s got this amazing family.” So I just-
Jim: Owns a restaurant.
Kyle: Owns a restaurant-
Kyle: that I went into as a kid.
Jim: Oh my goodness. Wow.
Kyle: So, we lived in Houston when I was a kid, and the Taste of Texas was a mile from my house.
John: Oh my goodness.
Kyle: So several times-
Jim: This is a reveal.
Kyle: our family would go to the Taste of Texas for special occasions and for dinners. She probably sat our family several times.
Jim: Isn’t that something?
Jim: That’s kind of jaw dropping, to think you probably had contact and didn’t even know it.
Jim: That, you know, that you’re related. Uh, Nina, let’s go ahead and have you describe for us what was happening in those intervening years.
Jim: I mean, you’re praying, but what is the Lord doing in your heart?
Nina: Praying without ceasing. Um, and so I am, um, a prayer warrior, I pray daily, and I pray in order-
Nina: and, um, I pray thanking God, uh, for His love for me and asking God to search me and know me, and then I move down the list, um, for my sweet husband, um, to the baby that we prayed for for 48 years and that Ed prayed for and it’s, uh-
Jim: Your husband, yeah.
Nina: my husband, yeah.
Jim: That’s amazing.
Nina: Prayed for. It is.
Jim: That he had a tender heart. In fact when he met you, that’s something that he loved about you.
Nina: He did.
Jim: Describe that because that sounds like, mm, that could be a little hiccup in your relationship.
Nina: You would think that it would be a hiccup becau-, but he is a remarkable man and on our second date I explained to him that I had surrendered a child for adoption several years before and, um, he loved that. He loved that story, he loved, uh, knowing who I was. And so we prayed.
Jim: That sounds like the heart of God, doesn’t it?
Nina: Oh, he, yes.
Jim: I mean, the forgiveness-
Nina: Indeed, Jim.
Jim: is there and, but, hey, it’s about how-
Nina: and love.
Jim: do we move forward-
Nina: Yes, and-
Jim: how do we, uh, bring God into the situation.
Nina: Uh, and God is able to do immeasurably more. We would’ve never even thought that this reunion could happen.
Jim: Yeah. I wanna touch again on, on just that overwhelming feeling of guilt and shame that you still, I mean, you had to have the courage to even say to your boyfriend at the time, right?
Jim: Second date, “Hey, this is something that happened.”
Nina: And, you know, Jim-
Jim: Describe that.
Nina: the time was so harsh and there was such a, such shame associated, uh, with and unwed pregnancy but I never really felt that because God said, “I have you, a terrified young woman.”
Nina: And God said, “I am right here. Just be faithful.” I was, um, I always had peace about my decision to surrender Kyle and, um, God just covered over, covered over with mercy my life.
Nina: So when I thought of the baby, I thought of him with joy-
Nina: for 48 years.
John: Ah. Mm, This is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly and our guests today are Nina Hendee and Kyle Poulson. They’re describing how God orchestrated their reunion after a 48-year separation. It’s remarkable. And, uh, this is such a wonderful pro-life story about a birth mom’s courageous decision to rescue her pre-born baby from abortion. Here at Focus, we want to encourage and help girls and women like Nina who might be dealing with an unplanned pregnancy, and we hope you’ll join us in the effort and support our program, Option Ultrasound, which is saving babies and transforming lives. We can tell you more about Option Ultrasound when you call 800-232-6459. That’s 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
John: And now let’s go back to the conversation with our guests at a point where Kyle was deliberating how and when he would contact Nina.
Kyle: So I called DePelchin, uh, join the-
Jim: That’s the adoption agency.
Kyle: The adoption agency and I said, “I found her,” and she, uh, Joanie was very sweet and said, “Listen. You have to tiptoe through this. This is – ” She said, “I would encourage you writing a letter so it’s nonthreatening and you do it on her terms.”
Kyle: So I would, I wrote a letter and I still was, uh, very sensitive that I didn’t want to blow her family up, I didn’t wanna upset her, I wasn’t trying to change her life, I dis-, so I was trying to get this letter right where I’m kind of getting her very comfortable with where I came from, my family, friends, um, and I wasn’t out after money, I didn’t want her to ruin her life in even like, “Hey, we could have this secret. I just wanna meet you.” But very nonthreatening, just to say thank you. And so I wrote one version, let my wife see, let one or two people see it. I waited 30 days, prayed about it, I would change some stuff-
Kyle: then I’d, I bet I had 25 versions of the letter.
Nina: So, we opened the letter. I, I opened the letter of the morning of December the 16th and-
Jim: This is 2019.
Nina: Uh, came in from the gym, stack of mail, December mail, and there was a letter on the top that said, “Personal and confidential,” and I opened it and it said, “My name is Kyle Poulson and I believe you are my birth mother.”
Jim: Okay, you’ve gotta tell us the emotions right there.
Nina: Oh my goodness. I had prayed for the baby in the weeks before, just constantly.
Nina: Just God kept bringing the baby to my heart and, and here came the letter.
Jim: Oh, amazing.
Nina: So, it, the letter’s three pages and I quickly scanned it and turned to the back page-
Nina: before I even completed it. Um, the letter said, “Thank you for my life,” and for 48 years God had affirmed Kyle’s life. And when I thought of the baby, I had such peace.
Nina: Because of choosing life. And then God said, “And here he is.”
Nina: It’s one of the sweetest moments ever. So I flipped to the back page and there was a phone number, and I ran for my telephone-
Nina: to call him. Um, and he didn’t pick up. Oh. (laughs)
Jim: (laughs) Well, he’s a busy guy.
Nina: He called, eh, well, it was 7:00 in the morning as well.
Nina: Um, and he called back-
Nina: and I was able to say, “I have waited for this day”-
Jim: I can’t imagine.
Nina: “for 48 years.”
Jim: Yeah. I can’t imagine that conversation.
Jim: The first moments of it.
Kyle: Yeah, she, she answers the phone and says, “I’ve been looking for you for 48 years.”
Jim: Yeah. I think when you look at it, the story, I mean, even the way that unfolded, Kyle, with the Lord’s fingerprints all over this, it’s obvious that He wanted the two of you to connect and for the, I guess as Paul Harvey used to say, right, “The rest of the story to be known.” When you look at it now, just the idea, there’s so much tragedy in the world today because of abortion, because in part, Nina, the stigma is not to give your child up for adoption. We’ve done some research on that and a lot of women would prefer to terminate the life of their child than give that child life even if that child’s adopted. Speak to that very specifically, if you would. I mean, there might be women right now listening, yes, even in the church, uh, who are considering abortion because they, they don’t wanna go through the shame of having a baby, or the separation, what you prayed for for 48 years not knowing what’s happened to that child. But it’s far better to choose life.
Nina: Every time. It, the separation from the child is devastating but the dynamic changes when the Lord is in it-
Nina: Uh, knowing what I know about the Poulson family, how they loved Kyle, they provided a life for him that I could not possibly provide. I knew and loved the Lord and life was the option and I never regretted that. But it is a very hard decision and we’ve had countless adoptees and surrendering parents that have come to us in the months since we were united to say, “How do we navigate this?”
Nina: “This is, um, it’s a tough decision.”
Jim: And you even said, um, that they were the perfect parents.
Nina: They were the perfect parents. Jim, if we could line parents up, 100 families, and interview them and know their hearts, um, you would’ve picked the Poulson family.
Jim: Wow. Isn’t that great?
Jim: I mean, how amazing. You know, something we do here at Focus, we really promote adoption, especially out of foster care but for those women who are struggling at the pregnancy resource clinics, you know, th-, we do in, as a country we do about a million abortions every year, and from what I understand, there’s about a million couples seeking to adopt infants.
Jim: I mean, it, we just need to connect the dots.
Nina: We do.
Jim: And I pray for that often, that that will happen. And you’re, uh, you know, Exhibit A of the goodness that comes from that decision, even though there was such great separation between you for so long. But how the Lord has allowed that to occur for you two to come back together, for your extended families-
Jim: to get to know each other. Maybe that’s a good place to end. W-, tell us about the extended family connections now. Ih-, you’ve met brothers and sisters and (laughs)
Kyle: I’ve got a whole new family, aunts, uncles, uh, sisters, and, uh, and friends and it’s just been overwhelming the amount of support-
Kyle: once we kind of presented this, uh, the amount of calls, emails, texts, and, um, it’s been great.
Jim: You go to the restaurant more often now?
Kyle: I do.
Jim: Taste of Texas. I think we’re getting it. I think it really is a taste of heaven.
Nina: It is-
Jim: That’s what we’re experiencing here.
Nina: so much fun, yes.
Jim: And what a beautiful story. Nina and Kyle, man, thank you for coming on and sharing this amazing story and praise God that it worked out so wonderfully. It’s beautiful.
Nina: Thank you.
Kyle: Thank you for letting us be here.
John: Hm. What a powerful conversation with Nina Hendee and Kyle Poulson, sharing their remarkable story of Nina’s unplanned pregnancy and how she made an adoption plan for her baby boy, and then 48 years later, reunited with Kyle.
Jim: 48 years, John, I mean, this really is a story that touched my heart. And I’m so thankful for Nina’s decision to choose life for Kyle. That’s the best choice. Uh, today they are a shining example of God’s provision and grace for all of us to see. The Lord cares deeply about each life that He created. As Psalm 139 says, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works. My soul knows it very well.” (laughs) and that’s why Focus on the Family is continuing the battle to transform hearts and minds toward a pro-life perspective. Uh, we’re not in battle with anybody, we just know, this is the truth of God’s heart. Uh, we’re so grateful for the Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe vs Wade in the United States, but abortion is very prevalent in the US and around the world, so we need to stay committed to showing God’s love to women and their babies, giving them hope and the resources they need to choose life like Nina did. Please partner with us as we speak up for life. Support Operation Ultrasound, where we provide ultrasound machines and training and other resources to pregnancy resource centers, many of which are working in those states that continue to support abortion.
John: Yeah, those centers are great and the gr-, wonderful news is it takes just $60 to save a baby’s life.
Jim: That’s right, John. We’ve done the math, we have studied this over the last 14, 15 years. When you invest in Option Ultrasound, we’ve determined that a gift of $60 will rescue one pre-born child and I can’t think of a better investment than that. So please, consider a monthly pledge of $60 to Focus on the Family today. Uh, over 12 months, that’s 12 babies that we can save together every year. Or whatever you can afford. Any gift, even a one-time gift, will help empower women and girls to make the right decision about life.
John: Donate today when you call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459 or you can make that gift at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And Jim, we should also let everyone know about the new Lifemark movie that’s coming out in theaters today based on a true story of a reunion between a birth mom and her grown son, very similar to what Kyle and Nina experienced. Uh, our good friend Kirk Cameron stars in the movie, and we’ll post details about Lifemark at our website. Again, you’ll find the details at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Well, we hope you have a wonderful weekend with your family and, uh, your church family as well, and then please join us on Monday for an insightful conversation about keeping your emotions in check.
Deborah Pegues: Don’t tolerate thoughts that take you down that path, that path of superiority, that path of condemning other people. Don’t allow yourself to think like that. You can halt a thought.
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