Paul Batura: Adoption can be very awkward. It can be very dysfunctional. It’s not the stuff that, you know, fairy tales are made of. That there’s a lot of challenge, there’s a lot of tears, there’s a lot of uncertainty and I think maybe we can learn from that.
End of Teaser
John Fuller: That’s Paul Batura. He’s with us today on Focus on the Family to share what we can learn about adoption. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, I think today people will be inspired by the amazing impact that adoption has had on the world. We often don’t hear these stories. Today we’re gonna concentrate on that and a few months ago, we talked with one of our colleagues, Paul Batura, about a handful of adopted men and women who changed the world, such as Steve Jobs, Faith Hill and others.
Today we want to come back and profile more folks who Paul highlighted in his book, Chosen for Greatness, such as Babe Ruth and Art Linkletter. I’m lookin’ forward to the discussion. Here at Focus on the Family, we passionately believe in God’s heart for adoption and we live that out daily through our Wait No More efforts, which works with families to get kids adopted out of foster care into “forever families,” as we call them. And we want to invite you to be part of those efforts, as well, and we’ll have more information about that, John.
John: Yeah, they’re one-day events, usually on a Saturday and you can find out more at focusonthefamily.com/radio, or call 1-800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
Jim: Paul Batura is vice president of communications here at Focus on the Family. He and his wife, Julie, live in Colorado Springs and they have three adopted children. Paul, welcome back. I guess, welcome from your desk into the studio, right? (Laughing)
Paul: Good to be down here. Thanks for havin’ me.
John: Had to take the express elevator to get here.
Jim: (Laughing) Yeah, right; it is good to have you, Paul. You do such a great job here just on that communication side. We’re grateful to it. Paul would be most of the interface with the media here at Focus, he and the team in the communications department. So, thanks for what you do normally day to day and what you’ve done here in your new book. On a grand scale, tell me how adoption has changed the world.
Paul: Well, of course, on a macro level is why I wrote the book.
Jim: Yeah. (Laughing)
Paul: I was kinda fascinated by the fact that when you hear about adoptees, you look up their stories, you so often see what they’re known for. They’re known for their, you know, inventions, their um … productions, um … their accomplishments on … in the sport … sporting world. But so often, their adoption story is sort of buried in their biography. It’s, you know, a little footnote.
Jim: Their success kind of over—
Paul: That’s right.
Jim: –shadows their adoption.
Paul: And everyone has a childhood. Everyone starts from somewhere and of course, our childhoods matter. Where we come from makes a big difference and uh … and when I looked into the backgrounds of these adoptees, it occurred to me that um … you know, as I said last time I was here, their adoptions, you know, they didn’t succeed in spite of being adopted. They really succeeded because they were adopted.
Jim: Yeah, I love that Scripture that He’s close to the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in spirit. That’s an orphan, I mean, just by definition. That’s what you feel like every day, ‘cause you don’t have what others have and you struggle. Let’s get to it. Let’s start with George Ruth Junior. (Laughing) And people are goin’, “Who’s that?” The Babe.
Paul: The Babe, yeah. I … you know, he’s such a … um … a larger-than-life figure. There’s a great line, one of my favorite lines about Babe Ruth that said, had he not um … been born, he’s something of a figure that could never have been created. He was the um … I think the line was, he was the 4th of July, a brass band and New Year’s Eve all rolled into one.
Jim: (Laughing) Yeah, right.
Paul: He was this guy that lived in excess. That’s what he’s known for, but of course, he started as a poor kid on the streets of Baltimore. He was from this little neighborhood in Baltimore that was known as “Pig Town.” You know why it was called “Pig Town?”
Paul: Because pigs would literally run through the streets and people anxious for food would like tackle the pig, butcher them and uh … you know, have a feast.
Paul: But that’s the … the poverty into which he was born. His … his parents were very working class. He was the oldest of eight kids, but um … six of them died in infancy, which was not uncommon. This is 1902, so early, early part of the century.
Jim: Now he lived 1895 to 1948, so …
Paul: That’s right, yeah and um … his uh … his mom was a bit of a … a mystery and that’s a lot of what surrounds the Babe’s story. Very little is known about his parents. Um … he told different accounts of them. We know his father was a saloon owner among other things. And uh …
Jim: Well, and he kinda lived that life out in his early years definitely.
Paul: He definitely did. Um … when he was … when he finally earned some money and uh … was able to …
Jim: But the big change for him, even though maybe the seeds of that did not manifest till later in his life, but he was sent to a Catholic orphanage, I believe, right—Brother Matthias—
Paul: That’s right, yeah.
Jim: –if I remember correctly and you highlighted that in the book. Why was that relationship so important?
Paul: Well, it was the most important thing for him. It was St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, which was—
Jim: Well, that sounds inviting.
Paul: –It does, (Laughter) I know.
John: Industrial School.
Paul: And when you … when you see a picture of it, it’s … it’s an imposing place.
Paul: Um … there were three types of kids who went there. There were orphans. Uh … there were … those who had uh … their parents abandoned them for whatever reason. You know, so they were orphans. You had kids who were in boarding school, who went home on weekends. Babe was actually, you know, the … the quintessential orphan, ‘cause his … his father … his mother and father, dropped him off and he was listed as being vicious and incorrigible. Now he was 7-years-old.
Jim: Oh, my.
Paul: So, you wonder how vicious—
Paul: –and how incorrigible could a 7-year-old be?
Jim: It’s almost a little bit juvenile detention, right?
Paul: That’s right, yeah. And … but what he found at St Mary’s is what he had been missing at home. Brother Matthias, who became his father there at the school, was this tall imposing man.
Jim: Six foot five–
Paul: Yeah, and—
Jim: –which had to be big for that era.
Paul: –pretty tall and pretty large and he loved baseball. And he would hit fungo’s to George and … and others.
Jim: That’s just hitting grounders and … yeah.
Paul: Uh … well, fungo’s are fly balls.
Paul: And the way Babe tells the story, uh … 350-foot shots, which sounds a little exaggerated, you know, a typical ballpark.
John: Like over the fence kind of [swing].
Paul: Well, yeah, but just towering, so Babe loved it and um … uh … when he was playing, they had a lot of sporting events at this school. There were 28 teams, uh … uniformed teams as part of St. Mary’s, 1,000 kids. So, they … they considered sports to be sort of the “eighth sacrament” was what they called it.
And um … Babe was criticizing the pitching and Brother Matthias said, “Well, if you’re … if … you know, let’s see you do it,” you know, kinda called him on it. And Babe started pitching, really excelled and uh … you know, one thing led to another and he was eventually drafted by the Baltimore Orioles for …
Jim: On the spot, even.
Paul: Yeah, he was drafted.
Jim: He was signed, right?
Paul: I should say he was signed by the Baltimore Orioles. But it was at St. Mary’s … he learned so much at St. Mary’s—discipline. He obviously was um … cultivated in his faith. Um … he was really given that shot and given a chance to perfect a trade. He became a[n] expert shirt maker. That’s what the school was sort of—
Paul: –known for. The school required every student to have a trade–
Jim: To learn a trade.
Paul: –whether it was a printer or a banker or a shirt maker and that’s what the Babe did.
Jim: And made … with the sewing machine and the whole bit.
Paul: Oh, he said he could make a shirt in less than 15 minutes.
Jim: Wow, I never knew that.
Paul: And he thought … and he thought that’s what … he thought that was what he was gonna grow up to become—a shirt maker.
Jim: Paul, let … let me ask you about the end of Babe’s life, because most people don’t know this, but he turned more toward his faith before he died. We only hear most about his uh … you know, his problems, his dark side. But explain what happened toward the end of his life.
Paul: Well, he became very much um … a … I guess, thoughtful about where his … he … where he was. He knew he had lived a life of excess and so, he turned to his faith—the faith of his childhood. And um … very much, you know, confessed his sins. He felt it was his um … job to encourage children not to do the same thing, not to live that excessive life that he had lived. Very, very touching, you know, his last words, so to speak, were in an article that was published in Guidepost magazine, where he talked about the importance of faith and turning your life over to the Lord.
And when he was buried, I found this was very poignant, he was buried with a baseball in his hand and it said, “Safe at home.” And I thought isn’t that the truth. I mean, that’s where he finally found his peace, was at the end of his life. But again, he had lived this life where, you know, he would go out drinking on Saturday nights and then be the first person at mass on Sunday morning—
Paul: –to you know, ask for forgiveness for what he had done.
Jim: Well, and what that speaks to is how we all, even living today, how we need to integrate our faith into our life, not just live it on Sunday. And I appreciate that testimony that the Babe had.
John: Well, you’re listening to Focus on the Family with Jim Daly and our guest today is our colleague, Paul Batura and his book, Chosen for Greatness captures a lot of really great adoption stories and Babe Ruth was the first of several we’re planning to talk about today.
Jim: It is, John. Next, a favorite really. I used to love watching this … this person when I was a child, Art Linkletter. And uh … of course, he had his funny show and … and uh … you know, I would … I would sit and listen when I was 7-, 8-, 9-years-old. But I didn’t realize he, too, was an orphan. And to remind everybody of his refreshing humor, let’s play a clip from one of his old shows.
Art Linkletter: What’s your favorite Bible story?
Child: Um … Adam and Eve.
Art: Yeah, that was where they ate the apple and all?
Art: How did it end? How did that story end?
Child: Um … well, Adam … Adam and Eve said, They’re sorry” to God.
Art: They … they said they were sorry.
Child: Yeah and … and that’s how men got the Adam’s apple.
Art: Well, that may be true, but uh … (Laughter) Eve was the one who gave the man the Adam’s apple, didn’t she?
Art: What do we learn from the story of Adam and Eve?
Child: Well, Adam would be better off as a bachelor, because … because Eve was a trouble maker.
End of Clip
Jim: (Laughing) That’s pretty … that may be pretty accurate. (Laughter) No, it is so wonderful, but that kind of refreshing humor was his trademark and he’s actually Canadian. I want to throw that out for all our Canadian listeners. He was born in Moose Jaw, Canada there. So—
Paul: That’s right.
Jim: –shout out to our northern neighbors.
Paul: He was one of the best … the great lines from Art regarding interviewing kids was, he … he used to say that the best people … and I don’t know, maybe you agree with this, Jim and John, but he said, “The best people to interview are those who are under 10 and over 70, ‘cause when … when you’re under 10, you say what … you don’t even know what you’re saying. But when you’re over 70, you don’t care what you’re saying.”
Jim: (Laughing) That’s right. I think that’s probably accurate. Um … tell us his story, his adoption story. What did he come from and where did he head off to?
Paul: Yeah, so, you mentioned Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. His biological parents came there from another part of Canada to give birth to him. And his parents, who were John and Mary Linkletter, had put in for an adoption. They had lost an infant tragically. They were older folks. His mother was 42, I believe and his father was 52. They were sort of the unconventional adoptive couple.
Paul: Um … they adopted him. Art never knew he was adopted until he was 11-years-old. He used to watch his parents get mail from … you know, somewhere else and uh … take the letters into their bedroom and read them and he never knew what they were reading.
Finally, the curiosity got the best of him once and he went in and he read the letters. And it … that’s how he found out he was adopted.
Jim: He was about age 11 at that time.
Paul: He was and his biological parents had been writing to try and just check and see how he was doing and um … he sort of grew up with this wistful … wonder as to what life would’ve been like had his biological parents never made an adoption plan for him. But he had a very happy childhood, you know, very creative kind of childhood. His parents were … his father was an itinerant preacher. His mother, you know, was this doting kinda lady. Art had fun … funny jobs. I mean, he had a job licking ice cream cones when he was a little kid.
Jim: What … okay, that … okay.
John: Sign me up.
Jim: How’d he get that job?
John: How do you get that one?
Jim: I want to do that as an adult. (Laughter)
Paul: He was at … he was at a … a park where they were selling ice cream and he was just paid to walk around eating ice cream.
Jim: Oh, as a sales, like a. Yeah.
Jim: That’s clever actually, man.
Paul: Not that bad, but his … they moved around a lot. They moved from Canada. They moved to Lowell, Massachusetts. His father had a 5 and 10 store. It was a … a disaster. It didn’t work out. Moved to Southern California. That’s where they wound up settling and his father was a cobbler, a shoe cobbler and um … taught him a very important lesson. He said, “Arty, whatever you decide to do in life, make sure you love it, because you’re gonna be doin’ a lot of it.” And you know, that was impressed—
Jim: In fact—
Paul: –impressed upon him as a young kid.
Jim: –he said something like, if you don’t love it, you’ll fail at it.
Jim: That’s really interesting for young people to think about what they want to put their life toward vocationally.
Jim: Um …
Paul: And the environment that he was in was, you know, when you look at … this is what’s so interesting in all of these stories when you try … you have the advantage now of time, of looking back and realizing, what was the Lord up to? And Art, I mean, for a while, Art lived … as a little kid he lived in a … in a retirement home, because his parents couldn’t afford to live anywhere else and I guess his father had some odd jobs there.
Jim: Wow, that’s interesting. So, that’s what gave him the insight to interview people over 70, like you said.
Paul: Yeah, he could talk to … you know, they used to say about Art Linkletter, he could talk to anybody about anything anywhere. And he just knew how to do it. He became a disc jockey and … and uh … you know, jumped freight trains and traveled the country when he turned 18. Lived a very adventurous life, but it … a lot of it stemmed from his ability to just get along with people.
Jim: Well, he was so well-respected and again, we’re talking to Paul Batura, one of our own here at Focus on the Family. He’s written a book, Chosen for Greatness. He has three adopted children himself. And uh … Paul, it’s fascinating how those dramatic things in life really do shape you, shape your view, also shape your spiritual development.
The next one some people might say, wow, okay, because of the turmoil that this particular person lived in. It’s Nelson Mandela from South Africa, living in an era of segregation, apartheid as it was known. He had an interesting childhood, as well. What was it?
Paul: He did. Again, a common theme here is poverty. He was … he was living in a very poor South African tribe. His father … he was born– his name, it’s hard to pronounce, but it’s the best pronunciation I’ve heard is Rolihlahla (Holyshaza phonetically) was his first name. A teacher gave him the name Nelson.
Paul: I think maybe thankfully so, so we could all pronounce [it].
Jim: Rolihlahla sounds pretty good though.
Paul: It does sound pretty good.
Jim: (Laughing) I kinda like it.
Paul: He was named after the British admiral—
Paul: –Lord ad … Lord Nelson. But he had a pretty conventional childhood up until his father became ill, eventually died of tuberculosis.
Jim: How old was he about that time.
Paul: He was 8-years-old.
Paul: And his father knew he was dying and thought it important that he go and find another family. Now this is unconventional here, because you know, his mother was still living. So, you know, a family today would hear this and think, well, why would you uh … you know, in essence, adopt your son out? In that uh … era and in that custom.
Jim: Yeah, he lived 1918 to 2013, not long ago passing away.
Jim: But that … that whole African tribal community is very different than Western culture. Polygamy was part of it and other things, but that’s what—
Jim: –you’re talking about.
Paul: Yeah, polygamy and patriarchy sort of were the marks of that.
Paul: He ha … his father had other wives.
Jim: So, who … who took him in? Who adopted him?
Paul: Yeah, it was another chief. It was a friend of his father’s, a guy named Chief Jongintaba of a … of a larger tribe, very highly respected man. His mother brought him on this long walk to live with this new family.
Jim: And Chief Jongintaba, he … he was a Christian, correct?
Paul: He was and actually, the … the whole tribe there was sort of a Methodist missionary village and uh … the faith was a major component of their life. They had Bible study. They had services. They sang hymns. It really became quite the centerpiece of his life.
Jim: Let me ask you this. For his father to seek out that particular man, was it in part due to his faith? Was there something there that he liked– Nelson Mandela’s father and then put him in that place for that purpose.?
Paul: I didn’t see anything that he was chosen specifically because of his faith, but he liked the stability that was there. He specifically liked the leadership that Jongintaba offered, which was just again, you look back and try and figure out. This was the critical thing for Nelson Mandela. His adoptive father um … was in charge of this whole tribe and brought an amazing air of leadership. He taught Nelson Mandela so many lessons, specifically that you know, the minority should never get trampled by the majority. So, his father taught him, when you’re running a meeting, listen before you talk. Ask questions. Don’t be the first person in the room to share your opinion, especially if you’re the leader, because if you do, then you discourage the minority opinion, which might be the right opinion, from being offered and talked about.
Jim: Sounds like the book of Proverbs.
Paul: I think so. I think it was … I’m sure he was inspired by Scripture. So, it was … that was a … a hugely pivotal thing for him, for Nelson. But the story of Nelson and we can get into this more, it’s not … it’s not cookie-cutter perfect. It obviously has some wrinkles and … and again, does that sound familiar with those who are listening who have adoptive children? It’s not all Hallmark Hall of Fame.
Jim: Paul, when you look at his life in total, what do you think he learned and then applied as a leader when he became president of South Africa?
Paul: Hm … well, you know, he came out of a … a polygamist culture and so, when he … when he was old enough, his father actually wanted him to marry someone in particular. It was gonna be an arranged marriage. He ran away from home because he wanted to avoid that. Um … so, you know, there’s an example of, you know, just being an adoptive dad doesn’t make you a great dad necessarily. I mean, there are gonna be those … those cultural challenges, that type of thing.
Paul: But um … what he learned uh … that later came to be pivotal for him, you know, was this leadership ability from his adoptive father. You know, he was in prison for 27 years.
Jim: Robben Island.
Paul: Right and uh … then of course, he liberates his country from apartheid, but it took a lot of patience. It took a lot of persistence. It took a lot of um … just strong inner belief in the cause and that’s what he learned as a young man from watching his father. You know, he had to learn to get along with people with whom he had strong ideological opposition, but he did so respectfully, but he also led very decisively.
Jim: That’s for sure. Hey, I uh … want to raise the, probably the most prominent adopted child in world history and that’s Jesus, who was adopted by His father, Joseph. Obviously, Mary was His biological mother, but why did God choose that, in your opinion, and the author of the book, Chosen for Greatness? There’s no greater child to ever be adopted than Jesus Christ. And it even feels funny talking about it in those terms, but Joseph did take him as his own, but describe that environment.
Paul: Well, I … the story of Jesus is and … and the idea that He was adopted is an amazing thing that even surprises Christians who have thought about this topic for a long time. To your first question, why did God do this? I mean, only God knows for sure, but I think when you consider the fact that if you are a Christian, you’ve been adopted by God and into God’s family. That is the most profound thing. And …
Jim: So, He led by example.
Paul: I think so. I think that’s exactly right and you know, when you’re adopted you assume all the rights and privileges of that family and isn’t that.. we don’t … have not earned our way to heaven. We have not done anything to deserve salvation. We can’t, you know, perform better and … and get more results.
Jim: It’s a free gift of God.
Paul: It’s a free gift and that’s really what adoption is. And what I love about the … the story of Jesus and Joseph and why I wanted to end the book on this is because we often think of the … the Christmas story as this idyllic cookie-cut … not cookie-cutter, but this beautiful night where it was … all was calm, all was bright.
Well, there was that. Scripture is very clear. It was a … a star-filled night obviously and uh … you know, Jesus born in the stable. But there was a tremendous dysfunction surrounding it.
Jim: Describe it.
Paul: Well, I mean, you think about it, you have an unwed mother who was–
Jim: Teenage unwed mother.
Paul: –right, who’s chosen to bear Jesus and to give birth. You have a … an awkward positioning of a stable and … or a cave, depending upon your tradition. Then you have the fact that the wise men are tryin’ to come worship Jesus and you have a king who wants to kill him. And then you have a dream in the middle of the night sending Jesus and his adoptive … or his parents out, you know, a different way to escape to another country. I mean, this is pretty dramatic. I mean, this is a … movies are often not this dramatic.
And um … I think what God’s getting at there is that, or at least with adoption, adoption can be very awkward. It can be very dysfunctional. It’s not the … the stuff that, you know, fairy tales are made of. That there’s a lot of challenge. There’s a lot of tears. There’s a lot of uncertainty. And I think maybe we can learn from that because I mean, I … I’ll tell you, Jim. I watched a lot of TV as a kid and I grew up watching good bor … you know, blah TV. You know (Laughter), “The Brady Bunch,” “Gilligan’s Island.”
John: “Leave It To Beaver.”
Jim: There … it was shaping your idea about what family was to be.
Paul: It was, but you know what it did to me? It made me um … think that everything gets solved in 27 minutes and it’s a “happy ever ending” kind of thing. That’s the kind of TV my parents let us watch.
When you become an adoptive parent, when you become a parent, you realize, it’s not like that and you have to dig in, roll up your sleeves. Do your best; pray like crazy.
Jim: Be patient.
Paul: Be pa … I mean, yeah, be patient and trust that the Lord … you know, we tell our boys that when it comes to God’s sovereignty, there’s no Plan B.
Paul: So, I can’t figure it out why He chose to allow us to raise them, why He didn’t allow their biological mother to do it, but it’s His plan and—
Paul: –it’s not Plan B.
Jim: –it’s not and I so appreciate in your book, Chosen for Greatness, how you have highlighted these … you know, people that have achieved incredible things, including as you said, ending the book with Jesus Himself being adopted in a sense by Joseph. Um … an amazing, an amazing work to really encourage people. Man, today’s program has flown by and one thing I loved about our conversation today is that your book is about the adopted individuals, but it’s also about the parents—both the birth parents and the adoptive parents—as you’ve described it in the book. You’re really done the research to go a little deeper, to understand why these people have achieved so much with the time God has given ‘em on this earth.
It’s a reminder to all of us how important our roles as moms and dads are in the lives of children, both your natural born children and for both of you, John and Paul, your adoptive children, as well. If you’ve been listening along and believe in adoption and would want to prayerfully consider what you could do, get in contact with us.
We have a whole program designed to help you explore this area of adoption, the area of foster care, respite care, which to me is like grandparenting. Jean and I have done quite a bit of that. We’ve had probably 15 kids in our home and that’s just taking children from a foster family for a night or two on a weekend and giving them a break to get the laundry done and get some things done and be a family of their own for a few days. It’s a terrific way to … to engage the foster system.
And also you can start the adoption process, which we’re thrilled about and to encourage you and to discourage you, to give you the real tough news of how these kids will test you and they will and how you need to be prayed up for that situation.
So, Paul, thank you once again, for raising up these lives that have meant so much to the world and uh … the irony of them being adopted—Babe Ruth and Art Linkletter and Nelson Mandela and the Lord Himself. What examples of humanity coming to grips with their environment and achieving great things. This has been terrific.
John: Well, you’ll find a copy of Paul’s book, Chosen for Greatness: How Adoption Changes the World at our website. We have all the resources Jim has mentioned there, as well, for whatever your interest is, just learning more or doing more with regard to foster care and adoption. Our website focusonthefamily.com/radio or call 1-800-A-FAMILY: 800-232-6459.
Jim: Paul, as an adoptive father three times, if someone’s listening to this and they’ve been praying about this maybe, but they just haven’t gotten over the line to make the final decision, give it your best shot. Why should I do that?
Paul: It’ll be the best thing you ever did if you feel like the Lord is leading you to do it. Um … you know, it’s the gift that keeps on giving, getting to be a parent, getting to invest in the life of someone else. Uh … there’s no better, there’s no better way.
You know, we’ve talked so much about investing in your 401(k), 403(b), wherever your retirement plan might be. The best thing you can do is to invest in other children and uh … I can’t … I mean, my Julie and I are just so thankful that we’ve been given the chance and entrusted with these kids.
Jim: Good to have you with us.
Paul: Thank you for having me.
John: And again, Paul Batura’s excellent book is Chosen for Greatness. We’ll send a copy of that to you when you make a generous donation of any amount to this family ministry. And learn more and join the support team for our Wait No More Initiative to encourage foster care and adoption. Just make a note of that when you get in touch. Once again, our number is 800-232-6459.
Well, be back with us tomorrow. You’ll hear a humorous message from Jill Savage about the need to “let go” of some of your expectations.
Jill Savage: You see like this headline and the headline says, “Body after Baby Three Months.” And you go, “My body doesn’t look like that after Baby Three Years.” (Laughter) Or in my case sixteen years.
End of Teaser