Dorie Van Stone talks about her troubled childhood as an abused orphan, offering hope and encouragement to those struggling with the pain of rejection. (Part 1 of 2)
John Fuller: If you ever think about the plight of orphans around the world, their incredible needs, I wonder if you also have ever asked God how you might help in even a small way. It doesn't take much to impact a life. Here's an example. Someone gave orphan Dorie Van Stone a pocket-size copy of the New Testament when she was only 13-years-old.
Dorie Van Stone: I found John 3:16 all by myself. Do you know how excited I got when I saw that verse? And I memorized it. Then I found other verses, that the Lord promised He'd never leave me and He'd never forsake me, that He'd be my father and my mother and my brother and my sister, that He'd always take care of me.
End of Excerpt
John: Well, God spoke through that Bible and His promise was true and you'll hear the tragedy and the triumph of Dorie's life today on "Focus on the Family" with our president and author, Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, Dorie's earliest memories are of long lonely hours in an apartment, waiting for her mom to get home from work. She had to care for her little sister and they were often going hungry. These were in the years of the Great Depression. And one day their mother, who was just 21-years-old--think of that with two kids--announced that she couldn't take care of them any longer and she took Dorie, who was only 6 at the time and dropped her off at an orphanage. Imagine that.
John: That would be a heartbreaker, unfortunately very common in that period of time and that's where Dorie's saga begins. Here now, speaking at a women's conference sponsored by Precept Ministries is Dorie Van Stone on today's "Focus on the Family."
Dorie: I've always opened my testimony with the 40th Psalm, you know, that, "He brought me up out of a horrible pit and up from the miry clay and He set my feet upon a rock and He established my goings. And He put a song in my mouth and many shall hear it and praise the Lord. And many, O Lord, my God, are Thy wonderful works, which Thou hast done. If I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered."
I want to go back to the first part. "He lifted me up out of an horrible pit." I never realized how horrible that pit could be until I made the journey to Jerusalem. And I was in the house of Caiphas and I went in that pit. I mean, it's way, way down. They have to let you down with a rope. They put our Lord in that kind of a pit and then drew Him up to be crucified.
I was in that pit. Just think, there were no lights. And I was overcome, as was everyone who was there. And tears were in my eyes. I couldn't help it. I thought, "O, wow, Lord! What a pit You brought me out of." And if He brought me out of that kind of a pit that deep, ought I not to praise Him?
I love the song "He's Everything". "Everything I need, abundantly above, more than I could ask or think, He's everything I need." And when it all started out, I really didn't need Him, because I was this ugly, homely little girl that nobody wanted, nobody loved. You talk about rejection; I know rejection in its full form.
And I wanted more than anything in the world for someone to get ahold of that little girl and say, "Little girl, I love you." And instead of doing that, they put me in an orphanage. And I remember when I went into that orphanage, I was so scared. I was so scared. You're dropped there along with everything in the world that you possess was in a paper bag--one paper bag. "I'm not gonna make it, Lord." I thought, "Ah," you know. I didn't know Him then, but I just thought to myself, "I'm not gonna make it."
And here I was with all these other kids. They didn't have anybody that loved 'em or wanted 'em either. Or sometimes one of the parents that would come and visit 'em, but nobody ever came to visit me. Nobody ever came. And I thought, "How'll I ever get out of this prison?"
When I first arrived there in the orphanage, a big old matron found me. And it was lunch time and she took me down to the dining room and I was following her. Of course, I was hungry. And then, when they opened the doors, here were these tables all set up and she showed me where I was to sit. And she said, "As long as you're in the orphanage, this is your place." And then she gave me two rules and the moment she gave me the rules, I started to break 'em and it was "No talking." You know, I never kept it. And then, "You have to eat everything on your plate." And there was all this goop that I didn't want. I'm not gonna go into all that, but it was stuff. I thought, I hate this place."
And I was a mean, ornery little kid. Now if all of your children are perfect and wonderful, you don't even know what I'm talking about. I was so mean. I'd beat 'em all up. The boys were as scared of me in the orphanage as the girls were. I'd go round and I'd just hit 'em like this and they'd say, "What are you doin'?" And I'd say, "Nothin'." And I'd hit 'em again. And before you knew it, they'd be hitting me. We'd be on the ground; we're all in a mess.
I was full of hate and I was full of bitterness. And I wanted to get even with the world. I think years ago, when they used to have matrons in orphanages, they always had--excuse me for using the expression, but you know--all the old maid ladies that nobody wanted. I mean, they were already disgusted with life, so they were gonna get even with all the kids. (Laughter) And they took it out on us. And there wasn't anything sweet about 'em. And they didn't like me and I didn't like them and I let 'em know it, but I was full of anger.
And when we used to have to stand in line. Now in the morning, when you'd get up--I've got to tell you this--in the morning when you'd get up and Miss Gabler would, you know, give you all the instructions for the day. And she was so ugly to begin with. I thought I was ugly. She was worse. (Laughter) I mean, she was big and had black hair that she wore in a bun on top of her head and then another bun on top of that (Laughter) and a great big nose and coal-black eyes and then, gnarly fingers. And she used to go like this at ya. (Laughter) I wanted to bite 'em off, but then I thought, "Oh, no." (Laughter) They wouldn't even taste good, probably.
But I was a mess. I was a mess. And I thought, "Grownups, I hate grownups." And when you'd get up in the morning, she'd look at ya and she'd tell you what you were gonna do. And you were gonna do this and you're gonna do that. And one little girl was in front of me one morning and she put her hands on her hips and she stuck her tongue out. When she did, she ducked. And I looked and I couldn't believe what she had done. And I'm goin' like this, "Ah!" And the matron went to slap her and she's down there and I'm up here and I got it right across the face.
And I said, "Miss Gabler, I didn't do anything." And I'll never forget. She just looked at me, kind of blew up like a big chicken and she said, "That's all right, Dorie. You'd deserve it next week anyway." In other words, I would've deserved the whipping, so she just went ahead and slapped me and didn't apologize for it and she's right. And the more and more I tell this story, the more I realize, I deserved half the whippings I got, at least half of 'em. I was so naughty and so mean.
And when I'd go to bed at night, you know, that when nobody touches you, nobody'll hug you, you want to be hugged. I don't care what people say, when they say, "Don't touch me," yeah, they want to be hugged. And at night, when I knew nobody was looking and after the lights were out and after I'd get the whipping, I'd put my arms around myself and I'd rock myself to sleep and I'd cry and I'd cry. And as those tears mingled down and soaked into the sheets and into the pillow, I was crying out, "Oh, if somebody would just love me!"
How would you feel if you'd have to stand in line month after month after month and all these grownup couples come by and they look you over? Why do people always pay attention to the beautiful ones and they never bother with the ugly people? And they go round and then they'd look at the pretty ones and they'd say, "Oh! What a doll! Let's try her, Honey." or "Let's … look at that little boy! He's so cute. Nobody stood in front of me and said, "Let's try her." Of course, I was so mean and probably if they'd have said, "Let's try her," I'd have hit 'em (Laughter) just to test 'em.
You know that a lot of times kids are ornery just to test you, to see if you really love 'em. You keep saying you do. I've known kids that've been in home after home after home. People say, "Dorie, we can't handle 'em." I know it's difficult, but if you've got one of those kind of kids and you're thinking of adopting one of 'em, please be patient. They're gonna try you to the Nth degree. But they're gonna test you, because as soon as you get disgusted enough, you'll give 'em back and then somebody else'll get 'em and they don't believe you're gonna keep 'em.
Nobody wanted me, nobody! And month after month after month after year after year, I began to believe it. And I thought, I'm the ugliest, meanest person. You know, if you believe that enough, way down deep in your heart, you become that way and my actions told how I felt inside and I was ugly and I was mean and I was out to get even with the world. Some of you have the book, Dorie. While we were writing that book, Moody said, "Dorie, try to tell what it's like to know rejection, to know that when people look at ya an and they said, 'I don't want ya,' what you felt like." What I felt like! I wanted to wipe everybody off the face of the earth. Life's not worth living and every time they'd say, "You're not gonna make it," inside I'd say, "I am! I am. I am gonna make it. I am." (Whispering)
But there wasn't very much hope for me, no hope at all! When I talk to some people today and I hear their story and I've heard everything, I think, "Boy, Lord, I'm so glad You found me when I was a kid, because I could be in that place right now."
Something happened when I was 13 years of age in that orphanage and because it took place, I'm here in Precept Ministries today. I was mean. I was ugly; I've said that to you. I was full of hate and when they were gonna set all those chairs up in the orphanage and I saw 'em doin' it that day, they'd never had anything like that.
I said, "What's goin' on?" They said (whispering), "A religious meeting." I went to the kids. I said, "What's a religious meeting?" They were as dumb as I was. "I don't know." They're setting those chairs up. I'm gonna sit right by the door, the first chair by the door. And if I don't like what anybody's sayin', I'm getting out of there. "You gonna follow me" and they went (Whispered), "No."
And I got ahold of those little girls right by the neck. I said, "You better do it or I'll beat you up." They said, "Dorie." I said, "I will. I'll beat you up." And all the kids came in. I stood there by the door and I got all the little ones. The big ones could beat me up, but I got the little ones. And I said, "Get in there; get in there." And had a whole row of little kids and I shushed 'em up and it got quiet.
And the front row was vacant and a little door opened and a group of college young people came running in and they sat down on that first row. And when they came in, running in, I thought, "I hate 'em! I'm not listenin' to 'em!" And you know why I said it? Because when nobody loves ya and you look at people that are loved, you can tell the difference. You say, "Dorie?" Yes, you can; yes, you can. And you know they're loved and you automatically hate 'em and I thought, "I'm not listenin'."
And one girl stood up and looking at all the kids that were there she said, "Hey kids, do you know what? God loves you" and she sat down. And you think, "Well, so she said God loves you, Dorie. What's so great about that?" Oh, dear women, I'm way, way up and over the hill now, but I'm gonna tell you something. That's the most remarkable statement I ever heard in my whole life. God loved me! I thought, "He loved me." Nah, I don't buy that.
And they got up and they talked about how God could change your life, how He'd meet all your needs, how He was wonderful. And I thought, "No, that's for the birds!" That's for people that have moms and dads that love 'em. I don't buy it. And when it was over, they sang a hymn. I'd never heard a hymn. I'd never heard a hymn. It was the words of the song, "Just As I Am" I thought, "Yeah, it sounds good, but it's not for us, not for us. Nobody wants us."
And then, the girl in charge said, "Everybody bow their head." I didn't pray. I did not [know] you [were] supposed to close your eyes when you prayed, so I just put my head down like this and I'm lookin'. And she addressed the person she called "God." When it was over, the young people in that row got up and they walked out and went out the door. And as they all left, one girl hesitated for a moment and she looked up like she heard something. I think she did (Whispering). And obedient to the voice of the Holy Spirit, she came back and looking at all of us kids that are sitting as silently as you are sitting right now, she just said, "Kids, listen; if you forget everything that was told you tonight, would you just remember this one thing: God loves you" and she turned around and she walked out.
Wow! Nobody heard it. Nobody else felt it, but I was hit right between the eyes. And my head went down and my eyes were open. I said, "God!" Hey, when you do that out loud, you scare the socks off of people. (Laughter) I said, "God!" And my eyes open and I could see 'em turn around. And I'll always remember and I always tell it. A little boy sitting right next to me had curly hair just like I had curly hair and he looked right up into my face and he said out loud, "Oh, man, I think Dorie's gone bananas!" (Laughter) And I pushed him aside and I said, "God, nobody loves me. Those kids said You do. So, if You do and You want me, You can have me."
Maybe somebody's saying, "But Dorie, you didn't do it right." How do you do it right? You're desperate and you run to the Savior. And He heard me and He answered and I became His child--an ugly, unloved, unwanted little girl. Those young people had told us very simply how the Lord loved us and God sent His Son, the Lord Jesus, to die on the Cross for us and all we had to do was to invite Him into our lives and He'd become our Savior and that night, He did.
And I went to bed like I'd gone to bed all those nights. I was in the orphanage just short of six years. Skinny little bed with skinny little mattresses, the kind that's so skinny, that it'd make an impression on your back when you get up. When my head hit that pillow, it was like an ocean wave hit me and I thought, "He loves me. God loves me."
John: You're listening to an incredible true account by Dorie Van Stone on today's "Focus on the Family" and in a few moments, you'll hear how she finally left that orphanage where she had lived for almost six years. Get a CD of this program to share with a friend when you call 800-A-FAMILY, 800-232-6459 or get the instant download and our mobile app at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. Let's go ahead and return now to Dorie Van Stone on "Focus on the Family."
End of Program Note:
Dorie: Now listen, if you've been loved all your life, you may not quite understand the way it hit me. Sometimes people come up and nothing shocks me. I've heard it all. "I've never been loved!" But they've said it for so long that I think some of 'em don't want to be loved and I say that in love, 'cause if they didn't have that to hang on to, nobody'd feel sorry for 'em.
Listen; all of a sudden it dawned on me, He loved me! No one else did. When people say, "Dorie, you had such faith." No, I didn't! No, I didn't! I was a desperate, ugly, unloved little kid, pushed from pillar to post, always told, "You're ugly." Always put down and suddenly, that night for the first time in my life at the age of 13, I heard God loves me and I grabbed ahold of it. And when my head hit that pillow and I thought, "Oh, God loves me. God loves me!" I tell you; and I couldn't stand it. I thought I'd just die right there and I started to cry.
Guys never understand it, but girls you do, don't ya? Way down deep, I thought, "He loves me; He loves me; He loves me." And you know, from that moment to this very moment now, it's always been a reality in my life. He loved me, unconditionally, as I was--ugly and filthy and dirty. He loved me. I got dirtier. I got uglier when I left the orphanage.
Just before I left the orphanage, a Christian matron came to work in that home. Her name was Erma Frim [sp?]. Her name's in the book. That was the first time I realized adults could be kind. And she made such an impression on me. I never, ever, ever, ever forgot her. And then I had to leave the orphanage, 'cause I was 13. You were supposed to leave when you were 12.
And they finally found a family in San Francisco, who the state would pay them and they said, yes, they'll take me. And then I could finish school and work for this family. And so, I'm standing in the hallway and I'm waiting for the social worker to come. And when she came and put me in the car; we're gonna drive over to San Francisco, she was explaining, we'd be living in an apartment complex. And you know, not to get too excited. It wasn't gonna be that great, but when I got there, just to run up and ring the doorbell and go in. She'd check on me later. If they weren't there, to come back and then we'd try it tomorrow.
I did that and when we got over to where the apartment complex were [sic], she says, "Get out; this is the place." I went up with my paper bag. Rang the doorbell and the door opened almost immediately. This man appeared. He was ugly as a mud hen, almost as ugly as me and unshaven, hairy chest, undershirt on, hair all messed up. And he said, "You're Dorie." And I said, "Yes, Sir." "Come in and sit down. I've got some rules. You're gonna live with us." If I'd had any sense, I'd have run then.
The car drove off and I got panicky. I thought, "I'm afraid." And then he sat me down and in one minute, not, "Are you comfortable, kid?" Are you hungry?" "Sit down; I got some rules." And this is what he said. "You will never be permitted to sit at a table and eat with us. If there's scraps left over, you can have those. If not, there's always some water and powdered milk. You can mix it together. We have a lot of fish; you can cut off the head and the tail. The center part--this is rule two--is wrapped up and put in the refrigerator for the family and I never want to see you touch it. If you do, out you go."
I'm not crazy about fish chowder to this day. I would mix up the water and the powdered milk. I'd whack off the heads and the tails. God does give you a sense of humor. And I'd look at those fish heads floatin' around. Have you ever watched 'em boil? The eyes get like a little BB bullet. (Laughter) And then the mouth goes like this, you know? (Laughter) And it's floatin' around. And I thought, "It looks like somebody I used to know." (Laughter) It did; it looked just like Miss Gabler, only she had hair on her head. If the fish had, I wouldn't touched it. (Laughter) But do you know what I learned there? Do you know what I learned there?
I had this little New Testament. The matron had given me a small New Testament before I left the orphanage. And when I left the orphanage and she put it in my hand, I'd never had a gift. It was the first gift ever given to me. And when she gave it to me, she said, "Dorie, this is a gift for you and I trust it'll become the most precious gift, ever, ever that you will receive."
Listen to me. If you'd walk over to my little apartment over there in that red house, I could pull out a dresser drawer and reach in and get that little New Testament. I still have it. That little New Testament never left me. I had it in my pocket or in my binder when I'd go to school. That's what made the difference in my life.
You see, God knew what to put in my hand when He sent me out into that cruel world and that little New Testament was always with me. And I began to read it. Now if you've gone to church and Sunday school and been taught how to read Scripture, see it doesn't quite jibe maybe, but I found John 3:16 all by myself. Do you know how excited I got when I saw that verse? And I memorized it. Then I found other verses that the Lord promised He'd never leave me and He'd never forsake me, that He'd be my father and my mother and my brother and my sister, that He'd always take care of me. I'd underlined the verses. I didn't know you could that then, but I did it. (Laughter) And I'd memorized them and then I'd get it in my mind so when I'd go to school, I could recite it over and over again; at the end of the day, I'd have a verse down.
These people had kids of their own. They were bigger than I was, so if I wanted to get up in the morning and be cleaned up a little bit anyway, I'd have to go in the bathroom early. And I'd go in and I'd lock the door. And I'd wash my face real quick and try to comb down my matted hair, which I'll explain in a minute. And then, I'd go to my altar, which was the bathtub and I'd kneel down by that altar and I'd take out my little New Testament and I'd put it out on the rim of the bathtub and I'd find the Scriptures and I'd read 'em and I'd get so excited. Then I'd try to remember where it was, so I could remember It going to school.
And then, all of a sudden, I'd hear a knock (sound of knocking) on the door and I'd take the Testament. I'd hide it and I'd unlock the door and they'd say, "Get out! Come on; get out!" And I'd step out and they'd slap me across the face and slap me [and] I'd end up leaning against the wall. Sometimes I'd land on the floor. They'd grab ahold of me and pull me up like this and rip my clothes. They'd pull my hair and you'd go to school like that. Sometimes I had a bloody nose. Sometimes I had a black eye. Sometimes my mouth'd be beaten and bleeding.
Listen, when I say I was a dirty, homely, ugly little girl, I want you to believe it, because I was. And in this house, they didn't let me take a bath [except] one day a month. "You must've stunk." I did! "You must've looked horrible." I did!
My hair could only be washed once every eight weeks. And so, you know what happened. I was dirty. I got head lice. I related to the Dani's in New Guinea in a moment when I would see those mothers with the little children laying on the ground and the mothers take all those lice and just squeezing 'em in between their fingers. I was dirty and I was filthy and I was ugly. I heard the kids say, "Here comes stinky." Do you think I wanted it that way? No, I didn't.
Sometimes I'd be so embarrassed by the way I know I looked and smelled that I would go into the restrooms in the service stations where I'd go to school to try to just clean up a little bit. It didn't help much. I was dirty. I was ugly. I was filthy. But I also had joy way down in here, because I knew that no matter what I looked like on the outside and believe me, it was a total disaster, I knew God loved me.
But my salvation was that I knew Him. And when all those jobs and the work'd be done, I'd walk along the streets of San Francisco and see those gorgeous stores. To this day, if you want to do me a favor, let me off in a shopping mall. Let me just walk around. I love it! And I'd look at them mannequins [sic]. I'd think, "Oh, they look so gorgeous! If I could look like that one day, Lord!"
And then He'd whisper to me from His Word I'd learned, "Dorie, you look beautiful." And I'd think, "Lord, I don't want to call You a liar, but I think maybe You need glasses." (Laughter) I'm a mess, holey shoes, yucky-looking clothes. But there's a Scripture verse that I had found that said, "You're clothed in the garment of righteousness." People can't see it, but I see it. I'd think, Lord, keep it to Yourself."
I've been hungry enough to steal food. I asked the Lord to forgive me a long time ago. I used to think, if I could go in a restaurant and have anything I wanted, I would just tell the fellow to forget bringing me one thing; just bring me everything they served in [the] restaurant and I'd try it out.
I wanted to be clothed pretty, but I wasn't. I wished I could just one time when I was a kid, eat, eat, eat, eat and be full. I never did. But there was something that I wanted that I saw more than the clothes, more than food. I thought, "Lord, You can forget the food. I can do without it. You can forget the clothes; I don't need 'em. I'm covered. Forget a safe place to live.
Lord, I see what I want and if You don't mind, I'd sure like to have it." As I'd walk along the streets, I'd see parents hugging kids, squeezing 'em, giving 'em a kiss. I'd think, "Lord, could You find someone that would do that to me?" I'd see women, girls arm in arm, talkin'. And I'd think, "Lord, would You give me a friend?" I didn't have any friends. I couldn't go to anybody's house.
I saw fellows and girls arm in arm and I thought, "You could throw one of those in if You want." (Laughter) But I want somebody with flesh on their bone, somebody with a real arm to put 'em around me. "Lord, could I have something like that?" And as surely as I'm standing here, He whispered in my heart, "I'm everything you need, Dorie." And He was. He was.
"Dorie, didn't you get lonely?" Sure I did. "Didn't you ever just go and cry?" Yeah. I'd go in alleyways and bawl. "Didn't you ever feel lonely sometimes?" Yeah, lonely to have a friend, but then what would I have said to em? I found another Friend. I don't know if you understand this, this afternoon.
I used to talk to the Lord all the time. I think sometimes people saw me walking the street, talking and thought, "There's a nut," but I was talking to Him. Nobody on the street would have bothered with me. I know the reality of saying, "He's everything I need! Yes, everything! Not just the name in a book I read. He's everything." There's life in that name.
John: Well, a compelling message and we're about halfway through this presentation by Dorie Van Stone on today's "Focus on the Family" and next time you'll be hearing how she was rescued from her very desperate circumstances as an orphan.
Jim: Dorie does a tremendous job of painting a picture of what it's like to be an orphan and it really tugs at my heart strings and I hope it does that for you, as well. You know, John, the Bible tells us in the book of James to look after orphans and widows in their distress and I firmly believe that this is a mandate for every Christian, not just part of the Christian family. And I'd encourage you to ask the Lord how He would have you bless the life of an orphan or a widow today. It's a good challenge.
John: Well, it is, Jim and as Dorie shared, even something as simple as giving a gift of a Bible can have a tremendous lifelong profound impact on a child.
Jim: That's right, John. There's so many ways that you can bless the life of an orphan--everything from adoption to respite care to giving out Bibles, like you said. Someone gave me a Bible at 15. I was that orphan kid and they wrote a verse in there, John 10:10, an amazing thing.
John: And you remember it all these years later.
Jim: I remember it and I remember reading it the first time saying, "Why does this apply to me, but it's, "The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy." I quickly applied that to my environment. I knew that I was an orphan. I had lost my mom and dad. The thief had stolen them from me in so many ways and so, I can relate to what she's talkin' about.
Here at Focus, you know, we have a program called Wait No More and we do conferences around the country to help families better understand what they can do to help the orphan. We've presented that program in front of 13,000 people in 18 states across the U.S. and of those, almost 3,000 families--this just puts a smile on my face--3,000 families have initiated the process of adopting a child out of foster care--3,000 families! I mean, that thrills me.
And you know what? It only takes a monthly gift of $45 for you to be a part of that success story, $45 a month to help us find and equip a forever family for these orphans. And we'd love you to get on board with us today.
John: Well, call 800-232-6459; 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY and when you pledge a gift of any amount, we'll send a copy of Dorie's book, which will allow you to delve deeper into her amazing life story. The title again is Dorie: The Girl Nobody Loved. And once you've read it yourself, pass it along to someone--a friend or a family member or a church library. Use it to help someone get involved in the lives of these children.
And our program today was provided by Focus on the Family. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening in. I'm John Fuller, inviting you back next time. You'll hear more about Dorie's happier years, as we once again, share encouragement to help your family thrive.
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Dorie Van StoneView Bio
Dorie Van Stone is a retired author and speaker. An advocate for orphans, Dorie presently serves as a board member for Forever Changed International, an Orphan Care Ministry in Guatemala. Their children's home located in Guatemala City is named after Dorie and is called Dorie's Promise.