Thursday, July 30, 2009

Book Love: Jesus Land.

I read the book Jesus Land about three weeks ago now. I was mesmerized by it from the moment I picked it up and never stopped reading it until I had it finished that same day. This book spoke to me in ways I had never imagined. As soon as I put it down, I contacted the author through her website. She recently returned my e-mail with a brief but lovely response - for which I am grateful.

I wanted to write a review about this book here on the blog, but find that words fail me. Instead, I will post the letter that I sent to her on the day that I read the book. To protect the identity of a couple of people, I have deleted a sentence or two ... but for the most part, this is what I sent to the author, Julia Scheeres on July 11, 2009:

Dear Julia,

I just finished your book Jesus Land --- literally five minutes ago. As soon as I put it down, I had to visit your website to see if there was a way in which I could contact you to express my sincerest thanks for your book, as well as my deepest apologies for the pain I can only imagine that you feel over the death of your brother. I also hope to express to you that as an adoptive Mom to a Haitian born son, I am eternally grateful that you have put to words so much of what I have seen in the adoption community .... that is ... over zealous, white, evangelical Christians who adopt "black" children in order to "save their souls" ... all the while never truly loving these children as family, and often treating them as burdens to be overcome in order to become right with God, etc...etc... David's story is one that I have witnessed in my own life. It is why I bought the book. It is a subject matter that I have desperately wanted to see written about. And you wrote about it so perfectly ... so lovingly ... so honestly ...

I truly feel at such a loss to express to you just how much your book means to me. I have deleted at least a hundred different sentences in this brief e-mail already. I guess I am overwhelmed with emotions. Perhaps I haven't given myself time to fully digest the book --- as I read it non-stop as soon as I picked it up today. I just know that I NEEDED to contact you.

I can tell you that my son, Isaac, is the light of my life. Though I never gave birth to him (plainly obvious from my lily white skin)... I truly believe that he and I made a pact to become mother and child before either one of us was born. His adoption story is one that I would love to share with you sometime. It has its own magic & heartbreak. And ultimately it is a love story ... just as your relationship to your brother is. My son (age 4) and I get many of the same looks as you and your brother did. Our relationship is totally understood by some ... unimaginable to many ... disgusting to others ... and yet there are those who think I am some sort of hero for adopting the "unwanted" from a third-world country (these people make my stomach lurch). And then there are those evangelical Christians who worked with the same evangelical orphanage that I did --- people who were also adopting --- but for all the wrong reasons (to bring these heathen kids to Jesus and to never "spare the rod" in doing so) --- these are the people who often haunt my thoughts. It is their adopted children (some who I came to love) that I cry for. The orphanage itself reminds me of the "reform school" that you and your brother endured. In order to work with them I needed to act the part of the evangelical christian ... a role that was easy for me given my childhood ... but was hard for my Turkish born husband. I wish I could have taken all the children home with us ... but I knew who my son was ... and it was him we came to find. Not to rescue ... but to FIND. I already knew him in my heart, I just needed to get him home to me for good. And I did. And life is good. But I never forget the others.

(deleted paragraph)

Anyway ... I am rambling a bit. I just really want to thank you in a million ways ... for a million reasons. Your abuse at the hands of Jerome is something else that spoke to me personally ... as well as your relationship with Scott ... your reasoning for such a relationship, etc. I felt you girl. Truly. And though I am so sorry for the life experience it took for you to write such a memoir, I thank you for putting it out there.

Lastly, if you are interested, I invite you to check out my blog: The following posts deal with parts of my son's adoption:

There are many more, but I'd have to do some serious blog searching to find them (he came home over 3 years ago).

Well, again, thank you Julia from the bottom of my heart. Please know that I now carry you and David in my heart forever. You did him a wonderful tribute by sharing him with others ... as he cannot now be forgotten ... ever. Please let me know if there is any way I can help the children of Escuela Caribe. I have signed up for your updates ...

Much love to you & yours,


The above photo is of Julia and her brother, David. taken in 1986.

I hope by my putting this letter "out there" --- some of you may be interested in reading the book. Though some parts of the book spoke to me more than others, this really is a memoir for everybody. It is interesting and compelling on more levels than I could convey here. If you read it, please let me know what you think.

Thanks & Love,



Kait said...


My husband and I became parents of two two and under last November when my cousin called us saying she didn't want to parent and the girls would go to the State if we didn't take them. We literally went from zero to two kids in 14 hours. It's been a wild ride since then but we are now less than a month away from having our adoption finalized.

What blew me away more than anything was all the "good Christian" people at my parents church who said they couldn't imagine taking on such a challenge. I mean, really? Really? These people would turn down two little girls because it was inconvenient to their lives? We were broke college students living off one income and we have managed to make it work, beautifully, even though we have struggled. I can't believe that God would have us turn away these kids just because it wasn't really in our original plan.

Like you, it makes me a little sick when we are told how "good" we are for "taking this on" as though we are heroes for becoming parents. Neither of us are super special people - we are ordinary twenty somethings who responded to an extraordinary situation in a instinctive way. I feel as though we are the lucky ones, we are the ones who have been unexpectedly blessed with the family we cannot biologically conceive, and we have ended up with the most perfect children for us. I also agree with you in that I feel as though my children have been mine long before my cousin made that phone call. From the first time she told me she was pregnant with my youngest daughter, my initial instinct was "That's your baby Kait...." and oddly enough, that's how it's all turned out.

I haven't read this book yet but it is on my list. My daughters are two of the most creative, beautiful, spirited, wonderful people I've ever met and I'm lucky that I get to call them mine. I too have worked in Haiti, volunteering at a few different orphanages, and I was blown away that it is most common that people feel they are responding to the call of God to save the wicked children of a fallen country. It made me sick to think that those gorgeous kids were going somewhere that Jesus and God and religion would be forced on them to "save their souls" and make Mommy and Daddy feel like saints.

You've been an inspiration to me, of how mixed racial families can be so perfectly right even when genetics are not involved.

Thank you!


fingerstothebone said...

It's a beautifully written letter; thank you for sharing.

Jodi Renshaw said...


Thank you so much for your note. I am so thrilled for your family ... what a blessing to have those two girls in your life ... and vice versa. I would love to learn more about them ... and your family. Congrats on the upcoming adoption finalization. So wonderful. Adoption is such a deliberate act ... and when done in pure love ... it is just so amazing and rewarding.

Its funny Kait --- Christianity is such a beautiful faith --- but often times people can screw it up so horribly. I don't know where people get their reasoning sometimes --- especially when they think that you and I are doing something they could never dream of doing --- by taking in a child that is not "their own" (their words - not mine). I mean --- isn't that what Christianity teaches??? To unconditionally love one another??? I mean, that is the goal, right??? What exactly are they learning in church???

I love what you said here: "Neither of us are super special people - we are ordinary twenty somethings who responded to an extraordinary situation in a instinctive way." Kait - your instincts were so right. And that is what does make you different, and perhaps "special" ... but NOT in the way that some people mean it. I have learned that some people simply lack the ability to love beyond what they feel they "own". So sad. They can't imagine sharing their child with a birth family, etc. But Isaac would no more belong to me if I had given birth to him. He belongs first to himself. And I do share him (in a manner of speaking) with a birth family in Haiti that do truly love him (I am not certain of your situation, but certainly - in some way those girls of yours will always have some sort of attachment to their bioMom). And I am not threatened by that. But some people really are. So, you and I (and countless others) are unique and amazing ... and I am so thankful that we exist :)

Also --- I am thankful to hear that you experience the same "knowing" that I have --- that our children were ours before we even knew it. The fact that you felt that your cousin's daughter was yours even before she was born is so great. I have similar stories that I will share later on this blog. My friend Shannon felt the same way about her Haitian-born son ... and I encourage you to read her blog. It is in my blog roll: Perla's Parlor. She is an inspiration to me in a million different ways ... and I think you will enjoy reading her blog.

Well, again - thank you for writing. Your story is wonderful and I hope to learn more.


tara said...

My boyfriend in high school grew up in an evangelical home, and his parents adopted a boy from the Dominican Republic. The scenario that you describe was the exact situation in their home, and it was so devastating to watch. I can only imagine the heartache for you during your travels to Haiti. Your letter was beautiful, and I'll definitely read the book. Take care.

Jodi Renshaw said...

Thanks for sharing. Your high school boyfriend's story seems all too familiar. I am sorry for all involved. Thank goodness for the rest of us ... that somehow we have the ability to share our love beyond all differences, etc. I wonder how that boy you talk about is doing today. I am certain that he did not follow in their faith ... for which they are likely upset about. But when parents exhibit such cruel behavior --- rooted in a distortion of their faith --- their children seldom follow (Thank God). And so these parents never achieve that which they set out to --- to indoctrinate these kids into their religion. Which begs the question, "What were they thinking?"!

I hope you read the book. All in all it is beautiful and inspirational. Please let me know what you think.

Much Love,

Missy said...

hi jodi.....i'm still waiting for the book from the public library....5-8 days has turned into 3 weeks....but, i'm curious, do you think some people adopt because it's a *good* deed, and not because they want another child to love? i'm so blown away by that. not that you mention it, but that it's the only reason they adopt. i would love to hear more, and think you should write have a gift with words and expression


Jodi Renshaw said...

Missy ~

I look forward to you getting the book -- -and to hearing what you think of it. I am sure there are some people who adopt in order to do a "good deed" - but I admit that I cannot think of anyone that I have met that meets that description. Since you and I adopted from the same orphanage, I believe that you likely ran into some of the same people I did ... people who adopted to "save a soul for Christ" and because the Bible tells them to ... etc... and see their adopted children as a burden they must overcome ... and/or as their ticket to heaven. I believe that you are a Christian, and of course, I have never once thought of you as that type of person. On the contrary --- Though I do not know much of your adoption story, I am certain that you are a loving mother who loves your son dearly. (And you love him not DESPITE who is but BECAUSE of who he is. For example, I often hear ignorant people say things like : "There is a family in my church that adopted several black children, and they love them anyway - like they are family." ANYWAY? They love them ANYWAY? Are you kidding me?)

Well - thank you for the compliment regarding my writing. I thank you --- but don't feel like much of a writer at all. Perhaps one day I will be led to it though. I won't rule it out :)

I look forward to you reading the book ... and for more discussion of this topic.

Lots of Love,

Missy said...

i'll let you know when i read the book. i went to the writers website last night. i am sad at how she was raised and forced into a two older daughters are strong like me and have made it known they will choose their own religion. we do go to church and they both are believers and have been baptized (their choice) but, at the same time our church in *not* the typical church. i'd love to share my adoption story with you. i will admit, i've struggled, but not because Nicolas, my own issues. i do admire the incredible bond you have with Issac. it's so apparent and real. maybe we could talk one day soon. i'd really like that.....

love ya!

This Mama said...

Hey Jodi - I am going to have to read this book now (just read some reviews on amazon as well - wow!). I know that when I find other adopting parents with a different perspective on things(such as your self) I feel so grateful.

Jodi Renshaw said...

Mandy --

Thanks for your kind note. I too am very thankful for you :) And I pray your adoptions go through "any-minute-now". Please let me know what you think of the book.