“She is 18 years old and she’s scared. She’s getting on a plane today at 1 p.m. on her way to Washington D.C. to have an abortion … unless she can find a willing family to adopt her baby. If someone will take it, she will have it.”
This is the scenario that a pregnancy center presented to my wife and me on the phone one Wednesday afternoon while we were sitting in a hospital parking lot, unsure if we were possibly pregnant and experiencing a miscarriage. Our hearts were drawn in the midst of our frustration and uncertainty. Of course we would take the child. We wanted this baby to live.
Her name, she told us, was Amber. She was alone, confused and miles away from her family. The more my wife spent time in text and phone conversation with her, the more confusing and desperate the situation became. She explained she was drugged and raped at a party, suspecting her current boyfriend, whom she’d moved to Kentucky to live with, to be the perpetrator. She was pressured by him and his family to abort — and abandoned and evicted by them when she didn’t.
She had withdrawn from college and her Christian family in South Carolina, unsure of what they and her father — a pastor — would think of her unplanned pregnancy.
Our hearts were broken for her. We wanted to minister to her and offer her a safe place to land, but she refused. She withheld the details of her situation (even her last name) and kept producing excuses for why we couldn’t meet her in person, why she wouldn’t accept the hotel room we reserved for her or the repeated offers of groceries and food.
She was put on bed rest because of pregnancy complications and shortly after her mother passed away in South Carolina.
Through it all, she continued to call my wife in the middle of the night to talk. My wife would try to share the gospel with her, pray with her and assure her that we would support her to whatever extent we were able.
After spending hours searching for any online presence, we finally found a social media account connected to the phone number she used to contact us. It was the first real connection we found, except the account wasn’t under the name Amber. The pictures on her account weren’t at all similar to the ones "Amber" had sent us either. The account did, however, match a mug shot we found online for another woman. We Googled her name and found that she is part of a team of criminals who seek out childless couples, pretend to have unplanned pregnancies and proceed to pull on their heart strings as they promise them a child.
After hours of emotional bonding and abuse, the scammers go dark at the midnight hour. Some victims, after receiving a well-acted phone call full of screams and cries from fake labor pains, were left abandoned at hospitals trying to locate the room of the birth mother, only to never hear from her again. Others spent hundreds of dollars preparing a nursery for a child they never got to meet — a child that never existed.
Fortunately, we were only out emotional collateral damage. I won’t act like we weren’t excited to have a child and disappointed to be defrauded. It was gut-wrenching to realize someone would fabricate such an intricate story, just to enjoy the process of torturing us emotionally.
Here are a few things we've learned through this process:
1. Be cautious. Cases like these cross state lines and are not high enough priority to be investigated by the FBI, so Christians should be cautious about the presense of con men (and women) like these. Before this experience, we knew that we were sent out as sheep among wolves, but we didn't know wolves like this existed.
2. (Still) be open. As Christians, we open ourselves up to this type of deception in our efforts to take care of orphans and those who are oppressed and vulnerable. My wife and I still await a call for a real opportunity to adopt a child. We believe that adoption is a picture of the good news of what Jesus has done for us. We want all of our future children to understand that bringing a child into our lives who was not born as a biological part of our family and calling them our own, loving them before they know or love us back, is what God has done for us through His son.
This experience changes nothing about our goal, except the wisdom we use to carry it out.
3. Be prayerful. We pray for the women who are suspected in these horrible adoption scams, that God breaks their hearts. We pray that this experience, and others like ours, do not harden our hearts or the heart of the church toward the willingness to help those in need. We also pray for other childless couples that God would open their eyes to the mandate to care for orphans.
We pray for those who have been victimized to have the courage to come forward with their story in order to prevent other childless couples from the same pain. We pray for sheep among them and the wolves.
Rob Ginter serves as senior pastor of Dry Run Baptist Church in Georgetown. He and his wife, Samantha, have two foster children.