A San Francisco State University student named Patrick was doing some laundry late one night when he got the shock of his life. A rustling noise drew Patrick’s attention to a cardboard box in the laundry room. His curiosity quickly turned into wanting to peek into the box to see what was there. That’s when he received a horrifying reality, the rustling noise was made by a newborn infant whose skin was turning blue from the cold.

The abandoned baby never cried during its long hours in the box, in spite of the fact that her temperature had dangerously plummeted. It certainly would have been the end of her had not her stirring caught the attention of Patrick who’d popped in to put his clothes into the dryer.

Stunned by what he’d found, Patrick ran into the next room to get help from the only other person he could find — another student doing laundry. That student was a sophomore by the name of Esther. And Esther just so happened to be a nursing student who had just taken some classes on newborn care. It was clear, even to Esther, that God had put the right people in the right place at the right time!

Recognizing that the crudely cut umbilical cord left the baby at risk of infection and the bluish skin color meant a risk of hypothermia, Esther flew into action. While Patrick called 911, Esther checked the baby’s airways and cuddled her close to warm her up. Ten minutes later, paramedics arrived and whisked the infant off to the hospital.

Little did anyone know that her biological mother was practically a kid herself when she got pregnant. Terrified, she hid the pregnancy — even from the father, a boy she’d met at a party — and secretly delivered her daughter in her dorm room. She wrapped the newborn in towels and left her in the cardboard box sitting in the campus laundry room. Thankfully, the little infant was okay, and the hospital staff affectionately dubbed her Baby Jane Doe. The shocking story filled the newspapers, and offers for adoption started rolling in. But God had already chosen a family.

Sam and Helene Sobol had adopted their 8-month-old son, Jeffrey, 3 years prior. Since then, they had wanted to add a daughter to the family and were on the adoption waiting list for a girl. Helen had been keeping up with the news on Baby Jane Doe, and felt an intense stirring in her heart each time she read about the abandoned baby girl. The first time she saw the pictures of Baby Jane Doe, she thought to herself, “This is our new girl.”

Since they were already on the adoption list, it was a powerful moment when the phone finally rang, with the city’s social services department on the other end. They were calling about the adoption of Baby Jane Doe. The Sobol’s had an immediate connection with the tiny girl they named Jillian and were more than delighted to lovingly accept her into their family. But first, this would require consent from the infant’s biological parents.

The police and social services managed to track them both down. Her 19-year-old mother confessed to the concealment of her pregnancy and signed the papers relinquishing her maternal rights. Because she had left the baby where she would be found, she was not charged with child endangerment. For her 20-year-old father, the birth of his daughter came as a complete surprise. While he signed the papers as well, he wasn’t so sure he wanted to turn over his rights and was given 30 days to change his mind. It was agonizing for the Sobol’s. However, before he signed, he asked to see the baby, and Helene obliged, though she didn’t want to let the little girl they named “Jillian” out of her arms.

She described Jillian’s biological father as a personable and charming young man. Still a student, he ultimately turned over his rights and allowed the Sobol’s to provide the stable, loving home this abandoned baby girl deserved. The adoptive parents soon found out there was a great difference between them and their new daughter. They were reserved professionals, whereas she was more adventurous and rambunctious. But those differences balanced out to make for the perfect pairing.

The Sobol’s both valued education. Sam had graduated from Yale and Helene from UC Berkeley. So, they were quick to realize that Jillian’s struggles in school were not due to a lack of intelligence, but rather a learning disability. They patiently encouraged Jillian as she persevered through her learning difficulties, attending four different high schools, the last a boarding school in Costa Rica for underachieving students.

Jillian had always known she was adopted, but at sixteen, her parents finally revealed the full details of the circumstances behind her adoption. It was shocking news about being abandoned in a box in the laundry room, but the kind couple delivered it with such compassion, explaining how very young and scared her biological mother had been. Her adoptive parents were by her side as she researched her past, diving into the old newspaper articles surrounding her birth. Their love and support helped her to see the blessings that blossomed from those grim circumstances.

Following the discovery of how her life began, Jillian spent the next several years finding closure. First, she wrote to Esther, the nursing student who’d help save her. By then, Esther had gone on to work with newborns in a maternity ward. She had three children of her own, one of whom is a daughter named Jillian! The families met together, and Esther described it as “an answer to prayers.” Today, she works as a pediatric nurse at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco.

From there, Jillian went on to track down and meet her biological father. He was living in Hawaii with his wife and daughter, working as a massage therapist. He and his parents flew out to California immediately to meet Jillian and the Sobol’s. Next, Jillian decided to return to the place where she was born. But this time, she showed up at San Francisco State University as a student! You can only imagine what thoughts flooded her mind and the emotions that burst from her heart as she went into the same laundry room where she was discovered, and envisioned a cardboard box in the corner.

She also attempted to contact her birth mother. When she didn’t get a letter back, Jillian assumed she’d never received a response from her biological mom. She’d been hopeful when, eighteen months after sending the letter, she received a friend request from her biological mom on Facebook. However, when there was no further communication after that, she eventually unfriended her mom and moved on.

For most of her time at San Francisco State University, Jillian kept it a secret that she’d, in fact, been born there as Baby Jane Doe. It wasn’t until a few months before graduation that she sent a letter to the university’s president, explaining her personal connection to the school. This was about her getting an education and overcoming her past, as well as the educational challenges she’d faced.

At the age of thirty-one, Jillian Sobol did just that. She graduated from college with a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality and Tourism Management. In addition to her adoptive family, there to celebrate this momentous achievement was Esther, along with her biological father and his parents and step-mother.

Shortly before graduating, Jillian was also able to come full circle with her biological mother. Originally, she thought she’d never received any type of response from her mom other than the Facebook friend request that seemed to go nowhere. Then, recently, Jillian made a surprising discovery. Jillian found out that some Facebook messages can actually be hidden from view.

She started digging around under her own profile to see if there were any messages she’d missed. And that’s when she uncovered a message from her biological mother. It had been hidden in this Facebook “no man’s land,” unseen for nearly two years. It read: “I have something to tell you. I’m very proud of you. And thank you for being you.”

At first, Jillian didn’t know how to respond, so she focused on graduating and decided to hold off on responding to her mother. However, the discovery was just one more crucial piece of closure for the proud graduate. It was just what she needed after spending so many years, reflecting on her mother’s decision to abandon her.

Over the years, Jillian had ultimately settled on compassion and forgiveness. Her mother’s long-lost message confirmed to Jillian that she’d chosen the correct response. Now that this chapter of her life is complete, Jillian forged ahead into a career in event planning. And over the summer, she planned to consider reaching out to her biological mother once more.

To every believer, adoption is the reason you are in God’s family. I’m sure Helene Sobol felt like Hannah in the Bible who prayed for God to give her a child. (1 Sam. 1:27). And Moses told the children of Israel that God defends the fatherless. (Deu. 10:18) And as the LORD told Jeremiah, He has plans for all of us. (Jer. 29:11). But it was the Apostle Paul who said that the reason God sent His Son to be born of a woman was so that He could redeem us that we might receive adoption into His family. (Gal. 4:4-5).

That’s why the Apostle John declared that as many as receive Jesus into their hearts, they will be given the right to become God’s children. (John 1:12). And the Apostle Paul says that those who have the fruit of a reborn spirit early await our adoption into God’s family once we leave this earthly body. (Rom. 8:23). And Paul also mentions that God had it planned all along for us to be adopted as His children through His Son Jesus the Anointed. That is His will for our lives. (Eph. 1:5).

As a sinner, the devil may have abandoned you to lay unwanted and unprotected in an old cardboard box in some unsuspecting place. But it just so happened that this place was often visited by the Holy Spirit looking for such discarded souls. He found you and brought you to Jesus, who had compassion on you and took you in. You, too, became an adopted member of God’s family. Even now, He is preparing a place for you in heaven. (Jn. 14:30. That’s when the whole family of God will be gathered together forevermore, in a place with no sorrow, no tears, and no parting. (Rev. 21:4). – Dr. Robert R Seyda

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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