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What about your brothers and sisters?

Recently, I had the privilege of meeting Bettye Faust Torbett Johnson, author of ‘The Want Ad’. and her husband, LaVoy. We talked about family, faith and caring about our brothers and sisters. Bettye’s story is of her courageous 51 year ‘search and find’ efforts to be part of family - on Earth and in Heaven.

Bettye Faust Torbett Johnson (Front Left) with her husband LaVoy Johnson (Front Right) and their four children.

In the early 1940’s, when Bettye was just 4 years old she was put up for adoption. Her birth father put a simple ad in the Bristol Herald Newspaper in Bristol, TN. “Wanted: a home for 2 small children; Family must be Christian.” Thus the title for her book, ‘The Want Ad’. You might wonder, why would a father to do such a thing? “My birth father, William Foust, struggled during the depression to keep the family in food and clothing.

My birth mother had a tragic accident and passed away when I was 9 months old.” Her father remarried and her stepmother was overwhelmed by taking care of 8 children. Then he put the ad in the paper that opened the door to a whole new life for Bettye. A loving couple adopted only Bettye and her life changed completely. “I went to a new home, had beautiful clothes and 3 meals a day. My mother played with me a lot. I was like her little doll.

My mother was like Emily Post.” Betty had a charmed childhood. One day when Bettye was 6 years old and playing on the playground another child taunted her. “Your mommy got you from the mountains; she didn’t even have you herself! You don’t even have a real mommy and daddy.” Bettye went home and asked her parents about this during prayer time. Her mother admitted, “Yes, you’re adopted. We didn’t have to have you. We looked the world over and found you. You were chosen.” “Mother made me who I am today.”

family 190At last! We’re all together again!! Love, Calvin June 5, 1990” The description above is on the back of this photo and given to Bettye by her brother Calvin. Her birth family had her photoshopped in this 1930’s photo of her birth family. Bettye is the baby being held in the arms of her father top left.

In high school Betty started having questions about her birth family. However, out of respect for her adoptive parents, she decided to put off searching for her birth family until her adoptive parents passed away. Bettye went on to college and became a teacher. She married LaVoy and they have 4 children; Beth, Pattye, Grace and Sam. Through the years many things prompted Bettye to look for her birth family.

As her own family grew, medical information became important. So did a nagging feeling to know if she would be with her family forever. One day her family was in church and the pastor asked a question, “Do you know you’re going to Heaven?” Bettye felt her immediate family would be in Heaven together. However she thought about her extended family, “How about my brothers and sisters?”

Then she decided she had to find her birth family. “I wanted to know if I would see them in Heaven someday.” Bettye searched for her family for over 20 years. During that time Bettye and LaVoy built a big family environment with many friends and their childrens’ friends. “Hardly a week went by that we didn’t have someone stay for dinner.” Just about every other month they had a party for someone. “If anyone was sick, we were there with cookies or cakes.”

Then in 1989, after a 51 year separation, Bettye finally found and met her 4 brothers and 5 sisters. “There were so many times I thought I would never find them,” Bettye adds. “So this was a miracle. I always wanted to be surrounded by my entire family, and now, finally, I am.” Bettye shares all her secrets about how that miracle came to be in her book ‘The Want Ad’. “We had a fantastic reunion in my home on Thanksgiving day in Lithonia, GA. It was amazing that all of us were able to travel and enjoy each other after 51 years!”After finding them, she learned that they too had searched for her.IMG 2279 440

Bettye and her family, at their reunion in 1989, after 51 years!

Bettye developed dear relationships with her brothers and sisters. “My brothers particularly were very attentive, calling me, sending cards and flowers for the rest of their lives.” Bettye was delighted to find out that they were all Christians and would indeed be together, forever. Bettye realizes how lucky she is and how important family truly is. “I feel so blessed, not only to have an adopted mother and father who loved me unconditionally and a birth father who loved me enough to let me go so, I could have a better life.” She is forever grateful to have found and developed loving relationships with her brothers and sisters. “Family is truly important. “ In sharing her story in ‘The Want Ad’, Bettye hopes she will help others. “I wanted to tell my story to encourage people who are adopted to look for their birth family and not to be afraid of what you’ll find. Realize it will take time so be patient.” Hers is a happy ending where brothers and sisters accepted her and loved her for a lifetime. Hers is a story of hope – sweet, sweet hope.

Each of us is on a journey to discover, Where do I come from? What am I doing here? Where am I going to? Our immediate family and spiritual family can help us make sense out of these deep questions and longings in our heart. Families come in all shapes and sizes these days. One thing is for sure- the family we grow up with impacts us for a lifetime and sets a foundation for who we are. Bettye and I discussed how families can grow closer together. “The #1 component is for families to have a spiritual connection. As the parents pray for their children, it creates a bond between the parents and siblings. They begin to care for each other and are willing to be there for each other. Spend quality time with your kids together. Do traditions together. Love your family.” This story reminds us that we are all family in God’s eyes.

You can contact Bettye with questions or comments at: