I met Simon Lawton when he and his wife Julia invited me to come speak to women at their amazing church in Newcastle last spring. Their church was growing and a Bingo hall was declining, so they swapped premises – fantastic! I love their vision for reaching their community with the good news of Jesus.
Home is where the heart is and where we belong. But what happens if, as you grow up, you don’t really have that sense of belonging. I was adopted into a Christian home and spent my early years feeling like I didn’t belong. I felt disconnected from my parents and my siblings through no fault of theirs. I had an itch that I couldn’t adequately scratch and a sense that there was a home and a family elsewhere.
When I was 16 I received limited information from my adopted parents concerning my background. I had always felt like there was something missing from my life. I wanted to know, like most adopted children, where I’d come from and where my roots were. I discovered that my biological mother was from the very town that I had grown up in (Leicester) and that my father was from Omaha, Nebraska. He was an US Airforce engineer based in Leicestershire during the early 60s. At the time I was simply happy to rest in this knowledge and get on with my life.
I decided in 1989 that it was time I found my biological mother and this we achieved with the help of social services. It was an incredibly emotional moment when I met her for the first time. I’d found my own flesh and blood and also someone whom I discovered had the same interests as me. I felt like for the first time that I belonged.
It was not until 2001 that God clearly directed me to look for my father. I had been thinking about it for some years and had a deep longing in my heart to find him. I was at a pastor’s conference in Toronto and received an incredibly accurate personal prophecy, part of which emphasised how important it was for me to know who my father was. Amazing!
On my return home I started searching on the internet and within a few weeks I was calling this guy whom I thought was my Dad on the phone. What do you say to this man thousands of miles away when he answers his phone? I simply said, ‘Were you at Bruntingthorpe airbase in Leicestershire in the early 1960’s?’ He replied ‘Yes’ and I paused for a moment and then said, ‘I think I’m your son!’ He was absolutely delighted and told me he had always thought there was someone out there.
In that moment I discovered a whole family, including two great half brothers, in the USA that I had no idea existed previously. I finally felt that I belonged and had a home. They are wonderful people and when Julia and I visited the USA for the first time they threw the most fantastic party in Omaha for us. I felt like the prodigal son returning home. They remain very special to me and we very much keep in touch.
Whilst in Omaha I discovered lots of information on my new family. My great grandparents are of Syrian descent from a place called Beth Latiya. I later discovered that it is the headquarters for the terrorist organisation Hamas! Wow! Further, I also discovered that my ancestors had been immigrants through Ellis Island and that whilst those US immigration guys changed the spelling of my family name to ‘Koory,’ the original name was spelt ‘Khouri.’ I was stunned to also discover that in Syrian the name ‘Khouri’ means ‘priest!’
This knowledge simply blew me away….to think that one of my early ancestors was a priest and here I was hundreds of years later, serving God as a priest (pastor). I was even more amazed to discover from the Syrian family historian that the family tree goes back to Solomon. Incredible!
God has been so gracious to me. He created me in my mother’s womb and set me in a wonderful Christian home where I was able to find Christ for myself and have that sense of belonging. He allowed me the privilege of discovering my family background and then he allowed me the even greater privilege of serving Him in His home – the church. I remain completely in His debt.
“Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God.” (Psalm 84:3)
Simon Lawton was born and bred in Leicester. He left school at 16 and worked in retailing until God called him into ministry in 1985. He’s an adopted Geordie, Pastor, Husband, Father, Grandpa and Leicester City fan. He’s currently writing his first book and blogs regularly.