Adopted Tuscaloosa associate pastor locates birth mother, leads her to Christcomment (0)
March 21, 2013
By Ann Keller
Twenty-seven-year-old Brandon Vaughan grew up knowing he was adopted, but since he had a loving adoptive family, he says he didn’t think too much about being adopted until he got older. Once he was married and had a family of his own, he became interested in learning more about his birth mother, who had given him up as a teenager.
“I called the adoption agency in 2008 but was told that the adoption records were locked for 99 years by Florida law,” Vaughan, associate pastor of Little Sandy Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa, said. “So I thought I’d just leave it alone, but then in 2011 the Lord put it on my heart to find her, and I wondered what else I could do to try to locate her.”
Vaughan remembered there were some non-identifying information papers that his adoptive mother had shown him when he was a teenager. She wasn’t able to find those forms when she checked back through her records, so Vaughan called the adoption agency to ask for another copy. He waited for nearly a year.
“Then in January of 2012, I got a call out of the blue from a woman at the agency saying my request for new papers had fallen behind a filing cabinet, and she sounded like she genuinely wanted to help me,” Vaughan said. “She sent me the forms, which included handwritten information my mom wrote in 1984 when I was born.”
The agency employee had drawn through much of the information with a permanent marker, but he was able to make out his birth mother’s brother’s name and address, and he used that as a starting point. He discovered who his birth mother was — a woman named Cheryl Culpepper who lived in Florida — and got a few contact numbers. He even found out from Facebook that he had two half brothers and a half sister.
Vaughan asked his wife to help, and she tried to contact his birth mother directly. She ended up getting in touch with Culpepper’s husband, who knew about the adoption, and he connected Vaughan’s wife with Culpepper.
Culpepper remembers that first conversation with her husband being exciting and frightening all at once.
Her husband knew about the adoption, but their three children were unaware.
“Before I spoke with Brandon for the first time, I had to tell my other children, but I knew it would go OK, and it did,” Culpepper said. “It’s been a very positive experience. I have always wanted to know where he was, but giving him up like I did, I’d always told myself that I didn’t have the right to find him. He had a family and parents, and I didn’t have the right to interfere with that.”
Culpepper’s daughter, Amber, remembers hearing about Vaughan for the first time. She was shocked by the news at first but then looked forward to getting to know her “new” brother.
“It was just the last thing I ever expected my mom to tell us, but once I heard the whole story and saw how intensely painful it had been for her at such a young age, I really felt for her,” she said. “I thoroughly identified with how excited she was to meet Brandon, and we were all there for her and excited for the new changes to come.”
Vaughan remembers the initial phone conversation with his birth mother as comfortable from the start.
“After she’d told her other kids about me, she went out on the front porch and called me, and we talked for hours trying to catch up on 27 years,” he said. “The next weekend, she and her husband came to Alabama and we got to meet for the first time.”
The families embraced the reconnection, and they see each other on a regular basis. Vaughan and his family even went to Florida to spend Thanksgiving with Culpepper and her family last fall. Culpepper said she’s been especially grateful for the way that Vaughan’s adoptive mother has welcomed her into the family and not felt threatened by Culpepper’s new relationship with Vaughan.
“I admire her a lot, and she’s a great lady,” Culpepper said of Vaughan’s adoptive mother. “I was nervous to meet her for the first time, as I’m sure she was to meet me, but it wasn’t stressful. We sat down in her living room, and I gave her a card that I’d gotten for her, and I just thanked her. I thanked her for taking such good care of him and loving him for all those years.”
As Culpepper began spending more time with Vaughan, she began asking questions about his faith. Culpepper had been raised in a Church of Christ home but said it never “really stuck” with her. One day last May, she was staying at Vaughan’s home and asked about salvation. He explained salvation in a way that Culpepper had never heard, and it resonated with her.
“He told me that he had been adopted into the Vaughan family, he would be a Vaughan forever, and there was nothing he could do to change it, and that’s what happens when we enter the family of God,” she said.
The next day was a Sunday, and Culpepper was saved at the evening service. Vaughan had the honor of baptizing his birth mother the following month and has helped her connect with a church in Florida.
“Before finding my mom, I had struggles about my purpose,” Vaughan said. “I guess everybody does. But you feel like an accident, or the consequence of an accident. But you realize that God really does have a plan for your life. He knew in 1984 that all this was going to happen. I want to get the gospel out through this. This is the goodness of God, and it’s unbelievable.”
To read more of Brandon Vaughan’s story, check out his book “Reconciled.” It is available on Amazon. To contact him, call 205-826-2065 or email Skywatcher4Him@aol.com.