Derone McNeill column: A story of hope during the season of hope

Posted at 11:39 PM on Dec 26, 2018



It’s been some time since I’ve felt I had anything worth writing about or even a story worth telling -- until now! I felt led this holiday season to share this story about a family that means so much to me. As you read I hope you will be thankful and very appreciative as we celebrate this time of year.

After waiting for nine months, one phone call at 10:15 p.m. on a Monday changed everything. A baby boy had been born earlier that day in Houston, Texas.

“Healthy biracial boy, seven pounds, 15 ounces, 20.5-inches, born at 4:44 p.m.," the voice on the other end of the line said. "Do you want to be presented for this case?”

Charis said yes, handed the phone to Duffy, and ran off to start packing. At 11:30 p.m. they got word that the birth parents had selected them and they could come to the hospital.

After a sleepless night, they got up, packed the car and left for Houston, the excitement building with every mile they drove.

When the arrived at the hospital, it was love at first sight. They instantly bonded with the birth-family and had a wonderful time getting to know them and loving on the baby boy.

The birth-mom was discharged around 6 p.m. and they left the hospital together to grab some dinner.

After dinner, Charis and Duffy Johnson headed back to the hospital for more baby cuddles. When visiting hours were over, they headed to a hotel, over the moon in love with the boy and on cloud nine.

The next day their other three children, Julah, Zoe, and Boone, headed off to a drop-in day-care facility and Charis and Duffy returned to the hospital. They cuddled, fed and loved on baby boy, waiting for his 5 p.m. discharge to arrive. When it did, they hugged the nurses, packed everything up, loaded up in the car and headed back to Adventure Kids to pick up the other three kiddos.

As the Johnsons pulled into the day-care parking lot, they received a call – the birth parents had changed their minds and weren’t going to sign the adoption paperwork. They were instrcted to take the baby back to the hospital.

They prayed for strength to accept God’s will, for love to show the birth family, and for healing for their broken hearts. He gives and takes away, but I will chose to say, ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord.'

Everything was a blur as they drove the baby back to the hospital and returned him to the nursery, surprising the nurses.

The hospital staff attempted to comfort the couple and make the transition as gentle as possible, but Charis reamined inconsolable.

As they left the hospital deep in grief, they found it difficult to breathe, and tears flowing freely. Then they sat in the car silently for a while, attempting to process what had just happened.

Finally, they began the drive to pick up their children for the second time, wondering how they would explain what had happened to them.

They weren’t quite out of the parking lot when they got a phone call from the birth mother. They had changed their minds again and decided to sign the paperwork. The Johnsons, she said, could go back inside and pick up their son.

If Charis hadn’t completely fallen apart before, she was certainly a mess at this point.

The birth mother arrived at the hospital. They hugged and cried for a while in the parking lot of the hospital before the birth family left to sign the paperwork.

Charis and Duffy walked back into the hospital to pick up their baby, only to find out that the hospital had readmitted him as an abandoned baby since the birth parents never came back to get him. The only way he could be released, they were told, was with a court order signed by a judge.

The baby would remain in the NICU until the situation was resolved.

For the second time that day, the Johnsons left the hospital heartbroken and without the baby they had come to love in a short time. They told their children they weren’t sure what was going to happen and they prayed together as a family.

Around 4 o'clock that morning Charis woke up with a thought that she felt was from the Lord. There wasn’t a law keeping the baby in the hospital, she realized. It was a hospital policy, and policies can always be overruled by someone higher enough up in the chain of command.

Her mind was racing: What hospital network was it? Who did they know that works there?

Sure enough, God led Charis straight to the answer. A long-time friend was a regional vice president for the hospital group. One phone call to the VP the next day and they found themselves being personally escorted by the CEO of the hospital to the NICU to pick up their son.

They all but ran out of the hospital with the baby. In fact, the only pictures they have from the big day are selfies taken while they were running down the hall. For the fourth time they left the hospital, but this time was for good.

They were now a family of six.

They named their youngest child “Bowen Ryals Johnson.” Bowen was the maiden name of Charis’ maternal great-grandmother, and Ryals is the maiden name of Duffy’s maternal great-grandmother.

While the emotional difficulties of their adoption placement ended there, the financial burden remains great for the Johnsons. The estimated costs for this adoption are more than anyone could imagine and while the number is far beyond their capacity – they know that nothing is beyond God’s capacity. They are humbled beyond words at the blessings God has blessed them with in this child and in the community that supports them.

They are living proof that when you know what your calling is in life, you don’t allow doubt to become a dead end. To share this story during this holiday season reminds me of the birth of Jesus. It was an unbelievable process but it had to happen, and it had to happen exactly how it was supposed to happen.

I would encourage those of you who are able to learn more about the adoption process. You never know the life you can change. My prayer is that God will provide everything that Duffy and Charis will need to give little Bowen the life that he may not have had if he had not been up for adoption. I pray that you share this story to remind others that no matter what it looks like as we face life’s challenges, all hope is not lost. During this holiday season, we must believe in a power that’s much greater than ours. For Duffy and Charis it’s the power of the blood of the lamb and that power can say yes when man says no.

Merry Christmas to all of you and should you want to share financially in the joy of Duffy and Charis, I can help you do that. If you can’t, your prayers will be appreciated.

Enjoy the holiday’s and may we all be reminded of the true reason for the season.

Derone McNeill is a columnist for Statesville Free News. Email him at

Join the VIP Readers' Club!

Creating an account entitles you to the following perks:

Already a member?


Subscribe to SVL Free News Email Alerts

* indicates required