Overcoming Racial Barriers With Love – A Multi-generation Adoption Story
When the civil rights movement had only just gained momentum – Henry and Andrea Bomberger adopted 10 children of varying races and disabilities. 50 years later their family legacy includes 3 generations of adopted children and bears witness to the power of love in overcoming racial barriers.
Don’t miss this story of how the Bomberger family overcame racial barriers with a legacy of love that now includes 3 generations of multi-racial adoption.
Watch the show, or download this podcast below for later.
IN THIS EPISODE, YOU WILL LEARN:
- Why Andrea and Henry adopted 10 children
- Adoption challenges in the 1970s
- What is like to raise a multi-racial family
- What is was like to grow up in a multi-racial family
- How to have conversations with others about race
- The differences between adoption and foster to adopt
- Bethanna: https://bethanna.org/
ABOUT THE BOMBERGER FAMILY
The Bomberger family runs a multi-generational business with two store locations in Lititz and Annville, Pennsylvania. The Bombergers are a racially diverse family, thanks to Andrea and Henry Bomberger, who have 13 children, 10 of whom were adopted through faith-based adoption agencies. Andrea’s children and grandchildren followed in her footsteps, creating a non-discriminating multi-generational adoption legacy. Today, the family has grown through marriage and adoption to over 63 members.
CONNECT WITH THE BOMBERGER FAMILY
- Website: Bomberger’s Store: https://bombergers.com/
I think it’s important not to be offended at the questions. I get a chance to change what they’re saying. Let them see my side of the story. Educating somebody is better than being offended by them. Welcome to the M perfectly empowered podcast with leading DIY lifestyle blogger on. Where women are inspired with authentic stories and practical strategies to reclaim their hearts and homes by empowering transformation. One imperfect day at a time. Hello, and welcome back to another episode of the imperfectly empowered podcast. I’m your host on a Fullmer today is another incredibly special podcast episode in case you miss the last episode that aired, I introduced this series. Approximately a year ago. At this time I organized and hosted a local gala. It was an adoption gala. It was a fundraiser for our own adoption of a sweet little boy from the Pacific island of Samoa. But more importantly, it was a black tie affair here in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania to give local families a platform to share their adoption stories. It was called, bring them home and adoption gala to celebrate forever family. Last episode, I introduced you to the Zimmerman family today. I’m introducing you to the Bomberger family. This is a story you do not want to miss talk about leaving a legacy. This is a family that boasts three generations of adoption. Especially. What is notable is the fact that this legacy was started by a couple who not only adopted when adoption was not something that was typically done. They adopted 10 children of all different nationalities and disabilities. I am privileged to introduce you to the Bomberger family. We are here today with three generations of the Bomberger family. So we have grandmother, daughter and granddaughter, and they also represents three adoptive mothers and father. And I have to point out that they are a staple in our community. You own the local hardware store here in Lititz, which is a multi-generational. That was established. What like late 18 hundreds. Am I right about 1887. And what generation are you now? We currently have the sixth in the business. My granddaughter grace comes in in the next year or two. We’ll have the seven, the seventh. So this is a seven generation owned and run hardware store. Well, they have also seen my children grow up at the store, as you can imagine, after renovating several homes. And I express my gratitude for our community. The way that you guys are not only personally invested doing an interview like this, but also professionally, you’ve been a staple in this community for so many years. And we’re really grateful speaking for my family. And my kids are grateful for the candy that you’ve offered them. Hi, generations of candy is represented there, but they love it. So. This story of adoption in the Bomberger family started how many years ago? How many years ago Andrea was adoption first started in your family. First, the very first child that was adopted and Ryan. And how old is each earned? 50 then? So that’s 50 years ago. So 50 years ago, this legacy was started and you have three children, biologically and Dory being one of the children, biologically first born first born. So I was thinking about this the other day. I have three biologically, I have an eight year old, six year old and a three-year-old. And I was thinking about your story because what you all need to understand is that they have three children biologically, and then they have how many adults. 10, top 10. You heard that correctly. That’s double digits. That’s 10 children. And I was thinking, what would it take for me right now, having three children, biologically aside from Jesus or drugs to alter my mindset, to think like, I’m going to do this 10 more times, I’m going to adopt to anymore. So where did that start? Was it something you always knew that you wanted to do? How, when I was five years old, um, I’m trying to think it would have been the second. After I just turned five. My parents broke up the marriage and my mother had such a poor paying job. She couldn’t afford to keep me with her. And at the time my grandparents didn’t want her to come home with me. And so she put me out at Christ’s home as in paradise until she could get on her feet. And I was out at Christ, told my parents, my mother came to visit me. My father came occasionally to. Out there, but there are a lot of children that I was with out there that did not have people coming to visit them. I would get so sad when my parents left and that I would see these kids like that. I’m just feel so sad as a five-year old because they didn’t have parents there. And Christ home was also a Christian home. Of course sounds that way. Funny school there. I accepted Jesus as my savior. And I remember that specifically, what, when I asked him to come into my heart was on the sway. I was sitting on his swing outside after Sunday school and allies simultaneously. I had this desire. Yeah, someday I was going to take in children. So I didn’t know the word adoption. I didn’t really know what adoption was, but I just assumed that I would have children that didn’t have children before. And I tell my boyfriends when I started dating that I went to adopt children and I also knew I wanted to adopt 10 children. Wow. So early on. So I’m just curious how those conversations about with your boyfriends. You’re like, by the way, wondering like what the ratio was of guys, the percentage that were like, yeah. Okay. I’ll consider that. That’s not what happened is basically either thought that I was crazy. Where they thought that they weren’t going to be there for that. And I lose them immediately. The other ones that thought I was a little crazy, I would lose a little by little. And, um, when I went with Henry, he just looked at me and he said, oh, well, okay. So 16, when I started going with. And we went together till we were 20. And then I got married. I heard him tell somebody else on the video though, that he thought I was probably overestimating how many kids and I would know better after I had so many. Not really going to do that, but we had 13 instead of 10. So, so I wasn’t too far off. I said Jesus or drugs and it sounds like it was Jesus And your husband, how long has it been since you passed away? He just died in January. Oh, I’m sorry. Wow. Wow. Did you have three children biologically and then decide to start a doc? Yeah, because we had one child and then a year later we had another child and a year later we had the third child. So it was like, I never got a chance. And frankly, when we started to adopt the local agencies, thought we were out of our minds. Why? If you have three kids, you can have kids. Why do you want to adopt kids? No, let me, let me just for a second, because that mentality still like. Yeah. And it’s an interesting thing that you say that, because that was something that I know, not just to myself, that was questions that I’ve gotten asked because I was blessed to get pregnant very quickly, very easily, three times and healthy pregnancies. And that mindset was still not that it’s incorrect, but it’s just a little incomplete. And the thought that while you have you’re easily able to get pregnant, why would you adopt, how did you address that concern? Even then 50 years ago, how did you face that yourself? And what was your response to that? The children I was trying to adopt were children that were considered very hard to place children and they weren’t going to get homes very easily. I was not trying to. And infant white child, our hearts for open to any kind of child. And I just wanted children who needed homes. And I wasn’t trying to be a social person, correct person, actually, we didn’t call it that. Then I wasn’t trying to make a statement. I just wanted to help children that didn’t have a home. And that’s the way I would explain it to people. But it still doesn’t solve the problem of orphans, right? Like, just cause you can have children biologically, it doesn’t mean that that somehow changes the lives of an orphan. So you mentioned that you were open to all races and to special needs. You basically wanted to provide a home. And one of the things that I think is so incredible about your story and you were blazing trail. Long before many were, so this was 50 years ago. And then over the course of, of the next decade or so you have a very multi-racial multi-ethnic family. I had a group called Packo parents and adopted children, and we would get together with the kids all the time. That’s his favorite thing for our kids to do is to go to tackle where they. You just nothing strange adapt. Then all the families are multiracial. They had lots of kids and multiracial, adopted, adopted families, and they had just a blast being together and not having to explain themselves to anybody. What is your advice to moms? Period? Let alone an adoptive mom to survive and thrive. Lots of love. Good sense of humor. We’re living in a different form. And I lived in and raise my kids. Yeah. The world is really hurting right now. And your child will hurt with the rest of the world. I don’t envy you having to go through all of that. That’s in my day, we were coming through Martin Luther king. Looking for a new world. Very helpful. PPSs aren’t you afraid for your kids in the future? I would say it’s changing the future is it’s going to be different. All of this is help that it would be different. It is different. I know that not everybody feels that way, but when my children came to my family, biracial families were, yeah, we’re in the, maybe in the big cities that out here, Liz and Manheim, about 89% white by Rand case, anybody can know that like is your 89. Wait, anybody who was married by racially, I mean, just out of place, everybody would stare. I mean, I have some stories about the children, I going somewhere and knowing what that felt like. And you respond to people because what I’m hearing over and over again is this idea that, and I think this is timeless. Is this. Of grease and laughter is what I keep hearing you pulling out. And I think that is an approach that spans 50 years. That’s not an approach that’s ever going to die. How did your children, so you’re the oldest of 13 children and then Nikki, you were the oldest to when your parents adopted, how did you guys take. The announcement that we’re going to adopt children. And in your case, 10 siblings, we were always excited. Brandon we’ve picked up was a friend in our brand that we picked up the year. Brandon cause he came from Alabama. So we all were loaded in the van, going to the airport to pick up Brandon and the kids are yelling out the van. We’re going to pick up my brother we were getting another seven. How old were you? The first one that was adopted? I was probably four or five. Brian’s. Um, 54 he’s 50. And he was adopted as a baby. So you have a recollection of that. That is pretty young. That was just what we did. Yeah. I mean, we didn’t think anything of it. Yeah. We didn’t necessarily, it was just, we’re getting another sibling and we were fine with reality TV, just waiting to happen. It was. Yeah. Well, and I think that mentality even still over the generations, cause that’s kind of how it was for. Yes, because it’s something that we grew up around to. How did you nurture your children? I mean, because even when you’ve got 13 children, I mean, even your first couple adopted children would have been older as you’re continuing to bring in more children. So how did you nurture all of your children in that process of adoption? So. As you would bring another child and it was just kind of the culture of your home. How did you set that open tone for your home? I didn’t necessarily decide to adopt a lot of times they would see pictures of kids. We would get sent pictures, strung, Tressler. These kids are available, and then they would go with the pictures to their father. And we’d say, Henry, here’s another child. Needs a home and he would go, he would just kind of, well think about it and help, then everybody would forget about it, but they would keep on going at him, you know? So they had a lot to do with helping to get us into the family. So as long as they came in the middle, it just, I didn’t learn. It was just like, Yeah, it kids have a place in your family and they, the nettle and the bottom seems to be the easiest place to bring them in. They just kind of become part of it. And it got older brothers and sisters. They usually connect. Closely with one of the other kids. I never did the options where we had two or three kids from the same family. Cause I thought that was difficult to do because they’ve already got a family. So they pick one or other brothers or sisters and they feel a little bit closer to that for awhile. Oh, the concept that I think children, the idea of loving, like children. Is, we make adoptions so complicated as adults in my head. It’s so complicated and you kind of see your pros list and you see your cons list and we’re children just see it. So very black and white. Oh, this was a little kid that needs a home. Why wouldn’t we bring them home? Like, there’s just such a simplicity. It is. It’s really inspiring to me. Sometimes I look at my children even now, and I see the way they’re already responding to their little brother who they haven’t even met yet. And it’s so humbling to just be like, even as a mom, that’s all I need to love. I need to stop overthinking it and just, you love them. Yeah. Caleb’s all right. He’s like ready to share everything the other day. He said, mommy, I can’t wait to share all my toys with my brother. And it was that simple concept that in his mind, everything he owns this, his brothers. Like come on, bring them home. So I love that. So you had three biological and Dory. You were the oldest. Can you tell us any stories of what it was like to grow up as the oldest child of 13? It was at, uh, my childhood made me who I am today and we were a tight as brothers and sisters. I mean, we had brother and sister issues, but we were tight and there was great. One of our favorite stories, my one sister and I tell the story of, we were at the beach with our brothers and sisters, and somebody asked if we were camp counselors for the But I love the way I was raised. I love the way I look at people. I’m hopeful. Like I, I love diverse families and I’m excited for you every time. Open up people’s eyes to loving people and just being a family and you change the world. You will change people that you have no idea because you are going to love a child. And so prejudice will only die when we all open our hearts and say, we are all just people we love. We love you, period. And you will educate people just by loving your child. Yeah. You have tried it all worried. You will never lose the extra weight or reclaim the energy you once enjoyed, want to achieve that loss without spending hours in a gym or eliminating entire food groups from your day. 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Today and start your own transformation story. So you think it was as much breaking down barriers because you’re forcing relationships because you’re right, because you’re basically like, this is my child and yeah. You either get to know them or you don’t, but it’s almost like, right. And it’s almost like a forest. And I think that is such an interesting. Take away because I think one of the greatest challenges now to what you’re talking about is this virtual world that we live in and we have like pseudo relationships. And I love, you know, with adoption, it’s so unique because it forces real relationship. And you know, here is our child in real life. This isn’t just like a conversation we’re having on Instagram about rapes. This is relationship. And I think exactly what you’re saying speaks to. What I have heard very eloquent men and women across all races say that if we really want to see change, then we need to start having real conversation and real relationship. And instead of changing people’s minds, we need to start speaking to people’s hearts. And I think that’s where adoption comes in. And your story plays in there is it’s heart relationship and conversations, maybe hard ones at times. How has that changed going to happen? I just want to, if you don’t mind saying about changing people when we’ve got our first adopted child was Ryan. I think it was. And I don’t think the grandparents were real thrilled that we were doing this and we got Ryan home. It was just the baby and the pink grant. And his mother and father came over to see the new baby and his father was holding Ryan. I was just looking at him. This is the funniest guy thing. He’s sitting there them and just staring at him for about half an hour. And after that, it was like, this is just a baby. It’s just a beautiful baby. And after that, it was nothing more about this was their grandchild and they were proud of all of them. So, I mean, I don’t have to say it more clearly and it happens. Yeah. You just, you build relationships. Yeah. Yeah. You break down barriers by building relationships. So then Bob, you married into this craziness, so your eyes wide open. So you knew what was coming. So at what point in your conversation, because then you adopt. In your family, which I just told my kids today. So tomorrow is mother’s day when we’re filming this tomorrow’s mother’s day. And I will try not to lose it too much here, but what a legacy, you know, there’s something special when you’ve done something, right? Because. Your child wants to adopt. And then another child wants to adopt and, you know, talk about a legacy of change and world changers. What you just said, how many people have been changed because you’re loving on children. And I think that if we could take one thing away from this, it is, that is if there is any reason to adopt it is because by loving on people, you change lives. And so if my daughter would adapt it, so the best thing to give me for mother’s day in 21 years as to adopt and all that, to say what a legacy. So anyways, you did something, right? Because you’ve got multiple generations here, but the options. And so at what point did you decide to adopt and how did you go about that process? How did you decide? You may have to submit the job in here, but we went through an agency and we went through the whole studies. It didn’t seem to be kind of a slow process. I remember specifically, they came out to the house and they did our home study and they asked us what I thought were some kind of some dumb questions that just didn’t make sense to me, just what we would do in certain circumstances. And, um, I thought it was dead and it kind of went in for a little while. We actually moved out of the house that we got that done in and we moved to our new house. If I remember correctly, we got Paul just randomly out of the blue and said that. Three-month old in Pittsburgh or maybe interested in, we. And the next day or two days or something along those lines. So we went to Pittsburgh and we spent three days in Pittsburgh and then we came home with Andrew. We got Andrew, everybody’s laughing, Andrew, but everyone’s laughing. to believe in karma, Andrew and his family live in the house next to be the one that would never leave. And he lives right now. Now did you face, so Nikki, you grew up also in a multiracial family cause just black. So we have a black child and a white family. And were there any, did you see any barriers? It’s interesting. Cause we were going through the generations. Having watched your siblings grow up and then seeing Andrew in your family, what did you notice? Did you see any type of racial issues in your generation raising a child? And how did you face that? I was shocked at first. I’ll never forget. Like when we first got him, when we would first go to the grocery store, I was shocked by what I felt was people looking. At us, I don’t know. It just was something. And there was a couple of times in his growing up that we had instances where the problem is when you, when a white family adopts a black child or an African-American child, people don’t look at your family. So Andrew would approach me at some sometimes and people wouldn’t know I’m his mother. Cause I don’t look like him. And so there was things like that that you don’t think about and we’ll break down. Because he’s my baby and he is my baby. So there’s things like that, that you will notice they don’t break your heart well. And even if you bring, you know, you mentioned, I love how Andrea, you started out by, I said drugs or Jesus. And you said, Jesus, which was probably the better choice. And, but honestly though, it’s interesting because, and again, a very white community, 89% white and a very conservative community and a lot of evangelical Christian churches. And I think one of the things that is so challenging to me is when we look at the church and it’s so very white and yet in scripture, it pretty clearly says every tongue, tribe and nation is going about the feet of Jesus. And you just, I think what I love looking at the picture of your whole family is to me, That represents the church that represents really, you know, the globe and what the Bible says it’s going to heaven is going to look like, and it’s like, how can we take that concept and live it here on earth? And I think adoption is one of the most beautiful ways to do that. How do you encourage somebody to speak to the adoptive mom with the multiple race children? And then how do you encourage the adoptive. With the children. Right. I think it’s important not to be offended at the questions. Yeah. I couldn’t believe some people say, and then I thought no way, they’re not trying to be offensive. Just sounds to me as I get a chance to change what they’re saying. I just want to talk to them, answer their questions, let them see my side of the story. And hopefully that has done the next time they see something like that. I never felt anybody was particularly mean about it. I wouldn’t let them be mean with my kids or anything. Right. Educating somebody is better than being offended by them. Amen. And I think what I love about that point is the concept of that. You know, sometimes you feel like you’re walking on eggshells, especially nowadays with the whole race conversation and as a white, very privileged woman. I understand that concept of sometimes you just feel like you don’t even want to say anything because you feel like anything that comes out of your mouth will be misconstrued as, as racist. But I guess the concern is that then there’s no conversation. There’s no conversation. And so I think something that I’m already taking away so early on in this point is that. Some conversation is better than no conversation because then no conversation isolates people. And to be willing as the person, who’s not really understanding of adoption as I was for many years, I think now on this side of things, that sense of no, I want people to ask because that’s how conversation starts to happen. And I also want to show my son and my other children very early on that. The way to actually help people is to have these open conversations. So don’t be offended show grace. And then you guys had three children biologically and adopted your fourth. Yep. Now, in terms of how do you know the likelihood of potential adoption? Does anybody know that like, if somebody is watching this and thinking I’m interested in the foster, maybe foster to adopt, is there like you get one child, is there a higher likelihood that that child potentially be available for adoption versus another child? Do you have any sense of that when they come into your home? So the way it works with an in Pennsylvania right now in our foster system, a parent, a biological parent has a minimum of 15 months before they could even start the process of terminating parental. So from the moment that the child enters the foster system, the clock starts and you can expect a minimum, but foster care system, not necessarily your home. Right. And by the system. So usually they say it can be up to two years, but so then you can gauge it a little bit, depending on now with James, he was coming into the system starting at zero. So we knew that we were looking at a minimum of 15 months or longer before. You had any idea right before even rights were terminated and then then adoption process would start. So the whole concept of fear with adoption are so closely related. I think that is the number one reason that the barrier to adoption, maybe aside from money is the concept of just fear and uncertainty. Love. There’s just multiple testimonies here of, you know, you walk forward by faith and with patients and we have grace and with laughter if there is one thing, if you could briefly say one thing that you wish the general public understood about adoption, what would it be? I would say that again. I think that in reaching out and being willing to adopt if breaks, barriers, period. Okay. Like you Ana you and your husband are breaking a barrier in your own families. Other people will adopt because you adapt it and that’s, that gets us. It’s a neat spiral. That’s because you help them break the fear burn. And just, just by living again, not necessarily just by living it’ll cause it to have good times, you’re going to have bad times. Like every family that’s life, but when other people see you live it out, then they’re not as a fighter. Like yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Personally, I would say, and this is my personal belief. Adoption is God’s heart because he adopts us into his family and he does that through Jesus. And I don’t think he does a call everybody to. But it’s a blessing. I wouldn’t change anything. We’ve had lots and lots of problems. We’re not a perfect family by any means. I could tell you stories of that, our family that would just make your air cer, but they were growing up. They had, some of them came as older children and with lots of problems with what happened to them before and they had to work. Screw that. I would change a thing. I do it all over again. Just let Jesus did for us while having perfection thing. Amen. I think the big thing, I mean, it’s a journey. It’s a journey that we’re still on and it started three and a half years ago. We adopted him a year ago, but it’s still this process that we’re working through. Magically everything doesn’t just magically call come together on that today. Or, you know, whatever, when you bring the child home, it’s just been this journey that will continue and, you know, we’ll have our. At times and we’ll have our more difficult times and it’s process, but the idea that the process, just because it’s a hard one doesn’t mean it’s a bad one. Right. And you know, like I think we, in the other interview, this idea in our culture that, well, once it gets hard, it must not be. Great. And we just want to skip the struggle, but again, hearing testimony after testimony that perhaps the greatest things in life are actually the ones that you really have to work for, including relationships. And maybe some of those are the hardest, the hardest thing to work for. Well, I am so grateful that each of you were willing to share your story. And Bob, you got roped into this, the one, this lone man. Yeah, but truly I am so grateful for your story. And again, I pray the same legacy over my family. And as you said, Andrea, that the bottom line is when it’s all said and done. I agree with you think adoption is God’s heart and I thank you for your OB. And you’ve been an inspiration to me and I pray that 50 years later I’ll be sitting Russia. I’m going to start right there with 13 canyon. Well, let me rewind. Thanks for listening to this episode of the imperfectly empowered podcast. I would love to hear your thoughts from. Head to your preferred podcasting platform and give the show an honest review and let me know what you think. Remember, you cannot be redefined only redeveloped one imperfect day at a time. Your story matters and you are loved.