by Debbie Altman

When I was three years old, my parents and I got on an airplane and flew from Buffalo, NY where we lived, to Prince Edward Island, Canada. We checked into a hotel and shortly thereafter, a woman came to the hotel with an 8 month old baby boy.  She left the baby with us and my parents told me that I now had a baby brother.  For many years, I assumed that was how everyone got babies!

Not long afterwards, my mother explained to me that my brother and I were “adopted.”  She explained, “God knew there would be babies in the world that needed mommies and daddies, so He allowed there to be parents who didn’t have babies, and He put them together to be families.”  This made sense to me!  Growing up, I never felt deprived or angry about being adopted, but actually felt unique and special.   I mean, anyone could come into a family the normal way, but my parents had picked me!   I was adopted and proud of it! 

While I never resented being adopted there were things I wondered about such as, did I look like my birth mom, was I like her, did she ever think about me?

My adoptive mother died of cirrhosis of the liver when I was 28, and the years afterward were filled with ministry, work, children, marriage and personal healing.  But at 38, I finally felt a release to try to find my birthmother.

My adoption was a “closed” adoption and information was not freely available.  I had no idea where to start.  I remember praying a prayer….”Lord, I don’t have a lot of time, and I don’t have a lot of money, and I’m certainly not looking for more pain in my life!  But, if it is your will, I would like to find my mom, and I need you to help me!” The Lord opened doors and gave me direction, and after a relatively short time, I obtained the name and address of a woman that I believed to be my mother.  I wrote her a letter (snail mail!) and explained why I felt she could be my mom, that I was not mad at her, that I had a good family, and I sent her a picture of myself with Craig and our two children.  I asked her to call me either way, and let me know if I was correct.  The next few days were the longest of my life!  I was excited but also nervous and fearful.  I thought of the most terrible scenarios.  What if she had a really messy life?   What if she didn’t want anything to do with me? 

After three long days, I received a phone call from the woman I had written to, and she sounded very nervous.  Yes, she was my mother!  We talked for over an hour, and she shared her story.  I went to visit her a few months later and we were amazed at how much we looked alike.  Even more amazing to me, was how much I acted like her.  I told my husband I now knew who he could blame for his wife’s spunky, sometimes stubborn personality!  Along with a new mother, who I have a wonderful relationship with, I also gained 3 half-sisters who had not known that I existed, but who opened their arms to me.  (That is a story in itself, as you can imagine….)  

After meeting my mother and sisters, I began to have a new train of thought I had never considered when originally looking for them.   What if finding them was not about me at all, but about them?  What if God had plans for them that he was now going to use me to help fulfill?  If I had not been adopted, would I be a Christian today?  Did the Lord need a woman in Tampa that would lead Craig to Christ and be his helpmeet, to later go on and found and pastor Grace Family Church? 

I believe, as in the life of Joseph, the Lord sometimes uses a circuitous path to get us where He needs us to be, to weave His great plans and purposes.  I am so grateful to both of my mothers; they have each given me so much.  And I am grateful to Jesus Christ who is trustworthy and good; whose ways are perfect; and who has chosen and adopted me!

Debbie is the wife of Pastor Craig Altman, and together, they founded Grace Family Church 18 years ago.  She is a former RN and mother of a 27 year old married daughter and 26 year old son.  She is also known as “Nona” to her precious granddaughter. Debbie enjoys family, reading and the beach, and is inappropriately competitive at board games.


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  1. I love your testimony Debbie!! My husband, James, is from upstate NY. Lockport, which is 30 min north of Buffalo. God brought him to Florida to meet me in 1980. Apparently He did similar with you and Craig, all around the same time!
    We love GFC and have been there 8.5 years now and going strong. You did a GREAT job last night at Beautiful and God has equipped you well to speak publicly. Stop doubting yourself and HIS ability through you. You are a tremendous blessing to me and my whole family (and my daughter!) Love you. Marlene

    • Thank you Marlene! Your family is a blessing to us as well! Thank you for being faithful for all these years!

  2. Debbie, these words could not have come at a more important time. I was adopted in 1966 through Catholic Charities in NJ. I was blessed to meet my biological mom 21 years ago in 1991 and like you, have 3 1/2 siblings. Today, my bio mom, Margie Gulizzi, is in endstage colon cancer and I fly up to see her on 5/19. I’d go sooner, but my MOM, Carol, is here from WV for Mother’s Day and leaves on 5/18. Not many people could understand the complexity of that situation. Please pray for all mothers, but please pray for God’s Will in granting my beloved bio-mom the peace and understanding of our Lord, and also for comfort and less anxiety in her journey home. My birthday is 5/23 and you, too, will understand this…Margie gave me life, and I pray to ease her passage home. God truly works in mysterious ways. Thank you for sharing. Love and light, Colleen

    • I was also adopted through Catholic Charities! Pretty common back then. My birth mom also recently developed bladder cancer. I will pray for Margie and that you will be a blessing, light and comfort to her! Thank you for sharing YOUR story!

  3. Love your story Debbie, it always blesses me when I hear it! The Lord definitely used you in my life when I came to GFC 16 years ago (can you believe it’s been that long)? My situation is a little different, but nonetheless, you understood and was there for me. I wasn’t adopted, but had given up my two daughters due to drug addiction. Four months after I started GFC, the Lord gave my daughters back to me. YOU are the one who encouraged me and believed in me and told me I COULD DO IT!! And you know the struggles I’ve had, but I don’t regret a moment of getting them back even though it was so challenging. I know you know all this but I’m writing it for other beautiful ladies who don’t know me, in hopes that it will bless and encourage them. That it will be a testimony to them that with God nothing is impossible. I love you, Debbie Altman, you are my favorite person on the face of this earth!! 🙂

    • Cyndi, thanks for sharing your amazing story with everyone! It always inspires me and makes me so proud of you!

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