Few people have made a more significant impact in the work and ministry of Tapestry than Melanie Chung-Sherman. Melanie wears many hats – mother, wife, adoptee, friend, adoption professional, speaker, writer, compassionate listener, and deep thinker. And she has impacted the lives of countless children and parents as she has courageously, openly, and thoughtfully served and challenged others on the adoption and foster care journey.
Melanie has served alongside Tapestry for nearly ten years. These are some of her thoughts about Tapestry and its impact in the lives of families, and in her own.
How long have you been connected to or involved with Tapestry? How did your involvement begin?
I remember meeting Michael and Amy years ago at an agency event in 2005 (when I worked for an international agency) and they were speaking about their adoption process. At the time, Tapestry was just beginning and I was already steeped in the world of international adoption.
Somewhere around 2006, my husband, Greg and I, were invited by Michael and Amy to their home for dinner. I had written some articles for Tapestry prior, but consider our “breaking bread” the starting point of something special. It was during that time that Greg and I sat and listened to their vision for Tapestry. At that time, churches and agencies were viewed as separate entities—rather than incorporating resources and collectively meeting the needs of adoptive families, newly formed adoption/foster care ministries were seen with suspicion and as possibly infringing on sacred territory. All the while, Michael and Amy, kept their focus on building a community founded on support, education, and compassion. They addressed the complicated issues in adoption (that some agencies, other ministries, and professionals did not necessarily have the freedom or courage to overtly address), and provided a safe place for adoptive families to gather, engage, and breathe.
My involvement began in relationship–through friendship. . .discussing experiences, perspectives, and opinions with Michael and Amy on adoption—some I had not openly expressed before. They listened without judgment, challenged me, and most importantly just accepted where I was along that journey. They walked with me through each personal and professional transition in this diverse world called adoption and foster care. Over the years, my work with Tapestry evolved from writing to presenting, and engaging in conversations or arenas outside our comfort zones at times. I am privileged to be included in Tapestry’s remarkable arena. I shared from the beginning that my voice and perspective is only one perspective, but if the Lord allows me the opportunity to use that—then I will gladly use it within Tapestry’s sphere.
How have you seen Tapestry influence and impact the lives of families, both parents and children?
Tapestry has impacted the lives of many. It has provided a safe and welcoming place to connect with others touched by adoption, foster care, and beyond. Tapestry is a primary referral source for prospective families as well as those who have lived out adoption for years. It is also a place that accepts children from hard places and their parents — many who have felt rejected by their place of worship or misunderstood within their social and familial circles. Over the years, I have heard from countless parents connected to Tapestry that feel others understand what they are going through—and that there is hope for their current situation. I remember referring adoptive parents to Tapestry some time ago. They had never been involved in an adoption support community, but were struggling to connect with their adult child. They attended a Tapestry conference. Later that week they shared that it was the first time they had heard about attachment and trauma. The adoptive father, in tears, shared that he realized how his past history may have impacted his parenting. This father shared that, for the first time, he felt understood and that despite his past what he took away was the fact that he can begin to repair the relationship with his child by working on his past. These parents continue to work towards healing and Tapestry was what helped them get started.
How has Tapestry impacted your life?
Looking back, I realize how integral Tapestry has been in my personal and professional life. I have matured with Tapestry.
What have you learned as a result of your involvement with Tapestry?
When I was a little girl the church was not a safe place for me. The majority of the experiences in which I encountered bullying, racism, and blatant discrimination occurred in my church growing up. As a transracial adoptive family that struggled on several levels, I remember asking our church to help our family as a teenager and being turned away. Quite literally our family was on the brink of chaos, and the response of our church was simply more judgment and disappointment. I was confused because the very same congregation that championed adoption and acceptance sent a conflicting and distant message that we were on our own when things got really messy. I became quite disenfranchised with church altogether and stopped attending for several years. Though, my heart never lost faith in God’s love and purpose, it had lost faith in what I grown up in—particularly organized religion.
As an adult, I started attending church again. But, truth be told, there remained a hint of hesitation and reticence when it came to involvement or deeper commitment with any organization linked to a church. This perception did not change until I was introduced to Tapestry and its leaders. The change was incremental because I needed that time to recognize what the Lord was doing through relationship with those I had encountered in Tapestry. The Lord introduced me to what a church community could actually be—open, engaging, accepting, nurturing, and loving. My husband and I now claim IBC as our church home where we can raise our children and create a different narrative for them. It was through Tapestry that I discovered the safety and space to move back into church and community.
What do you love, appreciate, or admire most about Tapestry?
Through the trainings, outreach, and friendship of many, Tapestry has helped me parent in a more connected way. Despite the fact that I have been afforded the privilege of training and teaching others through Tapestry, I have learned double that from the families and individuals I have been blessed to meet along the way. I have had to go deep into my own history, in ways I might not have journeyed otherwise, as I serve alongside this ministry. Being a part of this community has kept me accountable and encouraged my husband and I to reframe our parenting. I have learned from parents, adoptees, professionals, and birth families involved with Tapestry—their many perspectives—and the collective fact that we all want to be heard, be seen, and be known. I have met friends through this ministry that have endured through the years now.
What is most unique about Tapestry?
I continue to share with others that Tapestry is not afraid to shake things up. Through its leadership, they are not afraid to move against the grain and put themselves out there. One reason that I continue to work alongside Tapestry is the fact that they are not afraid to challenge the status quo, ranging from traditional parenting approaches to motivations to adopt and foster. And they do this in a thoughtful, decisive, and compassionate way. This is one of the hallmarks that has set Tapestry apart from other ministries. People are drawn to what is genuine and real, but at the same time hopeful and empowering. I believe this is what continues to draw people to Tapestry. Triad members, church organizations, and professionals continue to hold Tapestry in high esteem because it will not only engage in dialogue that may feel challenging, new, or uncomfortable, but at the same time it also offers hope and practical help.
Finish this sentence: Tapestry is…
…a place that is real. . .a place to feel grace and hope in action. . .a place to connect with others and be heard.