Bryan Kehl's big Mormon family and the blessings of adoption
Amy and Brian met Bryan again for lunch before the Smiths told their kids in a family home evening almost two months later. Amy and Brian had counseled together and prayed about what to do, and telling the kids felt right. The children were astonished but accepting of their mother and excited to meet their half brother. They were told he served a mission and was married, but not told his identity or that he played in the NFL.
On Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010, the Kehls pulled up to the Smiths' Ogden home. A welcome message was painted in the large living room window. A text was sent out inviting extended relatives. Some recognized Kehl right away because they were BYU fans and had followed his career. The sizable family surrounded Kehl in a big circle and the atmosphere was electric as stories were told and memories shared. Pictures were taken. A strong spirit filled the room.
One of the night's most tender moments came when Amy's elderly father gently kissed Kehl on the forehead. "That is what I did the last time I saw you," he said sweetly.
"That night was one of the greatest nights of my life," Amy said. "It just went so well."
* * *
"And experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts." (Romans 5:4-5)
This coming fall, Mason Woodward will be a junior at Syracuse High School. In 2007, he and his parents were invited to attend an LDS fireside in West Point, where Bryan Kehl was the featured speaker. Woodward and Kehl had a lot in common. Like Bryan, Mason is the son of a Caucasian woman and an African-American man. The mother, who was Mormon, wanted him placed in an LDS home. Roger and Cindy Woodward adopted him shortly after his birth.
Upon learning this, Kehl expressed interest in meeting Mason after the fireside.
"Bryan walked in and said, 'Hey, my little bro,'" Cindy recalled. "Their stories were so similar, and you could see chemistry between them."
Phone numbers were exchanged, and the two kept in touch.
Fast forward to Jan. 3, 2010, the day the Vikings hosted the Giants and the same weekend Kehl met his biological father, Maurice Turner. Mason and his father, Roger, were also at the game. The trip was a Christmas present because Mason's favorite player is Minnesota's Adrian Peterson.
Bryan was visiting with his two fathers on the field when he realized it was almost time for warm-ups and he needed to suit up. He hustled toward the visiting locker room when guilt forced him to stop to sign an autograph for a little girl. Then he noticed a familiar face and a head of dreadlocks.
"What are you doing here?" Kehl exclaimed when he saw Mason.
He invited Mason to meet him after the game.
The Vikings destroyed the Giants in the game, 44-7, but Kehl didn't let that ruin his special reunion. He introduced Mason to Turner's family and his adopted family. He also handed him his game cleats, gloves and sweat bands.
Mason practically floated back home to Utah.
"We have a ton in common, and I see a lot of myself in him," Kehl said regarding his friendship with his "little bro." "It was important I reach out and try to be a positive influence."
Mason plans to be just like him, not only on the football field, but he wants to serve a mission and get married.
Someday, he also hopes to meet his biological parents.
"I think Mason looks at Bryan's adoption experience as positive, and he is more comfortable with his situation," Roger Woodward said. "I can't think of a better role model for our son."
Considering the whole spectrum of his experience, from growing up adopted to meeting his biological family and befriending Mason, Bryan Kehl is humbled by the blessings in his life. He knows that not every adoption has a happy ending.
"I have wondered, why me? Why now? Honestly it has been one of the most unique and special moments of my life. There aren't words to describe the feelings. It's still surreal," Kehl said.
"I am 100 percent confident it was meant to be. We were meant to be reunited and it has been a blessing for all of us."
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