As Told To L’Oreal Thompson Payton

Before the Rev. Steven Eugene Carter discovered his passion for preaching, he was dealing with emotional trauma from his childhood. Now, the 39-year-old senior pastor of the Mount Ararat Baptist Church in Brooklyn, N.Y., shares his story about being adopted in his book Resurrection from Rejection: Healing from 7 Areas of Rejection in Your Life. Here, Carter describes how he found purpose in his pain.

I was supposed to die 39 years ago. Born prematurely with a hole in my heart, I had five surgeries within my first six months of life. My biological parents deserted me at a Queens, N.Y., hospital. I didn’t know about the desertion until I was 13, when my adoptive aunt told me that if my parents ask me to do anything, I should do it because they didn’t have to adopt me. I had no idea that I had not been born to the people I knew as my father and mother. Not only did I feel abandoned by my birth parents, but I also felt betrayed by the couple who adopted me. I felt alone and as if I could not trust anyone, and so I reacted in the way any teenage boy would: I rebelled.

I joined a gang hoping to find acceptance. I believed that if my biological parents had given me up, there was no way my adoptive parents wanted me. But I was wrong.

My father told me point-blank: “There’s nothing you can do that will cause us to part. You’re here. You’re our child.”

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