“My wife and I met in junior high school. Both of us attended a small private Christian school in Olathe, Kansas. We attended this school together until we graduated together in May of 2000. It was toward the end of our senior year of high school that I began feeling the Lord calling me into the ministry. So, after we graduated high school I left for Oklahoma City to attend Heartland Baptist Bible College. When I came home that first Christmas from being away I asked my wife to marry me. We were married the following May and moved back to Oklahoma City together, so I could finish my schooling. After graduating college in 2004 we moved back to Olathe, Kansas, and I became the youth pastor of my home church where my dad, who just retired this past year, had been the pastor for over 50 years.
Things were going very well except for one thing. Like many others, my wife and I had been unable to have biological children of our own. After several miscarriages, and long nights of worry and crying in the hospital, we both were wondering what God had in store for us and why He would allow this to keep happening. Anyone who has been though a miscarriage can relate to the heartache and pain that comes with that. Through it all we knew the Lord had a plan, but it wasn’t until September of 2014 when that plan started to be revealed to us.
I remember being at church one evening when one of our good friends approached us who works for an agency that deals with the fostering and adopting of children and teenagers. She was aware of our desire to have children, and she knew we had not been able to. So, she decided to make a suggestion. She told us of an event called the Wait No More Conference. They were holding the Conference in the Kansas City area that year and she asked us to consider going. The purpose of the Conference is to help promote and encourage the adoption of children. At first, we were skeptical, because we hadn’t given much thought to fostering or adopting children before, much less teenagers. After several weeks of prayer and consideration, we decided maybe this is what the Lord wanted from us. So, we made plans, and signed up to attend in November.
At the conference, they had several young adults who gave testimonies how they had come from homes filled with physical abuse and drug abuse. I remember one young lady in particular. She gave her story and told of all the things she had gone though, and then she told of the adoptive parents God had given her. She said if it had not been for them she didn’t know where she would be. She said they were responsible for rescuing her from all the abuse she had suffered. She told of how she had accepted Christ, and she was now grounded in church. She told of how she now had a real family and a forever home to call her own. After the conference I remember sitting there with my wife in silence. Neither one of us were saying anything. There had to be several hundred people who had come to the conference, and I think we were the only ones still in the auditorium. It was at that moment when we both knew exactly what we needed to do.
We left the conference and began right away talking once again with our friend from church. She gave us some valuable counsel on where to begin. We weren’t sure what to expect. We took all the necessary classes to become licensed foster parents, and then we waited. We waited for our license to be approved. It seemed like an eternity, but the call finally came that we were approved. We were so excited, scared, and very anxious. When we received the call our license had been approved and issued we had just arrived at a youth conference with our church youth group in Oklahoma City. We explained we were out of town, but with an overwhelming 3,000 children in the foster care system in Kansas we knew the call for us to take kids wouldn’t take long to come in.
Sure enough, just one day later during the youth conference, we received a call that a sibling set of 4 kids, two boys and two girls, needed a foster home. That’s when I really began to wonder if this is truly what God had in mind. Four kids at one time!? This wasn’t what I had in mind, that is for sure, but the Lord reminded me of Isaiah 55:8-9. His ways are most definitely not ours. It was shorty after this I found out the children’s ages of 9, 12, 14 and 15. I was reminded that God has a great sense of humor. I had been a youth pastor for 12 years at this point and dealt with teenagers all the time. With a youth group that was running close to 40 at that time. I knew what headaches could lie ahead for us. Needless to say, our initial reaction was ‘no, not at this time.’ That’s when the lady on the other end broke some heart wrenching news to my wife. We were the only house in the entire state of Kansas that could take all four siblings at once, and if we didn’t take them, they would be split up. I don’t think in my entire life I had ever felt so saddened for what could be taking place if we chose not to step in and help. At that time I could hear the Lord telling me, these kids needed us. So, we stepped up, and told the agency ‘yes, we would take the sibling set.’ I know now, we needed them just as much!
We arrived home on Friday from the youth conference. The following Monday was the day we were supposed to meet the kids for the first time. All we had been told was they had suffered a lot of physical abuse, drug abuse, and verbal abuse. This came from both their mom and dad. They were not really in contact with their mom anymore since their parents had divorced years before. Their dad was given custody because their mom was considered unfit. She was considered unfit due to drug abuse and neglect. Now they were being taken from their dad due to physical abuse and drug abuse.
We were of course very nervous and anxious to meet them, but I can’t even imagine what the feeling must have been like for the kids. I can’t even begin to think of what it would be like to have your entire world turned upside down. To have everything you had ever known suddenly taken away from you. Even though the life you were living at the time was horrible, you would have no idea where you were going or to whom you were going to be with. You are told you can take just a few personal belongings with you and that you would be staying with complete strangers who are supposed to be there to take care of you. As different and a little scary it was going to be for us, it must have been terrifying and even more difficult for them.
I can still remember that day like it was yesterday. We arrived at the agency at 4:30 p.m. We had no sooner walked inside when a young, blonde haired boy came out of a room and walked over to the drinking fountain for a drink. My wife looked at me and said, ‘I bet that’s one of them.’ I remember thinking to myself, ‘yep, and he looks ornery.’ Well, long story short, that ornery, blonde haired boy ended up being our Cody. Oh, by the way, I was right – he is ornery. After just a few minutes of waiting we were introduced to each one of the kids. Alisia (15), Bradley (14), Cody (12), and Emma (9). Looking at their sweet faces we just couldn’t believe someone would ever do these precious kids any harm. Why would anyone want to hurt such beautiful children? I immediately wanted to give them a good family life even if we would only have them for a short time. My wife and I wanted to show them love and give them a safe place to be. We were told they wouldn’t be with us long. They said they would soon be reintegrated with their mom, and that they should only be with us for a few months. We made up our minds immediately that even if it were for just a few short months, these kids were going to be taken care of.
When you take the classes to become foster parents or adoptive parents they teach of different stages that kids in trauma will experience when coming into your home. No doubt with majority of children these stages would take place. The one stage they really warned about is what they call the ‘honeymoon stage.’ This is where the kids seem to really be nice, loving, and inviting at first. Then as they get used to you, the real side of them begins to come out. With our kids however, things seemed different. You could say the honeymoon has never ended. They seemed to really connect with us from the beginning. Well, all except that ornery blonde haired one. He took a little work. He just needed a lot of patience and love. I guess that’s what they all needed. He just took a little more, that’s all. Now, Cody has one of the kindest hearts you will ever find in anyone. To be honest, they all do. To come from where they did, and to not have the emotional scars you would expect was just unbelievable. I’m not saying we didn’t have issues or things to work through because we did, but I am saying these kids God blessed us with are truly remarkable.
Well, after months of working on reintegration it became clear that reintegration was no longer going to be an option. This was becoming more of a reality every day because neither of their biological parents were adhering to the rules of the court. Their mom had once again gone back to her old ways of drugs and had again left the kids. Nobody knew where she had gone, and she wouldn’t contact anyone. When the authorities finally made contact with her she asked to sign the termination papers. Their dad was never an option according to the court because he would lie to the court and wasn’t cooperating at all. So, after just over a year, both dad and mom relinquished their parental rights. We had to make a decision, and we knew there was only one option for us – ADOPTION! I tell people all the time if I could have hand-picked kids, I couldn’t have picked kids that fit our family better than the ones God has given to us.
It has been just over 3 years now, and our adoption was finalized this past March. We found out just days before the adoption was to take place the news stations in Kansas City wanted to cover our story. Our oldest daughter began to cry. When I asked her if everything was ok, she told me she had been praying that the Lord would use our story to be a help and encouragement to others. What a blessing! We watched as our story aired on the local stations, but then found out later that it went national. Our family has since been invited to attend a Hero’s luncheon in Kansas City where were able to share our story and be that encouragement to nearly 1,000 local business owners and donors who give to help foster children. We have received calls from Washington D.C., Michigan, Minnesota, and many more telling us how this story has blessed and encouraged them. Our desire is that someone, somewhere, would see our story and take a leap of faith to help all those thousands of children just like ours.
There are so many kids, and teenagers who need good families. Families that will love them and show them what a real family is. Maybe that someone who needs to step out and help is you. Maybe you’re the one who needs to be the one to give a child or children their forever home.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Eric Watson of Kansas. A version of their story originally appeared on KVC Kansas. Submit your story here, and subscribe to our best love stories here.
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