May 26th, 2012 by Kristi Stephens
This week Focus on the Family, the Cry of the Orphan, and Show Hope are calling for a prayer vigil for children in the foster care system and we have been focusing attention on this issue throughout the week. I pray you have been as blessed by reading the testimonies here this week as much as I have! Today I am thrilled to have the story of a remarkable family shared here on the blog – Gretchen and Randy have poured their lives into ministry for many years, and now God has been writing a whole new chapter to their story!
Growing up in a wonderful Christian family in Ohio I learned at a very young age to accept the things God had for me to do and do it with joy. There have been times in my life when those things have been very difficult and others that have been a sweet joy.
The thing I wanted the most in my life was to be a mother. I have always loved children and I could not imagine not having children in my life. When I felt a strong call to go into a specific ministry that would lessen my opportunity to marry, I found it to be very difficult to answer because of my desire to have children. God once again had everything in His hands and under His control. He knew the plans He had for me were plans I could never have found on my own.
After attending college and then entering The Salvation Army School for Officer Training where I would learn to work with underprivileged people and those who have needs I thought I could never understand completely. At the end of my two years of study in Suffern, New York I was returned to Ohio where I would begin my ministry. Within 5 months, my mother went to be with the Lord after an 11 years battle with cancer. I was 22 years old and struggled to understand how I would ever live without a family of my own. Again, God’s plan was just beginning to unfold for me and I had to learn to leave it completely in His hands.
The following year I was transferred to a small town where I met a young man who would be the most important person in my life. God gifted me with my wonderful husband, Randy. Together we would minister in The Salvation Army for 25 years together. After living in Pennsylvania for 21 years, raising 5 wonderful boys, and enjoying our ministry, God sent us back to Canton to work in the downtown area and primarily minister to the homeless population. When we first arrived in Canton I met a young woman who was pregnant. I asked her the normal question, “When is your baby due?” Her answer to me was rather odd when she answered, “In August, do you want him?” Rather taken aback, I assumed she was asking for help and I said to her, “Sure, anytime, I love babies”. As I look back now I see how God had used my own family to prepare me for what was ahead. Many times in my young life I would come home to find strangers in our home. People who my mother or dad had met who needed help and they would invite them to stay with us until they could get on their feet.
Never once did it enter my mind that this young woman would seriously ask us to take her child. I had never entertained a thought about adopting a child. God had though. It was a modern day story of a baby in a basket being left on the steps of a church. Here his is…please take care of him.
We had to go into the foster care system and become foster parents. Finger printing, paper work, paper work, and more paper work and 40 hours of classes on parenting foster children and learning the heartbreak and joy of foster parenting. The number of children in the foster system in this county alone is unbelievable.
Donovan’s mother soon became pregnant again and we were asked to take her new baby when she was born and we really didn’t feel we could. We were both working long hours and it was a little difficult with 2 high school boys and one baby, let alone two. But again, God’s plan for us was quite different than we had expected. 8 months later we arrived at the hospital to bring our precious Victoria home. A girl…where would I begin? As usual, at the beginning. We began again to make the necessary changes in our home and our lives to bring home another bundle of joy just 1 year to the day that we had brought Donnie home. The joy they have brought into our lives can never be explained.
I keep an open relationship with their birth mother. She calls on holidays and when she is having difficulties. She rarely asks how the children are except on their birthdays and since the adoptions have be finalized she has only seen them once. We pray for her and one day we pray she understands the love that Christ has for her. I would love to tell the children one day that their mother knows the Lord.
My heart trembles when I think of where these children would be had God not only chose us to take them and love them and care for them but had He not placed in our hearts the desire to do His will for our lives and ultimately for the lives of Donovan and Victoria…aka. Donnie and Torrie. They are definitely simply our youngest two children. Not just loved by Randy and I but by their 5 older brothers, three sisters-in-law, two nephews and two nieces.
Join us down on our knees for the 400,000 children in the foster care system? Download the official prayer guide here.