I’ve been a member of the church I pastor since 1998. I found Ridgewood in the yellow pages after I came back home to Southeast Texas from college. Shortly after I joined, I became the principal and athletic director for five years of the church’s private school. During those five years, the church relocated to Port Arthur. In the fall of 2004, I became the lead pastor.
My long tenure serving at a church in my hometown is unique. My family dynamics are even more unique. My wife, Kerri, and I met at Ridgewood in 1998. I guess you could say I found her in the yellow pages, too. Kerri and I had plans for a large family that would grow through both biological and adoptive children. We just had no idea that adoption alone was how the Lord would expand our household.
Our adoption journey began in the fall of 2005. Kerri called me while evacuated for Hurricane Rita to let me know that we had been chosen to adopt two little girls. Two weeks later in a parsonage that was half-livable, we welcomed a five- and two-year-old into our family. They are now 21 and 18.
Shortly after, we had the opportunity of our lives to take home our third daughter from the hospital as a newborn. At the time we might not have called it the opportunity of our lives, as we were anxious the unknown. Our daughter, who is now 14, has Trisomy 21: Down syndrome. We found out about her at 8 p.m. on a Thursday night and took her home at noon on Friday, clueless of the stressful joyride we were embarking on.
We had the blessing of getting our next two children at birth, as well. Our only boy, and fourth child, is now 12. He is a typical redhead. Our caboose, who is our fourth daughter and is Black, is now 11 years old. We are a diverse family that gets plenty of stares everywhere we go.
There are several things I share with folks about adoption. First, I’ll always say that growth is in the process. The growth is in the journey and it is humbling, as adoption exposes your selfishness and the idols you have about what you want your family to look like and be like. It’s gut-wrenching when you and your spouse go through agency paperwork listing which kids you’re willing to take. You see how selfish you are as you rate how likely or not likely you are to take a life into your home based on their ethnicity, disabilities, or deformities.
Second, I tell others that adoption increases your capacity to love as you experience and understand God’s love more fully, knowing that He has adopted you. It is a beautiful picture of the gospel.
Third, I share how adoption teaches you how to depend heavily on the sovereignty of God. There are many disappointments and roadblocks along the way. We Americans pretty much control our own lives; if we want something, we know how to get it. If we can’t afford something, we figure out a way to make it happen or use a credit card. When you go through the process of adoption, you realize that this is an area you simply can’t control.
Our kids have only known one church. Ridgewood has been a blessing to our family and has grown along with us in our journey. At one point, we had 21 adopted children in our congregation, and the church has paid out around $30,000 in adoption grants to members. Ridgewood is a safe place to be vulnerable about your ups and downs. It’s a place where it is OK to be not OK. Much of this vulnerability has been birthed through the church standing by us in our unique and unusual journey as a family over the last two decades.
I need to share how the adoption of our daughter with Down syndrome has changed us all and has led Ridgewood to lead the way in Southeast Texas in serving the No. 1 unreached people group in North America: people with special needs and their families. For the last four years, we have hosted Night to Shine (NTS), sponsored by The Tim Tebow Foundation, which is a prom night for people with special needs. NTS SETX has allowed us to reach over 200 individuals with special needs and their families, host over 500 volunteers from the community, and have over 25 community sponsors. After our first NTS, the matriarch of our church who, with her husband, founded the church in 1958, stood up and said, “I’ve been here over 60 years, and this is the best thing I’ve ever seen us do.” That says volumes, as Ridgewood has a rich history of outreach that predates me. We’re experiencing the fruit of many that have gone before us.
What’s my story? God has given my church and my family a greater capacity for love and a deeper dependence on the sovereignty of God through the process of adoption.