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Reunification - Mary Beth's Story

by Mary Beth Williams

My husband, Eric, and I grew up in church; I in this church, Eric in a similar environment in Michigan. When we met, our hearts were aligned in having a larger family—what we didn’t know was the way God would choose to grow our family. 

Our family began in a pretty traditional way, and we gave birth to three little girls. We always made the rule after a baby was born not to talk about the plans for the next one until six months. One evening, we were out on a rare date night, and Eric brought up something the Lord had laid on his heart—that our family wasn’t complete in its current state. That wasn’t surprising but was still emotionally jarring to me. I began to cry because God had also told me the same thing. We went home that evening convinced that God was calling us to adopt internationally. We pursued that avenue, waiting for our mailbox and our inboxes to fill up. They never did. We began to pray, and after some time, we felt like we were being directed to the unthinkable. We were being called into foster care.

A few weeks after we committed to going through the process to become licensed, we sat in church at Fellowship and heard a sermon on the man with the withered hand. In the process of healing that man, Jesus asked him to stretch forth his hand. The man had never done that before—Jesus was asking him to do the impossible. It was in the man’s obedience that Jesus healed him. We left that service feeling like, yes, God had called us to the impossible, but confident that he would sanctify us in beautiful ways in our obedience.

We knew no one that had fostered, so we went into fostering very naively. We thought parenting the same way we’d parented our three biological children would produce the same results in kids who came through our home. However, we learned quickly that parenting kids from trauma looked a lot different than either of us were raised and previously parented. Because of this, we have had to be very purposeful about educating ourselves about what it means to parent kids from hard places. A lot of the acting out, bad behavior stems from a lack of trust from what they have been through. So we always see that as a main priority—teaching the kids that come into our home that they can trust safe adults.

After kissing goodbye to 12 placements, our daughter was placed in our home through a series of truly remarkable events. She was tiny—only five pounds at five weeks when she came home. She grew and became one of “our girls” very quickly. When it began to look like things were moving toward termination of her parental rights, we began to pray about bringing her two-year-old brother into our home. To be honest, I was resistant to the idea but agreed to follow Eric’s lead and pray about it. During a family visit around Christmas time, the caseworker brought the baby out to my car, and her brother was toddling behind. He was in understandable tears. I knelt down and gave him a cookie, and he hugged my neck. At that moment, I knew he was my son. A few weeks later, he moved in, and a few years later, we finalized their adoption. Surely now God saw our family as complete?

We did take a break for a few years and spent some time figuring out what it looked like to be a family—and then we went through the licensing process again and began taking new placements. 

We are really grateful we’ve been able to take sibling groups over the past few years. To watch kids come into care with a brother or sister and know that in all the uncertainty, they have each other is huge. Our adopted kids have been able to meet their biological siblings, which has been beautiful! Making connections with biological parents is also really important to us. We’re always rooting for birth parents and willing to do whatever it takes for them to reunite with their children. Reunification is the ultimate goal of foster care—and is the ultimate goal of the Gospel—watching that Gospel play out in our living room for so many years has been one of God’s greatest gifts to Eric and me.

God really does write the best stories. His weaving together of our stories with the over thirty kids who have come into our home has been the most challenging calling. We’ve had to say goodbye and send kids into situations that seemed scary to us. We’ve prayed for them to each come to know the love of a Father God, and honestly, it makes the most sense to us for God to answer that prayer in our home. But, for most of those kids, that’s not the story he’s written. Exposing our forever kids to the things parents typically protect kids from crime, neglect, abuse, drugs, poverty, racial issues, and more—trusting that God is writing their best stories has been yet another layer of trust.

We would tell you the hardest calling God has ever given us is to be foster parents. We’d both also tell you that every second has been worth it because we know Jesus’ love in a way we’d have never learned if he hadn’t called us to show that love in such a unique way.

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