Member Spotlight: Daniel and Tamra Coughlin

Michael Miller  ·  Sep 06, 2012

Samaritan Ministries board member Daniel Coughlin said he didn’t start out his adult life with a master plan, but it’s pretty apparent that the Master had a plan for him, and his wife.

He didn’t start out planning to be a lawyer, but that’s what he is now. He didn’t expect to end up with a new wife and baby, moving to serve at an orphanage in Mexico for almost two years, but he did. He didn’t think he’d get cancer and survive, but he’s here.

It’s been an unusual journey for Daniel and Tamra Coughlin and their three young children, but the Lord brought them through and continues to lead the way.

The Lord got ahold of Daniel when he was studying for a graduate degree in biochemistry at the University of Michigan. He watched some old high school friends begin to change under the influence of Christ.

“It affected me to watch the power of God—although I didn’t recognize it as that at the time—change their lives,” he says. “I saw what I now know was the fruit of the Holy Spirit in their lives.”

Daniel had grown up in a nominally Christian household, believing that Christianity was what you did on Sunday mornings. But after close encounters with those high school buddies, and digging into Biblical faith some more, he realized they had something he needed, so he went after it and became a believer in Jesus Christ.

It was during that time that one of those high school buddies became friends with Tamra, who was attending Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. Daniel’s and Tamra’s paths started crossing and continued doing so for the next three years.

“Then God made our paths join,” she says.

In early 2007, Daniel proposed, and they were married in November of that year.

Before they were married, though, Daniel was diagnosed with a form of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He went through four months of chemotherapy and then four months of radiation treatment, and has been in remission since August 2007.

“The Lord, through my medical doctors, completely healed me,” he says.

After they were married, Daniel and Tamra lived in Michigan while Daniel attended law school. He had decided to switch his field of study after earning his bachelor’s in biology and master’s and Ph.D. in biochemistry.

“Each opportunity seemed worth pursuing,” he says. “I was near the end of my grad school career in biochemistry when I went through another process of re-examining and re-evaluation.”

Becoming a Christian believer while in grad school “changed a lot of the factors I was using” to determine the future. “There seemed to be a better career opportunity with a wife and family in the legal field than as a professional scientist,” he says.

Even that was to be put on hold, though, as Daniel neared the end of studying for his law degree at the University of Toledo. He had just finished an internship with a Cincinnati law firm and was receiving some “pretty big salary offers.” But he and Tamra had just finished a Crown Financial Bible study about good stewardship, and they realized they needed to do something to gain perspective on a potentially large income. The idea of missions came up, and they applied for a missions field through their denominational body.

An opportunity opened up at an orphanage in Mexico, one that happened to be run by Samaritan member Bill Schick.

“We told the law firm that I was working for to not extend us an offer because we were going to take some time off from law school and do missions work,” Daniel says.

Tamra adds that “At the time, we weren’t sure whether we were taking a break from law school or ending law school. We just knew we were praying for perspective on our lives.”

That time off turned out to be a year and a half. First, the Coughlins went to Morelia in central Mexico to learn the language and volunteer at an orphanage, Casa De Hogar El Buen Pastor (The Good Shepherd). While there, the pregnant Tamra and father-to-be Daniel had to find an obstetrician. They did, but he didn’t speak English, so a language tutor at their school accompanied them to appointments. After a few months, they moved to the children’s home that Schick runs, Casa Vida y Esperanza (House of Life and Hope) in Magdalena de Kino, just south of the border with Arizona. They used what Spanish they had at that point to work with a new OB there.

“But the care was fantastic,” Daniel says. “They treated us very well, very kindly.”

There was some confusion over Tamra’s desire to have a natural childbirth without any unnecessary medical involvement, but the result was a healthy, 8-pound baby boy, Kaeb, born in February 2010.

“We all laughed together afterwards,” Daniel says.

Back at Casa Vida y Esperanza, the Coughlins spent a year ministering to children. The ministry was in the process of changing over to a group-home setup rather than a dormitory plan. Daniel and Tamra took care of five children who were half siblings, all with the same mother. Daniel was involved on campus while Tamra spent more time at home, learning how to be a mother. The Coughlins were willing to adopt some of the children at the home and make a family, but that wasn’t part of God’s plan.

The Coughlins returned to the U.S. in December 2010 shortly before their second child was born, where Daniel worked at a manufacturing company for a couple of months and headed back to law school.

“Coming back to the U.S. was a harder decision than leaving the U.S.,” Tamra says. “We had gone from zero kids to potentially eight kids in about a year. We decided to take a break and transition the responsibility for the children at the orphanage.”

Now with four children, the Coughlins are holding off on the adoption plan, but not ruling it out once they stop having children.

“Now that God has given us a desire to look out for His children that are not being taken care of by other individuals, it’s hard to move on,” Tamra says.

But, she adds, they’ve also had to learn the “value of praying for and encouraging other people who don’t have conflicting responsibilities to get involved” with adoption, foster care, or guardianship of children in need.

“We’re in that state of life where we’ve had to let go of the desire to do it all ourselves,” Tamra says.

“It was hard to leave the kids at the orphanage,” Daniel adds. “We see a lot of opportunities around us where kids need help. There are ways we can help them out even with four small children of our own.”

One of those ways is to help as a lawyer from his Sabetha, Kansas, practice. After getting his law degree and passing the bar, Daniel opened an office in his wife’s hometown. He splits his work between intellectual property/patent work and general legal matters. But he has also been able to help families in guardianship cases, foster care, and adoption cases. He has been able to counsel people on financial decisions as well.

“I’m grateful to God for those opportunities, because as just a patent attorney I probably wouldn’t have had too many of those opportunities,” Daniel says.

It’s all just part of the Master’s plan.