Samaritan families serve children in need through adoption, fostering

By Samaritan staff  ·  Dec 21, 2020

Part 1 of 2

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.
Psalm 68:5

Adoption, as Samaritan Ministries member Kristine Thomas says, is God’s idea. He has adopted us as His sons and daughters purely through grace (2 Corinthians 6:18, John 1:12-13).

When presented with clear guidance from the Lord, adoption and fostering are a great opportunity for us to shower that same love and grace on a child who needs it and to point someone to Christ.

“Adoption is the perfect illustration of what we have been given in Christ!” says Kristine, who was not only adopted herself but has adopted three children, including two as embryos.

“These children have done nothing to merit our favor, yet we have chosen them and brought them into our family. They share full rights of being called our sons and daughters, and all that comes with being in our family. They are full heirs to all we have. That is the beautiful picture of salvation! Believers have been given that which we do not deserve through Jesus Christ and are joint heirs with Him!”

As one way to mark Sanctity of Human Life Month, we spoke with several members of the Samaritan Ministries Community Facebook Group about their experiences being an adoptive or foster family. Here are their stories.

Kristine and Tom Thomas

As a pro-life woman and an adoptee herself, Kristine had always wanted to adopt, but her three biological children kept her busy enough. After her first husband passed away and she was unable to conceive with her second husband, Tom, they prayed and studied Scripture. They decided to adopt through a Christian website that matched families with moms in crisis pregnancies.

“Tom and I were in the room when Luke was born,” Kristine says. “We watched this precious mother make the gut-wrenching decision to give her child up.”

The adoption has been open, meaning the adopting family and the birth mother keep in contact. The Thomases and Luke recently spent a weekend celebrating his 10th birthday with his birth mom and her parents.

However, since the family’s biological children were much older, Tom and Kristine wanted more children so that Luke wouldn’t be, in essence, an only child. The adoption website they had used was closed, but Tom had found out about embryo adoption, in which frozen embryos left over from an in vitro fertilization effort are implanted in another woman’s uterus for her to carry to term.

“Ever since I found out that there were ‘snowflake babies,’ I wanted one, two, three, 10 …” Kristine said.

The first two “transfers” of embryos did not develop. “God ushered those children into His presence in His timing,” Kristine said. But a third transfer took, and Kristine gave birth to twins in 2012.

“Definitely pursue embryo adoption,” Kristine said. “Just be open to the Lord’s leading and what He has for you. It’s an amazing experience.”

"Adoption is the perfect illustration of what we have been given in Christ!"

Kristine Thomas

It’s also a pro-life action, since frozen embryos are at risk of never being given the chance to develop in the womb, especially if the technology keeping them frozen fails.

Kristine warns that adoption also comes with sometimes unknown challenges, since all children may have behavioral or physical needs that don’t appear until they start growing up.

“But I don’t want to be a stumbling block to someone in the Body the Lord is calling to adopt,” she said. “When God calls you to something, He also equips you. He will provide.”

Christopher and Rebecca Wright

Adoption was something Christopher and Rebecca knew they wanted to do even before they were married. They also knew they wanted to adopt “someone who has been overlooked their whole lives,” Rebecca says.

They were looking for a child at least over age 4 but closer to 11 to 13 years old.

“We went in with the mission to change somebody’s life and give them a second chance,” Rebecca says.

The percentage of children becoming adopted after age 4 goes down. By age 10, the number is cut in half, and, by the time a child hits age 17, it’s less than 1 percent. With those odds it would seem reasonable to believe that adopting an older child would be easy, but Christopher and Rebecca kept getting rejected.

After taking a break in their search for a bit, they attended an adoption event. And there he was, a tall, skinny kid with a broken arm playing basketball. Aaron was 17 years old, and, when he was told Christopher and Rebecca wanted to talk with him, his eyes filled with tears. For two hours the couple sat and listened as Aaron filled them in on his past, and they knew this was the child for them.

It took months of prodding and pleading with the adoption agency to give them a chance. They were told he wasn’t a good fit because they weren’t certified to handle someone with Aaron’s multiple placements, followed by running away from those placements. They were told to move on, that there would be other children. Finally, after four months of begging by the Wrights, Aaron was placed in their home as an emergency foster placement to ensure that they could petition for adoption before he became too old. Two weeks before his 18th birthday, Aaron was adopted after spending years in and out of foster care.

In 2019, the Texas Alliance of Child and Family Services named Christopher and Rebecca Adoptive Parents of the Year.

“We were floored because for us we weren’t doing anything spectacular,” Rebecca says. “We were just doing what was right. This is our calling.”

One of the greatest blessings for them has been watching Aaron not only graduate from high school, something he was told he would never be able to do, but graduate early, get a full-time job, and start living on his own.

“If you’re pro-life, you care for all life, not just babies and the elderly but all walks of life and all ages,” Rebecca says.

Lon and Diane Mapes

Lon and Diane Mapes had a desire to adopt from the beginning of their marriage.

“We didn’t need our child to come from our genes,” Lon says. They were open to adopting early on or in the future, possibly after having a few children biologically.

It turns out God was working in their hearts for the road ahead.

Diane developed a health condition that, according to doctors, would require in vitro fertilization treatment if the couple wanted to try to conceive. The other option was adoption, and the Mapes felt this was the Lord urging them to pursue adoption. After all, Diane says, “It was in my heart to adopt even before I got sick.”

In 2005, Lon and Diane adopted Kylee when she was 8 months old. Two years later, they brought 22-month-old Ashley home. Both girls, now 16 and 15, respectively, were born in China. The one-child-per-family policy was still being enforced in China at that time, and because of societal pressures to have a male child many baby girls were being abandoned.

The Mapes are passionate about adoption, including special needs adoption. Their youngest daughter, Ashley, was born with a bilateral cleft palate that has required surgeries and years of therapy. Living next door to a large medical center put things into perspective for them.

"One of the highest highs of adoption is getting to be part of these kids’ stories and watching first-hand what God is doing in their lives."

Marcia Bisel

“We thought, ‘We have the resources and relationships needed to help a child here at home with a condition that might otherwise go untreated in their birth country,’” Lon says.

“You can’t change the world for everyone, but you can change the world for a child you adopt,” Diane adds.

The adoption process was “a lot of work,” the Mapes say, but are quick to add, “It’s so worth it.”

Diane encourages those who are considering adoption or going through the adoption process to remember that adopting a child “is not some random thing or accident.” If God wills it, it will happen.

Marcia and Thomas Bisel

Before they even had biological children of their own, both Marcia and Thomas Bisel had a heart for adoption.

“It was unique,” Marcia says, “as most couples don’t both share in the desire to adopt. Many times, it is one or the other spouse.”

However, even though the Bisels knew from the start that they wanted to bring children who were not their own into their home and make them their own, it took many years of waiting and praying.

“We really feel it was the Lord that gave both of us the desire to adopt, and we did not really know why,” Marcia says. “We just felt that it was something that God had really given both of us and that someday it might start to happen. You do start to doubt it though, because it was so many years later when it finally happened. But you just have to start taking those steps of faith and that direction that if this is what God is really calling you to—which it sure felt like He was calling us to for a really long time—then we just have to trust that it will play out, and it certainly did,” Marcia says.

At the end of 2016, God brought an 8-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old son as foster children to the Bisels. The family adopted them in 2017.

“We were the anomaly,” Marcia says, “because we wanted older children.”

Nearing 50 years of age and with their biological children of their own then 16 and 20 years old, Marcia and Thomas were past the baby and toddler stage.

“It is a rarity that someone wants to adopt an older child or a sibling group, but those kids are just as much in need of a home and a family, too,” Marcia says. “I really want to encourage people to consider adopting an older child. That certainly brings along with it a lot of things, like trauma, but there are resources and support to help with that, and it is so worth it to be a part of God’s work of redemption in these children’s lives, as well as His work in our lives. It is truly our joy and gain.”

With the adoption of older children, of course, loss is involved. And the older the child is when he or she is removed from his or her biological family, the more trauma and the more grief there is going to be.

“Loss is such a big part of adoption,” Marcia says. “In your excitement and joy, you have to remember that this child has experienced so, so much loss.”

Nonetheless, Marcia says that loss is balanced by tremendous joy.

“One of the highest highs of adoption is getting to be part of these kids’ stories and watching first-hand what God is doing in their lives, and then be able to be some small part of that,” Marcia says. “It blows my mind every day. I think, `Why did you pick me, God?’”

Kathryn Nielson, Brittany Klaus, Andie Dill, and Michael Miller contributed to this story.