What appears to be a mystery to us is fully known to God. Sometimes we make plans to foster and adopt and other times God unexpectedly opens the door for an opportunity that was not on our radar. Join co-hosts Lynette Ezell and Tera Melber as they listen to Katherine and Nathan Brown’s unconventional adoption story, and find out how a couple who had never considered foster care or adoption ended up fostering while serving in their local homeless shelter.
Favorite Resources from the Browns:
“The Connected Child” by Karen Purvis, “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, and “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma” by Bessel Van Der Kolk.
Find out how to give to the Ministry Adoption Fund—to help families like the Browns— by visiting sendrelief.org/foster-care-adoption/.
Announcer: Welcome to the Adopting and Fostering Home podcast. Whether your family has been on this journey for years, or you’re just getting started, we’re here to support and encourage you along the way. And now your hosts, Lynette Ezell and Tera Melber.
Lynette Ezell: Welcome back. At the North American Mission Board, we are so blessed to be able to share grants with ministry families who heed the call of adoption. So thank you to those who have given to the Ministry Adoption Fund. It’s such a blessing. And because we get to have a small part of that process, we get to hear some really amazing stories of how God builds these beautiful families.
Tera Melber: Lynette, it really is a privilege when you and I get to look at all of these applications for the Ministry Adoption Fund and to be able to help support our ministry families in the SBC. And I’m always amazed at people’s leaps of faith when they join into foster care and adoption.
Lynette Ezell: I know, the stories blow me away. When I read Katherine and Nathan Brown’s adoption story… you remember that day Tera?
Tera Melber: I do.
Lynette Ezell: It just grabbed our heart, and I think because it’s so unconventional, I really do. It’s a story of a faithful couple just heeding the call to serve in their community at their local homeless shelter. But the beauty is this: They are totally unaware that as they’re helping rebuild the lives of others in their community, the Lord is slowly building their family.
Tera Melber: It is amazing. I’m excited to get started. So, welcome Katherine and Nathan.
Nathan Brown: Hello.
Katherine Brown: Hey.
Tera Melber: We know that through serving others that the Lord brought a very special little girl into your lives. So we would love for you to tell us how you first met Essie.
Katherine Brown: I had started working at a homeless ministry where people would come in every morning, and they would get free breakfast, and they would also attend a worship service. And Nathan was actually coming on Fridays too to help me lead worship there. But I was there every morning and mostly my job was just to kind of make friends.
Katherine Brown: And every morning for a few months, this little girl and her mom were coming in, and she was six at the time. And I just made it my mission to love on her while she was there. I saw that as what God was calling me to, that I got to spend time with her every morning. And then during that time I just wanted to show her love. And so I would play with her every morning, and just really kind of fell in love with her. She’s just such a great kid.
Katherine Brown: And then I came in one morning, and she wasn’t there. And so I started asking around, where she was. And one of my coworkers there told me that she had been removed by CPS and that she was with a foster family. And so I was pretty devastated because I had never, for some reason I just had never, considered that as a possibility that she might be gone. And all I could think of was: Who was taking care of her, were they good people and was she scared? And I think that was the biggest thing was wondering if she was scared or not. And-
Tera Melber: So Essie’s situation at the time: She and her mom don’t have a home. They’re homeless and they’re coming to the shelter almost every day?
Katherine Brown: Yes. I think they had been back and forth between the Salvation Army, and then staying with some friends. But I don’t know exactly where they were during that time. Sometimes she would show up with other people besides her mom, and we wouldn’t know where her mom was. And so we weren’t really sure of her situation at the time.
Tera Melber: So when you saw that Essie had not shown up that morning, did you know where Mom was? Were you able to communicate with her and find out what was going on?
Katherine Brown: No, her mom wasn’t there that morning. So I was having to get information from just whoever else that I knew knew her.
Lynette Ezell: Man, it had to scare you to death that day when she didn’t show, and you realized that social services had had removed her from her mom’s care.
Katherine Brown: Right.
Tera Melber: Yeah. So what happened after that?
Katherine Brown: So after that I went home crying, so upset, and I called Nathan and told him about it. And all I could think was: How can I have her, and how can I take care of her? But I thought I was being pretty irrational and emotional. So I called my mom who usually talks sense into me.
Lynette Ezell: Moms do that.
Katherine Brown: And I called her. Yeah. And I was telling her about it and crying to her about it. And I had told my mom about this little girl before, so she knew that I was hurting. And my mom was like, “Well, Katherine, why don’t you try to be her foster mom? And I was like, “What?”
Tera Melber: And I know in your story, Nathan shared when we first read your story months ago, Nathan shared, “So my wife and I felt a strong pull to do something about this situation.” Nathan, what was that pull?
Nathan Brown: Well, yeah, so I hardly knew her. I think I had seen her from a distance. I had never really interacted with her. But just seeing Katherine’s heart and then hearing that she had been taken, we just couldn’t shake the idea that someone was going to have her, someone was going to be taking care of her. And because we knew her and we had that connection with her, we knew that we could make her feel safe, make her feel loved. And it just was undeniable that God was tugging on both of our hearts to do whatever we could to find a way to take care of this little girl.
Tera Melber: Well I love that. And so when you settled in your heart, you knew God was calling you to do that, you approached the birth mom, right?
Katherine Brown: Eventually we did, yeah. So first I found out her caseworker’s number from other people, because her mom didn’t show up for a little while after that. And I didn’t know her mom that well, and I was really nervous about what her mom’s reaction might be to me trying to get her kid. And so for awhile I kind of avoided that and just tried to see what I could do without her knowledge, which sounds bad, but it wasn’t. So I got ahold of her caseworker, and because we knew her, they were a lot more willing to work with us and work towards us getting licensed through the state to where we could foster her.
Katherine Brown: And eventually when their first court date happened, I wanted to go. And so I ended up telling her mom what was happening and her mom had the best reaction. She was so relieved and so thankful. And so I walked with her to court that day and that’s when all of it started for us. But her mom was very, very glad because she didn’t know where her daughter was either. But she knew us and she knew that we would take care of her, so she was really relieved.
Lynette Ezell: So you show up at court and that’s where you talk with her. Man, you’re brave.
Tera Melber: That is brave. Well, and it’s very persistent because it seems a little unconventional for it to happen the way that it did. And in a sense, the Lord was really pushing the doors open for you guys to walk through this. Because as it always is, He knows the plan and makes the way, even when we don’t understand what’s going on.
Tera Melber: I just love the way you’re doing ministry and then the Lord, just while you’re doing ministry… you’re just getting up and serving others, and going to the shelter, and feeding and playing with this little girl, you’re connecting with her… at the same time, the Lord is working behind the scenes that we can’t even see, but it happens as you’re doing ministry and the Lord brings us alongside you.
Lynette Ezell: Had you ever even considered foster care before this?
Katherine Brown: No.
Nathan Brown: Nope.
Katherine Brown: Not even at all.
Lynette Ezell: I love it.
Tera Melber: That’s my favorite.
Katherine Brown: We had just started talking about having kids and we had just started throwing that idea around, and then that happened. And I mean, I never saw myself as a foster-mom type or someone that would adopt. We had never considered it. And I’ve never seen myself as a person who loves kids especially… that’s never been me. So it was definitely… we were kind of blindsided… but it was undeniable when it happened, that that’s what God wanted. And we could just see Him opening doors, like you said, and making it happen the whole time.
Tera Melber: So it is a good reminder to our audience to say that, at the time, you did not have children. So this really was an absolute movement of the Lord.
Katherine Brown: That’s right.
Nathan Brown: For sure, yes.
Lynette Ezell: So what do we do now? You’ve approached birth Mom, and so you begin the process of being licensed by the state. So pick up there for us.
Katherine Brown: So the state did a good job of expediting a lot of our process because we did know Essie. And so it still took months. So this all started in… was it August of 2018?
Nathan Brown: ’17.
Katherine Brown: 2017? August 2017. And so by October 31st… I remember, because the next day was Halloween… we were going to court on Halloween, and they were telling us that they were going to motion for her to go ahead and be placed in our home, and that more than likely she would be placed in our home that day.
Nathan Brown: So we were incredibly anxious and excited. We had the room ready and we were just ready for her to be a part of our home.
Katherine Brown: Yeah. And then the night before that happened, her CASA worker called and said, “Hey look, we didn’t know this but apparently she has an older brother who was adopted as an infant and that family is wanting to take her. And so because they always keep siblings together, they were like, “We’re going to have to work on placing her with them and not you guys.” So we were super devastated.
Lynette Ezell: Oh, I bet.
Tera Melber: That’s deflating.
Nathan Brown: Yeah. Big time.
Katherine Brown: Yeah, it was rough because, like we’ve talked about, we truly believed that this was God’s will. And we truly saw him opening the doors, and saw him making a way for it to happen. And it was like time after time, throughout that whole process, it was miracles happening, the things that were going on, and the way that everything was moving along. And so it was really confusing for us when it just didn’t happen. And I struggled with bitterness for a while.
Tera Melber: Right. I started to say: Nathan, how do you lead your family at this point?
Nathan Brown: Oh, that was really rough because I was feeling just as much pain as Katherine was but… and some of this is my personality, some of it is what I view as my role as husband… but I did try to do my best to encourage her, that like, “Hey, there’s got to be something more that we don’t see. There’s got to be something more that we don’t see.
Nathan Brown: And so even through the pain, trying to stay positive and say, “Just because it’s not going the way we thought it was doesn’t mean God isn’t at work. There’s still something going on.” And so we had conversations for months just trying to stay positive, and trust that even though the pain was there and it’s real, that doesn’t make God any less in control.
Tera Melber: Right. I think often in foster care and adoption, we really do have to settle in our minds the fact that God is sovereign, and has a perfect plan, and He really is working all things for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. But it sure does not make it any easier. But oftentimes it’s the Lord solidifying that in our hearts before we continue to move forward. But you eventually did, right? So after months of pain and being in prayer, you begin to talk about the future. And what did God continue to move you towards?
Katherine Brown: Well we started really praying about it after I’d kind of worked through some of the bitterness, and we had both worked through a lot of grief, and then we just… I remember we were walking one day in our neighborhood and we both had been praying. And we just both were like, “We still need to do fostering.” Because I think in my mind at least, when we didn’t get Essie, that kind of was over.
Katherine Brown: And so we realized God was showing us that through all that, even though we didn’t think we were ever going to see Essie again, that we had the capacity to do foster care, that we had the capacity to love other people’s children. And so we started the process of getting licensed through a foster agency. And that took us a few months and we were almost done with that. We were just waiting on our home study when Essie’s CASA worker called us again.
Tera Melber: Yeah. I love this part. So you’re just, you’re moving forward. Essie’s been removed, so you think, from your story. She’s had a small part of your story, but you’re thinking, “Okay, the Lord used Essie to open our eyes to the need of foster care.
Nathan Brown: Exactly.
Tera Melber: And so after months you’ve settled at your soul, your spirit with that. And then the phone rings and what happens?
Katherine Brown: So we’re on the the road to visit family and she calls, and she says that for some reason her brother’s family is not able to adopt, and asked if we would still want to take her.
Tera Melber: Oh wow.
Katherine Brown: And so I’m like, “Okay, let me talk to Nathan, and I’ll call you right back. And then I get off the phone and I tell Nathan…
Nathan Brown: I had only heard one side of the conversation, so I didn’t know what was going on. I just hear her frantically answering, “Yes, of course. Oh wait, I’ll talk to Nathan, I’ll talk to Nathan, and then I’ll call you right back.”
Tera Melber: Yeah, I love it.
Nathan Brown: Yeah. And so she gets off the phone, and she looks at me and she says, “So that was Essie’s CASA worker and she was asking if we were willing to take her, so I’m going to call her back and tell her, ‘Yes.’”
Tera Melber: Yeah, that was-
Katherine Brown: We prayed about it.
Tera Melber: Yeah, yeah.
Katherine Brown: … months ago. Yeah, I was like, “We decided this a long time ago. We don’t need to have this conversation.
Lynette Ezell: That’s right. That’s right. You already settled that. So when did she come to your home?
Katherine Brown: It was June 5th of last summer. So it was a few weeks, maybe a month, after that phone call. We still had to go to court two or three times, we still hadn’t had our home study yet, but the other family was really pushing to have her removed. And so they had an emergency hearing for us and we were able to get her moved really soon, before we actually had our home study done. And so she came on June 5th one afternoon right after court.
Tera Melber: So is she still your foster daughter?
Katherine Brown: No, she’s not. Actually on March 25th, she was officially adopted.
Lynette Ezell: Amen.
Tera Melber: Wow.
Lynette Ezell: She became a Brown.
Tera Melber: That’s amazing.
Nathan Brown: Yep, exactly.
Lynette Ezell: And so did you have any more contact, like once she was placed in your home, did you have any more contact with birth Mom? Or did she have to get involved again, or?
Katherine Brown: We did for… I don’t remember how long?
Nathan Brown: It was for probably a couple months after we got her. But then eventually… The court had told her, “This is your plan if you want to get your child back.” And it was becoming more and more clear that it wasn’t going to happen for her. After looking at it and seeing how things were progressing, she knew that she wasn’t going to be able to fulfill her plan.
Nathan Brown: And so she approached her lawyer and the caseworkers and told them, “Look, they’re going to be able to provide a life that I never could for her. And I’m still struggling with so many things that I’m ready to relinquish my rights and let this process move as quickly as it can go.”
Lynette Ezell: Oh, so she relinquished her rights, and she saw the need for her daughter to have a stable home?
Nathan Brown: Yes.
Katherine Brown: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Tera Melber: That’s amazing. Well, when you wrote out your story for the adoption grant, you shared that Essie’s been adjusting to being part of your family, and had even at that point started calling you Mom and Dad. And I just think it’s really important for families to know that it’s not always easy for the child or for the family, the parents who are bringing children into their home, but it really is a blessing. The whole experience is a blessing even in the hardship.
Katherine Brown: Yeah, for sure.
Nathan Brown: There’s no doubt about it. It’s the hardest thing. For sure, it’s the hardest thing we’ve ever had to do. Adjusting to going from no kids to having a seven year old is quite a shift.
Tera Melber: That’s a big deal. And you all have other exciting news, don’t you?
Nathan Brown: We do.
Katherine Brown: Yeah, we’re pregnant.
Tera Melber: So, “Welcome home, Essie and you’re going to be a big sister.” How does she feel about that?
Katherine Brown: She is thrilled. Since the day basically that she moved into our house, she would ask me when I was going to have a baby. I was like, “I don’t.. Where’s that coming from?” And she would always say she wanted a little sister. And she would make us pray for me to get pregnant. And I’d be like, “Okay, I’m fine, let’s pray for that.” And so we’d pray very often for that. And then if we forgot for a while, she’d be like, “Hey, why aren’t you pregnant yet?” I’m like, “I guess it’s not time.” And she’s like, “No, we forgot to keep praying.” And I’m like, “You’re right.”
Katherine Brown: And so we’d keep praying for it and eventually it happened. And so we told her and she kind of was just in shock for a minute, like she just couldn’t comprehend what we were saying.
Tera Melber: I love it. What a great gift.
Katherine Brown: But then she just… it’s been all she’s talked about for the past several months is her baby sister.
Nathan Brown: Katherine’ll get up in the morning, we’ll wake Essie up, and then she’ll be like, “How’d the baby sleep?”
Lynette Ezell: Oh, that’s so sweet.
Nathan Brown: Yeah, she just can’t stop thinking about it.
Tera Melber: That’s so fantastic. And so the Lord’s already just binding her heart with her baby sister.
Nathan Brown: Absolutely.
Katherine Brown: Yeah.
Tera Melber: Man, that’s amazing. Well we’re so grateful that you joined us today to share this story. And again, we just want to thank everyone also who has given and contributed to the Ministry Adoption Fund to help families like Nathan, Katherine and Essie and Little Baby Sister. And we could still continue to use your report. We give grants every single month for families who are in the adoption process or the foster care process.
Tera Melber: And so you can find out how to give by going to SendRelief.org and by clicking on the Adoption Fund button on the webpage. And we’ll also have that link in the show notes. But it’s really exciting and fun to be able to bless ministers and their families, within our SBC family. And so it’s a great way to be able to contribute.
Lynette Ezell: Yes, Nathan and Katherine were so grateful you guys applied for a grant. We would have never heard your story and just been so blessed by it.
Tera Melber: Well, just really be mindful that when the Father asks us to serve others, it’s really never just about that one act of service. Now, he may not lead you to foster care or adoption on not your next mission trip, but He really is always about using us to lead others to know him; to bend down and actually take time to see others; and to fulfill James 1:27 to care for or visit orphans in their time of need, just like Katherine and Nathan did with Essie. And their lives were forever changed.
Lynette Ezell: Katherine and Nathan we’ll continue praying for you guys. You’ll need to send us an update. But we are so grateful for your transparency and your willingness to share your story today.
Nathan Brown: Absolutely.
Katherine Brown: Yeah.
Nathan Brown: Glad to do it.
Tera Melber: Thanks guys.
Nathan Brown: Thank you.
Announcer: You have been listening to the Adopting and Fostering Home, a resource of the North American Mission Board. For more information about today’s podcast and other relevant resources, visit SendRelief.org.