By Brian Koonce
VAN BUREN – Ron Robinson’s outline was simple when he stepped behind the pulpit at First Baptist Church here Nov. 8 – “Orphan Sunday” as it has been dubbed by adoption and Christian groups worldwide.
Based on Ephesians 1:3-6, Robinson said that God’s adoption of each believer is the result of the Father love, the Father’s choice and the Father’s sacrifice.
It’s a spiritual truth he and his wife, Terri, have seen played out in their own family.
In 1996 the Robinson’s biological children – Joshua and Tabitha – were grown and leaving the nest when Ron and Terri felt God calling them to become foster parents. Now they are the adopted parents of three children: McKenzie, 12, Jedidiah, 9, and Jesse, 2.
Terri had been feeling for some time that they should look into becoming foster parents, but circumstances kept pushing that possibility out of the picture. With their son in college and daughter finishing up high school, the time was right and they took training through the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home (MBCH) to become a certified foster family. Although God had been preparing them to care for foster children, adoption was the furthest thing from their minds.
“Our kids were older and we never really thought about adding on to our family,” Terri said.
Since 1996, the Robinsons have been foster parents to more than 50 children ranging from newborns through adolescents. Their stays ranged from a few days to 18 months, depending on their situations. Sometime their grandparents stepped in and took custody. Other times, their biological mother or parents changed to the state’s satisfaction and they were sent home. Often, they were permanently adopted into Christian families.
Then, a tiny premature girl named McKenzie came into their lives. Initially, the Robinsons kept her as a foster child for two years. During that time, her biological mother visited on a regular basis.
“Then one day, her mom just disappeared,” Ron said. “Nobody could find her and the social worker asked us, ‘Would you adopt her?’”
Their first response was a definite “no.”
“I didn’t ever think that we’d want to adopt,” Terri said. “We had that mentality of “Why would I want to start over?”
As time went on, the state was having a difficult time finding McKenzie an adoptive family. Meanwhile, God was working on the Robinsons’ hearts.
“He continued to tell us we needed to keep her,” Ron said.
In December of 1999, after months of prayer, the Robinsons gave McKenzie the best Christmas present a child could ask for: a family.
Four months later, her biological mother again showed up on the radar. She had given birth to McKenzie’s brother, Jedidiah.
“Again he was premature and again the mother disappeared,” Ron said. “We took him as a foster child, not guaranteeing to adopt.”
Mom came back into the picture, then disappeared again. Finally the state asked the Robinsons again if they would adopt Jedidiah. They prayed through it and sensed God leading them to welcome him with open arms.
The new family plodded along together for seven years until 2008, when they got another call asking them to give a child a family. The Robinsons were high on placement agencies’ lists because they didn’t mind taking in “medical” children, who, along with minority and older children are typically harder to place.
Jesse was definitely a medical child. When he was born, he weighed only 1 lb. 3 oz. He had “brain bleeds,” and was legally blind and deaf. Doctors told the Robinsons he would never crawl or learn to walk. The Robinsons prayed about it, and again felt led to open their home as foster parents. A few months ago his birth mother signed away her rights and this October he became their third son.
“We just knew about Jesse,” Terri said. “He just fit in. God just reassured us that we’re where we needed to be.”
To say Jesse has thrived in the Robinson home is an understatement.
“He’s our miracle child,” Ron said. “Not only does he crawl, he’s pulling up and pushing around a toy. He knows some sign languages and is using simple words. He sees perfect and he can hear. His doctors tell us he defies his charts.”
Robinson has been a MBCH trustee off and on for nine years, and has been on the MBCH’s Children and Family Ministries board for three. He has the added benefit of seeing the lives of children changed on both the personal and administrative levels. This summer he helped organize the first Christian Camp for MBCH kids, free of charge. He sees the problem in Missouri and nationwide, and both he and Terri say more people need to get involved in the solution.
“Jesse just turned two years old and I just turned old,” Ron joked. “People say ‘we’re too old’ or ‘we can’t adopt.’ Yes you can. In America today there are about 127,000 children whose mothers’ rights have already been terminated. These children need good Christian homes. God has called us to care for the children around us.”
The Robinsons are also big believers in domestic adoption, although they have nothing against international adoption. Domestic adoption is also much less expensive. The state subsidizes foster care, then pays the fees associated with adoption. In Missouri, many of the adoptions are subsidized, especially if the adoptions are medical, of a sibling group or of an older child.
“The average family can step up and adopt,” Terri said. “If God called them to adopt internationally, that’s awesome, but our heart is U.S. children.”
The Robinsons said being foster parents isn’t easy, but it is very rewarding.
“A lot of these children love just having grandparents,” Ron said. “In their homes they didn’t have that relationship. Many had a mother, but didn’t have a father. They really flock to a father. By giving them that in a Christian home, you’re not only making a difference now, but you’re making a difference in eternity.”
Terri agrees, saying sometimes the hardest part is saying goodbye. Sometimes foster children have gone back to their biological families when the Robinsons didn’t necessarily agree that it was in the child’s best interests.
“You have to be called to it,” she said. “It has to be your ministry. Dealing within the system can be very difficult. There are going to be decisions that you may not agree with and you have to step back and let it happen. You just have to know that as a couple, we did everything we could: you fight for what you think is right, and what the system does beyond that, you have to live with it.”
But there’s a lot of joy and a lot of love that comes out of the situation, too. The Robinsons said their two older children get along great with McKenzie, Jedidiah and Jesse and their 5-year-old granddaughter loves playing with her aunt and uncles. Joshua and his wife also just completed the training process to become foster parents.
Terri said most of their 50+ foster kids have gone to adoptive families out-of-state. Several stay in touch with them. Each one has been a Christian family.
No matter what, the motivation and truth from Ephesians remains center for the Robinsons:
“… For He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will, to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved.”