The Miracle of Hospitality
by Meghan Isaacs
Jason and Erin have thrown open their hearts and their life to the unexpected. Here is their story.
Last fall, Jason and Erin and their six children traveled to Minnesota from their home in Indiana to spend the weekend with other families who are living the "Miracle of Hospitality" that is, families who have adopted, fostered, or otherwise cared for others in their homes in extraordinary ways. During the weekend, they shared their story.
About two years into their marriage, Jason and Erin learned that they would not be able to have biological children. They started thinking about adoption. The day after attending an informational session at an adoption agency, Jason got a call from his uncle who served on the board of directors at a local home for pregnant and at-risk teen girls. His uncle had heard they were considering adoption and said there was a pregnant nineteen-year-old girl at the home who wanted to put her baby up for adoption. The mother agreed to give her baby to Jason and Erin, and a few months later they went to the hospital to meet Cecilia for the first time. “I felt really how a father would feel if his wife had given birth,” said Jason, reflecting on the overwhelming joy and sense of responsibility he felt upon meeting his daughter.
About a year later, they became interested in adopting again. While filling out the adoption paperwork, Jason and Erin checked the “any” box, indicating they would be open to a child of any race, background, or disability. Just a month later, much earlier than they anticipated, they got a call from the agency saying a baby had been born with Down syndrome and a hole in her heart. That night they went to the hospital and met their newest daughter, Mary, and her birth parents. Coincidentally, both Cecilia and Mary had birth mothers with the same name, and both were first named “Grace.” (Birth mothers are often encouraged to name their children when giving them for adoption as a way to gain closure.) “Mary’s birth mom started crying when we told her that Cecilia had also been named Grace. She said it was the sign she needed,” said Erin.
Later, Jason and Erin started looking to adopt through foster care and fostered a few children for varying lengths of time. Emma came to them at two months, and her birth parents eventually agreed to allow Jason and Erin to adopt their daughter.
“They wanted to meet with us after they did that, and they asked if they could still see Emma on occasion. We agreed to an open adoption. I was thinking, ‘This is what we do, we adopt kids,’ and it kind of became routine. I didn’t see it as exceptional,” said Jason. When they met Emma’s birth parents, however, the father recounted how he didn’t think he could have kids, how he thought Emma was a miracle baby, and how he was really moved at being a father. “This woke me up. I realized it is exceptional to be a father and to be made a father through the gift of these children,” said Jason.
“Even though they couldn’t raise her, I could tell how much they loved her,” said Erin. “It reminded me of the gift that Emma is—here are her parents who love her so much, but because of this addiction [the birth parents struggle with], I have the opportunity to raise her.”
Jason also explained the reasons for his openness to maintaining a relationship with Emma’s birth parents. “Part of the openness came from being certain that Emma would know I was her father, because I was certain who my mother and father are and who my heavenly Father was. I knew Emma and my adopted kids would know I was given to them as their father--Whether they like it or not! That certainty helped me to say 'yes' to their request. I was also moved by their love for Emma. We set very clear boundaries. But after we got to know them and they respected the boundaries, they came to love us as friends as much as they could. At one point the birth father said to us, ‘You guys are more parents to me than my actual parents are.’”
When Emma was eighteen months old, Jason and Erin got a call that a little boy, Karter, needed a home and that his birth mother was pregnant with another child as well. “The day we got the call I was on the couch with strep throat,” said Jason. “I asked Erin for a couple of days to think about it. I called a friend, and he told me, ‘Don’t let fear make the decision for you.’ It was really a decision of acceptance,” said Jason. After saying “yes” to Karter and his sister Kylie, who was born three months later, the couple were now parents to five children ages six and under.
Jason and Erin also have maintained a relationship with members of Karter and Kylie’s birth family. Their birth mother has five children, two of whom live with their birth fathers. The second youngest, Leo, is three and became part of the family last August. Shortly thereafter, the birth mother came to a birthday party at their home, and when she saw Leo there, she began crying out of gratitude to Jason and Erin for keeping her children together.
Now with six children, each with their own backgrounds, needs, and challenges, and none of whom arrived in a way that was expected or planned, both Jason and Erin attribute part of their openness to the education they’ve received in the Movement. “In Communion and Liberation, we talk a lot about how everything is a gift in our life, so it helped us to understand that if this is placed in front of us, then let’s say ‘yes.‘ It also helped us see that we aren’t alone in raising these kids—it would be impossible for us to do this alone,” said Erin.
“CL has given me a place to belong, and I know I belong despite the fact that I don’t feel like I fit in, with all my shortcomings. But I’m embraced here, and what better way to share that than with your children as well as with their birth parents? They belong with our family,” said Jason.
The Movement has helped Erin look at the birth parents of her children and see their true humanity. “Before meeting the Movement, I would have said that they don’t deserve to see their kids [because of addictions, poor decisions, etc.],” she said. “Now I can accept where they are and love them where they are. I don’t think I could have done that before knowing the Movement.”