With Open Arms: Foster Care, Adoption Bless Church of God Household

 In All Church of God, CHOG, Southeast

By Carl Stagner

Meet Ricky. Ricky’s exceptionally proud to be a Kohl. That’s because he was finally adopted this summer, making an official exit from the foster care system and the grandest of entrances into the fold of a loving family. Through adoption, Ricky also officially became the sibling to a sister named Dakota, separated by only three months in age, who’d been adopted as a Kohl only a couple years earlier. These two dearly loved children’s stories have a happy ending—truly, just a beautiful beginning—because one Church of God pastor and his wife wouldn’t settle for lamenting a pervasive problem. Instead, Rick and Christy Kohl were determined to make a difference.

“Even while Christy and I were dating,” Pastor Rick recalls, “we knew that God was calling us to foster care. While we served as youth pastors in Ohio, we began the process of becoming foster parents, but we were called away before we could get our home open. Once we moved to Georgia, we began the process to open our home in January of 2017. Because of a backlog of paperwork and understaffed offices at the department of family and children services (DFCS), we were not approved until August of 2018, when we had our now-daughter placed in our home at the age of twenty-two months and, in less than twenty-four hours, we had another one-year-old and a six-year-old placed with us.”

Rick remembers when it became clear that this case wouldn’t be limited to foster care; however, Rick says his now-adopted son had more than a hunch of what was to come.

Ricky Kohl, adopted!

“For Ricky, he knew before us,” Rick explains. “It was on a trip to see family. We were driving north in Alabama on I-65 when he, who had been so adamant during Dakota’s adoption that he didn’t want to be adopted, stated that he might want to be a Kohl. From that point on, we knew.”

On August 8, 2023, it was official. Their son was now formally theirs, though he’d certainly been theirs for quite some time leading to that final court appearance.

“We were relieved and excited,” Pastor Rick recollects. “Ricky had been with us for almost four years, but adoption had only been a possibility for the last two years. It wasn’t the original plan, but there were bigger plans!”

It wasn’t only a difficult wait for the parents, but for Ricky, too.

“Ricky was ready,” his father observed. “He had been asking his case manager for well over a year to tell the judge to hurry up and make him a Kohl, so he was excited that adoption day was finally here and excited to change his name and “become a Kohl.” When we sat down at the table with the judge, he said ‘I’m going to be Richard William Kohl!’ He was shaking with excitement! Once it was all done, we were all crying and just so happy that what we had known in our hearts for a while was finally, actually real.”

Kohl family pictured with the judge.

Not unlike most prolonged seasons of uncertainty, the time leading up to Adoption Day was also a time of spiritual growth. God was there all along, but the adversity necessary to overcome proved valuable in the long run for the parents, who can look back and see the Lord’s sovereign hand putting all the pieces of the puzzle together just right.

“Patience,” Rick says. “We learned patience. Our daughter was placed with us in August 2018, and it took nearly two-and-a-half years to adopt her, but with Ricky it was nearly four years. In both cases we never planned to adopt. But when we were asked if we were interested in adopting, in both cases the process took longer than we were told and had so many twists and turns along the way. But in the end, it always worked out for the perfect timing of God.”

“We’ve also learned,” Rick continues, “that God always honors our choice to open our home. Time and time again, as we have welcomed a child into our home, he has worked in incredible ways to allow us to minister to these kids. To have the chance to throw their first birthday party, to spoil them at Christmas, to share Jesus with them for the first time, to teach them how to brush their teeth and wash their hair properly. To take them on a vacation for the first time. To see the church come alongside of us. We could not have done this without our church loving these kids and helping care for them. Big shout-out to Bainbridge First Church of God!”

Rick not only serves as pastor of Bainbridge Church of God, but also an advancement officer for Church of God Ministries. His commitment to the Lord, the flock he leads, and the Movement serves, is an encouraging witness—and an overflow of the overwhelming goodness of God he’s experienced firsthand in his family. Thirteen kids, in total, have been placed in the Kohl household over the past five years. Foster care isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s so worth the effort. And, in response to God’s goodness, it simply makes sense.

Proudly sporting the Kohl name!

“We have been so loved,” Rick reflects, “we don’t know what else to do than to love those who are in the most vulnerable situations.” In view of the vast need for foster parents and the traumatically difficult circumstances so many children face, “They need and deserve a home willing to love them in the mess of trying to figure out how they feel about their experience. They need and deserve a home that is safe and structured. They need and deserve a home that has the food they want and need. They need and deserve an adult willing to advocate for their mental health, their needs in school, and their physical health, too.”

Therefore, Rick admits foster care is a headache. The children aren’t even the hard part; the real challenge is dealing with the courts and the laws, and the adults. He says DFCS does their best, but regulations and systems handcuff and limit smooth operation. But Rick points out it’s always worth it. Even the emotional roller coaster.

“A friend of mine, Shawn O’Connor, whose family also fostered and adopted, once said to me that ‘foster care is the most Jesus-like thing I have ever done.’ And it’s true. We get nothing from it, but we can provide so much just by loving someone who needs to know they are valuable. People tell us all the time, ‘I couldn’t do foster care; I would get too attached and not be able to let the kids go back.’ And Christy always responds, “You’re supposed to get too attached. That’s what makes you a perfect candidate for foster parenting. Every kid deserves a parent who is too attached. And you can provide that, even for just a short time, to someone who needs it.’”

Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.

Feature (top) photo: The newly expanded Kohl family! Credit: Becky Wilson Photography.

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