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Kristopher and Kelly Barnett, along with their two children, have always had a dining table capable of seating six. In 2008, Kelly Barnett felt that God was telling her that they were meant to fill up the two empty seats at their table through adoption. From there, the Barnetts embarked on a challenging and eye-opening journey to expand their family through fostering and adoption.
While they did not initially consider adopting when they first married, Dr. Barnett, Associate Dean of Clamp Divinity School at Anderson University, explained that his wife felt convicted by the Lord some years after their first two children, Kenzie and Karsen, were born. This conviction was unexpected to the rest of the family. In response to her mother’s inclination to fill their table, Kenzie asked the simple question, “Why don’t we just get a smaller table?” Dr. Barnett was similarly surprised. He explained, “(Adoption) was so not on our radar. Our plan had worked out perfectly; we had two kids, one girl and one boy, and it all just worked.” Through prayer, however, the Barnetts realized that this was a true calling for their family.
Shortly after Dr. and Mrs. Barnett felt God inclining them toward adoption, the Barnetts moved from Texas to South Carolina. There Dr. Barnett became pastor of East Pickens Baptist Church, where they discovered a number of families active in the fostering and adoption ministry. Through this support system, the Barnetts began to learn more about the process of adoption and became more involved with the Department of Social Service (DSS).
Over the next few years, the Barnett family was involved in fostering several children, a process which radically changed their lives. Ministering to the children in their care was a rewarding yet challenging adjustment. “Looking back on our situation, over and over I was thinking, ‘This is not easy’. But that was what we were called to do,” Dr. Barnett said.
A frequent subject of Dr. Barnett’s sermons involves the theme of Christians mirroring Christ’s example of engaging the needs of others. “As followers of Christ, we have an obligation to be involved in the hurting places of the world,” Dr. Barnett said. “Your calling may not be to adopt, but we’re all called to something.”
The fostering process proved to be an eye-opening experience for the whole family. Regarding his biological children, Dr. Barnett explained, “It’s been good for their growth and development. It makes them look beyond themselves.” The Barnetts all experienced God stretching their hearts as they sought to love the children placed in their lives. “For me,” Dr. Barnett shared, “the eye-opening thing was recognizing that these kids are dealing with things they have no control over. We (society) tend to put labels on foster kids, but you have to realize that they’re really just kids, dealing with things like we are.”
In January of 2011, DSS contacted the Barnetts again and explained that they had a 2-year-old boy named Noah who needed to be placed with a family. The Barnett family agreed to take in the child without being given any information on how long the situation would last. After remaining with the family for ten months, Noah began to bond with the Barnetts even as his adoptability was in question. By God’s grace, however, Noah’s biological mother relinquished her parental rights and Noah was officially adopted into the Barnett family in March of 2014.
The process of fostering and adoption was not what the Barnett family expected. “At times we felt stretched thin,” Dr. Barnett said. “But it opened our eyes to what needs are out there.” When asked what he would say to families considering fostering or adopting, Dr. Barnett replied, “Ask yourself what’s really leading you to adoption. If you go into it with poor motivation, it will be rough.” He also encouraged those involved with fostering and adoption to find a strong support group and to be sensitive to how the change in situation will affect the child. “If Christians can rally around a cause like this, we could really make a difference,” Dr. Barnett concluded.
Entering into the world of foster care and adoption was an unexpected chapter in the Barnett family’s life. “Part of our story is that we had a plan that seemed to be perfect, and God rearranged those plans. And now it’s hard to imagine what it was like before. Now it’s just who we are,” Dr. Barnett said.
The Barnetts are more than delighted with Noah’s addition to their family, and they are currently in the process of adopting a baby girl. They hope to finalize this process as soon as possible, and at last have their table of six full.
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