"Are you Catholic or Mormon?" people sometimes ask when they discover my wife, Ramona, and I have been blessed with 13 grandkids in five years.

“Neither. We’re exhausted,” I reply. “And very, very happy.”

Of course, no one is more spent than parents who wander about the house saying things like, “Why is it that the people who want to go to bed have to put the people to bed who don’t want to go to bed?”

They do this with a sluggish smile, remembering in their better moments that these kids arrived with God’s fingerprints all over them, and that each has a story, some more intriguing than others.

Offering a Chance
In July 2019, our son, Jeff, and his wife, Raelyn, received the call they’d longed for. Quickly, they arranged babysitting and drove three hours to a restaurant, anxious to meet with the adoption worker and a very pregnant mother who was searching for a family to love her baby.

But as they talked, flags were raised. Red ones. Unsavoury friends. Drug abuse. Impending prison. Believing love that doesn’t make you just a little bit crazy is no love at all, they said yes.

“We have three biological kids,” says Jeff. “But we believe God wanted us to adopt.”

Raelyn agrees. “My sister, Mya, was adopted from China. So adoption has always been something that’s on our hearts.”

As the due date neared and the papers were signed, more questions surfaced. Most weeks, Raelyn faithfully drove six hours each way for prenatal appointments. Twice, the mother didn’t show up. “Could you be there when he’s born?” she asked one day. “I have no one.”

Raelyn held her hand and said yes.

Day Eight
My daughter-in-law coached and prayed and celebrated when the precious little guy finally arrived, all short, dark and handsome. Jeff held him every chance he got. Photos were sent to family and friends, cheerleaders and babysitters.

“Pray,” Raelyn begged. “The mother is angry. And high as a kite. They keep calling security.”

A nurse confided: “He’s the most addicted baby we’ve ever seen in the NICU.”

Jeff and Raelyn stayed at a nearby hotel, and learned how to administer doses of morphine every four hours. Though the mother was headed for jail, she kept threatening to take her baby back. By law, she had 10 days to revoke her consent.

And on day eight, she did.

Devastated and numb, Jeff and Raelyn returned home. Before they arrived, we removed a colourful welcome-home poster we’d worked on with their kids, who were five, three and two. They couldn’t understand. Nor could we.

Three days later the birth mom begged them to take him back. They did.

Ten days later, she again revoked her consent.

Unbearable Heartache
A Walmart parking lot may not be the holiest place on earth, but it was a cathedral that day.

Ramona and I stood in a puddle of shattered dreams, arms around our dazed and heartbroken children, crying like little kids, and me praying my favourite prayer: “Help!”

Jeff prayed the same words I’d prayed for their almost-son, “The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face to shine upon you and give you peace.”

You try to shield those you love from unbearable heartache. Yet sometimes you’re surprised at their resilience, grateful they’re an improvement on you.

“Let’s Go”
Nine days later, the phone buzzed. A teen had given birth. She wanted her baby boy placed in a Christian home. In the country. One with siblings. “You guys are our only option,” the lady from the agency smiled.

“It was the most insane moment of my life,” says Raelyn. “We were in the middle of harvest. I was cooking supper for 10 guys on the crew. The van was loaded with kids and enough food for an army. I called Jeff but the cell coverage was bad.”

Jeff laughs. “All I heard was, ‘Baby. Hospital. We have to go.’ I freaked out.”

When Raelyn jumped from the van, she yelled, “There’s a baby waiting. Let’s go.”

One Year Later
Like eager kids on Christmas morning, the two rallied family to babysit and took off.

“We were so excited,” recalls Raelyn. “A social worker sent us a picture. He had the cutest cheeks.” With the birth mom eager to leave the next morning, they were asked to name him. “I just happened to bring a list of baby names we liked,” says Raelyn.

The birth mom was peaceful, kind and grateful. As they talked, she said, “I can’t believe I found you.”

They pulled out the list. “Would you help us name him?” Jeff asked.

Her eyes scanned the baby names and stopped. “I love that one, too,” she said. “Ezra.”

A judge would reject the adoption twice and offer the birth father the opportunity to contest it. He didn’t.

“We were called to this together,” says Jeff. “We were on the same page. We didn’t fear losing him.”

One year from the day we stood in that Walmart cathedral, Ezra’s adoption was finalized in court.

Today, as we visit, six-year-old Sophia feeds him, comforts him and soothes him with loud country music. Macy, aged three, dresses him funny, and shows him how to hold a kitten. Claira, four, is convinced that her brother came straight from heaven via the front door. It’s hard to disagree.

Jeff and Raelyn are not naive enough to think that all will come up roses from here to eternity. But they believe God never calls us without equipping us, and they have a message for those who are hunkered down, waiting and hurting and praying and hoping: Don’t give up.

“God’s schedule seems so much slower than mine,” Jeff admits. “But all along, we clung to the seemingly ridiculous notion that He was working even this together for our good. So we just tried to take the next right step.”

As for what they would tell adoptive parents, the two say in unison: “You’re awesome!”

As Grandpa, it is my duty to bounce this laughing little boy on my knee. “This is the way the Ezra rides ….”

And, suddenly, I’m laughing, too.

You see, Ezra is the Hebrew word for “help.” When I prayed for “help,” I had no idea God would take me so literally.

This story is from:


On Friday, June 25, 2021, LYNDA WAKELIN said:

I disagree with Janelle's comments. I don't see in this article an attempt to demonize women who find themselves in difficult situations but rather a family willing to walk alongside these two women for the time they desire that support. Suggesting that the adopting parents see themselves as "saviours" because of their race is surprising. I have worked with teen mothers who have gone through periods of parenting, feeling overwhelmed and giving their children up then maturing and wanting to care for their children again. I have also seen how hard it is on children when they are in and out of "the system" only to have supports removed when they turn 18. There is a lot of suffering in the world but suggesting that a family looking to reduce some of that suffering is "problematic" because they are white (without even knowing the races of the birth mothers) tells us that our culture has a lot of work to do to see everyone as equal in the eyes of God.


On Saturday, June 19, 2021, Jenelle Durdle said:

I am deeply disturbed and disappointed at how this article portrays the adoptive mothers, especially the story of the first mom who is living with addiction. Furthermore, highlighting the racial differences in the story perpetuate racist narratives of white families rescuing persons of colour through adoption and the child welfare system. This is unspeakably problematic. We as The Salvation Army know better. The Calloway family does indeed have a story of God’s faithfulness to share, but why must we demonize a woman struggling to survive and living through pain that most of us will never understand. I am not naive, I have cared for babies withdrawing in the NICU, I have also sat with mothers who want to love and care for their children but lack support and live with challenges that make responsible parenthood not possible.

Who is responsible for this? The suffering woman who numbs her pain through addiction? Indeed she has power and agency to change but the systems of child welfare, health care, justice and law, the Church are we empowering her, giving her strength to fight and heal? I suggest that God tells us we hold the greater responsibility to listen to this woman’s story, to hear her heart, to walk with her on a path to healing and wholeness.


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