If you think you have a lot on your plate, consider Scott and Kathy Rosenow. At 7:30 a.m. in their home outside Cincinnati, their 14 adopted children, all under the age of 15, begin to roll out of or be carried out of bunk beds, triple bunk beds, and cribs. Most dress themselves, make their beds, and start on chores: scrubbing toilets, vacuuming, sorting laundry. Three of the Rosenow's four adult biological children still live at home. They help get some of the younger and less-abled kids up and going.
The adopted children come from five countries-China, Haiti, Guatemala, Bolivia, and Romania-and have varying levels of disability. Three have spina bifida. Two have brain damage. One is blind. Some come from previous failed adoptions-but they've finally found a home.
The Rosenows are what you might call "extreme" adopters. They view adoption as a calling, both for their family specifically and for the church in general. Scott Rosenow says not every Christian is called to adopt, although many are, but the church has a responsibility to provide care for orphans and other needy and helpless ones.
To further that general mission, they began in 2000 The Shepherd's Crook Ministries (TSC), an organization that partners with adoption agencies to match special-needs children with families willing and able to adopt. From humble beginnings as a website, TSC is now a 501(c)(3) charity with Scott Rosenow serving as its full-time director. It has found families for more than 200 children and sent medical teams and supplies to orphans in their own countries. "Each email we send that has an appeal for a family goes essentially viral in no time," Scott says. "It's really cool to see how God has brought all of these families, and even the various adoption agencies, to us over the years."
The winding path that led the Rosenows to start adopting started with suffering. Their daughter Erin was born with developmental disabilities that made school difficult and eventually led the family to homeschool all their children. Erin is now 27 and her mother's faithful helper, but she will never live independently.
Their son Ryan was born without one hand, which led to 15 years of medical visits as doctors in Louisville constructed a functional "helper hand" out of his own bones and tissue. These experiences prepared the Rosenows to deal with various disabilities and showed them the importance of having a home that is a safe haven for children who might otherwise face ridicule.
The Rosenows first started thinking about adoption when they heard years ago a radio program with former major league pitcher Tim Burke and his wife Christine discussing their adoptions. As the Rosenows studied the lives of Amy Carmichael, Hudson Taylor, Martin Luther, and William Tyndale, they became convinced that they wanted to "stand for the things that are important to Christ." Eventually that led to adoption.
Kathy says it is frustrating to know "the world is so very full of orphans, and no matter how hard we work we are barely scratching the surface in the vast ocean of need. We are forced to keep our eyes on the Author of our story."
So how do they know when to proceed? Scott Rosenow says, "We always pray extensively before making such a decision." He says sometimes they've had an immediate sense that they are to "go after this child." Other times they are less certain and "have moved forward in faith, trusting that God would close the doors if it turned out we had somehow missed His leading." Still other times "we have felt strongly that we were not being led to begin an adoption, so we haven't."
Without the God-centered perspective, it's hard to imagine anyone pursuing a life that's so demanding. Imagine: Breakfast requires five dozen eggs, a loaf and a half of bread, and three pounds of bacon. A typical dinner requires 10 pounds of chicken breasts, five pounds of steamed broccoli, and 15 pounds of potatoes. The Rosenows can no longer fit in one 15-passenger van: They also have a seven-passenger minivan, and even then it is a challenge to go anywhere as a family because they "have to fit in two, and sometimes three, wheelchairs." The calendar each month contains 20 to 40 doctor and therapy appointments. Children need to be fitted with prosthetic limbs. A half-dozen kids require morning medications. They all need schooling.
The Rosenows' house has 2,100 square feet. A long table extends the length of the dining room and acts as a central hub. It's easier for some of the children to crawl under the table to get to their seats on the other side than it is to squeeze around it. It's the place they eat meals (although the growing family now requires an auxiliary table) and have family devotions. It's also where the children do their schoolwork and form an assembly line to make sandwiches for lunch.
The family room, furnished with a couch and love seat, serves as Scott's office, a playroom for the younger kids, laundry folding station, and a place for group lessons and read-alouds. Its beige carpeted floor also serves as an impromptu changing table for many of each day's more than 20 diaper changes.
The Rosenows don't do it alone-nor are they the only family adopting many hard-to-place children. Several years ago, WORLD reported on the Cooney family in Maryland ("Leading by example," Jan. 22, 2005). As I researched this article, many other families came forward with their stories, and we'll tell some of them next month.
These families often rely on friends and fellow church members to help pay the cost of their adoptions, which can be as much as $35,000. The Rosenows' church, North Cincinnati Community Church, supports TSC as part of its missions budget. Families from four churches each provide a meal a month to the Rosenows: That average of about two meals per week saves them about $400 per month in food expenses. Patrick Farrell, who heads up the effort, says, "The meal ministry is an indirect effort to answer God's call to help and care for orphans." Even the state helps by providing Medicaid as a secondary insurance for the adopted children.
The Rosenows have no doubt that God called them to adopt many special-needs children. They also know that God called these children into their particular family. Kathy says they tell the children that God's "plan was for them to be a part of this family-to be our children-from the beginning. He doesn't make mistakes, and each aspect of their coming to us-even the painful and difficult parts of their stories-were carefully controlled and orchestrated by Him."
I asked, "Don't you ever feel stretched too thin? Don't the 101 appointments, including two surgeries, that occurred between July 31 and Nov. 4 get you down? How about that daily glass of spilled milk?" Kathy answered: "Absolutely. Very often-if we forget where our strength comes from. . . . It is only in knowing just how weak we are that we are able to do all that this life involves because in our weakness, we turn to Him."
This may be unfathomable to some others, especially non-Christians-but it's a calling.