For Michael and Suzanne Gowin, Paul’s description of believers as “adopted sons through Jesus Christ” is a metaphor that powerfully connects to their spiritual lives as well as their family situation. The couple has nine children, six of whom were adopted from Ethiopia.
The couple were thinking about adoption when Suzanne, an alumna of Lincoln Christian Seminary, chose to focus her capstone project on God’s heart for the fatherless. “One of the things that she discovered,” said Michael, “was that the whole idea of God taking care of the downtrodden, the fatherless, the widows—shows up throughout Scripture. God is really concerned with justice.” In both the Old and New Testaments, God’s people demonstrated faithfulness by caring for society’s most vulnerable: widows, orphans, sojourners, the poor. “It goes far beyond James 1:27,” said Michael.
Back in 2008, Michael, who is a Professor of Business Administration at LCU, and Suzanne entered a season of prayer and fasting to help them determine God’s plan for their family. A few months later, they decided to adopt from Africa. Michael remembers thinking at the time, “We can’t fix every problem, but we can help a couple of kids, so that’s where we landed.” Shortly after they reached that decision, a colleague of Michael’s mentioned the need for another co-sponsor on a Restoration Week trip to Ethiopia. Suzanne volunteered. She and the team would be working in orphanages.
The trip left little doubt in the Gowin’s minds over where they would adopt. From there, the Gowin’s received a referral, filed the necessary paperwork, took two trips to Ethiopia, and successfully adopted two siblings, Eva and Aiden. A year and a half later, the Gowin’s felt the call to adopt again. This time, they adopted Kieran, who was 15 at the time. “We thought we were done at that point,” said Michael. “It was maybe a year to year and a half later when we got a call from the agency that Kieran’s three younger siblings were placed in the orphanage.” The agency asked the Gowin’s if they would be willing to accept three more children. “It wasn’t on our radar at all,” said Michael, “but through a season of prayer and fasting, we felt like it was important for the kids to be together.”
Over the last five years, the Gowin family has grown from five—Michael, Suzanne, and their three biological children, Erin, Liam, and Maura—to eleven, adding Ryan, Dylan, Aiden, Eva, Kieran, and Caitlin. They now drive a 15-passenger van.
“Adoption,” said Michael, “is a lot like getting married. You really don’t know what you’re getting into. When you have kids or when you adopt, you walk in with these promises and you think you know who this other person is, and you think you know who you are, but you change, your partner changes, you learn stuff about each other. You just don’t know what you’re getting into.”
But despite the challenges, Michael and Suzanne are grateful for the amazing experiences and amazing children they have.
“There are challenges,” said Michael. “There are days when it’s hard and days when it’s really hard, but at the end of those days, I hope we can [say] we are being faithful to what God’s calling us to do.”