In 1994, my wife (Kathleen) and I were taking part in our weekly small group Bible study.  When the time for prayer requests came around, someone solemnly said that we should all pray for Dawn Huston. Everyone around the table (except for me) gravely nodded their heads. I asked what I thought was an obvious question: “What for?” There was a long, uncomfortable silence. Finally, someone said because her “father” (hereafter referred to as DNA-donor) was probably going to jail for what he did to her. It was clear no one wanted to say anything more on the matter, so the discussion moved on.  

I couldn’t move on, however. As a teacher at a residential academy for gifted and talented students, I had worked with young men and women who had been betrayed by the ones who are supposed to love them the most. I knew the devastation a situation like that produces. I hardly knew Dawn; she was just one of the kids at church. But now she was someone else: a hurting young lady who the church family had to help.

I went to the youth pastor to learn more about the story. He didn’t give me any details about what had happened, but he made it clear that Dawn was, indeed, hurting, and her situation was not improving. The woman to whom Dawn’s DNA-donor was married was not her mother, and this woman was definitely not on Dawn’s side. While the state was trying to put the DNA-donor in jail, she was doing everything she could to keep him out of jail. In addition, the counseling was aimed at reconciling the family. It was not aimed at meeting Dawn’s needs.

I asked the youth pastor if she had been given the opportunity to talk with someone who had been through a similar situation and had, for lack of a better word, survived. The youth pastor said he didn’t know of anyone like that. Well, I did. I knew several. I arranged a meeting between Dawn and one of the most well-adjusted survivors of parental abuse that I know, a young lady named Stephanie. After their get-together, Stephanie called and told me that Dawn had to get out of the house. Stephanie was honestly afraid that Dawn would kill herself if she wasn’t moved to a loving, safe environment.

Kathleen and I discussed it. We were not interested in having children, and we had no experience or training when it came to meeting the needs of a “troubled” teenage girl. But we prayed about it, and we felt the Lord leading us to take Dawn into our home. We filed the paperwork to be her temporary guardians, and she moved in. We barely knew each other, and now she was sleeping in our spare bedroom.

This was a huge adjustment for Kathleen and me. We were “double-income, no kids” people, and we liked that. We were both committed to our church, our careers, and our volunteer work. Suddenly, we had to incorporate someone else into our lives. But you know what? We found that we loved it. We found that the Lord was blessing us through this young lady. As time went on, it became clear that this should not be a temporary thing; Dawn should be a permanent part of our family.

By this time, the DNA-donor was in jail for what he had done to her, but we still had to get him to agree to give up his parental rights so that Dawn could be our daughter. I will never understand that sick, twisted aspect of our legal system. At first, he was reluctant. However, a great man of God (who has since passed into glory) made it his mission to get Dawn’s DNA-donor to relent, and he eventually did. Our spare bedroom was then transformed into our daughter’s room.

When everything was settled, we pulled her out of school and began homeschooling her. She was not happy about being homeschooled, but she accepted it because she wanted us to be her parents. From an educational standpoint, she was the classic example of a student who had fallen through the cracks. As a result, there were serious “holes” in her education. We addressed those holes as well as we could, and she eventually graduated high school. She then went on to earn a degree in sociology from Butler University. My heart still flutters when I think of her walking into that graduation ceremony wearing her cap and gown.