When PCA pastor Dave Bradsher (Grace Community Church, Yulee, Florida) first started meeting with a troubled man five years ago, he had no idea how that relationship would affect the rest of his life. Dave and his wife befriended the man and his girlfriend and kept in touch with them over the course of several years and the birth of their two children.

But poor decisions and skirmishes with the law caught up with the couple. The man was arrested while fleeing the police with his two toddler girls, Faith and Hope. He landed in prison, and the mother found herself with the girls, unable to feed them, shelter them, and keep them clean.

After several months of housing the children and serving as legal guardians, the Bradshers are now petitioning the court to adopt them. While the couple has always talked about adopting, they are finding that caring for children in crisis, and the emotional roller coaster of dealing with an unpredictable legal system, can be hard, lonely work.

“We know it’s the right thing to do, but it’s hard to battle your own sin and selfishness and idealism,” said Jen Bradsher, who manages a household of four children ages 8 to 15 in addition to the two toddlers. “The girls are sad and living in brokenness. They miss their mother. But we’re planting seeds. We shower them with love and are trying to build trust.”

Dave tells a story of the girls being scared of the fireworks on New Years Eve. “I told them not to be afraid, that they were safe, that we loved them.” And Faith, the 3-year-old, asked, “Dave, do you love me? Does Jen love me? … Does Mommy love me? Mommy left me.” As she cried, Dave held her and promised, “We’re not going to leave you. We love you, and God loves you.”

“If there’s a reason to do this,” says Dave, “that’s it: to demonstrate the Gospel in action to these girls.”

Pro-Adoption, Pro-Life

Through their journey, the Bradshers seek to share a solidly pro-life message. Providing a counterargument to those who would say children such as Faith and Hope were prime candidates for abortion, they want to show that believers will care for children in need.

He references the ancient church in the Roman world, where unwanted kids were dropped off at the dump. “It was the Christians who took care of them,” said Dave. “This kind of love is so basic to our Christian worldview. Adoption is like missions — we’re called to go or send.”

For now, Bradsher finds beauty in the midst of the mess, especially when he hears Faith comforting herself when she’s scared, whispering, “God loves me. God loves me.”