by Adriane Dorr
The Rev. Dr. Paul Devantier has a full life. He served as executive director of the LCMS Board for Communication Services for The Lutheran ChurchMissouri Synod for nearly 20 years, has been the voice of the nationally syndicated radio show By the Way since 1974, received multiple awards in the communications field, and now serves as senior vice-president for the advancement department at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.
But his titles and achievements pale in comparison to the good gift of parenthood that Dr. Devantier and his wife, Ellen, have given to children placed under their care. Both have been longstanding proponents of adoption and foster care, serving as foster parents for more than 80 children and adopting three of their five children.
The following is an edited Lutheran Witness (LW) interview with Devantier (PD):
LW: What moved you and Ellen to care for so many children in this way?
PD: We strongly believe in human life as a sacred gift from God. Caring for those gifts was a way to show that. Most of our foster children were infants. Providing a home for them, even temporarily, was a tribute to mothers who chose to give their children the gift of life.
LW: Caring for foster children has its challenges. What kinds of brokenness and suffering did you see? How did you deal with that in your home?
PD: Quite a number of our foster children were special-needs children, having some challenges as the result of being born drug-exposed, for example. Seeing the little ones suffering through withdrawal and other challenges was difficult. But we were always encouraged by their resilience and their ability to grow and overcome obstacles. The turna-round and success of the little ones in dealing with problems was often, to us, miraculous. Many who may have cried in pain during the early weeks of life became content, happy, loving children. Gods plan for them to be the best they could be was evident from the early weeks and months of their lives.
LW: How would you encourage Christian couples who might be considering adoption or foster care?
PD: Gods plan for children is for them to be loved and nurtured in family settings. Throughout history, God has brought families together in a variety of ways. Being a family is more important than how the family came into being. Couples that are active in LCMS congregations have the added advantage of close Christian friends, schools and other resources to strengthen their family.
LW: If a couple is not in a position to adopt or foster a child, how can they and their church still help these children?
PD: Speaking up for those in need of care can also be valuable. And encouraging women with unplanned pregnancies to consider an adoption plan rather than an abortion can save lives.
LW: Youve been given the Outstanding Adoptive/Foster Parent award from the Adoption and Foster Care Coalition of Missouri and the Friend of Adoption award from the National Council for Adoption. Why have children and their care been such a part of your life?
PD: It is by the grace of God that we were privileged to meet and have in our home so many unique and beautiful hu-man beings. Being a foster and adoptive family was just the way it was supposed to be, and we thank God for it. God gifts individuals with different talents and abilities and inclinations. There are many things our family may not be able to do well, but foster care and adoption just seemed quite natural for us, and it brought many joys.
LW: Why is it important for the LCMS to assert its distinctly pro-life, pro-family stance in a culture that is doing the opposite?
PD: Life is a gift from God, not of our own making. Family is Gods design, what He intends for His creations. These truths have not changed, nor should our stance change despite what the world says, despite societal trends, despite fads and what are becoming new cultural norms, despite being told that the world has changed and we should see things in a less restrictive, less judgmental way and despite our inclination to avoid disputes and be accepted in this modern era.
LW: Along with challenges, there are great joys in training up children. What is the most joyful part of serving as a foster parent?
PD: We watched our foster children grow, discover new things, show the first signs of becoming independent. We were unceasingly amazed at how different each creation of God was. We never had a duplicate or a replicate. Oh, one other thing, we had a reserved seat in the back pew of the church. The toughest thing was not the middle-of-the-night bottle, nor was it the never-ending supply of dirty diapers. It was saying goodbye. Our family grieved every time a child left. Ill always remember the night I came home late from the office and met my wife at the front door. She was anxious to leave so as not be late for choir rehearsal at church. We passed very briefly at the door, and all she took time to say was, If someone drops a baby off, take it. And sure enough, by the time she got home from choir, we had a brand new baby that had been dropped off by a social worker. For our family, for many years, that was a way of life. We cherish the memories. And to all those who may be considering foster care or adoption, we would just say, God may have plans to offer a life He has created to you and your family. Consider taking it!
About the Author: Adriane Dorr is managing editor of The Lutheran Witness.