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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

The Gift of Adoption

By John W. Kennedy
Nov. 23, 2014

Jason Kuenzi, adopted as a baby from Highlands Maternity Home 45 years ago, has three adopted children of his own. But Jason and his wife, Kristy, experienced a great deal of familial heartache along the way.

Jason’s parents had been married for five years when they decided to adopt in their mid-30s. Shirley Kuenzi had suffered two miscarriages and experienced the stillborn death of another child. Shirley and Gary Kuenzi adopted Jason only three weeks after his birth to an unwed college student who lived on the Highlands campus, then in Kansas City, Mo.

While attending First Assembly of God in Topeka, Kan., the Kuenzis learned about Highlands, operated by the Assemblies of God Family Services Agency.

Jason grew up attending First AG in Topeka. But he walked away from the Lord during his first year of high school.

“I made some bad decisions and choices of friends that led into a life of drugs,” Jason recalls. “I thought every day should be a party with drugs and alcohol.”

His first date with Kristy, his future wife, took place in a bar. The couple began cohabiting, and Kristy got pregnant.

A Christian customer in the hair salon where the 21-year-old Kristy worked warned her that fornication is a sin. When the client explained the gospel to Kristy, she accepted Jesus as Savior. Kristy told Jason she could no longer live with him.

A week later, Jason and Kristy, four months’ pregnant, wed at Topeka First AG. Jason, then 22, viewed the decision as the honorable thing to do. Kristy, who had abortions when 18 and 19 while in a relationship with a previous boyfriend, knew she couldn’t go through another one.

After Cole’s birth, Kristy’s newfound faith didn’t last.

In 1998, Jason and Kristy had their third child, daughter Madison. Kristy had a normal pregnancy, but soon after arriving at the hospital, she suffered an amniotic embolism during which her organs shut down. Kristy underwent an emergency hysterectomy. Doctors couldn’t stop Kristy from bleeding, and she needed 20 units of blood in transfusions. She almost died twice.

In the trauma of delivery, Madison went without oxygen for four minutes. Upon being resuscitated, the baby showed no brain activity. As Kristy recovered, she and Jason made the painful decision to have Madison’s ventilator shut off. Madison died in Kristy’s arms.

Usually a mother with an amniotic embolism dies and her baby lives. When the opposite occurred, Kristy figured God wanted to punish her for past sins.

In addition to being a methamphetamine addict, Kristy had committed infidelity with her ex-boyfriend, one of her drug dealers.

“I knew the only way to stop using drugs was if I got pregnant and had someone else to take care of,” Kristy says.

Jason didn’t know the extent of Kristy’s drug use or of her adultery until years later.

“I wanted to die after my daughter died,” Kristy says. “I thought my family would be better off without me.”

However, at this nadir in their life, Jason and Kristy also considered another option.

Just before Kristy’s operation, an associate pastor at First AG prayed for her, at Shirley’s request. The minister’s prayer touched Jason, who hadn’t attended church for years. Jason believed God miraculously intervened to spare his wife’s life. Kristy also felt touched by the kindness and love of Christ demonstrated by a pastor she didn’t know.

Jason and Kristy began attending First Assembly and earnestly recommitted their lives to Christ. Old friends welcomed Jason back to the fold. Kristy experienced deliverance from her drug addiction. Their lives — and marriage — dramatically changed because of their newfound faith in Jesus.

Although physically unable to conceive any longer, the Kuenzis felt God calling them to have another child. Through Pregnancy Crisis Outreach of Topeka, a 17-year-old unmarried girl who wanted her baby to grow up in a Christian home picked the Kuenzis out of a stack of potential parents’ applications. However, the baby’s father contested the decision in court.

It took nearly a year before the adoption could be finalized and the Kuenzis were awarded legal custody of Nathan.

The experience of adopting Nathan moved Jason so much he wrote a letter to his own birth mother, the woman he never met who had lived at Highlands and given him up for adoption.

“I realized the difficult, desperate situation she was in, and I understood why she did it,” Jason says. “She wanted me to have the opportunity to grow up with a Christian mom and dad.”

The letter never got delivered. Only later did Jason learn his birth mother had died in her 50s. He knows nothing about his biological father.

In 2006, the Kuenzis again felt stirred to adopt, this time internationally. They wanted to find a child from a country with the greatest need, and they soon settled on Haiti. They arranged for an adoption through a missionary contact, but the baby girl died before they could adopt her.

After a few months, the opportunity arose to adopt twin daughters from Haiti, but the price for two girls would exceed $25,000.

“We had $500 in our savings account at the time,” Jason recalls. “But we stepped out in faith and committed to the girls. Everybody told us we were nuts.”

Everyone, that is, except Shirley. When she saw photos of the girls, Shirley loaned her son $4,500 for the down payment. But Shirley never met the twins. Three weeks later, Shirley fell down a staircase in her home and suffered a fatal head injury.

Ironically, the inheritance Jason received from Shirley — father Gary died of liver disease in 2005 — paid off the adoption. The Kuenzis also recouped most of the costs through federal adoption tax credits. Faith and Hope have been part of the family since January 2010.

The death of Jason’s compassionate parents caused him great angst.

“They both meant the world to me,” Jason says. “I’m sorry they didn’t get to see all the grandkids we adopted.”

From an early age, Jason knew he had been adopted.

“I’ve told my children the same thing my parents told me: ‘We’ve chosen you from all the people in the world because you are so special,’” Jason says. “My mom and dad taught me tried-and-true principles from the Bible. I want to leave that same legacy for my children and be the best example for Christ that I can for my kids.”

Steve Rains watched the family’s journey while lead pastor at Topeka First AG’s Boulevard campus, where the Kuenzis attend. He calls Jason and Kristy solid, committed, passionate Christians.

“They love and serve people,” Rains says. “They are willing to do whatever the Lord and others ask them to do.”

Rains particularly commends the family’s perseverance during challenging adoption ordeals.

“I admire their willingness to be open to the call to adoption, and to walk patiently through the process,” Rains says. The efforts have paid off with children who are steeped in Scripture and a biblical worldview, Rains says.

Today, all five Kuenzi children still live at home. Cole, 22, is finishing college. Haylie, 19, feels called to be a missionary to Haiti. Nathan is 14. Hope and Faith are 9. All the kids have participated in Junior Bible Quiz at their church. Jason wrapped up a 10-year stint as children’s pastor at First Assembly in 2011.

Jason, now 45, has been selling dairy equipment to customers in Kansas and Missouri since 1998. Kristy remains a part-time hair stylist, which is how she met Jason. They are celebrating 23 years of marriage.

JOHN W. KENNEDY is news editor of the Pentecostal Evangel. He and his wife, Patty, are licensed foster parents.


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