5 Things Adoption/Foster Care Did to Our Daughters

What about my biological children?”—a common refrain from those considering adoption.

What about birth order?

What about family dynamics?

How will my biological children respond?

The fears are palpable, based upon both realistic and conjured concerns.

Ami and I pondered foster care and adoption with three young daughters. They must’ve been around 10, 11, and 15 at the time, and we had many of these same concerns which drove us to impose restrictions. We wouldn’t take boys with sexual issues.

Outside of that, we’d trust in who the Lord would send…never realizing for a second, the journey He was about to take us on.

I never anticipated what adoption would do to my daughters.

1. It blessed them.

As much as I cannot fathom life without my sons, my daughters feel the same regarding their brothers.

Shortly after becoming a certified foster family, I deployed to Iraq. Two weeks later, I checked my email to see a message from Ami in my inbox. I clicked on it and was greeted by the dark, serious eyes of a little brown guy, peering out at me from the folds of a blanket in my wife’s arms.

“This is your son,” the Holy Spirit whispered.

True to His word, the Lord had brought him, and he never left, later becoming my first son. The Lord sent others, 20 or so in all, slowly, steadily. Some stayed for a few months, some a few weeks, a handful for as short as a weekend or a few days.

Others never left. Six in all. My sons.

My daughter’s brothers.

Sure, they have the same issues as any siblings. The boys eat all their food, sometimes in the middle of the night. They get in their stuff. They argue with them, annoy them, get on their nerves.

As their brothers are all system kids, they have some other issues, perhaps not as common.

My daughters have been stolen from, all of them, repeatedly. They’ve witnessed turmoil that they’d likely have never witnessed, been exposed to things they’d likely have never been exposed to…all that comes along with kids from the system.

Yet, they unanimously proclaim the blessings of their brothers. They embrace them, cherish them, love them. They’ve never once expressed, at least openly, any regret in having them.

From my oldest daughter:

          There is a reason I moved out as soon as I turned 18, but only moved a fourth of the mile down the road. I deeply love them all, but dear Lord I don’t know how mom keeps her sanity.

         “Without them I would have never had to teach my 2 yr old she doesn’t have a ‘hog’ [our family word for male genitalia].”

          And there’s this, “If the sock looks hard, use a glove to pick it up…

You can see that it also blessed them with a sense of humor!

2. It united us as a family.

Early on, we made adoption and foster care our family’s ministry.

Our daughters became my wife’s right hand in caring for our boys. They changed diapers, wiped butts, learned to deal with boy issues to include guns, swords, “hogs”, and such.

We made decisions as a family, openly discussed each situation as it arose. As I was deploying with regularity, my daughters were indispensable in caring for them. 

My sons and the other kids we’ve fostered became the rallying cry of our family, the nexus of our call. The plight of the orphan united us in action in a way that few other things could’ve.

They became so intertwined into the fabric of our existence that I just cannot even imagine how dull our life might’ve been without them.

3. It taught them selflessness.

They’ve gone without, my daughters.

Seeing the system up close and personal, seeing the affliction wrought by the sins of men, impressed upon my daughters that it wasn’t all about them. And they were asked to sacrifice, repeatedly.

The boys and the others consume(d) vast resources of time, money, and emotional energy. With up to ten in house at a time, my daughters certainly received much less attention than they would’ve otherwise…and they’re better for it.

One incident highlighted this.

After several years, I decided ‘we’ needed a ‘break’ from fostering. Everyone agreed, sort of. That night we got the call. Two boys were at the DCS office with nowhere to go. In anger I declared, “No, absolutely not! We knew this would happen.”

Later that night, they were still there so I reluctantly allowed them to come to our home to spend a night or two until DCS could find a permanent placement. One night became two and my frustration grew.

In desperation, I sought out my two younger daughters.

“You know you’ll have to move back in together,” I appealed to them, as they’d recently just gotten their own room after years of cohabitating.

“Dad, we already did,” they chorused.

“You did?”

Yes, these boys need a home.” I swallowed a lump and made a call.

Years later, I call these two boys sons.

4. It demonstrated Christlikeness.

Other than my wife, I’ve no more urgent mission field than my children.

The Psalmist reminds us that, “Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.” (Psalm 127:4) Children are not a hindrance or a nuisance. Children are a blessing, “a heritage from the LORD.” (v.3)

I really have nothing but my legacy.

Immediately following my death, the world will begin the process of forgetting all about me, covering up any trace of my existence. Only in the eternal kingdom work of the Lord, do I find any perseverance of my existence.

The Lord entrusts us with our children and commands us to make disciples of them, to teach them, to raise them up in the way of the Lord that when they are older they will not depart from it. (Deuteronomy 6:7-8, Proverbs 22:6) This is the primary design for the spread of the faith, the propagation of the Gospel and since becoming a Christian some years ago, I’ve sought to honor this call.

Congruence between word and deed is the most effective method to proclaim. Speak the Gospel. Live the Gospel. Pray for the Holy Spirit to convict.

As I’ve sought to teach my daughters, perhaps nothing has better proclaimed Christ and Him crucified than adoption.

Adoption enabled me to proclaim far beyond my sanctification.

As an adult convert, I carried intense baggage into my walk and yes, the Lord has faithfully delivered me from affliction after affliction over the course of these years. Yet, adoption displayed for my daughters the love of the Lord Jesus in a way that I never could of my own regard, despite my deep flaws.

Perhaps nothing we’ve done, my wife and I, has demonstrated better the glorious riches of the grace of our Lord Jesus than our family’s willingness to take one born of another, declare them our own, and lavish love upon them.

As such…

5. It inspired them.

At least two of my daughters desire to adopt, maybe all three. One of them is actively taking steps to establish a home/ministry for older foster kids. All of them have intensely selfless hearts and a love for the downtrodden and oppressed, particularly the orphan.

I can think of no greater testimony than this.

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford's third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

In Transition: Round is a Shape

Transition yields transformation.

For years, the warrior conformed himself to a certain standard, been pounded into the mold. Now, with fewer constraints, he is free to make himself into that which he desires. Many plan for years prior to retirement, creating a vision of themselves and then reshaping themselves into that image.

Often it’s vocationally driven. Some commit to a particular profession and conform to a new standard. I have a couple of friends on Wall Street, suits and all. Some enter law enforcement and adopt their quasi-military standards. Small business. Industry. Coaching. Teaching. Private sector. 

Whatever the field of endeavor, interestingly their first order of business is often to grow out their facial hair or all of their hair, fostering a distinct homeless vibe. Testing the possible, I reckon.

For 26, nearly 27 years, I conformed to the image that the Army demanded of me, begrudgingly. Upon retirement, I entered full-time ministry, as I had prayed about for years.

And what did I become?

Fat.

I became fat.

This was my transformation.

Is that appropriate for a pastor? Easy!

Fat Origins

Ever since this kid pushed me in homeroom in 7th grade, I wanted to be big.

A naturally wiry kid, I wrestled the 98 pound weight class in 9th grade and didn’t have to cut weight. So I stopped wrestling, started lifting, and ate everything I could get my hands on. Everything. Shakes were my thing, peanut butter shakes, with ice cream, and five raw eggs, and a scoop of protein powder, two scoops.

I recall a 22 taco binge once.

Amino Acids. Weight gainer. Creatine.

I didn’t try juice because of cowardice, not any moral convictions. I was afraid I might get caught, but my efforts worked. In three years, I doubled my body weight, in a good way, and earned a starting position on the football team as a reward for my labors.

And I never got pushed in home room anymore.

New Fat

I believe I’ve handled the transition pretty well thus far…or am handling it, rather. You’ll have to ask my wife to be sure.

From the army to the pastorate of a small church, I went from structure and rigidity to having absolute flexibility in my life. I possess near complete autonomy with few external demands. I help homeschool my sons, minister to my congregation, write a bit, get a lift in when able.

I’ve definitely felt a little lost at times as I’ve written about previously, but seem to be coming out of that as I’ve reshaped my priorities. Rather, the Lord has been doing a work in me, conforming my desires to His.

We even successfully negotiated housebreaking a new puppy with no meltdown from me. A few close calls, but no meltdown.

But food.

I’ve always had a pretty big appetite, tempered by a modicum of necessary self discipline, but since retirement, I’ve noticed an unusual condition.

I eat every single thing I get my hands on. Everything!

An entire large pizza. No problem. Chips and salsa until I’m on the cusp of yacking. Sure, I’ll eat a salad, but I’ll chase it later with an entire can of Pringles. An extra sandwich at Chik Fil-a. French fries and did I mention pizza. I actually eat, inhale really, a double Bacon King from BK and then go home and eat dinner. Two chocolate chip cookies from Starbucks. Not one. Two.

Cheat day after cheat day.

My generous daughter left two candy bars on my desk the other day. Without hesitation, I destroyed them both in less than a minute.

I can’t explain it. I’m not sure why, but my gluttony seems to know no bounds.

Army Fat

I’ve never been a runner.

In fact, I hate running, distance that is. Doesn’t contribute to my objective. Detracts even.

The only thing I hated more than running were scranny Army officers who made me run. While serving in the division, our commanding general was one of these runners (I say as I spit onto the floor and wipe my mouth unceremoniously!). He weighed about a buck thirty soaking wet and could run till the cows come home and took great pride in taking his officers out for a leisurely jog at a nightmarish pace.

Run for your job, literally.

Nearly vomiting, white foam forming at the corners of my mouth, stumbling, gaggling—I always managed to keep up, barely. I used to fantasize about locking this man in a sweet rear-naked choke or lining him up on the deadlift bar, seeing how much gumption he possessed when confronted with his own weakness.

But standards are standards. Requirements are requirements.

And so I ran, some, and I maintained a bit of discipline in my food consumption, as I must. Had to make body fat standards—I never even sniffed the height-weight standards—and had to score reasonably well on the APFT.

Much as the common grace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ restrains sin, so the Army actively restrained my gluttony, though I wasn’t even aware of it. I should’ve seen it coming, especially since…

Future Fat

God gave me a precursor.

After my second knee surgery, I finally relented to a permanent profile. Run at your own distance and pace which, for me, meant never.

“Train me like an aging defensive tackle,” I directed my strength coach. If it was within a 10 meter radius, I wanted to be able to close with and destroy it as rapidly as possible. Outside 10 meters, I’d concede for another day. My body began to respond accordingly and I began to look…like an aging defensive tackle.

If I thought the Bod Pod was devilish, the trainers’ new electrical impedance device was an absolute nightmare.

Whereas the Bod Pod utilized air displacement to let you know just how much blubber you were carrying around, this new device actually ran a current through you and could tell exactly where your blubber was located on your body.

There’s nothing like being confronted with cold, hard data.

Here’s your percentage.

Do the math.

Realize you are carrying around the equivalent of a 4 year old child’s worth of lard…and the majority of it resides in your gut.

“It takes mass to move mass,” Mike, the head strength coach, tried to console me. After a bit more cajoling, he talked me off the ledge and I headed back to the weight pile. Still gotta get a lift in.

The Dream: Fat no More

6 months.

25 pounds…not good pounds.

The collusion of gluttony and idolatry—my worship of physical strength—inflamed by the absence of restraint yielded the expected result. All of this masked the prideful heart deep beneath my newest layer of blubber.

I confided about my struggle to some brothers, ex-military themselves. Seems this isn’t unique to me. Change wrought this unexpected development. My vigilance, focused elsewhere, failed to anticipate something so simple, but so unsurprising.

Though if this is the extent of the struggle, I’ll count myself blessed. My wife likes me big. My kids don’t really care. A hefty Baptist pastor seems appropriate. As long as I can maintain physical domination of my sons, or the appearance thereof, then we’ll call it success. I have a few years to that regard.

Yet, Monday will be six months exactly. Perhaps it’s time to get tighten up the shot group…but not till Monday. My daughter made cheesecake tonight.

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford's third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

In Transition: Veteran, It’s Not All About You (me)

Maybe you’ve bled, literally.

For years, maybe longer, you’ve sacrificed.

You’ve toiled countless days under the bright heat, trudged the jagged Konar, patrolled the filthy Baghdad streets, never knowing when death might call. You’ve eaten dirt and eaten like a king, squeezed in a few minutes sleep on the floor of some foul-smelling crapatorium, all while being crushed to death by a thousand pounds of miscellaneous kit under the harsh desert sun.

You’ve sweat and wept and bled and taken a dump under the most impossible of circumstances. You’ve lost. Friends maybe. Any lingering innocence, certainly. A few poignant moments haunt your conscience—an unspoken word, an ill-fated decision, the unmistakable smell of charred flesh.

The blood-soaked sand forever testifies.

You’ve served.

You’ve given.

Now the system is telling you it’s time to receive.

You lay down your arms to a bevy of voices trumpeting the consideration you’ve earned, bestowing honor and praise…and benefit. You merit special handling.

I affirm this. I affirm your earned stripes. I’ll buy you a beer in Valhalla, if there were such a place, but the mindset troubles me. There is a prevailing attitude among many(some) veterans that betrays the attitude that shaped their service from the beginning.

It is an overwhelming desire to be served.

I’ve given, now it’s time to receive, no matter what it may cost another.

A Right Heart

Paul, writing to the church at Corinth, details true, biblical love.

Love is patient and kind. It does not envy or boast, is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way, is not irritable or resentful. (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)

In other words, love, true biblical love, involves sacrifice, putting your own needs and requirements after those of another. Paul, curiously concludes this section with this, one of my favorite passages in all of Scripture:

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. (1 Corinthians 13:11)

In other words, the business of a man is to love…to love in a biblical way, to love sacrificially, to love selflessly. The way of a child is to issue demands, to impose requirements, to place self ahead of others.

Paul exhorts the men of the church to…be men, to act like men, to love like men.

What if we exhorted one another to the same, even after leaving the profession of arms…especially after leaving the profession of arms.

Another Look

Allow me to level the bubble.

Your wife, your children, they’ve sacrificed as you have…possibly more.

My oldest daughter seemed to get it the worst. Every year, despite my best efforts, I’d be deployed on her birthday. Year in and year out, more of the same. She’d cry a bit and then get over it. She’s a good army kid.

The last time was the worst.

It must’ve been the third or fourth year in a row when I found out. Once more I’d be deployed on her birthday. I couldn’t believe it! With dread, I sought her out to break the news. Expecting the usual tears, what I got was infinitely worse, a shrug and a slight, sad smile, “That’s okay, Dad. I understand.”

Ouch!

I hated deployments, every one of them, every time. I longed to be home with my family. I resented the lost moments. I begrudged the dreadful months. I hated every single day away. Every. Single. Day.

Except I didn’t.

You know.

          “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.”

                    “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.”

The higher call gifted me a reason. My brothers delivered me a purpose. Engaging the enemies of righteousness in battle drove my ambition. I trembled at the prospect, enamored of our audacity, descending from the darkness alongside my brothers-in-arms onto the unsuspecting heads of wicked men, standing as sword and shield against the tyranny of oppression.

My wife was left behind. Period.

The Tightest Grip

“Hold the rope.”

This was William Carey’s plea to Andrew Fuller before embarking upon his mission trip to India. As the father of modern missions, Carey’s plea was for support. He would go. Would Fuller and his church support him, prayerfully and tangibly?

She’s held the rope.

While you’ve sucked down the desert sand, she’s cleaned a thousand runny noses, wiped a thousand butts. She sat up all night with sick kids and tear-streaked cheeks knowing she had to rise early the next morning. Exhausted, she put on a smile each morning, not wanting the kids to see her struggle, only to sit with her head in her hands the second they left for the bus stop.

And she wondered about you. Okay, she didn’t wonder. She agonized. 

What were you doing? Were you okay? Were you safe? Who were you with? Why hasn’t she heard from you in awhile?

Did you meet somebody?

She had to hold it together, hold the rope. She had no other option. Maybe she put her life, her hopes, her dreams on hold…for you. Maybe she did it gladly. Maybe she did it begrudgingly, but she did it.

Must she do it once more?

A New Look

Conflict beckons. Bitterness knocks. Families disintegrate.

Many warriors struggle off the battlefield and perhaps it’s because of the message.

We’ve trained them that they have a right to feel disenfranchised. We’ve communicated to them that they have a reason to misbehave, that it’s normal, it’s okay. And most of all, the system trains them to feel entitled, to desire to receive. We’ve taught them to exchange the spirit of love and service for a regard for self. We’ve taught them that they are the center of concern, the focus of affairs.

I’m convinced that many of the problems our veterans face stem from this clash of intersecting and competing attitudes.

Let us reshape the narrative.

Quit emasculating the veteran and empower him. Exhort him to continue to serve, to continue to give, as able. Let us reject the notion that he is automatically damaged and incapable, requiring special consideration.

Consider your family, your wife.

Instead of focusing on your struggle, on your affliction, on your needs, see this as an opportunity to be strong for her, an opportunity to love her unconditionally, to put yourself in the backseat and let her reach for her dreams and goals. Consider this opportunity to serve once more.

What if, upon sheathing your sword, your call was to lift her up, to empower her to become who she always wanted to be? What if, upon laying down your guns, your wife and your children became your mission?

Would you be satisfied with that?

Should we shelf our heart for service just because we’ve removed the uniform?

We must reject being shaped into a caricature of who we once were by forces concerned with political expediency and social leverage.

Noble warrior, with all urgency I plead with you to take your turn at the rope. They deserve it. Indeed, they always have.

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford's third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

In Transition: I wanted a mission…

and for my sins, they gave me one. (CPT Willard, Saigon, 1969)

Clarksville…shoot, I’m still only in Clarksville.

Each time, I think I’m gonna wake up back in the desert. I hardly said a word to my wife…until she told me to take out the trash and play with the kids. When I was there, in the desert, I wanted to be here, but now all I can think about is the desert…and what’s for dinner.

I’ve been here six months now…retired…waiting for a mission, getting softer. Every minute I spend in this house I get weaker. Every minute the muj squats in the desert, he gets stronger.

Each time I look around, the walls move in a little tighter…the kids scream a little louder…my pants get a bit tighter…

First Call

I always felt called to be a soldier, even before I knew Who was calling me.

As a young boy, I played war in the woods, shot bottle rockets at my friends, and led legions of imaginary men into battle. I bayoneted bad guys, crushed my enemies, saw them driven before me, and heard the lamentations of the women…well, in my mind anyway.

Between sports, my play existed in recreating battle scenes and heroic last stands, fighting robots, Cobra, Russians, or whoever I deemed worthy of battle.

As a teenager, while my friends decorated their walls with rock n’ roll pinup girls, I had a single poster bearing an image of Eisenhower, Lee, MacArthur and Grant. I liked pinup girls, don’t get me wrong, but military service resonated with my soul.

Something about combat drew me…the camaraderie, the brotherhood, the shared sacrifice, maybe the purpose or the mission.

At some point, I graduated from sticks and fireworks to rifles and helicopters. At the age of 22, the nation entrusted me with the lives of 20 or so young men. My first platoon! I exalted in the call. Preparing for war was our mission.

All that changed on September 11th as Al Qaeda handed us a mission… “brought it up like room service,” you might say in your deepest, gravelly Martin Sheen voice. As such, I spent the next 17 years leading men in and out of battle and it was glorious. The crucible of combat, of a shared mission realized, drove my purpose, channeled my existence.

Fighting the bad guys. Defending our nation. Confronting evil. Destroying tyranny. It defined me, combat did, gave me a mission, a mission that resonated with vitality. Who was gonna do it, you? So don’t stand there in your ****ty white uniform and tell me what you think you are entitled too!…sorry, I get carried away.

And then it was gone, leaving me one very important query.

Now what?

A Worthy Call

Every man wants to matter.

I was reminded of the fleeting and fragile nature of life this week. A friend of mine from college died unexpectedly, at the age of 48. He left behind a wife and three kids and his death reinforced Paul’s words to the Ephesians, to make the best use of the time because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:16)

Why are the days evil?

The days are evil because time, if left unspent, will spend itself. If not spent deliberately, time will still pass. And tomorrow, you’re going to wake up and be 40 or 50 or 60 or older, wondering where the days have gone. My 45 years, a mere vapor, attest to this reality, our inevitable march to the grave.

Approaching the end of life, all men must reconcile their legacy. They must answer for themselves a very critical question. Did my existence make a difference to anyone? Was it worthwhile?

Did I even matter at all?

Soldiering gave me many things—direction, structure, education, motivation. Most of all, it gave my life meaning, a purpose that mattered.

A Passing Call

I never wanted to be Joe Paterno.

Joe Pa roamed the Penn State sideline for 45 years! setting the record for most wins by a Division 1 coach (409). 45 years! As long as I have been alive, Paterno held the same job, coaching the Penn State Nittany Lions and the longer he coached, the tighter he seemed to cling to the job.

He came to define Penn State football.

They were inseparable. One could simply not imagine Penn State without Paterno. Unfortunately, the opposite became glaringly true. Without Penn State football, who was Joe Pa?

On November 9th, 2011, due to fallout from the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal, Joe Paterno lost the defining aspect of his life. He was fired. He died 74 days later, ostensibly due to lung cancer. Yet, I wonder about despair. The thing that had come to define him, Penn State football, had been torn from his life and the disgrace of the scandal threatened to forever tarnish his legacy.

Without this, who was he?

Who could he possibly be?

A Fleeting Call

At some point, you gotta drink the kool aid.

About the time you are eligible for retirement, the Army dangles a sweet promotion in front of you but you gotta buy in. It is this time that you make a call, either all in or not. The upper echelons of the Army demand a “new level of service,” to quote a former commander of mine who attained the second highest rank in all of the military.

At some point, you become a company man, and buy in lock, stock, and barrel.

And they own you, all of you.

I asked a General Officer I worked for once how much control he had over his existence. “About 5%,” he joked, “and that’s an illusion.”

Not that I would’ve qualified for the upper echelons. I was doing decent enough, but did I want to buy in for another decade? And even if I did, at some point, it would still be taken from me, leaving me still to answer…

Who am I?

A New Call

Men need a purpose.

Men need to do, to conquer, to attain, to move, to engage. I joined the military and found my purpose and took great satisfaction in closing with and destroying the enemy in battle, locked at the elbows with my brothers-in-arms.

In this purpose, I found honor. I took pride.

What could I do without it?

Thankfully, in March 2005, God called me to the true fight, the battleground of souls.

In Christ, we find our ultimate mission, an enduring mission, a mission that spans continents and countries, a purpose that supersedes boundaries and borders, a call that endures across epochs and eras.

The battlefield of the soul surpasses the most contested battles in history. Stalingrad, Antietam, Verdun: mere skirmishes compared to the battle for the eternal destiny of all men. Our enemy is not the flesh and blood. (Ephesians 6:12) He is organized and motivated, showing no quarter to even those claiming neutrality.

It is in serving Christ, loving my wife, discipling my sons, pleading with the lost to be reconciled to God, taking the Gospel to the nations, that some might be saved, it is in this that I find a mission, a purpose that transcends any previous call.

This purpose can never be taken from me. This mission can never diminish or change.

The fields are so white for the harvest, as the workers are so few. Beyond my former call to arms, the newer call, the superior call, it consumes me.

Absent such a call, I’m just not sure what I could do…or who I’d even be.

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

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This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

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