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On Having 7

As most of you know, we found out a few weeks ago that we are expecting a baby.  This will be our seventh child.   We had three sons (Jackson, now 15, Grayson, 11 and Zion, 7) when we adopted Zoe at birth two years ago.  Ten weeks ago, we adopted Anna River and Mercy Rain.  A month after that, we discovered our surprise.

A lot of people have asked how we feel about it.  I’ll admit, it’s a bit daunting.  With five or six kids, you reach the tipping point where nothing normal works…a normal house, a normal car, a normal family income.  At seven, you start thinking about life entirely differently.  You start looking far down the road, because you know a sudden move jerks a lot of people around.  All-family car trips become impossible – even in the family Suburban…and you wonder if, were it legal and you had an unlimited supply of green ink, you could possibly print money as fast as you’re going to need it.

All that said, we’re elated.  We couldn’t be more excited.  We’re not romanticizing things, we’re not delusional, we’re recognizing the hand of God on our lives and we’re leaning hard on it.  This is good and this is God. I’m excited for our seventh child to be born because…

I’m learning to move beyond the western definition of comfort.

I have no grand idea that this is going to be easy.  Even with ‘just six’, sleeping through the night doesn’t happen for us right now, and it won’t for…a long time.   We don’t get a lot of time to talk.  Our home – and any home we can afford in the near future – is going to be pretty cozy.  Personal space is found primarily between our own ears.

I’m embracing all of this, because I think the western ideal of what it means to be an individual is overblown, oversold,  and ultimately dehumanizing.   We;re nott teaching individualism, we’re teaching self-ism.    If life really isn’t all about me, then having a large family is a good way of expressing that.  We are teaching our children to love others by putting them with others 24/7.   We’re learning it ourselves, too.  I can easily muster up a little kindness for the neighbor on the street.  It’s noble – and brief.   The real test is whether or not I can muster up kindness for my family in light of their constant presence.

I believe what the Word says about children.

There is an oft-quoted verse in Psalms that says “Children are a heritage from the Lord…blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.”   It is rarely fully believed…or rather, it is believed in the rephrasing “Children are a blessing from the Lord providing they don’t crimp my style.”   If children really are a blessing from the Lord – not a liability, but a responsibility, and a blessing – than why don’t we see more large Christian families?

We know finances to be a blessing, but we don’t see many Christians refusing a raise because they’ve been blessed plenty already.  “Gee, Bob, I’d love the raise, but I’ve got to be responsible…”.  No, we take the money and run.  We call it the favor of God.

Unfortunately, we’re a little leery of the blessing of children because we’re not sure we believe it…and in many cases, we’re making the choice between a child and a boat, or a second car, or some other misguided marker of the good life.    I’m not saying that it’s God’s plan for everyone to have a very large family like ours.  I am saying that if you’re limiting it because you don’t want to change your standard of living, you’re shallow and shortsighted.

I believe in long term thinking.

Some time back, I was introduced to Kevin Kelly by a mutual friend.  Kevin is a believer, the founding editor of Wired Magazine, and a founding member of the Long Now Foundation, a think tank geared towards the ‘what if the world ISN’T ending…’.

Over coffee, Kevin asked me “What if the world goes on for another 10,000 years – don’t you think Christians ought to be a force in shaping it?”    While I don’t agree on his timeline, I greatly admire this thought process.   Most American families don’t think beyond their 30 yr mortgage.

This is going to stretch some of you to the point of breaking, but I’m going to say it.  Extending the kingdom and influence of God by large families is a huge, oft-missed opportunity for changing our world.

Presently, Islam accounts for about 21% of world population.  While their influence is maintained by military might and political persuasion, a significant amount of their sway over the earth is based in the fact that more than one out of five people is a Muslim.

Christianity, on the other hand, accounts for roughly 30% of the earth.  All that is true about Muslim influence is also true of Christian influence, although in certain pockets, the tide is tipping, and quickly.

Consider this – the average family size in the US (predominantly Christian) is 3.14, per the US Census Bureau.   That’s a mom, a dad, and just over one child.

The average Muslim family, however, is 4.9 persons.  That’s mom, dad, and not quite three children.  They have just under 3 times as many children than we do.

Let’s break it down to the practical – place a Muslim family in a home across the street from a Christian family.  These families grow and buy homes on the street as the children grow. Two generations down, there are thirteen Muslim homes.  Christians?  Not even four.

Who can disciple a nation while surrendering neighborhoods one by one?

We have so wholeheartedly bought into the fabled American dream that we are willing to limit our future by limiting the size of our families. We’re trading arrows in our quiver for a third garage stall, our flesh and blood inheritance for a plasma screen tv.   Making this choice, we are willingly being short sighted and ultimately, hurting the Gospel’s reach in our area.

I want to reiterate – I’m not arguing that every Christian couple should have a family as large as ours….but I am convinced that more should than presently do, and many of those who choose not to have a large family made a choice for comfort over influence or a 401k over eternal blessing.   I’m also pretty sure I have tweaked some of those people by messing with their shortsighted plans.

Then again, I’m just a blogger.  Inquire of the Lord, friends, and follow His lead.

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27 Responses

  1. eek gads!!! you moved to WordPress!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    after being a “blogger” guy for like 5 years!?

    Wow, never thought I’d see the day.

  2. Thank you for saying this so loudly.

    We have a large (and growing) family. As ours grows, I become more and more convinced that the _VAST_ majority of American Evangelical Christians (let alone simply American Christians) don’t actually trust God for anything (except their salvation of course). Too many of us take the money and run, willingly investing in our own comfort while toss God a bone every now and then.

    Thank you.

  3. Trusting in God is good. Two christian parents do not a christian make. Jesus makes us followers. Thank God, because neither of my parents are christians.

  4. We are thrilled for you all… So encouraged by what you have shared. We are expecting our first in April. We welcome as many as the Lord will allow us to have-our quiver will be full! Blessings and prayers for you always!

  5. Good. Thanks for saying it. Easier said than done, but you’re doing it. Thanks for being an example to us. We’ve got number 3 in the oven.

  6. Yay! I love big families, I love your big family, I want to have my own big family. You are so, so right.

  7. Good stuff! Let’s take over the world!!

  8. Just a couple of comments…first, did you know that when people comment and don’t have a picture that it shows a patchwork quilt block? I find that interesting considering what you just wrote (and I’m a quilter) b/c quilting is basically taking large pieces of fabric and cutting them into little pieces and sewing them back together in a creative design. I look at your family and see a quilt block emerging…different colours, different fabrics, all being sewn together in a magnificent design. And the block keeps getting bigger! All the pieces fit together and all need one another to complete the design.

    But one block does not make a quilt; other blocks are sewn together to make the whole. If you look at one block, it may not look like much, but when it is put together in it’s correct place, it becomes part of the whole.

    Big blocks are a lot of fun to make.

  9. Yes and Amen!!! Our 7th is 4 mos. old. Wouldn’t trade her for plasma TV.

    Spoke to a Christian Friend in Israel pregnant with her 6th child. I asked f they were considered unusual in Israel because they have a large family. She said, “Oh no, the Muslims have large families, the Orthodox Jews have large families, it’s only the Christians that have small families”.

    Ouch, that really hurt… sad that we’ve believed the lie that has closed the wombs of Christian women. Statistics say that by the time couples are my age 45, 75% have elected to make themselves barren through tubelagations and vasectomies.

  10. Sarah – you’re right; two christian parents do not guarantee that their children will all be followers, but it’s a heck of a good start that ups the likelihood considerably. 🙂

  11. […] GREAT POST by a fellow IHOPer and adoptive parent, Randy Bohlender, purporting the benefits of raising many […]

  12. Hi Randy- I came across your blog from Tracie, I think. I love this article, so true. So many Christians have the mindset of “boy, girl, we’re done,” instead of inquiring on the Lord about how to grow their families. For some, it might be just one child, and for others, they should keep growing! One of my friends has 13 kids by adoption and 8 by birth, so she has you beat for now- haa! 🙂 (Her blog is http://itsacrazylifebutitsourlife.blogspot.com)

  13. This will be about as popular as eating the leftover turkey a week from now. My father was a Jew and a physician. He gave his life to the Lord and converted to Catholicism in the 50’s before I was born. I’m number 4 of 5 babies born in less than 6 years. In the 70’s I watched him literally run a woman out of his office who was seeking “the pill.” I didn’t fully appreciate what he did until a couple of years ago when I began to pray for the ending of abortion in earnest. Without writing my own article I’ll pose two questions in one that I have carried for a while now. What if we began to follow the command of the garden and “be fruitful and multiply” even as we began to pray for the ending of birth control??? And last, for all the large families out there. I totally applaud the public discourse. Just remember, in the discourse that at one time we all (nearly) had only 1, 2 or 3 children. There…I think I have sufficiently offended everyone. God bless you and your tribe, Randy!

  14. Excellent! Grew up with 4 of my brothers and sisters in one bedroom for a season so Grandma, 2 uncles and 1 aunt could live with us. As the oldest of 6, I got one year in my own bedroom when I was 17 and that was a treat. I made my kids share a bedroom for several years even though we had 3 bedrooms to spread out in. I wish we’d been able to have more …

    I think you have several good points here- probably each worth an article.

    May God richly bless you, in every manner of blessing, as you pursue His heart.

  15. Thank you. Just… thank you.

    I just read half this article to my husband; he loved it. We got pregnant shortly after getting married this past May and people tell us all kinds of silly things (“why didn’t you wait a year and get to know each other?” and “aren’t you worried about being parents so young?” and “that sure is a lot of responsibility!”). most of the time i answer them with what they, no doubt, consider to be absolutely absurd things (“the Lord said to be fruitful and multiply… um, immediately” and “nope, not really worried; i’ve been fertile for years, might as well do something about it” and “actually, we want at least a baseball team worth of kids running around our house, and whatever we can’t make ourselves, we’ll bring in through adoption.”). two years ago i would have thought myself absurd for even the thought of desiring a big family… it’s funny how praying pro-life prayers changes things.

    blessings on you and your family. lots and lots of blessings!

  16. Excellent Post. I couldnt agree more. I have heard the same type of message from Voddie Bauchum. We will soon have 5 kids and I am always open to God bringing us more, He will just have to speak as clearly to my husband on this. 🙂 I personally think sleep, big houses, compact cars, money in the bank are all overrated.

  17. Randy, I’m so happy for and proud of you guys! And to think I can say I knew you when……
    Regarding the article: I had a sociology professor at my secular university who basically said that Christianity was takings its last breaths because Christian families only want one or two children, while Muslim families actually desire many children to propagate their faith.
    I couldn’t begin to tell you how many people came up asked me if I hadn’t figured out what was causing that (referring to my pregnancy) when I had a two year old, a one year old, and a very large pregnant tummy. I can’t imagine the comments you’ll get.
    So proud of you!!! 🙂

  18. Amen!!

  19. this is amazing! so right on. i am not even married right now but i have always decided i would have a large family-mostly adopting. you have brought a lot of perspective to me and understanding in what this really looks like. i have never really thought about everyday life with a large family or loosing all your personal time. but the one thing i did think about was the raising up an army for the Lord and teaching children in the way they should go.
    for many people i could see that it would deter them reading through this but the whole time i was thinking…i better start baby sitting for them so i can get some practice 🙂 bless this family Lord!

  20. […] in November I read this post by Randy and it impacted me greatly.  “On having 7″  was written shortly after the […]

  21. Wow, Randy! Well said! Thanks for having the courage to say it. I just want to interject that adoption should be considered a normal way to bring children into a family (not a last resort). There are plenty of children living in the world without moms and dads. We belong to a homeschool co-op with about 40 families. Among our students are 17 adopted children (mostly internationally adopted &/or adopted at older ages) with several more on the way in the next year. Quite a mix of races, too! What an immense blessing they are to these families who all have biological children, too!
    Our third adoption, an 8 year old from China, joins our 2 others adopted from China and our 2 bio daughters. We are so blessed! God has paid the way, and we stand amazed.
    People, when God calls you to add to your family, please say, “Yes!” Don’t miss the opportunity to receive the blessing God has for you! Don’t just wait around. Answer the call. Get out of the boat and get your feet wet.

  22. Matt and Song Harri’s sis here: Great word…I’ve been saying some of this message since I was 12 and being 3rd of 6 I knew what it meant as a child, but now not even yet married, I wonder how I will learn the kind of trust I will need to live out my dream of raising an army in my home!! I don’t know how but the Lord is enough, and I will be faithful with my spouse to obey!!!

  23. What a beautiful post. There are so many ways that Christians are being crippled and allowing the world’s perspective to hinder our testimony. Thank you for your thoughts and congrats on the newest little one on the way.

  24. We are adopting our seventh child. We have 5 Biological kids and our Son Nathan is adopted. My husband is 1 of seven kids, he loved growing up in a big family. We feel called and it is a great blessing for us to adopt again. My family is more precious to me than any other thing I could have in this life. Yes we have heard all kinds of negative comments from all kinds of people, we have also had some encouraging words, but the bottom line is The Lord has placed on our hearts a love for children, and a desire to have more. Also to be more specific we feel again with this adoption like our last one that we need to adopt a child with Down syndrome. Our little guy has blessed us more than we could have imagined, we all just love him. So Thank You for standing up for what you believe in and being an inspiration for those that are choosing adoption to build their families. Mat The Lord Bless you.

  25. Thank you for this article. We are pregnant with our second and have a one year old. I am so excited to continue with our family. What encouraged me the most is the way you described the way you trust the Lord for finances. That seems to me a daunting part at times and my faith is rekindled by your blog.

    Also, want to encourage anyone reading that our one year old has Down Syndrome and is the most amazing blessing in our lives. I get teary even talking about him. If anyone gives birth to a child with Down Syndrome or chooses to adopt a child with Down Syndrome I think you will be blessed beyond you can imagine!!!

  26. Excellent article. I couldn’t agree more. We have 10 children. It was all God’s idea and His leading, but we are so happy that He has blessed us in this way.

  27. YAY! I believe this message is the missing link for those who truly know the Lord and his intimate goodness.

    say it again and louder 🙂

    Penny Raine, momma to 8

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