What would it look like to go all in loving children? For Kelsey and Randy Bohlender, it meant raising four biological kids… then adopting six children, including two sets of twins. Yet the Bohlender family is not content to stop there.
Last fall, they launched Zoe’s House Adoption Agency in a suburb of Kansas City—founded specifically to “offer expectant mothers guidance for life, with the mission of extending love.” And only last month the entire family traveled across the country to Los Angeles, assisting behind-the-scenes as more than 60,000 people came together for the Azusa Now stadium prayer gathering.
Speaking in a phone interview from their home, Kelsey Bohlender reveals her journey as a mother, how ‘God stories’ are important for children and why the adoption movement keeps growing.
Kelsey Bohlender, pictured with two of her daughters, has an active life raising ten children (Photo Courtesy of Bohlender Family)
Bound4LIFE: As a mother of ten children, how do you effectively nurture kids that are in so many different life stages?
Kelsey Bohlender: On a practical level, the big guys need us late at night and the little people wake up at five in the morning. So that doesn’t leave much time for resting—but it is what it is when you have that age span. We see every day as an adventure.
But it’s an interesting question because the key word is effectively. I’ve had people ask if there is a limit of kids that you can effectively nurture at any given time. It is a real Western mindset that we shouldn’t have “more than we can handle.” Oftentimes people don’t have large families because it takes time to nurture and care for children.
My life is not my own. It sounds so romantic, but it’s really not. It is just the truth. I do the same thing for my ten that I did when I had three: and that is to take the time to go before the Lord and ask Him about the heart of every child. I ask the Lord for keys to their heart, and I try my best to listen and implement what He says.
Four of the Bohlender girls celebrate a family birthday together (Photo Courtesy of Bohlender Family)
Bound4LIFE: Your family recently volunteered to help lead the Azusa Now stadium prayer gathering. What is your lasting takeaway from this event with The Call?
Kelsey Bohlender: Azusa Now was such an inspired event, taking The Call prayer gatherings into new waters I believe. One reason for that is how we saw people from every different Christian stream—evangelicals, charismatics, Catholics—come together hungry to encounter God.
We knew people who had never come to a Call event; they came in the morning, they stood in the rain all day, stayed until that night and were just completely changed. Seeing the hunger of people from all across the Body of Christ was very impacting, to know that we are a part of that.
For our own family, we knew going in that we needed to take all of our kids—even however difficult that would be. It was not easy, being in a stadium for 15 hours with little people. It was a particular challenge that my husband Randy was serving as stage manager, while I walked around keeping the kids engaged and occupied.
Some came to Azusa Now in wheelchairs and were healed at the prayer gathering (Photo: Bobby Krakowski / Bethel Music)
In the Bible, Joel 2 states clearly the value God places on such a solemn assembly; it says essentially, “Bring the babies, bring the brides—bring all of them because this is really important for everyone.” It would have been an option for us to get childcare and just the two of us go and have a great weekend alone, but we knew we needed to do it for our kids.
I was just reading this morning in Judges 2:10 and struck by that verse again that there was a generation who arose after Joshua who did not know the Lord and did not know the works He had done. We really have it in our heart that our kids need God stories.
Azusa Now was one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments to gather with thousands and thousands of people to repent, pray and worship. Such an event may be ‘old hat’ to some, but through the eyes of a child you experience the wonder.
I know God began a story in each of them. This prayer gathering looked different than others, but it was very much worth it.
Kelsey and Randy Bohlender, center, pictured with Lou and Therese Engle following Azusa Now (Photo Courtesy of Family)
Bound4LIFE: Many may assume it is different, loving adopted versus biological children. Are there different factors at play in parenting adopted children?
Kelsey Bohlender: Let me answer that in a two-fold way. Number one, when it comes to loving them, I would say no, there is no difference for me personally. Is that true for all people? Maybe not, I don’t know.
For me, some of these children were born from my womb, some were born from my heart—all were born through intercession. It is through partnership with God that I love them all the same.
Now, are there other factors involved in parenting adopted children? Absolutely. One thing I will be open about: the Bible speaks of generational blessings and curses, and we’re wrestling through what that means for all of our kids. We know there are generational factors that Randy and I bring; and perhaps for our adopted kids, what their biological families bring.
How do we best help all of them, bio and adopted, thrive? What cultural things do we want to introduce and keep alive for our African-American, Hispanic and Asian kids? Because that is their background and yet God has put them in our family, and we are ‘whiter than white’ so to speak.
Those kinds of factors we have to search through and wrestle through, and that is different than having a biological child.
Randy and Kelsey Bohlender launched a local adoption agency last October (Photo Courtesy of Bohlender Family)
Bound4LIFE: Looking at the bigger picture, including the adoption agency for which you and your husband provide leadership, how have you seen the adoption movement shift in recent years?
Kelsey Bohlender: We had talked about adoption for years, then in 2006 we jumped into adoption wholeheartedly. Today, people are talking about adoption everywhere you look in the church—which is a good thing!
International, domestic, foster care or by whatever means, it is all becoming more accepted and more common. The understanding is growing, as Randy and I share about often through Zoe’s House Adoption Agency.
I believe this increase in the interest around adoption is due to the prayer movement for adoption. Certainly there are other factors at work to make adoption more accepted and more common, such as Christian and non-Christian social groups getting the word out there about the need to welcome children into our hearts and homes.
For us, we know this adoption movement is an answer to prayer.