Eric and Jennifer Carter
God brings people into places, through places, and to places for his glory. Knowing that is how we learn to trust him as our Good Shepherd.
Eric and Jennifer Carter have been at GI Free since August 2016.
“I always felt like a fly looking for a place to land,” Jennifer said about their decision to move to GI Free. “We were really interested in getting into a larger church where we could get involved with things. We kind of felt like [being] part of a bigger family.”
Family is important to the Carters, who will be married nine years this August 28. While Jennifer’s spiritual journey has been marked by strong family ties, Eric has had a different path. He remembers growing up in another church that his grandparents attended. Eventually, they left and came to E Free when it was still at the Stolley Park location. Meanwhile, his mother’s rejection of the church had a negative impact on him. A lack of trust in the Bible as the word of God led to her falling away.
“Mom quit going to church and hated church,” Eric, 46, said. “So I got a very negative attitude from that. I didn’t like a lot of churches and really struggled. Her attitude was mine at the time and was that Jesus was just a prophet.”
Eventually, he would meet Jennifer, who had grown up in the church and, unlike Eric, had a strong trust in the scripture through her family’s influence.
“I really had a tough time at first,” Jennifer, 39, said. “I didn’t know how this was going to work if he doesn’t believe that Jesus is the Son of God.”
While skeptical, Eric wasn’t close-minded. He listened to their pastor at the time and even attended church with Jennifer. Other family members also played key roles in his spiritual renewal.
“My grandma (Ella Mae Dahms) has been working on me for years and praying for me,” Eric said. He also moved away from certain people in his family who had been negatively influencing him. As he re-evaluated his position, he wrestled with a lot of things he had previously assumed to be true.
Another issue he was dealing with was a struggle with alcohol. The process of fighting the addiction (he’s been sober now for 20 years) and learning lessons from it also led to a change in his attitude.
“When I first sobered up, I was angry at God,” he said. “It wasn’t that I hated him, it was that I didn’t understand why the things were the way they were in my life.
“When you’re medicating yourself you’re not going to see that you’re making those decisions yourself and putting yourself in those situations. I always thought it was someone else’s fault. AA taught me to look at myself — what’s my part of it. And they [talked] a lot about God.”
Jennifer, who has cerebral palsy and in a wheelchair, grew up in a completely different household spiritually than Eric’s. Her family background was nurturing and stable. It was an ideal situation for someone who has a disability.
“I grew up in a house where you could talk about anything you needed to talk about,” she said. “We went to church regularly. My mom taught Sunday school.
“I think it helped me to have a stable environment to be able to deal with the challenges I faced as a young person in school just in daily life. You get made fun of. You get ridiculed. You get treated differently. I think having that [stable household] really helped me be the person I am today and to be as strong as I am. Because if I had not had that I don’t think I would have had that basis and foundation for knowing Jesus and God. That was huge for me. I have two older sisters, we’re still close to this day.”
Jennifer’s older sister has three adopted children, each from different families, and has given her a model and inspiration.
“We’d love nothing more than to adopt,” she said. “Just to be in the center of them and love on those kids is all I’ve ever wanted to do. We weren’t willing to say we were done because we couldn’t have children on our own. We knew that there was a reason that wasn’t happening.”
But the process has been hard for many reasons. Everything from the high cost of adoption, to the uncertainty of dealing with young mothers who are weighing a difficult decision, to the perceptions of people looking at couple like the Carters and not seeing what’s inside their hearts but the exteriors. They’ve already spent thousands of their own money with agencies unsuccessfully.
“What’s difficult for us is that there is no guarantee,” Jennifer said. “And for us it is even less so because of our unique situation. We know what I can do and we know what I am capable of (doing). I work full time. I do practically everything for myself except drive. I consider myself pretty normal, whatever normal is. We are struggling to get a young mother to look at us because of my condition and because of our ages.”
Agencies have told them that those factors are working against them. That added to the prohibitive costs of working through agencies to set up appointments and screenings have led them to rethink their options. That’s why they’ve decided to reach out through different avenues to achieve their goal of adopting.
“It would be our advantage and so much simpler to do it locally and through the state. Then we could work with the mother and our attorney,” Jennifer said. “That’s what we’re shooting for now.”
“We know it’s not an easy decision for the young mother involved, but we want whoever it may be to know that we are willing to have it be an open adoption. That way the mother could still be a part of her child’s life if she wanted,” Eric said.
But they both know that time is working against them. “Sometimes it goes through our minds that maybe this ship has sailed or maybe this is not God’s will for us,” Jennifer said. “But we want to keep trying while we can.”
Regardless of whether God wills for them to be parents or not, both Eric and Jennifer are looking to make an impact within the church and the community.
“We would just love for God to work in our lives for our favor,” Jennifer said. “But we know that doesn’t always happen the way that we think it should.”
We aren’t always left with easy answers except to know that we serve a good God. Ultimately, we are all reminded that God works all things for good for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). And while we learn to trust God’s good purposes, we also learn on Him through the different places he takes us.
To contact Eric and Jennifer about the possibility of adopting a child of an unplanned pregnancy, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 308-383-3153 or 308-383-9684.