“I felt like life wasn’t going the way it should,” said Bruce Kendrick. “Beyond prayer at meals and attending church with my family, I didn’t have a vibrant faith. I had friends and Christian influences around me. I made good grades, and I dated a beautiful girl, Denise, who I would later marry. I was one of the best athletes at my high school. My parents were married, and I was in a nice middle-class family. But I felt absolutely empty.
“The summer before my senior year, I remember going to church camp and saying to God, ‘I'm so tired of trying to do this life with my own strength.’ At that point, I stopped ‘dipping my toes in the water’ of Christianity and ‘jumped all in’ to surrender my life to Jesus. It was like God kicked the door in on my life and set me free to begin enjoying what He created for me.
“I came back home and knew I needed to read and learn the Bible. I experienced a major shift from being a jerky and arrogant guy to someone known for carrying his Bible everywhere. I spent the first few years of college really learning what the Bible said and deciding whether I believed all of it. God was faithful to bring people alongside me to show why I can fully trust Christ and His Word.
“Fast forward a few years and I was a student pastor and married to Denise. At 21 and 22 years old, we moved into our first house with our first daughter. We didn’t have much, but we had an extra bedroom. My wife saw that empty room as an opportunity to become foster parents. I knew caring for orphans was mentioned in the Bible, so I was in. My wife and I just wanted to be faithful stewards of what God had given us. So, we started caring for one child at a time as our biological family grew.
“As time went on, we moved houses, and God provided more space. So, we’d welcome another child. We turned a home office into a bedroom and walled in an upstairs playroom for another room. On two occasions, we had six children under the age of six. Our biological kids had their own rooms one day, and the next, they had the bottom bunk and a new brother or sister.
“After learning about older kids in foster care, we decided to adopt an older son, a 15-year-old who had three years left before ‘aging out.’ We had a lot of ups and downs the first several months after he joined the family, but we finalized his adoption a year later. Together as a family, we wrestled through a lot of his trauma and our own failings as we learned to raise a teenager. At times it was very hard, and we got to learn a deeper love, healthier discipline, and greater trust in God together.
“A few years later, we moved again to a larger home with more open room – an opportunity to foster again. So, I traded my truck for a 12-passenger van, and we welcomed a sibling group of three kids into our home. And later God gave us more room, so we adopted our oldest daughter from Ethiopia and had another biological son!
“Through the joys and hardships of parenting, I am so grateful God showed me that being a follower of Christ goes beyond Sundays and reading the Bible. Merely filling myself with biblical knowledge will not transform my heart; trusting and obeying Christ with everything I have keeps me in awe of Him.
“My original plans in college were to coach sports, teach history, and have a couple of kids. I had no idea how much more God could do (Ephesians 3:20-21). He stepped in and said, ‘My plans are better than your plans’…nine kids better!
“Often, people say, ‘It’s important to keep a balance in life. Make sure you store away for retirement. Make room for “me” time.’ But if we had followed that model instead of trusting God with the next faithful step, I would have literally missed the lives of five awesome children that now call me ‘Dad.’
“After 20 years of marriage and ministry, I lead with Watermark investing in foster, adoptive, and biological families. We help vulnerable families be restored to their kids and support moms and dads with unexpected pregnancies, among a handful of other efforts. Denise also leads an organization called Embrace Texas, organizing churches to serve foster and adoptive families. God has equipped the Church for this, and we get to be a part of it.
“Knowing my own story and the needs that exist, I challenge Christ-followers to look at their resources in a different way. If you don’t have to switch out your carpet every five years, it may be your home is not welcoming others – the orphan, the widow, and the foreigner (Deuteronomy 10:18-19). If you’ve got empty bedrooms where you keep the bed made and the shelves dusted, what could God do with that room? I see an unused room as an untapped resource God has given you. Our God is great, and the opportunities are all around. Let’s go, Church!”
If you are interested in learning more about foster care or adoption, learn more about Watermark's Foster Care and Adoption Support ministry.