Dennis Brooks

Dennis Brooks is pictured with his daughters Treasure and Lizzy. Dennis and his wife Lori adopted the children after serving as their foster parents.

It took three years of prayer before Lori Brooks received an answer from her husband, Dennis, on the question of adoption. She was homeschooling their four children ages 4 to 12 when she first brought up the topic.

“I came home from work one day and Lori said the two youngest had been reading the book of James and the verse about ‘Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans,’” said Dennis, who was hired last month as Southeast’s mission campus strategist. “She said, ‘I think we should adopt.’ I said, ‘I don’t. What else you want to talk about?’ That really was the extent of the conversation.”

Three years later Lori and Dennis did a 21-day Daniel Fast together.

“Three years go by; we never bring it up or say another word about it,” Brooks added. “I did the Daniel Fast, spending a lot of time in prayer. During it, God spoke to me two different times very clearly. Both occasions, it was one word, ‘Adoption.’ I hadn’t thought about this since that time three years ago, so it was very strange to me, but when I heard that word, I remembered that conversation.”

After they finished the Daniel Fast, Lori asked him what God had spoken to him.  

“I knew that desire had been on my wife’s heart and it never left, but she never brought it up to me,” he said. “She said, ‘What did He say?’ I said, ‘I’m not telling you because I know if I tell you I know where this is going.’ She said, ‘You can’t not tell me. You have to tell me.’ She started crying and she said, ‘For three years, I have prayed every day for God to change your heart and it would be a sign to me that your heart had changed that you would bring it up to me, that I would never bring it up to you.’ I said, ‘That’s not fair. You went over my head.’”

Southeast hosted an information session with the state foster care system shortly thereafter, and the Brookses began the process to foster to adopt.

“We’re talking about it and said, ‘We’re from Louisville. Both of us born and raised.  They’re is a great need right here in our own city where we live,’” Dennis said.

They finished the training in November 2012 and waited until March 2013 to receive a call for a foster child under 5.

It was a 3-month-old girl named Treasure.

“I’ll never forget, we walked in and the other foster mom is holding the baby, and she walked over and handed Treasure to my wife,” Dennis added. “Lori held her, started crying and said, ‘When that mom put Treasure in my arms, it felt exactly like our other biological children at the hospital when they placed them in my arms for the first time.’ So there was that instant mother and child bond that happened.”

However, Treasure was returned to her biological parents 11 months later.

Though they grieved the loss of Treasure, a call came in May 2014 to place Lizzy, a 9-month-old girl.

About another month later—through a variety of circumstances—Treasure was back in the state foster care system, and the Brookses were eventually able to adopt Treasure and Lizzy, who are now 7 and 6, respectively.  

When they first decided to adopt, the Brookses made sure their four kids were on board.

“Every single one of our children said, ‘Yes, yes, yes, yes,’” Dennis said. “We call them the big four and the little two. The big four have two little sisters and absolutely love it. And the two littles have four big brothers and sisters. I can’t imagine our family and our life without all six children.”

The Brookses feel blessed beyond measure.

“I do on occasion think about, ‘What if we hadn’t adopted? Where would they be today?’ That gets really emotional quickly because both of their situations were difficult,” Dennis said. “That’s not to say anything about us, but that drops me to my knees to say, ‘Thank you, God, for allowing us to be a part of these girls’ lives.’ It’s a very humbling moment when you realize God is a father to the fatherless, and he’s just allowed me to play a role in that.”

While not everyone is called to adopt, Dennis said everyone is called to do something.

Foster father

Mike Shryock is one who decided to do something to help foster kids.

Eli Gonzalez is now a successful lawyer in California, but 40 years ago, he was a high school freshman who showed up at his youth pastor’s house with nowhere else to go.

“He showed up on my doorstep in the morning and said his aunt didn’t want him anymore,” said Mike Shryock, 67. “He said, ‘How am I going to repay you?’ I said, ‘You do the same for others who are in need and pay attention to your Christian values.’ He eventually took in one of his sisters.”

Shryock was only 26 at the time, but he fostered Gonzalez for two and a half years. The two still remain in contact and regularly call each other.

Shryock moved to Louisville five years ago and has fostered five boys in the last three years—ranging from 12- to 17-years-old—through Sunrise Children’s Services foster home in Mount Washington.

“Each boy is different and reacts differently because of some of the homes they come out of,” added Shryock, a Southeast Christian Church member. “Your goal is to figure out what the issues are that brought them to that point and see if you can facilitate some opportunities for change in their lives. I really love teens and want to see them successful and see them involved in their faith, family and community so they can look at themselves as productive individuals and a man of God.”

Shryock has been single all his life, but God has used him to be a father to the fatherless.

He is in the process of adopting Corey, a 15-year-old boy who moved into his home almost a year ago.

“It’s fun, exciting and keeps you on your toes,” he said.

Shryock has overseen 25 church plants in 17 years and works with G.O. Ministries, which plants churches and trains indigenous pastors.

To find out more, visit www.southeastchristian.org/ministries/foster-and-adoption or contact Director of Foster Care & Adoption Ministries Blaine Hamilton at (502) 253-8091 or bhamilton@secc.org.