Opioid crisis series: Clergy embrace becoming foster parents

Rachael Porter and the Rev. David Johnston adopted two children who came from a home with opioid addiction. Johnston serves as pastor of Concord United Methodist Church in Athens, W.Va.

Editor’s note: This is the seventh in an ongoing series about churches in West Virginia dealing with the opioid crisis.

Rachael Porter and the Rev. David Johnston seemed destined to be foster parents.

The couple met while on staff at a United Methodist summer camp, and there were always a few foster children in attendance.

One 9-year-old in particular, Johnston said, “would pick his scabs off just for the few moments of love and attention” he would get from a counselor.

“It just struck something in me,” he said. “As a way of expressing God’s love of us, needing to show that to kids who wonder, ‘Is there enough love for me?’”

Porter said she’d felt a desire to adopt since middle school after reading “A Child Called It,” which documented the author’s upbringing in an abusive home.

“I wanted to wait five years after we were married before we thought about having kids, though,” she said.

That five-year mark coincided with the couple’s move to West Virginia, where Johnston was appointed pastor of Concord United Methodist Church in Athens. Their very first week, they were invited to a cookout and encountered a woman who works as a home finder for Children’s Home Society.

The next thing they knew, they were registered for parenting classes and going through background checks. After learning about the great need for foster parents — West Virginia has one of the highest rates in the nation for children being removed from their homes due to drug addiction — they opted for that route over adoption.

The Friday before Ash Wednesday 2017, the call came and just like that, two more plates were set for dinner.

Click here for the rest of the story, the entire series and other resources.

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