VANDALIA — Having a baby often times comes by choice, but can also catch a family completely by surprise. Both of those are true for a local family.
Jordan and Caitlin Shumaker – yes, that Jordan Shumaker, the Athletic Director for Vandalia-Butler City Schools – have seen God’s hand at work as they have navigated both sides of that equation over the past year, and never once has the couple doubted that God was at work in their family’s lives.
A special needs adoption, along with an unexpected yet welcome baby to come has all been part of a bigger, divine plan that the couple saw forming long before they became a member of the Vandalia-Butler family.
As high school sweethearts, Jordan was a year behind Caitlin, a standout volleyball player at Springfield Shawnee. The couple diverged as Caitlin (Augustus) played volleball at Wittenberg University and made three straight appearances in the NCAA Division III Final Four while Jordan played baseball at Cedarville University.
Marriage followed after college and, faced with the possibility of infertility, the couple considered, but tabled, the idea of adoption. God, however, had other plans for the couple.
After buying a house and having some of Jordan’s family move in with them, Caitlin says God sent many signals that eventually became an obvious sign.
“God didn’t call us in some romantic, huge, clear way,” she said, “however, many things happened, tiny mostly, but there were so many that I felt like God was waving a banner in front of my face saying, ‘I’m working on something here. Follow along.’”
And so the journey began.
The couple, who already had two children under six, Aela and Garner, decided they were called to adopt a child. They knew the decision was a serious one – the child may have serious medical complications, but this was God’s work, not theirs.
As God often does, he caught the couple at the most inconvenient time. No season besides Fall is busier for a high school athletic director and Caitlin, the standout volleyball player, had been asked to fill in as Butler’s interim volleyball coach after the varsity coach abruptly resigned.
When the call came, the couple knew their lives would be changed forever, and the couple’s family, including their church, Southgate Baptist in Springfield, and the Vandalia-Butler community, walked with them.
Judd, the baby they would adopt, was born with a condition called Gastroschisis, a condition where some of the baby’s vital organs would be outside the body when he was born. They knew that before saying yes, they would adopt the baby, but cases vary, and the unknowns were, literally, unfathomable.
Judd spent 100 days at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital fighting to live, fighting for strength. For 100 days, Jordan or Caitlin, sometimes both, were at the hospital, supported by family and friends known and unknown, as the couple balanced the life they knew and the unknown frontier of adoption. After thousands of miles driven back and forth between Butler Township and Cincinnati, countless hours spent with Judd at the hospital, balancing the needs of two young children at home and a new family member fighting for life, the family was finally able to be home together in January.
“It changes things when you have the chance of a stranger becoming literal family,” said Caitlin. “But that’s exactly how God wants us to see each other. Why not help the stranger who needs it, because in fact, they’re not a stranger at all, but a fellow child of God?”
Judd’s adoption, which is scheduled to be finalized in June, didn’t end the Shumaker’s story. It gets even better, as God had one more surprise for the Shumaker family – another, totally unexpected surprise – Jordan and Caitlin are expecting their fourth child, a baby boy, in September.
“Southgate and our friends and family have been the hands and feet of God,” said Caitlin. “Until you see it and feel it, its just so special. We are so thankful for Judd, for his health, for our family, our church family, and for all the answered prayers.”
Reach Darrell Wacker at (937) 684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDummer.