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Houston County Living

A Place to Call Home

Jul 28, 2021 09:08PM ● By Alexa Tebben
     For some, a family is more than the people that share your DNA. Choosing to open one’s home to complete strangers is a selfless act that provides the love and support only a true family can give. Stephen and Samantha Bemis dreamed of building a home through fostering that would give children without a family a place to belong.
      “When Stephen and I met, I was working on getting approved to be a foster parent,” Sam tells me. The pair crossed paths in their youth when they attended Perry High School in different grades. “I was close with his sister and he was close with my brother,” Sam says ironically. “Then we reconnected and he asked me out on March 24th, 2016.” With a heart for foster children, Sam was honest about her intentions from the beginning. “It wasn’t three days into dating when I told him that fostering is something that I want to do.” Stephen also had a heart for children, and they soon got married and began fostering classes.       Early on, Stephen and Sam decided to set some guidelines for themselves. “During our classes,” she recalls, “we said just one child at a time was all we could handle.” They also decided only to foster children ages 4-10, neither of which went according to plan.
     Just one year into their marriage, Sam and Stephen got a call that an 8-year-old boy needed a place to
  stay. “Most parents have nine months to prepare for a child. We had three hours,” she says incredulously. A team of friends, family and church members swung into action gathering clothes, toys and meals. While Sam and Stephen went to bring their first child home, their support team prepared the house for the first member of Houston County’s newest foster family. “We were very blessed,” Sam assures me. “The support has been tremendous.” Sam and Stephen provided this little boy with a loving place to stay for a month until his dad gained custody and brought him home.
     Next they were called to care for three siblings, ages 2, 3 and 5, that had been kidnapped from Florida. “It was absolutely crazy,” Sam says. “They had not known what cribs were and they had not known what car seats were.” With this set of foster children, Sam and Stephen saw the effects of entering the system at such a young age. Sam describes bringing three young children into their home as a challenging process. They did not expect to have children that young, let alone three of them. “It was probably the longest week of our lives,” she admits.
      While difficult, it was an extremely rewarding experience. The children quickly grew to trust the safety net that Sam and Stephen provided and barriers began falling. “We’re Sam and Stephen to all the kids that come through,” Sam tells me. “But that little girl said, ‘I love you Mommy.’ It was the first time I was called momma. It was probably one of the sweetest moments I’d had.”
     Since then, Sam and Stephen have welcomed children of all ages into their home. While they do not always stay long, the young couple is thankful for their time with each child. “We accepted our 20th child on December 17th, 2020,” Sam tells me. “Most of the time when you get a child you get a birthday and name, that’s it.” With little information, they open their home and hearts providing the light and love children so desperately need.
     Although initially opposed, Sam and Stephen eventually felt called to foster teenagers as well. “God put it on our heart that ‘okay, you have got this under control. Maybe it’s time for older kids.’” Taking a leap of faith, they bought a few beds and opened their doors once more. One of the first teenagers they fostered was a girl who had been in the system since she was two years old. Although at once adopted, the girl wound up back in foster care where she remained until adulthood. “That changed us, hearing their stories,” Sam says. Not all homes are loving and friendly, and learning this encouraged Sam and Stephen in what they were doing even that much more.
      Sam and Stephen started making decisions that would benefit the children in the years ahead. “When
  we get teenagers,” Sam says, “it’s not just about having a teenager. We teach them when they turn 16 how to fill out an application, how to do interviews and how to get jobs.” Three of their teenagers have gotten jobs they wanted. “The excitement that they were able to do that on their own, it’s priceless,” she says beaming. They continue to show their children the importance of diligence and a good work ethic. In the middle of their fostering journey, Sam and Stephen opened a towing company called Arrowhead Tool and Equipment. It was a whole different type of learning experience for them. “It started off with Stephen,” Sam recalls. “He was the only driver and I dispatched.” They navigated running a business and over time hired more drivers and dispatchers. Through it all, Sam maintained a full-time job while they both cared for six children at home. It was a balancing act made possible by the support they received from family and friends.
     Just over two years into fostering, Sam and Stephen adopted 2-year-old twins Carter and Ivan. “Our intention was not to adopt,” Sam admits. “We set out to be foster parents. We want to be part of their story and part of their village so that they can succeed.” But when the opportunity arose, they happily stepped up to the plate and officially made these children their own. “It’s not an easy process,” Sam says of their year-long journey to adoption. “One week they’re saying, ‘Yes, you’re adopting,’ and the next week they’re saying, ‘We’re not sure.’” It was a roller coaster of emotions and court proceedings, but on Valentine’s Day of 2020 they officially adopted the twins into their family.
      Sam and Stephen continue to be thankful for the opportunity to foster. “Even if we were to have a
biological child, it would not stop us from what we’re doing,” she assures me. “It’s a 24/7 ministry.” Sam talks about her reservations when a new child enters their home. “My biggest concern bringing another child in the house is… are they going to get along? And every time, God has made it work. It’s not perfect and it’s hard because you’re a family of that many. But for the most part they get along, they work together, we do family vacations and everybody has fun.”
     The entire process has strengthened Sam and Stephen’s faith in the Lord and has allowed their children to experience the love of God through His people. “They get to see another support system because our greatest support comes from the church,” Sam says. “God loves everyone and our goal is to show love to everyone.” Each child that walks through their door is another person that learns of the Lord’s love and
  sees His grace in everyday life. Sam speaks about the support of their families through every step of this journey. Sam’s parents live less than five minutes away, and her mother frequently helps watch and take care of the kids. “We wouldn’t be able to make this work without them,” Sam is convinced. They love what they do, and it is the constant love and support they receive that allows them in turn to give the same love and support to each child under their roof. Continuing in the call on their lives to love those that need a home, Sam and Stephen are making a difference…one child at a time.

Photography by: Tinika Bennett Photography