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Pregnancy counselor sees God’s plan woven miraculously throughout her story

Kathryn Barnhill (center) with her adoptive parents Harry and Shirley Perkerson. Photo courtesy of Kathryn Barnhill

Editor’s note: Sunday, Jan. 21, is Sanctity of Life Sunday in the Southern Baptist Convention.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) – Kathryn Barnhill knows she was an answer to prayer. But not her mother’s.

Her great-aunt’s.

And the story is something only God could orchestrate, Barnhill said.

“My birth mother was a college student who found herself in an unplanned pregnancy,” she said. “She had sought out an abortion, but since it wasn’t legal then, she left and decided to have the baby in secret and make an adoption plan.”

Barnhill’s mother moved in with her aunt, but she still managed to hide her pregnancy. She didn’t tell her aunt that she was expecting until she called to tell her she was at the hospital with a newborn.

Stunned, Barnhill’s great-aunt went to the hospital, met her great-niece — who would soon be part of a different family — and prayed for a miracle.

“She prayed three things over me that day — that I would be raised in a Christian home, that I would come to know Christ at a young age and that I would serve the Lord,” Barnhill said.

It would be 28 years before her great-aunt would learn that God had used her as the answer to her own prayer — and that He’d done it five years before Barnhill was born.

Just hang on and you’ll see how, Barnhill said.

‘God had a plan’

“God had a plan — my (adoptive) parents had been praying for another child,” she said, noting that she spent five weeks in foster care before she was placed with her new parents. “They were open about the fact that I was adopted, and they always pointed me to the fact that God had a plan and that this was how God had put our family together.”

As she grew up, their faith became her own, and she also developed a passion for adoption and helping women understand why it’s a better choice than abortion. Then when she was in college, a friend suggested she work for an adoption agency.

“I found one in the Yellow Pages and started volunteering, and within months they offered me a job,” Barnhill said. “I starting spending time with the counselors who were working with the women and just tried to learn everything; I soaked it all up.”

An opportunity eventually opened up for her to become a pregnancy counselor, then later she moved from Greenville, S.C., to Myrtle Beach to start a counseling and pregnancy center there.

And as she counseled mothers-to-be, she continued to think about her own birth mom.

“Back when I was adopted, everything was so closed,” Barnhill said. “But I saw these moms who were lovingly making these decisions for their babies, and I thought I needed to find her and let her know how much I love her and appreciate her decision.”

It took her four years of research to find out who her birth mom was. Within two weeks, she had her on the phone and found out she was living in Dallas and had never had any other children.

That was when her mom told her she had wanted an abortion at first because she never wanted to be a mom.

“I prayed and asked God to let me use the opportunity, and I told her I was sorry she had had to go through that,” Barnhill said.

Coming together

As they continued to stay in touch, Barnhill continued to see God put the pieces together.

“He used us coming together to heal some of the hurt and brokenness in her life and helped her restore her relationship with her mom,” she said. “My birth mother was one of two, and neither had children. When she was able to tell her mom that I existed, I was pregnant with my daughter, so she now had a granddaughter and was about to have a great-granddaughter.”

Barnhill was able to meet her birth grandmother and let her share in the joy of her pregnancy.

“She gave me a cradle that had been in the family for a long time,” Barnhill said. “My daughter was the seventh generation to use it, which was special since it wasn’t used in the sixth generation.”

Her grandmother has since passed away, “but we became friends and enjoyed a relationship, and it was special to get to share in the joy of her being a grandmother,” Barnhill said.

And Barnhill was also reunited with her great-aunt, and as they swapped information, they were both in awe at the story God had written.

“She told me she had prayed those three things for me, but she didn’t know that she had been the one God used to bring my adoptive parents to faith,” Barnhill said. “God had used her and her husband to start the Bible study my parents would come to know the Lord at five years before I was born.”

‘Generational decision’

Barnhill said it’s amazing to see God at work in the details of her own story and the stories of the other women she gets to talk to at the center she started, which now functions as the Myrtle Beach office of Lifeline Children’s Services, a Birmingham-based evangelical adoption and child welfare agency.

She said there are times when she shares her story with them and tells them that she would not be sitting there with them if her birth mom had gotten an abortion.

“I also would not have a daughter or son,” she said. “It’s a generational decision.”

But Barnhill said she sees God do miracles on a daily basis.

“I’ve watched as they make plans, and every time God always shows up in a way to show He’s in it,” she said. “Whether they place or they parent, to see what God does when He brings them to Lifeline and brings them to hear the Gospel and be loved on unconditionally, it’s amazing. We see Him meet their needs and help them with resources, and we watch them go from darkness to light in so many ways.”

For more information about Lifeline Children’s Services, visit lifelinechild.org.

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  • Grace Thornton/The Alabama Baptist