May 28, 2019

Ryan O’Hara: The Dad Revolutionary


Ryan O’Hara is a fairly ordinary dad. He’s middle aged, red-bearded and bespeckled, smiling warmly and earnestly as he stands on the deck in his backyard. He works in college ministry, and he and his wife have four boys, all adopted through foster care.

But it’s in the ordinary-ness of his story that’s so powerful. Revolutionary, actually.

It started with a question: If Roe v. Wade were overturned today, would we be ready?

Right now, almost half a million children live in foster care. If more women choose life, either because of cultural shifts or because access to abortion is more limited, will Christians be prepared to support them? How can the pro-life movement really be about supporting (or embracing) life, and not just birth?

Those questions are the reason that he’s standing on his back deck while a friend films him: to make a video with the goal of sparking conversation among the pro-life movement, and ultimately, encouraging people to become foster and adoptive parents.

Ryan’s journey to becoming a foster parent and later, an adoptive parent wasn’t without pain. Like many couples, he and his wife Jill looked forward to starting their family, and were heartbroken when they were diagnosed with infertility. Today, Ryan describes infertility as a gift from God, even though they didn’t always see it that way. “It took many years for God to re-frame this cross in our hearts and minds; for him to reveal his deeper purposes, love, and provision through our inability to have kids of our own,” Ryan wrote on his website.

The couple pursued missions work overseas for several years. Once they moved back to the United States, they became foster parents; “The one option that didn’t seem to be attracting a long line of applicants.” As thirteen children came through their home over the next 18 months, Ryan and Jill determined that if a child came to them without the possibility of reunification with their birth family, they would adopt.

And so, they found themselves the parents of four boys. But as Ryan writes, “Adopting these boys turned out to be the easy part.” Next came the refining process of parenting.

“Becoming a virtuous father for them is a much harder process—not because they are bad kids, but because the challenges they present have often mixed poorly with my dreams and expectations,” Ryan writes.

Through his vulnerability in sharing his own struggles after becoming a parent, Ryan shows us an honest look at being a foster and adoptive parent, including the grief of not seeing himself in any of his children, mourning the old dreams of how they thought family would be.

Adopting the boys is “the hardest best thing I’ve ever done,” Ryan says in the video, alongside clips of the boys covered in mud, blowing out birthday candles, and reading the Bible together.

He describes their life now as yet another gift from God, the “gift of chaos.” This gift came with a greater revelation of his own flaws, but also a deeper experience of the meaning of unconditional love. He writes, “I’ve come to grips with the truth that God never promised me a perfect life, only a perfect Savior. And that Jesus has been—and always will be—for me.”

Ryan and Jill aren’t super heros, or super parents. They’re just ordinary people.

It’s this ordinary-ness that’s so powerful. They made themselves available to be used by God, and said yes.

If you’ve ever looked at foster care, but thought, “That’s great, but I could never do that,” then Ryan’s story is for you.

You don’t have to be a super parent. You don’t have to be a saint. You don’t have to have everything figured out. You just have to say “yes.”

When God prompted them to risk their hearts and home, the O’Hara’s said “yes” to foster parenting, and then again, four times over, to adoption. Because they made themselves available, they’ve changed the lives of the children who’ve come through their home forever.

Do you truly want to end abortion?

There are enough Christian homes to shelter every single child in foster care. There are enough Christian homes to adopt every unwanted child, and funds to cover it. We could revolutionize the system.

It only takes ordinary people.

Are you ready?

Watch the video here, and read more of Ryan and Jill’s foster and adoption story.

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