Story by: Guru Amar Khalsa
In a brief break from the unending drizzle of the Eugene fall season last Friday, Joshua Stroud and a gaggle of children play behind the playground of Grace Christian Fellowship Church, running amok between a few small shedding trees. Like an ultimate orchestrator, the ex-football player stands tall and unfailingly cheerful, playing, laughing, debating, yelling and at times pleading with the 10 children under his temporary reign. Recovering from chasing and being chased by the children armed with large handfuls of vividly colorful, damp leaves, he pauses to straighten his black knitted cap and re-zip his black Beavers sweater.
For Joshua Stroud, three children is not enough. Neither is six.
After growing up as a single child, with a single mother, it would seem that the size of his family is almost a response to his own childhood. Instead, it is a far less selfish motivation that inspired the decision than that.
While the shrieks and giggles of the well-bundled children playing behind him pierce the chill, silent air of the fenced-in playground, Stroud says, “I’ve always wanted a big family. No, this is a response to what we believe God has called us to do, and that’s to care for orphans.”
For Stroud and his wife, Talia, the plan originally was to only have two children, but then a third child came along. Then to make sure they were done, he got a vasectomy.
Talia and Joshua married young. She was 18 and he was 22, and they were expecting in six months, so it was an easy decision for them. With an easy smile, he shrugs, “I loved her.”
Stroud was a football player at Oregon State University at the time, recently elected student body vice president, and so it was very challenging for him, to be a newlywed, with a baby on top of all that.
Six children later, he is now in his mid-thirties and is a self-employed financial advisor, while his wife stays home and home schools the children under the nationwide home schooling program, Classical Conversations.
Their first child was a girl, Devinee, now 12 years old. Their next two were boys, Issa and Micaiah, ages 10 and 8. The next two were both adopted girls, Audryna and Brooklyn, ages 5 and 4.
The last one was an adopted 2-year-old boy, Brody.
Although far shorter than the rest of the children playing amongst the leaves, Brody looks almost like a tiny adult, dressed in his miniature pea coat and smart little shoes. Grinning and chortling, he trundled after the others, throwing leaves with the best of them, concentrating intensely on not dropping the small bundles he could hold between his two small hands. At one point, Stroud stops and has Brody and Brooklyn each pose for pictures, using his phone to snap photos of their beaming faces tilted up towards his. Giggling, Brody pitches a handful of leaves in Stroud’s face before stopping for the picture.
Stroud was not very excited when first hearing his wife’s idea to adopt more children. He feels that it might be a social construct to only have a small family, depending mostly on comfort and convenience, since children are not convenient. Once Stroud and his wife changed their minds, even considering the drain on their resources, they recognized instead that it would be “a glorious inconvenience.” They decided they wanted 10 children.
His mother, Linda Potts, adds that even though he was a single child, he had a large extended family with many cousins, so his own family size in not all that unusual. “I guess it’s a family trait or tradition,” she says, chuckling.
His growing family is a response to the grace God has shown him, and he realized that to defer some comforts to care for those less fortunate is the best example of that grace.
When considering the influence his faith has on his children, he knows it will impact their lives but underlines his belief that it does not automatically make them Christian. Stroud does not consider any of his children Christian, since it is something they must choose. He feels his most important job is to teach them to think logically and critically.
He pauses at one point to calm down Brooklyn, who had started crying. Once he determines that she thought the other children were not letting her play, which was not true, he poses the simple question to his daughter, “So you’re crying because they said yes?”
She eventually understands and settles down to play with the others, sniffling.
It is Stroud’s thought that all human beings deserve hell for their sins, and his children do not escape this view. So while he may pray for them and hope they respond to the Holy Spirit, he cannot decide what they ultimately choose and they too, will pay for their sins. He believes that children are the clearest example of sin. Laughing and looking down at the children now sitting inside in a hallway playing with felt storyboards, he adds, “Think about it, if we weren’t bigger and stronger than babies, they would terrorize the world. Really. Really!”