Kerri Hupp never imagined the devastation she would experience 15 years after saying “I do.”
The 42-year-old mother fought with all her strength to save her struggling marriage, but it was no use. Her husband wanted out, and nothing could stop him from leaving. What hurt the most was that their young adopted son, Deacon, was now in danger of losing the only stability he’d ever known. Deacon had been in foster care since he was five months old and was placed with Kerri and her husband when he was almost two.
Kerri’s strenuous season intensified once Deacon, now 7, began behaving differently in school. There were angry outbursts—throwing desks, hitting people—that led to classroom evacuations. Kerri received regular calls at work from the school reporting numerous incidents involving her son.
“My son’s behavior escalated to the point where we were talking with the principal about alternative school for a seven-year-old,” she says. “Unfortunately, my husband left two weeks after kindergarten started and the divorce was final one day before first grade started. So this kid has not walked through a school year without drastic, unpleasant changes to his life. He doesn’t know why he’s feeling the way he’s feeling.”
Kerri also was barely surviving in her marketing position at the Mary Kay headquarters in Dallas. She’d been with the cosmetics giant for 12 years, starting out as a buyer and later moving into a marketing and product management role. She’d shared with her supervisor the toll her husband’s leaving had taken on her and as a result, she was finding it more and more difficult to stay motivated in her work. At this point, she was in survival mode, and if she wasn’t fired by the end of the year, she would consider that a success.
One night, Kerri agreed to join a friend for a service at the Gateway Dallas Campus, which was surreal and a little painful—the campus was formerly home to Hillcrest Church where she married her husband. The giant brick building once symbolized a beautiful beginning. Now it reminded her of the devastating detour her life had taken.
Kerri didn’t know what to expect once she decided to attend the Gateway service that evening. How would she feel walking through those doors again, just a few steps away from the chapel where she’d taken her wedding vows? She braced herself for the worst as she felt the weight of every step through the church parking lot. As she entered the lobby, she was quickly distracted by conversation. And when she walked into the service, Kerri could hardly believe how she felt.
“I was just overwhelmed by the presence and peace of the Lord,” she says, “and Him saying, ‘Your life has come full circle. This is going to be your home.’”
Throughout the service, Kerri tried at times to dismiss what she was hearing, but God was confirming her next steps. “I was just beside myself during worship,” she says. “I knew when I left that I would be back.”
God had already been speaking to Kerri that it was time to transition from her church of 14 years in Uptown Dallas where she and her husband were members. There, she was surrounded by strong spiritual leadership and community that helped sustain her throughout the infertility issues, adoption process, and tumultuous years of marital distress. When God told her it was time to leave her trusted support system, it didn’t make sense to her and was equally puzzling to her pastors and friends. They knew she was still hurting and vulnerable and wanted to make sure she was making the right decision. But the move wasn’t something Kerri wanted to do—she was certain she’d heard God, so it was something she had to do.
Sometime later, Kerri’s friend forwarded her information about Gateway’s ID Seminar, a program designed to help you discover your identity, purpose, and calling. It was exactly what Kerri needed. For more than a decade, her identity was being her husband’s wife and that had been taken away from her. Now she could discover her true identity and what God’s plan was for her in the midst of all the mess.
Kerri met with an ID coach at the seminar and worked through materials and poignant questions that helped her realize her calling—foster care and adoption ministry. She’d carried a burden for abused children since she was a little girl, and the process she worked through at the seminar helped rebirth it. She’d also experienced some frustrations during Deacon’s adoption process years before and wanted to see more church support for adoptive families.
Her path was being repurposed and she was ready to forge ahead. But opportunities to connect with her newfound calling didn’t immediately appear. At times it felt like she was stuck in halftime longing to start the next quarter of a championship game she was destined to win. Kerri expressed her frustrations to a Mary Kay colleague who in turn mentioned she’d attended an adoption interest meeting hosted by Chosen Ones at the Gateway Southlake Campus. Chosen Ones, founded by Randy & Vickie Akins, connects prospective families to foster care and adoption agencies and provides them essential support throughout their adoption journey. Kerri immediately reached out to Vickie and asked how she could help. Kerri was still new to the Dallas Campus, but it seemed like the perfect opportunity to serve families there and pursue her calling. Turns out, Vickie was looking for a new volunteer coordinator for the Dallas Campus!
“I had been praying God would send someone that had a heart for foster children and adoption that would be willing to be the liaison between Chosen Ones and Gateway at that campus,” Vickie says. “I knew she was the one almost instantly because we just really clicked, and she had adopted through foster care, which was huge.”
As pieces started falling into place, Kerri’s momentum was paused when she went on medical leave for six weeks to have surgery. But her time away would prove to be orchestrated by God. During her medical leave, God told her, “I want you to write your story.” Kerri knew her story included divorce and adoption, but what was God really asking of her? He instructed her to just start writing and He’d tell her what to do next. Two days later, Kerri had penned 10 pages of raw emotion and bittersweet revelation. She still didn’t know what would become of her writings, but it didn’t really matter. This was the first moment she’d had to really reflect on God’s goodness in the midst of her grief and how He was divinely leading her to her destiny despite all she had endured. She realized God used her infertility to introduce her to adoption, and He was also working with the broken pieces from her failed marriage. She was able to forgive, experience healing, and move forward with fresh faith.
August 16, 2018, marked the one-year anniversary of Kerri’s divorce. It was also the day of Kerri’s first Chosen Ones event at the Dallas Campus as coordinator.
“I was spending some time in prayer before the event and God showed me again how much He’s done,” she says through tears. “And His word to me has been, ‘I’m a God of reparations not just restoration.’ He has exchanged so much beauty for so much heartbreak.”
Kerri thinks back to the beautiful moment she gave her adopted son the name Deacon. She’d held the name in her heart for years before they’d even met him, and the name fit him perfectly. One day she found him staring at his picture repeating to himself ‘I am Deacon,’ while gently patting his chest, as if to seal the name upon his heart.
God has brought Kerri full circle from a place of pain, confusion, and sorrow into her destiny of healing, purpose, and hope. Like Deacon, she can say with assurance, “This is me. This is who I was made to be.”