“If God wanted us to do this, He would have to provide…and He did! We cannot take any credit. God is faithful.” These are words from Russ and Erin Dawson as they recall their journey of adoption and becoming owners of Dawson Family Feed & Seed in Russellville, KY.

Russ and Erin met at a Bible study while at college and married in 2007. They planned to stay in the small town in upper state New York where they were raised. They loved the quaint feel of their close-knit community and felt they would never be able to find another home with family-like neighbors.

Russ, then, traveled between Buffalo and Rochester as a self-employed contractor and Erin was busy working for the local school system. They soon realized their dreams of having children may not come as easily to them as it seemed to other couples. They placed their trust, hope, and dreams into God’s hands, for they knew He was in control. During this time, Erin began to ponder the possibility of adoption. While at a visit with their fertility specialist, they were surprised with the news that they were pregnant with their first child.

Even after the birth of their second child a couple of years later, Erin and Russ still contemplated adoption. They contacted New Horizons for Children, (NHFC), an organization that helps families with a heart for missions bring the mission field to their home and church. NHFC personally interviews each child and strives to have the best possible fit for the child and host family. Their goal is for the child to have a positive family experience and understand what healthy relationships look like.

Erin looked through countless photos of young girls who needed a home, but none were compatible with their daughter, Ava, then 3 years old, and son Evan, 6 months old. NHFC suggested two young boys from Latvia to stay with the Dawson’s for a few weeks. Daniels, 9 years old at the time, and Kaspars, 7, had two younger siblings (Kristiana, 4, and Wally, 3) still in Europe whom they cared for deeply. New Horizons felt these boys would do well with the Dawson’s younger children. So the Dawson’s agreed to host them in December.

“We wanted to be a blessing at Christmas and make a Christian impact on these children, even for a short time,” Russ explained. “But God showed us that His ways are not our ways.” Russ and Erin fell in love with the brothers and wanted to adopt them… and their two siblings. “New Horizons works very hard to keep siblings together.” They prayed God would make it very clear what they should do.

The main issues at hand were having room in their small home for 4 more children and having finances necessary to make this dream a reality. Russ says, “I am very logical. Things must line up and make sense for me…but then I heard a sermon on faith from Joshua Chapter 3. The priests needed to carry the Ark of the Covenant across the Jordan River. God told them they had to put their feet in the water. They didn’t understand, but they couldn’t cross and wouldn’t see a miracle until their feet were wet. I knew if God was asking us to do this, we had to be obedient and God would provide. And He did! What I thought wouldn’t be possible, God made possible. The things we feared were not mountains we had to climb. The money we needed seemed to be insurmountable, yet God provided. People overwhelmed us with support.” Russ and Erin explained how God used many individuals to supply the necessary finances to help with adoption costs and 3 trips to Latvia. Erin adds, “God showed up through His people. Neighbors brought us food, gifts, and helped with the children.”

They had definite struggles along this journey, too, Erin says. “At first, the youngest two siblings could not speak any English at all. That was very challenging. Also, Daniels had taken on the responsibility of caring for his three younger siblings. It was difficult for him to learn to be a child and not the parent.”

“After a while, we began to feel unsettled in New York,” Russ recalls. He mentioned high taxes and the state government making decisions that went against his conscience. “Plus the endless winters.” He says his body absolutely could not tolerate the severe cold anymore.

They knew they needed to move, but were unsure where. A friend offered Russ a job as a project manager in Georgia. Russ lived in a camper trailer while there and looked for a home for his family. Erin had found a buyer for their New York home and was preparing to move when COVID hit.

Erin remembers, “Everything was shut down. Russ could not work so he had to come back, but we already had a closing date on our house.” Erin’s parents had also sold their home and planned to move with them. They first looked at South Carolina, but when Erin’s brother moved to Clarksville, TN, they began looking for houses near there. “Property was very expensive in TN, so we started looking in Kentucky. The Russellville area was within an hour of Nashville and Clarksville, which was reasonable, so we began looking for houses in this area.”

The feed mill business, home, and property caught the Dawson’s attention. It had a barn, a place to raise cows and horses, space for the children to play, PLUS there was an in-law house. They could have bought the house without the mill but were excited about the opportunity before them.

Jacob, the previous owner, was gracious enough to allow Russ and Kaspars to stay two weeks to learn the ropes of the feed business while Erin and their other children stayed in New York. Russ voiced gratitude. “Jacob wanted us to do well. He gave us his contacts with the local farmers that supply 80% of the composition of our feed products and with farms in neighboring towns like Pembroke, Sharon Grove, and Franklin that supply the additional 20%.”

The Dawson’s have settled into their new home and are very thankful for the feed mill. Erin explains, “We did not know one single person when we moved here. The feed store gave us an immediate connection to this community. We’ve been here about a year and have already made many close friends.”

“I thought people would shun us if they knew we were from New York,” Russ says. “I kept remembering a picante sauce commercial where those cowboys say ‘New York City?!’ But it hasn’t been like that at all. It instantly felt like we had neighbors.”

Russ and Erin are just as busy now as they were in New York. Russ makes all the feed, grinding, pounding, and mixing the corn and grain the way Jacob instructed. Erin and the children help tie, label, stack, and load bags. Erin says the customers seem to like having the kids help. She recalls one customer commenting, “You don’t see boys working anymore.” She goes on to say, “I love seeing all the children working together, developing relationships and bonds. God has been so good to us.” Even though they miss loved ones in New York, the family is thankful to be a part of the Logan County community.

Their sixth-year adoption anniversary is coming up. Daniels is now 17, Kaspars is 15, Kristiana is 11, Ava is 10, Wally 10, and Evan is 7. As Russ and Erin look back, they can see God’s hand guiding them, even how the pandemic helped lead them to Russellville, KY. Russ says, “God opens and closes doors. He is always faithful. We just have to be obedient.”

For more information about New Horizons for Children, please visit nhfc.org.

Dawson Family Feed and Seed (270-755-5749) is located at 3568 Lost City Road in Russellville, Ky., and can be found on Facebook.

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