Coach hears higher call, watches his family grow

Sunday, October 25, 2009 at 10:49pm
The Oatsvall family: Jeremiah, left (standing) and Elijah, right, are the biological sons of Gwen and Scott Oatsvall. Seated are Gwen, who is holding Maggie, and Scott who is holding Emily, both children adopted from China. / Photo by Jude Ferrara / (On 'Home Page' are Joseph and Daisy of Uganda).

The deep roots Scott Oatsvall has in his faith permeates around the world — literally.

The Franklin Road Academy coach and wife, Gwen, having already adopted two children from China, have made another commitment around the world in a different direction — this time to Africa.

Why the family is reaching out through adoption is that they are responding to a higher calling.

“I read where there are about one third of families who consider adoption, but only about 2 percent follow through on it,” said Scott Oatvall, who coaches football and boys basketball at FRA middle school. “Gwen and I thought and prayed about it. God called on us. We felt strongly that we should make a difference.”

Years ago, after the Oatvalls celebrated the arrival of their two biological children, they sat down and made some powerful, life-changing but heart-felt decisions. After long and prayerful consideration, they made the commitment three years ago to adopt orphans Emily, 6, and Maggie, 4, from Hunan, China — about 8,000 miles away from their Brentwood home.

Now, adopting in double doses, the Oatsvalls have reached out across the Atlantic Ocean into Uganda, where they have completed the necessary process for Joseph, 3, and Daisy, 2, to journey some 10,000 miles to their new Tennessee home.

With Gwen ready to make the lengthy air flight over and back (Scott will stay to take care of the other four and, of course, coach), the two new additions expect to join their new family by the end of this month or early November.

A difficult process

It won’t be an easy trip. After about a half a day of connecting flights, a six-hour bus trip is required into Uganda. But the journey is literally a labor of love for the Oatsvalls who have been married 19 years.

“After we had our two children (Jeremiah, 11, and Elijah, 7) we had a lengthy talk about adoption,” said Scott, 39.

They learned a lot of sobering facts.

“There are 147 million orphans worldwide,” Scott said. “Every 14 seconds, someone contracts AIDS.”

The couple also discovered that the adoption process is lengthy, that local governments have to deem them fit parents, there is a lot of paperwork to fill out, social workers are involved… Still, the Oatsvalls say it’s worth it.

For many, adoption is a last resort for those who cannot conceive, but the Oatsvalls are doing this even though Gwen is fully capable of conceiving more children.

The couple learned of the stark nature of Chinese orphans and the country’s adoption process and set out to do something about it.

“In China, there are so many orphans,” Scott said. “Families there are limited to one child, and abortion is rampant — it’s sad. Frequently, when families decide to abort, it is a girl, because if it’s a boy, he can at least carry on the family name. That’s one reason we wanted two girls.”

One of the girls, Maggie, is a special needs child. “She was victim of burns very early and she still has ongoing pain,” he said. But she is getting a chance few girls like her in China will get.

“All children are special and belong to God,” Oatsvall said. “You want to place them in a loving home and you know their new environment is drastically improved from what they had. As a family, we have them only temporarily before they go out into the world and make their own mark.”

Knowing what’s important

Oatsvall was a standout football player at San Diego State and had NFL tryouts with the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers.

Before coming to FRA two years ago, he took his 2005 girls basketball team at CPA to the school’s first girls state tournament. There, they reached the Class A semifinals with 25 wins before losing to eventual state champ Peabody.

But for his family, there a things literally worlds more important than that, and new worlds for the Oatsvalls to conquer, such as Uganda.

“We came into contact with Katie Davis, who has adopted 13 children of her own in Uganda,” Scott said. “We were struck as to the dire situation there. Not only is it a country strife with war, it is overrun with AIDS. The military picks up 10- and 11-year-old boys to fight for the country. Life expectancy is extremely low. Many never see their parents.”

It was then the couple decided to reach out to Joseph and Daisy.

“Katie, who went to Ravenwood High, was very helpful in the process, and we’ve stayed in touch,” he said.

Stretching the limit?

Raising six children and making trips around the world doesn’t come cheaply, and when asked if he planned on taking the children on a vacation to Disney World at some point, Oatsvall said, “Things like that are out of the question for the time being.”

He acknowledged what he and Gwen are doing is “a year-round job” and family vacations don’t fit in the plans when, as Scott said, “It’s all we can do to make ends meet.

“But it’s God’s calling,” he added. “People who have found out about us have been wonderfully generous financially, all the way from the FRA family, to around Nashville to around the country.”

The Steven Chapman Foundation and Point of Grace have been very helpful as well, he said.

“Someone told me that I’m an old ball coach who has some spiritual minister leadership,” Scott said.

For now, the family priorities are focused on getting Gwen and the children home safely from Africa. Then they look ahead to a full house for the holidays.

Will the family consider any future adoptions?

“We are probably stretching the limit,” Scott said. “But you learn never to say never. Gwen and I will just go where God and our hearts lead us.”


1 Comment on this post:

By: Dore4Life on 10/26/09 at 9:47

Keep these kinds of inspirational stories coming! Wonderful story!