Nashville, TN (written by Vicky Travis/The Tennessean) -- At a time of life when many Americans would be checking on the 401(k)s, and helping the kids move out of the nest, 57-year-olds Marla and Dwayne Hastings are part of a close-knit group of faithful 50-somethings who are starting family all over again through adoption.
The Franklin, Tenn., couple, who have five grown children, just a few weeks ago brought home their third child from an orphanage in China, a 5-year-old boy with a huge smile whom they've named Hudson.
He joined big brother James, 8, who joined the family in 2008, and big sister Gracee, also 8, who came to the Hastings' home in 2005.
"People think we're crazy," says Marla, who adds that people thought they were crazy when they kept on having children back in the day. Or when her husband left a corporate job for seminary.
"They ask, 'Why?' " she says. "We say, 'Why not?' "
These older adopters have spurred on one another, mentored adoptive families and created ministries based on the conviction that Christians are called to take care of orphans.
"We first saw it as rescuing them," says Marla Hastings shaking her head. "But it changed," says her husband. "It's God rescuing us from a self-centered life."
'Better old parents than no parents'
And what about those 401(k)s and retirement?
"We don't think about it," says Dwayne Hastings, vice president of communications at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
"There's no retirement plan in the Bible," says Shane Pass, who facilitates the adoption ministry at ClearView Baptist in Franklin. At 40, he and his wife, Heather, recently domestically adopted their first child, Hallie.
Marla Hastings, a swim coach, laughs when she calls herself "older than dirt." The couple's decision to adopt took a little while to gel as questions about funding and their ages were answered.
She credits something fellow swim coach and adoptive dad Jim Chapman said to her years ago when they were first considering adoption. "He said, 'Better old parents than no parents,'" she recalls. That did it.
Bob and Tracy Gavigan of Franklin, Tenn., have four biological children. Two months ago, they brought Sophie home from an orphanage in China. She'll be 3 next month.
Tracy, who will turn 50 soon, and her husband, Bob 52, felt the tug to adopt about 10 years ago.
Their no-longer youngest is Ally, 14 who, at first, wasn't too sure about her place in the family being usurped. "But, it's great now," she says.
"All of our kids have been really changed," says Tracy. Their recently married son and his wife are thinking about adoption.
'It needs to be a calling'
The seemingly overwhelming decision to adopt became easier for these families when someone who's been there shows them the ropes -- and the realities.
"There's a subculture that you wouldn't even know existed," says Dwayne Hastings, who adds that social media has made it even stronger. It often starts with relationships struck up over conversations about their adopted children.
"It happens when they see neighbors adopting, when they see that precious child and know it might not have lived if it hadn't been adopted," says Schweiterman.
The Gavigans were inspired by the Hastings, who were inspired by Jim and Yolanda Chapman, who have four children 24 to 19 years old and three adopted children, who are 11, 7 and 6. They were inspired by his sister Mary Beth and Christian musician Steven Curtis Chapman, who adopted three children and started Show Hope, which helps others fund adoptions. And so on.
"It needs to be a calling. Everybody is not supposed to adopt or foster, but they can get involved without having a child in the home," says Pass, the children's minister at ClearView Baptist.
'Step out on faith'
It can cost between $20,000 to $40,000 to adopt internationally or domestically.
For that reason, adoption is often a community effort.
"It's not $30,000 up front," says Dwayne Hastings. "We put down the $100 application fee, then step out on faith."
To fund their three adoptions, the Hastings have borrowed from a retirement annuity and benefited from fundraisers. For their first adoption, Marla heard of a church that was closing and giving away assets. She wrote a proposal and it granted them $20,000.
With all that, they still have some debt.
As for Pass and wife Heather, he says the response from friends and churchgoers was phenomenal.
"With three emails, we raised $40,000 in 40 days," says Pass.
Small and large organizations help as do individual churches that have adoption funds.
"I spent one of my retirement funds to adopt," says Jim Chapman. "I might have to work till I'm 80," he says with a laugh.
"It's an amazing journey," says Marla Hastings.