Stepping Out in Faith: Young Des Moines couple trust in God's timing
February 27, 2020
Just months after getting married, Mary and Seth Sojka of the Basilica of St. John Parish in Des Moines were faced with a major life decision – adoption.
Mary’s nephew Roland was in the foster care system in California because his mother (Mary’s sister) was in prison on drug possession.
If the couple chose not to take Roland, he would be adopted by someone in California, losing all ties to blood relatives.
Roland’s mother was on drugs while pregnant, and since his birth he and his two older brothers were often homeless. Their abusive father beat their mother’s stomach when carrying Roland with the hope of terminating the pregnancy.
Adoption was a big decision for a young couple that had been married only six months, Mary conceded, but she and Seth wanted to give God their “yes.”
They pursued Roland for over a year, finally bringing him home in January 2018.
“Roland was unfortunately most affected by the drugs, but you would never know it,” Mary said. “He’s all smiles. In fact, no one would know he could have been a drug baby. He’s happy and outgoing. I went to school with him and everyone knows Roland’s name – the little kids, the teachers. He is truly a joy to this world.”
Roland’s two older brothers, Wayne and Cyrus, are foster children and being raised by their grandparents Kim and Rand Lehman of St. Luke Parish in Ankeny.
All three boys attend St. Pius X Catholic School in Urbandale. They know they are brothers and Kim, Mary and Seth ensure all three spend quality time together.
Seth and Mary admit early on it was difficult caring for Roland, but it was definitely the right decision.
“I won’t say it was easy, because they’ve had a lot of trauma and have not been through the best circumstances in life,” Mary said. “Foster care is a ministry many are not willing to take on because it’s a huge cross and a huge sacrifice. We had it easier, because he was family, though we had a lot of trauma and difficulties.”
Mary was thankful for Seth’s willingness to bring Roland into the family and take on the father figure role so early in their marriage.
“He truly took on a cross and he has grown immensely,” Mary said. “He is so much more faithful now than when we were first married. He has taken on the dad role like none other. And he just loves Roland and he is so good with Roland and so patient with Roland.”
Seth spends a lot of time working with Roland, getting him caught up on numbers, letters and more.
“He’s been amazing and it’s definitely helped him grow,” Mary added.
The couple often lean on God, which “made our marriage stronger when we had our hard times and weak moments and learning to take care of a 3 ½ year old who has been traumatized.”
“God knew what he was doing when he brought me Seth…,” Mary continued. “He’s definitely been the rock this family has needed through all of this.”
Throughout this process, Mary has come to see how much God loves each of us – including Roland.
“When we see what God did for Roland, you have to take a step back and go ‘Wow,’” Mary said.
During the adoption process, Seth and Mary were also trying to conceive, and discovered fertility issues.
“I really struggled...I didn’t realize how much love and time and attention Roland would need, but God did,” Mary said, noting God’s perfect timing. “God knew just what he would need. He wanted Roland to just fully come into our family and have his needs met.”
The couple found out January 9, 2018 that they would be bringing Roland home. One year later – January 9, 2019 – Seth stopped at the grocery store to buy Mary flowers in celebration of her 1-year anniversary of becoming a mother to Roland. When he arrived home, Mary also had a surprise – she was pregnant.
“If we had gotten pregnant that first year of marriage, the conversation around Roland would have been significantly different,” Seth conceded, admitting that would not have been as open-minded about adopting.
Mary delivered baby Zelda Sept. 9 – just three days before Roland’s formal adoption hearing, which had been scheduled for months.
“There was the option to reschedule,” Seth said. “And Mary said, ‘We’re not missing the court date.’ She marched right down there and all four of us were there for the court hearing and we finalized the adoption. It was a joyous occasion.”
A few weeks later, Seth and Mary held a joint baptism for Roland and Zelda at the Basilica with the pastor, Father Aquinas Nickels. (It is frowned upon for adoptive parents to make religious decisions for foster children until adoption becomes legal.)
“I would put that day right up there with our wedding day…,” Seth said. “The placement of Roland with us was life-changing. As much as it was an announcement of him formally kicking off his Catholic faith…it was almost a closure to a chapter of him not formally being a member of our family to him formally and forever being a member of our family.”
Last month Kim travelled to California to greet her daughter as she was released from prison. Kim accompanied her back to Iowa, and she is now living with the Lehmans and her two boys in Ankeny. They are now working on finding her a good job.
"She’s so nervous. I told her, ‘God doesn’t need you to be qualified. He brought you here in a miraculous moment. Just put your trust in Jesus,’” Lehman said, pointing out all the positive changes she’s seen in her daughter. She now joins Kim at 5 a.m. every morning to drink coffee, pray and read the Bible.
“I’ve seen our prayers are always answered, and I’ve seen how God has touched lives that were broken and that had no hope….,” Kim said. “That fact that my daughter was lost and now is found. God has touched her heart and I can see that God has made this his mission. So we sit back, continue to pray and give it to him and then he does the rest.”