But this time, it's for happy tears I read this story today in our local newspaper, and luckily found it online. The only thing missing is the short bios of all the kids that was printed with the article in the paper. Rather long, but well worth the read. Missouri couple builds family through adoption - Columbia Missourian Mornings at the Ritter farm in Curryville are like mornings at many other country homes. The smoky smell of bacon frying fills the air. Kids can be heard shuffling in socks across the hardwood floor. The back door bangs shut as teenage boys come in from doing their morning chores. It seems oddly calm, considering there are 24 people getting ready for their day. Tom and Debra Ritter have three sons from previous marriages and 22 kids they have adopted since 1995. Many of them have special needs, and some have had life-threatening illnesses. All of the adopted kids, ages 7 to 26, still live at home. ------ When they married, Debra became a Catholic, like Tom. She had grown up Baptist and had a lot of questions. "Tom went to his Bible for answers," Debra says, "and that opened the door for true and original Christianity, taking care of the elderly and the fatherless children ... That's sort of how all this started." Tom says, "We just said we'd like to help a child sitting somewhere thinking they are too old or have too many disabilities or they will never get to have a family." They married in April 1995 and adopted their first child, Jessica, in December. She was 6 and had suffered abuse. Marcia Jones, a former adoptions specialist for the state of Missouri, helped the Ritters with many of their adoptions. "What impressed me most about them is they said, 'Give me the kids that nobody wants,' and that usually meant teenagers." ------------ Each kid gets a new name when joining the family, usually a name the child picks from the Bible. "We wipe the slate clean," Debra says. "We don't have to ever talk about what happened in their past if they don't want to," though she says she's spent many nights listening (and later crying) about the abuse and neglect many of the children suffered. Because of the logistics, the Ritters decided to home-school their children. The schoolhouse is filled with desks and hundreds of books. The children work at their own pace, with parents and older siblings there to help. Each child gets a puppy. The Ritters run a kennel on their farm, and all of the kids help out. "It really helps them to have a life they have to care for," Debra says. The newly adopted children also have others to rely on. "I think all of us know what it was like, so we can all help in a way that is more compassionate," says Kaitlyn, 26. The biggest struggle for Tom and Debra is trying to gain the kids' trust. "Once you gain their trust, they don't rebel," Debra says. "And you can open their heart to what you have to offer." Several of the kids are African-American. Before the Ritters adopted them, they took classes on black history and dealing with racism and how to care for black skin and hair. "Color doesn't mean a thing in this family," Tom says. Amariah agrees: "What's really unique is that we are from such different backgrounds, but we don't see each other differently." The Ritters say miracles they have experienced reinforce their belief that adopting children is God's calling. The story of Janai is one example. In 2000, the Ritters heard about a toddler in Vietnam who was marked "terminal" in an orphanage. "Once a baby is marked terminal, they don't play with it or nurture it, partly to guard their own heart and partly because there aren't enough resources," Debra says. The Ritters fell in love as soon as they saw her photo. But they couldn't afford the international adoption. They had already liquidated their retirement savings and sold their home in Warrenton to pay for other adoptions and the 60-acre farm. "So Tom took the family in prayer on our knees and said, 'Lord if you want us to take this child, show us how to do it.'" Debra says. A few days later, a knock on the door brought them their answer: a check for $10,000 from a family who had heard about their struggles. Then the donations started pouring in. "We got checks in the mail, some for as little as $10; kids brought in their piggy banks." The Ritter kids decided to forgo their Christmas gifts. [that's where I lost it ] Pictures: Our Photos We hear so much these days about those who deliberately choose to twist the faith in order to further their own bigotry and hateful agendas. I was glad to see a story which shows an understanding of true Christian faith.