The Johnson family farm is no stranger to going with the flow. From goats and chickens to alpacas, life on this Amarillo farm is hard work but never a dull moment. One minute a child is laughing and feeding the alpacas, in the next minute, they may be bullied by a goat for the food. And over the course of six years, Matt and Chrystal Johnson have had 20 Buckner foster care placements in their care. It’s been hard work, but never a dull moment.
Chrystal didn’t always feel the call toward foster care – or even toward being a mom. But when she and Matt married, she knew he was the love of her life, and that truth created a shift in her. Not always sure about having babies, she now was positive she just wanted to have kids with Matt.
They have two biological children, daughter Bailey, 17, and son, Logan, 15. The family of four felt solid, but incomplete.
As a child, Matt was raised by more than his biological family, receiving support from many family members and friends. That experience spurred him to continuously give back to his community as an adult, offering guidance and support to any child who needed it. Stepping into traditional foster care was an extension of that mission.
“I had known God called me to be a dad a long time before he called me to be a husband,” he shared. “I had looked into fostering and adoption even before getting married.”
Since 2015, 20 children have found the Johnson home a safe place to lay their heads. Each child left a hole in their hearts, and it was hard to watch them go sometimes.
While some children were reunified with biological family, three children found their forever home with the Johnsons.
Finn, now 3 years old, Jace who is also 3, and Rylen, almost 2 years old, keep Matt and Chrystal young. While the idea of empty nesting was close, these three under three changed everything – for the better. While biologically these three aren’t siblings, they are now Johnson brothers and sisters.
Finn was adopted in July 2019. Jace, who is six months younger than Finn, was adopted six months later in early 2020. Rylen the following year.
“Teenagers and toddlers,” Chrystal said with a laugh. “They can be a handful on different levels, and they follow each other through growth stages.”
Having children nearly a decade older than three toddlers could have been a challenge for any family. But all the Johnsons, including Bailey and Logan, jumped in with both feet for each and every placement.
“There have been lots of times where I felt like we couldn’t do this anymore. I’m heartbroken; we need to step away,” Chrystal shared. “But both Bailey and Logan, at different times, have said, ‘Mom, if we have the ability, we need to help who we can.’ Their hearts are in it. They fall in love; they have the heartbreak. They walk through all of it with us.”
Journeying through foster care and adoption as a family opened their eyes to so much more. Both Matt and Chrystal agree their upbringing seems sheltered now, but through this journey, it has expanded their perspectives.
“It has expanded beyond just us; I didn’t know about all these things kids face, or how big the foster care community is,” she shared.
Matt agrees this has given them the chance to see more what the real world is like – and have a chance to minister to that.
“We’ve had the chance to see generational change in families,” he said. “When you can make a difference and model what should and shouldn’t be happening, and even going to church, they can show their parents that. And then the difference is so much bigger, it’s not just about the kids – it’s about entire families.”