Katrina was born in 2003. She was diagnosed with Rett syndrome. She will never walk or talk, but she uses eye movements to communicate.
The couple, who had struggled to get pregnant, decided to adopt a second child. The day they attended an Anoka County informational meeting on adoption, they learned that Emma, also with Rett syndrome, had come up for adoption a day earlier.
They brought Emma home on Christmas Eve 2009 when she was 2. Like her big sister, Emma cannot talk or walk but communicates with eye movements.
When Emma prepared to start school, Jennifer Johnson realized she had some time on her hands and again thought about adopting. She often visited the state’s adoption website.
“I have an obsession with the Minnesota adopt website,” she confesses. “Seeing those kids and those faces. … You would see teenagers and all they want is a home for Christmas. It made me hurt. I would go and pray for those kids often.”
She ran across a posting with six children in February 2012.
“I looked at the pictures and I showed it to my friends. I couldn’t stop thinking about them,” she said.
Nathan Johnson, now a contracting officer with a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, returned from a business trip. Jennifer didn’t say a word about the six children. She simply showed him the photo.
“In the clearest voice I’ve ever heard, God said, ‘yes,’ ” Nathan Johnson said. “If I am anything. I am obedient.”
They called an Anoka County social worker that same day, and then they called a contractor to add onto their home. In a $70,000 renovation, they expanded from three bedrooms to six and added a wheelchair ramp.
They met with social workers who gave the couple a PowerPoint presentation, discussing each of the six children. They laid out all the background, the challenges each child faced. The Johnsons were not deterred.
“It didn’t matter. You know this isn’t going to be easy,” Nathan Johnson said.
Friends and family expressed awe and support.
The children moved in with the Johnsons in June. The adoptions were finalized in an Anoka County courtroom on Nov. 17, National Adoption Day.
“They’re amazing. They are some of the most giving, loving people I know,” said family friend Kim Myers. “They really came back to their faith after they discovered Katrina’s diagnosis.
“It’s prepared them for what they are going though, but also really encouraged them to do this. They feel it’s God’s mission for them.”
The Johnsons’ day usually starts around 5:30 a.m. when their littlest ones start to stir. Then it’s a rush to herd the seven school-age children onto five different buses.