For Mary Gowen, trusting God is all about obedience—taking Him at His Word and stepping out in faith to do what He has called you to do, no matter what.
At the beginning of 2021, Mary’s younger brother told her that her niece’s kids needed help. He asked if she and her husband, Phil, would be willing to help take care of her niece’s son, Ryan. Though they had no children of their own, Mary and Phil immediately answered, “Yes!”
Moving forward, Phil and Mary shared a few Zoom calls with Ryan. And after only their first call with the boy, Phil turned to Mary.
“I just spoke to my son for the first time,” Phil said.
A few months later, Mary and Phil flew to Colorado to meet Ryan in person and bring him home. The connection between the couple and their new son was immediate—apparent even as soon as they arrived back at their hotel as a family for the first time.
“Well, since you’re going to be adopting me eventually, can I just call you Mom and Dad?” asked Ryan.
Mary and Phil were overjoyed. It was clear that their obedience to God’s call to foster Ryan was already being blessed.
As they adjusted to a new life with Ryan, Mary and Phil considered him as much their own child as if they had fully adopted him—which is what eventually happened.
“We never made a big deal about him being a foster child—he was ours,” said Mary. “We didn’t have to have a piece of paper saying that I was his mom or Phil was his dad. That’s just the way it was.”
Life was sweet with Ryan. However, Mary would soon learn all too well that our obedience to God does not always save us from the trials of life.
In the months following Mary and Phil’s trip to Colorado to pick up Ryan, Phil’s health began to rapidly decline. Phil eventually went to the doctor the day after his 64th birthday in late September 2021.
Mary said, “The doctor took one look at him and said, ‘You need more help than I can give you. I’m calling Methodist Germantown Hospital and calling an ambulance.’”
Phil was in the emergency room the following morning when he was diagnosed with a rapidly growing form of prostate cancer. He would need to remain in the hospital to receive treatment. Phil never came home after that.
“It was difficult,” Mary said. “I had a husband in the hospital. A new son. But the Lord was faithful.”
Phil’s health continued to deteriorate over the next month. When a hospice evaluator decided to admit him into hospice, Mary asked her how much time she thought Phil had left.
“About a week,” the hospice evaluator replied on a Sunday. By Monday, Phil was already non-responsive. On Tuesday morning, November 9, Phil passed away.
While the loss was heartbreaking for both Mary and Ryan, Ryan’s hope shone through his sorrow.
After Mary told him the news of Phil’s passing, Ryan exclaimed, “Mom, Dad is with Jesus!”
To this day, Mary grieves the loss of her husband. But she does not let the loss of Phil affect her belief in the goodness of God or the importance of obeying Him even when it is hard.
“God is still good,” Mary continues to say. “God is still faithful. He is still God—even when the times are difficult, even when we don’t understand, even in the midst of grief. God has done some amazing things.”
Although grief and life itself can be overwhelming, Mary proclaims that “those are the days when God does His best work.”
In the middle of the trial of losing her husband, Mary has also found great joy in gaining a son. More than a year after choosing to obey God's call to care for Ryan, she officially adopted him on June 24, 2022.
Mary stands boldly on the trustworthiness of God in the middle of her pain. The joy she has in the Lord, even as she hurts, is evident. Because of her obedience, she has her son Ryan and an eternal hope in God’s faithfulness. From her example, we can see that obeying God is worth it, no matter what trials and losses come our way.
“You don’t need to know everything before you step out in obedience,” said Mary. “Just obey.”
Click below to watch Mary’s story!