By KATIE EUBANKS
Josh and Katie Braddy
Kids, COVID, and coming home to Broadmoor
Fun fact: The name Picayune, as in the Mississippi town of 11,000 just east of the toe of Louisiana, comes from the Latin “insignificant nothing.”
That’s where Josh and Katie Braddy hail from: Insignificant Nothing, Mississippi. But God has done more for them than they could ask or think — even when His path for them was long and winding and didn’t necessarily line up with their plans.
Josh and Katie have known each other since junior high, and sat at the same lunch table with the same group of friends in high school. But they didn’t think about dating then.
They both attended the University of Southern Mississippi, where Katie got Josh’s number from a friend at the Baptist Student Union.
“Then Katie calls me one day and asks me to go to a date party, and I said YES — and she said, ‘with my friend,’” Josh recalls.
“I never would’ve asked a boy on a date (myself),” Katie says.
Later, Josh and Katie both were called to Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg, where a mutual friend of theirs had had a stillbirth. In the process of praying for their friend, they reconnected.
“I think that’s when God turned the light switch on (between Josh and me) that had been off for a long time,” Katie says.
They started emailing (this was before texting was so easy!) and talking on the phone.
Then Josh “needed Katie’s help” formatting a paper — also over the phone.
“Then he asked me to a church softball game he was playing in…” Katie says.
“I wanted you to see me in my prime, girl,” Josh interjects.
“Strutting his stuff…”
Then they went on their first date, to Bop’s in Hattiesburg, right after Josh had played two softball games. They both wore T-shirts and athletic shorts, and “I smelled terrible,” Josh says.
“It was a perfect summation of who we are,” Katie says. “We’re pretty laidback.”
Despite some body odor — and their friends circling Bop’s in their vehicles and spying through the windows — it was a pretty good first date.
“We bypassed the ‘getting to know you’ stuff because we already knew each other,” Katie says.
In fact, they started talking about their dreams for the future.
At the time, Katie thought God was leading her to a mission field far away. “I thought, ‘I can’t let this guy get in the way of my plans.’”
But the most important topic of conversation? Foster care and adoption. Each of them said they wanted their first child to be adopted, God willing. They didn’t know if they’d be having children together, but adoption is what they both wanted — for good reason.
Josh Braddy was actually born Josh Roubion. His biological father died when Josh was 4.
“When my mom remarried when I was 8, he adopted me and gave me his last name,” Josh says. “He was and is a really good dad. That helped me understand the gospel more clearly, us being adopted into the family of God as His children (when we trust in Christ). (And) my family grew up doing foster care.”
Katie, too, had experience with a form of adoption:
“When I was in sixth grade, my dad was a Scoutmaster, and one of his scouts needed a place to stay, and we invited him to stay forever … He came back after college and lived at home (with us).”
Marriage and getting ‘paper pregnant’
Soon, there was little doubt in Josh or Katie’s mind that they were going to marry each other. They were both still living in south Mississippi at the time. One day, Josh got a job offer from First Baptist Jackson (FBJ) to become their new minister of recreation. As an athlete, he was sure he’d enjoy the job, but he turned it down. He had no reason to move to Jackson — he thought.
Later that same day, Katie told him she’d been accepted to occupational therapy school at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.
Josh still didn’t think the FBJ job was for him, so he called his buddy Kevin Cooper, who was the student pastor at First Baptist Brandon. Instead of sending Josh’s resume out like he asked, Kevin hired him as the church’s college pastor.
After Josh and Katie both moved to metro Jackson, 11 months after their ice cream date, they got married. They lived in an apartment with a view of the Pearl Walmart — “what every girl dreams of,” Josh quips — and soon started the adoption process.
With a passion for international missions, they felt led to international adoption. After praying over a bunch of adoption agency brochures for a week, the Braddys chose All God’s Children International, out of Portland, Oregon. They chose to adopt from Ethiopia.
“We were told (we’d only have to wait) nine months. ‘Paper pregnant,’ basically, is what they called it,” Josh says. But it didn’t work out that way.
Through the tail end of Josh’s time at First Baptist Brandon, plus his two and a half years as a student pastor at Broadmoor Baptist Church in Madison, he and Katie waited to be matched with a child.
“(The process) was incredibly expensive, and we were incredibly poor,” Josh says. “But God always showed up with people at the exact right time, with the exact amount we needed for our next milestone.”
Another crazy way God showed up: The Braddys heard about two other local couples who also were adopting from Ethiopia. “Local” meaning they lived in the Braddys’ same neighborhood in Madison. Oh, and they were all using All God’s Children International. The Braddys were thrilled to meet Lee and Jenni Smith and Jody and Alison Schmelzer. The three couples are still friends today.
In 2012, Josh accepted a position as senior pastor at New Palestine Baptist Church, back in his and Katie’s hometown of Picayune.
As they were about to pull out of their home in Madison, with the moving truck behind them, Josh said to Katie, “We’ll be back here one day.”
He elaborated: “I don’t know what that means. We might be old (when it happens).” He just felt they weren’t done in Madison yet.
“I looked at him and said, ‘You’re insane,’” Katie recalls.
Bringing Gideon home
In June 2012, around 8 p.m., Josh got a call from the number he recognized as his and Katie’s social worker who was helping them adopt.
“She said, ‘Are you sitting down?’ We ran home, opened the computer, and saw Gideon for the first time,” Josh says.
The then 3-year-old boy had big brown eyes and was smiling. The Braddys found out later just how toothy and beautiful that smile could get.
“It makes me want to cry (reliving that memory),” Katie says.
In just a couple of months, they would officially be parents to Gideon Tamirat Braddy. They flew to Ethiopia once for the initial visit, and once to bring him home. They almost missed their flight from Ghana to Ethiopia on the first trip, Josh recalls.
When they brought Gideon home, they flew 18 hours from Ethiopia to Washington, D.C. One hour in, Katie became “deathly ill,” Josh says.
“We don’t know what I had, but two other women had gotten typhoid,” Katie says. “I was in and out of consciousness, lying on the bathroom floor on the plane. It was the sickest I’ve ever been.”
Meanwhile, “Gideon didn’t speak English. We communicated with him through the flight attendants,” Josh says. “He was terrified, but excited to be on an airplane.”
When the flight attendants opened the bathroom door to tell Katie they’d landed in D.C., “I just said, ‘No,’ and closed the door,” she recalls. Josh had to sling her over their luggage on the rolling cart as they walked to their next terminal.
Then “a lady came up to us and started wiping my face and praying over me,” Katie says. “We saw her family, and some of her kids looked like they were adopted.”
After they finally arrived home, “it was Gideon learning English, learning to have a mom and a dad, and us learning to be a mom and a dad,” Josh says.
“Then we decided, let’s make our lives even more fun and do foster care.”
Mara Joy and 1 important phone call
The Braddys hadn’t even finished their paperwork to foster when they got the call about a Mississippi newborn who was on a feeding tube because she didn’t know how to eat. She was not yet 4 pounds.
“Katie gave her a bottle when we got there, and that was the first bottle she took,” Josh says.
Eighteen months later, in 2017, Mara Joy officially became a Braddy through adoption.
Then in early spring 2019, the Braddys found out they would soon have another child, this time the old-fashioned way.
Shortly thereafter, Josh received a phone call from Broadmoor Baptist Church as they searched for a new senior pastor. Perhaps he was right — he and Katie weren’t finished in Madison.
Preaching and parenting in a pandemic
As you might expect, “The Broadmoor team was really thoughtful (in their pastor search),” Josh says. Translation: They didn’t rush.
“Looking back, you’re so grateful they were deliberate,” he says.
In the meantime, Lydia Jane Braddy was born in November 2019.
By the time Broadmoor selected Josh as their new senior pastor in spring 2020, the pandemic was in full swing, and his church in Picayune was meeting virtually. He’d been there eight years, and didn’t want to say, “By the way, see ya” via Facebook Live, he says.
In May 2020, New Palestine started meeting in person again, and Josh was able to say a true goodbye to his church family. On June 22, the day after Father’s Day, he started work at Broadmoor.
He has yet to experience his new role outside the confines of COVID-19.
Is he frustrated by that?
“I feel more hopeful than frustrated,” he says. “There are some frustrating aspects. (But) we’re able to move more methodically and intentionally. We’re not starting something back just to fill a space.”
In other words, the pandemic has effectively killed off cultural Christianity, and that’s OK, he says.
“I’ve been incredibly excited to see our staff get excited about a new way to do church that’s intentional and gospel-centric.”
Throughout their many moves around Mississippi, Katie has worked as an occupational therapist. But “when we moved in the midst of a pandemic, I decided to wait and see if school was going to make (before going back to work). Then we decided to wait for the kids to get adjusted,” she says.
“It’s been a different adjustment, but it’s been fun. I feel busier than I ever have, chasing babies at home.”
As for the dream she had of living on the mission field:
“I’ve learned that being married to a pastor is a ministry. I feel like my ministry is him, which I know is weird-sounding. I’m a stress reliever, a sounding board, and a burden carrier. He’s a dream-driven and big-picture kind of person. That can be a lot to shoulder.”
It’s not just the general pressures of pastoring that can be burdensome. When asked to name his favorite Bible verse, Josh cites John 10:10, where Jesus offers His followers abundant life despite the devil’s efforts, because “mental illness has always been a struggle and a passion of mine … depression and anxiety,” he says.
“(At one point) it was debilitating. But through counseling, medicine and proactive measures … it’s become a strong platform that I use, to put the stigma away and help people find freedom.”
“We just try to live as transparently as we can,” Katie adds. “We’re just two people who love Jesus passionately — ”
“ — and we’re broken, and Jesus loves us,” Josh finishes.
John 10:10, Josh’s favorite verse, is engraved on the inside of Katie’s wedding band.
And on the inside of Josh’s wedding band is Ephesians 3:20-21, which talks about God doing “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.” If Katie had to pick a “life verse,” that’d be it, she says.
“Josh will tell you, I struggle really, really bad with anxiety. … I’m always expecting less because I don’t want to be disappointed.
“(But) God’s always taken the things I’ve imagined for my life and made them so much greater — for His glory.”