Christmas in a family of 15 children

News 23 December, 2017
  • Photo Andréanne Lemire
    Top row: Kyria, 17 years old, Israel-Luc, 39 years old, Ezekiel, age 16, David, 15-year-old Agnes, 39 years old, and Eliana, 12 years old.

    At the center: Joshua, 9-year-old Jonathan, 11 years old, Minha-Beautiful, 7 year old,Thalia, 15 years old, Nadya, a 13-year-old, Khael, 10 years old, and Jimmy, 12 years old.

    On the ground: Mikaela, age 14, Luana, 13 years old, Anika, 17, and Kamylia, 11 years.

    Amélie St-Yves

    Saturday, December 23, 2017 01:00

    Saturday, December 23, 2017 01:00

    Look at this article

    THE TUQUE | A family of 15 children, 10 of whom are adopted, celebrates Christmas in all simplicity, because for them, the most beautiful gift is to be together.

    The family of Godfrey of La Tuque, in the Mauricie region, is set to 17 in a house of five rooms, with a total of six sets of bunk beds.

    At this time of the year, there is a parade of Christmas stocking full of surprises along the stairway to the basement. They contain tangerines, small toys, candy and books.

    Ten adopted children

    These stockings were sewn by the mother of the family, Agnes de Leeuw, on the occasion of his first Christmas with her husband Israel-Luke Godfrey. She had made six at the beginning, by providing for four children, her husband and her. The mother had, however, bought a lot more fabric, without knowing that it would one day 15 mouths to feed.

    Israel-Luke Godfrey and Agnes de Leeuw have adopted 10 children from underprivileged countries after having five biological.

    In the basement, each of the 15 children has its own small shopping cart identified where to put his mittens, his hat and his scarf, to avoid the chaos. The coats piling up on a peg, and dozens of boots are lined up on a stand to dry.

    In mid-December, the whole world has prepared her little gingerbread house, decorated with licorice, chocolate and sweets. A small village takes shape on a table in the kitchen.

    There has fifteen years, all the children decorated a large single house, but for about five years, they are too many, then the mom their by preparing each with a small.

    “After the visit of the Holidays, in early January, we get out the hot chocolate, the tea, the milk, and it starts eating the houses, by soaking the biscuits,” said the father of the family, Israel-Luke Godfrey.

    New year’s eve

    Mr. Godfrey is a baptist pastor who does not celebrate, but that is still a believer. The Godfrey will not go to the midnight mass on Christmas eve, but will take the time to thank ” the Creator “.

    Tomorrow, they will go to dinner in the eastern Townships in the paternal family. They will no doubt play a bit outside on the way back, perhaps to enjoy the gift of family, which this year will be a snowmobile used.

    Then, the christmas party will be simple. No father Christmas, no pile of gifts to develop, but a movie as a family, bundled up under a blanket. They intend to eat a dinner consisting of snack foods, such as popcorn, in front of the television.

    “Father Christmas is a beautiful symbol, like the christmas tree and the garlands, but my children do not believe in it. And I don’t have elves with us no more, ” said Ms. de Leeuw.


    For the only time of the year, there will be Nutella on the table on Christmas morning. In a family of 17, the spread hazelnuts and chocolate is far from being a priority.

    They will also take time as a family the morning of the 25th to tell the story of the birth of Jesus.

    “We’re going to re-read the biblical texts as a whole, including that which speaks of the coming of Jesus, the angels, the manger. It begins like this before you open the gifts, because to us, that Jesus came is the most beautiful gift that God has given us “, says Agnès de Leeuw.

    The children will have small gifts in their Christmas stocking, but no large individual gifts, because the family has chosen to offer the snowmobile used.

    They will take all the same a lot of time to discover the surprises, like gifts that children are exchanged between them, such as crafts and cards.


    To travel by school bus

    Photo courtesy

    The family of 17 people moves to the school bus and lives in a house with five bedrooms, two bathrooms and a third toilet is located in a bathroom.

    With 15 children, Godfrey need to have a few vehicles, including a small yellow bus for traveling as a family. Which does not fail to feed into discussions at La Tuque, where they moved last summer to follow the work of the father.

    This last is a pastor for the organization’s Renaissance of aboriginal, which is aimed at reconciliation of aboriginal peoples to the beliefs of the evangelists.

    The Godfrey’s were a large and united family, where skin color doesn’t matter. Ten of the children are adopted. They come from Vietnam, Honduras, and Ukraine.

    “Kamylia is no more my sister, Minha-Beautiful that has been adopted “, lance candidly Mikaëla, 14 years old, which ensures that everyone is equal.

    The nine daughters of Agnes and Israel-Luke shared by the three bedrooms on the upper floor of the house, while the six boys make up two of the sub-soil.

    Battle of the bathroom

    The 15 children from 7 to 17 years of age and both parents have a bath, a shower and three toilets to share between them.

    However, there is a girl in the least since September in the home because the oldest has left the nest to go study social work at the cegep level.

    The parents have isolated a part of the large living room with a folding screen to put their bed on the ground floor, due to lack of parts. Renovations are underway to enlarge the house.

    Children of Godfrey are disciplined. They monitor the array of tasks to do, which allows you to have a home clean and tidy, and not to leave the dishes for an army stack.

    “Live to 17 in the home, it is normal for them. They know however that they are more numerous than among their friends, ” says the mother of a family.


    Arrival of the children

    • 2000 : birth of Kyria
    • 2001 : birth of Ezékiel
    • 2003 : birth of Mikaëla
    • 2005 : birth of Eliana
    • 2006 : birth of Kamylia
    • 2007 : Adoption of Khael, 8 month (Vietnam)
    • 2010 : Adoption of Joshua, 2 years (Honduras)
    • 2012 : Adoption of Luana, age 8, David, age 10, Jonathan, 6 years old, and Jimmy, 7 years old (Ukraine).
    • 2014 : Adoption of Anika, 14 years old, Thalia, 12 years old and She, 10 years old (Ukraine)
    • 2015 : Adoption of Minha-Beautiful, 5 years (Vietnam).


    Privacy, a rare commodity

    Photo Amélie St-Yves

    Their bed is often the only place where Godfrey can have your privacy. The two teenage men are alone together, with later the four boys in elementary school. Here, Minha Belle, Jonathan and Kamylia.

    Not easy to find privacy in this house. The space reserved for each child is limited to his bed. They are two, three or four per room.

    “The “leave me alone” is very important to us. We listen and we respect that. It is necessary to protect the bubbles from each, ” explains Mr Godfrey.

    Even with 15 children, Agnes de Leeuw and Israel-Luke Godfrey are not closed to the idea of having others, but it should not become the chain work.

    “We want it to remain a family, we don’t want to become an institution,” says Israel-Luke Godfrey.


    Not superhero

    Photo Amélie St-Yves

    Every child should help with household chores. Here, Jonathan looks at the table where all of the tasks that he must accomplish are illustrated.

    Agnes de Leeuw and Israel-Luke Godfrey met in a bible school in Sherbrooke, at the end of the 1990s. The two Quebecers were married on 22 August 1998.

    They imagined a large family, but never to the point of having 15 mouths to feed. Turn to the adoption was natural for them, even more than Israel-Luke Godfrey had three sisters and a brother adopted from Vietnam.

    “This is not willing to save the children. It is rather to accompany them and offer them something that was not accessible at home. It is not superhero, it’s not going to save the world, ” she said.


    A very tight budget

    Photo Andréanne Lemire

    The Godfrey make lie those who believe that it is impossible in Quebec to raise 15 children with one salary in 2017. It must be said that they rely on government support and on society for a good boost.

    Yes, the budget is managed tightly, but the children say that they do miss out.

    “If we need something and we didn’t, my mother will buy it. And if it’s just because we want something, we’ll buy it ourselves “, explains Mikaëla, 14 years old.

    Creativity is also at the rendez-vous to take the maximum of the salary of the father, who is a pastor and a mechanic. For example, two adolescents were able to play football this summer, while one of the girls was volleyball, and a dance. All of this has been paid for by the Foundation, Canadian Tire jumpstart, thanks to the efforts of the mother.

    Otherwise, the family receives each month a lot of food aid a body of The Toque. They also go to the grocery store once a week and make racing at Three Rivers, once a month, between other to go to Costco.

    “But it is certain that if a young person says to me that it would have the taste of eating strawberries in November, it will not happen. This is not purchasable “, stressed Ms. de Leeuw, whose father was a financial planner.

    In the morning, the family can eat toast or cereal, depending on what is in the pantry. A child is also responsible for the care of their 11 hens, which allows you to have eggs from time to time.


    Large meals

    Photo Andréanne Lemire

    Each year, the tradition in the Godfrey is the decoration of houses into gingerbread and eat them with milk after the Holidays.

    Every evening, mother Agnes cooking a big supper, is the family, then makes eight servings aside for the teenagers who will eat in the next day’s lunch at school. The remainder is divided between those who want even.

    At lunchtime, the soups and crackers are favored for most young people, who come home to dinner.

    Other adults in the neighborhood also help the family, among others, for the travel of children. The Godfrey also receive regular pockets of used linen. Sometimes, they give to other families, because there are too many.

    The couple does not want to reveal how many of the 10 adoptions cost, but remember that the tax system in Quebec, tax credits, and that the family allowances help to arrive. They want to stay secretive about their finances, because for them, life is not money-related.


    The home school

    Photo Andréanne Lemire

    Agnes de Leeuw is the home school to Minha-Belle, who came to Quebec two years ago.

    All children Godfrey have done a few school years at home with their mother before entering the public system.

    At the beginning, it was to enjoy a degree of freedom in order to be able to from a few days in dragging his notebooks. Later, it became a way of helping adopted children make the transition to Quebec and learn French.

    “It may be difficult to arrive to Ukraine and to start school here, five days per week. This is not bad, but this is not ideal, ” says Israel-Luke Godfrey.

    This year, only the small last of the family, Minha-Beautiful, 7 year old, remains with mom to study. The Vietnamese origin was adopted two years ago.

    “When Minha-Beautiful arrived, there were already 14 other children. It gives us our little time together, alone. It is as if it is his time to it, ” says the mom.


    Be adopted with his biological siblings

    Photo Andréanne Lemire

    Anyka, Nadya and Thalia came together to Ukraine in 2014. Their larger sister remained in his country.

    Agnes de Leeuw and Israel-Luke Godfrey have adopted two siblings in the Ukraine, blood-brothers and sisters, who have the same fathers and biological mothers.

    In 2012, they adopted Luana, David, Jonathan and Jimmy, and returned in 2014 for three sisters : Anika, Thalia and Nadya.

    They are extremely happy to have found a stability without being separated. Even if another sister, older, and major, still remains in Ukraine.

    “It comforts me that they are there. If we had been separated, it would have really been more difficult, ” says Anika, 17 years old.

    The three sisters were three orphanages in the Ukraine before arriving in Quebec and you begin to learn French in 2014. It is a reflex for Nadya to turn to his sisters organic.

    “When something happens bad for me, I can go see them for that they help me to solve the problem,” says the 13 year old girl.

    The girls remember having celebrated Christmas on the last orphanage, which looked like a school, where they slept. For Christmas, we put a large christmas tree in the gym that the kids could decorate.

    “We ate together, we sang songs. There were organizations that came out to give us gifts, ” remembers Anika.


    Without water or electricity

    Photo Andréanne Lemire

    The family of Godfrey plans to go to spend a few days between Christmas and new Year’s day in their cottage a very rustic, in a forest La Tuque. There was no electricity, no running water, and cooking on the wood stove.

    “We are playing outside, skating on the lake and walking in the forest. The children make snow sculptures and huts. They play cards when they get home while the snow suits are dry “, said the mother of a family.