Shantel Dudley wears many hats. She is a motivational speaker, founder of the Real Life Women’s Conference, and a wife and a mom of 17 children, some through birth, some through marriage and some through adoption.

After experiencing abuse growing up, Shantel felt called to help the broken and hurting. 

"I grew up in a very hurtful home. I was sexually abused growing up," said Dudley. "I had a brother who tried to take my life multiple times. My father was a drug addict and an alcoholic. There was a lot of hurt and pain growing up, and I think being able to work through all of that, having a relationship with my dad now and forgiving my brother has led me to be compassionate towards the hurting and the broken."

Shantel says God gives us all gifts and talents, and she says it is our responsibility as Christians to walk that out. For the Dudleys, that meant adoption.  

It started with just one adoption, and in no time, their family had grown by 10, with most of the children experiencing a special or medical need.

"I was not seeking children with medical issues, and I surely was not seeking any children that the Lord would call home before us."

 But God had other plans. 4 of the ten children the Dudleys adopted passed away, all within a short period.

"I know my children needed me, and truthfully, probably more than them needing me, I needed them."

Today on Connections, Shantel shares what drew her to adoption, why she adopts children with medical needs and what role faith plays in all of this.