• 79°

Brookhaven father of 14: Faith is the foundation

James Kitchens is most thankful for unanswered prayers.

The father of 14 hadn’t planned to even be a dad. God must have been laughing.

Kitchens, 55, moved to Brookhaven from Kosciusko more than 20 years ago. He already had five children and a failed relationship, so even though he didn’t have family here, he thought it would be a good place to start over. He got a job at the daily newspaper in the press room and took a shine to a young woman who worked there, too.

They started courting.

“We were talking on a date,” he said. “I told her, ‘I don’t want no children.’ I had five before I met her. She said, ‘I want a house full.’”

It turned out that he was OK with that.

“God changed me,” he said.

Together they have nine children — Breann, 20; Zoi, 13; Eli, 11; Jessa, 9; Jeremiah, 7; Evangeline, 5; Israel, 4; Valour, 2; and Josias, 4 months.

Strangers ask if they’re done. Kitchens is surprised at the question, as if he has a say in it.

“I have no idea when the last one is,” he said. “It’s whenever God says that’s the end of it.”

Church is important to the Kitchens family. They regularly attend First Baptist Church of Brookhaven, arriving in two full vehicles.

“Faith is the foundation,” he said.

Kitchens cuts grass for a living.

“God has blessed us in grass cutting,” he said. “That’s all we do.”

Work has been steady enough to take care of his family so his wife can homeschool their children.

“We stand on the principals and foundation of God. God said he’s the provider. That’s where the blessings come in,” he said.

He is teaching his sons how to work and prepare them to provide for their families.

“I want to teach them to provide for a family, when the Lord blesses them with a wife and family,” he said.

His wife is teaching the girls to raise their families.

“I want God to provide them a husband who will take care of them,” he said.

It’s old fashioned, but fits into their belief of what family should be.

Together, they’re teaching their children to be good neighbors.

“Be an asset to the community,” he said. “That’s what we’re striving to teach our kids.”

Kitchens gives a lot of credit for their family dynamics to his wife.

She takes care of the children and the house on North Jackson Street they’ve called home for 17 years. As their family has grown, the house has seemed to get smaller. He’d like more room, but they’ve gotten used to the cramped quarters.

His wife teaches the children school lessons and life lessons.

“It’s a lot harder to take care of home than to go out and work and provide for them,” he said. “She’s got the task of training, teaching, dealing with me when I get home.”

The flexible schedule of her classroom and his business allows Kitchens to be home when he needs to be or to take the boys with him to work.

They have supper together every night, and Kitchens is overwhelmed with the noise and togetherness, but in a good way.

Family is everything, he said.

“What I am most thankful for? He did not listen to me and grant my desire,” he said.

His advice for other fathers comes straight from his Christian faith.

“God’s principals and God’s promises. Practice them. That’s the key to being a good father,” he said.