- (Photo: Courtesy Bates Family)
Gil and Kelly Bates of Tennessee welcomed baby number 19 earlier this month, and America will get to know the large family through a new TV show on TLC.
The couple had 18 children before baby Jeb was born on Feb. 1. He will join eight brothers and 10 sisters still living at home. His oldest brother, Zach is 23, and youngest brother Judson is only one year older.
The Bates family is a friend of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar and even appeared in an episode of "19 Kids and Counting." Now, though, the Bates will have their own show, premiering on March 27. "The Duggars have helped people. We talked it over with the children, and everyone likes the idea of helping others. It is not wonderful all the time. We have the same struggles everyone has," mom Kelly told People.
Kelly and Gil give full credit to God for all their children and for meeting their needs. The family is deeply religious, with Gil giving testimony about being "transformed" through God. "At that remarkable moment in my high school years, God transformed me, my goals, and the direction for my life. Little did I know that His plans for me would include my beautiful bride… Nor could I have imagined that He would have grown our family to include 10 girls and 8 boys after 23 years of marriage!"
Kelly states that she was raised a "preacher's kid" but didn't understand God's message for her until she was in high school. "I believe in God and had a respect for those that did, however, I had no conviction of my own personal sin. I had always thought of myself as a good person. But at a youth meeting, I finally was broken over the guilt of my sin and realized that it was my awful sin that Christ died for."
"That realization," she says, "changed my life. What had been an awareness of God became an acceptance of Him as my personal Savior." She gives glory to God for all of her children and the opportunities that they have had to witness to others.
The Bates' family website states, "We are a really large family that lives in the hills of East Tennessee. Having a lot of children wasn't something we decided to do in order to be popular; it wasn't very popular when we were making those choices. It wasn't something we did for financial gain; it really wasn't cheaper by the dozen. We simply trusted that if God said children are a blessing, He meant exactly that."