Read an Excerpt
Small Town, Big Miracle
By W. C. Martin John Fornof
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2007 W. C. Martin
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAt the End of the Pavement
Welcome to Possum Trot, Texas! I'm guessing you're from a long ways away, because any place is a long ways from Possum Trot.
Take a look around you. You'll see well-kept, double-wide mobile homes with neatly mowed acres of grass, where kids laugh and run. And you'll see clapboard shacks sprawled out on bald knobs of dirt, where rusted-out pickup trucks serve as lawn ornaments.
Just up the road is Bennett Chapel, my church; I'm the pastor, W. C. Martin.
You may think of us as poor, maybe less educated than you. Deep in the shadow of your soul, you may even look down on us. But whatever you do, don't dismiss us or you'll miss the treasure. It's the secret of how we overcame huge challenges to raise 72 adopted kids. Many adoptions end up in what social services calls "disillusionment." But here in Possum Trot, after more than 10 years and all these kids, not one child has been sent back to the system.
I challenge you to look beyond your first impressions, dig a little deeper, and discover the hidden wealth here, because this is someplace special, even though you might not recognize it ... yet.
Our community is an important character in this story. It's part of our miracle. So, hop in the truck and strap on your seat- belt. As we say here in the South, you're "fixin' to" get a personal tour of Possum Trot, Texas.
First off, you'll notice there aren't any signs that say "Possum Trot." And you won't find it on most maps, either. It's like a lost treasure. We're in East Central Texas, about 10 miles from the border of Louisiana, right on the edge of the Sabine National Forest.
Some people in surrounding areas refer to Possum Trot as the place "back in the woods." Social workers had their doubts if the rough and tough kids from the foster system could make it in this tiny community. Could the people here really pull this off?
They weren't the only ones who doubted. I wish I could tell you that when my wife, Donna, first mentioned adoption, an unexplainable thrill went through my being ... that I put my arms around her and told her we were in this new adventure together and I would support her in any way I could.
Actually, my exact words were, "Yeah, right!"
But I have to be honest. Adoption just didn't make sense for us. I called myself a man of faith, but right then I had a lot of doubts. We already had two kids, 9-year-old LaDonna and our 15-year-old son, Princeton, who has been permanently brain-damaged since birth. It didn't fit our family to adopt.
We were pastoring a church while I was working a full-time job in insurance and supervising the construction of a new church building. We were way too busy.
Donna was emotionally burdened-still recovering from a personal tragedy. The timing wasn't right to adopt.
But God told us to adopt anyway. This decision wasn't about our lifestyle or our schedule or our timing. Really, it wasn't about us at all. This decision was about the children.
We didn't realize it at the time, but Princeton was actually God's preparation for us. He was born with brain damage after my wife went through 18 hours of intense labor. The doctors said Prince would never amount to anything more than a "vegetable," and they advised us to make him a ward of the state. But Princeton was our son. We took him home with us.
Through Princeton, God taught us what patience and long-suffering were all about. We were sure God was going to heal him. We prayed so hard. He had seizures. He'd fall and bust his head. It was a hard sight-our son all bruised up like that.
But we wouldn't give up.
See, God taught us not to give up on anything. So we refused to quit. It was a full-time job just keeping up with the boy, but we stayed with him. We kept on praying.
When Princeton was about 7 years old, God healed him of the seizures! He still has brain damage, but he's also one of the musicians at the church, where he plays bass guitar. And now Princeton is the one who prays for others-all because we wouldn't give up.
See, God was training us for a ministry we couldn't envision quite yet. He was preparing us to take in kids who needed so much. Kids who were damaged through no fault of their own. Kids who needed lots of patience. Kids who needed lots of love.
Of course, when you go through tough times, you don't always see the full picture. At the time, adoption just didn't make sense at all. But God took us back to where I'm taking you now. It's a place of inspiration that God used to change our minds. And change our lives.
We'll take a right turn here on County Road 2625. You notice there aren't any paved roads in Possum Trot. Just red dirt and black gravel winding through green, piney woods. Deep in these very woods-off to the right a ways-is the little white four-room house where the miracle of Possum Trot really started.
Donna is already there to meet us. I want you to hear the story from her, because she tells it best. Folks around here call her "Sister Martin" or "First Lady."
I met Donna when I was touring with my brothers-the Martin Brothers-singing all across the country. We stopped here in Possum Trot for a concert at a little wooden church called Bennett Chapel. Little did I know I would pastor this same church some day. But something I did know right away: The young lady who walked in the door while I was singing was going to be my wife. I fell in love with her.
I believe you will too.
Here's Donna's story:
I can still see my mama sitting in her rocking chair there on our front porch. I can still hear her humming. I can still feel her arms around me as I sat quietly in her lap as a little girl, my head against her breast, listening.
In moments like those, lessons were inscribed on my heart-lessons that inspired me to one day adopt little ones who were strangers to love.
A small shack with a dirt-floor porch was home to 18 kids in all. No electricity. No running water. We had to wash our clothes in a Number 3 tin tub. We had an outhouse and a little pot inside we called the pee pot. We'd put pine oil in it and keep a lid on it.
Somehow, some way, Mama made that shack a home. Even with 18 kids, Mama never screamed at us, never cussed, never talked down to us. But you never crossed her either.
Of course, we didn't have any health insurance or money for a doctor. So when we were little and we'd get sick, we'd just look to Mama. Toothache, headache, mumps, whatever. I can remember one time when I was five or six years old, I got real sick. My head was hurting me so badly, I started to cry.
Mama picked me up and sat me in her lap. And she began to rock me in that rocking chair of hers and just started humming. Then she prayed. I closed my eyes. The tears streamed down my face. And in the quietness of that moment, there in Mama's arms, I was healed! The headache went away!
Mama's love brought us through the tough stuff. I learned that if anything will take you through, love will.
Mama took in strangers and fed them as well, because folks knew there was always food at her house. She treated the "take ins" as family. If they were about to get in trouble, they knew they could go talk to Mama. She wasn't just Mama at home. She was "Mama" to all of Possum Trot.
On February 12, 1996, right about two o'clock in the afternoon, I got a call from my brother Kerry. Mama was in the hospital. In the emergency room. A few minutes later, one of the people from the church called. "First Lady, you really need to go now. She's in cardiac arrest."
When I got to the hospital, my niece Rachel met me in the parking lot. But she never said a word. Once inside, I saw the emergency doors were shut. The curtains were closed. My auntie, Cora Williams, came out and hugged me. "Well," she said, "we just lost Murtha."
And I looked at her.
"Yes. Mother just passed away."
I turned. All I could do was run.
This wasn't right. I was the First Lady of the church. It was my job to pray for people, encourage them, go to prayer meetings, help lead the worship service, visit the sick, be strong for others, give people hope. It was my job to hold things together. Now I was falling apart.
I pushed my feelings down deep and pushed on with life. But the feelings of pain were still there. For several months after Mama died, I was out in my yard every day planting flowers, lots of them. I set the most beautiful flower garden, alive with color, fresh with fragrance. It was my way of crowding out the ugly weeds of pain and emptiness that kept choking me.
One morning I was alone in the house. I stood in the kitchen washing dishes when that all-too-familiar dark shadow crossed over me again-a shadow of pain, anger, emptiness. I had had enough. "Okay, God," I said. "Today is the day. I have complained to you, I've cried, I've ached, I've hurt ..." I looked up through my kitchen ceiling, right into heaven, right into His heart. And I said, "God, You either heal me, or let me die."
As soon as I spoke those words, I was moved to step out on my back porch. As I stood looking out over my back yard filled with flowers, I felt the Holy Spirit say something to me.
"I hear you."
His words fed my spirit. "I've heard your pain, and I've heard your complaints. But I want you to take a moment and think about all those children out there who do not have what you had in a mother. I want you to give back to them. Foster and adopt."
Immediately, a sense of healing came over me. I was overtaken by the light, the warmth, and the presence of my God. The dark shadow fled as quickly as a fog when the morning sun splits through.
I didn't know a thing about adoption. But I went into the house and called the number I found in the phone book. I stood in the kitchen on the phone and spoke 11 words that changed my life.
"I'm Donna Martin, and I want to become a foster parent."
A Call to My Fellow Pastors
As we think about these stories, we might ask ourselves, How can a human being do these awful things to a child? But here's a question closer to home: How can we close our eyes to a child like this?
So, where is the church? God commanded us to look after the fatherless. Why don't we obey?
There's been more than enough talk. Since 1987, the number of children in foster care has nearly doubled. It's time to do something. If we don't, we're about to lose a generation of kids. I challenge you to join with me in saying, "Not on our watch!"
Father God called on His Son, Jesus, to give up glory and royalty-His "comfort zone"-to come down to a dark world to rescue us, to share His glory, to adopt us into His royal family. And now He's calling on us to step out of our world of convenience to rescue these kids. To save a generation.
He gave up His life to save us. Can we give up our comfort? No longer can we afford to sit around idly, waiting for state agencies or Congress or the president to solve the problem of 134,000 children who need adopting. This is our responsibility as a church.
It's time to stop talking about how bad these children are, and start reaching them with the transforming love of Jesus. The Devil loves to steal, kill, and destroy-and he especially enjoys stealing, killing, and destroying children. They're defenseless. Easy marks if they don't have a mom or dad to pray protection over them.
He has bound thousands of children into a dark world of chaos, where adults slap them, sexually abuse them, and leave them abandoned, locked up in houses without even food to eat.
The church has an anointing, a power, and a mandate to make a difference in the world. It's our job to free these kids from captivity.
It's time for the church to stand up. To come out of its addiction to comfort. I challenge the church to take up the cause of these children. God has already done His part. It's our turn now.
It's time for the Enemy to realize that he's not going to win. It's time for the Enemy to tremble. It's time for the gates of hell around these children to fall. It's time for the church to prevail. It's time to rescue these children out of darkness and bondage and bring them into the light.
It's time to bring them home.
-Pastor W. C. Martin
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Note: Check with local government adoption agencies. They'll be glad to come to talk to your church or church group at no charge, just as Child Protective Services came to Bennett Chapel. Look up your local department of social services, human services, or child welfare agency.
Excerpted from Small Town, Big Miracle by W. C. Martin John Fornof Copyright © 2007 by W. C. Martin. Excerpted by permission.
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