The Healing Power of Unconditional Love

Seventy-six abused or neglected kids find a home in the unlikeliest of places.

By Donna Martin, Center, Texas

As appeared in

“That’s because she steals the other kids’ lunches and snacks,” her teacher said. “Nobody wants to be with her.”

We’ll change all of that, I thought. Love can change anything.

In those first few weeks we did everything to make Mercedes and her little brother feel right at home. Stuff went missing: cookies, sodas, Vienna sausages, crackers. Was I not feeding the children enough? Was Mercedes sneaking into the kitchen at night?

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I investigated her room and didn’t find anything in her drawers or under her pillow. Finally under her bed I discovered a stash of food, most of it stale and moldy. I confronted her. She wouldn’t say much but finally it came out. Her mother had taught her to steal to survive. She thought that’s what everyone did.

At church we traded stories about our kids, how much we loved them, how often we had to reassure them. Trust was a real big deal. We promised them over and over that we weren’t going to send them back.

But those poor kids had big-time issues! Eight-year-old Michael? Abandoned and abused. Now he was in the home of empty nesters who doted on him. In the first six months, he ate like a horse. He must have grown nine inches. An obedient, polite child, he seemed to be doing fine.

But one night the family ordered in pizza. The mom told him to go wash his hands. He wouldn’t budge. Finally he said with tears rolling down his face, “Please don’t eat all of it. Save some for me.”

What these kids have been through could break your heart. Their past can just jump out at them like some monster in a closet. That poor boy thought he was going to miss his supper if he turned his back.

We did all we could to keep siblings together. Diann is a single mom and loved having Nino but wanted to add a sibling for him. Child Protective Services offered six-year-old Joshua—and his five-year-old brother, Randy. Could she give them both a home?

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She’s only got two bedrooms in her double-wide, but how could she refuse?

In the end she was so stressed she landed in the hospital with a thyroid situation. “Tell you what,” I said, “maybe Pastor and I can take Joshua. He gets on fine with Tyler and can see his brother anytime we get together or in church.”

Besides, like I said, Possum Trot is not exactly big. With all the extra kids, we’re like one big family.

Just like we planned, we adopted Tyler and Mercedes, and adopted Joshua. Yet that still didn’t feel like enough. That sweet cool breeze was still blowing. We signed up for one more, nine-year-old Terri.

Terri had been left alone so much and was so traumatized she insisted she was a cat. No therapist or psychiatrist could convince her to stop saying it. Well, it turns out that a tomcat was often her only companion. When we picked her up, she jumped into our backseat and curled up like a scared animal. “I’m a cat,” she said.

Lord, I asked, how am I going to help this poor girl?

Only thing I could think of was to tell her the truth. “Terri, we love cats in our family but out in the country where we live they sleep outside and we have a nice bed for you inside.”

We pulled up to our house. She crawled up to the front porch and stared at our yard. She crouched there on all fours taking it in, her eyes as wide as a cat’s. Then slowly she stood. “I don’t want to be a cat anymore,” she announced.

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Still, there were moments, especially in school. Mercedes kicked a boy; Tyler got into a fight. One morning when Terri was in ninth grade, I picked up the phone and it was the school policeman. Terri had been cutting classes and was flunking out—after swearing to me that she went to every class.

I hung up and collapsed in a chair. We’d wanted to make a difference in these kids’ lives, give them stability and a nice place to live. I wanted them to know they could trust us, yet they clung to their old ways. Lying, cheating, fighting.

I felt like a bad mother. Like it was my fault and I was doing something wrong. I burst into tears. Lord, I’m not sure I can do this anymore.

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Your Comments (15)

Leaving in a small town and not having fancy cars is ordinary thing but you are doing extra ordinary things their which is the real asset. GOD bless you allot of respect for you.

FRom: medical career in florida

This is such a witness to us all that God can use ordinary people to do extraordinary things!

All of that wonderful blessing to those children in need of love was possible because one faithful Christian lady set aside time to sit and listen to the Lord speak to her. She did not reply, I can't, she set out to do His will! Trusting in the Lord, others followed and offered their love and home to the children, patiently re-enforcing their offer of love and security. Their crowns in heaven will await their arrival so Jesus can say, Well done my sisters and brothers.
These ladies are worth more than silver or gold!!

Dear Donna & Pastor, Thank you for sharing such a wonderful story. Although I always wanted a big family after I got married, God blessed me with a son and daughter. I have so much admiration and respect for you... God Bless You!

PPraise the Lord! Your story is amazing, I was inspired by your love for children and how the hold town wanted to adopt forster children as well. My God bless you and your family, and your town also your CHURCH.

From Gwendolyn Wilson,
Philadelphia, Pa.

God continue to Bless you and your community. We adopted a child about 21 yrs ago at the age of 7mos and is now 21yrs old. It has been a journey some good and some not so good but through it all God has kept us with his Grace and Mercy. I thank God for this chance to share in a child life which has increased my faith and get closer to him. Continue to be Blessed.

There will be a special Possom Trot corner in heaven! You all are amazing. Thank you for sharing your story, and for welcoming so many of God's children into your lives.

What an awesome story. Truly this town and its people are very blessed and each one is an Angel of God. Just an amazing story that the whole world should know about. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Wonderful eye opener story.hope one day l will do the same.
God bless you ladies._

The people who have taken foster child for adoption are doing such a inspirational job. I really feel motivated. We face trivial issues in our day to day lives and end up irritated. But u guys are going extra miles and doing so much service. May God fill your life with abundant blessings !!!

Such an inspiring, beautiful story. What courage and determination you had to take on such huge responsibilities and how wonderful that all those other families in your town reached out - if every town did that, think of it!! No more children being moved from house to house, putting up with abuse and neglect, loneliness and hunger. What wonderful people you are - God bless you (and He obviously has).

i build a strong faith

What an incredible story. I got up feeling sorry for me - My husband had been diagnosed with cancer and has had surgery, radiation and Chemotherapy. He is doing well by God's grace. Once I read the stories and Gods' guidance in your lives, my heart is filled with joy and hope. Thank you for sharing the story of your journey and service.

Spellbinding story. Please write a book so it can be turned into a movie. One of the sweetest stories illuminating the power of Gods grace through amazingly beautiful women. God Bless you.

Thank you for the encouragement. Your article is a Godsend as I have taken in a foster child and my aunt took in his little brother. My boy is a hoarder with toys but I believe it is because of being in 3 different homes in 4 years he hasn't learned to share or comprehend the toys will still be there. I get frustrated at times because he is not very nice to my children. I see improvement in 3 months and I feel love for him and he calls "Mom and Dad". He is 7 and crawls under tables at school. They are great with him and we are working together with the school for his sake. Sometimes I wish I could be given a small glimpse of what The Lord has for him, that this struggle will pay off.