There is a miracle of love and caring happening in a small East Texas town. It's a story that's gotten some national attention, but practically none here at home. It's a place you've probably never heard of, but everyone needs to see how a few families can make such a difference in the lives of so many needy children. The community is called Possum Trot. It's in deep Southeast Texas nestled up against the Louisiana border. It's about sixty miles South of Marshall, just East of Shelbyville. It's so small, it's not on a Texas map. It has no schools, stores, or even a post office. But where the pavement ends, is where some say a miracle begins.
It all started about four years ago at the Bennett Chapel Missionary Baptist Church. From the pulpit, Reverend W.C. Martin challenged his congregation to take in unwanted children, giving them love, security and stability. The idea came from his wife, Donna. She says, "I cried every day. I was just very alone. There was like a hole in my heart that was not being mended."
That hole was created in February 1996 when Donna's mother, Murtha Cartwright, died. Murtha gave birth to 17 children, showing each one unconditional love. Donna wanted that love to live on. Then one day, she says God answered her prayers. "He said, 'What about the children that have a mother but don't have what you had in a mother?' He said, 'Give back, foster, and adopt,'" Donna explained.
The Martins began adopting children, but not just any children. These, were from some of the worst neighborhoods in Texas. Many with serious problems. Donna says, "Every child deserve a family, they deserve parents that love them, they deserve a home they deserve that, we just wanted some children that nobody else really wanted or they were so hard to deal with to really give them a chance." Despite the huge challenge, the Martins, who have 2 biological children, took in four others from broken homes. Dozens of other families followed their lead. "I don't think anybody had any idea what was going to happen," says Ann Hobbs, one of the overwhelmed social workers helping with all the new cases. "It's been a phenomenon. No one has ever seen anything like this before and we are constantly amazed, constantly surprised at how it's grown and continues to grow," says Hobbs.
So far, there have been 64 adoptions consummated at the Shelby County Courthouse, all to families in the Possum Trot area, and it's not over yet. Seven other families are waiting to adopt and at least four more have become foster parents. In just a short time, close to 80 children have found permanent homes. But it hasn't been easy. Some of these families have had to take on second jobs, or put retirement on hold to make ends meet. "This is not a wealthy area. These folks can't give a thousand dollars to the United Fund. But this is something they can do and they have enough love and structure, enough extended family that they can give these children homes, and that's something they chose to do," explains Hobbs.
But what came next, was nothing like they expected. "We have all kinds of problems. You name it, and we've basically dealt with it," says Reverend Martin. Problems, that stem from the children's previous home. Many were beaten, molested and starved. "Evidently they've been very very hungry because they would eat like they have never seen food before," says the Reverend. The Martins also had to deal with repeated calls from school. Donna shares this story, "We asked one of our daughters the other day, 'Why are you so loud at school?' She told us, 'I feel that nobody see me. So, I feel I have to scream and yell to get attention.'" Another problem, compulsive lying and constant stealing even from the church. To the children, it meant survival. "You saw no remorse on her face. She didn't change her attitude. She could just look you straight in the eye and point blank say, 'I didn't do that.' All the time, she could be holding the goods in her hands," explains Reverend Martin. The Martins admit, they never thought it would be this difficult, but believe they were called to help the children. To make a difference. "It's mind boggling. It's tiresome. It's frustrating, but we made a vow that were not going to give up. So in the midst of all of this struggling, trauma, trials and tribulation, we just take a lick'en and keep on tick'en," says Reverend Martin with a warm smile. Donna adds, "We can see that they're proud to be our children. They're proud that they have a place they can call home. They know that they're loved and they know that we're going to be there for them." Mercedes, their 8 year old adoptive daughter says, "They love us and take care of us and that makes us feel special. I love them."
Reverend Martin tells his congregation, "We're not here just to save souls. We're her to save lives." The Possum Trot families know they still have plenty of work ahead. But with lots of patience, and the Gift of Love, they believe these children will have a bright future and a productive life. "It is to me one of the greatest things that we can do is to open our hearts up, because if you open your hearts up you open up everything else to share your life with a child." Reverend Martin goes on to say, "It's a blessing to see this little child grow up knowing and recognizing that they weren't an accident, they're here cause God permitted it so."