Each year, dozens of East Texas families open their heart and home, adopting a child. The process these families go through can be scary and long. One local family accepted the challenge, and they not only had some surprises along the way, but ended up helping many other local families. Here is their story in a special KLTV 7 Gift of Love report.
Paul and Zelia McGaha of Tyler have two grown biological children.
"We had more room in our house and we prayed a lot about it and felt God was leading us to adopt another child," said Paul.
"I guess I was not a very good Christian at the time. I was turning 40 and I was really very worried about it, starting over with a small child again," said Zelia.
Those fears eventually turned to faith. The McGahas believed there must be a reason they were being called to adopt.
In 2000, they adopted a 3 year old girl from an orphanage in China.
"The people there weren't very nice to me," said Anne McGaha, 11.
Meeting her new mom and dad was a dream come true.
"I thought they were wonderful. I liked them," said Anne.
"There's about a billion people in China, so Anne is our 1 in a billion," said Paul.
"We wanted one more child, we can get one more to grow up with Anne, never did we dream that God was going to bring 3," said Zelia.
That's right. Their prayers were answered threefold in 2003, adopting a sibling group from an orphanage in Brazil - Jacob, Jessica and Megan.
"We saw all the pain and the suffering. We knew they had some little habits and some issues but we could see them beyond that," said Zelia.
"It was pretty cool that I had my own family again," said Jacob McGaha, 13, "and it felt pretty good to be out of that place that I didn't like."
"They are very nice and sweet to me. They take care of me when I'm sick, they watch movies with me, they play with me, they never give up on me," said Megan McGaha, 10.
As the McGahas settled into their new family, something unexpected happened.
"I started getting a lot of calls," said Zelia.
Phone calls from others who had adopted, or were considered it, asking for advice.
So, in 2005, the McGahas started a support group in Tyler called Forever Families.
"Oh, it's been great, just meeting other families that have kids that have been adopted, and it's been eye opening to me to see all the different ways that adoption can happen."
The group meets at Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, but is open to anyone. So far, members from 9 different East Texas churches are represented.
"The first time i came to the group it was within minutes I was so amazed at how loving everybody was. I don't know, just the presence of the Lord was so strong when I walked in that room, I almost started to cry."
Forever Families started as a Bible study for moms of adopted children. It has now expanded to include family retreats.
"We had 74 people in our first retreat. So it was an overwhelming need," said Zelia.
A need, bringing complete strangers together, to help share the gift of love. For the McGahas, their journey brought surprises and challenges, but it's a journey that forever changed their lives.
"It's gone well these guys are just so full of life all four of them and they're such a blessing and we've gotten so much out of it," said Paul.
"It's important to adopt because children need a family, they need to be held and they need to be loved," said Megan.
Again, the Forever Families support group is open to anyone ranging from those who have adopted to those just considering. For more information, you can email Forever Families at email@example.com, or call them at (903)-525-1141.
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