We were raised in close-knit families from small towns. After meeting at the University of Central Florida, we fell in love and married on December 18, 1993. After we earned our degrees, we were ready to begin living out the American dream. We were blessed with two wonderful sons, a beautiful home, and great jobs. Little did we know that our worlds would soon be rocked by an unexpected meeting and nothing would end up as we planned. Thank goodness!
One January night in 2000, we entered our small-town church and left completely different people. God had planned this occasion from the beginning, a meeting of epic proportions. As the pastor spoke, we both felt a hunger being ignited deep inside for a deeper relationship with God. When he asked if anyone wanted prayer, we grabbed hands and ran to the front. As the humble minister passed us, he simply placed his hand on our foreheads quietly saying, “More Lord.” God answered that prayer by releasing His tangible presence into our bodies. We were both shaken to the core as God filled us with His powerful Spirit. The encounter was so strong that tears and laughter alternately erupted as His all-consuming love and joy washed over us, wave after wave.
That precious touch from the Almighty God turned our lives around and set us on a completely different path. A passion to love Him and others began to overshadow every thought, desire, and dream. It didn’t take long before our old way of life became so dissatisfying and unfulfilling that we left our careers and down-sized our expenses. All that now mattered to us was God’s voice because in Him we had found fullness of life.
The Word of God says that you can judge a tree by the fruit it bears. We began to see the fruit of the encounter with God as we learned to walk in this new way of doing life.
The first noticeable difference was a ravenous hunger for the Word. Next was a desire to be with fellow Christians across denominational divides. Division seemed ugly as unity took its place in our hearts. Then there came the urge to worship – we wanted to worship at church, we wanted to worship together, and we wanted to worship in the secret place. No longer caring about appearances, we just needed to sing, dance, and shout praises to our King for He had captured our hearts. And finally, a forceful, powerful, often relentless care for the poor, the orphan, and widow compelled our hearts to action. How we wanted to ease their suffering and meet their deepest need. This drove us out of every comfort zone and into the very depths of God’s heart. After that, why would we ever return to our former life? This life revealed our purpose and our destiny and it was so satisfying.
We adopted our first child, Priscilla Hope, in 2004. Eight months later we packed up our three children and a few suitcases. We sold our home and gave every other possession away. Then came the tearful good-byes to beloved family and friends as we departed the United States and moved to the beautiful nation of China. Every time we felt inadequate, the Holy Spirit would remind us of the story of a little boy who gave his
small insignificant lunch to Jesus. Jesus took his tiny offering and multiplied it. More than 5,000 hungry men, women, and children had their needs meet by the boys’ five loaves of bread and two small fish combined with God’s power. The story imparted a faith in us to take our eyes off our own insufficiencies instead placing them on the Lord’s vast grace.
We received our first orphaned baby just three months after arriving in China. Not long thereafter, we secured property in a small rural village and opened our home up to orphaned children. A longing to be a family to the dying, the severely disabled, and any others who desperately needed a mother and father led us to take orphans who would have no hope for adoption. We found these beautiful rare treasures in abundance. No one else could see them, but oh, our Heavenly Father knows each one by name. Once we heard Him say, “I hear every cry, day and night, please come with me and bring comfort to My children.” We have never, not once, regretted following His heart. He has lead us into some of our deepest suffering and turned them into our greatest life experiences.
We still live in China, loving her, her people, and her children. China has now embraced us and shown us such hospitality. Some of our best friends are the Chinese and most of our more than 100 children have black hair and gorgeous almond-shaped eyes. We have many homes now, most filled with children, some filled the single mothers and their children, and others with widows. We even have a special place for abandoned animals. Father demonstrates that He cares about all His creation. We love our community by serving them the best we have to offer. We go to bed tired but with a sense of being in the center of God’s will for our lives. We are just one small piece of God’s beautiful masterpiece – we just want to do our part well.