TX Church Believes Christians Should Adopt

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CBNNews.com - POSSUM TROT, Texas -- Possum Trot, Texas isn't even a dot on the map. It's hidden from the world in the piney woods of rural East Texas.

But it is where one church is saving children through adoption and God's love.

Glen and Theresa Lathan are Possum Trot residents. They own a small home, but they have big hearts. The Lathans have ten children, and all of them are adopted.

WATCH MORE: CBN News' Charlene Israel first reported this story in August. On Wednesday, Nov. 19, ABC's "World News with Charles Gibson" will be looking more at the successful adoption program in Possum Trot, Texas.

The couple says their faith led them to take in so many kids.

"God was really working in my heart because children have always been a passion," Mrs. Lathan told CBN News. "I love children."

"There are so many kids out there nowadays that don't have good homes and need homes and nobody wants to adopt them, so I'm glad God put it on our heart to adopt them," Mr. Lathan explained

The couple's 16-year-old daughter Shenequa says her mom and dad are perfect adoptive parents.

"I see them loving everybody and having a big heart for each other," she said.

The Lathans attend Bennett Chapel, a small Missionary Baptist church located on the outskirts of Shelbyville, Texas.

Twelve years ago, parishioners from the 200-member congregation were motivated to adopt 70 children from the local foster care system. They say it all started with a broken heart.

In 1996, the pastor's wife, Donna Martin, was dealing with the death of her mother. She says she asked God to help her handle the grief.

"The day the Lord spoke to me, he wanted me to give back out of my hurt and pain," Martin explained. "He said, 'I want you to adopt.'"

She enrolled in a series of classes about children in the foster care system. Martin explains that what she found out about foster kids broke her heart.

"They were totally neglected," Martin told CBN News. "They were pushed from one place to another. They were the ones that were x'ed out. They were the ones that the system had.

"Some way, some how the system doesn't train up a child in the way that he should go, but Jesus does through our voice," she continued.

That dire situation moved Martin and her husband to adopt four children.

Eighteen-year-old Terri O'Toole is one of the Martin's adopted children.

"Before I came to the Martins, and before I was adopted, I was mistreated," she said. "I was abused. I was not being loved fairly."

Bishop W. C. Martin is Donna's husband. He said that getting into the adoption arena is the church's duty.

"What we started here God has intended for to keep going on until every single child can truly say "I got a mother and a father,'" Martin said.

It is a passion that spread throughout the tiny congregation until more than half of the church members had also adopted children.

Diane Sparks is one of those adoptive members.

"I didn't realize there were so many kids out there that didn't have a family, because I've always been with a family and I just really didn't know," she said.

"And that's what really made me to adopt, to try to help someone that didn't have the love of the same parents that I had," Sparks explained.

Ginny Judson of the Nagodoches Child Protective Services helped the church with the adoptions. She explained that adoption is particularly important for African American children.

"We have a disproportionate representation of those children in our agency and we have a large number of children ready for adoption," Judson said. "So we were able to impart that in a really positive way and provide a lot of children with a really great home and family."

Donna Martin agrees with Judson.

"To me as an African American person and growing up in the area where I grew up, all we knew to do was to take care of our own and adoption was not a black thing to me," Martin explained. "It was something white people did."

Judson says that the impact on the children has been life-changing.

"I think hope is the smile in the eyes of a child," she told CBN News. "When you go into that church today and you see the children in that service and see them dancing, clapping and raising their hands and worshipping God and smiling and being so happy.that's hope, that's hope because they didn't have that before."

Bishop Martin and his church are now reaching even more children in the community through a new recreation center donated by an ABC television show.

"It brings the kids in off the streets and gives them some ability and structure to be able to focus in life and be better," he said. "Children come here from all over the community from everywhere around here and so far it has really been truly a miracle in this town."

Meanwhile, the Lathans admit having such a large family does have its challenges.

"It has not been an easy job, but it's been a rewarding job," Mrs. Lathan said. "Not only is it just me giving back to them, but they have given me so much."

Bishop Martin says adoption is something that the body of Christ around the world can and should do.

"The church has got the ability," he said. "The church got the power and they got the structure. If they can do it in Possum Trot and Bennett Chapel, they can do it anywhere."

*Original broadcast July 31, 2008.

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