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2 families, 9 children

God's grace


PRINCETON—It's a story that only God could orchestrate.

Two families, distraught over obstacle after obstacle in their adoption processes, today see God's divine hand in bringing five siblings from Haiti to their loving, Christian homes in rural western Kentucky.

The story begins in 2012 when Brock Thomas, the judge/executive in Caldwell County at that time, and his wife, Malissa, a teacher and high school head girls basketball coach, began efforts to adopt. They had a daughter (Kynady) and son (Elijah), but believed the Lord was leading them to adopt. Learning details of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and believing Haiti to be the poorest country in the western hemisphere, the Thomas family focused its adoption effort on Haiti.

"We waited and waited and waited for an official match," recalls Malissa. "Our agency told us that we had been unofficially paired with a sibling set of two, but they could not tell us any more information.

Submitted photo

Two families from Southside Baptist Church in Princeton adopted five siblings from Haiti. Those family members are (front, from left) Elijah Thomas, Jamus Wynn, Benashka Thomas, Yvenson Thomas, Jaxon Wynn, Carter Wynn, Chloe Wynn; (back) Brock Thomas, Malissa Thomas, Brian Wynn, Kyndady Thomas, Johannah Wynn and Medeline Thomas.

"Shortly after we submitted our documents to Haitian Social Services (IBESR), the Haitian government decided to crack down on corruption by changing some of its adoption laws and procedures, which in the long run was very much needed for the Haitian children. However, it caused some delays that about put this mama over the edge," Malissa recalls. "It was a little over two years before that official referral came, which was hard to stomach at the time—but we now understand the sovereignty of God and His perfect timing. We are so thankful that He knows more than we do, because there was a good reason for the wait."

Meanwhile, another Princeton couple—Brian and Johannah Wynn—was trying to adopt from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Their story took a tragic turn.

The boy they were planning to adopt died shortly after the official referral. Their hopes were rekindled when they received a referral for twin boys. But that excitement was short lived when the referral fell through a couple of months later.

Wynn family looks to Haiti

Malissa remembers, "We had already been unofficially matched when Brian and Johannah lost their second referral. In my heart, I wanted to urge the Wynns to switch to Haiti, but I knew they were still grieving and that would have to be a decision they made on their own and with guidance from God."

During this time, Haiti changed its age requirement laws on adoptions. Brian and Johannah—who previously did not meet the age requirements to adopt—were now eligible to be considered for a Haitian adoption.

"We were very lost and heartbroken so we talked to Malissa one day at church," Johannah said, although she was hesitant because she knew the Thomases had been waiting for a long time and she did not want to go through that arduous wait.

"My husband convinced me to call and the rest is history," Johannah said.

"Johannah reached out to me for information about Haiti, and I jumped at the chance to share all I knew and pass on the information they needed," said Malissa. "Johannah eventually made the call to the Haiti coordinator that intertwined our families forever."

Initially, Johannah asked about the possibility of twins. She and Brian had been devastated to lose twin boys in the DRC, and the thought of being able to adopt twins weighed heavily on their minds.

Submitted photo

Pictured on the steps at Southside Baptist in Princeton are the nine children being reared by two families in that church. Five are adopted from Haiti in a process that took six years to culminate.

"Jo knew it would be nearly impossible because any child they adopted would have to be younger than their son, who was 2 years old at the time. Jo went on to explain to our coordinator that she and Brian were good friends of ours and she was aware of the delays in Haitian adoptions due to our struggles," said Malissa.

"That's when God began to show Himself in a big way. Once our coordinator figured out our relationship with the Wynns, the phone went dead. The coordinator had to compose herself before sharing that the two siblings that Brock and I had been unofficially matched with just happened to have two other siblings—18-month-old twins. The Thomas adoption had been delayed by the Haitian adoption agency until another family came forward to adopt those other two siblings.

"We were absolutely blown away by our God's divine intervention and sovereignty. Not only were the Wynns close in proximity, but they had become dear friends of ours. We worked together, lived in the same neighborhood and shared a Sunday school class and church family. Both families are members of Southside Baptist Church in Princeton.

Health issues arise

The Wynns had a son, Jaxon, before beginning the Haiti adoption effort. As they waited for the adoption process to run its course, Johannah became pregnant with their second son, Jamus. In September 2014, the Wynns got a referral (before the Thomases), resulting in Brian and Johannah traveling to Haiti while she was 35 weeks pregnant. "That in itself is probably the most faith-based thing I have ever done in my life," she recalls.

Arriving in Haiti, the Wynns were expecting to see two healthy, active babies named Carter and Chloe. Instead, they found two children near death, suffering from malnutrition. Although they were 2 years old, they only weighed 16 pounds.

More troubling news came later from the orphanage. Carter didn't want to put weight on his feet, and the Wynns were told that Carter might not ever walk.

"We sat in Brian's parents driveway while I read this email to Brian and I wept," said Johannah. "He said to not share the news with his family and just keep the news to ourselves. We didn't want to worry anyone with the news. My mind was racing on how we would be able to care for a child wheelchair-bound. How could we do it? In my heart, I knew we could do it and we would do whatever had to be done to help our child.

"The next months were filled with prayers, lots of prayers and talks with God, begging him to let Carter walk. The prayers were answered. Getting a video of Carter taking his first steps at 2 1/2 years old might have been one of our best days ever. He still needed lots of therapy once he would come home but we were so hopeful."

Another sibling found

Two months later, the Thomas family received its official referral, resulting in Brock and Malissa making several trips to visit the two children they planned to adopt—Medeline, 8, and Yvenson, 6.

Submitted photo

These four siblings were in an orphanage in Haiti when two Kentucky Baptist families began adoption efforts.

But as many adoptive families experience, the process can be incredibly long and drawn out, not to mention frustrating. Another hurdle arose—adoption laws changed in the U.S., so both the Thomas and Wynn families had to revise all paperwork.

So close, yet still far away. Yet even in that, the Thomas family saw God's was working for their good.

Malissa made another visit to Haiti in October 2015— this time to tell the two children that it wasn't time to "come home" yet. On that trip, Malissa met Benashka—a fifth sibling. "We knew she existed, but we only knew her name. We didn't know where she was or anything about her. We had been praying since the referral for her safety and her health.

"She was 10 at the time," said Malissa. There was no question that they would try to adopt her as well.

"If we had brought Yvenson and Medeline home when we originally expected, there is a very good chance we would not have ever met their sister," said Malissa.

And yet one more time, Malissa saw God's hand was at work.

Benashka showed up at the orphanage on Saturday, and I showed up two days later — I didn't know she was there. She ran up to me and jumped up into my arms—Medeline had told her all about us.

On Jan. 19, 2016, the Thomas family brought Yvenson and Medeline home while the Wynns brought Carter and Chloe, and all four became U.S. citizens at the same time.

The Thomas family had to start paperwork anew in order to adopt Benashka. The process was supposed to be expedited, but that didn't prove to be the case. It took 2 1/2 years, but on July 28, 2018, Benashka joined her four siblings "home" in Princeton, Ky.

"They (the Wynns) are family to us now and to be able to raise these kids as a family is really special for this sibling set of five," Malissa noted.

Those families will be the first to tell you God's ways are amazing—five children brought over 1,500 miles to be loved and cared for—not just by two families—but by a supportive church and community.

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