Christian Alliance For Orphans Interviews (Part 3) - Bishop W.C. Martin

When the bishop at Bennett Chapel Baptist Church in Possum Trot, Texas, W.C. Martin and his wife Donna, decided they were going to adopt some children from the foster care system, they had no idea what was about to happen in their little town.

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The Miracle from Possum Trot
 
Guest:                         W. C. Martin
From the series:       The Miracle from Possum Trot (Day 1 of 1) 
 
Bob: When the bishop at Bennett Chapel Baptist Church in Possum Trot, Texas, W.C. Martin and his wife Donna, decided they were going to adopt some children from the foster care system, they had no idea what was about to happen in their little town.
 
W.C.: We don’t have any Ph.D. folks at our church that can map out this and show you how to do that. We don’t have that. But what we do have was just pure love that we can give a child. We just do the Word—like you just said, being a doer of the Word. This ain’t about having a meeting to see if we want to do this. We just did the Word and gave God the GLORY for doing it! [Applause]
 
Bob: This is a special edition of FamilyLife Today for Friday, November 25th. This program was recorded in front of a live studio audience. You’ll hear our conversation today with W.C. Martin, and hear how revival almost broke out in the middle of the interview. Stay with us. 
 
1:00
 
[Recorded Message]
 
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Once again, we have got a wonderful live studio audience with us. We are here at the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit IX! [Applause]
 
Yes! [Laughter] And as I was thinking about what we’re going to talk about today, I was thinking about one of your favorite quotes from Billy Graham. Do you know the quote I’m talking about?
 
Dennis: I do. He said: “Courage is contagious. When one man takes a stand, the spines of others are stiffened.” We’re going to hear a story today about a man and his wife who took a courageous stand on behalf of the orphan, and took God at His Word. I was reminded of this—a lot of Christians live their entire Christian faith out and never step out and never take this verse and the promise of what it means. 
 
2:00
 
Listen to this—Ephesians, Chapter 3, verse 20: “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen.”
 
I think one of the great challenges for us, in this day, is looking around at a culture that has a target-rich environment for us to be salt and light in this world but, especially, as we address the needs of orphans. Taking on the issue of foster care and adoption, we need to be men and women, young men and women, boys and girls of faith, who take God at His Word and expect great things from Him.
 
Bob: We’re going to meet somebody today who caused the spines of others to stiffen by the courageous step he took. It’s a story that has been told on Oprah, and the Today Show, and just about everywhere—
 
3:00
 
—not just here in the United States—but internationally. We want you to join us and welcome to the stage Bishop W.C. Martin. Would you welcome him? [Applause]
 
Dennis: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, Bishop. You and your wife Donna have been married for 35 years. 
 
W.C.: Yes.
 
Dennis: You have six children, four of whom are adopted. Apart from that being the claim to your fame—I know that’s number one, there, and your love for Christ—you are the bishop of Bennett Chapel in Possum Trot, Texas.
 
W.C.: On the other side of Coonville.
 
Bob: Known as what?—South Coonville?
 
W.C.: On the other side of Coonville. [Laughter]
 
Dennis: This goes back to 1996. Take us back to how this all started in Possum Trot.
 
W.C.: Well, my wife’s mother passed. 
 
4:00
 
She had one of those community-type mothers—everybody coming to her house, and eat, and play, and everything. She had 18 brothers and sisters of them.
 
Bob: Eighteen.
 
W.C.: Yes, 18. On the passing of her mother, she said one morning, “Lord, if You can’t take this burden from the loss of my mother, just let me die.” The Lord just spoke and said, “Give back.” God told us to adopt—foster and adopt. The whole thing started right there. We went to class. We had to take 12 weeks of Pride classes in Texas.
 
Dennis: Let me just stop you for a second, though. This starts a lot of times—adoption—with our wives speaking into our hearts.
 
W.C.: Yes.
 
Dennis: A lot of us, as men, kind of get dragged into this. You had some fears. 
 
W.C.: I sure did. 
 
Dennis: You had some concerns.
 
W.C.: I sure did; because she had kind of told me some other things and didn’t follow through with it; you know?
 
Bob: Ahhh. [Laughter]
 
5:00
 
W.C.: I said, “Here goes another one of them.” [Laughter]
 
Dennis: “Can this marriage be saved?” I understand! [Laughter]
 
W.C.: I said, “Here goes another one of them hair-brained ideas you’re coming up with!” [Laughter]
 
Dennis: I just want to remind you this is live radio, and Donna will be listening.
 
W.C.: Oh! [Laughter]
 
Bob: I just want to find out from the audience: “How many of you had husbands who said, ‘Here goes another one of her hair-brained ideas’?” Raise your hand. There are a lot of hands up here; yes! 
 
W.C.: Well, good thing I’m not the only little boy on the block! [Laughter]
 
Dennis: So what eventually won you over?
 
W.C.: Well, I felt the calling of God. I felt, within myself, that this was what God wanted us to do—not even knowing what the outcome was going to be / not even knowing anything about this because I always thought that people—I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as adoption, because I thought people always took care of their children. That’s all I ever knew. I didn’t think anything else, you know; because in places like Possum Trot, there was always a Grandmamma Yelma, or Aunt Pookanell, or somebody, when Mama died, you came in. [Laughter]
 
6:00
 
That’s what I always thought; you know? I never knew anything different. So, that started it. What happened was—when we adopted our first little boy / little girl, named Mercedes, who had been in nine homes for one year. They didn’t want us to have those children, because they figured that we were new in the business and new in the game—we could not deal with Mercedes and Tyler because they had such a bad record. But, then again, we showed them that we had Somebody on our side that they didn’t know anything about. [Laughter and cheering] Don’t start me preaching up here now; I don’t want to do that! [Laughter]
 
Dennis: We know it’s going to happen! [Laughter] Mercedes was five and her brother was—
 
W.C.: Three.
 
Dennis: —three. Where had they been? Why were they in the foster care system?
 
W.C.: Because their mother had gotten killed in Dallas, Texas, in a bad drug deal. 
 
7:00
 
As a result of it, Mercedes had to end up being the mother and the father for Tyler. She ended up just developing this thing about stealing and lying. She could con a con artist herself; you know?—until—
 
Dennis: Yes.
 
W.C.: —until she met me. [Laughter]
 
Dennis: Yes. This is what I want our audience to know—not that he can take over a liar—[Laughter]—but I want the audience to know that for all these drug busts we see on TV / the crime—there are kids involved.
 
W.C.: There surely are.
 
Dennis: They’re going someplace.
 
W.C.: Yes.
 
Dennis: I know a family that, since they’ve been here at this event, in the past 48 hours, got a phone call at 1:15 a.m. to take care of five kids who had just been delivered to the sheriff’s office, or the police station, and were sleeping on the floor because they had nowhere to go—all as a result of crime.
 
W.C.: Yes.
 
8:00
 
Dennis: So we kind of make it out there; but when you go near the foster care system, you’re going to find it’s up-close and personal.
 
Bob: I just want to know: “When you brought Mercedes and her little brother into your house, was it hard for a while?”
 
W.C.: I think it was harder on them because Mercedes was used to just going from place to place. Nine homes in one year is a lot of places.
 
Bob: Oh, yes.
 
W.C.: She didn’t trust nobody. That was the big problem Mercedes had—she trusted nobody—because she didn’t know what trust was all about. She didn’t know how to trust / she didn’t know the first thing about trust. What we had to do was to win Mercedes and Tyler over. I figured that if we got Mercedes, Tyler was going to do whatever Mercedes said—that was the situation. It was a bad, bad situation; because she had experienced so much at a young age.
 
Bob: How long did it take, and what did you do to win Mercedes over?
 
W.C.: Showed them a lot of love—
 
9:00
 
—just loved them out of what they were in to show them that that was never God’s will for them to have a life like that and that we are here. I told her—I said: “Mercedes, look. This is the last train to Georgia. You are not going nowhere. You might as well say, ‘This is it.’” And that was it.
 
Dennis: You decided to adopt that quickly?
 
W.C.: The way the state set it up—is that we had to foster for six months, with the intention of adoption after six months was up.
 
Bob: And when you did this, word spread around Possum Trot what the bishop and his wife were doing; didn’t it?
 
W.C.: Yes; it spread it. By the same token, I’d been the person over our congregation. People now began to understand what adoption was really all about, not knowing in the beginning. I looked up every Scripture that I could find in the Bible. I learned that adoption was a God-thing, in the beginning. You know, if you look back—there was Moses was adopted / Esther was adopted. 
 
10:00
 
A lot of people differ with me on this, but Jesus was an adopted child. I know there are other ways you can look at it, but He was an adopted child. [Applause]
 
Dennis: Yes; and just to illustrate here—one of my favorite questions to ask an audience is: “How many of you, in this audience of almost 2,500 people, are adopted?” Hold your hands up.
 
W.C.: Everybody! [Laughter]
 
Dennis: Well, those of you who didn’t hold your hands up, would you read Ephesians, Chapter 1: [Laughter] “…whom He predestined to become His sons”—and daughters—“through adoption.”
 
W.C.: That’s right.
 
Dennis: The reason I think God calls us, as believers, to go near the orphan and to care for orphans is—it is God’s heart / and it had better be, because we were lost and now we’ve been found.
 
Bob: Now, you’ve got him preaching! See how this works?—back and forth! [Laughter] 
 
Dennis: Yes. So what happened in your church?
 
11:00
 
W.C.: Well, after I got up and explained to the church what was going on, we started having families after families come and say, “I would like to do this, but I don’t want…”—we had to drive 120 miles, round-trip, to take what they call Pride classes, that was a 12-week course. I had enough families—I went to the state and asked them, “Would they be willing to come to our church and teach the classes?” 
 
Well, the lady said, “If you could go and find me eight families,” which they knew that was something that was just impossible to do—so they thought—but you know, God had another plan for it. What happened was—when I went and got the families, I carried a list back and laid it before her. When she unfolded the paper, I had 23 families on that list. [Laughter and cheering]
 
Dennis: So what happened? She came?
 
W.C.: She did! [Laughter] I don’t know how many of you in here are case workers or ever did that before, but the work load that a case worker has to do is enormous!— 
 
12:00
 
—you know, doing the home studies and doing the background history checks. That’s a lot of work for anyone to do—and to say that she got 23 families now—that she’s got to do all that work for. [Laughter]
 
Dennis: At the time you started this, with 23 families—how many attended your church? 
 
W.C.: We probably had about 85 families.
 
Dennis: So a fourth of your church, back then, stepped up to care for foster care kids.
 
W.C.: They stepped up, not having anything—because we didn’t know / we didn’t have a clue as to what was all involved. I did not know that there were children who had their own agenda and own ideas about where they were. I didn’t know that they steal. I didn’t know that they lie. I didn’t know that they do stuff like that. I didn’t have a clue about that. 
 
Dennis: Right.
 
W.C.: But they sent me to school, as well as gave me a Doctor’s degree in child psychology! [Laughter] But by the same token, what happened—God had already taught us patience. 
 
13:00
 
My oldest son—my biological son—is 29 years old. He was born with severe brain damage. So then, my brother thought that I had lost my mind.
 
Bob: I am guessing Possum Trot is not an affluent community.
 
W.C.: It’s not. It’s not at all, because it’s a very poor community. One family that I have, right now: She had adopted five little girls / one of them was her child—she adopted five. Then, her sister died—she had got three. Then, her sister’s husband died. 
Then, I went to the state because I did not want to see those children go back into the system in which they were fixing to come. I went to them and asked them, “What could we do to keep those children in the community?”  This family brought those children into their home. What she did—she raised 11 children in a trailer house. [Audience gasp]
 
Bob: Wow.
 
Dennis: You just raised an issue that I want our listening audience to be aware of. The church needs to realize the state is not the enemy when it comes to foster care. [Applause] 
 
14:00
 
They really are—the state really is waiting, I think, for the church to come to them and to say: “We want to cooperate. We want to help you”; because the state doesn’t know what to do with these children. They don’t have homes for them to go into. They need someone to step up, and step forward, and say, “Give us—give us your children.”
 
W.C.: Yes; that’s right. That’s right. See, that’s what we did. We had a rough time in the beginning, because the school didn’t know what to do about the children. But for the most part—I could say it like this: “If God is for you, who can be against you?” [Applause] It doesn’t matter! 
 
Dennis: Right.
 
W.C.: It does not matter what goes on. If God calls you to this particular ministry, you are going to catch some slack, and you are going to catch some problems; but, ultimately, I can say you shall be victorious over everything that what they say: 
 
15:00
 
“It can’t be,”— with God, it can be; because the Scripture said, “I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me.”
 
Bob: Now, you got him to preaching. See how this works? [Laughter]
 
Dennis: Well, there’s a reason why the school system felt the stress of what happened at Bennett Chapel.
 
W.C.: Yes.
 
Dennis: Share with the audience how many children have been adopted into families of your church.
 
W.C.: We have, at this time, 76 children that have been adopted. [Applause and cheering]
 
Bob: How has that changed Possum Trot?
 
W.C.: It changed our hearts and opened our hearts up to let us know that God created it all. It’s not so much what we’re doing for ourselves—but what we’re doing for others—because that’s what Jesus did.
 
Dennis: Right.
 
W.C.: He went out of His way to show us that He loved us. What He wants us to do is follow that same trend and go all out of our way. 
 
16:00
 
Adoption is a great thing. It’s one of the greatest things that we ever can do, because we are only following what God has already started by adopting us. Back then, that was a part of the plan of salvation—was adoption. That’s what we have to do, now. Everybody can’t do it, but everybody can be a part of what God is doing in that arena of adoption. [Applause]
 
Dennis: We sometimes think that we’re doing the orphan a favor by going near and doing the noble thing of being a foster care parent or perhaps adopting. The orphan is certainly the recipient of love, but we don’t realize how much we need the orphan to save us from toxic self-absorption.
 
Bob: Yes.
 
Dennis: Haven’t you found that in your own life?
 
W.C.: Yes, yes, yes—because Mercedes called my wife, the other day—she said: “Mamma, I don’t know where I would be, because of the way my life was going, if it had not been for what you and Dad have done for me. 
 
17:00
 
“I don’t know how my life would have turned out.” Mercedes was a child that—she could steal you blind, tell the same lie a thousand times—never change her facial expression / never change one word of it—but she couldn’t even count to ten. My wife used to spend hours, every day, putting pennies on the table to teach Mercedes. She taught her how to count to ten. Then, she taught her how to count to twenty, and just went on up. It ended up—Mercedes was an honor roll student in her class. 
 
You know, God is showing us that these children have purpose in their life. They are just not—somebody—no; we are not doing them a favor, but I think they’re doing us a favor; because what they are doing—they are teaching us some things about love that we don’t even know. They are teaching us some God-kind of love—not just we are trying to love somebody—but they’re teaching us something because those children really taught me what true love and pure love was all about—
 
18:00
 
—because we were reaching out, and bringing them in, and showing them a light that we were supposed to have been doing all the time. 
 
This is something that every church on this earth needs to reach up and wake up: “If they can do it in Possum Trot, on the other side of Coonville—and they don’t have no streetlights, don’t have no street signs, don’t have no hotels and all that stuff—we ought to be able to do it in our church.” Thank You, Jesus! [Applause, cheering, laughter]
 
Dennis: I would imagine, right now, that every person, who is listening to this broadcast, goes to church. What is there unclear about the statement you just made? Go to your pastor, go to your elder board / your deacon board—whatever the structure is—and say: “Let’s do something. Let’s be doers of the Word, and be those who are about caring for the orphan.”
 
W.C.: Yes; yes.
 
19:00
 
Bob: But don’t just take it to the elders and deacons and say, “Here, you guys do something,”—
 
Dennis: Oh, exactly, Bob.
 
Bob: —because they have enough to do. You need to go and say, “We’re here—ready to do whatever we can do to help this be a part of the culture of our church.”
 
Dennis: And it’s going to cost you. 
 
Bob: Yes.
 
Dennis: It’s going to cost you 12 weeks of training, or whatever it is in your state. 
 
W.C.: Yes; yes.
 
Dennis: You’re going to see a lot of red tape and a lot of system; but it’s like: “If that’s all the cause means to you and you’re not willing to endure some things like that, then find something that grabs your heart.”
 
W.C.: We don’t have any Ph.D. folks at our church that can map out this and show you how to do that—we don’t have that. But what we do have was just pure love that we can give a child. We just do the Word—like you just said—being a doer of the Word. This isn’t about having a meeting to see if we want to do this. We just did the Word and gave God the GLORY for doing it! [Applause]
 
20:00
 
Dennis: And all of God’s people said:
 
Audience: Amen! [Laughter]
 
Dennis: We’re going to close the broadcast with a question; because I would like to know, “Out of everything you’ve done in all of your life, what is the most courageous thing you have ever done?”
 
W.C.: I believe the most courageous thing that I’ve done, first of all, personally, was to accept Christ as my Savior. [Applause] That was number one. 
 
And number two—I think that what I’ve done was to share me with so many children, all across this country. I’ll continue to do that as long as God lets these legs move and lets this voice talk. I’m going to continue to let the world know that the church—the leaders / the pastor—we have a duty to perform before God. Don’t let this go down as, “God got an indictment against the church for what He told us to do and we refused to do it.” That’s a bad thing! 
 
21:00
 
Let us, at this point, get involved / make a difference. Tell the pastor, “Look, we got to do this.” We, as pastors, are just like a mailman—we didn’t write the letter, but we’ve got to deliver the letter. So what I’m saying to you: “Tell your people about adoption. If you can’t do it, help them out to do it. Just do something!” [Applause]
 
Dennis: Well, I want to thank you for being a courageous man—
 
W.C.: God bless you.
 
Dennis: —and for being a man who believes the God who is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond—
 
Dennis and W.C.: —all we can ever ask or think.
 
Dennis: To Him be the glory for this generation and all generations.
 
Bob: Would you guys thank Bishop Martin for joining us here? [Applause]
 
W.C.: God bless you. 
 
 [Studio]
 
Bob: Well, it’s fun to listen back to our interview with Bishop W.C. Martin. 
 
22:00
 
This took place back in 2013 at the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit—a great event that is held annually in May. In fact, May 4th and 5th of 2017, the Summit will take place at Brentwood Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee. There’s a good line-up on-hand. Ann Voskamp is going to be at the Summit this year / Andrew Peterson will be there. Of course, we’ll be there, again, doing interviews for FamilyLife Today. 
 
If you have a heart for orphan ministry—or for your church / if you’re involved in orphan ministry—plan to join us at the Summit, May 4th and 5th, 2017, in Nashville, Tennessee. If you need more information about the Summit, go to our website, which is FamilyLifeToday.com. There’s a link there that can get you all the information you need about next year’s event.
 
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Now, as the Christmas season is officially here—now that Thanksgiving is over—as you head toward the last few weeks of the year, I know some of you are beginning to think about yearend contributions to ministries, like FamilyLife Today. You need to know that all of the programs you hear on Christian radio look to this time of year as a significant time. What happens in the next few weeks really determines a lot about what our ministries will be like in 2017. 
 
So I want to encourage you, first of all, as you think about yearend contributions, make sure that your local church is in first place in your giving. We believe that the local church ought to be your giving priority. Then, if there are programs on this station that have had an impact in your life this year, consider giving a yearend gift to one of those programs. If FamilyLife Today is one of those programs, we hope you’ll consider a yearend contribution to this ministry as well. As I said, your financial support now determines a lot about what we can do in the months ahead. 
 
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We hope you’ll prayerfully consider how you might support the programs on Christian radio that have ministered to you during the year 2016.
 
And we hope you have a great weekend. I hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday. We’re going to talk about how we keep Jesus at the center of our holiday celebration by remembering who He is and what Christmas is really all about. Barbara Rainey will be with us. I hope you can join us as well.
 
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today
 
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