Jacqueline writes: Connection in Possum Trot

I read an article written by Erin Gieschen, “Small Town, Big Heart.” Gieschen’s account is of a miracle that takes place in a tiny rural community called Possum Trot. This tiny community adopted “seventy-two of the toughest kids in the foster care system” 1 forever changing the lives of the town and the children they saved. This is a story that bears out all five leading causes of life discussed in The Leading Causes of Life written by Dr. Gary Gunderson and Dr. Larry Pray (connection, agency, coherence, hope, and blessing). However, for the sake of time and space I will only discuss how Possum Trot practice connection.

The people of Possum Trot, Texas dared to hear and respond to the language of life (connection) bringing love and promise out of loss and hopelessness. This community of 300 people brought life out of death by rising to God’s call to “defend the fatherless,” by adopting seventy-two (72) of the most unwanted children in the Foster Care System in their county.

The story starts with the death of Donna Martin’s mother, Mrs. Cartwright who was a legend of love in the town. Donna, the wife of Bishop W. C. Martin, the pastor of the town’s church, Bennett Chapel was left “shattered, angry, and empty” when her mother died. For months, she lived in agony until she prayed for God to “heal her or let her die.” Gieschen writes, “God’s answer came straight at Donna’s heart with a clarity that caught her off guard. I hear you, she understood His Spirit to say. I’ve heard your pain and complaints. But I want you to think about all those children out there who don’t have what you had in a mother. I want you to give back to them. Foster and adopt.” 2

Donna responded to this call as if to answer Dr. Gunderson’s question: “For what are we perfectly adapted?” 3 This “first Lady” of a church and mother of a special needs child enlisted her sister to go with her to attend evening adoption classes that took 120 miles round-trip to attend. It seems that she understood the answer, “We are adapted for complex social relationships. We are adapted for connection relevant to the work of transforming the communities we love.” 4

Once the Bishop started driving the sisters to class, he too caught the vision and supported it from the pulpit. He began preaching this living model of adoption. “The only way man was able to get back to God was through adoption. It’s part of the plan of salvation…. Adoption isn’t a concept just handed down yesterday. It was a God-given thing to get all of us back to him.” 5 Soon the entire church/community rose to the call and “life came out of death.” This small town of 300 people, most of who earned less than $30,000.00 per year adopted 72 foster children. Was it a miracle? After all larger cities with more economic resources have not experienced the successes of this town. What makes Possum Trot different? It is their ability to recognize, initiate, manage, and respond to highly complex social relationships. 6 As Dr. Gunderson says, connection heals. 7 He says life’s cries are louder than the cries of death. We know what elements are missing in the equation to effect adequate change in life’s circumstances. However, the question is: what words, activities, and strategies are required for discovering life’s language? Dr. Gunderson submits that life’s basic language is seen in:

• “The connection through which life comes (even in one’s isolation)
• The coherence of God’s grace against the chaos of loss
• The sense of agency that is able to harness intelligence and energy
• Inherited and transcending blessings, and
• Hope ”8

The small town of Possum Trot chose life, creating possibilities, filling emptiness, weaving together broken pieces, and moving simplicity toward festival.” 9


1 “In Touch, Created to be Loved”, February 2008, Vol. 31 No. 2, 2008, Gieschen, Erin, “Small Town, Big Heart” pgs 12-16

2 Ibid., pg 13

3 Gunderson, Gary, Dr., Pray, Larry, Leading Causes of Life, The Center of Excellence in Faith and health Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare, Memphis, TN, 2006, page., pg 71

4 Ibid., pg 71

5 “In Touch, Created to be Loved”, February 2008, Vol. 31 No. 2, 2008, Gieschen, Erin, “Small Town, Big Heart” pg, 15

6 Ibid., pg 64

7 Ibid., pg 67

8 Ibid., pg 3

9 Ibid., pg 46

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Professor, Faith and the Health of the Public, Wake Forest University School of Divinity. NC Certified Beekeeper Author, Leading Causes of Life, Deeply Woven Roots, Boundary Leaders, Religion and the Heath of the Public, Speak Life and God and the People. God and the People: Prayers for a Newer New Awakening. Secretary Stakeholder Health. Founder, Leading Causes of Life Initiative

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