On a warm November evening, Mercy Miller walks confidently down the aisle at her adoption ceremony at McGregor Baptist Church in Fort Myers. With cameras flashing, she tries to hide her beaming smile as she greets her new adopted family onstage.
This was an evening Mercy never thought was possible when she was first placed on our campus in Fort Myers three years earlier. Her biological mother made some bad choices, which eventually led to her parental rights being terminated.
When she first arrived at the Children’s Homes her name was Cassie, and she had been in a number of different foster homes since she was in elementary school.
“I remember the day I came to the Children’s Homes. I was angry, confused, and tired of foster homes. However, the Children’s Homes was a nice place where it was more like a real home. It always felt like family,” Mercy said.
“I knew that I was safe at the Children’s Homes. My house parents were very patient. They prayed with me every night. But I never thought I would find a forever family. I thought that I would just age out of the system,” Mercy said.
However, God was working in the lives of both Mercy and the Miller family to one day bring them together.
Stephen and Brandy Miller already had three beautiful children, but they didn’t feel like their family was finished yet. When things didn’t seem to be happening, they started praying about adoption, but never thought about adopting a teenager.
“We got to know Mercy when we visited the Children’s Homes’ cottage with our Sunday school class. After that, we saw each other at church and became better acquainted,” Brandy said.
“We seemed to have an instant connection with Mercy. Pretty soon we felt God calling us to adopt her. This was not what I was thinking when I was praying for another child, but I knew immediately that it was God’s plan and the excitement just began to grow inside me.”
Both Stephen and Brandy both felt God calling them to adopt Mercy. “We knew it was God because he had given us both the same desire without any prodding from the other,” Stephen said. “We were thrilled when Mercy said she wanted to be part of our family.”
“When they asked me how I felt about becoming part of their family, I was really excited and so thankful. But I still had a hard time trusting people. Deep down in my heart I wanted a forever family, but I was just so scared of getting attached and then not having things work out.”
Mercy was able to put her fears behind her by focusing on her future, not on her past, and on what God had planned for her.
I changed my name to Mercy.
When Mercy’s adoption was being finalized she was able to change her last name to Miller as she was now a permanent part of their family. However, she also wanted to change her first name from Cassie to Mercy.
“I wanted to change my name to Mercy because God had shown me a lot of mercy in my life. My new name speaks the truth about my past and what God has done for me.”
“For the first time in my life I started attending church when I came to the Children’s Homes. My other foster care homes never went to church. I learned more and more about Christ and what he had done for me,” Mercy said.
Mercy eventually gave her life to Christ and was baptized at McGregor Baptist Church on May 30, 2010. She now sings in the youth choir and is active in her life group class.
I actually had the opportunity to lead my birth mother to the Lord.
As Mercy grew in her faith, she felt a burden for her biological mother and her salvation.
“I actually had the opportunity to lead my birth mother to the Lord. I called her last Mother’s Day to tell her that I loved her and that I forgave her for everything. I prayed the sinner’s prayer with her,” Mercy said.
Dr. Richard Powell, pastor at McGregor Baptist, said that Mercy is a perfect example of the good that is produced when the church partners with the Children’s Homes.
“We are doing more than just meeting the physical needs of these kids. We are teaching them the value of knowing Jesus Christ as their Savior as well as the values of what family is all about,” Powell said.
Mercy now has two younger brothers, Christian and Jude, and a younger sister, Anna. They are an active family that is very involved with church and many other activities.
Mercy is already looking to the future and what she wants to do with her life. “I want to be a social worker. I want to minister to other children in foster care to help them understand that they have a purpose in this world,” Mercy said.
At the conclusion of the adoption ceremony, the entire Miller family embraces and then Mercy raises her arms in celebration as everyone cheers and claps enthusiastically. After the ceremony Mercy tells everyone how grateful she is for God’s blessings on her life.
“I am so thankful for the Children’s Homes and how they were there for me. I am so thankful for my new family, and I am so thankful for God’s mercy!”