‘There’s a 10-day old baby girl and she has a disease,’ I was told. ‘I’ll take her,’ I said without hesitation. Just hours later, the social worker was at our door in Guatemala, holding a bundle wrapped in a blanket. She explained the baby was abandoned due to her diagnosis. She was left with nothing, not even a name. And this baby girl wasn’t expected to live very long because she had Hydranencephaly. She only had about 3% of her brain and an enlarged head due to an abnormal accumulation of fluid in her brain. The days that followed were filled with MRI’s and hospital visits. Then, I stood as a 19-year-old before the judge, asking if I could adopt her and give her a name. ‘Her own family didn’t even want her,’ the judge told me solemnly, ‘She’s probably not going to live, and if she does, she won’t have a normal life. Why would you even bother?’ I told her I cared because her life matters, and the value of our life isn’t decided by the number of our days. I named her Emma Leigh—Emma means ‘whole and complete’ and Leigh, (my middle name I share with my mom) means ‘healer.’ There were surgeries, court hearings, lost paperwork, and so many medical appointments. But these were never a burden. I just wanted her to be loved here on earth. Just 31 days old, Emma Leigh passed from my arms into the arms of Jesus. She was born into a completely hopeless situation, but she died being loved. Most children in Guatemala like Emma Leigh are left to die alone. I wasn’t okay with that, and could no longer pretend these kids didn’t exist. And so, Into His Arms was born, a place for kids diagnosed as terminally ill to be loved until the very end. Since then, we’ve cared for and loved many children who had difficult health issues. I’ve seen the depths of the darkness, but I’ve also seen so much light. I’ve seen doctors travel across the world to provide life-saving surgeries. I’ve seen people rally around the orphan or the family struggling just to get by, just because they care. Because they see their value. There’s a lot of bad in the world, but I believe there’s even more good, and it’s up to us as Christians to be that light.
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