Love knows no bounds for foster and adoptive parents Mark and Brenda Smith of Fayetteville. While the Caucasian couple has three biological children of their own ranging from ages 16 to 22, they also have two adopted Hispanic sons and are currently fostering two African-American children.
Over the past six years, they have fostered around 18 kids from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities. Their goal was to foster – not to adopt – initially, but when the children came into their lives, their feelings changed.
“God’s opened our hearts for kids in different situations … our hearts are growing,” Mark explained.
“If that’s our purpose, and God puts it on our hearts – that’s what we’re going to do,” says Mark. “Every child deserves a loving home.”
A child’s race is a non-issue for the family. They are not referred to as foster child, but son or daughter.
“We all bleed red – God made us all,” said Mark. “Society as a whole has forgotten that it’s easier to love, than to hate.
“People get angry when others are different … why can’t we work through our differences rather than using hate and guns?”
With a desire to tell their story and to encourage others to foster and adopt, the couple attended a Christian film festival in Orlando, Fla., in April, where members of the True Live Broadcasting Network overheard their story. Mark jokingly said, “If you ever want to see an unusual family – come and see us!”
Overhearing the conversation was Noah Dean Grant, founder of True Live Broadcasting Network, and the TLBN crew. Grant was fascinated with the idea of how Mark, as an aggressive professional wrestler in his younger years, was transformed by Christ into a gentle soul who that would mentor, pastor, foster and adopt children of differing races, with Brenda, and do it well.
TLBN is a faith-based organization, located in Florida and Atlanta, Ga., dedicated to providing uplifting, inspiring, educating and encouraging programming. TLBN’s broadcast may be watched several different ways, including through their website (tlbn.org), via Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Android TV.
Two weeks ago, TLBN’s crew drove to Fayetteville and shadowed the Smiths for up to 10 hours per day in order to document every aspect of their lives, to observe, interview and interact with their family. They toured Fayetteville’s downtown area and ate at some of the local restaurants, with a special dinner at Cornbread’s Kitchen Tuesday evening with friends of the family and the public invited. The film crew traveled to Huntsville with the Smiths, where the Von Braun Civic Center opened the arena and Mark’s emotions were flooded by memories of his wrestling career, both good and bad.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith have been encouraging kids for decades. He served as a youth minister at First United Methodist Church until he had several mini strokes, and Brenda served as the children’s director there for 20 years. They always asked youth to invite their friends, since some of their friends could be going through some difficult times, and may need encouragement.
“We never know what may be going on behind closed doors,” Mark explained.
A second drive to Huntsville would take the group to the Space & Rocket Center, where TLBN watched the kids have fun interacting with one another. TLBN interviewed two of the Smith’s children. Joseph, the Smith’s 18-year-old Hispanic son, was asked about his life before he and his brother were adopted. Being taken out of their home and placed in the custody of the Department of Children’s Services was frightening for the boys. They suffered anxiety, not knowing what would happen to them. Joseph and his younger brother, Cristien, were relieved that both foster homes prior to the Smiths were positive experiences with nice people, though they weren’t their forever homes like they expected. When they were transferred to the Smith’s house, they felt welcome and accepted.
“It felt like we belonged there ... we truly felt like we were home – I love them so much,” said Joseph.
Following the interview, a dewy-eyed crew complimented Joseph on how honestly and intelligently he spoke.
“Thousands or millions will see this … you may have put a lot of peace in kids’ minds,” Grant said, adding, “Your faith is what took you here.”
Later he mentioned, “This is my first time interacting with foster parents. It’s inspired me and may be something I need to explore.”
For Mark and Brenda Smith, fostering has meant not only loving children, but also receiving a lot of love from their family.
“It’s like Brenda and I gave birth to Joseph,” Mark explained following the interview. “It’s been the most rewarding and emotional time our families have had.”
The Smiths’ biological children, Jessica, Ashlee and Austin, have understood the hurts that the foster children have had and have been very understanding and accepting.
“I’m so proud of them. This could not be a happy home with jealously,” he noted. “I’m giving them the credit. It makes our hearts burst with happiness … We’re really blessed.”
The week culminated with the televised public concert, “A Night of Hope”, held at Hope Assembly. The show included a variety of styles of music and genres, and the Smith family was featured during the second half of the program. An offering was taken, and while half of the offerings were donated to “Clothe Our Kids”, the other half was given to the production company.
“They absorbed a lot of cost (during their stay while filming),” said Mark.
Mark and Brenda are grateful to the people of Fayetteville, Hope Assembly and several businesses who extended hospitality. Among the businesses the Smiths extend their appreciation to are their sponsors, Hampton Inn, which hosted the film crew, and to Lyon Family Farm. Others are the VBCC for opening the center for them, the Space & Rocket Center, Cornbread’s Kitchen for the great meals they prepared, Pet Paradise, Allen at Fayetteville Automotive who repaired one of the crew member’s vehicles so they could leave for Chicago the next day, as well as several other businesses.
“They said they have never seen a town with so much love,” Mark recalled the crew saying.
With the tentative title, “The Power of Transformation”, the documentary will likely be released in October on TLBN.org, and they may be distributing the film to other networks.
Grant encourages people with inspiring stories and testimonies to contact TLBN.
“We don’t mind traveling to find the good news,” he said.