My name is Marissa, and I am 22 years old. In January of 2016, I felt God place on my heart to take in my 17 year old cousin Vanessa. She was raised by my Grandmother, and after she passed away in 2014, I began to pray about taking Vanessa in. Through much prayer, in 2016, I decided to move home from the overseas mission field and start the life of a missionary here being a mother to Vanessa. Taking custody of Vanessa came with a lot of responsibility.

Vanessa is a joyful, exuberant, lovely 17 year old young lady. She was diagnosed with an intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder. Raising her has had its fair share of challenges from working with her psychiatrist to stabilize her medications, managing developing behaviors, and working to get her from a place of surviving to thriving. God has been so gracious in bringing Vanessa freedom as we continue down this path, as well as bringing freedom to myself in learning to selflessly love and care for her. I consider myself blessed to know her. She has changed my view of life in ways I cannot even begin to express, and it is a joy to see her gifts and talents shine.

God has blessed me with a partner in this journey of life with Vanessa. The Lord brought Sean into our lives at a perfect time. He jumped right on board in not just being my support and partner in this, but also as a great role model for Vanessa. His love for her is incredible to watch, and we are blessed to have him along for this journey. Together, Sean and I have sought out much wisdom and support in care for Vanessa.

After extinguishing many of the options we had come across the Lord brought about Family Hope Center. They are an educational program that works with the parents of children with special needs to treat the child as a whole, not just focusing on symptoms. We did a parent training conference with them, and we were able to learn about the brain and see Vanessa in a whole new light.

God is good, and He has called us to raise up Vanessa, to bring her freedom, healing, and to allow her to grow in seeing Life and Life abundant. Our goal now is to raise up a village of people who will surround us through prayer and finances as we continue on this journey and hopefully help inspire other families in similar situations that God is for them, not against, and His plans are to prosper then with a bright future. Vanessa is the inspiration behind The Village, and our goal is to inspire others, lead many, and equip families to selflessly love, generously give, and radically empower those around them, especially those who have adopted or have children with special needs.