“I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything; but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”
-Edward Everet Hale
In her own words, Thea Jarvis is “a mother.” It is certainly an accurate description for a woman who has five biological children and has adopted 19. Two of her daughters have adopted ten more between the two of them. They have raised dozens of foster children and assisted hundreds of children in finding an adoptive home.
In the early 1990’s, Thea Jarvis and her family were struck with the overwhelming struggles their nation of South Africa faced with an HIV/AIDS epidemic and the hundreds of thousands of children who were abandoned and orphaned as a result of this crisis. Thea had volunteered in orphanages for several years and witnessed the suffering of all those babies and small children firsthand. In response to this difficult situation in her country, Thea founded The Love of Christ (TLC) Ministries.
Thea writes, “In a country where more than half the population lived in appalling conditions, with very little income, in families torn apart by urbanization [sic] and legal restrictions, [TLC] Ministries was established by the Jarvis family to rescue the tiniest victims of a society in turmoil.”
They began by adopting two abandoned infants, Joshua and Reuel, in 1993. They were shocked when instead of approval and support, many of their family members and friends were very critical of their new mission. South Africa was still under the grip of apartheid; people commonly told Thea it was politically incorrect to bring these black children into her home. They suggested some sort of shelter, separate from their home, where they could take care of the children.
As a mother, Thea knew that was unacceptable for her family’s mission. She strongly believes that, “all children need a home; and that a home is more than just food and shelter.” Their mission was to give these children a family, to bring order to these children’s lives and a chance to grow up to be responsible adults.
Next, the family adopted Tommy, rejected and abandoned because he was albino. He thrived with the family, but was diagnosed as HIV positive at two years of age. It was an indication of the type of bitter trials the family would endure as it sought to care for these children.
Within a short while, two more abandoned little boys were adopted by Thea and the family’s ministry really took off. More and more babies found their way to the Jarvis family home, and by 1998 they needed to find a larger space to accommodate the 5 Jarvis children plus the 12 other children who had been added to their family. With the help of a local Catholic organization, they moved onto a farm just outside of Johannesburg.
Through Thea’s experiences with orphanages, she knew that with quantity, the quality of care children receive is almost always diminished. So she decided to focus her attention on streamlining the adoption process, so each baby could have its very own, loving family. Over the years, they have placed more than 800 children with permanent adoptive families.
With the help of volunteers, the Jarvis family normally has room for at least 30 babies, who are cared for until an adoptive family can be found. Each of these babies arrives at TLC with a tragic story, but with the love and commitment of the Jarvis family and generous volunteers they find a safe place to thrive. Thea’s guiding principle is that the children should only leave if it will improve their situation, not diminish it.
On their website, Thea explains that, “Every baby at TLC is a part of our family, we hold each little one dear, we fight for the rights of every one, we seek the best for each individual, always.”
Instead of dwelling on the hardships and difficulties she and her family face each day, especially when it comes to the challenge of finding the finances to care for the material needs of all her children, Thea is full of hope. She refuses to be defeated by the obstacles in her path or give up because the need is so great. It might be understandable if Thea became overwhelmed with sorrow over the difficult circumstances she encounters day after day—often the children suffer from HIV/AIDS, or other illnesses—but she does not.
Each one of us can learn from the example of Thea Jarivs and her family. Every child is wanted by someone. It is disingenuous to claim that abortion is needed in cases where a baby is unwanted when there are people in the world who are willing to sacrifice their lives to care for these children. As pro-lifers, our challenge to ourselves needs to be, “What am I doing to support children who society deems unwanted—and how can I do more?”
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Reprinted with permission from Unmaskingchoice.ca