It is often so easy to take the blessings in our lives for granted. For Paula Coomes, she did not realize what a blessing she was missing until Willis and Glenda Spencer walked into her life.
Paula was born and raised in Evansville, IN until the age of 8 with her mother, Judy, and her grandmother. At age 5, she began going to church at North Park Wesleyan after she attended Bible School with her grandmother’s friend. The church bus would pick her up every Sunday. Paula would often become attached to any adult who showed love and kindness to her, since she was somewhat neglected within her own home, and Glenda happened to be one of those people that Paula met in children’s church.
After attending church for three years, the church noticed she had stopped coming. They tried to call, and no one would answer. The last time they tried calling, the phone had been disconnected. Church members decided to come by the house and when no one answered the door, they were worried. They had known Paula’s grandmother had gotten sick and had been put into a nursing home, but they soon found out she had passed away. Paula and her mom had lived with her grandmother, and her mom was struggling to take care of them after her grandmother’s passing.
That following Sunday during church service, the Pastor went before everyone and explained they had found out what was going on and why Paula had not been to church in a while. He then went on to explain social services were involved now, but God spoke to him and told him there was someone within the church that would take her. He asked that if someone felt led to take her into their home to come talk to him after the service. Glenda said God spoke to her heart very loudly. Glenda was 51-years-old at the time, and Paula was 8. Glenda’s husband, Willis, was 58-years-old, and they had three daughters of their own. Glenda said she knew Willis would think they weren’t at a place they could take in an 8-year-old little girl, so she was telling God he would need to speak to him if they were supposed to take Paula in. Ten seconds later, Willis nudged Glenda on the arm and said, “We ought to take her.” They had never been fostering parents. They were simply taking a leap of faith and doing what they were called to do.
The Pastor and his wife, along with Willis and Glenda, went by Paula’s house that Sunday afternoon. Paula and her mother were sitting on their front porch in the middle of July with no power or water. All the food they had was in a cooler on the front porch. It broke their hearts to see Paula in these living conditions. They approached her mom and said they knew Paula from children’s church and wanted to help take care of her until she was able to get back on her feet. After about 30 seconds, Paula’s mom said, “Ok, she’s probably better off with you all anyways.” Judy gathered up Paula’s belongings in a trash bag, and Paula left that day having no idea what was to come.
Paula explained that on the drive to Willis and Glenda’s house, she felt as though she had been in the car forever. They lived in Robards and were driving from Evansville. She laughed and said, “Talk about a culture shock. I went from the city in Evansville to living on a pig farm in Robards, Kentucky.”
Her adoptive mother, Glenda, said she remembers Paula asking her questions about so many things many of us don’t think twice about in our daily lives such as, “Why are there two sheets on the bed?”
When they first took Paula in, adoption wasn’t in anyone’s mind. They wanted to help this little 8-year-old girl and her mother during this difficult time. Paula came to live with them at age 8, but it wasn’t until she was 14-years-old, a freshman at North Middle, that she was officially adopted by Willis and Glenda Spencer.
Her adoptive parents would drop Paula off at her mom’s house after church on Sunday and then pick her back up before church service on Sunday night. This lasted several years until a concerning situation came up, and they decided to stop leaving Paula at the house.
Her new life was very different than before. Paula would get off the bus from school, and dinner would be sitting on the table. When she lived with her birth mother, she was the one taking care of the house, doing laundry and trying to figure out what they could eat for dinner at night. At the farm, she learned responsibilities and chores. She was able to graduate high school and complete some college coursework and is now a registered Pharmacy Technician. She is happily married, and they have six children between them. Being adopted, she came from a blended family, so it was natural to take her step-kids in as her own. Thinking back to everything she went through before Willis and Glenda came into her life, it is so hard to imagine her kids living in the conditions she was living in at such a young age. “I think I would be a completely different person that I might not recognize looking at myself in a different light today.”
At age 13, Glenda asked Paula what she wanted for her birthday. Many kids are asking for the newest gadget, while she responded with, “I want to have your last name.” Paula said many kids at school would ask her why her grandparents always came to everything, and she would have to tell them they were her parents and then be asked why she had a different last name. Even though she knew the kids didn’t mean any harm, she felt as though she was always having to go into detail about her story and was ready for them to officially be her mom and dad. After a couple years of living with them, she called them mom and dad anyways because they were her parents. They did everything a mother and a father do for their children. Paula never had a dad in her life consistently, and she is so grateful she found a father and knew what a man was supposed to be when she found her husband. Now her own daughters are growing up with the same example.
In 2012, Paula’s birth mom was found unresponsive. At this time, she hadn’t spoken to her mom in a year and a half. After talking to her adoptive mom, they were able to move her to Redbanks Nursing Home in Henderson. She had progressed and put on weight, but then two weeks later she had a stroke. She was taken to St. Mary’s but was unable to pull through after being put on a ventilator.
Glenda told Paula that the day before Paula’s birth mother passed away, she felt God speaking to her again and telling her they needed to go by the hospital and visit after church. Glenda shared and one of the last things she said to Glenda during her visit was, “I just want to make Paula proud.” Paula said, “How awesome that my adoptive mom saved me and was so unselfish to love and help save my birth mom, too.”
For those children currently in foster care, she said, “Just be patient. Everyone will eventually find their place. There are still good people in this world and that’s the whole point of it. My parents weren’t foster parents. It just happened and those are the cases you end up getting a blessing in the end.”
Lyndi Mauk, editor of Henderson Family Magazine, was born and raised in the Bluegrass State. She is grateful to be going through life alongside her husband and best friend, Brandon, and being a mother to their little girl.
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