Steve, Rebekah, & AbiNoelle Lilly
Steve, Rebekah, & AbiNoelle Lilly

Let us begin with this – It is an amazing privilege to serve an awesome God!

At the age of five, I (Rebekah) knelt with my parents and confessed that I was a sinner and in full belief of what Jesus had done for me years ago at Calvary, accepted Him as my Saviour. Thankfully, mom and dad had committed, before I was even born, to provide a Christian education for me. While living in New England, I began formal education in a Christian school. Prior to third grade, under God’s direction, mom and dad began homeschooling me (that year they also schooled four other children as well). With big hearts and high standards leading the way, they chose A Beka DVD (then “video”) as our curriculum choice. For the first time, I remember “loving my teachers” and wanting to be a teacher just as good as they were! The teachers inspired and instructed at the highest level. Overall academically, I steadily moved from a struggling, tearful student to one who loved to read and be challenged. Third grade ended with much success and an educational pattern established for the next nine years. No doubt many years it was financially a challenge to afford the A Beka tuition. And…many of those years, we practiced the first “carschooling” as we traveled with dad in fulltime ministry. Commitment was the key. At the conclusion of 12th grade, I graduated from the A Beka Academy! It was great! We traveled to Pensacola, Florida and I walked in cap and gown with “my class” and received my diploma. It was a fine day! But education didn’t stop there…I arrived in Pensacola again just a few weeks later to begin summer work in preparation for all those college bills that would come as I started my freshman year at Pensacola Christian College. Mom and Dad testify regularly of the provision of God as each college payment was made. I studied education and missions, worked through college, had the awesome privilege of student teaching with one of the best teachers – Mrs. Wasser  – at the Academy. Upon graduation, I was offered a teaching position at Pensacola Christian Academy as well as the opportunity to take a full-time position in the college promotion office where I had worked throughout college. While both options were tremendous, the Lord clearly led me to accept a Christian school teaching position in North Carolina. After teaching three years (while obtaining my Master’s Degree during the summers) I married Steve and we began life together as Christian school teachers.

At the age of five, I (Steve) understood the important lesson being taught through the “wordless book” and accepted Christ as my personal Saviour. My family IS education! Mom and Dad met in Guyana, South America as missionary teachers. They returned to New England, where I was born, to serve as Christian school Administrator, teacher, and leader in the Christian school movement in that area. Being the “PK” (Principal’s kid) wasn’t always easy. What kind of excuse can the Principal’s Kid give for not doing homework or making a low grade on a test?!? You got it – no excuse! Life was always full – full of ministry at school. My brother and I saw the many sacrifices mom and dad made as they remained committed to Christian education even when the pay was low and the benefits lacking. But, oh the reward, as they witnessed many students come to know the Lord as their Saviour and grow to serve Him faithfully as adults. I also grew to greatly appreciate Christian education and all the behind-the-scenes effort it takes to maintain a good Christian school. We left New England where all of our family was and moved south to Virginia.  Now I had to say “Yes ma’am and Yes sir” instead of “yep” – what was that all about?!? Throughout my school years, I excelled in history, English, and Math and persevered through the sciences. Soccer was my favorite sport. I also participated in music, especially Dad’s handbell group. What a great experience to be able to travel around tidewater Virginia playing the handbells (later I would meet Rebekah in the adult church handbell group – good things come through music!) After moving south, I graduated from high school and continued my education at Pensacola Christian College. I worked my way through college, helping mom and dad with those college bills. The Lord was trying to do a work in my life, but I took a detour. I left PCC during my last semester! Yeah – bad choice. But God wasn’t done with me. I served in my local church and coached soccer at the Christian school where mom and dad were teaching. It was there that I began to listen to God’s leadership. I went back and finished my degree (barely….I had to stay in my Spanish teacher’s office in order to pass that last semester). I went on to teach in a Christian school, and Rebekah and I were married the next year.

After a year of teaching together as a married couple in a Christian school, the Lord led us to serve with The Voice in the Wilderness as staff missionaries. What an opportunity! Daily we worked behind-the-scenes in the ministry office handling finances, correspondence, graphic design and website management. We soon obtained our certification as ESL teachers and used this as an evangelistic tool multiple times on short-term mission trips to Venezuela. We also taught part-time at our local Christian school, filling a teaching need for them in both the elementary and secondary departments.

Our hearts were full with the many that we had taught, yet yearned for the time that we could have our own children to teach. After much time, a miscarriage, and being told by doctors that we would probably never have children, we began praying about adoption. Research gave way to hopelessness as we realize the 10s of thousands of dollars that is many times needed to adopt, until, we, one day, were introduced to the idea of adoption through the state foster care system. Months were spent studying to be licensed as foster parents, and not too long after that, we received a call to house siblings, a boy and girl, with the intent to adopt. A sharp learning curve for us was to appear, as we began to see how DSS and the court system’s innumerable fallacies could seemingly continue the “abuse” in a child’s life. Those two children thrived in our home, turned from their own baby-talk language to preschool conversation, and enjoyed learning to become independent with their own personal care needs. We were first called mommy and daddy by these dear ones we loved, nurtured, and treated as our own, until the call came that a judge had strangely order the children back to their birth family. Our hearts were wrenched as we returned the children and came home to emptiness and unusual silence. It was like the death of a child as we packed away their clothes and toys. Our “mommy and daddy” hearts were forever changed. With much apprehension, we agreed to another sibling placement with the promise of adoption, but yet another disappointment loomed ahead. After months of trials with DSS – too many to tell here – we returned those children as well. With this latest sibling set, we experienced the joy of witnessing their salvation profession, personal development, and first monumental educational achievements in the midst of incomprehensible continued trauma in their lives. However, the sorrow in our hearts was great as we resigned ourselves to the realization that our Christian beliefs were not aligned to the state’s will for children.

At this point, we immersed ourselves further into mission work, sensing that our ministry with children would continue, but perhaps not with children under our own roof. BUT GOD…

With great trepidation, just a few short months later, we listened closely as the ultrasound monitor searched for a heartbeat. Memories were still vivid of times earlier when no heartbeat was found….but then, the distinct pulses sounded as we realized, that much to our surprise, a precious, miracle gift from the Lord was soon to make an appearance.

On November 11, 2012, after 20 hours of labor, complications, and a C-section, we held a “talking” AbiNoelle! Yes – talking – the recovery room nurses said they had never seen a newborn so talkative! And she has yet to stop talking!  Let the teaching and training begin…with our very own little girl! Ain’t God good!

Since then, life continues. We have endured another miscarriage, and still long for the opportunity to bring other little ones into our home. Amazingly, He meets our every need as we have been able to work with many others right under our very own roof for such a time as they (and we) needed. He is faithful, and we look forward to many more days of service for HIM!

Update: On September 28, 2018, the Lord answered AbiNoelle’s fervent prayers for a sister. AmiJoy was brought home wrapped in love, as our story continues. Everyday she proves her determination and spirit and shows “Big Sister” that she is not to be left behind in personality!