Adoptive mother counts self blessed

Date: 2010-09-01

9/1/2010 7:54:00 AM
Adoptive mother counts self blessed
Correspondent, The Sentinel

Heather Elyse considers herself blessed.

Passionate about ministry, she is children's pastor at Olive Branch Church of God, writer-director for a commercial production company and a Go and Produce Ministries director. She has been a foster parent for more than 30 children. She lives in a 10-bedroom Victorian home in Rochester with her seven adopted children and has room for more.

"I wear a lot of hats," she said, "but the most important job I have is parenting some amazing kids. I am a professional boo-boo kisser, nose wiper and cuddler."

But her blessings began haunting her even before she moved to the area. There are some in her church and in the Akron-Rochester communities who feel a 28-year-old single woman should not have seven children, adopted or not.

Equating "single mother" with "unwed mother" and seven children with welfare, she said a few have suggested she stole the five girls and two boys.

Others doubt she owns her home. As a result she gets hate mail, has had windows broken and ugly words painted on the house and her car scratched. People have accused her of neglecting and abusing her children. Area churches have offered her parenting classes.

"What these people don't understand is that while we may not be what they consider a normal family, we are family," Elyse said. "I can afford the children. I can afford our house. My children were birthed from my heart, not my womb. They mean everything to me. I would lay down my life for them."

Elyse detailed the horrific traumas her children endured. One was found locked in a dog cage eating feces. Several were raped, beaten and starved. One had her body used as a cutting board, another suffered from shaken baby syndrome. One girl recalls having her father abuse her while her mother watched. "Then she did the same thing," the little girl said. One made national headlines when she was discovered; four are listed as having endured some of the worst cases of sexual abuse reported nationwide. All have had their names changed.

"I refuse to exploit my kids," Elyse said, "but I want people to understand where they're coming from. They've learned to forgive the past, but it's not easy to forget being raped or having to eat dog feces. The continued attacks we've been under trigger additional anxiety.

"The people who condemn us have not visited our home; they find it easier to compound rumors.

"We work hard and everyone has a job. Each has his or her own bed and is expected to make it and to keep their rooms tidy. We're polite. We say, 'yes, ma'am' and 'yes, sir.' We do a lot as a family. We don't have television. We play games together and read. They travel with me. All of us went to Haiti a few weeks ago and the kids were great.

"I never spank them. I believe in spanking, but I don't do it because I'm also licensed as a foster parent," Elyse continued. "Foster parents can't spank, and I refuse to have two sets of standards for my kids. They know that obedience brings blessings and disobedience results in consequences.

"Miracles happen in my home. I've seen these kids come bruised, broken and battered. They're totally different now."

The children, ranging in age from 5 to 14, attend Living Faith Christian Academy in Rochester.

Elyse - originally Heather Elyse Savage while growing up as an adopted child in a minister's family - believes missioning is in her blood. "My father planted more than 40 churches overseas," she said. "I traveled with him as much as possible."

After graduating from high school at the age of 15, the California native entered a Bible college in Oklahoma. At 21, she married a pastor only to learn he was abusive. The marriage was annulled. "I thought we would be married forever," she said, "but it didn't turn out that way."

Crushed, Elyse decided that if David could slay a giant, she'd adopt kids. By the time she was 26, she had adopted six children no one wanted - and had her heart broken again when the first child, a girl named Victoria, was brutally murdered by her biological mother's boyfriend on an approved weekend visit. She since named another daughter Victoria, but continues to display framed photos of the first Victoria.

"I spent most of the first year on my knees praying," she said.

And she's prayed a lot since moving from Oklahoma to accept her job at the church. She has come to love Indiana despite the persecution she feels.

"I could live anywhere as a writer-director," she said, "but I felt called here because of the church and GAP. It's good for the kids to grow up in a small town. I want to remain here as long as possible. I'll continue adopting children and I'll still foster. I'm very grateful for the court system and state for believing in me.

"Most of all, I want to act like a Christian. There are three kinds of Christians - convenient Christians who ask what can God do, conditional Christians who say, 'I'll serve, but don't send me to Haiti.' And finally, there are Christians willing to be crucified by being willing to stand up and fight. I want to be one of the latter. I will stand up and fight for my children. I will be God's hands and feet on their behalf."


Comments about Heather Elyse article

[ppl comment These are comments post on the above article in the newspaper. The first comment makes some allegations about the veracity of Heather's story and is worth preserving]

Posted: Saturday, November 5, 2011

Article comment by: Karl Gilpin

This article is not accurate, to say that Heather is an adopted child is crazy! The child she says was murdered is alive and well in Oklahoma, please check your facts, this is not an attack on anyone just a plea for responsible and accurate reporting please. Manipulations of the truth by the the subject of the article should not be recreated by the author. Please check your facts before printing something that is forever posted !

Posted: Friday, September 3, 2010

Article comment by: Diane Kalas

"Right now, more than 120,000 legal orphans in United States foster care are waiting for adoptive families. The US also has more than 300,000 churches, and God has given clear commands for Christians to take care of His orphan children. 

So if the command is clear and the need is apparent, why are these kids still waiting?"

There are over 3,000 kids in Indiana waiting for families, and there are over 9,000 churches. That is only one adoption in every 3 churches.

This and more information may be found at:

Posted: Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Article comment by: The Clicker

This is love!!

Posted: Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Article comment by: Beth Brady

What a wonderful story she has to tell. I, for one, am inspired and could only hope to someday lead with such a "Christ- like" example. 
Thank you, Heather for your perserverance and the beautiful example that you set not only for your children and so many other children, but for adults in our community as well.

Posted: Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Article comment by: Brandi D

Honestly, it is not surprising to hear that people in this community have stuck their noses in business that doesn't concern them or treated you as though you are beneath them. That, sadly, is how MANY in this community are. 
This article brought tears to my eyes. I don't know you, but I think you are an amazing woman for giving these children a safe and loving home to grow up in! No child deserves what your children had to go through. Being married/single, young/old, or rich/poor should never be an issue when it comes to a child's well-being and happiness. I hope you continue being Heather by being the mother that these children would've never had. You are very blessed! You and your children are in my thoughts and prayers.

Posted: Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Article comment by: Sarah Back

Elyse you sound like a strong women and I am glad that you are putting your heart out there for all the wonderful children that need someone to care for them. I am very glad that you are willing to let everyone know that this is your way and that no matter what they do, you will continue to do it. Thanks for this article to prove to people out there that there are people that care.

Posted: Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Article comment by: Robin Heckman

Ann, thank you for writing this article! I have seen first-hand the blessings God has delivered through Heather. My children have blossomed and grown tremendously with her as their children's pastor!! Her children are some of the sweetest, most polite, most "normal" kids I have ever met! It is obvious to all who know the kids that God has healed them through their mother. Heather, thank you for serving God in spite of persecution and leading my children down His path!!

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