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Couple Behind ‘Possum Trot’ Movie Tells How Black Church Sparked Foster Care Movement in Small Texas Town

There are about 400,000 children in the U.S. foster care system, with just over a quarter of them up for adoption. Kids who exhibit difficult behaviors, either due to past abuse or neglect, can be especially difficult to place. Those who are never adopted often face future challenges, including homelessness and drug abuse.

Angel Studios’ newest movie, “Sound of Hope: The Story of Possum Trot,” sheds light on the true story of a small Texas church that banded together and rallied its community to adopt hard-to-place children out of foster care.

Sound of Hope: Possum Trot Movie
Demetrius Grosse as Rev. Martin in “Sound of Hope: The Story of Possum Trot.” (Source: Angel Studios)

The real-life story focuses on Bishop William C. Martin and first lady Donna Martin, leaders of Bennett Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, a small Black church in the rural East Texas town of Possum Trot.

According to Mrs. Martin, it was in 1997, during prayer about the loss of her mother, that God moved her to consider adoption.

“I remember coming as a broken child and crying out to God,” she told Faithfully Magazine. “I heard him say to give back to those children. Look at all that’s been given and love the less fortunate. I had never really considered adoption before. I thought it was for White people. It was this revelation from the Holy Spirit that changed me.”

Potential foster parents must undergo child welfare training, and at the time, the nearest location to fulfill that requirement was 60 miles away. Mrs. Martin and her sister — who come from a large family — faithfully made the trip for 13 weeks and learned about children in crisis. In due time, the Martins, who had two biological children, adopted a five-year-old boy and a two-year-old girl.

Things didn’t begin smoothly. In a previous interview with People magazine, Bishop Martin said the children “did everything but set the house on fire.”

“Everything was brand new to me,” he told FM. “I was, at first, worried about my own biological children, but God opened my eyes to see something new.”

The Martins eventually adopted a nine-year-old girl. Their home was her 11th placement. The child, named Terri, had suffered physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her biological mother and the woman’s boyfriend.

Sound of Hope: Possum Trot Movie
Actors Demetrius Grosse, Diaana Babnicova, and Nika King in “Sound of Hope: The Story of Possum Trot” (Source: Angel Studios)

At the time the Martins began their fostering journey, there were more than 21,000 “abused and neglected children in substitute care in Texas, many free for adoption and waiting for adoptive homes, [and who were] disproportionately African American,” according to the Child Welfare League of America.

Members of Bennett Chapel Missionary Baptist Church began asking their spiritual leader how to take in children of their own.

“I began teaching the message that we’re all adopted by God,” said Bishop Martin, who wrote about his experience in the book Small Town, Big Miracle: How Love Came to the Least of These.

“When we first brought in kids, it was spoken out of pain,” Mrs. Martin said. “We didn’t know it was something to involve others in. We also wanted to make sure that they didn’t want them just because they were cute kids. They had significant baggage.”

The couple began hosting trainings at the church, and eventually, some families stepped up to foster and adopt, with several taking in sets of siblings.

In time, the 700-member community of Possum Trot had a movement on its hands, grounded in a Christian church of about 200 faithful.

“We didn’t take the easy kids, but the ones others had given up on,” Mrs. Martin said. She explained that those who brought children into their homes had to have a “stick-and-stay mentality” about their decision.

When things got difficult due to a foster parent’s death or another feeling overwhelmed, church members would come to one another’s aid to take in a child or offer relief. Overall, the community thrived.

In about 10 years, two dozen Bennett Chapel church community families had adopted 77 children.

Although nothing will fully erase the pain of their past, today, many of those children are leading full lives — graduating from university, marrying, and working full-time jobs.

“Not one of them went back to foster care,” Mrs. Martin said proudly. “From the beginning, I was there to be their mother. We were told they were fire starters. We were told they will reject you and destroy your home. But I knew from the beginning when the Lord spoke, this is what being a parent is about — not just to be called … mother and father, but to show unconditional love.”

Today, the Martins advocate for adoption across the country. They were also heavily involved in the creation of the new Angel Studios film highlighting their unique story. Some of the worship scenes in “Sound of Hope: The Story of Possum Trot” include real-life Bennet Chapel church members.

Mrs. Martin’s prayer is that those who watch their story will be moved to open their hearts and homes to children in the foster care system.

“I believe it’s going to spread like wildflowers,” she said.

The film’s producers and writers, Joshua and Rebekah Weigel, hope viewers will be impressed by the power of community.

“I’ve been very involved in the fostering and adoption space, and we had all the books, all the training, but we didn’t have the community,” Mrs. Weigel told Faithfully Magazine. “Family is what heals these kids.”

As FM previously reported, “Sound of Hope: The Story of Possum Trot’ was executive produced by “Black Panther” star Letitia Wright, Nika King, and Joe Knitting. King (“Euphoria,” “Greenleaf”) also portrays Donna Martin, while Demetrius Grosse (“Rampage,” “Justified”) plays Bishop Martin. Elizabeth Mitchell (“Lost,” “The Expanse”), Diaana Babnicova, and Carlos Aviles are also featured in the film.

“Sound of Hope: The Story of Possum Trot” will be in theaters nationwide starting July 4.

Editor’s note: The author of this article is employed by the National Council For Adoption. However, the NCFA is not directly connected to or in a relationship with individuals involved in “Sound of Hope: The Story of Possum Trot.” The non-profit organization was introduced to the producers and the Martins through partners at the Christian Alliance for Orphans, which knows the Martins personally and supports the film.

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Leah Sutterlin
Leah Sutterlin
Leah Sutterlin is the communications manager for the National Council for Adoption. She is also an adoptee and enjoys freelance writing on adoption-related topics.

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