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Growing Up: Family Surrounds Brooke Turmes

By Scott Collins
Photography by Russ Dilday

Plaques, signs and knick knacks adorn Wanda and Victor Turmes’ home in rural Kountze, Texas. Not too many, but enough to remind visitors that a mother’s touch decorated the house. They also serve as a reminder that while Mom was the decorator, God built the home.

On a wall near the front door hangs this sign: “These are the children God has given me. God has been good to me.” (Genesis 33:5)

And over the fireplace: “Having someplace to go is home. Having someone to love is family. Having both … is a blessing.”

When Brooke Turmes appeared in Buckner Today in the spring of 2001, her parents knew she was the child God had given them. They also knew she was a blessing. But what they didn’t know 11 years ago is that she was the just beginning.

Since adopting Brooke, who is now 13 years old, Wanda and Victor have added five other children to their family through adoption, bringing the household to eight. And if you ask Wanda, they might not be finished yet.

Regardless of the number of children in their home, Wanda and Victor know Brooke will always be special.

Through most of her birthmother’s pregnancy, there were no signs that Brooke’s birth would be anything but normal. Her birthmother decided early to make a plan for adoption. What she didn’t know – what she couldn’t have known – is that the child would be born with Down syndrome.

She had already contacted Buckner about placing the baby for adoption. A family was matched for the adoption and everything was in place. But when the adoptive family discovered the child had Down syndrome, they decided they were not capable of coping with the extra effort a special needs child would require. Everyone involved was left in shock when the diagnosis came.

But the Buckner philosophy of not pressuring anyone involved in the adoption process enabled everyone to take a pause and reassess the situation. That’s when Wanda and Victor entered the picture.

Wanda heard about Brooke from a Buckner adoptive mother at a prayer meeting. “That night, I shared with Victor about Brooke and for me, it was almost immediately that this was the child we had prayed for for two or three years,” Wanda said in Buckner Today in 2001.

Wanda and Victor knew the moment they saw Brooke that she would be their daughter.

“We had prayed for our children so much together and longed for that so much that we knew immediately that Brooke was our daughter,” Wanda said.

On Jan. 6, 1999, just a month after first hearing about Brooke, Wanda and Victor welcomed their new daughter into their home.

And while Brooke was the first, the Turmes didn’t stop. Brooke’s siblings now include Brittany, 17; Nicole, 15; Paige, 14; Devin, 12; and Ty, 11 all adopted by Wanda and Victor. They may be the only couple in America excited about taking defensive driving. “It means we get to have a date,” Wanda said.

“When Victor and I realized we couldn’t have kids, we gave that area of life over to God,” Wanda said. “We surrendered that whole area of children over to the Lord and said, ‘You bring into this home what You want.’ We’ve had three phone calls and we’ve had three adoptions. Out of that, we now have six children. So we’ve never hesitated because that area of our lives was committed to the Lord.”

Today, 11 years after her first appearance in Buckner Today, Brooke is like other 13-year-olds. She likes sleepovers with her friends, plays softball and is involved in cheerleading.

But life is not without challenges faced by anyone with Down syndrome. As a child, Brooke was often sick, suffering with bouts of pneumonia. She was diagnosed with an immunodeficiency disorder. When she started school, she went to regular classes and Wanda says Brooke developed friendships with her peers.

Before long, “we began to realize that the gap developmentally was getting bigger and so we started pulling her out of the regular classroom,” Wanda said.

Even with the changes, Victor said they have worked to keep Brooke involved with friends she developed relationships with. “That was very important to us, that she maintain those friendships.”

While Brooke loves her friends, she also brings out the best in her siblings. “Having her in our home brings a lot of compassion out in everyone else,” Wanda said. “Having her as a sibling or as our daughter requires a lot of compassion, a lot of giving, a lot of sacrifice and a lot of patience.”

At the same time, Brooke gives, too.

“I think she brings you outside of yourself because of what she gives to you,” Victor added. “Out of everybody, I think she’s the only one who really shows total compassion.”

Reflecting on the past 13 years, Victor sees God’s hand in their family and in Brooke’s growth and development.

“God has been in control,” he said. “I mean, you can see His hand in it. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been good. And I don’t think it would have been this good and these many good things would have happened if God hadn’t been in it.”

Whether it’s Brooke or any of her five brothers and sisters, Wanda and Victor believe their adoptions have taught everyone “that their needs are met in Christ. Their needs are so great because of what they’ve been through,” Wanda said. “When they come through the door with their hurts and feelings of abandonment and insecurities, the uncertainties, not knowing if this home is going to work out or if these parents are really going to be the ones that last forever. That level of need is beyond us. So it’s made us rely on God a whole lot more than I think we would have had we not adopted.”

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