The world is full of breathtaking beauty. A quick scroll through an Instagram feed reveals image after image of posed perfection – carefully selected photos, cropped and filtered to present an enviable image. But, sometimes, true beauty can’t be captured within the confines of social media. It’s an inner quality – elusive, quiet and unfading.
Deborah and Nehemiah are an ordinary couple serving orphans in Nigeria in unglamorous ways. The quiet beauty of their sacrifice could be easily overlooked. Their story is one of selflessness, service, hard-won wisdom, and hope amid brokenness.
Years before Nehemiah had met Deborah or learned of Back2Back, he felt compelled to devote his life to caring for many children-not only his biological children. When Nehemiah first met Deborah, he was hesitant to pursue her, knowing he couldn’t offer her a safe and comfortable life. Nehemiah worked up the courage to share with her about his dream of serving children before boldly asking for her hand in marriage. Deborah was overcome with love, respect and admiration for Nehemiah’s willingness to wholeheartedly pursue the life he was meant to lead, and she knew he was her perfect match. She said yes, and Nehemiah’s vision became her vision.
And then they waited. Together, Nehemiah and Deborah had three biological daughters. They delighted in their girls, but they continued to wonder when and how “many children” would weave into their story.
Years passed until one night when Nehemiah had a vivid dream. In the dream, he and Deborah were asleep in their bedroom when they heard a knock at the door. Nehemiah got up and opened the front door only to find someone handing him a boy from the dark night. He let the boy in, and showed him where he could sleep in the house. Immediately, Nehemiah heard another knock and opened the door to find another teenage boy. He welcomed this boy in as well and shortly after, he heard another knock. The dream continued with several more boys arriving at his doorstep and each time, Nehemiah invited them in, offering them a safe, comfortable place to stay. When Nehemiah awoke the next morning, he couldn’t shake the dream from his mind. As, he recounted the story to Deborah, he was reminded of his desire to care for children who were not his own biologically.
“Perhaps there is something more to this dream,” he said to Deborah, after sharing with her.
That Sunday, Nehemiah and Deborah went to church where they saw Daniel, a longtime friend and the director of Back2Back Nigeria. Daniel walked directly to Nehemiah and told him Back2Back was starting a Hope Program in Nigeria with nine teenage boys. Daniel was ready to officially open the program, but Back2Back was searching for the right couple to serve as house parents.
“I know you have three young girls, and it doesn’t make much sense, but God put you on my heart to ask—would you be willing to take in nine orphaned teenage boys? They need a family. You don’t have to answer me now, but pray about it and let me know what you think.”
Nehemiah and Deborah didn’t need to pray about it. Immediately, they accepted the role. In a few short weeks, nine boys moved in with Nehemiah, Deborah, and their three daughters.
The boys quickly formed a strong attachment to both Deborah and Nehemiah thanks in part to Nehemiah and Deborah’s intentionality in creating a family environment where the boys experience a sense of security and belonging.
Deborah’s beauty is unassuming. Her hands are weathered from love – scrubbing laundry, wiping tears, and washing dishes. She tirelessly cares for the twelve children, yet her heart is radiant and her spirit is sweet.
The most beautiful things begin when a person is willing to lay down their own life for someone else. Since moving in with Nehemiah and Deborah, four of the nine boys have said they want to follow Jesus. Nehemiah is their example—a man not who may not enjoy a high standing by the world’s standards, but one who has chosen a quiet life of obedience and service. With Nehemiah’s leadership, care and guidance, the boys are thriving. The boys know Nehemiah’s sacrificial and grace-filled heart, and they desire to have the same. And that is beautiful.