‘Sound of Hope’: How One Church Adopted 77 Foster Kids and Changed Lives

‘The story of Possum Trot is the solution to the foster care crisis and it’s a roadmap for every Catholic Church.’

Newly adopted children welcomed at Bennet Chapel.
Newly adopted children welcomed at Bennet Chapel. (photo: Angel Studios)

A moving new film coming to theaters on the Fourth of July with a free screening this week is opening hearts and minds to not only all the children languishing in the foster care system but what one church can do when they answer the call of Christ: to care for the widow and the orphan

It begins with Donna Martin (Nika King), the wife of Reverend Martin (Demetrius Grosse) mourning the loss of her mother in a Christian church called Bennet Chapel located in a small East Texas town called Possum Trot. After discerning the call to adopt a child through foster care, her life is given new meaning — and it reverberates to her husband — who in turn inspires all 22 families in his church to adopt 77 children. 

Demetrius Grosse as Reverend Martin
Demetrius Grosse as Reverend Martin.

Sound of Hope: The Story of Possum Trot is a true story and the children who were adopted are very real. The film actually shows the real people at the end grown with their own children. 

When looking to adopt children, the Martins specifically requested the difficult ones, “the ones no one wants” because deep down Reverend Martin believed, “There shouldn’t be a child without a home.” 

And he didn’t just stop there. The pastor inspires every family within church to “pick up the cross” and join him in rescuing these children who feel no love exists for them. 

Terri is embraced by her adoptive mother.
Terri is embraced by her adoptive mother.

I spoke with writer and director Rebekah Weigel, who visited Possum Trot (and actually moved her entire family there while shooting the film), where this amazing story of triumph over tragedy took place. “A lot of the reasoning for that was to really get to know these characters and the church and their culture, and to really capture the story with authenticity,” Weigel explained. 

But it was her own personal experience that compelled her to create the film. 

“Our family stepped in and started fostering and adopting in 2013. And when we did that, it really just started to break our heart for this issue. … I stumbled across the story looking for someone to speak at an event... And I was like, wow, that’s what needs to happen.”

Lisa Wheeler, a Catholic media executive and foster mom to 20 children, found the opportunity to promote the film a poignant moment in her life. 

“I think it’s an opportunity to talk about the fusion of what I do for my career and how God brings these things together for his glory,” Wheeler told the Register adding, “The story of Possum Trot is the solution to the foster care crisis and it’s a roadmap for every Catholic Church.”

Sound of Hope follows one girl in particular, Terri (Diaana Babnicova), who doesn’t trust anyone and can’t even fathom the family wants her. The story shows some very painful realities most of these children face: one little girl confused by the cake with burning candles on it because she has never had a birthday; a child scared to take a bath because of how he was abused at home with hot water; and Terri asking her adoptive mother Donna: “Did my mom hate me? I tried to be good …” And Donna telling her clearly: “She couldn’t see you. You are a gift. You were only ever meant to be loved.”

Diaana Babnicova as Terri
Diaana Babnicova plays Terri in a new film coming to theaters this summer.

The film doesn’t shy away from these realities, something Weigel says was intentional. 

“Something that was really important to us as the storytellers, writers and producers was, we didn't want to sugarcoat this issue,” she said. “I mean, this is a difficult issue. You know, foster care, adoption, anytime you step into the area, it involves pain and involves trauma, brokenness. We believe that that's where the church shines. We’re called to that, we’re called to care for the orphan and the widow.”

Letitia Wright, star of the blockbuster hit Black Panther was excited to produce the film being so moved by the Martin family, telling the press: “This film will connect to hearts all over the world and will bring real impact and change for children not only in America but across the world.”

Nika King as Donna Martin.
Nika King as Donna Martin.

Although the film shows the gritty reality of what some children in the system endure, the story is full of hope amid the heartache. “We show that it's challenging, but we also show that it’s hopeful and there’s hope in the midst of the challenges and the struggles,” Weigel reflected. 

Adoptive mother Leigh Snead says the movie should inspire us all as Catholics to answer the call to help children in need. 

“We all know about the foster care crisis in this country. I know I spend my fair share of time wringing my hands over the plight of these children languishing in the system. But these folks didn’t just fret, they stepped up and changed lives,” Snead told the Register. 

A fellow with The Catholic Association, Snead is currently writing a book on the topic of adoption and the importance of family. 

“As an adoptive mother myself, I know that, above all, it’s love that makes a family,” she said. “If more of us could dig deep and see the blessings we’ve received — blessings that we could share — and see the value to others and the rewards our sacrificial love brings, we could change the world.”

And it’s the fabric of family that heals wounded hearts, Weigel has found in her journey in making this film. “We believe there’s healing that happens in the midst of family. And that’s God's design. And we want to see kids brought into families, and to see them experience love and care and concern,” Weigel told the Register. 

Reverend Martin’s dream of every child having a family does come true. At the end of the film, as he makes his way to a payphone outside of town to call Social Services requesting more kids, he is told the best news yet: “There is not a child in need of a home within 100 miles of Possum Trot.” 

Reverend Martin hearing the best news yet.
Reverend Martin hearing the best news yet.

To imagine a city with no children waiting for a home seems like a utopian dream that only happens on the Hallmark Channel but this film and the story of the Martin family should spur us all to lean on each other and grow into community, within our parishes especially. Without a home, children in foster care typically age out to then be imprisoned, trafficked, or homeless — or worse. 

The film is a call to action and Weigel has her hopes about what seeds might be planted in seeing the film: 

“Our desire is that this really moves people's hearts towards children, all over this country and across the world, to fight for children, to care for children; to open up our homes to children, to provide safety, security, and love that they're desperately longing for.”

VIEWER CAVEAT: Sound of Hope is rated PG-13 for thematic material involving child abuse, some violence, language and brief suggestive material.

MORE INFO: The film will be in theaters on the Fourth of July but a free special screening is taking place this week on June 19. For more information please visit this link.