Rev. Nathan Maskery recalls very few times when his wife, Vicky, has been persistent about taking extraordinary action. So, when it happens, he pays attention.
One notable time was when their family was called to plant a church in a struggling neighborhood in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, a community suffering from the impact of serious racial tensions, opioid addiction, prostitution and gang violence. It was a few years into their ministry at Transformation Church, when he was asked by a church member to accompany her on a hospital visit.
During the visit, Nathan met a young woman and her baby boy, Henry. The mother (an IV drug user who had continued to use opioids during her pregnancy) had remained in the hospital for weeks after Henry’s birth, due to a serious heart condition common to IV drug users. Her mom, Donna, had been caring for Henry during those weeks with support from the church member. Before ending the visit, a photo was taken as Nathan fed Henry a bottle.
When he later shared the photo with Vicky, she had a powerful sense they should tell Donna they would be willing to help take care of Henry. As a stay-at-home mom of five, Vicky felt she had the flexibility and resources needed. Nathan remembers thinking the idea sounded crazy at first and saying, “I haven’t even met this lady, and you think my first conversation with her should be, ‘We will take your grandson?!’” Vicky persisted and he called, introduced himself and presented the idea to Donna.
Nathan didn’t know how overwhelmed Donna had been dealing with behaviors and consequences stemming from her daughter’s addiction. As her daughter’s labor and delivery coach, Donna had been gripped by fear and anxiety over the unknowns for her daughter and the baby.
Although Donna had roots in the church, over the years she had allowed other influences to creep in. But in her darkest moments in the labor and delivery room, Donna began to have an undeniable encounter with God.
Two nurses stepped in during delivery to provide competent and compassionate care that met Donna and her daughter in their unique places of need. Donna felt a supernatural assurance that God was present and pursuing her, and her fear and stress disappeared. When her grandson, Henry, was born a perfect, healthy baby, Donna was so overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude that she dropped to her knees.
Donna was elated by the Maskerys’ offer. She was struggling with the weight of the responsibility to hold down her job, help guide her daughter and care for Henry. She knew right away that God’s hand was on this situation and when she met with Pastor Nathan and Vicky, she felt nothing but peace. Although the offer was for temporary care, Donna felt strongly that the Maskerys would eventually become Henry’s adoptive family.
As a pastor, Nathan has spoken out against the evils of abortion. He understands that the pro-choice narrative is often aimed at people in desperate and seemingly hopeless situations, like Henry’s mother. But he’s long been sensitive to criticism aimed at the church about what to many seems like a hyper-focus on saving the lives of the unborn, when so many vulnerable children and families lack what they need to be healthy and whole.
He believes that Christians often miss their call to love in ways that are tangible and hands-on. When vulnerable children and families are cared for well, it lends credibility to Christians’ deep convictions regarding the sanctity of human life. Caring for Henry was right in line with the Maskerys’ heart for their community and for the sanctity of human life.
Henry was welcomed into the Maskerys’ home at six weeks of age. Vicky recalls she felt she was just helping when they first took Henry in, but after a couple of days, her connection with him was so strong that it felt like he was one of her own children. Their children soon embraced Henry as a sibling and would get sad at the thought of him leaving.
The Maskerys had never seriously considered adoption but have always been open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. As the months passed, they continued to build and nurture relationships with Henry’s family and remained open to whatever role God had for them in the baby’s life.
Donna describes how these experiences have awakened her to return to her faith. She began attending Transformation Church, was baptized and is participating fully in the life of the church. Sometimes she’s able to bring her daughter, Henry’s mother, to services.
Henry’s father is serving time in federal prison, and Nathan has had the opportunity to visit and share the gospel with him. The Maskerys have also connected with Henry’s paternal grandmother and aunt who have since then visited Transformation Church.
Although there was some initial resistance, after months of getting to know the Maskerys, both of Henry’s birth parents gave their consent for adoption. Canadian law requires a child to live with a family for two years before they are eligible to adopt, so the Maskerys plan to pursue official adoption as soon as they qualify.
Nathan and Vicky have noticed how people in their church have been challenged and encouraged as their family has walked the journey of loving baby Henry and his family together. Their perspectives on the sanctity of human life have expanded and become more holistic. They’ve witnessed how being available and willing to take a step of obedience can spark a powerful movement of redemption and transformation.
Nathan sums up their experiences in simple terms. “If God puts a really bizarre thought in your mind, trust him. I’m really glad that Vicky persisted, and we followed up on it, because we can’t imagine not having (Henry).”
Rev. Nathan Maskery is the lead pastor of Transformation Church in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. He and his wife, Vicky, are the proud parents of six children: Esther (14), Malachi (13), Andrew (10), Lucy (7), Randall (2) and Henry (1).
Jodi Lewis is the director of Hephzibah62:4, a subsidiary of The Wesleyan Church dedicated to equipping and mobilizing local Wesleyan churches to transform the lives of vulnerable children. Sanctity of Human Life Sunday will be recognized on January 17, 2021. Visit hephzibah.org for more information on how you and your church can partner with Hephzibah62:4 and engage in holistic Sanctity of Human Life efforts.