Tabitha Shirley received a medical diagnosis of polycystic ovary syndrome at the age of 19. She underwent an operation to remove a cyst, which also resulted in removal of her right ovary. A doctor told her she would have difficulty bearing children.
The following year, 1993, Tabitha married Curtis Wilson, whom she had met on a blind date during her high school senior year near in Monroe, Louisiana. Years of infertility followed.
A decade into their marriage, Curtis says the Lord spoke to them that he and his wife would have a child. He thought God’s vow would result in an immediate pregnancy, but in the following eight years, the Wilsons endured many Abram and Sarai moments of questioning the Lord. Well-meaning people suggested they undergo fertility treatments or adopt a child. Many friends and relatives uttered heartfelt prayers over them.
“We went through seasons when I would be upset,” Tabitha remembers. “I kept waiting for the promise to happen.”
The day before their 18th wedding anniversary, Tabitha hurt tremendously in her abdomen. She asked Curtis, who is three years older, to pray for her. As he put his hand on her belly, Curtis says he heard the Lord speaking again: “This is My creative process.”
“I got sideways with him,” Tabitha recalls. “What do you mean God’s creative process? I’m in terrible pain.”
In fact, on their anniversary the next day, she went to her doctor to schedule a hysterectomy. She had tired of nearly 20 years of dealing with uncomfortable ovarian cysts. In the ensuing medical checkup, her physician found something else growing inside her: a baby.
Seven months later, in November 2011, Tabitha, at the age of 39, gave birth to a daughter, Rayna. In January 2013, at age 40, she gave birth to a son, Jacob.
Afterwards, during a medical checkup, a doctor discovered that Tabitha had two perfectly functioning ovaries. Curtis figures that intense pain resulted from God’s reforming her right ovary.
“Who knows the Lord’s timeline?” Curtis asks.
Today, 6-year-old Rayna and 5-year-old Jacob are healthy — and energetic — kids. And Tabitha has no more cysts or agony.
A CHILD TO MENTOR
The Wilsons for 18 years have been godparents to Racheal Rhoades, who, with her single mother, lived with them through first grade.
“My godmother began babysitting me at six weeks,” recalls Rhoades, now a high school senior in Farmerville, Louisiana. “It ended up being long term — 18 years.”
Rhoades considers the Wilsons like a mom, dad, sister, and brother to her. She never met her biological father.
“They’re very special to me,” Rhoades says. “My life would be so different without them. Curtis is my father figure.”
In fact, as a preschooler, Rhoades accepted Jesus as her Savior while Curtis read a book to her. Even during high school, Rhoades says Curtis and Tabitha have continued to guide her on everything from how to study to how to deal with boys.
“They gave me the attention I needed as a child,” Rhoades says. “They helped raise me in a Christ-centered childhood.”
Rhoades living with the Wilsons for years also helped Tabitha overcome thoughts that God didn’t want her to have children.
“I saw Racheal as a provision from the Lord, and loved and cared for her as if she was ours,” Tabitha says. “This part of the process brought a lot of healing.”
HELPING RURAL AREAS
For the past five years, Curtis has worked with Rural Compassion. Wilson oversees a 10,000-square-foot Convoy of Hope warehouse in Delhi, Louisiana, which serves impoverished rural areas of the Mississippi Delta. In small communities of western Mississippi, northeast Louisiana, and southeast Arkansas, Wilson works with Convoy short-term mission teams, disaster response services, agricultural community gardens, and one-day outreaches.
As part of a three- to five-year plan, Wilson, who is a U.S. Missions missionary associate with Missionary Church Planters & Developers, seeks to gather a coalition of pastors in a town to strategize how to reach the non-Christians there.
“We do not network apart from the Church,” says Wilson, a credentialed Assemblies of God minister. “We want to empower local churches to be able to reach out to the community by putting their resources together. We work with the local churches to make partnerships with businesses and government officials.”