When Tonya Mae Wilson was growing up in Kaysville, she dreamed of someday having a family of her own. But, after years of unsuccessful attempts, she had given up hope.
Then in January, the St. George woman, 33, lost her job.
For days, she was despondent and frustrated with life when she heard about the calamitous earthquake in Haiti. Watching and reading about the devastation made her feel worse.
But knowing that focusing your efforts on another can make you feel better, Wilson decided to follow a prompting and sent Jeremy Johnson, whom she had known from high school, a Facebook message telling him how much she admired his relief work in Haiti and encouraging him to be safe.
The wealthy St. George businessman first flew his private jet to the area just two days after the quake hit and has since made several repeat visits, bringing donations and many volunteers to help in the chaotic aftermath.
Within five minutes of sending her e-mail, Johnson began chatting with Wilson from Haiti. Over the course of their conversation, Wilson mentioned how she would love to be in Haiti helping as well.
Then Johnson posed a life-altering question.
"Do you really want to go to Haiti?"
"Yes!" she replied, not thinking "in a million years" that she would actually go.
"Pack your bags," Johnson told her.
Within hours, Wilson and her husband were in Las Vegas, waiting for a flight. Like a blur, Brian and Tonya Wilson were on their way to Haiti.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Wilson, her mother had also contacted Johnson.
"I e-mailed him and shared my private wishes that (Tonya) would be able to bring home two or three of the orphans. He told me that he would grant my wishes," Nihla Judd said.
Within 10 minutes of visiting Haitian children at a makeshift "orphanage," something came over Tonya Wilson.
"Babies were in hot, dirty, fly-infested tents in the back of filthy old trucks and in cribs out in the hot sun," she said. "A lot of those kids just reach their arms out to you. … They really just get their basic needs met."
Tonya Wilson had never heard so many little voices saying "mama" almost in unison and over and over and over again.
"It took Tonya all of five seconds to give her whole heart to the children of Haiti," said her husband.
"I realized that I didn't have to biologically have one of these children to be able to take them in and give them what they needed, which is love," she said.
Later that night, the couple had one of their most heartfelt and significant talks of their marriage and made a decision that many other families in Utah and around the country have made.
"The next time we heard from (them), they told us that they had decided to adopt a Haitian child," Judd said. "When the news came, I, once again was reminded that God is in his heaven. He does hear and answer our prayers."
The Wilsons eventually made their way to Creche Enfant Jesus, an orphanage in La Mardelle, where they became friendly with the orphanage directors, Lucien and Gina Duncan.
"Gina, actually had him in mind for us," said Wilson, referring to 5-month-old Geraldo, who now goes by the name Tyler. "I kept asking her about adopting numerous different children, but I was always told they were already being adopted. Then she told me she had one in mind for me. When she placed him in my arms, she said, 'This is your son.' And I knew," she said, overcome with emotion.
"I felt a rush of joy, excitement, disbelief, happiness and, of course, goose bumps all over."
Johnson admits he had a plan for his friends all along.
"I actually kind of feel I tricked her into it," Johnson said. "When I saw all those kids at the orphanage in Haiti, I thought of my friends who could not have kids. So when she asked me on Facebook if she could do anything to help in Haiti, I told her we really needed help at the orphanage. … But really I knew she would fall in love with the kids and adopt."
Back home in St. George, the Wilsons anxiously wait for Tyler to come home. He's got a decorated room and clothes he'll look cute in. And sisters and sister-in-laws are planning a baby shower.
"I am so thrilled beyond words to finally be able to be a mommy," beams Wilson.
She also keeps family and friends updated by posting details on their family blog about their trips to Haiti to visit with Tyler, and their dreams of bringing him home to Utah.
And Wilson writes poetry to not only pass the time — when she and Brian aren't completing the mounds of adoption paperwork — but to keep her mind off the wait.
Part of the poem reads:
Living in an orphanage
Tyler was half the world away
His birth mom had placed him there
With hopes he wouldn't stay.
She wanted him to have a life
Better than what she could give
With a happy home and family
Where little Ty could live.
Brian and Tonya could not have kids
They were as sad as sad could be
But they weren't too sure about adopting one
Into their family tree.
They prayed and prayed to have their own
And yet 'twas not to be
So they prayed the Lord would send a sign
If adoption was the key.
There were no visions, no lightning bolts
But the Lord did shake the ground
It made headlines and lots of press
In all the world around.
So Brian and Tonya flew to Haiti
To help the victims out
To give them food, assistance, too
And hope instead of doubt.
Seeing Haiti in such distress
Something wonderful took place
Brian and Tonya's hearts were filled
With charity, hope and grace.
They saw these children belonged to God
No matter their race or genes
And that any child would benefit
From stability, love and means.
They wanted to take the children home
And keep them all together
But they felt that they could pick just one
They'd be able to keep forever.
With God's help and wisdom, too
They finally found the one
Who gets to be in their family tree
The one they'll call their son.
We dream of the day we'll have him home
Where we'll give a shout of glee
For little Tyler; our precious son
The heart of our family tree.
Johnson has guaranteed the Wilsons a spot on his plane when they bring Tyler home.
And even though she and her husband must wait nine more months before the adoption is finalized — and it's quite a journey in the meantime to visit their son — "It's all worth it," she says.
"We feel very thankful for this great blessing," added her mother.
"Whoever thought it would take an earthquake in Haiti to produce a child for Brian and Tonya?"
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