Friday, November 13, 2009


Part Two

When Ian Zook died in October 2004, a piece of his parents’ hearts died with him. But God enabled Mark and Karen to give another piece of their hearts away when they adopted Faith and Alex in 2006, leaving them with fuller hearts in payback.

In March 2009, Karen called about hosting with the Lighthouse Project. Frazzled in the middle of my Grand Rapids trip and not knowing their story, I asked Elaine to call them regarding her July trip to Missouri. As the first family to sign up on her first trip, Zooks provided encouragement as Elaine was finding promotion rife with disappointment. That they were willing to drive 1300 miles from their home in Florida to Missouri to host exemplified their commitment to the child they’d meet.

Faith and Alex dived into the planning, and helped raise the hosting fee by working and contributing their own money. Using a technique they’d learned in Russia, the kids spent the entire summer embroidering flowers on homemade greeting cards they sold everywhere they went. One day, Mark, a Florida state trooper, was called to the scene when a Frito-Lay truck flipped on the interstate. The chips, in boxes, were still in good condition, so Frito-Lay donated the snacks, which Faith and Alex sold around the neighborhood and to shoppers at a garage sale they held.

In Missouri, their hosting experience was more emotional than expected, but by week’s end, another piece of their hearts had been shared with ten-year-old Daniil and thirteen-year-old Luba, and the family decided to adopt both children. Faith and Alex have unselfishly rearranged their bedrooms to accommodate their new siblings, bought their Christmas presents, and willingly given up anything for themselves with cost attached. Recently, Alex needed new pants, but insisted he would do without to save money for the adoption. Faith imagines she will cook with Luba, and both kids, anxious to share everything with their two new siblings, dream about their future as a larger family. Faith and Alex’s tireless efforts to bring their new siblings home have epitomized their understanding of the “blessed to be a blessing” concept.

On the five-year anniversary of Ian's death, his family held a tribute-fundraiser they called “Love Lives On,” which earned over $15,000 toward Daniil and Luba’s adoption. Faith and Alex passed out flyers promoting their evening, helped assemble 107 baskets for a silent auction, made creative nametags for all volunteers, personally greeted all attendees, made bookmarks for the 300 who came, and cleaned up, all cheerfully, to help achieve the family goal. The evening concluded with a tribute to the veterans and active duty service personnel present. In a no-eye-stays-dry “Final Roll Call” ceremony presented by local Marines, Corporal Ian Zook’s name was called out several times. No answer coming, his helmet was placed on a rifle supported by sandbags; his boots and dog tags followed. A local church kindly hosted the event, and Ian’s boots were laid at the foot of a cross, symbolism not lost on those who knew him best.

Mark and Karen used Ian’s death benefits to pay for their first adoption, and the giving nature and gratitude of the dear children they adopted are paving the way for the second. All of the Zook kids have been givers, a testimony to the parents who raised them. When I met Mark, Karen, Faith, and Alex in Missouri, I was struck by their grief, and their heart’s desire that good should result from their loss. Karen believes that while Ian’s death could have changed them for worse, God changed them for better, enabling them to open their hearts and risk loving again. Honoring the memory of their beloved son and brother, they still seek to serve, as Ian did.


To contribute to the Zooks' adoption of Luba and Daniil, or to purchase greeting cards embroidered by Faith and Alex to benefit the adoption of their new siblings, please contact Becky by clicking here.