Marissa and Kevin Coke of Warriors Mark feel blessed to have an 8-month-old child who sleeps through the night.
Their baby, Malachi, has proven he can sleep well into the morning and through long plane rides. He is also rarely fussy - becoming slightly more so now that he has teeth coming in.
It's hard to think that this peaceful, pleasant baby was found abandoned in his native country of Uganda - ditched by a woman on a motorcycle, stuffed into a black bag and placed upon train tracks that ran just across the street from a police station.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Kevin and Marissa Coke of Warriors Mark hold their son, Malachi, who is 8 months old, in their home. The couple adopted the little boy after spending 39 days in the country, three weeks longer than they had planned.
But baby, Malachi, can sleep easy now knowing that an international adoption has made him a part of the Coke family.
"I know God had picked him for us, and we're just very blessed that we have him," Marissa said.
The Cokes struggled with infertility for more than eight years before they started think about adoption. They worked with a ministry for support through the independent adoption process, and originally set out to adopt a child from Rwanda. They were already eight months through the process when Rwanda changed their international adoption policies, and the woman who runs the ministry suggested that they start looking into adopting from Uganda, a country in Africa.
In 2010, 62 children from Uganda were adopted by U.S. citizens.
The country has the second-youngest population in the world, with more than half of the population being younger than 15, contributing to a great need for child-aid.
Uganda has a reputation for being Africa's Friendliest Country partly from the tradition of hospitality common to its culturally diverse population and partly from the low level of crime and hassle directed at tourists.
"She said the process was very quick there, so it's basically a whirlwind," Marissa said. "Basically, we had to be prepared that when we got the call, we were going."
When the call came this past May that they were matched with Malachi, the Cokes were thrilled. However, the two who work as the children's program coordinators for the New Life Worship Center in Altoona, weren't yet quite sure how to afford the trip.
"We said 'OK God, it's extremely expensive. If this is what we're supposed to do, provide it,'" Marissa said.
And he did, as the community in and around them rallied around them with support. A benefit dinner raised all the money they needed to get to Uganda and return with Malachi.
"People just continued to bless us," Marissa said.
Though raising the money for the trip was a foreseeable concern for the Cokes, they had no way to be prepared for what would happen when their plane landed. Marissa and Kevin learned upon their arrival that their court date had been postponed indefinitely. They were already a week early, thinking the extra time to bond with Malachi would be good before the judicial process started.
The Cokes ended up being in Uganda for 39 days - three weeks longer than they had planned. But looking back on it, they wouldn't trade that extra time for anything.
"We daily say how much we miss it," Marissa said. "In a heart beat, if we had the chance, we would go back, and we definitely will go back. We would be on a plane tomorrow if we could."
Kevin agreed, despite the fact that he had never before experienced living that primitive. He described their time staying in the capital city of Kampala as a "time warp."
"It's like going back in time," he said. "They do everything by hand."
But during their stay, many Africans also lent them a hand. They chatted with one woman they had met in a doctor's office while they were there for an appointment for Malachi.
When she came out of her appointment she gave them money and simply said, "God told me I need to give you this money." It was the exact amount they needed for Malachi's appointment and his prescription.
"God's hand was completely with us through the whole country," Marissa said. "[The woman] said she believed in what we were doing. She and tons of African people said thank you for giving him a chance, which blessed us. ... There's no doubt in my mind that God had this plan for us. Just things like that, all the way through our trip, were just absolutely amazing."
Tina Harriman, executive director and founder of Mugisha Ministries in ... , New Hampshire, the organization that helped the Cokes through their adoption, said the family has been wonderful with how patient they were throughout the process.
"You kind of go into an Africa adoption knowing to expect the unexpected," she said.
Harriman started the organization to help families like the Cokes after independently adopting her youngest son from Rwanda in 2007. Mugisha Ministries also sponsors education scholarships and a backpack fund for children in Rwanda and Uganda.
Harriman said the Coke's success with Malachi has showed her that what they were doing "really mattered."
"People really do need that kind of support, and they trusted us enough," she said.
The Cokes say Malachi has had no problems adjusting, and he is in perfect health despite the fact that they don't know any of his family history. They, on the other hand, are still working through the adjustment.
"For ten years, we were just used to him and I jumping in a car," Marissa said. "Now it's thirty minutes of getting the diaper bag packed. Do I have the bottles, Do I have the kid? (laughs) But it's so worth it."
Despite adopting to a new routine, Harriman said it's been great to see how well the whole family is adjusting, and to see that Malachi is "all smiles."
"That little guy, you just don't know what his life would've been like if someone hadn't stepped up and said we love you like our own," she said.
The Cokes are grateful to everyone who helped them through the process. It all started with the man who found Malachi, named Moses and described only as a "gentle man" in the police report. Though the Ugandan police tried to find him to appear in court as a witness during Malachi's hearing, no one could find him.
"Kevin and I both feel he may have been an angel," Marissa said. "I mean, you don't know, but no one could ever find him. So to us, he is."
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.