The Willis family has certainly been through enough to fill a lifetime. After miscarrying in 2002, Jeff and Lynel were told that they would not be able to conceive again without medical intervention. Becoming pregnant quickly thereafter, however, they were filled with hope. But the doctors kept telling them that things did not look good with the fetus. As Lynel explained,
“They told us there was no hope and we should terminate the pregnancy but we weren’t even supposed to get pregnant in the first place. We had hope and we said, ‘This is what God gave us and we will be faithful to it.’”
Haley Faith Willis came into their lives on July 9, 2003. Having lost a third of her brain, the baby wasn’t supposed to live for more than two weeks. Haley just celebrated her 10th birthday and she is in fourth grade. She has sisters Brynna Grace (5) and Roslyn Joy (4) as well.
She also has cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus, microcephalic, vision impairment and is developmentally delayed and has had about 11 surgeries and multiple long-term therapies. But the family sees her as a miracle child. As Lynel explained, “On paper, she looks terrible and doctors don’t understand why she is functioning the way she does. When we moved to Illinois and saw her doctor in St. Louis for the first time, he looked at the file, then looked at her. He said, ‘This is Haley Willis? This child is not what my textbooks say I should be looking at.’ He was in shock about her.”
Jeff, a West Frankfort native and pastor of worship and technology at Harvest Church of Southern Illinois in Anna, explains that “No matter what life throws at you, there is a plan and a purpose to it.”
As Lynel explained, “We had no idea we would be given a child like Haley but she’s been the greatest gift we’ve ever been given. She’s taught us not to take life for granted, to try and laugh and be joyful.”