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Mareli takes hold of opportunity

August 10, 2013

By W. James Edminson

Cameras flash as each high school senior walks across the stage to receive a diploma. Like paparazzi eagerly capturing photos of a Hollywood star, Mareli’s mom, aunts and cousins snap their pictures when it is Mareli’s time to be in the spotlight. They are proud of the 16-year-old who is the first in their family to graduate.

“Graduating high school has always been important to me,” Mareli confides, “but I had no idea that I would graduate early. I was really surprised. But at the charter school I attended before coming to Baptist Children’s Homes, I had earned most of the credits I needed.”

Even during the worse times when Mareli and her mom were fighting with each other and they felt their relationship would never get better, Mareli did well in school. She was smart – sometimes too smart for her own good.

“My mom was strict,” Mareli says. “I wanted to have fun, hang out with my friends and cousins, and go to the mall and the movies.”

She concocted an almost full-proof plan to skip school. And the plan worked. Every week, one day a week, for nearly a month, her teachers believed she was absent due to an important series of appointments. All was running smoothly until an aunt saw her at a local convenience store.

Fearful that her daughter would fall prey to the sinister things of the street, the mother sought help. A friend told her about how his family had turned to Mills Home in Thomasville when they were going through some hard times. Mareli’s mom made a call.

“I hated it at first,” Mareli confesses. “I’d lie in my cottage bedroom and think, ‘What have I done?’ I realized that I had made all this happen and I began to hurt inside.”

Mareli closed off her world. She refused to talk with her mom or to those who were now intent on helping both mother and daughter.

“My houseparents were so patient,” Mareli remembers. “They began to get me to talk about my feelings. I felt they accepted me as I was. They believed in me.”

Mareli jokes that since she has begun talking, she talks to everyone. She talks to her houseparents, the girls in her cottage, and she even began to open up to her teachers at school.

“My mom is happy about how things have turned out,” she chuckles. “I had closed up inside and couldn’t talk to her. But I think now, she is relieved when I shut up.”

A year older and a rising college freshman, Mareli has plans to attend community college and a nearby university her first year and then transfer to Duke University to complete her degree. The Durham school is very interested in her attending to study architecture.

Mareli believes staying close to Mills Home for one more year will be helpful. She will continue living in her cottage and commute daily to classes.

However, the biggest change in Mareli’s life occurred on May 5, when she accepted Jesus as her Savior.

“Getting saved has helped me the most,” she says confidently. “Being connected to God has made me feel complete. He died for me. He loves me. It’s all become real to me and I’m so happy.”

Now, the mother and daughter who could not bring themselves to say “I love you,” have felt the brokenness and feelings of hate evaporate away.

“We love each other again,” Mareli concludes.

You can help make hope possible for children like Mareli by making a gift to Baptist Children's Homes. Please give online at to help immediately.