New Jersey Couple Serving the Poor at Medical Clinic in Africa Comes Home to Miracle Adoption

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Miriam’s Heart shares compelling story of hope and faith in local adoption.

Not only did the paperwork come in exceptionally fast, but so did the funding and grants thanks to the mobilizing work of the Miriam’s Heart team and network. “We reached out to our donors and church partners to come alongside this family so that money would not be an obstacle to this adoption."

Several years ago, Steve and Jen Butwill left the comforts of suburban life in Bridgewater to establish a medical clinic in a remote area of Liberia, West Africa. The young couple willingly traded in the “American dream” for a life of sacrifice and service to those in need because they believed in God’s call on their lives. But as they pursued this calling, they found themselves with an even more personal heartache, struggling through many years of trying to start a family.

During a visit home to the U.S. two years ago, the Butwills were reconnecting with good friends over dinner when they shared the heartache of their journey to parenthood. “We’d walked this road with the Butwills for a long time as their friends, but also in our capacity as the founders and directors of Miriam’s Heart,” said Elizabeth Occhipinti. Miriam's Heart is a New Jersey non-profit that supports adopted and foster children and families.“They’d been open to adoption but their work in Africa created some real challenges to that path.” Occhipinti recalled. That evening, Steve and Jen shared that they would continue to serve in the medical clinic, even delivering many babies, for many years to come and had accepted that they might never have a child of their own.” said Occhipinti. “But in that moment, I sensed in my heart that God was absolutely going to fulfill that dream for them. I didn’t know how or when, but I just knew He had something for them.” Occhipinti recalls. She told the Butwills of her thoughts and continued to pray that a door would be opened for this couple to become parents. No one could have imagined then what would transpire just two years later.

Fast forward to April 28th of this year. Jen and Steve are working their way home from Liberia for a three month respite, and they’ve stopped briefly in a cafe in Morocco to check email and messages, when they received an unexpected and very brief message from Elizabeth asking if the couple is still open to infant adoption. Jen responds “Yes...We are open to anything God puts in front of us...Do you have a baby?” to which Elizabeth responds, “Yes! And time is of the essence. Baby is due June 1st!” This baby that was coming and the birth parents that were seeking to place her with a loving, permanent family, had come to the attention of Miriam’s Heart through its network of community connections. “We are a volunteer team of professionals and grassroots advocates that are known for taking action to serve foster and adoptive families and children. So when this birth family needed assistance, it was someone in our local network that said, ‘Call Miriam’s Heart, they’ll know what to do.’ It was our honor to come alongside them,” Occhipinti said.

In a whirlwind of events, the Butwills arrived in New Jersey on May 3rd and just two days later they gathered at Miriam’s Heart headquarters to meet the birth family at their request. Through a lot of tears, each family told their stories and they started to plan a future for the baby girl that was coming very soon. It would truly take a divine work to process all of the paperwork in time - especially with the Butwills’ unique situation of living overseas. Occhipinti and the Miriam’s Heart team got to work providing support and resources to the birth family and the Butwills, and connected them to a licensed agency that had experience successfully facilitating an adoption by another missionary family. In a miracle of timing, all of the various state and federal clearances, the homestudy, and lengthy legal paperwork - which usually takes months if not years to complete - arrived and were completed by May 30th - just over one month from that initial message from Elizabeth.

Not only did the paperwork come in exceptionally fast, but so did the funding and grants thanks to the mobilizing work of the Miriam’s Heart team and network. “We reached out to our donors and church partners to come alongside this family so that money would not be an obstacle to this adoption. In the end, we were able to provide more than $11,000 to close the gap in the family’s funding needs for adoption processing, agency and legal fees. It was truly stunning. We knew that God had providentially orchestrated all of the pieces of this situation. But to see each step happen so quickly was just amazing. There is no other way to explain this but God,” Occhipinti said.

Steve and Jen were with the baby’s birth mother in early June as she gave birth to their daughter. Their early days as new parents have been like many - sleepless nights, and lots of learning. But they’ve continued to receive support and care from Miriam’s Heart who is also committed to providing resources and care for the birth family. “It was a privilege to have a front row seat to watch God’s miraculous intervention with the Butwill adoption.” said Allison Highton, Director of Family Ministries for Miriam’s Heart and Empowered to Connect Parent Trainer. “We have and will continue to stand with them as they navigate life with their new daughter as an adoptive family,” Occhipinti said.

To learn more about Miriam’s Heart, including upcoming events, visit

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Elizabeth Occhipinti
Miriam's Heart
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