COLLEYVILLE, Texas (BP)–“Nobody had a desire to have me, except for God,” said Becky Harber, the much-loved and respected wife of evangelist, pastor, author and radio personality Frank Harber.
About 34 years ago, Becky was born in the Edna Gladney Home, a medical care facility for unwed mothers in Fort Worth, Texas (now called the Gladney Center for Adoption). When she was only a week old, Vernon and Delores Florence and their sons Sam and Jay adopted her into their family and took her to their east Texas home in the town of Big Sandy.
Vernon and Delores Florence had been unable to conceive more children after having their biological sons but had desired to adopt a baby girl. Only eight months after completing the adoption paperwork, the agency called to offer the Florences the chance to adopt Becky. “We were told it usually takes one to two years,” Delores recalled. “We were so excited to go get Becky.” The family selected a name while on the way to get her — Rebecca Jean Florence. “Jean” is a middle name she shares with Delores.
The oldest son, Sam (whom others call Bud) was the first to see her and hold her. Delores said she was excited because Becky “had hair — lots of black hair,” where neither of the boys had hair when they were born. Becky went home in a red dress, Delores’ favorite color.
When Becky was about 8 years old, her mother told her she was adopted. “We were in the bathroom getting ready to go to a family reunion. My mom said, ‘Becky, did you know you were adopted?’ I walked out of the bathroom and walked right back in, seeking a definition for that word ‘adopted’. I don’t remember the words she said. All I know is that when she was done, I felt so special.”
Vernon Florence later told Becky he had been reluctant to tell her about being adopted because he didn’t want her to feel any different than the boys. “That made me feel special, that he didn’t want me to feel any less his child,” Becky recounted.
In Becky’s teen years, her mother showed her the adoption papers. Her birth mother was 19 and her biological father was 21 at the time she was born. In processing that information, Harber has often thought, “Obviously they were old enough to have kept me.”
“It may not have been her plan to conceive me,” Becky said of her birth mother, “but thankfully she followed through with her pregnancy and my birth, giving me a chance at life.”
Harber has a deep respect for her birth mother: In giving up her baby, her mother made the greatest sacrifice of love possible. While she knows little else about her birth mother, Harber learned that she became an attorney. “She went on with her life, learned from her mistakes and made something of herself. I’m so proud of her — whoever she is and wherever she is.”
Becky is also very proud to be part of the Florence family. “My adoptive parents are two of the best people you will ever meet.” She credits them with helping her become the person she is now. “They taught me to be responsible and how to put others first. They taught me self-respect and taught me there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do. They were my biggest cheerleaders.”
When Becky was about 3 years old, the Florences moved from Big Sandy to Liberty City, Texas. While Becky’s parents did not attend church, they allowed Becky and her brother to ride the bus to First Baptist Church there. At some point, Delores Florence began driving them to Sunday School. “They never pushed us to go, but if that’s what we wanted to do, they were right there ready to take us,” Becky recalled.
It was at First Baptist that Becky accepted Christ as her Savior in her early teens. In her mid-teens, she began dating Frank Harber. Bruce Wells, the church’s pastor of 20 years, described what Frank was like when Becky began dating him: “Frank was kind of a ruffian. He was very intelligent and made good grades. He was mean, kind of a punk kind of guy. Atheistic as best he knew. He comes on pretty strong — quite a contrast to Becky who was very sweet, and remains that way.”
Becky tried hard to get Frank to visit church. “We were so opposite,” she said. “I was a child-like faith person and he was a prove-it-to-me person. He would try to talk me out of my faith, but he couldn’t do it.”
Eventually, God broke down all of Frank’s arguments and he became a Christian. Becky rededicated her life at the same time. Pastor Wells baptized both of them and married them. “Both were committed to the Lord when they married,” he noted.
Frank answered God’s call to become an evangelist, and the couple began their life together in Fort Worth, Texas, at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Becky supported her husband by handling the business side of his evangelistic ministry the first 12 years of their marriage. In 2001, God changed her role from evangelist’s wife to pastor’s wife at the Fort Worth-area First Baptist Church in Colleyville.
Becky’s God-given personal qualities and skills that allow her to shine in her roles have been evident since her childhood and youth. Delores Florence recalls that when Becky was a baby, she could be content anywhere she was. That carried through into her adulthood. “When you feel called to do something, you’re okay with whatever you have to do to make it happen,” Becky reflected. “My personality plays a lot into that. I believe it helped significantly, especially during my days as an evangelist’s wife.”
In her childhood, Becky remembers having a great sense of compassion for those in need. She recalled seeing the commercials on television asking for donations for hungry children in Africa. “One time I had two dollars, and I stuffed them in an envelope and put the envelop in the mailbox. Mom found it and explained, ‘You have to have an address to mail something.’ Another time I collected all the money I had and took it way out onto the patio and set it there. Then I waited for God to get it to take it to those kids. I wanted to help them. I didn’t want them to be hungry.”
Patsy Wells, wife of pastor Bruce Wells, taught Becky in Sunday School. Patsy was always amazed that Becky and her brother were so faithful to the church even though her parents were not churchgoers. “She is such a loyal friend, and has always had the capacity to care, and tremendous mercy,” Patsy Wells said.
Becky’s friends and peers repeatedly refer to her as “a good listener” with “balance” and “wisdom beyond her years.” While Becky encourages, counsels and supports many ministries in the church, the only ministry she claims is the one she has to her family. The Harbers have three children: 5-year-old twins Graham and Gabrielle and 3-year-old Hunter. “We as people have different seasons in our life,” Becky observed. “My main ministry in this season of my life is Frank, Graham, Gabrielle and Hunter. I am involved a little bit in other areas. But right now, this is it. This is my ministry.”
She added parenthetically, “If I sound strong on that, it’s because I’m reading ‘The Purpose-Driven Life,'” by California pastor Rick Warren. If Harber has a passion for anything at all right now, it’s for women to read that book. “What we’re doing in our lives is probably all good,” she said, “but it doesn’t mean you should do it all at one time.”
When talking to parents who have adopted children, Becky says they always ask what to do when their child gets older and wants to find his or her parents. “There is a curiosity there that will be with them forever.” She remembered a time she saw a picture of a lady in a magazine that fit the description of her birth mother and she couldn’t help but wonder. She counsels adoptive parents to be supportive of their child’s curiosity.
She has had opportunities to counsel a few pregnant teens facing the decision about what to do about their unborn babies. “When I see a young girl like that, I am more encouraging toward adoption,” Becky said, while empathizing with two sides of the issue. “I’ve been the one who has been adopted, the one given a chance to live and to be part of a great family. I have also longed for a child when I was unable to conceive for four years. I feel the pain of the parents out there who would love to be able to adopt.”
Reflecting on her statement that, “Nobody had a desire to have me, except for God,” she said God has had a wonderful plan for her life, and she hopes all parents experiencing unplanned pregnancies will realize God has a plan for their child as well. Quoting Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future,” Harber added, “Every day, unplanned babies are conceived all over this world, but no human being is a mistake. God has a plan and a purpose for each one of us, regardless of our biological parents’ intentions.”
Kay Adkins is a freelance writer based in Mountain View, Ark. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: SAYING HELLO.