GALLATIN, Tenn. (BP) – Of all the babies given for adoption that August day in 2008 in China, the 9-month-old girl given to Darla and Jason Brooks was the only one not to cry or fuss.
“When Aleya’s caregivers came in, and they placed Aleya in Darla’s arms, not one tear, not one whimper,” Jason told Baptist Press. “Aleya just reached up and took her hand and rubbed it down Darla’s face. And we knew that this was the baby who, before she was even conceived, that God had planned and positioned to make our family complete.”
Darla remembers asking the Lord that Aleya’s birthday not be in November, because everyone in the family, including Darla, Jason, and their two sons Andrew and Nathaniel, has November birthdays.
“And they said Nov. 3,” Darla noted. “The ironic thing is that is our oldest son’s birthday. He (Andrew) just turned 31.”
By age 15, Aleya Nicole Lin Brooks already possessed a strong faith, exuded the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and displayed unconditional love for others, her parents said.
“When I think about the faith that God entrusted in us to place that little girl into our hands, our family and in our hearts, she challenged and inspired me every single day to be a better person and to love Jesus more,” Jason said. “She was intentional with every single moment. She did not want anything distracting her from living her full purpose on this earth.
“And even today she’s teaching me how to treasure every moment and make the most of that,” Jason said. “She’s taught me how to love more. She loved unconditionally.”
Her pastor Robby Gallaty, senior pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, was struck by her faith.
“She had an uncommon faith for an adult and even a child in the fact that she had just this passion for her friends to know Jesus,” Gallaty told Baptist Press. “She was very regimented in her schedule.”
Scripture-focused quiet times each morning, texting encouraging words and Scripture to her fellow award-winning cheerleaders at Liberty Creek High School, displaying unconditional love and sincerely desiring everyone to be saved. She had an entire notebook of Scriptures and notes she took from Sunday sermons. She would ask her father Jason for insight and advice in leading others to Christ by godly example. She was not immersed in social media that distracts many.
“She wasn’t that child evangelist,” Darla said. “She didn’t tell her friends Jesus loves you. She just loved them.” “And it drew people to her,” Jason added.
Darla sensed Aleya wasn’t meant to endure many years this side of heaven.
“Two years ago is when I started having a feeling that God was going to take her early. God gave me that, and I never said a word until about a month ago.” In the car with Aleya after Gallaty mentioned at church a student who died years earlier, Darla remembered. “I said Aleya I’m going to tell you something. I feel like God is going to take you early too, and this was just a couple of weeks ago. She didn’t say anything. She was completely silent.
“But I said you are so good and so pure and so innocent and so godly and so loving, and you have all the fruits of the Spirit. I said I just have a feeling that God’s going to take you early.”
It was a week later before Darla mentioned her feelings to Jason.
Near hurricane-force winds swept through Tennessee and Kentucky March 3, causing schools to cancel ahead of the storm. Trees were downed. Power lines dragged the ground. As the weather began to clear, strong winds charged the calm without warning.
Aleya’s day had begun with quiet time. She texted Scriptures to friends and fellow cheerleaders.
Revelation 21:4 – God will wipe away our tears. Romans 8:18 – The apostle Paul did not consider the present sufferings comparable to the joy that will be revealed in heaven. Luke 9:23-24 – to follow Jesus, everyone should take up their cross and follow Him; and that whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their live because of Jesus will save it.
The storm had passed. Aleya joined her family and a neighbor in clearing fallen trees from the yard. The family needed to clear the driveway for Nathaniel to drive to work.
“We were working together to clear the fallen limbs, with chainsaws, etc.” Jason said. “We were having fun. We were working but we were laughing. We were joking. And Aleya was out there as she always was, giving of herself and being part of the family. She ….”
Darla finishes the sentence through Jason’s tears.
“So the tree came down, and she and I were on this end with Larry Lee (McCann) our friend and neighbor,” she rushes through the words. “And Jason and Nathaniel our other son were on the other side.”
As Jason and McCann chain-sawed limbs, Darla, Nathaniel and Aleya tossed the limbs into a pile. The family had a system of warning one another if a tree were falling. And with the trees being about 75 feet tall, sufficient noise always announced any crash. Aleya picked up a limb.
“We were basically finished. We had it cleared,” Darla said. “She ended up going down to their side and picking up some limbs and stuff. … A huge gust came up and I yelled and everybody looked up.
“But it was too late. It had already come down. It was a smaller tree, probably only about 25 feet. So we didn’t hear it. I was looking up and I just remember looking down and she was already on the ground. And unfortunately Jason and Nathaniel saw it.
“It hit her in the head and drove her facedown-first into the ground.”
The neurosurgeon at TriStar Skyline Medical Center described her injuries as catastrophic, but promised to do all he could for her, Jason said. “But he said very infrequently did they see any injuries as tragic as hers.”
Gallaty, who baptized Aleya in 2021, was preparing to deliver her eulogy in a service set for March 9 at Long Hollow.
“Her life reminds me of one, although it was cut short, was a life devoted to the Lord. And it reminded me of the life of Jim Elliot (Phillip James Elliot), who lost his life sharing the Gospel with the Auca Indians in Ecuador,” Gallaty told Baptist Press. “Jim Elliot said this in a journal. He said Lord I do not desire a long life, but I desire a full life for you. And I think as a 15-year-old girl she lived life to the fullest and the Lord used her greatly.”
Aleya never regained consciousness at the hospital.
“She never saw a thing,” Darla said. “We believe she was here one second and the next second she was in the arms of Jesus.”
Aleya was taken off life support March 5. The donation of her organs has saved three lives, Jason said on Facebook. The Brookses held a memorial march for her March 5 at Skyline and have established a Go Fund Me page to raise funds for Long Hollow and research into neurological disorders. Nearly $30,000 had been raised by March 7, surpassing a $2,500 goal.
Jason wonders whether Aleya’s journey of adoption helped mold her compassionate heart.
“She had a real heart for the abandoned, the overlooked, and the broken. And I think that – she never said this, she never lamented her adoption – she only said how grateful she was to her mommy and daddy. But part of me wonders, did she recognize that she was also abandoned, and she wanted to make sure that no one else went through that?
“We talked so much about, as believers we are adopted in God’s family. And you were adopted just like we were adopted. And she had a special love, because she was adopted twice.”