"Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." — James 1:27 Lourdes Benegas met Dustin and Katie Leonard before they were married. Benegas was an educational assistant at Mesilla Valley Christian Schools. Dustin and Katie were students there. In 1992, Benegas' husband was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, a rare form of cancer.
"The whole school went through the process of that with me," said Benegas, whose husband eventually died in 1996. "That's how they got to know me."
Sixteen years later, Dustin and Katie married and had three children. Benegas' two children grew up, and eventually graduated from New Mexico State University.
But, somehow, a bond remained.
For the past two years, the Leonards have been working toward adopting a child. They are devout Christians, and the adoption has become a part of their spiritual life. The couple attends seminars around the country, learning what they can, so that they may use it in their church's adoption/orphan ministry, which they run.
That's how the Leonards found out about Both Hands, a nonprofit organization that aids parents with the cost of adoption by raising money though helping widows improve their homes.
According to a news release: "Volunteers will be sponsored for a day of labor much in the same way that a 5K marathon runner or golfer earns funds for a local charity."
When they decided to adopt, and it came time to find a widow to help via Both Hands, the Leonards immediately thought of Benegas. Said Benegas: "I was honored that they thought about me."
On Saturday, the team of volunteers will work on Benegas' house from sunrise to sunset. Other than painting the exterior and replacing some windows, she's not too sure what all the group will do.
"I am very excited," Benegas said. "Katie's detailed. She's got an eye for decor."
Benegas won't be there. A kindergarten aide at Hillrise Elementary by weekday, Benegas works for a local gold buyer in the evening and on weekends. She'll be at the shop because that's her regular shift, and because she wants to be out of the way.
Benegas said she has maintained her house, where she lived since moving to Las Cruces with her late husband. But being a single mother and working two jobs hasn't left her time for some minor projects.
"It's such a benefit to both," Benegas said. "I think it will be an absolute blessing."
Dustin said he and Katie must raise about $30,000 to complete the adoption of their 9-month-old son, who lives in South Korea. More than $20,000 of that is adoption fees, the rest is estimated travel expenses.
The Leonards have a side photography business, which, most of the time, is more of a hobby. It certainly won't help pay the travel costs, which likely will be more than most adoptive families incur.
Dustin said the process typically takes four to five days, but that he and his family want to be in South Korea eight to 10 days.
"We want to document as much as we can of South Korea," he said. " so that when out son is older, we can show him where he came from and where he was born. We are going to be open with everything."
They will name him Jeremiah, and he will keep his birth name, which will become his middle name — Dustin said, as part of the adoption process, he is not allowed to disclose that name.
Jeremiah's older sister can hardly wait.
Said Dustin: "She says, 'When is my baby brother going to come home?'"
Article by: James Staley/ email@example.com
Full article available: http://www.lcsun-news.com/ci_20464740