Clay Hammac had seen a lot of unspeakable things in his years as a police officer in Alabama, but nothing prepared him for what he saw on December 23, 2009—the brutally beaten body of 15-month old Kara Nicole Lee. The violent crime detective stared in disbelief at the beautiful, bruised child, who, two days before Christmas, had been beaten to death with her own doll by her mother’s live-in boyfriend.
Seeing this sweet child’s lifeless, battered body changed Hammac forever, especially because he had a son just about Kara Lee’s age. “I’ve always had an ability to separate work from family life. But this one really pierced my heart. I dwelled on it for quite some time,” he told AL.com.
Hammac took his pain to his wife, Laura, and asked her to pray with him about what they could do to prevent this from happening to other kids. “We were very open in our prayer and asked God to heal us from this agony and this hurt. I know it sounds strange, but we prayed that somehow God would be glorified through this tragedy.”
Within a couple of months, God answered their prayers in an unlikely way: a friend approached the Hammacs about becoming foster parents. “That was the farthest thing from our minds,” Hammac says. “We had just recently welcomed our second child and our family was growing just how we had forseen it,” he said. “We asked God to open our hearts so that if that was His will, He would open our hearts to that.”
God made himself clear, and the Hammacs began their foster training. Six years later, they have welcomed 18 foster children into their home. When their first foster child, whom they had cared for since she was 2 months old, went to live with relatives at age 2, their grief at the loss was very real. “I remember that bedroom door, we kept it closed for a whole month,” Clay Hammac says. “The whole purpose of foster care is trying to reunite the child with the family. We accept that, we embrace that. But it was hard.”
Clay Hammac with his kids and foster kids. Screen shot: YouTube
Still, when the call came to take in another child, the Hammacs answered. Again and again and again – 17 times. Recently, they were able to celebrate an unspeakable joy to soothe their grief—the adoption of a foster daughter they’d brought home from the hospital a couple of years ago as a newborn. Now two-and-a-half, she became a “Forever” Hammac on June 23 2016, just like their three biological children.
Like many kids in the system, the Hammac’s new daughter was born addicted to drugs.
“To watch a newborn child go through withdrawals is heart-wrenching. It’s life-changing,” her dad says. “It will either open your heart to do everything that you can to help every child that you can, or it will break your heart. It’s done a little bit of both to my family.”
“We’ve been able to walk alongside her these first couple of years, and get her the assistance and therapy she needs,” he said. “She has thrived.”
Like it did when he saw Kara Lee’s beaten body, Hammac’s professional life has once again coincided with his work life: he is now a part of his county’s drug task force, hoping to stop drugs from taking a toll on lives as it did on his daughter’s and her biological parents’.
“I am passionate about my work because I’ve seen firsthand what happens whenever someone becomes a victim of addiction and drug abuse,” he says.
The Hammacs story of prayer and obedience to God—and of God bringing something good out of the horrible murder of a precious child—TRULY touched me today. The Hammacs say every time they bring a new little love into their home to care for, they remember Kara Lee.
“We still remember her clearly,” says Clay. “It’s hard to imagine in that moment praying for God to be glorified through something so tragic, but I would like to think that with the opportunity we’ve had to love on these kids, that somehow good has come from bad.”
Check out Clay and Laura Hammac’s inspiring testimony about how little Kara Lee led them into the mission field of foster care. And get your tissues! I’m so grateful for this family’s story of obedience today.