South African woman finds help in South Texas for unborn baby

  • Gabriel ProjectThe Gabriel Project is named for the angel Gabriel, who in the Bible came to the Virgin Mary to announce her pregnancy with the Baby Jesus.

    The group provides emotional, spiritual and material support for babies and women ...

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  • Gabriel ProjectThe Gabriel Project is named for the angel Gabriel, who in the Bible came to the Virgin Mary to announce her pregnancy with the Baby Jesus.

    The group provides emotional, spiritual and material support for babies and women in need. The group offers confidential counseling, free baby care items and furniture for women in crisis pregnancy situations or mothers with newborns. For more information, contact 866-627-9243.

    GABRIEL PROJECT WISH LISTThe organization is always in need of donations for mothers and babies in need. Here's what's needed:

    Diapers (newborn, size 1 and 2)

    Baby wipes

    Baby wash

    Baby bibs

    Washcloths

    Bottle brushes

    Crib sheets

    Lightweight receiving blankets

    Cribs

    Cradles

    To make a donation, contact the project at 1-866-627-9243.

    The organization is always in need of angels to mentor mothers, answer the crisis hotline, deliver baby supplies to mothers or fold and wash baby clothing. For more information, contact Barbara McCain at 361-649-1612.

EZZELL - It's high noon, 100 degrees, in the middle of a South Texas summer.

Megan Baylis, a leggy, upbeat South African, splashes water alongside mosquitoes in an inflatable pool beneath a tree grove.

She's 23 years old, sweating and very pregnant.

"I've never felt heat like that, and we live in Africa," she recalled recently.

Baylis, a single-mom-to-be, was six months pregnant, homeless, living in a tent when she found God again.

"The whole journey kind of got me back into believing there is a God, and He is out there looking out for us," she said.

Last year, jobless and single in Africa, she packed away her entire life and joined her father to live the back-to-the-basics style in Ezzell in rural Lavaca County.

'A DARK TIME'

Her father, Mark Baylis, moved to the U.S. to marry and dreamed of farming, raising animals, building a home and living a bare-bones life on terrain that brings back memories of Africa.

"The way I look at it is, it was an incredible adventure," he said. "It was an amazing experience. It was pretty cool to be able to look back now and say we actually survived living in a tent for months."

Megan Baylis planned the move to reconnect with her father, who is now a citizen, and make a home in the U.S. Instead, she spent most of it finding strength.

"It was like a dark time," Baylis said. "And it wasn't the fondest of memories."

Mark Baylis modernized the family's 20-by-10 foot tent. He installed air conditioners and Internet. Megan Baylis, her father and his wife, had their own beds and an outdoor shower, but no house.

The plan was to stay there until their real home - a neat, white manufactured building - could be hauled onto the property. But late summer rains made roads impassable for about three months. Megan Baylis grinned and occasionally giggled as she told of living through torrential rains, horrid heat and a frog infestation.

"I decided I had to stay positive," she said. "There was no option of just breaking down and crying. I think back to it now, I think how on earth did I do that?"

Baylis and her father, who lost his job, passed the days driving to find air-conditioned areas. Megan Baylis - with no job, no money and no friends - focused on creating something for her baby. She snatched paint swatches from hardware stores, snipped and pasted together dozens of bright-colored butterflies.

Then the "angels" arrived.

GABRIEL PROJECT BRINGS HELP

Megan Baylis had only one pair of shoes and pants when she found the Gabriel Project, a Christian crisis pregnancy group.

The volunteers, called angels, brought her back to life.

"That was amazing, and a huge relief," she said.

The angels took her food, clothing, lotions and prayers.

Their goal is to help mothers find alternatives to abortion, an option Megan Baylis first considered.

"When I found out I was pregnant, I immediately thought of an abortion because that's what's just been drilled into you," she said. "You're not married. You don't have a job. Get rid of it."

But after learning her baby had a heartbeat and tiny limbs, she was determined to give birth - with no money.

"There was a lot of stress," she said.

Because she wasn't a citizen, finding health care was nearly impossible.

"Nobody would take her," said Pat Krompka, Megan Baylis' main angel. "We needed to do something because she was so far along already. She needed prenatal care."

After getting turned away from multiple clinics, Krompka found a special program of the Children's Health Insurance Program that paid for doctor's visits and the birth.

'MEANT TO HAPPEN'

Twenty-six hours of labor brought Leah Ashleigh-Louise Baylis, a hefty 9-pound baby girl, into the world Nov. 19. Long and pink, the baby gurgles in Megan Baylis' lap. The two live in the family home, which was finally installed in September. Leah has a crib, Onesies and a bedroom decorated with her mother's paper butterflies. The room is furnished with sacks of toys donated by the angels, who Megan Baylis now calls "family."

"Their kindness and their willingness to help - I felt like they were like my grannies," she said.

Mark Baylis plans on building a home next year; Megan Baylis, who entered the country on visa, must return to Africa to be with friends and family; and the angels, well, they'll keep in touch through the Internet.

"It's almost like all of this almost happened so that I could have her," Megan Baylis said, watching Leah coo. "If I had been in South Africa, there is no way that I could have her. We don't have any organizations in South Africa that could help me because we have so many other problems. I'm very lucky. Very blessed."

Megan Baylis, a trained graphic designer, plans to design a book for all their memories.

"It'll be quite a story to tell this one, one day what we went through to get her here," Megan Baylis said, curling her fingers around Leah's pink fists. "But definitely worth it."