About Debra

Our family April 2020

I catch up with my seven siblings twice a month on what we call “Sib chat.” Between us we have 24 living children (plus wonderful spouses) and 25 grandchildren (so far…). So there’s always plenty to talk about and our every-three-year extended family reunions are a treat, with cousins coming from across the U.S. and from several other countries.

My birth family in 1962–our youngest sister not yet born

We grew up in a small Mayan village in Guatemala, now a small city. We all attended boarding school through eighth grade, and scattered to “foster homes” in the U.S. for high school.

I’m a happy wife to Dave, proud mom of three (plus two in Heaven and my kids’ awesome mates) and grandmother of three, including two Covid baby girls born six weeks apart. While our kids were growing up, we lived in São Paulo, Brazil.

A family reunion in Brazil for Christmas, 2007

My husband Dave grew up in Bolivia. I met him at Wheaton College. We helped each other to a Ph.D. for him; nursing and family counseling for me.

Our daughter Karis, born with nonfunctioning intestines, experienced God’s intervention over and over again as she grew up. In the middle of college at Notre Dame, she hit a wall. It seemed the only option available was intestinal transplant, and the place to go for that in 2004 was Pittsburgh. So we came, not knowing a single person in this city, and we’re still here, grateful for all God did for Karis and our family through the wonderful people who surrounded us with love in this place.

Karis and I in 2006 after her second (5-organ) transplant

After Karis died in 2014, we decided to stay in Pittsburgh to be near Rachel and Valerie and their growing families. As the girls and I found the courage to sort through Karis’s things, we eventually discovered a complete set of her rag-tag journals, from age nine until the week before her last coma. Reading these journals was a hugely rewarding experience, and wanting to share them, I wrote Karis, All I See Is Grace. It took me three years; the book was finally published in 2018. I hope her experience with tough challenges will encourage you in dealing with your own.

Liliana, Caleb, and Talita, our three grand-loves. The two Covid babies are turning one and taking their first steps!

Like everyone else, we were grounded from intense travel by Covid, but we’ve learned to connect through Zoom and other platforms. Dave especially–he spends several hours a day with pastors and leaders from ten+ countries. We’re grateful for the amazing technology that makes this possible! Being home more gave me time to write my first novel, Horse Thief 1898, and start book two, Treasure Hunt 1904. So fun!