‘God Put it on Our Hearts’: HGTV’s Jenny and Dave Marrs Share Sylvie’s Adoption Story

Photo from Jenny Marrs’ Instagram

‘God Put it on Our Hearts’: HGTV’s Jenny and Dave Marrs Share Sylvie’s Adoption Story

By Movieguide® Staff

Family, faith and love are at the heart of everything Jenny and Dave Marrs do, the stars of HGTV’s FIXER TO FABULOUS renovation show.

In a recent post, the couple celebrated the eight-year anniversary of adopting their daughter Sylvie from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The couple previously opened up about God’s call on them to adopt and the joys and challenges of their journey.

“I feel like God put [it] on our hearts that she was ours and right when you knew, it was just like, ‘Yup.’ It was a key in a lock,” Dave told PEOPLE in an exclusive interview.

“The emotion of it was really similar to the birth of our bio children — that first time holding them,” his wife added. “I get emotional thinking about it, ’cause it was just really special.”

The renovation duo shares four children in addition to Sylvie.

Jenny said that their interest in adoption grew when they researched the challenges orphans face across the world.

“It felt a little overwhelming when we started to learn about the need and all the kids without a family, but you can only do what you can do,” Jenny said. “We thought, ‘We’ll focus on one and see.’ So even though it felt like ‘This isn’t really making much of a difference,’ we know that we did. We made a difference for our child and our daughter.”

Jenny and Dave recalled that even once they knew that Sylvie was the one they wanted to adopt, the Congolese government closed off all travel leaving the country without the proper exit letters, which meant that they could not yet bring their daughter home.

“I remember exactly where I was when we found out. I’ll never forget when we found out and we were waiting,” Jenny said. “I was constantly refreshing my email, checking, waiting for the news that she was coming home. Then, we got that news and it was crushing, especially because we had left her a month before and we had no idea when she would come back.”

“It kind of puts your whole life on hold. I mean with a biological child there is an expectation of, ‘Okay, at eight to nine months after this process started, you’re actually going to see something,'” Dave added. “With [Sylvie], I know everyone suffered because we were suffering and everyone that was close around us.”

To add to their busyness, Jenny discovered that she was pregnant with their daughter Charlotte. As a result, Dave was the only person who could travel to Africa.

“I specifically went over to Congo, waited outside our U.S. embassy to try to get in and plead my case with the U.S. ambassador,” Dave said. “When I tell you, anything that we could do … we were on the phone with congressmen, with our state representatives — like, the Vatican, we tried.”

Although Jenny and Dave were Sylvie’s parents, they could not spend her first and second birthdays with Sylvie. But after a year of facetime calls, in July 2014, the Marrs finally brought Sylvie home to their family in Arkansas.

Sylvie only knew French at that point, but the language barrier was not the only difficult thing about her transition to living with her new family.

“She was taken from everything she’d ever known. Everything was new. Everybody looked different,” Jenny explained. “I distinctly remember the first time we took her for a walk. We have lots of trees and she was terrified of trees because she had never seen them before. Just everything was new to her.”

“Initially, there were a ton of really hard, bad things. But I think we are kind of programmed to forget all that,” Dave said. “So we will continue to have kids, or everyone would have one kid and stop.”

“Two years after she came home, we would find food hidden under her pillow, because I think subconsciously, there’s a fear that, ‘I may not have food tomorrow, so I need to hoard some, I need to save some,'” Dave said. “So there’s those struggles, but there’s beauty in those when they get overcome.”

Another aspect of transition was Sylvie meeting her new brothers and sisters.

“It was a transition. I would never say it was the easiest, most perfect thing, ’cause it wasn’t,” Jenny confessed. “But it was also something that I look back and I can just see the bonds that were forged throughout that time, and now they’re all so close and they defend each other.”

Jenny and Dave said that one day when Sylvie is old enough, they want to visit the Congo.

“There’s a lot of really hard pieces of her story that we will continue to share with her as she is able to process that information as she gets older,” Jenny said. “I think part of that will be going back to Congo. I think that’s going to be very important, and it’s definitely going to be something that we do.”

Jenny recently described some of the intense emotions that went into Sylvie’s adoption day:

Jenny remembered the emotional time in a lengthy Instagram caption, writing, “On this day, 8 years ago, I bore witness to a miracle. An honest to goodness God-sized, Red-Sea-parting kind of miracle.”

She continued:

Hope had nearly been lost. Despair had slowly seeped in. We had no way of knowing if our daughter would ever be back in our arms. 602 days of waiting, 602 days of praying and pleading and calling Congressmen and Senators and flying over the sea to beg the US Embassy to help. Emails and letters and phone calls with no traction toward getting her home left us depleted.

Make no mistake – a battle took place to bring our daughter home. The exhale that took place when she was back in my arms on US soil was echoed in heaven. The spiritual battle that I couldn’t see during those long days and nights was finally over. 

I post this photo every year on this day to remember. I never want to forget the way the Lord fought on our behalf. The things He has in store for Sylvie must certainly leave the enemy shaking in fear or else he wouldn’t have worked so tirelessly to keep her from us. 

It’s hard to believe eight years have passed since this day when our family was finally under the same roof. 

Marrs then added some encouragement for others who are “in the middle of your own long, dark night of waiting,” writing:

Your story isn’t over yet. Don’t despair. Remember, our God NEVER authors pain. He is only, always good. Sometimes, we can’t see past our current sight line but, just over the horizon, He has good, good things in store. Keep trusting.