"Attempt something so great for God that it is doomed to fail, lest He be in it," quoted by Randy Pope, pastor of Perimeter Church, where Tim and Jennifer started their journey on staff with Campus Outreach at The University of Georgia 12 years ago. This opportunity shaped their faith, relationships, and finances early on. The couple met on the first day of college in 2000 through this college ministry. They were married in 2004 and became full time missionaries to go back and serve the ministry they were apart of. Little did they know, this strong foundation would lay the framework to endure the loss that was to come down the road.
Tim and Jennifer reside in downtown Marietta with their three children, Mackenzie, Zach, and David who are in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade at West Side Elementary. The family attends Stonebridge Church on the square and it is there that they have found a community that they live, work, and raise their kids together. Tim is an Alpharetta native, and has 2 brothers that reside in the Atlanta area. He became a small business owner last January, opening his own HVAC company, Summit Heating and Air servicing North Atlanta. Summit supports Young Life Marietta and when Tim isn't working, he can be found renovating their 1950's home. Jennifer is a Marietta native and has one sister who lives in Savannah. Her grandfather was a graduate of Marietta High School and she is happy to be back here raising her own family. She helps run the business as well as working for IEM Events as a Corporate Meeting and Event planner. When she isn't working, she volunteers as a Young Lives leader to the teen moms at Marietta High School. The couples parents both have been married close to 40 years and they are grateful for the support and values they were raised with. As a family, they enjoy rock climbing at Stone Summit, kayaking, hiking at Kennesaw Mountain, and anything outdoors. They view their company as a vehicle to fund local missions and support where God is working.
After doing college ministry, Tim went into the construction sales industry in 2006. When the housing boom ended, the company he was working for filed bankruptcy. Tim struggled many years with trying to find another sales job and all of them kept hitting a dead end. He decided to completely start over in 2010 and go back to school to learn a trade. Tim's dad was a corporate chef and his advice on learning a trade was a pivotal turning point for them. Tim and Jennifer sold their home at the time with 2 small children and hit the reset button. They had followed Dave Ramseys financial plan and made the huge leap to live like no one else. It was at this time Tim and Jennifer bought an investment property at a deal to fix up, later becoming their first rental home. They lived there for 2 years while Tim finished his degree from Chattahoochee Technical College in Heating and Air. It was a physically and emotionally exhausting period of time. With toddlers, living in a renovation, Tim going to school and working, Jennifer cleaning houses on the weekends to make extra money and getting her foot in the door with events, they prayed their seeds being sown would pay off. Tim started out making $10 an hour crawling underneath houses and ripping duct work out of attics. He then worked his way to the top of his industry, 5 years later launching his own business. "It was a refining time when couples around us were buying new cars, bigger houses, and going on nice trips. We spent years living in a $40,000 house, saving every penny, and realizing through this we were gaining freedom that we never had before." The renovated house down the road became one of their most profitable investments.
The couple struggled not just in their careers, but having a family as well. Jennifer lost 5 babies through miscarriage over the course of a few years, but was able to have 2 biological children of their own. The hardest loss for her was her daughters fraternal twin. "It was the most I've ever trusted God. I miscarried her twin while remaining pregnant with her. I never knew each morning if I was still pregnant or not. It changed me, the way I view each day, and also how grateful and what a privilege it is to be a mother." They had always wanted 3 children and after taking a few year off, they decided to adopt an older child through the Department of Family and Children Services. They saw Zach on Fox 5's Wednesdays Child and knew he was supposed to be theirs. "Zach is amazing, a testimony and picture of how God heals and restores. He has been our fighter. When we met Zach when he was 7 and in a state funded orphanage. While he was an energetic 7 year old, the rest of his peers at the orphanage were medically fragile. Zach's medical records gave him a list of diagnosis and special needs. It didn't seem fair to say what a child is or isn't if they have never been given a chance at a normal life." They took another huge leap of faith and decided to adopt him and never look back. "After we saw where he was living and his circumstances, we never questioned leaving without him. Its what we had to do."
Life was very difficult transitioning their new child into a family. Not only had Zach never been in a family, but he had never done pretty much anything. Never experienced family holidays, every food was new to him, gone on trips, and didn't know he had a birthday to name a few. The couple then had to enroll him into school, since he had never been in general education. It caught the couple off guard that they received such backlash from the school and even some parents after sending him there. "People seemed to be afraid of him, there weren't resources in his home school to accommodate his transition, and we had to make the choice to fight for him". And fight for him they did. "We decided enough was enough. Zach had been the product of the system his whole life and no one to advocate for him. We were convinced we needed to make a way for our new special needs son at his home school." Not only did Zach stay, but Tim and Jennifer fought for full time inclusion teachers in their home school and had the Georgia Department of Education come in to enforce policy that children be serviced in their home school. Zach has not only made a turnaround, but is thriving, doing better every day, and now been called "exemplary" by his teachers. "We knew he just needed a chance. Every child deserves a chance and with supportive parents that are doing their part, there is no reason why a child can't overcome any obstacle. We push all three of our kids to be the best they can. Some just need more help than others." Zach's story makes a full circle because his name, Zachariah, means "The Lord has Remembered". "Zach is healing to us in many ways, not only did God restore and redeem his life, but he heard every prayer and was with me in every loss and remembered we wanted another child. We never thought we would adopt a 7 year old with special needs, but we now know our losses led us and equipped us to welcome this child into our family. God definitely remembers and hears the cries of our hearts."
If you would like to read more about their family, they have kept a blog for a little over 7 years at www.timandjenwillis.blogpsot.com. You can read more community reviews about Summit Heating and Air on its Facebook page. "We hope we continue to take risks and ask God to give us the strength to always say yes. We hope, in turn, our kids will follow the example and never question the path that God may call them to. We love sharing our story because it gives hope and life to the darkest situations we may enter, knowing that God really is Emmanuel, who promises to be with us."