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'Answer to Prayer' Adoption Comes After Pastor Breaks World Record with 153 Marathons

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For pastor and social media influencer Malachi O'Brien, the adoption of his sixth child is a full-circle moment.

Adopted at the age of three by his aunt and uncle, O'Brien fully understands the unique experience of going from an orphan to being placed into a loving home.

"[Adoption] is the greatest gift of God in our lives," he told CBN News. "It is a win, win, win."

According to the Adoption Network, only 2-4% of American families have adopted, while one-third have considered it.

O'Brien and his wife, Rachel, knew early in their marriage they would one day adopt, but how that door opened for them was a matter of being in the right place, at the right time.

"What led to our first child we adopted is it was actually a family from our church, a single (foster) mom. And one day she says, 'Can you guys watch him for me? I can't handle him. I need to get a break.' And we said, 'Sure we will watch him.' And at the end of that weekend, she said, 'I am not coming back to get him.'"

The foster mom's actions shocked the young couple.

"[The son] had been in eight homes in his nine years of living and so we knew instantly we were not going to put him back in that and we got emergency placement. And from that moment we said, 'We are going to adopt this kid,'" O'Brien explained.

But the adoptions didn't end there.

This week the 40-year-old and his wife adopted their newest son, a one-year-old they have lovingly nicknamed JJ.

He told CBN News the Lord spoke to his wife of 22 years that they would be adopting another child adding to their family of four biological children and one adopted son.

"Sure enough, in 24 hours we get a call and we say 'yes'," O'Brien recalled.

In a matter of 36 hours, the family of seven prepared to welcome a seven-month-old. That meant the couple would be bringing home a baby for the first time in 10 years.

"My wife is the real champion in this," he quipped. "Our oldest is 20...we are literally starting over. It is a learning curve."

O'Brien is overjoyed about officially being a family of eight and shares they have plans to continue to grow.

"It was an answer to prayer that we got chosen to adopt him. An absolute answer to much prayer and fasting," he shared of the experience on X.

The former faith advisory board member to President Donald Trump unofficially broke a Guinness World Record by running 153 marathons in a row – all to raise awareness for foster care and adoption.

That means he ran six hours a day through rain, snow, blizzards, or sunshine.

He even ran when he was sick, finishing the marathon at just over nine hours but still managing to cross that day's finish line, Cornerstones of Care reported.

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"The running that I do and the extremeness of it, is to raise awareness to key issues like foster care, adoption, youth mental health," O'Brien said.

He added, "There are more challenges than people realize. The foster care system needs help, needs more funding, needs more workers."

Since adopting JJ, O'Brien has changed his goal, but only slightly.

He now runs a half marathon every single day. And he will continue doing that until he runs the circumference of the globe or 24,901 miles.

He estimates it will take him 1,900 days or roughly five years.

Some would consider his goal extreme, but O'Brien says his goal is to bring awareness to issues young people face and also help people feel inspired to take on challenges to change their lives.

"It takes leverage and massive action," he explained.

"People often ask me, 'Was this hard?' And I say no because it wasn't my definition of hard," O'Brien said. "Hard is what baby Gus and his family are facing," he added referencing a seven-week-old baby fighting for his life after undergoing a heart transplant.

"Me choosing to run every day is not hard. Challenging, you bet. Inconvenient, probably. But hard? No, not my definition," he continued. "Everyone needs to choose their hard and choose that every day."

With roughly 391,098 kids in foster care in the United States to date, the pastor from Peculiar, Missouri says the Church is uniquely positioned to solve the crisis in the foster care system.

"I think it is one of those tangible things. One, I think the scriptures call for it. I think up until the turn of the 19th century, I think it was always the church that was creating orphanages and children's homes. Then the government jumped in right, wrong, and indifferent," O'Brien said.

"I don't think you can subcontract things that God has made very clear the Church should tangibly do. I think when the Church cares for the fatherless, orphans, and the widows it is something that...means a lot to the Father," he continued.

O'Brien added, "It speaks to a lost world that these people care and they love. It's a megaphone to the beauty of the Gospel."

He noted that as Christians proclaim to want to be instrumental in fighting the sex trafficking industry, they also need to realize that it is directly connected to the foster care system.

"These kids that go through the foster care system and are not adopted are more likely to go to jail and other things happen," he explained. "It is one of those low-hanging fruits that is costly, that is inconvenient, but it really matters to the Lord."

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About The Author


Talia Wise has served as a multi-media producer for, CBN Newswatch, The Prayer Link, and CBN News social media outlets. Prior to joining CBN News she worked for Fox Sports Florida producing and reporting. Talia earned a master’s degree in journalism from Regent University and a bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia.