Standing Together: Children’s Homes Minister in Jesus’ Name
by Kyle Luke and Jim Edminson
Nathan’s big smile after completing a play therapy session at STCH Ministries Family Counseling earned him the nickname “little sunshine.” Photo by Maxie Beyer/STCH Ministries.
Nathan was only three years old when he was found wandering by a pond with no adults in sight. After the police were called, they discovered he was a victim of neglect and malnourishment.
His aunt and uncle agreed to care for him temporarily. They soon realized the horrible life Nathan was living. Locked in a closet and only able to interact with a stray cat, Nathan had not learned how to communicate verbally with others.
After exhausting several resources to help Nathan, his aunt and uncle discovered the family counseling arm of South Texas Children’s Homes Ministries (STCH Ministries).
Using play therapy, Nathan’s counselor formed a relationship of respect, trust, and positive reinforcement that made a way for Nathan to overcome the life he had once lived. Nathan was no longer lost and could now deal with his emotions and anger.
Nathan’s once-solemn face now has a huge smile. He is often referred to as “little sunshine.” Following a three-year placement with his aunt and uncle, Nathan’s aunt and uncle chose to provide him a new forever home, adopting him as their own son.
A Heritage of Caring
Care for thousands of Nathan’s, often the most defenseless group of people in society, has been part of Baptist life since the nineteenth century. Baptists appealed to one another to unite and provide care for the fatherless and motherless as their plight touched people’s hearts.
Shortly after the Civil War, financial appeals went out to Baptists across the south to shelter helpless children impacted by the war and widespread epidemics. Properties were purchased, and, one by one, buildings were constructed. By century’s end, Baptists in eleven states were providing care for children.
As the number of orphanages continued to grow, institutions in one state began to share best practices with sister organizations. Leaders met together to discuss successful strategies and trying challenges. The passion organizations began to advocate in local, state, and even federal arenas to help at-risk children. Attention turned from merely providing the necessities of food, clothing, shelter, and a caring environment to an emphasis on instilling good citizenship and exemplary character.
Greg McNeese (standing), president and CEO for Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children, leads a panel discussion during the 2017 BCCF annual meeting in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Photo by Sheryl Kennedy/Baptist Coalition for Cildren and Families.
Adapting to Changing Needs
By the mid-twentieth century, the number of orphans had decreased dramatically; but the number of children displaced from families due to divorce, violence in the home, and parental addictions began to increase exponentially.
To address the changing needs, Baptist Children’s Home leaders formed a national organization in 1949 called Baptist Child Care Executives (BCCE) for the purpose of better serving children and families.
Adapting to societal changes, Baptist childcare centers created home-style settings. Institutional-looking buildings were replaced by group homes that easily could have been part of any neighborhood in the country.
Institutional matrons who cared for as many as forty to sixty children were replaced by married couples who became surrogate parents caring for no more than ten to twelve children.
Today, the services offered by Baptist child and family ministries are varied. Although many still provide residential care to children, there are also emphases on family care for mothers and their children, individual and family counseling, care for the frail aging, and even outreaches to children in other countries. Through Christ-centered ministries spread across the United States, members promote and advocate for children, families, and the aging while championing the sanctity of life at every point. Members represent twenty-one organizations located in nineteen states from Florida to Alaska, impacting lives in the United States and around the world.
Randy Rankin, president of BCCF and executive director for New Mexico Baptist Children’s Home and Family Ministries. Photo courtesy of New Mexico Bbaptist Children’s Homes and Family Ministries.
Organized for Future Service
At the sixty-seventh annual meeting in 2015, BCCE members voted to change their name to Baptist Coalition for Children and Families (BCCF).
The group resolved to strengthen their collaboration and further unite to provide leadership development, dynamic relationships, education, and advocacy for children and families in need around the world. The organizations all share the passion not only for providing basic needs, but also for advancing a Christ-centered solution to reverse generational curses. The ultimate result of their work is to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Collectively in 2016, BCCF members reported 1,128 individuals trusted Jesus Christ as their Savior, including children and adults both in the United States and in other countries.
For almost seventy years, millions of children and families have been impacted in various ways through residential care, counseling, adoptions, foster care, aging ministry, international ministry, pregnancy care and more.
The Lord has blessed each organization to fulfill the Great Commission and given the ability to care for the widows and orphans in our communities. Each member of BCCF brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise in providing the best care for children and families in their respective states.
The Baptist Coalition for Children and Families is currently led by Randy Rankin, president of BCCF and executive director for New Mexico Baptist Children’s Home and Family Ministries. Rod Marshall, president and CEO of Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries, serves as BCCF vice president.
Maddie and Joe enjoy a beautiful day at ABCH Family Care campus. Photo courtesy of Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries.
One of Countless Testimonies
Maddie and her son Joe live at a Family Care Home for single moms and their children at Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes. Having come from a place of confinement to a home of safety, their lives have been permanently changed.
“I have been saved now for two years!” Maddie testified. “Glory be to God! After completely surrendering all of me over to God, my life has been forever changed and for the better!
“Right before I recited the sinner’s prayer that evening, I remember thinking, ‘What do I have to lose?’” she said.
“Well guess what? I lost everything—all the pain I held in for many years, all the horrible memories of a childhood stolen by sexual abuse, the depression that for so long felt never-ending, along with the chains of guilt and shame that kept me trapped in bondage all my life was finally all gone once I opened my hands and gave it to Christ!” she said.
As times have changed and state and federal legislators debate and adopt laws for those who have no voice in our communities, it is more imperative than ever that the twenty-one Baptist childcare leaders that comprise BCCF advocate for the abused child, the pregnant single mom, and the unborn child in the womb. BCCF strives to ensure that the generations of tomorrow will have the opportunity for a new life in Christ.
Bringing together nineteen state Baptist conventions, and enjoying the support of the Southern Baptist network of churches, members of the Baptist Coalition for Children and Families realize the necessity to stand together so that the least of these don’t have to stand alone.
The organization’s guiding principle comes from Matthew 25:40—The King will reply, Truly, I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me (NIV).
For more information, visit Baptist Coalition for Children and Families’ website at www.bccfamilies.org.
A Coalition Of Care for Children
by David Melber
Children in foster care. It is a pressing societal issue. We stand at a critical moment when we as Southern Baptists can rise up to be a part of a solution to this need. Consider the statistics. America has approximately 420,000 foster children in care on a daily basis. We have more than 46,000 Baptist churches in our Southern Baptist network. Southern Baptists, working in cooperation with one another, help support twenty-one Baptist Children’s Homes.
What would happen if these churches and their members, partnering with these child care agencies and our SBC entities, collectively agreed to address this epidemic together?
“The government is spending literally billions of dollars to care for orphans of the dead and orphans of the living in America, while the Scriptures place that responsibility upon the church,” Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, said.
If the need is too big for the government, it is obviously too big for a single church, he said, “but the combined efforts of our 46,000-plus churches, working together, could have a huge impact. I am praying for a movement of churches across Kentucky and North America to love and minister to the least of these as never before.”
At the North American Mission Board, we are rapidly working to build a coalition across the Southern Baptist family to be a part of a movement to eradicate the foster care crisis in this country. Would you join us in praying for wisdom as we embark on this journey together?
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