Building up a Leader
IMAGINE MOVING TO A NEW TOWN and a new home where you know no one. Now, imagine moving into a home with strangers. Many people would feel anxious in a situation like this. For children arriving on the Boothe Campus, this is what they are walking into. Luckily, on the other side is a set of houseparents ready to welcome them, caseworkers to walk alongside them, counselors to help them work through issues that arise and support staff to help guide them. Most importantly, they do it all while being examples of Christ’s love for the children.
Jonathan came to STCH Ministries Homes for Children in June 2021 on the verge of turning 16. Having endured some difficult times throughout childhood, he lashed out with violence when in an uncomfortable situation. Coming to the Boothe Campus was one of those difficult moments for him. He felt “awkward” and unsure of what the future held. Little did Jonathan know he was being covered in prayer and it would ultimately change his life.
From the beginning, Jonathan’s houseparents wanted him to know that he was part of their family. One common scene on the Boothe Campus is a cottage coming together for dinner every evening. This one simple act helps create a time for the children and houseparents to feel a sense of normalcy. Around the table, they talk about their day, enjoy laughs together, share disappointments and grow together. For many of the children that come to Homes for Children, their first dinner is a memory that stays with them. Jonathan recalls his first dinner on campus as Cajun Sausage Pasta Alfredo, something he says he will never forget.
From early on in his time on campus, his houseparents saw his potential to be a leader in the cottage. “He’s always been a great kid,” his housemom shared, “he will volunteer to do stuff when I ask for the boys to do something without complaining.” As summer progressed, Jonathan felt genuine relationships starting to form between him and his houseparents and him and student ministries coordinator, Benjamin Brewer. He started opening up more and found ways to better channel his anger. He also began to seek a relationship with Christ.
When Jonathan arrived on campus, he knew of God but he did not know God. He had never pursued a real relationship with Him. Children that live at Homes for Children are given many opportunities to learn about Christ. The cottages attend local churches on Sunday mornings and on Wednesday nights there is chapel hosted on campus. More than that though, staff members like Benjamin, spend time with the students helping them understand the Bible and what it means to be a Christian.
In March 2022, Jonathan attended a D-Now weekend at his church. D-Now is a weekend retreat for middle school and high school students with worship and Bible studies. The theme for the weekend was “Through the Storm” and Jonathan felt like God was talking to him because he was personally going through a big storm. One night during worship, he decided to make a life-changing decision. “I felt God touch my heart,” Jonathan shared. He walked up to the front and found Benjamin who was one of the leaders for the weekend. Benjamin walked Jonathan through a prayer to accept Jesus into his heart. Even after D-Now, Jonathan continued to deepen his relationship with Christ and started to look for more ways to become a leader around campus. He sought discipleship from some of the staff and feels like those interactions have helped him grow immensely.
During the summer of 2022, Jonathan traveled to the Dominican Republic with other students from Boothe Campus. In order to go on the trip, the students had to prove they were responsible and could handle a trip of this caliber. Jonathan had shown so much growth since coming to Homes for Children, the staff saw him as a great addition to the trip. He enjoyed the trip and getting to see a different way of life and the different hardships people face. “Us STCH Ministries kids think we have it all bad but we don’t have it as bad as them,” Jonathan shared. “They live without food sometimes but they are more welcoming than we are. They welcomed us into their homes.” This experience is something he will hold close to his heart forever.
Next, Jonathan was asked to attend the Association of Christian Childcare Administrators Youth Leadership Conference at Shepherd of the Ozarks in Arkansas. Jonathan and one other student attended with the intention of them learning how to become better leaders on campus. “It was a time that I got to step up and be a leader,” Jonathan shared. “It was touching because the other student from here got saved while we were there and I was able to pray over him the whole time.” Jonathan came home from the trip ready to share his experience and step up as a leader.
Every year in September, schools across the world participate in See You at the Pole. Students gather around the flagpole at their school and spend time in worship and prayer together. Jonathan stepped up this year to be the student leader for the event. He feels a calling on his life to feed into the lives of those around him. “I didn’t always have the best experiences growing up. I want to be able to help those that are in similar situations to mine. I want to help them get through that time. That’s my calling,” Jonathan shared.
Staff members from Boothe Campus continue to see the work that God is doing in and through Jonathan. “Jonathan has grown to be a respectful leader at school in his extracurricular activities especially athletics and on campus,” Greg Huskey, vice president of campus ministries shared. “He has shown leadership by taking responsibility. Jonathan has a great willingness to serve others, lending a hand whenever needed.” Benjamin Brewer shared, “Jonathan is one of the most thoughtful and servant-hearted kids out here. He is usually always looking to help and make life easier. He was having a bad day just the other day and came to an event and saw that some of us were running around busy, he put away his own stuff and helped us before he relaxed! He even said thank you for letting him help.”
When Jonathan first came to STCH Ministries he saw the people on campus as strangers. He saw God as a stranger. Through building relationships with staff and other students, Jonathan found a spiritual family. More importantly, these relationships allowed him to see God’s love for himself and as a result, Jonathan developed a true relationship with Him. Through this time, the leaders around him saw his potential and continued to pray and support him. Jonathan is forever thankful for the support from spiritual leaders that continue to pour into his life and hold him accountable. He is excited to see how God continues to use him as a leader on campus, in school and in life.