Sponsoring the Future

“My goodness, how you have grown!” How many times have we said those words to others whom we knew yesterday as small children? Days melded into months and years so quickly, and it seems overnight that the child has become a young adult. We have experienced similar moments with our sponsored Samuel’s Fund children, especially during the mission trips this summer.

It seems only a short time ago that we carried food and resources to the home of a Samuel’s Fund child. How their eyes widened and glowed at the sight of bread and milk, and special treats like peanut butter and cookies! Now some of these same children, grown into young adults, have joined our mission teams as translators. They assist in delivering food and resources to other sponsored children and their families and help with construction projects, orphanage ministry, and VBS classes.

Recently we asked Harold to share his testimony with a missions group. He is married to Sara, a lovely Christian girl, and works for Fed Ex. He expressed his gratitude for the sponsorship that paid for his schooling and allowed him to learn English. Today he is a leader in the IBQ church and pastors another “daughter” church during his off time.

“Samuel’s Fund sponsorship enabled me to get an education and learn English. That is the reason that today I have a good job and can support my family and my church,” he says.

Harold is just one of many examples of the impact of the Samuel’s Fund sponsorship program. It is an investment in the future of churches and families in the Dominican Republic.

Germinating Seeds of Love

For the last 10 years, every mission team has included at least one day of orphanage ministry in their busy schedules–providing training and needed resources, building needed projects, and sharing enrichment activities like an outing to the aquarium or the underground caves. Through every activity, our desire was to share Christ’s love and encourage the staff.

Over the last year, however, we sensed God drawing our attention to the ineffectiveness of our “hit-and-run” ministry to those children. Because our IBQ headquarters are between 1.5 and 3 hours distance from the orphanages, a “day” with the children actually consisted of 4-5 hours—a shared meal, a few games, and a devotional—and we were loading up the bus and saying goodbye. We realized that spending more time at the orphanages was a prerequisite for building a relationship, and a relationship was necessary to effectively share love and encouragement.

This summer we are grateful for the flexibility of teams as we have experimented with more time invested at the orphanages. This required packing an overnight bag, towels and a favorite pillow, groceries, and the all-essential coffee maker; loading up sports equipment, baking supplies, crafts and paint, saws, hammers, screws and nails. It also required spending several nights in unfamiliar situations, sometimes without air conditioning, and adjusting to a menu not quite up to the standards of the IBQ kitchen.

Each mission team came prepared for various activities. Bear Creek Baptist Church from Katy painted orphanage roofs and ceilings, added screens to windows, and shelves for clothes. University Baptist Church from Clear Lake built playhouses–a workshop complete with toy hammers, saws, and measuring tapes. And a kitchen with plastic fruits and vegetables, pots, and dishes. They shared training for caregivers in one orphanage and nurturing activities and Bible studies for the staff at another. All spent quality time with the children.

How can a mission team give value to a child who has been traumatized and placed in an orphanage? We can love. We can get on their level and make eye contact. We can listen. We can hug. We can sing and play and laugh with them. We can admire and affirm their “wins” in games or crafts. By faith we can plant seeds of love, and trust God to germinate in each heart. We may never see the results, but sometimes God gives us a glimpse of His work.

Jose sat angrily, arms folded on the sidelines, refusing to participate. “Can we talk together?” asked Emelin. “No, I don’t want to talk to anybody.” “Okay, can I give you a hug?” “No, I don’t want anyone to touch me!” Emelin affirmed him and the activity continued. The next day Jose approached Emelin. “Today, I would like to talk to you.” The conversation began and ended with a hug…which Jose initiated!

Spending more time at the orphanage created a relationship. Love germinated and sprouted a hug!

Stitched with Love

“Gifts of handmade quilts wrap people in God’s love and symbolically demonstrate that Jesus and His disciples care;
the quilts represent the ultimate security blanket.” – Stitches of Love Quilting Ministry vision statement

For nearly as long as European immigrants have been on our soil, American patchwork quilts have represented comfort, security, and a place to belong. For more than sixty years, STCH Ministries Homes for Children has provided the same for children in crisis. For thirteen years now, the quilting ministry, “Stitches of Love”, of University Baptist Church (UBC) in Houston has partnered with Homes for Children to create unique quilts for each graduating class. These handcrafted gifts ensure that the assurance of comfort, security, and a place to belong continue long past high school graduation for the young people in our care.

Erin DeCola has lived at STCH Ministries for almost three years, and she is one of the five high school graduates we celebrated at Homes for Families this spring. After receiving her quilt, Erin tells us, “I really love my quilt and it means a lot that these ladies made it. It is something that I can pass down for many generations to come.”

Kyrenda Lambert grew up watching both her grandmother and mom quilt by hand. She remembers the wooden quilting frames that hung from the ceiling at her grandma’s home where the women gathered and worked together. When she and her longtime friend Donna Bennet saw the opportunity to take a quilting class at San Jacinto Community College, they were hooked. Stiches of Love is the result of that class.

“It’s about fellowship and living life together. We minister to each other as we sew, “ Kyrenda says.

Stitches of Love functions as both fellowship for believers and an outreach ministry for the church. The group is described as “women of all ages (early 30s – 93 years old) who enjoy quilting, coming together for learning, sharing experiences, working on their own quilts, and working on quilts that will be donated as an outreach to those within and beyond our walls.” Kyrenda and Donna wanted the group to have a purpose, to create ministry quilts for people experiencing difficult moments in life.

Every year, UBC quilters create a personalized quilt for each of the high school seniors who graduate while in care at Homes for Children. Each blanket is personalized to showcase the teen’s interests and favorite colors. In 2018, the graduating class received their quilts during a special graduate celebration of “Senior Chapel” at Wednesday night Chapel on Boothe Campus.

Isaiah, Haley, Erin, Joshua, and Mary we here at Homes for Children are proud of you. Our prayers and support go with you, we hope the quilt is a physical reminder of that support as you move forward to the next step God is showing you. Ezra 10:4 states, “Arise! For this matter is your responsibility, but we will be with you; be courageous and act.”

Volunteer Spotlight

Julie Strayer has a passion for teaching money management, and she can’t imagine not doing so.

As a volunteer teacher for STCH Ministries Faith & Finances, Julie helps individuals, couples, and entire families learn how to make a spending plan, manage debt and loans, live more simply, and set goals for saving.

“Faith and Finances is the best title in the world to me,” Julie explained, “because I’m sold out on people getting their finances in order and I’m sold out on faith.”

“Julie Strayer is one of the most passionate and high energy volunteers we have ever met!” said Jimmy Rodriguez, Director of Faith & Finances in Corpus Christi. “She is a busy and successful businesswoman who finds time to follow her calling to help others, and she also recruits business colleagues and fellow church members to help out.”

Julie’s conviction that wise money management is the key to a successful life runs deep. She and her husband Stewart both grew up in homes that modeled how to spend and save wisely. Their habit of always setting aside reserves enabled them to survive three-month stretches without a paycheck as they built a small business and raised their family.

It stirs Julie’s heart to hear students’ stories about the consequences of poor money management.

“One sad situation is people taking out payday loans to hold them over until their next paycheck,” Julie shared. “God says the borrower is slave to the lender, and these six-month payday loans are charging 60 to 70 percent interest! We’ve got to do something to help people overcome the obstacles that keep them trapped. Faith & Finances classes are a beginning.”

“I love that you don’t have to be brilliant to learn about personal finance,” Julie continued. “You can be normal and average and become financially secure. Managing finances is a basic life skill you have to learn, just like driving a car. It burdens me that people aren’t learning it. The world is broken, and it encourages us to be broke…to spend every penny we have. When you are financially broke, it is easy to get beaten down. Before long, every aspect of your life gets broken. But, when a person is willing to look at their finances and begin getting them in order, other areas of their life start falling into place. I truly believe that!”

STCH Ministries is grateful for volunteers like Julie who serve others through the things they are passionate about. What is your passion? To learn how you can serve, visitwww.STCHM.org/Ways-to-Help.

Loving the Functionally Fatherless

Living in the light of God’s Word is convicting. James writes that religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: “to visit orphans and widows in their affliction” (James 1:27).

Many of our kids come from functionally fatherless situations; it may be that there was a divorce, a death, absentee, or situational fatherlessness. The children’s home does not receive the parental rights to the children when they come into care. The individual placing the child remains the one with rights to the children. We are called to come alongside, ministering to the family and children with the love of Christ, being family-like.

As Father’s Day came this year, as in previous years, my phone received many text messages of “Happy Father’s Day!” As I age, I can gauge the era in which the sender of the text lived at the South Texas Children’s Home. If the text refers to me as “Greg”, then the sender lived here during the 90’s; and if they call me “Mr. Huskey”, then they were from the 2000’s. I am grateful for having all these kids in my life. Whether in church, at school, or at the home, I have never tried to be a father to the students. However, I have tried to be “father like” to all.

Thus, that brings me back to why we are called. We are called to love. Love is what God did for us to the point of the death of His son. No greater love than a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). Love is more than words, it is a call to action, a call to love “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40), to show the love of our Heavenly Father. He is our Daddy, Abba, and Father to the functionally fatherless.

And a final thought: without receiving God in our lives, we are functionally living, but spiritually fatherless. Let us freely give what we have freely received.

Submitted by Greg Huskey
Boothe Campus Administrator
STCH Ministries Homes for Children

Journal Wonderings

“The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me.”—Martin Luther

We may know a lot about the Bible.  We believe God’s promises.  We memorize verses and repeat sayings like: “Prayer changes things,” “With God all things are possible,” and “I can do all things through Christ.”  Perhaps the greatest benefit for mission trip participants happens when those words jump off the pages of our Bibles and are actualized through our experiences and our heightened dependence on God.

FBC Newark, FBC Canyon Lake, and FBC Corpus Christi joined Dr. Shane Scott and his family from Mississippi, to form possibly the most diverse mission trip of the summer.  A few days later, the veteran teams from FBC Kenedy and Trinity Baptist Church in Kerrville were joined by newcomers from Oak Ridge Baptist Church in Portland. Both mission weeks were full of opportunities to live out God’s promises.

When the estimated VBS crowd of 200 swelled to 325 children, the verse “my God will supply all your needs” became very real for the Oak Ridge team.  Somehow the VBS craft and refreshments stretched, and with the STCH Ministries International team and translators leading the way, the group celebrated a God-sized victory.

Pastors from the teams also led a day-long conference for Dominican pastors.

The previous week Pastor Brian from FBC Corpus Christi preached two sermons on Sunday, while others stepped up at the last minute to teach men, women, children, and teens at the Saturday evening Family Fiesta.  The team rushed back from their market-beach day and in record time took up their positions to serve hot dogs to the crowd. The verse “I can do all things through Christ” provided wisdom, energy, and stamina.

“With God all things are possible” proved true for inexperienced hands with no construction experience, who felt overwhelmed.  Moments later, they held drills, used electric sanders and routers, and made 15 bookshelves for schools.  The same promise foretold the resulting two-story home built for a Samuel’s Fund family.  Both experienced workers and greenhorns were joined by the family in a marathon construction endeavor.

Every mission team spends some time at one of the orphanages that STCH Ministries helps to sponsor. Teams took the Monte Plata children to see the underground caves, treated the Higuey orphanage boys to an outing at the aquarium, then shopped for shoes.

Another team packed an overnight bag and loaded on a bus to the Santiago orphanage.  Within minutes of arrival, they crossed the street to “love their neighbors as themselves.” Some taught and others played with the children. Some held babies, fed them, and changed their diapers.  So many beautiful children, so few workers, so little hope for their future opportunities. The experience profoundly impacted the team.  In a country with legal issues, a lack of resources, and a flawed concept of child care, there seems to be an impenetrable barrier for change.  Except…except we believe “prayer changes things.”

The question becomes: Will that promise jump off the pages of our Bibles?  Will those words run after us, become hands that lay hold of us?   In spite of our busy, scheduled lives here in America, can we remember to faithfully pray, believing that prayer WILL change things?  These children and many more depend on those prayers.

Reaping with Joy

Several young people and staff from STCH Ministries Homes for Children formed their own unique mission team last week—ministering to children and young people in the Dominican Republic. At the end of the trip they shared, “We loved the entire week.”

It was humbling, eye-opening, and “mucho caliente” (very hot) as they rebuilt a home for a Samuel’s Fund family. They also conducted VBS and spent some time at the Monte Plata orphanage where they gave manicures, baked, played with children, and shared their testimonies. When Ramon Prensa, founder of the home, shared his story, the STCH Ministries team marveled at the similarity between his faith journey and Laura Boothe’s journey to begin a children’s home in South Texas so many years ago.

This mission trip was especially unique for Patty Kinnamon, commissary supervisor at Boothe Campus. In 2007, Patty and her husband Marvin were houseparents and took part in one of our first mission trips to the DR. At the time, we did not have the infrastructure that our teams now enjoy, and the trip was a difficult experience. Over 100 children spoke in high decibels and all at the same time in Spanish. Tropical sun and heat, primitive conditions, along with a typical native diet of boiled green bananas and salami, altogether the circumstances created a significant level of culture shock for the team.

On the trip, Marvin had the responsibility of supervising the boys’ cabin at a summer camp. When he tried to get them to stay in their beds, one child threw a shoe at him and the rest impetuously joined, pelting him with their shoes. Despite his best efforts, he found the boys to be unmanageable. Marvin came away with the feeling that he just couldn’t get through to these children.

In 2015, Marvin Kinnamon passed away and moved his permanent home address to Heaven. He is still greatly missed by all of us at STCH Ministries.

When Patty returned to the DR, she was re-introduced to Victor and Argenis Berroa, twin brothers who participated in the infamous shoe assault directed at Marvin. Today they are Godly young men, leaders in the IBQ church, helpers for our mission teams, and recipients of CLEP scholarships for their university studies.

“When did you give your lives to Christ?” Patty asked.

“In 2007,” they answered.

For a minute Patty was wistful. “I wish Marvin could have seen this fruit from our efforts that seemed so hopeless back then.” Then she reflected, “From his perspective, I know he already does.”

One plants, others water and cultivate, but always God’s Spirit germinates His Word and brings forth changed lives and eternal life.

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Galatians 6:9, NKJV

Marriage Counseling

A husband and wife in the San Antonio area felt hopeless about their marriage so they turned to STCH Ministries Family Counseling. Over the course of their sessions, they got very intentional about spending time together and reading the books suggested to them by their counselor. They made sure to never miss a counseling session and took to heart the topics discussed in each session. They were diligent to show forgiveness to their spouse and sought understanding too.

Recently they reported that their three daughters have noticed such a big change in their marriage. Their middle daughter, who had completely withdrawn several months ago, is now going on daddy/daughter dates and has become much more open. Their family has also experienced many other successful moments since this couple began marriage counseling.

We have no doubt that God will finish the amazing work He has started with this family!

Submitted by Family Counseling – San Antonio

Suicide Is Preventable

Suicide is preventable and mental illness is manageable—and you don’t have to walk this journey alone. This is the message that we share with parents and teens.

Recently a local pastor called our counseling office in San Antonio thanking our staff for sharing this message with him, his staff, and families in his church. The presentation raised awareness about suicide prevention, depression, grief, and steps to follow when someone is suicidal. Because we were able to have these hard conversations, this pastor new exactly what to do when one of the teens he ministers to approached him about having suicidal thoughts.

A tragedy was averted, help was available, and hope was restored for this teen and family!

Submitted by Family Counseling – San Antonio

Ablaze with the Glory of God’s Work

Jesus said that the greatest commandments were to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind, and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. When we dedicate our time and talents to God, when we serve others with excellence, we are both loving our neighbors and loving God. The Christian Medical and Dental Association of San Antonio joined STCH Ministries International to love Dominican children and families through medical and dental clinics hosted the last week of May 2018. More than 700 children and individuals were blessed.

It would be difficult to estimate the cumulative cost in terms of time away from work, transportation and lodging, medicines, equipment, etc. for this team of doctors, dentists, students, and helpers. The value of their ministry was priceless in terms of patients who were loved and prayed over, heard the Gospel, had their physical health impacted, had pain reduced or eliminated, and the enhanced welfare of families and children.

The work is not always glorious. The facilities (except for our modern and well-equipped dental clinic) were not designed for medical work. The weather alternated between tropical downpours, bright sun, and the sauna effect of that combination. Doctors and medical students sometimes sat in children’s desks to consult patients. Generators, fans, barking dogs, rain pounding on zinc roofs, children crying—together the sounds created a new definition of “white noise”. Questions and instructions began in Spanish, translated to English, then back to Spanish, then English again until “Si, entiendo,” was reached. (“Yes, I understand.”)

Jointly conducting dental and medical clinics with several dentists, doctors, and medical and dental students requires many helpers. Some cleaned instruments, others registered patients, and some served as runners between waiting patients, doctors, and the pharmacy. Others held babies or blew balloons with children while Mom consulted with the doctor. More than 18 translators joined with STCH Ministries staff and interns. Together they became an effective body of Christ, and fulfilled the mission to honor God, reach hurting children and families, and enable others to join us.

To paraphrase the words of Tim Keller in the book Every Good Endeavor: Our gospel-trained eyes saw the Dominican world ablaze with the glory of God’s work through the efforts of this mission team—in everything from the simplest actions of translating, or giving a cup of water, to the most skillfully trained medical and dental professionals. When we are engaged in work that enhances the welfare of families and children, we are engaged in work that matters to God.