Made to be More

High school and college graduations are a time of celebration. A time to reflect on the years of hard work leading up to the moment when the next chapter of life begins. For three siblings, John, Mary and Edna, their recent high school and college graduations held a deep meaning as they paused to recognize how far they had come through their formal education and personal lives. If you would have asked them seven years ago if this moment would ever be a reality, they would have told you no. But in June 2014, God moved them to STCH Ministries Homes for Children, and their lives were forever changed.

Edna was 12 when she and her two older siblings moved to Boothe Campus. Child Protective Services (CPS) removed them from their family in 2014 and placed them under Permanent Managing Conservatorship which meant they were to remain in the state’s care. CPS placed them at STCH Ministries Homes for Children, and even though they were not all in the same cottage, they stayed together as a family. Edna recalled what it meant to stay together, saying, “It was a comfort. We were going through it together. We were experiencing everything together, and we could bounce ideas off of each other. It was good to have each other and to have that continued relationship with them.”

Mary arrived at Youker Cottage the day before her 15th birthday. When initially placed, the campus did not have room for the sisters to be housed together, but a week later, they moved in together at Barnes Cottage. The girls grew close to their houseparents quickly and attribute their success to the support they received. John came in a month before his 17th birthday and moved into Brown Cottage. He also created a deep relationship with his houseparents and still relies heavily on their support.

Prior to coming to Boothe Campus, the three siblings had not received any formal education. They had never set foot in a classroom, let alone a public-school classroom. They arrived on campus in the summer, so they were able to build relationships with some of the other children before going to school in the fall. Even with a foundation of friendship, the first day still shocked them. John entered school as a sophomore, but due to the fact he did not complete a freshman year he took double classes. He recalled his experience, sharing, “According to the state, I was considered a freshman, but the school put me in as a sophomore. I had a very weird high school schedule. I started out with English 3 then worked my way backward. English 3 one year, then 1 and 2 the next, then 4 my senior year. I also had both Algebra 1 and Geometry my first year.”

Mary started school as a freshman but struggled initially since she missed many of the academic building blocks in previous years. The school placed Edna in 6th grade, a year behind other students her age. From the start, all three siblings worked hard to prove that they could succeed. They attended tutoring in the mornings with Ms. Thiede, Ms. Staples and Ms. Custer. “If there was one day of the week that I didn’t go to Ms. Thiede’s, it was Monday mornings because we had the weekend to do homework. Other than that, we would go to her classroom, finish eating our breakfast, talk for a little bit and then work. She cared about our lives outside of the classroom, but she also pushed us. She would give us practice sheets and things to work on, and she would never say, even about simple math problems, ‘Oh you should know this.’ She was always very kind and would celebrate with us,” said Mary as she reminisced about her time in tutoring. All three siblings remain very thankful for the support they received from their teachers at Pettus Junior High and Pettus High School.

Over time, John and Mary’s hard work paid off. John completed school in three years and graduated salutatorian of his class. A year later, Mary graduated salutatorian of her class. Edna viewed her older siblings as role models and watched as they set the bar high. “Throughout my junior high years, I felt like I was in my siblings’ shadow; that I was not capable of reaching the same achievements they did. However, I just had to realize that I was writing my own story. I know now that it is not about the accomplishments, the awards or even the ranking but about how you make your story unique,” said Edna during her high school commencement address. Not only did Edna accept the challenge set forth by her siblings, she exceeded their academic successes and graduated valedictorian of the 2021 senior class at Pettus High School.

The three siblings’ stories do not end with high school though. Edna is excited to continue writing her story as she attends Hardin-Simmons University in the fall. Edna will study social work, and she plans to become a medical social worker. While living on Boothe Campus, her housepop became ill and needed continuous medical care. Edna sat back and watched as her housemom dealt with hospitals and doctors, and in turn, saw the value of a career as a medical social worker. “I think it would be really cool to connect people with the resources that they need. What locked it in for me was just seeing them work with everybody through his sickness,” Edna shared as she reflected on the recent season of life.

Mary graduated from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in May 2021 with a degree in social work. She attributes her time in CPS care to her desire to be a social worker. The siblings had three or four different CPS caseworkers throughout their time at Homes for Children as well as the caseworkers from STCH Ministries. Mary shared how this impacted her, saying, “You really saw a difference in the ones who really cared and really went the extra mile. That is so evident.” This fall she will continue her education by attending the University of Texas – Arlington to pursue her master’s in social work. “I want to help kids understand this doesn’t define you. Your story goes on, this is not the end of it,” Mary shared. Her desire is to see children succeed and realize they have a purpose in life no matter where their journey began.

John graduated with a degree in range and wildlife management from Texas A&M Kingsville in May 2021. He will continue his education in pursuit of a master’s degree in range and wildlife management. John found his passion for this field while living on Boothe Campus. Homes for Children takes the children on hunts every year, and in this setting, John met game wardens and biologists. John would ask them questions, and they would take the time to not only answer the questions but truly explain and educate him. “Ultimately that’s my dream job. Finding somewhere to be able to do that, to educate,” John shared. These experiences led him to where he is now, with the ability to give back and impact lives in the same way his life was impacted.

The three siblings’ faith also grew during their years at Boothe Campus. In her time with STCH Ministries, Edna learned many things from her houseparents, including how to walk with the Lord. “Papa would do our devotions and pray for us and pray with us. He was the one who talked to me when I wanted to give my life to God. He was the one that made sure I knew what I was doing and the value of the decision. He was the one who baptized me. I would have taken the long route to find God if they wouldn’t have shown me this is who He is. This is why we do what we do. This is why we love you. This is love. He is love,” Edna shared. Edna knew about church and God before coming to STCH Ministries but did not have the relationship with Him that she does now. She thanks her houseparents and other Homes for Children staff for their guidance throughout her time on campus.

John and Mary both felt like they had a strong relationship with God before coming to Homes for Children, but after attending church regularly with their houseparents and seeing the way their houseparents lived out their faith, they started to see things in a different light. These two siblings both left for college with a renewed sense of what it meant to follow Christ. They sought out churches where they could get involved and grow spiritually. “Part of it is me growing in my faith and walk with Christ, but the other is being able to love who I am in Christ now. This year is the first time that I could honestly say that I love myself as a person,” said John. They both lead in their churches and love the ability to help others grow in their walks. They attribute this desire to lead to houseparents and other staff on Boothe Campus who showed them what it means to truly follow Jesus.

“I know when I came to STCH Ministries I had this idea of myself that I was this person who was damaged goods and was someone who was so tainted that I couldn’t really truly move forward, and I no longer see myself as that,” explained Mary. “I don’t have to think of myself in that way anymore. To know that someone can say, ‘You can be more, and I believe that you are made to be more. You don’t have to stay where you’re at.’ That’s hope.”

John, Mary and Edna shared that without STCH Ministries they would not be where they are today. They would not have dreamed of college, let alone master’s programs. The siblings attribute a large part of their growth to the counselors, caseworkers, houseparents, Boothe Campus staff and teachers in the Pettus school district. Today, each of the siblings recognize the intrinsic value of their lives because of Christ and know that long before their first day at Homes for Children, they were made to be more.

Faith & Finances Volunteers Across Texas

As local communities emerge from an extended season of uncertainty, STCH Ministries Faith & Finances courses are positioned to help where people need it most. With three Texas locations in Houston, San Antonio and Corpus Christi, these training sites reach expansive regions with a message of financial hope. All courses are operated by generous volunteers who bring a solid knowledge and understanding of money matters from careers in the financial sector. In partnership with these professionals, students benefit from the practical guidance and direction of volunteers who model a healthy integration of faith and finances within their personal lives.

The Faith & Finances volunteers lead busy lives yet consistently find the time to give back in a way that aligns with their professional calling while furthering the gospel. Eddie Zuniga lives in Houston and works as a financial planner at Edward Jones. While his tenure within the company sits at four years, Eddie’s exposure to the world of financial planning extends to 2010 when he first became an Edward Jones client.

Eddie revealed that his financial acuity did not materialize overnight, and it took years to become fiscally savvy. Because of this, Eddie recognizes the value of the Faith & Finances course and believes it provides a safe space for people to think about money differently. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Eddie. “No other group does it better than STCH Ministries. Faith & Finances connects Christianity with behaviors. After this, everything else falls into place.”

While reflecting on his path to volunteer work, Eddie recognized the privilege he holds as a course facilitator where his pro bono contributions directly impact the community. He finds purpose in
connecting personal core beliefs with his career. Eddie notes, “When I see people release themselves from debt it is the coolest thing ever. Helping someone get to retirement is a goal, but helping someone find fulfillment is an achievement.”

Even with a background in financial planning, Eddie avoids a hard sell on investments for new students as he sees this wealth-building strategy as the cherry on top. Eddie reminds his classes that money is a tool, but without a goal rooted in truth, vulnerabilities and misdirection arise. “God has a plan for you,” says Eddie. “Don’t miss out on what God can do through your finances and for your family and community.”

Two hundred miles southwest of Houston lies the community of Corpus Christi, Texas. Here, Lavonne Spears volunteers with a local Faith & Finances program. As the employee development supervisor for CoastLife Credit Union, Lavonne spends her working hours training staff in the company’s products and services. With a financial career spanning 29 years, she finds fulfillment by discussing savings and lending topics with students in her class. “When I see that light turn on for others, it’s so rewarding.” Lavonne adds, “But the most rewarding thing is to see somebody free. To see that bondage lifted off of them. To see people now filled with hope and bypass their desperate situations.”

Lavonne began her volunteer work with STCH Ministries as a guest speaker and slowly integrated into a teaching role four years ago. “This volunteer work has taught me obedience,” said Lavonne. “The Bible says, ‘Go ye therefore into all the world and preach and teach the gospel.’ This is the gospel. Be obedient to what God has called you to do, and He will connect it all. This is my way of tying work and faith together.”

Throughout the course, many students encounter “aha!” moments where everything comes together. As the course instructor, Lavonne experienced her own moment of clarity when she looked down at a one-dollar bill and read, “In God we trust.” This prompted her to further pursue the concept of finding God’s will within her money. “I now see how God was really working things out for us to live with purpose and for us to be helpers from one to another.” Lavonne continued, “Faith & Finances is an awesome program, and even through the pandemic, God provided ways for us to do this virtually. We were able to reach even more people than before.”

On a personal level, Lavonne sees why it’s important to integrate faith into work. She recognized firsthand that students who complete the course leave with a tangible connection between their spiritual life and careers. Following hours of course preparation, Lavonne noticed how her Faith & Finances training grants her more freedom to talk about how faith should connect with money. Throughout her time as a volunteer, Lavonne witnessed people move from homelessness to security and eventually create and sustain a savings account. “They had lost everything,” Lavonne recalled. “It’s truly God’s hands and feet moving through this program.”

Today she encourages her local community to find a way to take the course. “Just take it. There are things you can add to the class and also things you can take from the class. It’s an exchange, and everybody brings something to the table. Don’t think you can’t be helped because you can. There is hope for everyone.”

In San Antonio, Texas, 150 miles northwest of Corpus Christi, Nick Holguin volunteers as a Faith & Finances instructor while serving as the CEO of Baptist Credit Union. Nick is within his first year of teaching the course, and he brings a unique perspective to each session as a previous Faith & Finances student. Surprised by its impact in his own life, Nick now feels fortunate to work in a place where he can live out his faith through vocation while pointing others to STCH Ministries resources.

As an advocate for the underserved in San Antonio, Nick regularly observes the results of poor financial education by way of expensive interest rates and bad credit. “It’s a matter of educating people who would otherwise be trapped in that cycle,” he says. “We’re using Faith & Finances as part of the credit union to teach the basics and the building blocks for financial stability.” Nick prioritizes the need to help credit union members experiencing hardships find refuge from dire situations.

With a personal story of financial and spiritual disconnect from his past, Nick speaks from experience when he shares how money is intrinsically tied to relationships. He sees how people value relationships more than anything else, yet too often, spending patterns do not reflect this value. “We need to consider our relationships and how they’re affected by how we spend or invest our money,” says Nick. He encourages people who are considering the Faith & Finances course to not waste another minute. “I’ve been a banker for 30 years and a CEO for 24 years, yet I didn’t understand how money was a part of my spiritual life,” Nick explains. “Once I understood that, I was able to make decisions filtered through the lens of faith being merged with finances.”

Eddie, Lavonne and Nick each bring unique gifts to the table as they freely offer their financial aptitudes to benefit their communities at large. Because of their willingness to walk alongside the financially disadvantaged, STCH Ministries volunteers get a front row seat to the redemptive work of Christ as vulnerable people find financial security.

Week of Hope – Celebrating 69 Years

Sixty-nine years ago in a rural Texas town, J.M. Lunsford stepped aside as the pastor of First Baptist Church Beeville with a desire to pivot toward a new venture in ministry. Harnessing a vision and property contributions from Laura Boothe, STCH Ministries found its way into existence in 1952 at the hands of two visionaries. This year, the organization celebrated 69 years in operation by inviting ministry partners, volunteers, class participants and supporters to participate in a series of events during Week of Hope. With a goal of raising $200,000 in seven days, friends of STCH Ministries gathered to celebrate the organization’s impact on the lives of children, families and local communities.

THE LEADERSHIP TEAM AND STAFF spent the first week of May traveling between six Texas locales where regional ministry sites hosted Week of Hope celebrations. Each open house event served as an opportunity to engage with supporters and partners in a face-to-face forum while enjoying food, site tours and meaningful connection. Following a year of virtual events and programming, the team recognized the importance of reinforcing the bonds between the organization and its valued supporters. Through the generosity of several anonymous donors, the team announced that all monetary gifts received during Week of Hope would be matched up to $100,000.

The first event kicked off in Pettus, Texas, at Boothe Campus on Monday, May 3. The Homes for Children team welcomed local supporters with open arms as they recounted STCH Ministries’ growth throughout the years. In the 1950s, the organization began with 10 children living in a small home. Today, this campus houses children from birth to age 17 in multiple cottages with loving houseparents and extensive activities and opportunities for personal development.

On Tuesday, May 4, the team prepared for two events in Corpus Christi, Texas. The morning gathering showcased the counseling ministry as guests mingled throughout the Corpus Christi Counseling and International Office. This ministry area provides care for individuals, couples and families through scheduled sessions with professional counselors who provide a safe environment for clients to process difficult emotions and situations. The afternoon event allowed Faith & Work and Faith & Finances class participants to visit the Corpus Christi headquarters and say hello. These two training programs provide equipping opportunities for the intersection of faith, career and money. By Tuesday evening, the fundraising goal reached the halfway mark of
$100,000 in donations. STCH Ministries’ staff celebrated this milestone as they pushed ahead into the middle of the week.

On Wednesday, May 5, the day began outdoors under a large white tent where the future Jack Green Counseling Center will break ground in the coming months. STCH Ministries President and CEO Eron Green spoke to the attendees and oversaw the site dedication ceremony. Event attendance included Jack Green’s daughter and daughter-in-law as well as members from local churches and the community at large. By Wednesday evening, a second site dedication began in Goliad, Texas, on the Homes for Families campus. Here, mothers and children from Marshall Ranch gathered alongside others in the community at the future site for a new multi-purpose building.

After two additional open house events in Houston and San Antonio to close out the week on Thursday and Friday, the $200,000 fundraising goal was nearly met. Throughout the following hours,
generous donors continued to give. Before the week ended, STCH Ministries exceeded its fundraising goal with donations totaling over $237,000 from over 240 donors.

In a social media update the following week, the STCH Ministries team expressed their gratitude for a successful Week of Hope. “We want to say a huge thank you to everyone who made STCH Ministries Week of Hope last week such a success! We exceeded our goal of raising $200,000 in a week and had great turnouts at all of our open houses. We are blessed by an amazing staff that worked hard to prepare their locations and welcomed everyone with a smile. We still can’t believe we are celebrating 69 years of ministry and can’t wait to see how God continues to move for the next 69!”

Each of the seven open house events served as an opportunity for ministry partners, volunteers, class participants and supporters to learn more about STCH Ministries’ mission and connect with staff. While speaking to Week of Hope event attendees, president and CEO Eron Green consistently communicated that all donations, no matter the size, propel STCH Ministries forward in healing hearts and sharing hope.

Kyle Luke, STCH Ministries vice president of development and communications, recently sent a letter to Week of Hope donors, saying, “The Lord has truly blessed STCH Ministries in many ways and you are one of those blessings! Your support makes it possible for many to hear about the love of Christ—which changes lives forever. Thank you, again, for your continued commitment to STCH Ministries. Plans are already underway for next year as we will celebrate 70 years of ministry. Please continue to pray for STCH Ministries as we continue in healing hearts and sharing hope.”

With a threefold purpose, Week of Hope accomplished its goal to celebrate 69 years of ministry, re-engage new and existing supporters and raise $200,000 to fund the mission of STCH Ministries. As the week concluded, the team expressed profound gratitude to those who gave financially and through in-kind donations that stocked the commissaries at Homes for Children and Homes for Families with highly needed items like toothpaste, disinfecting wipes and cereal. “Thank you again for your commitment to STCH Ministries,” said Eron Green. “Let’s celebrate God’s Work as He continues to heal the lives of children and families—together we impact lives.”

Through the work of caring staff who reflect God’s love, thousands of children and families are forever changed. From decade to decade, the past 69 years clearly display God’s provision, and year after year, the mission remains the same. STCH Ministries is in the business of healing hearts and sharing hope, and as the organization moves into its 70th year, the journey continues throughout Texas and on an international scale.

Supporting Hope

A young boy living on dirt floors, hauling water for cooking and bathing in a two-gallon can, then walking in baking sun, or clay-like mud
to half-day school. Nevertheless, he dreams of becoming a doctor. In another country village, a truck careens down a hill and smashes
the leg of a child living in poverty. Without medical care she would die of gangrene, or at best her leg will be amputated.

IMAGINE HOPE for these children.

STCH Ministries took root in the middle of brush country outside of Beeville in 1952. Action-based, the vision of healing hearts and sharing hope expanded to nine different ministries including children and families in the Dominican Republic. Hope envisions possibilities beyond despair. Hope excites and inspires. However, hope dims, and the shine wears off of vision when facing
daunting realities: isolated villages, dirt floors, alcoholism, poverty, hundreds of thousands of single moms and fatherless children.

In 2020 when the pandemic hit the Dominican Republic, the country locked down immediately. Government support was nonexistent
for the majority of the population. Food was hard to access, limited in quantity. The STCH Ministries family of donors responded
generously as hope became rice and beans for several months.

As people huddled fearfully in their homes, the government closed schools and ordered distance learning. Without computers and technical support, teachers were discouraged and overwhelmed. STCH Ministries donors responded again with their support. Dominican Republic ministry partners scoured the island to purchase laptops and tablets for teachers and the children in our
orphanages and Christian schools. But how to effectively use them with weak and spotty internet service?

Loyal IT is one of the largest managed service providers of technology in Central Texas, serving over fifty businesses and thirty non-profit establishments. They provide on-call tech support,
unlimited remote support and technology consulting. COVID-19 brought an explosion of technology needs in Texas and around the world. Yet in the midst of all of that, Marco Leal, owner, and Will Krauss, CEO, flew to the Dominican Republic to upgrade internet capacity at their own expense. Recently we asked, “Why? What motivates you?” Will answered,

“I have always found that my faith in God and my fascination for technology and connectivity has helped me wind up where I am today as the CEO of Loyal IT. At Loyal IT we believe we can help Christian ministries focus on their “WHY?” by making their complex technology needs our mission.”

Will went on to say, “One of the things I love the most about our work is that the owner, Marco Leal, is a strong believer and
shares the same values in our walk with God and love for people.”

Marco’s answer was deeply personal.

“I started my first computer electronics venture in March of 2000, and our store was wildly successful. I was realizing my dream come true, when 9/11 and a recession brought catastrophic results. Everything we had accumulated was gone in a couple of months.

In 2002, we decided to change the business structure from an electronics store to a service company. I worked longer hours, even kept the store open on Sunday in the attempt to make ends meet. The situation seemed hopeless. Family life suffered. I questioned God and doubted His presence. It seemed that the more I doubted Him, the more my life would deteriorate. I remember a stranger telling me, ‘My friend, you need to take your will and your life and place it in God’s hands.’ I chuckled and arrogantly replied, ‘How do you suggest I go about placing my life in these invisible hands?’ The message stuck in my head, but I was not ready to try that approach. The feelings of guilt, shame and failure continued omnipresent until I found myself in bed crying out, ‘God, catch me! I am falling!’

If you could combine every amazing feeling in the world and feel them all at once, it would describe what it felt like to fall in God’s hands. My problems did not disappear overnight, but I no longer
felt alone. I simply wanted to serve everyone. With this renewed life and mindset, the following year our business became twenty times more profitable than the six previous years combined.”

Marco summarized, “Today we teach our team members at Loyal IT to go above and beyond in our service. Regardless of whether we are called to serve a front desk clerk, a president & CEO or a volunteer at a homeless shelter, we should serve them all with same level of sincere gratitude.” Will added, “We often recall Matthew 5:41 which says ‘Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.’ Going the second mile and giving amazing service to our clients is what we love to do.”

In November 2020, Marco and Will boarded a plane in Austin and went not only a second mile but 2000 miles. They shared their hearts for service and their talents for technology to improve internet service for many sites. Their support rekindled a strong beacon of hope during a dark time for schools and orphanages in the Dominican Republic. Formerly fearful and discouraged, teachers’ ability to prepare lessons and communicate with their students gave new energy as everyone re-dedicated themselves to the new normal of learning.

Marco and Will reported at the end of their trip, “We love going down to the DR and using our gifts in technology to help the ministries of STCH Ministries. We absolutely love our relationship
with STCH Ministries. We are excited to continue our trips with your team to minister in the fields that God has put in your care.”

Healing hearts and sharing hope is never a one-and-done project. It is like assembling a puzzle, taking hundreds of little pieces to accomplish. Transforming hope into a concrete reality requires support from hundreds of seemingly unrelated individuals and churches and businesses. Volunteers who go on mission trips contribute their piece, those who give donations also help to fill in pieces as we create a picture of hope for children and families.

Together, we reflect God’s love and give hope to each child and family we are able to reach. The young boy who only dreamed of becoming a doctor, today ministers as Dr. Francisco Paredes with STCH Ministries International. Dr. Francisco was able to rescue the child with a crushed leg. Over two months of continual care, he worked with specialists and eventually saved her leg.

Supporting hope involves vision. It continues through God’s leading and calling of individuals. The process requires sacrifice, prayer and trust in God and obedience to His calling. Investment of skills—medical, dental, teachers, construction, sewing and technology—all are part of the great army of God to spread the Good News of salvation and rebirth.

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

WHILE SUPPORTERS GATHERED at the Victoria Country Club on an early day in June, STCH Ministries and Bluebonnet Youth Ranch announced a new partnership in an effort to support single mothers and children. With the new program situated onsite at Bluebonnet Youth Ranch, the joint initiative will be called Homes for Families at Bluebonnet Ranch.

This strategic venture comes at a time when increased regulations and obstacles within the care of children are difficult and often overbearing. With those challenges, the cost of caring for children
continues to rise and is only expected to increase.

After many meetings and discussions, it was unanimously decided by both organizations to partner together and serve single mothers and their children on the Yoakum campus. In the coming days, STCH Ministries will open its doors to those seeking a safe place to live during a time of crisis with available resources to keep families together.

Claud Jacobs, one of the founders of Bluebonnet Youth Ranch, stated, “Just like life changes, so do organizations. It has been the pleasure of my lifetime to be a part of Bluebonnet Youth Ranch over the past 50 plus years. By partnering, Bluebonnet Youth Ranch and STCH Ministries will be able to serve more children with a more efficient use of funds, staff and facilities. This partnership is exciting. It brings together beautiful facilities and an organization with the manpower to provide a service to our community that fulfills the missions of both organizations. The future is bright with the two organizations working together.”

In 1972, Bluebonnet Youth Ranch served its first sibling group of two sisters in Yoakum, Texas, and almost 50 years later, its impact holds strong for more than 600 children. In the recent year, the leadership and board of directors of Bluebonnet Youth Ranch studied the impact of regulations and court decisions that directly impacted their ability to care for children. During this research, they contacted STCH Ministries to explore the existing procedures and methods used to care for children. Eron Green, president and CEO of STCH Ministries, was more than happy to help. Eron understood the challenges they faced as those same challenges were also present at STCH Ministries.

STCH Ministries served its first sibling group in 1952 at the Homes for Children campus in Pettus, Texas, and after almost 70 years, its legacy extends to thousands of children and nine distinct ministries aimed to serve children and families. “We are excited to be partnering with Bluebonnet Youth Ranch and look forward to continuing the legacy they established so many years ago,” Eron Green shared.

Homes for Families is led by Theresa Klacman, Director of Homes for Families, and she currently directs the Marshall Ranch in the Goliad area where an average of 10 moms and 25 children are served.

Robin Cadle, Chairwoman of the Bluebonnet Youth Ranch board of directors, stated, “As the mission statement for the Bluebonnet Youth Ranch clearly states, we are truly ‘committed to providing children with a safe, loving home and hope for a bright future.’ I strongly believe not only can we continue this mission by partnering with South Texas Children’s Home, but we can greatly enhance the situation for both children and their mothers. I am excited for the future as we move forward.”

The Homes for Families ministry consists of four phases to directly deal with common challenges in motherhood and support in parenting. The phases are designed to start at rock-bottom and build the families up to launch back into their community and land on two feet. The four phases are as follows:

PHASE I is the first step for each family when beginning the program, and it is called Restoration. Time is spent studying the Bible and learning the importance of developing a closer and more intimate relationship with God. Phase I is a very important transition as each mother learns to find solutions to childhood behavioral issues, the importance of healthy boundaries with others, inspiration to take initiative in daily tasks, the benefits of keeping a personal schedule and how to deal with conflict.

PHASE II is called Equipping and is geared toward supplying the necessary tools to experience success physically, intellectually and emotionally. This is accomplished through a continued intimacy with Jesus, deeper study of God’s Word, increased confidence by improving skills and the removal of obstacles that cause hindrances. Other goals of Phase II are to learn basic computer skills, how to communicate well with others, proper etiquette in the workplace and pursuit of a high school diploma or GED.

PHASE III is the Launch phase, and it is geared towards acting on learned concepts from Phase I and II. This is a time for individualized training to encourage the women to act on
what they have learned. The mothers seek employment or enrollment in college, work on interdependence, self-accountability, financial management and much more.

PHASE IV is the Landing phase and is geared to assist each family in securing a place to live and reintegrating into their community. Like Phase III, the mothers apply what they recently learned and are now independent with ongoing support from STCH Ministries during the transition. Other goals in Phase IV include finding an apartment or home for independent living, getting involved at a church and balancing family, school and employment at the same time.

Both STCH Ministries and Bluebonnet Youth Ranch share the ultimate goal of helping children and families during challenging times. No one could forecast one day both organizations would partner together, but everything is in God’s timing.

This partnership makes both organizations stronger and increases the capacity to serve more children and families. Claud Jacobs said it simply in his book A History of Caring: “Bluebonnet Youth Ranch had its beginnings based on a simple concept – neighbors helping neighbors.” He goes on to describe how many folks in Yoakum and surrounding areas put resources together to serve the families in need in the late 1960s. Now, more than 50 years later, neighbors are helping neighbors to partner in serving single mothers and their children as STCH Ministries and Bluebonnet Youth Ranch work together.

For more information about the partnership of STCH Ministries, Bluebonnet Youth Ranch and Homes
for Families, please visit www.STCHM.org/bluebonnet-ranch.

Blessed in the Midst

Hello, and welcome to the summer edition of our 2021 Messenger. Thank you for taking the time to read the stories and updates related to exciting happenings within our ministries!

We live in interesting times; some might say times of uncertainty. As you read through these pages you will grow to understand how uncertainty can lead to great opportunities. I am so excited about our partnership with Bluebonnet Youth Ranch, a great organization that has been a blessing to so many children since 1970. Bluebonnet reached a crossroads within their model of care due to uncertainty that was not their own doing. A changing environment of child welfare in Texas has left many organizations wondering how to continue to meet needs.

A huge thank you to everyone that made our first annual Week of Hope such a glowing success. Not only did we meet our $200,000 goal for funds raised, but we were able to connect with and see so many partners through our programs in many of our locations. We are already seeing the “fruits of our labors” as partnership seeds have been planted, watered and are now growing in ways that will help children and families in their time of need.

As you read you will see the end result of so much work and effort. These stories are not possible without a committed and dedicated team of people that desire to be used by God. We have a team that excels in the midst of calamity. A typical response in times of trouble is to turn and run. We know we are to be joyful and rejoice in the face of calamity, because we know the outcome. This should be our response in any time of trouble. God always has a purpose for the good of all involved, even if it is masked in our challenges.

In Psalm 46, the psalmist’s (David) first response is “Therefore we will not fear.” It sounds so simple. But we all know it is not that easy. Most of us have not been in the kind of circumstances David was in. We don’t know when he wrote this psalm, but he was speaking with the confidence of someone who had experienced God’s presence in times of trouble: in the face of a bear or lion, standing before Goliath, running for his life from Saul and facing the enemy numerous times in battle. We can count on David’s testimony. God will be there, and He will be our refuge and strength.

We have looked at the storm and at the Lord of the storm, who is in total control of events and is very present with us. He cherishes being “in the midst,” especially in stormy times. What about us?
Where does He want us? He wants us “in the midst” too. Even though God is our refuge and a safe place to run to, He is a refuge IN the storm. When times are tough and the storm is at its fiercest,
where is the greatest need? It is in the midst of the chaos.

God wants us to depend on Him in the chaos. It is there He is best seen, and His presence in us is best realized. May the Lord prepare us for the days ahead, that we may be ready and able to meet the need of the hour. What joy and excitement it brings me to know we at STCH Ministries are meeting the needs of so many in the middle of the storms!

Adversity Brings Growth

If you are like me, you may be growing weary of the constant feed of information that shows the tragic realities of 2020 in so many ways for so many people. I am sure we could all agree that 2020 will be remembered as a year filled with challenges. That is exactly what we are called to do here at STCH Ministries each day—help families face challenges.

As I look back to 2020, I see a year filled with opportunity. You see, in each crisis we face, there is great opportunity. Opportunity to see how we work in a new way, opportunity to see those we serve in a new way, opportunity to connect and reconnect in a new way and new opportunities to grow closer to our Heavenly Father.

As I look back, it encourages me as I look forward. What great lessons we learned in 2020! We learned that even in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, the ministry can indeed continue. We learned that with all the economic uncertainly, God continues to provide.

As you read through our Messenger, you will hear stories of personal adversity and how that adversity is such an important part of who we are becoming. You will see statistical reports that show the efficiency of our ministry, but most importantly, you will read stories of lives being changed that show the effectiveness of our ministry.

I wish I could tell you that 2020 was an easy year for those we serve, but we all know how much families are struggling in the wake of COVID-19. What I can tell you is we all learned much about resiliency. When I think of being resilient, I think of the biblical story of Joseph. His final words, which were spoken to his brothers, “Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good.” If you are not familiar with Joseph’s story, I implore you to read it from the book of Genesis.

Joseph’s story of suffering is as real as the many stories we read and live out today. Scripture uses a Greek term to describe this painful state of affairs that all of us face. The term is thlipsis. It refers to the kinds of circumstances that strip us of control and deprive us of the happy life we want and expect. The experience of thlipsis tests us, exposes us, forces us to look very hard at ourselves and challenges us to decide whether to trust God or forsake God.

Every day we are making small but monumental decisions in the face of adversity that push us in one direction or another. You know, it’s always the little decisions that matter most, not the big ones. Here is the amazing news of this biblical story. Adversity can actually serve a good purpose! Paul argues that the slight, momentary afflictions to which we are exposed in this life, are preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure. This leads Paul to add, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character and character produces hope.”

What has 2020 taught you about your ability to handle adversity? How can we help?

Proverbs 24:10—If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.

Eron Green, President and CEO

The Legacy of Dr. Jack Green

The history of STCH Ministries is not complete without the mention of Dr. A. J. “Jack” Green, Jr. As a visionary leader with a heart for children in need, Dr. Green’s legacy reaches through the decades and impacts all aspects of operations, management and programming. He dedicated his life to STCH Ministries, and the rich heritage endowed to campus residents and staff members is strong and secure. After a lifetime of service to his family, the church and STCH Ministries, Dr. Green passed away on November 9, 2020, at the age of 89.

FOLLOWING A CALL TO MINISTRY in his teenage years, Dr. Green studied at Baylor University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Years later, he received an honorary Doctor of Divinity from the University of Corpus Christi. He established his pastoral career within four Texas churches: Hay Valley Baptist Church in Gatesville, Walnut Springs Baptist Church in Bosque County, Baptist Temple in Uvalde and Shearer Hills Baptist Church in San Antonio. While serving as a STCH Ministries trustee in 1973, the board called for Dr. Green to assume the role of executive director when Rev. Jess Lunsford retired. The announcement came as a surprise to his congregation. Dr. Green formally stepped down from the pulpit and redirected his career to the leadership and care of the community’s most vulnerable children at STCH Ministries.

With a new adventure on the horizon, Dr. Green and his wife, Bobbie, moved with their three children to Boothe Campus. While hiring his team, Dr. Green selected a familiar face to serve as STCH Ministries’ resident director. Homer Hanna, the associate pastor from Shearer Hills Baptist Church, stepped in to fill this position and serve as right-hand man to the executive director. “He was great to work for. He was always just himself,” said Hanna. “When we would go out, the first thing he would say is, ‘I wonder how many of these people know Jesus.’ He always had an evangelistic bend to him. He always wanted to reach people for the Lord.”

It’s often said that Dr. Green never met a stranger. With his charismatic personality and purpose-driven approach to networking, he became friends with everyone in the room every time he entered a room. Within these circles, Dr. Green spread the word about the children’s home—all while wearing his STCH Ministries hat. He initiated authentic conversations, and acquaintances turned into personal and professional contacts. “Jack was a relationship guy,” says Gary Jones, STCH Ministries’ vice president of land management. “He never met a stranger, and that was his best quality.”

While it’s common to hear someone self-identify as a people-person, Dr. Green took things one step further. Not only did he understand the value of relationships, but he leveraged these connections to broadcast ministry updates and heartwarming stories on behalf of the organization. Dr. Green made it his mission to help people engage. Hanna said, “He always told me I needed to wear my STCH Ministries hat because people would ask me about it, and I would get to tell them about the amazing work we were doing.” These conversations with strangers provided consistent opportunities to share anecdotal evidence of God’s presence and guidance through campus work.

With a shared surname but no biological relation, Eron Green, president and CEO of STCH Ministries, recalls moments when Dr. Green joked about their matching last names and the recurring questions from others. Turning to his legacy, Eron Green reflected on the former executive director’s approach to personal conviction, saying, “Jack was a very certain person, there was no gray.” He continued, “His leadership had a profound impact during his tenure and that impact continues to this day.” While recalling his character, others echoed similar sentiments. “Jack never questioned his beliefs or values,” said John Weber, STCH Ministries’ board chairman. “He was larger than life, and he was the face of the organization. He lived and breathed STCH Ministries almost to the exclusion of everything else. People equated the organization to Jack Green.”

With no prior programming experience, Dr. Green pioneered the launch of the counseling ministry in 1996—a cutting-edge venture in its day. Without a background in this field, Dr. Green hired the right people to lay the groundwork for its initial offerings. From inception, this initiative provided a safe space for local families to find healing. Today, its continued purpose is unwavering as the counseling ministry reaches new heights. Mark Childs, program specialist at STCH Ministries, noted, “I am thankful for Jack Green and all of our leaders and their prayerful leadership that continues to bless STCH Ministries in the past, today and in the future.”

Dr. Green loved the country, and he fully embraced farm and ranch life. In the 1970s and 1980s, he expanded the organization’s connection with the ranching community. Childs recently recalled a poignant conversation with Dr. Green in a difficult season where finances were tight and budgeting concerns loomed. With decisions at hand that would affect the future of the organization, Dr. Green chose to prioritize the land entrusted to his care. Sensing God’s direction, he placed great value on STCH Ministries’ existing property, saying, “I know God gave us these properties for a reason, and it may be in the future before we realize how important they are.” To this day, this conversation is not forgotten.

Dr. Green retired in 1998 following 25 years of service. Throughout retirement, he remained highly engaged with STCH Ministries, attending board meetings and sharing wisdom with staff members and program residents. Weber recently summarized Dr. Green’s legacy, saying, “The best thing to say about Jack is that he was the right person at the right time. He was laser focused on the children’s home and on giving it a long-term financial footing. Obviously without Laura Boothe and Rev. Jess Lunsford there would be no STCH Ministries, but Jack was the handpicked person for this role.”

The people closest to Dr. Green remember him as the mastermind and architect behind the organization’s success. His forward-thinking ideas and passion for excellence filtered through the campus and inspired the community as a whole. Even in its lean years, Dr. Green believed in STCH Ministries, and his work laid the foundation for today’s accomplishments and expansion projects. “He was focused on building up an endowment to cement the financial stability of STCH Ministries,” said Weber. Following his passing, others in leadership noted that Dr. Green did not fully grasp the immensity and impact of his dedication in the early years. “His legacy is profound,” remarked Eron Green. “Until the day he died, he still wanted to help children and families in their time of need.”

This legacy may be communicated most clearly through the words of a 16-year-old girl who lived in one of the cottages on campus in the mid-90s. She took the time to write a handwritten letter to Dr. Green that said, “People like you are what make living here so special. Keep doing what you’re doing for these kids. Working with kids is going to be my life, so we’ve got something special in common.” Dr. Green cared for the marginalized children and families within his community. He inspired the people around him to do great things. And he dedicated his life to the development and sustainability of STCH Ministries for generations to come.

A Second Chance at Life

Choices are one of God’s many gifts to us. We choose to take paths that lead in different directions and result in different outcomes. While our choices cannot thwart God’s sovereignty over our life’s journey, we maintain a freedom to make choices that lead toward or away from His presence. One woman in particular is familiar with this concept. Danielle’s choices–mostly driven by traumas–led her to Homes for Families. This choice, however, is without regret.

PRIOR TO MOVING to the Marshall Ranch campus, Danielle struggled mentally, emotionally and spiritually. “My life was falling apart, and I needed to change. I was really suicidal; I felt like I was very alone and hopeless,” she explained. Danielle developed trust issues at a young age, and her caretakers hurt her deeply. “They were supposed to protect me and care for me,” she recalls. This caused a distorted view of God’s character. Like many hurting people, she turned to alcohol and heavily relied on pills to numb her pain–all while trying to raise two daughters.

Danielle’s face lights up when she speaks about her children. She describes Jess, 16, as artistic and fun but still a little shy, while Alexi, 7, is really fun-loving and outgoing. Since moving to Homes for Families more than a year ago, God softened their hearts as a family unit. She reveals that “Lexi’s personality has blossomed, and Jess has come out of her shell and is more receptive and open.”

Danielle heard about STCH Ministries from a friend, Theresa Klacman, Director of Homes for Families. She encouraged Danielle to apply to move onto the campus and begin getting her life back in order. Danielle is inspired by the support she receives at Homes for Families and says that the facilities and programs provide “a safe and supportive place for me to get my life back on track.” She continues, “Being able to study God’s Word and apply it to my life has made a difference in the way that I think and behave.”

Danielle even admits she discovered her child-like self again. One of her favorite memories is from a day the STCH Ministries staff set up a bounce house on campus. At first, she thought it was just for the kids, but then she joined some of the other mothers inside the inflatable structure. “We had so much fun on it!” she remembers.

That is not the only way Homes for Families impacted Danielle’s life. “I have hope; I don’t have depression, and I don’t have anxiety. I have my struggles, but I’m able to cope with them in a much healthier way than before,” she explained while choking up. “It has brought me into a deeper relationship with God. Coming out here and letting God heal those hurts and wounds and talking with the counselor about the traumatic things that have happened to me—I’ve seen God bring me into a deeper, more loving relationship with Him.”

Facing the future is something she can do now. She says the biggest lesson learned while at Homes for Families is that she can forgive herself, and she knows she is worthy of that. Danielle hopes other mothers who are on the fence about getting help from STCH Ministries will just take the plunge and do it. “It’s a choice you will not regret,” she exclaims. Homes for Families is above and beyond what she envisioned. She is able to heal from the trauma, let God’s Word speak into her life and forgive and love herself. This discovery has in turn impacted her kids’ lives, too. They understand they can forgive, experience joy and are worthy of a life that they want. “Seeing all the other women at Homes for Families and how God moves in their lives, gives me extremely huge hope” Danielle says with confidence.

Danielle recently moved into Phase III on campus, which calls for her to hold a full-time job or be in school fulltime, attend church regularly and attend monthly counseling sessions through STCH Ministries. She currently has a job, but she is hoping to go back to school. “I’ve always been drawn to nursing or the medical field,” she reveals. Danielle also expresses interest in possibly receiving a degree from a trade school. She looks forward to stability, helping people and providing for her daughters as a single mom. Danielle proudly says, “I’m excited about the future.  I can’t wait to see what doors God opens up and the direction He wants me to go. I’m seeking it, I’m asking Him for it, and I know He’s going to take me to it.”

Danielle’s choices led her to this moment of rebirth in the Lord. Christians who discover God at a later stage in life can choose to be ashamed of their past or learn to embrace it. For Danielle, she says, “I used to be ashamed of my testimony, but God showed me how he can use it to help other people.”

That’s the beautiful thing about giving our lives to Jesus; He does not turn His back on us even when we slip-up. Instead, He turns our mistakes into lessons that we can teach to others.

Finding Connection in Community

Isolation, anxiety and financial strain swept through our communities this past year. Many people experienced the effects of interrupted careers, financial instability, canceled plans and physical distance. A recent report from the Pew Research Center indicates that “onein-four adults have had trouble paying their bills since the coronavirus outbreak started, a third have dipped into savings or retirement accounts to make ends meet, and about one-in-six have borrowed money from friends or family or gotten food from a food bank.” It appears that the effects of this collective trauma are real and long-lasting.

IN PARTNERSHIP WITH The Chalmers Center, STCH Ministries offers a unique course designed to alleviate the burdens of economic struggle. The Faith & Finances course exists to equip financially vulnerable individuals with money management strategies that connect Jesus’ redemptive work to all aspects of personal life. While the course focuses on the holistic integration of faith and healthy financial habits, students also experience intentional relationships in spiritual community. As Christians, the desire for community is hardwired within, and our souls are created for relational closeness with God and others. While most students walk into the classroom as strangers, they leave as confidants, accountability partners and close friends.

During the 12-week class, instructors introduce the conceptual idea that God’s plan for personal finances is greater than our expectations. The course content is highly interactive and pairs biblical principles with financial literacy. Students walk away feeling equipped with the necessary tools to overcome past mistakes, manage debt, spend wisely and save for the future. While some groups meet virtually and others meet in-person, relational bonds form across a diverse spectrum of demographics and life experiences. With faith as the common thread, course participants create meaningful connections that translate into tangible support outside of the classroom.

Throughout 2020, Faith & Finances class locations remained active, and students experienced real life change. Here, you will read the stories of two women, Lynne and Brandy, who recently completed the course in different cities, with different meeting formats and different financial needs. While these women hold unique life experiences and their stories do not directly intersect, both women found acceptance, encouragement and support through this community.

Years ago, Lynne experienced relational connection within Christian community. She lived in Ohio and felt blessed within her career, finances and friendships. While no immediate needs required drastic financial savings, Lynne’s personal choices reflected a paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle. But when her employer closed its doors, she began freefalling into an unstable world. From here on out, Lynne struggled with her faith and finances. Anxious thoughts crept into her mind, and before long, isolation and fear gripped her life.

While Lynne experienced relational abandonment with close friends, she remained connected to her aunt and uncle. Recognizing her desperation, these relatives walked alongside Lynne as mentors and prayer partners. With no signs of improvement, Lynne’s uncle suggested that she attend a STCH Ministries Faith & Finances class. The group planned to meet virtually, and while Lynne was initially hesitant, she agreed to participate.

As Lynne counted down the days until the course began, her anxiety swelled within. She found it easier to isolate than participate in community. The journey toward being known by others presented emotional difficulties as she held tight to distrust and cynicism. Lynne nearly backed out hours before the first class began, but she gathered her courage and accessed the online portal.

To her surprise, Lynne experienced an overwhelming sense of peace during the first meeting. The people were diverse, and the group felt like a safe space. But vulnerability did not come easily as Lynne tried to reintegrate into community. As time passed, the group found commonality in shared stories of struggle and glimpses of hope. The more someone shared their story, the more it inspired others to do the same. This process allowed Lynne to internalize a truth—she is not alone.

The group’s facilitators presented financial concepts in a way that everyone understood. They used skits and anecdotes to break down difficult theories. She learned that small budgeting changes can add up and make a big impact on personal finances. Lynne expected to learn about budgeting, saving, spending and eliminating debt, but the course exceeded expectations. “The first time I heard ‘Jesus makes all things new including money and relationships’ I understood it, but by the end of class I could feel it. It became my own belief,” said Lynne.

Lynne recognizes that her instructors and classmates nurtured her own growth mentally, spiritually and emotionally. Today, Lynne is surrounded by the healthy relationships that developed within the Faith & Finances class. These friendships span socio-economic backgrounds, races, ages and stages of faith. The group found meaningful connection through communal learning, prayer, growth and fellowship. For Lynne, the Faith & Finances class was the final piece of the puzzle at just the right time. “Hearing others rise above their stories gives me courage to rise above mine,” noted Lynne. “We started out as strangers, but by the end, we were brothers and sisters.”

Not only did Lynne personally adopt the suggested financial management strategies, but the course allowed her to become more generous in giving to God. “It’s worth it. It is hard and time consuming, but it will change your life in more places than just in your wallet.” Lynne continued, “The more you put into the course, the more you get out of it.” STCH Ministries Faith & Finances class served as the catalyst that made a major difference in Lynne’s financial stability. By the end of the course, she committed to seek God first in all aspects of her life.

STCH Ministries prioritizes this class by offering options for attendance as well as full access to materials regardless of an individual’s ability to pay. While Lynne intentionally encountered community through digital avenues, many others engage through in-person gatherings. Brandy’s story toward financial and spiritual wholeness began when she decided to attend a Faith & Finances class at her church in Corpus Christi, Texas.

As a mother of two adult children that she proudly raised in a single parent household, Brandy became highly familiar with paycheck-to-paycheck spending. After moving to Corpus Christi from Nacogdoches, Texas, Brandy struggled to find fulltime work and an independent living arrangement. She worked part-time at the Walmart pharmacy while sharing a home with her cousin. The realities surrounding Brandy’s recent move proved to be more difficult than expected—physically, emotionally and financially. 

When her local church announced registration for STCH Ministries’ Faith & Finances course, she decided to finally take her personal spending habits seriously. Eager to meet others on a similar path, Brandy made a commitment to engage with the instructor, students and course materials each week. During the first gathering, she internalized the phrase, “you save, you give, you spend.” This financial prioritization changed the way she approached paychecks each month.

Throughout the duration of the course, Brandy took control of her finances with confidence. As new strategies and tactics filtered through her life, Brandy took bold steps within her career and living situation. She found a full-time job within a hospital and negotiated her position for a higher hourly wage. With financial grounding to stand upon, Brandy found an apartment with a reasonable monthly rent and moved in with her adult son.

“During the Faith & Finances class, I learned how to budget, make necessary cuts, save for a rainy day, the importance of reading the fine print, how to avoid gimmicks and differentiating between wants and needs,” said Brandy. She recalls the years living paycheck-to-paycheck, and she’s proud to now experience life in a different way. Today, Brandy frequently shares helpful practices with family and friends that include budgeting worksheets and a cash envelope system for all purchases. She is passionate about her journey toward financial freedom while encouraging others to register for the class.

Brandy credits the Faith & Finances course for her spiritual and financial transformation. She admires the instructor’s consistent vulnerability and holds tight to the principles that help integrate her faith and finances in a tangible way. Brandy is now a greeter within her church’s volunteer ministry where she faithfully serves every Sunday. She loves giving back to her church, and it brings real joy to her life. As a daily practice, Brandy reminds herself to prioritize necessities over wants while centering her Christian faith in all things. “Faithfulness in everything,” Brandy explains. “In personal finances and the rest of my life.”

There is hope, and there are resources for individuals who feel trapped in financially difficult situations. STCH Ministries is proud to play a role in fostering faith and financial wholeness within communities throughout Texas and its surrounding areas. When global events feel helpless, God’s faithfulness continues. When economic decay intrudes, God’s promises sustain our souls. And when the act of taking the next step to engage in community feels difficult, messy and uncomfortable, God’s peace surrounds our hearts and minds.

Article resources: “Economic Fallout From COVID-19 Continues to Hit Lower-Income Americans the Hardest.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (September 24, 2020) www.pewsocialtrends.org/2020/09/24/ economic-fallout-from-covid-19-continues-to-hit-lower-incomeamericans-the-hardest/