Transformational Change

“Our goal is transformational change,” stated Theresa Klacman, who leads the Homes for Families ministry on the Marshall Ranch.

“I was a single mom with four children, and Satan made me believe the lie that I couldn’t make it. Now I know that God’s power is greater than any other thing, and with His help I CAN and I AM making it. God has a plan. He never leaves us completely alone. And He had this place (Marshall Ranch) prepared to help me turn my life around,” shared one of our resident mothers.

At Homes for Families, the goal is deep inner healing. This begins with developing a personal relationship with God. Afterwards come the changes in thought-life, as truth replaces the lies they have believed. Then gradually the behaviors begin to change. Love is the primary tool. Resident Coordinators live in the home with the residents and draws heavily on God’s unconditional, inexhaustible love as they work with each lady. In addition they participate in focused Bible studies and relationship-healing topics like Boundaries, Making Peace with Your Past, that integrate Biblical truth with practical guidance on how to handle life differently. Therapy by a licensed Christian counselor is also available. All living expenses are provided without charge so that residents can focus on inner healing, learning new skills like conflict resolution, and repairing relationships with their children. The younger children are cared for on campus, while the older ones ride the bus to the Goliad Independent School District.

Phase I
During Phase I, some of the toughest life lessons that they must learn is the discipline of getting up early every morning for prayer and devotions, getting breakfast, being on time, and getting along with several other mothers and their children in the same house! They take turns with kitchen duties, cleaning, etc. Naturally, at first they revert to the primary coping skill they have seen and used in the past to respond to stress and offense—ANGER! It is a slow process to learn there is a better way. As they grow, they begin to teach their children by responding to them with love and patience as they discipline and guide them.

Phase II
As they progress to Phase II, they earn more privileges like two weekend passes per month, and a small weekly allowance to learn about budgeting and saving as they prepare for life after Homes for Families. They also begin a period of removing obstacles for success when they graduate from this program. As they tackle these hindrances, they must overcome the memories and the fear of past failures. The staff is constantly encouraging them, teaching them to have faith and trust God.

This fall has been a season of celebrations for several ladies as they conquer those fears and overcome obstacles for their future success. Two of our ladies studied, took the driving test, and received their driver’s license. One young mom had legal charges to address from her past. Prayerfully she wrote a letter to the court, confronting the charges with a positive report of the changes that had taken place in her life. Hallelujah around the table when the court dismissed the charges and wished her the best on her future life! Future success requires more education. Two of our ladies begin college and another will achieve a high school diploma in May, 2019. Transportation is needed in order to get a job or enroll in college, and we are grateful for a recent donation of a van for one of our ladies. She had a small car, which she then generously donated to her co-resident. With each success their confidence and their faith in God is strengthened.

Recovery and rebuilding a life is not an easy road, as you can imagine. Setbacks at first are common, and some give up and leave. The door at Home for Families is always open to them, however, when they are ready to begin again on this journey.

Phase III
As they achieve the goals required, they are able to move into Phase III, where they begin independent living. To make that move, they must be within two weeks of enrollment in a college or technical school, or employment. They move to another house on campus, but now there are fewer rules. They begin to take care of their own expenses and manage their own budget. Homes for Families provides a case manager and continues some financial support on an individual basis, especially when they are getting an education. After four to six months of living on campus and managing their lives successfully during Phase III, they can move off campus, either locally or closer to their families or to better opportunities for employment.

We rejoice with each success—a driver’s license, a high school diploma, a job, or a car. But our greatest joy comes from the transformational changes we witness. ”Now I know that God’s power is greater than any other thing, and with His help I CAN and I AM making it,” Felissia shared. She went on to explain, “When I was awarded custody of my children, we had a lot of damage to repair. The older ones especially were so angry because of my past behaviors. So we cried a lot together, and I asked their forgiveness and we prayed, and little by little love began to grow in place of the anger! Now, they also know Jesus, and understand that He is the One who made their mommy change!”

All the sacrifices, all the long hours, the investments of time and resources are counted as nothing in comparison to the overwhelming joy experienced by the staff when transformational change in the heart of a mother reaches all the way into the heart of her children.[/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

The Sacredness of Work

“I GET UP EVERY DAY and go to work because I have to earn a living. I come home frustrated and exhausted, only to get up the next day and do it all over again. Then the weekend comes and I have a break. But by Sunday evening I have knots in my stomach when I think about doing it all over again on Monday morning. Is this all there is to life?” a friend messaged.

How can we find meaning in our work? Is it just about making money, buying stuff, keeping up with the neighbors?” Recent research by the Barna group states, “It’s no surprise that 75% of adults are looking for ways to live amore meaningful life.” In The Message translation, Paul asks, “How do I take my everyday, ordinary life—my sleeping, eating, going-to-work and walking around life—and place it before God as an offering?” (Romans 12:1,2)

Since 2008, STCH Ministries has been offering jobs and life skills classes to men and women. The goal has been to strengthen families by helping people discover God’s principles for their life and work. Throughout this time, the curriculum, location and target audience has changed, as they sought to develop a more effective program that could be implemented in partnership with the local church. Joanna Berry, Vice President of Family and International Ministries stated, “The church has always been God’s Plan A. Our ministries are joined in a type of symbiotic relationship with local churches in their ministries to families.” This vision has fueled the recent development of a new curriculum called Faith & Work.

Faith & Work is a Bible based work-enhancement course which guides one to discover God’s purpose for their life and how to fulfill that purpose through their work. Participants are provided the opportunity and tools to achieve their full potential as they become more confident in their ability to succeed at work, become leaders and positively influence their work environments. Using biblical and practical insights, the new eight week course is designed to sharpen student skills and deepen their understanding concerning each Christian’s responsibility to be leaders in the workplace while serving the world with excellence and integrity.

The curriculum itself best explains, “We can develop our gifts in virtually any job or position in which we find ourselves, for working on God’s behalf requires many different giftings and vocations. I Corinthians 7:17 says, ‘Each person should continue to live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God called them.’ In the Old Testament, Ezra was a priest and Nehemiah was a civil engineer and city planner. God used both of them mightily, along with countless other men, women, and even children, to accomplish His purposes. And He continues to do the same today.”

Faith and Work provides a framework which enables learners to fully embrace the truth that work is a blessing and an opportunity to serve a higher calling while supporting their families.

The topics covered in the curriculum begin teaching identity and purpose allowing participants to assess their own strengths and abilities through personality and spiritual gifts assessments. They can learn practical skills like setting goals and writing resumes. They will better understand their unique role, how to build healthy relationships and even overcome issues that sabotage success. During the sessions, the student is challenged to see themselves as created in God’s image with purpose and potential.

Darrell Jackson, Director Faith & Work/Faith & Finances at the Houston location, led a group of men at a non-profit ministry called Agape Development through the new study in the Fall of 2018. Agape Development and Restoration Community Church are partners in the mission of rebuilding the lives of individuals, families and the community. Ten men, including employees and supervisors of the Agape ministry, commented on how much the Faith & Work curriculum helped to strengthen their relationships with one another and taught them a biblical understanding of their individual roles at work and as kingdom men. “As I taught these men, I could not help but to reflect back to when I pastored a church in a community filled with needs. I would have loved to offer a course like Faith & Work that helped people learn about God’s view of work, while assisting them to increase their job skills,” Jackson reported.

For every Christian, work needs to be more than a job, more than a title or a profession. There is no division between the secular and the sacred when work becomes a calling to reflect God’s love and glory in every action, in all of our roles. As a successful doctor recently shared, “My life was changed when I decided that all of my work would be a form of worship to God.”

STCH Ministries has Faith & Work/Faith & Finances offices in Houston, Corpus Christi and San Antonio. The staff at all three locations are excited to bring this dynamic curriculum to the churches of South Texas. “Because of the benefits we have seen in the lives of individuals, families and in communities throughout our cities, we believe that God has given us a tool that will help individuals succeed, and bring glory to God!” stated Darrell Jackson.

Faith & Work is a companion ministry to our Faith & Finances program, a curriculum which teaches biblical principles for money management. Both programs are offered by STCH Ministries staff in and for local churches. If you, your church or ministry are interested in offering either of these studies to your organization, please go to for more information. STCH Ministries is faith-based and entirely supported by donations from God’s people, and does not charge for our services.


The Healing Power of Normalcy

NORMAL. A WORD EVERYONE understands, and yet most find it difficult to agree on its meaning. My favorite definition is “the usual, average or typical state or condition.” I can assure you that what was normal for me growing up as the oldest of two in the suburbs of Houston, Texas was not normal for my husband, the only son and youngest of four on a farm in North Georgia. Our children’s experiences as missionary kids crisscrossing the northern and southern hemispheres add a completely different flavor of “normal” to our family. However, there are several elements common to our individual childhoods that are strikingly similar. We each grew up with parents lovingly committed not only to one another but to the success of the family as a whole. We both attended church regularly with our families where we were taught through lessons and actions of the tremendous love of God and His care for the most intimate aspects of our lives. Our distinct families shared an important common denominator, a love for God and respect for the principles laid out in the Bible regarding family life.

At STCH Ministries Homes for Children, we strive to create that same type of normal for every child. Dr. Greg Huskey, Vice President of Homes for Children (HFC) clarifies, “We want to create an environment that allows children to enjoy a ‘normal’ faith-based family.” Which means a family-like experience complete with both a mother and a father who care and take an active interest in the lives of their kids. The eleven cottages on our Boothe Campus form an inclusive neighborhood where friendships are developed and lives are shared. Church attendance, public school and extra-curricular activities are all regular, even normal parts of life. The nuts and bolts of living are also included: chores, homework, doctor visits, dental care…even college and preparation for life as an adult are provided.

Children come to Homes for Children from both private placements as well as through the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services for a variety of reasons. For many of them, the healthy, stable family-like experience provided by the houseparents is completely foreign. And that makes creating normalcy a high priority for our houseparents and the HFC staff. Beginning with their first moments in a cottage, children are given a bedroom to share with another child and are shown where they can store their personal items – a space to begin to belong. Life inside the cottages revolves around family; family meals, family chores, family outings, family devotions and even family vacations. Birthdays and Christmas are intentionally celebrated with parties and gifts for each child in each cottage.

Kelsey and Mary Motes have been houseparents for almost five years at Love Cottage. Theirs is an all-girl home where the ages range from 16 years to ten months old.

Kelsey tells me that their blended family of eleven – six cottage girls and the three Motes’ children “Live, love, laugh and cry as a family.” Just like any other family, Kelsey and Mary move at full speed keeping up with the busy girls.

This school year, five of the girls played volleyball followed immediately by basketball season. The Christmas holidays brought a bit of a break – just a bit – as there were still Driver’s Ed classes and monitoring the mandatory drive time with a parent to keep up with. Second semester has them gearing up for track and field which will keep them running through the end of the school year. A couple of the young ladies are also involved in singing and math competitions as well as Career Development Events through the FFA Chapter at school. And, these are the activities at just one cottage on campus! The beauty of the closely knit community is demonstrated through the housepops taking turns taxiing kids from home to school to ballfield and back home.

Kelsey takes care of the project animals barn on Boothe Campus. FFA and 4H provide excellent, even therapeutic opportunities for the children. Participating in stock shows allows HFC young people to experience healthy commitment, sometimes for the very first time in their lives. Raising project animals provides the possibility to take on the responsibility of caring for something beyond themselves; it also allows them to build meaningful relationships in a wider community than they have previously been exposed to. Bringing the national 4H format to Boothe Campus by chartering the STCH Ministries 4H Club this year enables Kelsey to shepherd the progress of both the students and their animals closely. For many, taking the risk of committing to the needs of an animal is a chance for healing to begin in their own hearts and lives. This year, 4H’ers participated in the Beeville Junior Livestock Show and will be showing a goat and a lamb at both the San Antonio and Houston Livestock Show and Rodoes.

In the life of a believer, God is present in each aspect of every day. When you look for them, you can find His fingerprints everywhere. Houseparents and staff are diligent to identify those godly markers in order to bring them to the attention of young hearts unused to His tender mercies. Kelsey remarks,

“Biblical topics always seem to come up and we discuss those with the girls. Often, we’ll help them look it up in Scripture to prepare and talk about what they learned.”

The Love Cottage household worships together on Sundays at First Baptist Church, Kenedy, and during the week through bible studies and activities on campus. Joel Bowden, Director of Student Ministries, describes his position as identical to any student minister at a local church except his kids are always around. And, like any minister to youth, Joel wears many hats: Bible study leader, hunting guide, Awanas coordinator, swimming pool life guard, counselor, dodge ball referee, confidant and event planner to name a few. In addition to weekly Bible education for all ages, Joel organizes the social calendar and coordinates the numerous church groups who participate in special events with our kids.

Support of our residents does not end with their high school graduation. Scholars work with staff to plan for college or trade school while they explore their career interests. Scholarships are provided to each graduate who qualify, making it possible for success in their future. Throughout the course of higher education, transitional apartments on campus are available during school breaks – although many opt to spend the weekend with their houseparents in the cottages…just like normal college students across the country.

Life on Boothe Campus is rich and full. That does not mean that it is without difficulty. Counselors, caseworkers, and houseparents conscientiously work day in and day out helping each child to process and understand their past while equipping them to be successful in the future. Maintaining normal, faith-based families empowers our purpose of healing hearts and sharing hope permitting us to witness the beauty of God changing their stories day by day.


Thankful For The Past, But Anticipating The Future

THANK YOU! 2018 was a year to remember and celebrate the goodness of our Lord and Savior. Our donors, churches, foundations and many others are appreciated for the sacrifice and committed partnership to STCH Ministries.

In 2018, 15,301 individuals were served in one or more of our nine distinct ministries. Please take a look at what God is doing at STCH Ministries.

83 Children, at Boothe Campus, enjoyed exciting experiences such as attending youth camp, FFA project animals, and activities at church; along with receiving the basic necessities in a protected, loving home at Homes for Children.

17 College students received scholarships, books and housing to prepare for a successful future.

59 Moms and their children thrived as they reside in safety on the Marshall Ranch Campus at Homes for Families.

111 Pastors plus their families have been strengthened and replenished through Pastor Care.

4,360 Individuals, couples, children, and families received counseling that is clinically excellent and distinctively Christian at one of our 17 counseling offices throughout South Texas.

10,214 Through our International ministry, orphans and disadvantaged families were spiritually ministered to in the Dominican Republic.

85 Men and women graduated from the “life-changing” Faith & Work ministry.

222 Men and women mastered Biblical principles concerning money through the Faith & Finances ministry.

43 Families have been connected with resources through Family Support.

500 People received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

This past year, in Ministry Consulting, we continued to work with several organizations to share our expertise and resources that helped them operate more efficiently. This ministry is an opportunity for STCH Ministries to continue to serve others and is a means to effective stewardship.

As we anticipate the future in 2019, we at STCH Ministries will continue to trust God for what is to come. Thank you for collaborating in our vision to show the love of Christ to those whom we serve. By God’s glory and grace, STCH Ministries has been blessed with 66 years of ministering to those who are in need of hope, healing and restoration.

There is no end to God’s goodness as we expectantly wait to see His blessings.

2018 was great, 2019 will be even better. Thank you for partnering with us in Healing Hearts and Sharing Hope.


Sovereignty Of God

HE WAS BORN September 9, 1997, to a single mom, Francia, in the Dominican Republic. Alexis Enmanuel Buret Marte could have been just one of those countless children, lost within the generational poverty surrounding his birth. Except for God. Although not a believer herself, at the grandmother’s urging, Francia took her infant to church and dedicated him to God. Much later, Francia began to attend the Iglesia Bautista Quisqueyana (IBQ) church where she accepted Christ when Alexis was five years old. Alexis and Francia continued faithfully attending church. Although Alexis believed the truths taught, he was as a young teen before he made his personal decision to accept Christ and follow Him.

Every day throughout the world many thousands of children are born to single moms, usually destined for poverty and hopelessness. What makes the difference between their fate and a child who conquers impossible odds to become a college graduate, employed, and a fine example of a Christian young man? Undoubtedly there are many factors. Nevertheless, there are two significant determinants—the sovereignty of God and personal choice.  Together they compose a mystery that our human mind can never completely understand. Yet at times we can see both of these factors juxtaposed in the life of a specific person.

Long before Alexis’ decision to follow Christ, God orchestrated events that would greatly impact Alexis’ life. In 2007, STCH Ministries was led to begin international ministry. God brought them to the Dominican Republic. As they began to focus on the needs of children and families, they were made aware of the limited opportunities for children born into poverty. Tuition in a public school was free, but every child had to have a uniform which included black shoes and white socks. In addition, they had to provide their own transportation, schools supplies and books. For many families whose most desperate need was food, education was not a priority. Sadly, without an education, there could be no hope.

These factors combined with the mission of STCH Ministries to honor God, help hurting children and families led to the creation of the Samuel’s Fund Sponsorship program. The goal was to provide resources for children from the age of 4 through high school to receive an education and to develop spiritually, mentally and socially. Sponsors contribute a monthly donation of $35.00, which goes directly to the child’s benefit, primarily education but also medical care. STCH Ministries does not deduct any percentage for administrative or operational costs of Dominican or American staff.

Robin Greene had come on several mission trips. In 2012, God moved her heart to sponsor a child through the Samuel’s Fund sponsorship ministry.

“We were matched with Alexis…didn’t choose him, but boy were we blessed!” she wrote recently. “I had met him before and was really impressed by his sincerity, hard work attitude, and willingness to do whatever was asked of him, and his joy in life.”

Sponsored by the Greenes, Alexis began to receive funding for his high school education. He grew a desire to learn English and work with the “Americanos” that he saw occasionally in the IBQ church. Gathering his courage, he approached Russell Jerez, Construction Projects Director in the Dominican Republic and asked, “Could I help you with the construction?”

“Do you know how to use tools? Have you ever held a drill?”, Russell responded.

“No, but I am willing to learn,” Alexis assured him. He began helping, and Russell saw that he was a quick learner, got along well with others, and never complained about hard work and days which stretched long.

Since Alexis came from a single parent home, he assumed the role of man of the house, while still growing up himself. He found a father figure in Russell. Russell shared his own faith while he also demanded hard work, staying busy, communicating appropriately in English with the mission team members. Under his influence, Alexis continued to develop a heart for God and learned great work habits. Russell reported, “Gradually our relationship changed from father-figure to a genuine friendship.”

Robin had several opportunities to spend time with Alexis and his mother on subsequent mission trips, “In conversations with Francia, we had multiple discussions on her hopes and dreams as well as her concerns for Alexis’ future. Her thoughts helped me to keep Alexis and his needs directing my prayer life without inserting my own thoughts and cultural biases.” God continued to order Alexis’ steps.

Samuel’s Fund sponsorship ends with high school graduation. Francia recalls Alexis sharing that he wanted to pursue a university education. She was willing to help him, but told him sadly, “We don’t have the resources for you to go. But we can pray and ask God for that.” It was just then that God led STCH Ministries to develop the Christian Leadership Educational Program (CLEP), to help young people continue their education. The life of the Old Testament prophet, Samuel, originally inspired our sponsorship ministry to children. Samuel was dedicated first to God, then trained and educated, and he eventually became a leader for God. Samuel’s life would continue to be the model for the new CLEP program.

The staff began to identify young people who had matured in their faith, applied themselves in their studies, and shown commitment and leadership in their church, or other Christian ministries. Recently graduated from high school, Alexis became one of the first students to qualify for this sponsorship. Robin and Eddie Greene continued their investment in Alexis’ life through the CLEP program. This was a considerable commitment, as university costs are significantly higher than a Samuels Fund sponsorship, involving tuition, books, transportation and more.

Although the Dominican Republic offers more affordable education through the state-run university, obstacles like overcrowding and limited choice of classes, plus the necessity of working to pay expenses, can require up to ten years to graduate. Because of his sponsorship, Alexis was able to attend one of the excellent private universities in the Dominican Republic. With hard work, he could graduate in four years. Alexis chose a business major with an emphasis in tourism and hotel management. He diligently applied himself to his studies while continuing his involvement with mission teams in the summer. Alexis excelled in school and in three and a half years finished his course work. He then began a semester of internship at a hotel in Punta Cana.

Alexis was given a low-level responsibility—inputting data into a computer, and occasionally answering the phone when the front desk was too busy. It wasn’t long before his co-workers looked at him in amazement. “Where did you learn English? What are you doing in this position with that skill?” In a few weeks Alexis was promoted, and before the internship was completed, he was offered a permanent job as Director of Environmental and Social Services.

The tourism environment is one fraught with temptations for a young man. Alexis has maintained a close relationship with Pastor Rudy, pastor of IBQ, who frequently counsels him with thoughts from Proverbs 3. “Do not forget my teaching…So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, and God will direct your steps.” Russell along with the Greenes continued to encourage Alexis also. Alexis has maintained his Christian walk and testimony, and God has been faithful to bless him. During days off he always found his way back to the IBQ church. His responsibility to care for his mother, as well as the joy he feels to be able to help with her support, remain strong motivators.

Alexis is quick to acknowledge the benefits that STCH Ministries International has provided for his life. The university sponsorship provided by the Greenes through the CLEP program opened the door of possibilities for his future. He reports that many special relationships contributed to his life: the mission teams with whom he frequently served, his church, his mother, Francia, the Greenes, Pastor Rudy and Russell Jerez, and the DR staff all helped him along the way. Through them, he received encouragement to grow in his faith and his Christian walk, along with learning to be an example to others in spite of his youth. His opportunity to learn and practice English became a critical component of his success at his job. Other qualities that propelled his success at work, which he learned from Russell, were excellent work habits, like taking initiative when a job needed to be done, working hard and staying busy, as well as getting along with others.

In a country where many are born into generational poverty and little opportunity, the immediate is so urgent that many never learn to think beyond today. Alexis readily shares that he has a 10-year plan. He wants to marry and have children and raise a Christian family as he has seen Russell and others at IBQ model. Although he recognizes he has much to learn about the hotel management and tourism business, his long term-goal is to own and manage his own business supplying resources to hotels and resorts. For the next few years, however, he will focus on learning every aspect of managing a resort.

God’s sovereignty and the free will of man, seems to be a mystery, even an oxymoron. In Alexis life it is not difficult to see God’s hand. It is also obvious to recognize the part that Alexis’ choices contributed to the success he has experienced. A child dedicated to God by a mother who didn’t yet know Him herself, and the young man who made his own decision to accept and follow Christ. The mission teams God brought to the Dominican Republic and Alexis’ personal desire and courage to seek that opportunity. Samuel’s Fund and the CLEP program established through God’s leading, and at just the right time the Greenes chose to sponsor Alexis. Alexis’ faithfulness in his studies and God’s leading to the right major, the right job, in the right place for him.

On January 25, 2019 Alexis Enmanuel Marte Buret graduated with his university degree. Francia is understandably proud of her son. Robin and Eddie Greene also flew from Houston to celebrate this occasion with Alexis and Francia.

There and Back Again

On a blazing hot afternoon in early June, four adults and six young people gathered in front of the chapel on Boothe Campus for a word of prayer, and then piled into a passenger van to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. It was not a vacation nor a senior trip that lit up their eyes with excitement. In fact, they had a great deal of work ahead of them in weather even hotter than the Texas sun. Instead, their enthusiasm came from their purpose: this group was on a mission to share the love of Christ with children in the Dominican Republic.

At STCH Ministries, there is a special kind of synergy that results when two of our ministries join forces. In this case, Homes for Children put together a team to go on a week-long mission trip with our International ministry.  The group consisted of three staff members and six young people from Boothe Campus, accompanied by Amanda Longoria, Associate Director of International. The trip would place the younger members in a unique reversal of roles: traveling from the children’s home where they live to a children’s home in a foreign land where they would be the ones ministering. Many other illuminating experiences lay in store as well, but the first step (and perhaps an adventure all its own) was to get to the Dominican Republic.

“Most of our students had never flown on a plane before, so it was very interesting to share that experience with them. They learned about airport security and how to board a plane,” said Joel Bowden, Director of Student Ministries. He also reported that they “learned where the ‘barf bags’ are located” on the plane, although further details were not provided.

The team stayed at Iglesia Bautista Quisqueyana (IBQ), the primary church partner of STCH Ministries in the Dominican Republic. Once on the ground, the “new” factor continued through both cultural and ministry activities.

“It was a new experience for all of them,” said Patty Kinnamon, Commissary Supervisor at Boothe Campus. “Some had never hung drywall and used a screw gun, or measured, cut, and installed insulation. They had never seen beautiful water at the beach—only gulf water.”

Amanda recalled the feelings of trepidation that some of the students expressed during a morning devotion. “They didn’t know the language. They were nervous, inexperienced, and doubtful. The leaders had to remind them that just being here in the DR was already a step in the right direction, a step of faith.”

Inexperience did not inhibit the team’s work ethic, however, and they quickly dove into construction projects. Using funds they had raised back in Texas, they rebuilt the walls and roof of a home where a Samuel’s Fund child lives. The team also demolished another home that was slated to be rebuilt by a subsequent mission team. The solid, tangible results of the construction projects gave the team a sense of accomplishment.

“The construction was my favorite, because we all worked as a team and played our part,” said Carrie, one of the teens on the trip.

“We were all astonished at how such a little group could accomplish so much!” said Amanda.

Once the sawdust settled, the team transitioned into other ministry activities that gave them a chance to build relationships with the people around them.

“We had the joy of shopping with Texas Baptist Hunger Offering funds and delivering basic items to two families of Samuel’s Fund children who were struggling with health and financial issues,” said Sheila Backen, a housemom from Boothe Campus. “The joy in their eyes needed no translation. It was so beneficial for our students to see how many more resources they have to use in their lives than the families in these homes.  It was a stark contrast that I hope built a permanent sense of gratitude in their lives.”

The group also enjoyed having dinner with the families of local church members. Breaking bread together in the cool of the evening, the teens from Texas experienced fellowship in its most basic form.

“This was a precious time that helped us all to understand that Christians truly are united in one body, regardless of nationality or language,” said Sheila.

The next leg of the team’s adventure began with a short road trip across the Dominican countryside. IBQ, the church where the team had their home base, is located on the outskirts of Santo Domingo. This bustling capital city has a population equal to Austin, Texas, in one eighth of the geographic area. The team’s destination was Monte Plata, a rural community about the size of Victoria, Texas. Nestled in deep green hills, this sleepy town is the location of the Casa Monte Plata Children’s Home, a long-time STCH Ministries partner.

Casa Monte Plata operates very much like STCH Ministries Homes for Children, with a campus made up of individual cottages. Each cottage has houseparents who take care of the children in a family setting. The buildings are painted in brighter colors than their Texas counterparts, and the garden is filled with tropical foliage instead of towering oak trees, but the Dominican children’s home radiates the same sense of love and security that many generations of children have found at STCH Ministries.

The young people on the team found it easy to connect with the residents, perhaps aided by a sense of shared experience that crossed cultural boundaries.

“It was a real joy to see the love they extended to the children,” said Sheila. “DeRay even taught some Dominican children to dance! The language barrier presented no problem for our teens, as the love of God they shared with each person they met was easily understood in any language.”

There in the Dominican countryside, where the residents from one children’s home became the helpers and encouragers to the children in another, the circle of ministry was complete. The served became the servants, and the love of Christ overflowed from one life to another. As is often the case, the ones doing the ministry found themselves affected just as much as the ones to whom they ministered.

“It humbled me a lot to be able to go on this trip,” said Mary, who graduated from high school shortly before the trip. “I had plans to go three years ago, but it didn’t work out. I see now that this was God’s timing. It was very humbling for me to see how Dominicans live, and their love and zeal for God. Also, it refreshed me spiritually and mentally.”

Returning to IBQ, the team concluded their trip with a mixture of physical weariness and spiritual vitality.

“I always feel refreshed and encouraged after spending a week at IBQ,” said Joel. “Not because it is a restful week—I am physically exhausted at the end of it—but refreshed because of the community of believers, a community that has fully bought into the idea of discipleship.”

As Director of Student Ministries, Joel was keenly aware of the positive influence this environment had on the teens from Boothe Campus.

“I am also refreshed by the amount of young people that serve in the church and serve the people in their community simply because that’s what God calls them to do,” he said, “and I love the example it sets for our students.”

At the end of the week-long mission trip, the group of travelers returned to Boothe Campus brimming with memories, new experiences, and a fresh perspective on the place they call home.

Sheila summarized the trials and triumphs of their adventure in one brief statement: “There was joy and flexibility throughout the trip. Plans changed. Numbers changed. Strength varied from day to day. But everyone rose to the challenges, and, when all the pieces fell into place, God made the trip picture-perfect.”

If you would like to join STCH Ministries on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic or Costa Rica in 2019, visit[/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Relentlessly Pursued by God

The Bible makes it clear that God is active and present in each individual’s life whether they recognize Him or not. Jeremiah 29:11 shows us that God has a plan for our good and He is dedicated to working out that plan even if it means disrupting what we have planned for ourselves. This was certainly the case for Maria Hart, one of the moms currently living with her two teenage daughters, Valerie and Brook, at STCH Ministries Homes for Families. As she looks back on where God has brought her from, Maria realizes, “He took my kids away. He took my life away, twice…all for me to learn that I had to do something to stop doing the drugs.”

Drug abuse had been a factor in Maria’s life from an early age. Her first child, Frank, born of a teenage pregnancy, was raised by her parents as though he were a younger brother. While a young adult, Maria met and fell in love with her husband. Even though they attended church purely out of a sense of duty to his family traditions, she remembers hearing God whisper truth to her through those experiences. Unfortunately, one of the factors that drew the couple together was a shared dependence on narcotics.

In the midst of bad decisions and harmful habits, Maria could see God’s activity around her; she saw God’s fingerprints when her son Frank decided to turn his life around through trusting Jesus as his Savior. Even so, she was not ready to make any major changes in her own life. The situation of Maria’s young family was continuing to deteriorate. When problems arose at school, Maria decided to pull both of her girls out. Neighbors in their trailer park had also reported concerns for her two young daughters.

“The girls were always outside asking people for food,” Maria recounts.

A lifetime of living in the moment and seeking the release of chemically induced highs came to a dramatic climax when Child Protective Services (CPS) stepped in. They required Maria to take a drug test—a test she knew she would fail. Driven by the fear of losing their daughters, Maria and her husband tried to avoid the authorities, but soon Valerie and Brook were placed in an emergency shelter by CPS.

Meanwhile, God was faithfully working His plan to bring this family into relationship with Himself. In February 2017, the girls moved to STCH Ministries Homes for Children. Valerie and Brook were apprehensive about a new place and leery of all the new rules, but very happy to be together. After spending time with their cottage family and settling in to a healthy routine, they both flourished in their new environment.

Maria, on the other hand, was heartbroken to have lost custody of her girls. She spiraled into a dark depression and heavier drug use, switching from merely snorting methamphetamine to shooting it directly into her body. One fateful day Maria remembers taking the meth and feeling unwell. Her husband found her unconscious and called an ambulance. Maria’s heart was wildly out of rhythm. The EMTs were forced to take extreme measures to get it under control. Her heartbeat and breathing had to be stopped and resuscitated twice before she stabilized.

Her survival shows, once again, God stepped into her life to work for her good and His ultimate glory. When she returned to consciousness and recognized she was hospitalized, Maria finally came to the conclusion that something had to change.

As she recovered from her heart attack, Maria resolved to do whatever it took to make a new start. She immediately quit using drugs. However, the caseworkers made it clear: her only chance at reuniting with her daughters meant getting a job and finding a better place to live. She started applying for any job she could think of, but she was turned down without exception because of her history of drug use. Encountering obstacles at every turn, desperately trying to make things right, she was sucker-punched again when her husband decided to leave, merely stating that after sixteen years of marriage he was done.

With no job and no husband, Maria also had no place to live. Her cousin opened her home and in July the girls were released to the cousin’s custody. The two women continued to seek alternatives, and a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) representative suggested they look into Homes for Families outside of Goliad, Texas.

Homes for Families is a program for mothers and their children who are living in situations that threaten the stability and safety of the family. Families stay together while the moms receive one-on-one training and counseling to help them succeed with their children and with life. Topics covered during this program cover both spiritual growth and practical life skills.

At first, Maria found the structure of the program to be daunting; she was not used to having boundaries. Yet, she knew this was her best chance at making a real difference in her life and for her girls.

“It was something that had to be done,” she declares. “It was the only way to better myself and the girls.”

It didn’t take long to realize the structure and continuity the program provided gave Maria a sense of security. For the first time, immersed in an atmosphere steeped in Scripture and surrounded by people deeply committed to her success, Maria has blossomed. Resident Coordinator Patricia Urech has steadfastly walked alongside Maria from the first day she moved on campus.

Maria has now surrendered her heart to Jesus, and her trust in Him is increasing every day. She’s learning how to manage her anger and let go of the strife she battled for so long. Her dedication to change has impressed CPS as well: they have now restored full custody of the girls to Maria!

On a visit with extended family, the topic of the future was discussed. Maria’s family believed that she had achieved her goal—to get the girls back. They assumed she would walk away. But Maria realized that quitting now would be turning her back on her best opportunity to create a better future. She recognized God’s goodness in bringing her through all of the past and she committed herself whole-heartedly to finishing the program.

Valerie and Brook have benefitted the most from the changes in Maria. Where they once knew a mother full of fear who was constantly anxious, the mom they live with now is slow to anger and quick to pray. Those changes are taking root in the girls’ hearts, too. The family has celebrated great milestones together, such as when Maria and Brook were baptized in March at First Baptist Church, Goliad.

God’s faithfulness is evidenced in a restored relationship with Maria’s son Frank as well. Maria felt led by the Lord to reach out to him and share the transformation God is working in her life. This year’s Mother’s Day celebration was a joyous one; the entire family spent the weekend together at Frank’s home.

At Homes for Families, Maria is moving through the phases of the program and is preparing for a career in childcare. She is researching options and requirements for obtaining a teaching certificate. Her days are filled with Bible study, parenting classes, and other courses to prepare her for independent living.

Maria’s experience shows that God relentlessly pursues those who are lost. For Maria, it took reaching the absolute end of her own strength before she surrendered to His infinite love for her. Maria explains that she feels a peace deep in her spirit that she has never experienced before. Her ultimate goal remains true to her new faith, “to keep walking with God and take care of the girls.”

Maria is thankful to have found in STCH Ministries a place where hope is a reality. She marvels that God Himself is active every day in her life. When asked how STCH supporters could specifically pray for God to work in her life, she radiates contentment as she responds, “He’s already done it. He’s changed us all.” Just a moment of further reflection causes her to add, “Ask them to pray for other mothers to find Homes for Families.”

God continues His work of reconciling individuals to Himself. At STCH Ministries, we invite you to join us in praying for those families He is pursuing even now.

Changing Their Story

We all have a life story – the facts, the events, the circumstances, the tragedies and the triumphs that we can put on a timeline, type out on a résumé, or tell in a testimony. We can tell how God intervened in our lives to change us at crucial and needed moments. There is something even deeper, though, that is more important. It is the story that we live by. The story we live by shapes how we see ourselves, how we see the world, and how we see God. Often the story that we live by is shaped by pain, by problems, or by our past clinging to us and causing us to live with a sin-marred view of ourselves, others, and God.

One of the times I treasured in twenty-seven years of being a senior pastor was the opportunity to be the shepherd to children, houseparents, and staff of STCH Ministries Homes for Children in my years at First Baptist Church of Kenedy, Texas. I look back on it now as a unique ministry unlike I had ever experienced before or since. I was able to see lives changed then, and now that I serve on staff at STCH Ministries, I am able to see how the stories of some of those lives continue to change as I am around former residents and many of those same houseparents.

One incident clearly stands out in my mind of a little girl who was about ten years old, and who was only at Homes for Children and my church for a short time. I was leading a group of kids through a Bible lesson and I had asked the children what verses of the Bible they could quote from memory. Hands shot up all around the room and one by one the kids began to say John 3:16 from memory.

I finally said, “OK, who knows a verse other than John 3:16?”

This little girl looked at me with her big brown “My life verse is eyes and raised the only hand in the room at that point. I nodded to her and she said, “My life verse is Psalm 27:10.”

There was a pause, as if I was supposed to know that one by heart, and then I asked her to share it with us. Very calmly, as if this verse brought her great peace, she quoted, “Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.”

Now there really was a pause in the room. I felt all the eyes of the adult workers turn from her to me as the possibilities began to go through their minds of why a ten-year-old girl would know that scripture by heart and call it her life verse. But there was something about the peace with which she said it that brought a peace to me. I knew God had done a work that only He could do of changing someone’s life at a very crucial point. There was a lesson far beyond what I was going to teach that day that she had already learned. God had showed her that life-changing reality, and the story of her life was being changed. More correctly, perhaps, the story that she lived by was being changed.

I affirmed what she said and what God was doing in her life and moved on into the lesson, but the memory of that moment would stay with me. Though I never knew much of the life story of the little brown-eyed girl, she gave me a glimpse of the story that she had lived: “Though my father and mother forsake me…” Meanwhile, God was giving her a glimpse of the story she could live by: “…the Lord will receive me.”

Loving houseparents, skilled case workers, and dedicated staff, along with generous donors, were part of a process in which her circumstances—the story of her life—had changed. God was using all of that to intervene so that the story that she lived by could change.

To me, that is the great joy of seeing what God does through STCH Ministries. He makes sin-marred stories become the story of the gospel. It is the story God offers us through faith in Jesus Christ, despite what others have done to hurt us and despite what we have done to hurt others. It is not just changed circumstances, but a changed life.

Thank you for what you did to help that little ten-year-old girl, who had endured such pain in her life that she knew the first phrase of Psalm 27:10, “Though my father and mother forsake me,” to come to know the reality of the last phrase, “the Lord will receive me.”

So what is the story that you live by? Are you ready to let God change it?

Read more stories of life change in the Messenger online! Our digital edition has all the stories from the printed magazine plus videos, blog posts, and the latest news. Visit today!

Staying Connected

The neglect and abandonment of children is a nationwide problem.
STCH Ministries is part of a nationwide solution.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly half a million children are in foster care and children’s homes throughout the nation, and more are added every day. The sheer magnitude of the need is beyond the capacity of any single institution or agency. At STCH Ministries we believe that collaboration with other like-minded, Christian organizations is essential if we want to address the big-picture issues of family brokenness in our world. In the last issue of the Messenger, we highlighted the many ways we join forces with Texas Baptists to reach people in need. STCH Ministries also has a long history of collaboration on the national level, bringing together ideas and relationships that result in a solution greater than the sum of its parts.

In September 2018, STCH Ministries participated in the Connections Conference, an annual meeting that brings together children’s homes from across the country to collaborate on development and communications topics. The conference included the twenty-one organizations from nineteen states that are members of the Baptist Coalition for Children and Families (BCCF), and the theme of the event was “Staying Connected.”

When it comes to meeting the needs of children and families, the areas of development and communications are typically behind the scenes, supporting the more direct ministry roles of houseparents, counselors, and caseworkers. However, the conference sessions emphasized the need for advocacy at both the state and national levels, giving a voice to the most vulnerable members of society. To a room full of professional communicators, the objective resonated deeply.

And yet, as a discussion panel of Baptist news editors pointed out, a single organization does not have the kind of reach necessary to affect the broader cultural conversation. To do that, multiple voices must be united in a chorus. Whether it is a children’s home working with churches and their state’s Baptist convention, or a collection of children’s homes like BCCF, the element of teamwork gives greater societal relevance to the cause.

Rod Marshall, BCCF President, underlined that cooperative commitment in his address to the group, saying, “We work closely with the North American Mission Board, the Women’s Missionary Union, and Baptist Press to address the needs of families in the United States. Baptist childcare providers have been the best in childcare for over 150 years.”

In addition to guest speakers, the Connections Conference featured many presentations by the staff of participating organizations, including STCH Ministries. In the spirit of “Staying Connected,” attendees shared both their successes and challenges, gleaning ideas and solutions from each other’s experiences.

STCH Ministries staff member Jeny Cortez commented, “There’s no sense of competition. We all want everyone to be successful. We know it is all for the glory of God and the healing of broken lives.”

Historically, STCH Ministries has seen the fruit of collaboration and the power of a united front. Mark Childs, STCH Ministries Vice President of Homes for Children, recalls the work of childcare pioneers in Texas, including Jess Lunsford, the founder of the South Texas Children’s Home.

“He made numerous trips to Austin, along with other faith-based organizational leaders, to advocate for the safety of children in Texas. Their efforts led to the creation of a licensing department within the Department of Family and Protective Services to ensure the safe treatment of children placed into the foster care system.”

More than sixty years later, Childs says that this unity and cooperation are just as essential as they were in the past. In addition to BCCF, STCH Ministries is a member of several associations that bring together children’s homes from around the country, such as the Coalition of Residential Excellence (CORE) and the Association of Christian Childcare Administrators (ACCA). These groups promote best practices in childcare, and they also provide a national platform to influence public thinking about the needs of children.

“The only way that can be achieved is through a network of providers coming together to share strengths, expertise, and resources,” says Childs. “STCH Ministries will continue to strive to be an integral part of this network of hope.”


How To Be A Partner In Hope

Hope – a word often used in times of turmoil or crisis, but which sometimes describes a joyful anticipation of what is yet to come.  Everyone, at some point or another, experiences either the loss of hope or the desire for something positive to happen. Either way, hope is a powerful word.  It means “to cherish a desire with anticipation,” according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

In the Bible, hope is used 129 times and appears in 121 verses.  One particular verse is Hebrews 11:1 (ESV):

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

As believers, we know that Jesus is the source of all hope, even when hope seems lost.  We should closely rely on our Savior and Lord for all things unseen, even during the times of struggle and chaos. But how do we extend that hope to the lost and hurting?

This year, STCH Ministries adopted the slogan Healing Hearts and Sharing Hope.  We unashamedly share the love of Christ with every person served in our ministries, and we are grateful that in 2017, 323 children and adults accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. Individuals moved from neglect, abuse, and abandonment to a new life of restoration, forgiveness, and safety. It is no secret that hearts were healed and hope was shared.

Here are a few examples of how STCH Ministries is Healing Hearts and Sharing Hope:

• Children are given a place to call home when their family is in crisis.

• Marriages are restored through Christian counseling.

• Single moms and their children are provided a safe home to escape abusive relationships.

• Men and women come to understand their value and identity in the workplace.

These acts of Healing Hearts and Sharing Hope would not be possible without the support of churches, individuals, and businesses who share our mission.  As you know, it requires resources for STCH Ministries to care for children and families in our ministries.

Would you consider joining us to become a Partner in Hope?

STCH Ministries is committed to providing excellent care and service to children and families.  By becoming a Partner in Hope, you are helping to provide hope when it is needed most.

With your help, every child and family served at STCH Ministries will have the opportunity to put their faith in the assurance of Eternal Hope. Visit to learn more.