Pastor Raul Elizondo has seen firsthand the impact that financial struggles have on a family.

“A big percentage of my church grew up in poverty—welfare, food stamps,” says Elizondo. The statistics show they are not alone: one in five American households receives government assistance.

“But those programs are to help temporarily,” continues Elizondo, “not to be a way of life.”

The Federal Reserve has also reported that the average household debt in America is more than double the median household income. Putting the debt problem in a spiritual perspective, Pastor Elizondo says, “We have people that have been freed from sin, but are still slaves to the lender.”

As the pastor of New Life Baptist Church in Corpus Christi, Elizondo believes that the church needs to take a holistic approach to teaching and discipleship, and that includes the topic of money.

“A healthy perspective when it comes to our finances can just make a world of difference in our churches. I believe there are a lot of churches struggling because, to be quite honest, we’re afraid to talk about finances in our churches.”

When STCH Ministries’ Jimmy Rodriguez approached Elizondo about hosting a Faith & Finances class at his church, the decision was not a difficult one.

“I said, ‘Yes, sign me up!’”

Over the twelve weeks that followed, STCH Ministries staff conducted the largest Faith & Finances class in our program’s history, with more than forty regular attendees meeting at New Life Baptist Church every Sunday evening. Classes covered biblical truths about money, such as the fact that “the borrower is servant to the lender” (Prov. 22:7) and God’s ultimate ownership of everything (Ps 24:1). According to Elizondo, the spiritual focus was one of the defining marks of the program.

“Every Faith & Finances class started in prayer. You felt God in the sessions.”


See Faith & Finances in Action

Pastor Raul Elizondo from New Life Baptist Church shares his perspective on Faith & Finances in this video.

But Faith & Finances is every bit as practical as it is spiritual, teaching participants how to track their spending, get out of debt, and set savings goals. The curriculum follows the story of Eva and Isaac, a fictional couple who learn to manage their dysfunctional finances by applying the principles in each lesson. Just like the real life participants, Eva and Isaac struggle on their journey and sometimes make mistakes. (When the story recounted Eva’s visit to a payday lender, the class at New Life responded with a collective “BOOO!”) But in the end, persistence and self-discipline win the day for Eva and Isaac.

According to Pastor Elizondo, the happy endings were more than just a fairy tale in the Faith & Finances class.

“There were several cases that I would consider great breakthrough. One of them, within a twelve-week span, got rid of most of their credit card debt. They were inspired the first two or three sessions, and I loved it when the lady started sharing her testimony, ‘Me and my husband started talking.’ So not only were they able to accomplish a financial goal, but also a relational goal.”

In another instance, a young woman spoke to her pastor through tears as she realized how her spending habits were resulting in her poverty. “It was a sad moment, but also a positive moment, because I told her, ‘Sister, at least you’ve realized what the problem is now, and I consider that a victory.’”

New Life had used other financial training material before, but Pastor Elizondo found the Faith & Finances curriculum to be more accessible to all participants, regardless of their age or financial background. In fact, one of the star students of the class was also one of the youngest.

Even as a middle schooler, Juan already knows how to work hard for his money. With his parents’ encouragement, he started a lawn care business at the age of eleven to earn extra money for activities he wanted to do. Now at the age of thirteen, he hires his friends to help work on yards in the neighborhood. As Juan made more money, it became more important for him to learn how to handle it.

“What this class is teaching me is to better understand where my money is going and to control it,” Juan says. “Before, I wouldn’t even write it down. If I needed to buy fuel, I would buy fuel. But with this class, it’s teaching me to write it down so I know.”

Armed with a spending plan, Juan is now able to make sure that the fruits of his labor don’t slip away inadvertently.

“Recently I’ve realized that most of my money goes to food because, well, I’m always hungry. So now I’m learning to budget that and keep enough money for a business and even for an [emergency fund].”

Juan’s experience illustrates that it’s never too early to begin learning the principles of biblical money management, just as other participants have seen that it is never too late to change old habits and start doing things God’s way.

At STCH Ministries, Faith & Finances is one of several ministries designed to assist families at the prevention level, before stress and conflict result in the breakup of a home. In the sequence of events that bring residents to our Homes for Children and Homes for Families campuses, financial issues are often a contributing factor. By partnering with local churches, our goal is to strengthen families in the community, who in turn are able to minister to other families.

At New Life Baptist Church, Pastor Elizondo has seen the first fruits of that process, and believes that changing attitudes about finances will pay even greater dividends in faith.

“God wants us to have an abundant life, and I believe that will affect our spiritual maturity, our ability to trust in God, and hopefully change the tide for the next generation as we become more educated, more knowledgeable about the role finances should have in our lives as believers of Christ.”

When 28-year-old Ashley Kaufman discovered she was pregnant in 2016, she was devastated. She and her two young sons had recently escaped an abusive marriage, but not before Ashley lost custody of her daughter from a previous relationship. Heartbroken and afraid, Ashley struggled to think about bringing another child into her world.

“My life was in shambles,” Ashley said. “I hated myself and couldn’t understand why I kept making bad decisions. I started thinking about an abortion. I thought it would make everything easier.”

Growing up in Santa Rosa, California, Ashley had never known stability. Her father was a musician and she, her mother, and an older half-sister often traveled with him. She was only seven when her parents divorced.

“My mom was addicted to drugs, and she often left my sister and me alone for two weeks at a time,” Ashley recalls. “I felt so scared and alone. I also got sexually molested by a relative during one of those times.”

During high school, Ashley left home and eventually dropped out of school. She became pregnant when she was nineteen and had a son, Jaden. She then met another man and within a year gave birth to Alexis, her daughter. After five years in that relationship, Ashley returned to Jaden’s father and had a third child, Adrian. Ashley began to sense God’s conviction and started going to church on her own.

“I wanted so badly to try and make my marriage work so my sons could be with their father,” Ashley shared. “I thought I could fix him, but he never stopped his abusive behavior.”

One Sunday morning after leaving her husband, Ashley went to Bear Creek Baptist Church in Katy, Texas. She became so upset during the service that she ran out and asked if there was someone who could help her. She was told that STCH Ministries offered counseling services at Bear Creek and was soon able to talk with a counselor.

“What I really wanted was for someone to tell me abortion was okay…that it would be the best choice for me. Instead, the counselor told me abortion isn’t okay and if I went through with it, I would feel more pain in the end than if I chose to have this precious baby God was giving me.”

The counselor also told Ashley about another program of STCH Ministries called Homes for Families, a place that could give her the support she needed to face her pregnancy as she worked toward a more promising future for herself and her children.

Although leery from her experiences of staying in shelters, Ashley finally made the phone call. Theresa Klacman, program coordinator at Homes for Families, was ready and waiting.

“The counselors let me know that this was a young woman contemplating abortion, which is something really close to my heart,” Klacman said. “I had an abortion when I was seventeen, and I know that you never ever forget the experience. Ashley shared about her situation and we talked about the power and forgiveness of God, and His hope and redemption. I believed Ashley really wanted this child but was overwhelmed by all the obstacles. She needed someone to tell her that she had options, and that she wouldn’t be in this alone.”

Ashley and her two sons arrived at Homes for Families in Goliad, Texas, on Valentine’s Day 2017. She was given a vase of flowers with a card that said, I love you. From God. “It was like God was saying to me, ‘You can breathe now. It’s okay.’”

Ashley poured herself into Phase 1 of the program, a time devoted to the restoration of body, mind, and spirit and developing a more intimate relationship with God. Four months later, Isaiah was born, bringing a new peace Ashley had never known.

“I am so glad I didn’t go through with the abortion and that I have Isaiah!” Ashley exclaimed through tears of joy. “Being here has been the best experience of my life. The hardest part was facing myself and the issues inside, like pride and unforgiveness. The staff here have held my hand and guided me. They taught me what it takes to have a personal relationship with God, and how to truly lay down my life for Jesus. I knew it was time. I just hadn’t known how.”

Ashley’s resident coordinator has witnessed an amazing transformation in her.

“Ashley is a dedicated mother who loves her children more than herself. She takes every situation to God in prayer and has attained a wonderful resilience. I believe one day God will use her strong personality and joyful spirit to lead others.”

Ashley is so grateful for all God is doing in her family. Jaden is in fourth grade and loving his new school. Two-year-old Adrian is cared for at the Homes for Families onsite childcare, and baby Isaiah stays with his mom during the day. Soon Ashley will begin taking classes that will prepare her to enroll in college, where she plans to study nursing.

“STCH Ministries has helped create a foundation for the rest of my life,” Ashley said, “and I know two things for sure. Every single day I am here, I am in God’s will, and every day He is healing my brokenness.”

If you would like to learn more about the Homes for Families ministry, visit www.STCHM.org/HFF.

Crossbridge Fellowship Church brimmed with contagious energy earlier this year as a group gathered to prepare for the spring semester of Jobs for Life (JfL) in Corpus Christi. With beaming faces, and a few heartfelt tears, alumni and volunteers of all ages and backgrounds shared inspiring stories of how Jobs for Life had changed their lives and homes.

For RC, who graduated from JfL in the fall of 2017, this meant ending a life-long struggle and finding new purpose.

“The hardest thing was being real with myself,” RC shared. “I always wanted to be a people pleaser, but JfL helped me define myself more and grow in my relationship with God.”

RC now volunteers in the JfL office and serves as an ally to encourage women enrolled in the program.

In February 2008, STCH Ministries first began offering job and life-skills classes in Corpus Christi through the Christian Women’s Job Corps program. In 2014, the name was changed after adopting the Jobs for Life curriculum, and the main program hub was relocated to CrossBridge to help STCH Ministries better meet the greatest needs in Corpus Christi. The twelve-week program continued its focus on helping women become more self-sufficient but recently began offering men’s classes as well. In the fall of 2016, one component of Jobs for Life called Faith & Finances grew to become a new, separate program at STCH Ministries.

Jimmy Rodriguez, Director of Jobs for Life and Faith & Finances for Corpus Christi and San Antonio, is grateful for the strong partnerships JfL has established over the past ten years with individuals, churches, businesses, and local community resources. As a ministry that is primarily volunteer driven, these partnerships are critical to success.

“Nothing is more important than relationships,” Rodriguez said. “Our relationship with Oak Park Elementary School in Corpus Christi led to a recent invitation to set up an information booth at a PTA meeting. Fifty women signed up that night as interested in participating in Jobs for Life!”

Through partnerships like this, STCH Ministries Jobs for Life now exists in Corpus Christi, San Antonio, and Houston, and the program continues to expand. The first Spanish-speaking class took place last year in Houston, and an evening coed class began at CrossBridge in Corpus Christi this spring with an emphasis on business and ministry building.

Joanna Berry, Vice President of Family and International Ministries, looks forward to what the upcoming year holds.

“All of our ministries are joined in a type of symbiotic relationship with local churches in their ministry to families,” Berry said. “Our priority this year is to continue to develop and refine the Jobs for Life program and methods so that it becomes a more viable and effective outreach tool for churches that want to help the needy and broken but have mostly been limited to food pantries and clothes closets in the past. There are so many diverse opportunities for volunteers to deeply impact the lives of women and men through Jobs for Life.”

To learn more about participating in or volunteering at Jobs for Life, go to www.STCHM.org/JfL.

In 2006 STCH Ministries launched our International Ministry, reaching out to the Dominican Republic, and recently we have begun the process of exploring God’s direction in other countries, such as Costa Rica. The groundwork for our international expansion was contained in the principles of the STCH Ministries mission statement: Honoring God, helping hurting children and families, and enabling others to join us in this work.

Honoring God through fulfilling the Great Commission—possibly there has never been a time when so many differing priorities compete for best use of resources. Multiple values, passions, opinions, and experiences affect the decision to expand into other countries. So how does STCH Ministries determine the what, the where, and the who of our next phase of growth?

In contemporary culture, big is the ultimate measure of success. It is tempting to focus on reporting thousands of conversions in a ten-day mission trip. Or to tout meeting physical needs— thousands of people fed, healed, or clothed. The Great Commission begins with sharing the Gospel, but includes the directive to make disciples—a slower and numbers-deficient process. Jesus, who invested heavily in only twelve disciples, informs the most effective model for ministry. STCH Ministries believes that investing in the development of capable leaders for tomorrow is the wisest use of resources, exponentially multiplying future ministries and leaders.

When STCH Ministries began working overseas, we sought an effective systemic approach to address short-term mission involvement. One of the keys was to find trusted, locally-owned ministries with a similar focus on helping children and families. We respect God’s call on individuals to reach their own culture, and we desire long-term relationships, so we work to identify resources and training that we can provide to enable them to fulfill their calling. As a result, the investment made by an American mission team will continue long after the team has gone home.

The first years of International Ministry were about building those relationships and establishing protocol for our ministry activities. Now as we look to future opportunities in another country, we will use that experience to guide our path.

Guidelines for Finding Trusted, Local Partners Internationally

  • Do they have a history of commitment and faithfulness? Do we have a good report from credible people?
  • Are their leaders competent and dedicated to their calling? Do they have a vision for the future?
  • Do we have expertise and resources that they need? How can volunteer teams help?
  • Accountability in finances—how are they funded? Do they work from a budget?
  • Is there evidence and testimony of their primary dependence on God?
  • If an orphanage or a school, do they have a priority relationship with a church? Do they focus on sharing the Gospel along with discipleship? Do they have sufficient staff, appropriately trained?

It takes considerable time to discover the answers to these questions, and some trial and error. As we did in the Dominican Republic, we have begun with visits to Costa Rica, during which we shared our vision and heard from local ministry leaders. In 2018 we hope to return with a few American volunteers who have been to the DR who can give us feedback on their perceptions of this new area. During future visits, we will share some resources such as groceries, school supplies, and clothing. Later, is there evidence that the children are using the school supplies or clothes donated? Is ministry staff present? Are the facilities maintained as best as can be expected?

We inquire about their needs and vision.

  • Do they have a plan, and are they making efforts to achieve their plans?
  • Or are they waiting or dependent on handouts? (We walk a fine line between helping and hurting with financial assistance.)
  • Is the safety and well-being of children a priority?
  • Are they willing to work with us and do they ask for our advice?

This part of the vetting process is crucial. Although we seek to nurture partnerships without imposing our American “right” ways of doing things, we must make sure that the foundation is biblical. As our president and CEO Eron Green often reminds us, “Partnerships can be messy!”

One more very important consideration for STCH Ministries is logistics. We evaluate several factors:

  • Is the work something that fits family mission teams?
  • Is there safety and political stability in the country?
  • What is the distance, cost, and ease of travel?
  • What accommodations can we provide in local transportation, lodging, and food?

As you can imagine, the process of expanding our International Ministry is a slow one, and that is how it should be. When a family decides to join a mission trip, traveling thousands of miles to an unfamiliar country with children in tow, they are trusting that STCH Ministries hasn’t taken any shortcuts!

Mission teams are also trusting that their labors will have an enduring impact, and that is why we put such an emphasis on collaborating with local partners for Kingdom work. When we co-labor, or labor with our brothers and sisters in Christ overseas, God moves in the work and accomplishes something greater than we can envision.

Stay tuned for more information in the coming year as STCH Ministries investigates new opportunities for international missions.

Boothe Campus
Bee County, Texas

I want to begin by thanking each of you for your support in 2017. Here at STCH Ministries, 2017 was a year of blessings and growth, with many more children and families impacted by the work that you are making possible. To God be the glory!

I must also say that while 2017 was tremendous, I am really excited about 2018! I believe God has big plans for STCH Ministries this year. While I do believe we will see growth, I believe 2018 will be built around refinement. As we look to refine all aspects of our ministry, we will adhere to, cultivate, and immerse ourselves in our core values:

Excellence, Integrity, Accountability, Vision, and Glory to God.

What do you value today? What is your most prized possession? As a popular Christian song lyric states, “We’re all one phone call from our knees”. In the blink of an eye our whole world can be turned upside down. The stories seem all too familiar: a wife leaves her husband, a mother and her children are evicted from their apartment, the boss comes in and today is your last day, a pastor is overwhelmed by the weight of bearing his congregation’s burdens. You see, we all have a story. Our collective stories are of tragedy and triumph.

What is your story? Recently I had the opportunity to meet two young ladies who have come to live on our Boothe Campus. What they didn’t know is that I had been praying for them for months, ever since their pastor reached out to me concerning their situation. (It was such a blessing to put faces with the prayers I had been praying!) You see, in the midst of their very difficult surroundings, God was writing a new chapter for them, a change for the better that they couldn’t see coming. The decision to come live on our Boothe Campus may be the most important one they have made in life to this point. Their story is unfolding in a new direction, and STCH Ministries is now a part of it.

As I write this letter, I am sitting in our Koinonia House in the Dominican Republic. This morning I was able to see the dream of Pastor Rodney and his wife Nilsia in progress: the completion and expansion of a new Christian school in the town of Villa Altagracia. To see their faces and hear their gratitude for how God has allowed us to be a part of their story (and the 165 children that attend school there) was a powerful reminder that we all have the ability to be an influence for the Kingdom.

Because of your support, we at STCH Ministries are privileged to be a part of God’s work in the lives of children and families, and to see His hope come alive in their hearts.

Thank you again for your generosity and please be in prayer for us in 2018,

Eron Green, President and CEO