Felessia Ayala found a place to belong when she stopped using drugs to fill the emptiness in her heart. Every attempt to escape her emptiness hurt everyone she cared about. Her road to recovery began when she recognized her life consisted of only pain. STCH Ministries Homes for Families (HFF) supplied the resources she needed to restore her family.

During an attempted suicide, Felessia experienced a dream she believes came from God. Surrounded by absolute blackness, two roads appeared. She also saw God’s hands pointing, indicating the choice was hers to make. Despite the drug-induced stupor, she recognized her destructive path was because of her own decisions. She was not at rock bottom, but she returned to what she calls the “insanity” of addiction and homelessness. When she had exhausted all her options; she realized she wanted to do better, to be better.

Felessia’s mom helped her move into Restoration House Ministries (RHM) in Victoria. RHM’s residential program is dedicated to the service of women who desire freedom from addiction and bondage. One day, during group prayer time, Felessia felt God’s love surround her for the first time in her life. The love and acceptance she had received transformed her, she felt accepted and precious. She responded to God’s grace with surrender – she no longer hid from life nor traveled the road of destruction. Felessia accepted God’s gift of eternal life and forgiveness of sin, which was bought through Jesus’ sacrifice and sealed with His resurrection from the dead. She came to new life that day.

Felessia wanted to move to HFF but the fathers of her children did not trust her with their care. She took the matter to God in prayer and He moved in the hearts of the men. Circumstances changed for one of the fathers and he agreed to return the two oldest boys, James and Cameron, to Felessia on the same day she moved to HFF. Her boys held on to the anger and hurt they felt towards their mom. Felessia knew she had been healed from the past and now it was her sons’ turn. The support of staff, other moms and the parenting curriculum at HFF gave Felessia the strength and skills she needed to listen and allow her boys to express their feelings. The three sat in her walk-in closet, cried and prayed together. The presence of God encircled them and it was in that prayer closet their hearts knitted together as a family.

Three months later, her dream for a restored family came true. Zachary and Mackenzie’s father reached out to Felessia, as he noticed positive changes she had made and wanted to discuss reunification with her and the children. For the first time, Felessia had all four children with her, under her protection.

Felessia is now in the “launching” phase of the HFF program. She works part-time at a local hotel, recently purchased a car and has begun classes at Victoria Beauty College. The decision to become a hairstylist came from a forgotten dream she had as a young girl. Through this process, God has restored her hope and dream for a successful future.

“God is my provider. I’ve learned this through my time here,” she said. As a part of the HFF program, Felessia’s finances, physical needs and spiritual needs were met so she could focus on being a mom. Rebuilding relationships and creating new habits took courage and commitment from everyone involved. Today, Felessia and her family give God the glory for His work in their lives.

Isaiah 40:31 – “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

The first thing a person notices about Christopher Lee is his infectious smile and contagious energy, which is something that has changed over the years. Christopher came to STCH Ministries Homes for Children (HFC) in the summer of 2012 when he was only four years old. He still remembers the day he came to the Boothe Campus, “I remember hiding behind my housemom’s back; I was very shy.” However, over the years he has come out from behind his housemom’s back and gained the heart of an eagle.

The first few years on the Boothe Campus were not the easiest for Christopher as he was encouraged to learn a new way of life. This included a life with his new houseparents, Terry and Sheila Backen, in Foster Cottage. His houseparents reminisced on how he would run away and Terry would follow him in the van through campus until he was ready to come home. This quickly changed, and Christopher began connecting with his houseparents and the other children in his cottage. Over his seven years at HFC, Christopher overcame these obstacles with help from the other children and the prayers from those around him. He was able to start experiencing God’s will for his life.

When Christopher was in Pre-K, he was picked to be a Peagle Pal. The Peagle Pals are selected to help the Pettus High School mascot during the Pep-Rally for the week. They get to wear a football jersey and run around the gym with the mascot and the cheerleaders. Christopher loved this opportunity and was chosen each year through fourth grade. He was very disappointed that he wasn’t chosen in the fifth grade and decided then that he wanted to be Peagle Jr. when he got to middle school.

In the spring of 2019, as Christopher prepared to finish elementary school and start middle school, he tried out to be the mascot. He was nervous at the cheerleading tryouts but knew that he had the support of his houseparents and the other children on campus. When his name was called after the tryouts he could not contain his joy; he had done it! When asked what his favorite moment since coming to HFC was, he exclaimed, “becoming the mascot!”

Over the summer, he attended cheer camp with his fellow cheerleaders and built relationships he will cherish forever.  He also enjoyed making new friends with people from other schools. He even earned the Spirit Award for the mascots. Because of the experience he had at cheer camp, he wants to work with the National Cheerleaders Association when he gets older. Excitedly, he took what he learned at camp and showed off his new talents at Pettus football games throughout the fall.

When Terry and Sheila look at Christopher today, they no longer see the shy little boy that came into their lives in 2012. They see a young man who has gained the confidence to be who he wants to be. They see the influences from the other children he lived with over the years – the ones who helped him get past his fears and insecurities about living at HFC. Now, he helps other children as they come onto the Boothe Campus by showing them love and encouraging them through the difficult transition. Christopher learned how to spread his wings and fly.

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In September of 1994, Dale Pogue thought he knew God’s plan for his life. He had been pastoring First Baptist Taft for the last 9 years, and his wife, Ann, loved her job as the school nurse for Taft ISD.  They lived in a nice parsonage and did not envision God calling them to serve anywhere else. However, God had a bigger plan for both the Pogues and STCH Ministries.

Unexpectedly, Dale received a phone call from STCH Ministries President, Dr. Jack Green. Dr. Green wanted to invite Dale to lunch with Vice President, Homer Hanna, and himself. Dale “could not turn down such an invite” so he told them he would be there. He arrived at lunch with no idea what the meeting was about, except maybe to discuss his recent nomination to serve on the Board of Directors. After they finished eating, Dr. Green began to share his dream of a ministry to help strengthen families: a way to help them before they reached the point of separation. He envisioned working with families in the surrounding churches, their pastors and their staff members, despite the individual’s ability to pay. Dr. Green shared his dream but left the how, what and when up to Dale.

Dale left lunch overwhelmed by the fact that Dr. Green wanted him to take over his dream. He had so much to consider; his wife and her feelings, his church, where they would live and his age. “To begin a new ministry at my age was almost unheard of,” Dale explained. “I knew in my heart that it could happen if it was God’s plan for me and STCH Ministries.” Dale shared the proposal with Ann and together their hearts opened to this new challenge. In order to receive approval to lead this new ministry, Dale resigned from the board before he had the chance to serve.

Dr. Green’s dream was set into motion, but it was not going to be an easy task. Dale, under the direction of Homer, started out on the road with brochures in hand to meet with pastors and church secretaries about this new Family Ministry. He had to build excitement for what STCH Ministries was doing and show how it could benefit the people in Corpus Christi. Dale also had to find Christian Counselors to help serve the clients that would be coming to see them. Without funding for full-time counselors, Dale had to get creative. STCH Ministries employees, Diane Gryseels and Lil Abshier, said they wanted to help when possible, but they had their own ministry assignments. God stayed faithful through the process, and showed in many different ways that they were following His plan. STCH Ministries contracted with multiple counselors and they worked on a client by client basis.

God was laying a solid foundation for STCH Ministries Family Ministry. Next, the ministry needed an office space and through God’s provision, STCH Ministries purchased a building at 4438 South Staples in Corpus Christi. The office space was to be shared – one side Family Ministry and the other for ministries already in place. After moving into the new building, Dale started building a library with resources for those in need and planning retreats for pastors and their wives. The staff started seeing clients, some of which traveled a long distance. Dale received a phone call one day from a couple living in a rural area near San Angelo. The couple needed counseling but could not afford what most places were charging. They asked him what the cost of a session would be and Dale replied, “just the cost of gas and meals.” They scheduled a time and Dale met with the couple as a pastoral counselor in Corpus Christi. A few weeks later they called again asking to return to discuss other issues. With tears in his eyes Dale stated, “I was delighted to see them leave with full assurance that their commitment to marriage was real and final.”

In 1996, Joanna Berry was hired as Family Ministry’s first part-time therapist. Joanna was excited about the opportunity because she already worked as a contract therapist for STCH Ministries. She loved the ability to help clients not only through counseling but counseling based on biblical truths. Shortly after hiring Joanna, Dale decided it was time for him to step away from the ministry, and Les Chaney was hired as the director. Les wanted to focus on the family aspect and implemented family conferences for those in the area. This is when STCH Ministries Family Ministry really began to grow.

In 2001, Les stepped down from Family Ministry, and STCH Ministries President, Dr. Jerry Haag, had to decide who would take his place.  Dr. Haag sat down with Joanna to decide the future of Family Ministry. Some began to speculate that it was not a ministry that needed to exist and that time and funding should be spent in other ministries. During Dr. Haag’s conversation with Joanna, she received a phone call from a distraught client. Joanna helped walk the client through their difficult situation over the phone and helped make a difference in their life. In that moment Dr. Haag knew Family Ministry was worth fighting for, and he knew just the person to run it, Joanna.

Joanna was still only working part-time which is what she preferred. Unsure of what she wanted to do, she went home and talked to her husband, John, about the offer. Together, they decided it was time for her to move forward and accept the offer as the director. “All I did was take a step,” Joanna states. STCH Ministries continued to work in God’s will and Family Ministry continued to grow. In 2007, under Joanna’s direction, STCH Ministries opened an office in Victoria and changed the name to Family Counseling.

In 2017, due to the tremendous growth, the leadership of Family Counseling was given to Darin Griffiths who had served as a counselor at the Corpus Christi office for 12 years. When Darin joined STCH Ministries in 2005 there were only 7 counselors, today there are close to 30. He has seen the ministry expand both in numbers and their impact. Even though there are more locations and employees they are still able to stay connected and work together for the good of the ministry. Darin’s dream moving forward is to expand Family Counseling’s outreach through distance counseling over the internet. “Technology is only going to get more advanced so we will need to continue to discover ways to use technology and to expand our abilities to use it,” Darin states.

Dale, Homer and Dr. Green love looking back and seeing how God used people to take what seemed like a small dream and how He turned it into something so beautiful. Dale helped “get the plane off the ground”, but others “took the plane up higher with God’s leadership.” Today, STCH Ministries Family Counseling serves over 800 people a month at 15 different locations. Eron Green, the current STCH Ministries President, says, “The true impact felt through Family Counseling ministry cannot be fully understood and appreciated this side of heaven. So many have been blessed because of Dr. Green’s willingness to follow the Lord’s leading by starting the program. I am so excited to see how Family Counseling ministry will continue to grow and develop.” Over the years, no one expected the ministry to grow the way it did, but God had bigger plans!

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“Why didn’t I know this? I quit job after job searching for a sense of fulfillment and purpose,” exclaimed a single mom.

“Who am I as a retired person? This course helped to define God’s purpose for this stage of my life,” a retired speech therapist stated.

“As an employer, this course hits all the boxes needed to develop a star employee,” independent business owner.

A business executive in a large oil and gas firm stated, “We all work in environments that are toxic to faith, and begin to develop a split personality—one person at work, and one in our faith-life. This course is teaching me how to speak faith into that work environment in terms of how I react to people, do ethics, resist greed, etc.”

These reactions illustrate the impact of the newly developed STCH Ministries Faith & Work curriculum on diverse groups of participants—sometimes in the very same class. Successfully integrating faith and values into one’s daily work is one of the greatest needs in a Christian’s life. Current research confirms that 75% of adults are searching for ways to make a difference in the world and live a more meaningful life. In a recent Facebook post, one person expressed the emptiness many feel:

“I go to work every morning and come home exhausted, only to get up the next day and do the same thing. Then the weekend comes with two days of relief. But by Sunday afternoon I have knots in my stomach knowing that soon I will have to do this all over again. Is this all there is to life?”

Deeper life crises often spring from an underlying disillusionment with what life holds. Even within the church, Christians sometimes struggle. At times it is as if they are living two lives – the spiritual life, where joy, love and peace are possible, and the secular life, where the demands of work often consume and drain them.

As Vicki Hewitt, writer and editor, expressed so eloquently, “I always desired to honor God in my work, but I was often troubled by the thought that secular work had less eternal value, and God was more pleased with the work I did in the Christian realm.”

There is a great need for spiritual direction in this area, for it is estimated that the average person will spend 90,000 hours at work and approximately 2,000 hours in church during their 40-year work life. The reality is – there is very little teaching within the church on vocation as a calling to follow Christ in everything a Christian does. God created human beings in His own image (Genesis 1:26-27) and divinely designed us to work (Genesis 1:28; 2:5-8, 15). As the authors of Calling: A Biblical Perspective state, “If God cares about our lives, He must care about our work, unless He intends to ignore the biggest part of our lives.”

Jo Saxton queries in Christians at Work, “We have this one gift of a life, and many hours of it are spent in our workplace. What does it look like to partner with God and what He is doing in the world in your workplace?”

Twenty centuries ago the Christian faith spread from Judea across the known world to Syria and Asia Minor, and then beyond into the heart of Rome. It did not spread primarily through churches or synagogues, but in the marketplaces – in the tents of carpet sellers, in wine shops and bakeries, in the stalls that sold household items or produce and in pens that contained doves, sheep, or goats.

But what about today in contemporary America? Is it possible to integrate faith and beliefs into work environments? Can an accountant, a cashier, an engineer, a carpenter or a salesperson answer the call to follow Christ effectively through their work? In what way can work become an act of worship that fills my soul with a deep sense of meaning and contentment?

Seeking the answers to those questions became the motivation for the new Faith & Work curriculum. In fulfilling the mission to honor God, help hurting children and families and enable others to join us, STCH Ministries had invested since 2007 in the lives of women to help them spiritually, and improve their skills to find a better job. This journey led us through a number of different efforts to meet the needs of both men and women in the workplace environment. In 2018, it became clear that we needed our own curriculum. Staff shared their “boots-on-the-ground” expertise while Vicki Hewitt became editor and contributor. The result was the new STCH Ministries Faith & Work curriculum.

Shameka Dukes, top executive recruiter for an oil and gas company expressed, “The curriculum includes spiritual, Biblical guidance as well as practical and tangible ways that I can get faith into my everyday work-life. It is a holistic training on how to unfold ourselves and how to live authentically in our 90,000 hours of work during our lifetime.”

The ultimate goal of the Faith & Work course is to help people grow in their confidence and ability to become committed Faith-Integrators in their workplaces as they live out God’s calling on their lives. This is what will bring the deepest sense of satisfaction and fulfillment in the life of a Christian worker. Through the application of Biblical principles, people will discover how work can be more than a job. It can become a personal response to Jesus’ challenge, “Come, follow me.”

For eight weeks the Faith & Work course builds on the truth that for the believer in Christ, all work is sacred. Additionally – through teaching, discussion, videos, personal assessments and meaningful activities – the curriculum offers people an opportunity to improve skills, overcome obstacles, become stronger leaders and gain confidence to seek the job that fully actualizes their potential.

We believe that the Faith and Work curriculum will help individuals discover God’s purpose for their lives. They will effectively reflect God at work, in social interactions, community service and ministry efforts. Through good works at work, they will glorify the Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). By shining Hope into the dark places of hearts and contemporary environments, they will have the opportunity to “answer everyone who asks for the reason of the Hope within.” (I Peter 3:15)

Both Faith & Work and Faith & Finances curriculum and participant guides, are available without charge. To find out more information on how to access this resource for your work, church or ministry group, please contact the following individuals for current classes as well as the opportunity to receive training as a certified facilitator volunteer.

Houston Area — Darrell Jackson, djackson@stchm.org

San Antonio Area — Tim Tolosa, ttolosa@stchm.org

Corpus Christi Area — Jimmy Rodriguez, jrodriguez@stchm.org

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“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10

Eight years ago, University Baptist Church (UBC) in Houston, Texas wanted to develop an all-female mission trip. The idea of teachers teaching teachers grew as organizers recognized many of the interested ladies were teachers.

Unbeknownst to the UBC members, this idea fulfilled a long time hope in the heart of STCH Ministries International (International) staff member, Rebecca Dinzey. Rebecca worked as a high school teacher in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (DR) before joining the staff at International. The more Rebecca worked alongside the Christian schools partnered with International, the greater her hope grew to bring veteran teachers from the States to share their knowledge and experience with Dominican teachers.  She believed her colleagues could learn new teaching strategies and gain inspiration from the Americans’ passion for teaching.

The first team of teachers arrived in the summer of 2012; Kindergarten teacher, Ruthann Mitchell joined the team as a guest of her friend Karol Peters, STCH Ministries Board member. Grieving her mother’s death, Ruthann wanted to honor her mother, Esther Ruth’s, love of missions. Ruthann found the confirmation she sought when the team visited an orphanage and she noticed a baby girl under a mosquito net. Asking to hold her, the caregivers also allowed Ruthann to feed the baby. Wanting to know more, Ruthann asked the baby’s name – Ruth Esther. Hearing her mother’s name spoken as she looked into those innocent eyes, Ruthann knew teaching Dominican teachers was the mission God called her to fulfill.

Ruthann returns each summer, leading other American teachers to share their expertise with the people who have won her affection. “Teaching teachers is like no other teaching I’ve ever done,” she explains. The warm acceptance of the Dominicans and their hunger to learn skills not taught in their country give American volunteers a new appreciation for the education they receive. Ruthann believes her colleagues often do not recognize how fortunate they are to have been taught not just the content they teach but also the skills for how to teach that content.

Teachers in Texas must attend professional development workshops in order to keep their teaching certificate up to date. Tamara Lee, a high school Science teacher in Conroe Independent School District, also considers teaching teachers a special blessing. “Now when I have to go to a workshop, I think, ‘How can I use this in the DR?’ I now see my ‘have to’s as ‘get to’s.” Tamara has taught school for 26 years and has been a part of the teacher’s team with International for 3 years.

This summer’s teaching team brought 12 teachers, 6 construction workers, a teenager to help with Vacation Bible School (VBS) and 38 checked bags filled to the maximum weight with resources, supplies and giveaways for Dominican teachers.  The teachers taught 8 hours per day for 4 days in 2 cities, impacting over 250 teachers representing dozens of schools. The teenager led VBS classes with the workshop attendees’ children, while the construction workers helped finish a roof on an orphanage in one city and helped build a gazebo at a Christian school in another.

The workshop organized the teachers by age groups: preschool/kindergarten, elementary and high school. Grouping the instruction in this way allowed them to teach specific methods according to development levels. Exact plans depend on the specialties of the teachers attending each year. This year, the topics for the preschool/kindergarten group included developing fine and gross motor skills, suggestions for maintaining student interest through hands-on techniques and a variety of group games. The elementary group focused on lesson planning and demonstrating specific teaching styles especially in language arts, science and social studies. The high school teachers, concentrating on academic learning activities and modeling professional collaboration, were encouraged to write down how they could adapt the material presented and discussed their ideas with their peers. This year there were two specialists in the Texas group, a counselor and an art teacher. These two rotated between classes sharing their expertise with everyone.

The first half of the week, they trained educators at Primera Iglesia Bautista in La Romana. The church partners with International to bring the best care possible to their school and orphanage. This was the third time the group has led workshops in the town on the southeastern coast of the island nation. This year, 86 teachers registered to attend the training, more than doubling previous years’ attendance. Wileny, an elementary teacher at a private school in La Romana, planned to add a new feature to her classroom, a word wall.  This is a collection of words and drawings largely displayed on a wall in a classroom, a word wall, provides an interactive tool for students.

The second training took place in Villa Mella, near the capital city of Santo Domingo, at Iglesia Bautista Quisequayana (IBQ), International’s base of operation for all of their work in the Dominican Republic. The team works at this location each year and has developed a reputation for excellence. Many Dominican teachers arrive an hour before the starting time and most returning attendees bring colleagues with them.

In the preschool class at IBQ, the art lessons, group games and the counselor’s presentation dealing with classroom management and troubled children had the Dominicans asking for more of the same. Anauris, a preschool teacher for seven years, committed to learn something new every day and this meeting gave her a new perspective. “Everything looks very different when you are sitting in the student’s seat rather than the teacher’s,” she said. Reviewing her own methods and activities from the students’ viewpoint helped her decide to make some changes in her classroom. Cristina has attended the classes for three years and already looks forward to next year. She keeps coming back because of the way the Americans conduct the classes, the comradery of fellow teachers and the opportunity to learn from others.

Each year, more American teachers join in, more Dominican schools benefit and the Kingdom of God is enriched through the collaboration of teachers teaching teachers. Next year’s trip dates are already on the calendar and Rebecca’s heart is happy. She hears from Dominican friends every year how encouraged and enlightened they feel.  It emboldens them to keep up with new ideas and to work with passion while giving them new techniques using the simplest materials and creativity.  “I know many have changed their style of teaching and have become better at their job,” she states.

STCH Ministries International accepts volunteer teams year-round, and Rebecca would love to see more teacher teams come in the fall and springtime as well. If you are interested in exploring this opportunity, please check out our website: https://www.STCHM.org/international/ or call us at 361.994.0940.

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This summer, eleven college students in the role of interns supported three ministries: Homes for Children (HFC) – Boothe Campus, Homes for Families (HFF) – Marshall Ranch and International in the Dominican Republic (DR). Each person encountered God working in their hearts as He used them to minister to others. Enabling others to join in the ministry of reaching hurting children and families with God’s love and truth is essential to the mission of STCH Ministries.

Summer interns have assisted HFC for nearly 30 years. Joel Bowden, HFC’s Director of Student Ministries says this year’s interns gave him confidence that everything would be taken care of even if he could not attend an activity. The group consisted of three students Benjamin Brewer, Leah Brewer and Israel Pereya (Izzy) who interned at HFC previously. Two new students rounded out the team: Hannah Edmonds and Grace Skaggs from Go Now, the student missions’ program of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Benjamin, sociology major at Texas A&M University at San Antonio, described his time at HFC as “marvelous”. The relationships he formed with staff, houseparents and children will impact him for the rest of his life. Above all, he knows God worked in him as well as through him each year. He believes he has learned to love boldly as a result of knowing the children. Proving himself trustworthy and earning the children’s friendship enabled Benjamin to put Jesus’ words into practice. In return, they taught him to love, how to be loved and what it feels like to be loved by God. Spending the summer at HFC “taught me so much more about myself and who I am; the reality is unreal,” he says.

Leah, Benjamin’s sister and a nursing major at Houston Baptist University, says HFC “feels like home.” She grew up close to the children’s home because her dad is a Director of Development for STCH Ministries. This summer taught her about grace. Sharing her concern about her mother’s cancer treatments with the students allowed them to respond with compassion and open up about their worries. Leah sensed God’s blessing each time the topic came up as God graciously allowed her to see the good He brought through a horrible situation. Leah knew trusting Him in extreme circumstances allowed her to see God’s goodness in her life. “I have never been more reliant on my faith than I am now and for that I am immeasurably grateful.”

Izzy, a junior civil engineering major at the University of Texas at El Paso, believes his time at HFC prepared his heart to accept God’s call to ministry. He dreams of becoming a houseparent, caring for hurting children exactly as the housepops on Boothe Campus do. “The houseparents are amazing people, a living example of how God’s love is supposed to be.” Early morning workouts with two of the housepops taught him about lifting weights and Biblical wisdom. Every interaction with the children demonstrated God’s love in a way that is unique to HFC. “The kids taught me how to love without being scared.”

Hannah joined life at HFC as a Go Now Missionary. She wants to become a middle school teacher and attends Texas A&M University at Commerce. God taught her through the children how each moment of every day fulfills His purpose for the lives of those He loves. One day, Hanna decided to sit at the picnic tables outside of the pool to read her Bible. One of her favorite little boys sat right beside her and started asking questions. What was she doing? Why? Could he do the same thing? For the next thirty minutes, the two sat at the picnic table and read the story in John 13 about Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. Hannah explained to him step by step what she does when she reads and why it is so important to do so. Unlike most little kids, he sat and listened to the answers she gave. Hannah enjoyed the opportunity to disciple the boy. “If it weren’t for him sitting down beside me, this conversation would not have happened,” she said.

Grace, a fourth-year nursing student at the University of Texas, answered God’s undeniable call to spend her summer break as a missionary. Her academic plan required her to intern in a hospital; yet, God made it clear she needed to be on mission for Him. Grace felt drawn to HFC because she knew her life experience would allow her to connect with hurting kids. Forging those connections proved difficult in the beginning. She took all the pain and brokenness she saw in the children and it overwhelmed her. Grace felt God reminding her to trust Him. Once she handed that burden to Him, she stopped crying all the time, slept better and finally felt like she could function for Him. Grace formed a sweet friendship with one boy and she tried to read with him daily. By the end of the summer, he could say his alphabet, knew a handful of sight-words and sounded out words. Every day before leaving his cottage, she gave him a high five and told him, “You did awesome today.” One day towards the end of the summer he responded, “Hey Grace, I bet I will do awesome tomorrow too.”

HFF began working with summer interns three years ago when Hannah Pace joined them. This year Marshall Ranch added two Go Now Missionaries, Kirby Chadwick and Andrea Torres. HFF’s Director Theresa Klacman believed the impact the girls made with the children would mark them all for eternity. By the end of the summer, HFF staff realized the value the interns brought to the campus; Theresa described them as a God-send.

Hannah, 21, plans to work with victims of sex trafficking after she earns a degree in social work. She learned of HFF when STCH Ministries representatives presented at her church in Edna, Texas. Her love for children brought her to Marshall Ranch the first time; the depth with which she loved the moms kept bringing her back. Each year she looks forward to renewing her friendships and seeing the progress God brings to each family. This summer, God showed Hannah His deep love for her allows her to step out of her comfort zone and He accompanies her through all aspects of her life. “There are some rough patches along the way but at the end it is beautiful.”

Kirby heard about HFF through her Baptist Student Ministry at Baylor University where she is a sophomore studying nursing. The changes the families made through the program impressed her. God worked in Kirby’s heart too; she discerned He has given her a passion for broken families and the restorative work He can do within them. God revealed to her the mercy and grace He extends to each person when they fall into the traps of human nature; she was comforted knowing she is covered by His mercy. “Interning at HFF brought me so much joy and encouraging the staff and residents was incredible!”

Andrea, a computer science major at The University of Texas at El Paso believed summer missions would not fit into her plans. Knowing her non-Christian parents would not help with expenses, she applied for the summer position as a test to see whether God would use her. He responded unmistakably allowing her church family to surprise her by donating all the money she needed. Over the summer, she watched the HFF moms make drastic changes in their lives for the sake of their children. It sparked an urgency within her to invest in the spiritual life of her family back home. “I realized I had become complacent in my dealings with my family. I need to pray for them more.”

Joanna Berry, Vice President of Family and International Ministries witnessed Kali Scholle, Katie Barclay and Ashley Beck evolve from timid and anxious to bold and confident young women. They faced unfamiliar situations including not knowing the language; long hours devoted to menial jobs in the heat but experienced joy in the process.

Ashley understood God’s call on her life to vocational missions during a mission trip in Poland in 2017. She purposed to carry out her calling by pursuing a Christian studies degree with a minor in missions at Ouachita Baptist University. This summer, God placed on her heart a life lesson that changed her thinking – ministry never ends. Though life holds various trials, and she grew tired, she understood God called her to be mission-minded no matter what. “God reminded me the reward of ministry is the hearts we lead to Jesus. We may only meet the people once here but we will worship together someday in Heaven. The true reward is always Jesus.”

Katie, a speech therapy major at Stephen F. Austin State University, described her time in the DR as “the best experience I’ve had in my lifetime.” The lesson that made the biggest change in her heart had to do with loving people. The Dominican believers showed Katie how to genuinely love others and do it with a smile. She returned to Texas challenged to love the people God placed in her life more fully. To do that, she must dedicate herself to knowing Jesus through Bible Study.

Kali, a recent finance graduate of Oklahoma Christian University, resisted the idea of spending six weeks out of the country when she needed to study for her CPA exam. However, God revealed to her the unique opportunity she had. “It hit me that never again (until retirement most likely) would I have six weeks free to go overseas.” Changing her perspective allowed her to see God had paved the way for her to obey Him. She encountered the power of investing in relationships. “I discovered kids do not care if you cannot communicate in Spanish. They simply wanted love.” She found a renewed passion to share the Gospel and still feels amazed knowing God can use her story to point others to Christ.

Eleven interns served in three ministries and through it all the overlying theme was love. Love from the people they came to help, love for each other and God’s love  – “that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ” (Colossians 2:2). STCH Ministries was blessed by their commitment to spend their summer on mission with God.

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