Adversity Brings Growth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eron Green, President and CEO

The Legacy of Dr. Jack Green

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Second Chance at Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finding Connection in Community

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Building Christian Leaders Through Missions

NAOMI ARIZA WAS JUST A CHILD when she became involved with STCH Ministries’ mission teams. “I didn’t know anything, not even a word of English, but they let me hang around doing little things to help. They loved me and helped me to grow into the person I am today. Everything I know—my values, how to work and even my English—I learned at the feet of Jesus through their guidance.” In the past, Naomi and her four siblings lacked basic necessities, often going to sleep not knowing if there would be food to eat in the morning. Today, Naomi is a lovely young lady majoring in chemistry at one of the top universities in the Dominican Republic, through the CLEP (Christian Leadership Education Project) scholarship. She is a leader in the IBQ church, helps with children’s ministries and is a wonderful translator.

Naomi served as part of STCH Ministries’ staff with the recent 2020 Christmas mission team to the Dominican Republic. With gritty faith, twenty-one people overcame obstacles, like passport delays and COVID-19 fears. They resolved to serve children and families devastated by the pandemic.

The team delivered groceries to needy families, constructed desks and cubbies for the Villa Altagracia school, and shared the gospel as they distributed tracts up and down neighborhood streets. Children’s ministries included singing, games and a Bible-story drama. A day at the Higuey orphanage capped off their week as they rotated between painting walls, fitting the boys with new shoes and building relationships with the children.

STCH Ministries International has led similar mission trips in the Dominican Republic since 2007. In addition to children’s ministries, they have hosted pastors’ conferences and training for teachers and orphanage caregivers. Most teams have participated in construction projects, some ambitious as a new school building or as useful as school furniture, beds and playgrounds. Regularly, groups deliver food, targeting the neediest families.

Each team arrives and then leaves a week later. What is the cumulative impact of their efforts? A few days of construction, sewing, playing games, baking cupcakes, holding babies, shoe fittings and delivering groceries. What is the lasting value of these mission trips? Sharing the gospel through each activity, teaching, loving and discipling.

We surveyed dozens of parents, students, pastors, school educators and orphanage leaders. Their audio interviews, expressed in their unique Dominican style, are transcribed and represent only a few of the many responses we received.

Ondina is our head cook for our mission teams who regularly brags about her food. She said, “It’s a great privilege to work for STCH Ministries. It moves me greatly, like wow! When I see the mission teams joining their efforts and hearts to help, it gives me energies for my work. I see how hard they work, even the small children work, and it is contagious to the rest of us. During the pandemic, the ministry has been a special blessing, frequently supplying groceries, medical help and clothing to us.”

As part of the kitchen staff, Maria Luisa spoke about the impact on her life, when a mission team rebuilt her squalid home. “God calls us to serve Him, but often we are divided between working to exist and working for God’s kingdom. The team left their comforts and worked to improve my housing so I can serve God better. Their sacrifice reminds me of what Jesus did when He left His place beside God to die on a cross for us.”

Mission team participants often choose a child to sponsor through the Samuel’s Fund program and the Christian Leadership Educational Project (CLEP). Countless donors have invested themselves generously and consistently in these children. Scarlett is one of the CLEP students, and she responded, “In my consideration, I see that STCH Ministries is a holistic ministry that helps with physical needs, spiritual needs and education. The base of everything they do is Jesus. In medical clinics, at VBS, even if it’s diversion, it’s still about sharing the gospel. I translate for them, and it has helped me to grow. And the economic help also reflects God’s hands. STCH Ministries has provided my college education through the CLEP program. During the pandemic, I became seriously ill, and we didn’t have food either. They were there to meet our needs.”

One of the most lasting impacts of a mission team is the efforts they pour into the orphanages. Ramon and Juana Prensa responded from Monte Plata. “The groups are extraordinarily beneficial because they love our children. Their repeated visits build relationships and help to teach and disciple them. The teams come to us as a gift from heaven, not only a monthly donation, but also unexpected grocery purchases. They helped built the transition home for young people aging out of the home and met the need for computers to enable distance learning during this pandemic. Above all, the sponsorship of our children has been a source of strength and encouragement for us as leaders to continue to serve God.”

Nieves, the director of the Higuey boys’ home, reflected, “In our timeline, there is BS and AS—Before and After STCH Ministries. After God, the mission teams have had the greatest impact on our ministry. Today, we never have to run around desperately begging for a chicken to feed them. We are able to pay our staff, instead of putting them off. Our boys see how hard they work. As the director, I have been impacted spiritually by their example. The simplicity, the humility with which they serve, has inspired me to keep on serving.”

Raquel has worked with our mission teams for over ten years in her school. “Next to God, I am thankful for STCH Ministries. We had a dream to evangelize our community, our families and children and then to teach them in a school. He has used mission teams to accomplish this dream. New buildings, teacher training and supplies and child sponsorships. When schools shut down because of the pandemic, we had only one resource for online teaching. Only God. Now we have a computer laboratory. Glory to God in the highest! How He has blessed us! I am very sure that STCH Ministries is actually a blessing to the entire country of Dominican Republic. Because when a child leaves here, he spreads the greatness of God through his education.”

Their answers triggered an imaginary time-lapse video. A chicken coop morphs into a beautiful school building as cement block stacks upon block, and one mission team follows another. Young Alex holding his guitar fades, then dons a doctor’s coat. Elementary children transform into university students working as mission team translators. Dark and angry Franklin blurs, then smiles, embracing his wife and baby as he describes his job designing web-based programs for Dominican Republic customs. He gives God the glory as he expresses his gratitude for STCH Ministries, his sponsor and the opportunity to get an education.

As the Christmas 2020 mission trip ended and 2021 began, we stood on the rooftop at the IBQ compound. We watched the tropical sky as night swiftly blotted out the light. We reflected on the fog of uncertainty and turmoil all around the world which has heightened a pervasive atmosphere of anxiety. As Christians we may question, “How then shall we live? How shall we respond?” More than ever before, we need to invest wisely our small “cup” of resources in the lives of others and to hear with a sense of urgency Jesus’ words echoing down the hallways of time, “As long as it is day, I must do the works of Him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.” John 9:4

Independence and Normalcy in Transitional Living

LEARNING TO DRIVE, going out with friends, getting a cell phone, accepting your first job offer—all of these are normal rites of passage for teenagers, and it is no different for students at STCH Ministries Homes for Children. Students on the campus who are at least 15-years-old can join the Transitional Living Program. Through the program, they take driving lessons, receive a cell phone, gain more independence and can even apply to work off campus. Students strive to be a part of this program.

The Transitional Living Program includes basic life-skills training and the opportunity for students to practice those skills as they work toward living independently. There are three levels in the program with greater independence at each level. To enter Level 1, the student must have a valid Texas driver’s permit, receive recommendations from a houseparent, caseworker and administrative staff member and be willing to cooperate with staff. Once on Level 1, the student can take driving lessons with a houseparent, receive a cell phone and have two nights out each week with approval. “I love being able to go out with friends and having more freedom,” said Laura, 16.

Once students complete driving hours, receive their driver’s license and show responsibility, they can look toward Level 2. One of the main qualifications for Level 2 is they must have adequate funds to open a checking account. Students on the campus receive allowances, and when they start the Transitional Living Program, their allowance increases. Houseparents teach students the importance of saving money and budgeting. Caseworkers sit down with the students to make sure that their accounts stay in good standing. The ability to open and maintain a checking account is important for independent living once they leave Boothe Campus. 

The highest level of the Transitional Living Program is Level 3. Level 3 is for high school seniors who receive letters of recommendation from three staff members. Students on Level 3 experience the greatest amount of independence. They are allowed to go out any night of the week and earn the largest amount of money. Students on Level 2 and 3 are able and encouraged to get a job off campus. Any money that the student makes goes into their account, and they are responsible for how the money is spent.

In August 2020, Homes for Children received a donated vehicle from Christopher Rohlfing—a generous and thoughtful gift—to be used as the transitional living vehicle. This vehicle is used by students on Level 1 to practice their driving with their houseparents, while students on Level 2 and 3 can reserve the vehicle to drive to school, work or to go out with friends. Currently there are seven students in the program, so they must communicate and work together to ensure that everyone is given a chance to use the vehicle when needed. The program also helps students learn how to care for vehicles with tutorials in changing a tire and checking the oil.

Students can also save money to purchase a vehicle of their own. They are required to carry insurance on the vehicle and maintain it properly. Two students currently in the program have worked hard to purchase a vehicle of their own and continue to work hard to maintain it. “I love that Homes for Children lets me have my own truck. It’s a big responsibility, but I love rising to the challenge,” said Amber, 17. This is a huge accomplishment for any teenager, and STCH Ministries is proud of their hard work and dedication to get to this point.

Applying for and receiving an offer for a job is a lifechanging moment for teenagers, and students at Boothe Campus are no different. Two of the Transitional Living Program students currently work to save money for a vehicle, college and other personal items. “I am very thankful that STCH Ministries gives me the opportunity to work and learn the important life skills that come from having a job,” Drae, 17, shared. “It is also nice to have my own money and to learn how to manage it.” Drae works at a local fast food restaurant while Edna works at a local country store. Both students love the opportunity to earn money for themselves and the feeling of responsibility that comes with a job. “It is awesome to have the experience of a real job while still living within the comfort of Homes for Children,” Edna, 18, stated. “It means a lot to know that I have them as a support system.”

Being in the Transitional Living Program is a privilege and comes with more responsibility. “Being in the program means you have your act together,” Laura stated. On top of the required recommendations, the students hold more responsibilities which they must maintain to stay in the program. One requirement is the students must maintain passing grades in all subjects. School remains a priority for all of the students on the Homes for Children campus, and those in the program set an example for others. Students in the program are also required to help prepare at least two meals in the cottage each month. Learning how to cook is a skill that will help the students once they graduate and leave Boothe Campus. Church is also a requirement. Those in the program are required to attend chapel on Wednesday nights and church on Sundays. Their spiritual walk is the most important part of their growth.

Homes for Children works hard to ensure that students never feel like they missed something. They help pay for class rings, invitations to graduation, senior pictures and other activities that high schoolers encounter. “Normalcy is key for these students,” Greg Huskey, vice president of Homes for Children shared. “We don’t want them to leave here feeling like they missed out.” Students appreciate the help that they receive from STCH Ministries.

Growing up is challenging. Earning more independence and responsibility while still being in the safety of the campus can help prevent students from struggling after Homes for Children. “God has given us an opportunity to share His love with the kids He has brought to us. The Transitional Living Program is an opportunity for us to give our kids a skill-based foundation, coupled with the message of Christ Jesus on which they can build their life on, long after they leave us,” Timothy Hadley, Boothe Campus director, stated. STCH Ministries Homes for Children puts emphasis on the long-term benefits of the Transitional Living Program and wants to see every student that passes through Boothe Campus succeed in life long after they leave.