Bearing Burdens

Why is helping people becoming more difficult? This is a question I seem to ask myself daily. One might surmise that fewer folks are interested in getting help. Another view might be that with an
increase in need, more families are “falling through the cracks”. We could also look to the dramatic polarization that we seem to be witnessing in so many aspects of society as a whole. While I believe these statements contribute to an increase difficulty in helping people, I want to focus more on the “helpers”.

We all, to some degree, are helpers. Now the manner in which I describe a helper is simply someone that is available to another in their time of need. Through our willingness to help we should build relationships with those in which we help. Once this relationship has been established and needs have been met, the world and society can be changed in enormous and eternal ways. The idea or concept of a helper is intricately interwoven throughout Scripture. The Hebrew word for helper is “ezer” (pronounced “ay-zer”) which speaks of God’s strength, power, protection and being a rescuer.

It is vital to understand no matter your role you can be an eternal “rescuer”. You might be reading this as a stay-at-home mother, a construction worker, a landscaper or as a retiree (to name a few) and wonder how this applies to you. I want to say to you no matter how you see yourself, God has a grand purpose for your existence. Please pursue what God has for you with all your being, He will use you to bless others. God will use your time, talents and treasures to be a blessing to others.

It is also important to see ourselves as ones that need help. At different times we all need a rescuer. We must remember that our Heavenly Father is the ultimate Healer and Rescuer but He uses us to be His hands and feet. In Galatians 6, Paul talks about the concept of “bearing one another’s burdens”. Paul instructs the Galatians (and us) to bear each other’s burdens so that the law of Christ can be fulfilled. What a great responsibility and honor to serve God through the burdens we all face together! Paul never told us that this “burden bearing” would be easy.

Thankfully, we also learn throughout scripture that we are to cast our burdens, our anxieties and our worries on Him. The way I like to think about the burdens I see and experience is that I should
transfer those burdens to my heavenly Father so that He can use me in these situations. I am afraid too many times we remember we should bear one another’s burdens but we forget to give those burdens to God and failing to do so is a sure recipe for burnout.

Do you see yourself as a helper in light of the definition shared above? Take a moment and ponder how often you help someone on any given day, week, month or year. I would suggest you are more of a helper than you ever thought possible! Also, check your heart and see if you are becoming overwhelmed with the weight of your responsibility as a helper, if so reach out to us, we would love to help!

Psalm 55:22 Cast your burden on the Lord, He will support you! God will never let the righteous be shaken!

Moving from Social Anxiety to God-Given Confidence

IN HIS BOOK, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God, Francis Chan wrote, “But God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through.” 14-year-old Reese felt God’s call to move from a place where she felt comfortable to a place of uncertainty and anxiety. She put her trust in God and with Him, her parents and STCH Ministries Family Counseling, she made it through and came out stronger on the other side.

While in 2nd grade, Reese’s family prepared to move from Katy to Fulshear in Texas. When she learned about the move, Reese started exhibiting behavior that caused concern for her parents. They sought help from school counselors and friends. They discovered the behavior she exhibited was caused by anxiety but did not understand how someone so young could experience anxiety in this way. Reese attended school in Fulshear for a few months after the move, but her mom felt the Lord stirring in her heart to homeschool Reese. Reese enjoyed the comfort of homeschooling, and it helped relieve some of her anxiety caused by social interaction. Her family attended church regularly and her mom, Alli, noticed the same behaviors resurfacing as she interacted with other students over the years.

Six years after she started homeschooling, Reese shared with her parents how she felt God calling her to attend public school again. They discussed it and decided she would attend public school for her 8th-grade year. Going back into public school created severe anxiety for Reese, “I went the first day and it went pretty good, but then afterward I kind of freaked out because I think it all hit me that it was so different. I didn’t want to go the next day because it was freaking me out so bad.” Her parents could see something was wrong so they were prompted to contact STCH Ministries Family Counseling in Houston.

In the first counseling session, Alli and her husband, Ronnie, met with Paris, who would be Reese’s counselor. They discussed the behavior they witnessed and Paris shared they were all signs of social anxiety and that many young children experience anxiety in this way. “As parents, we were like wow, that’s a real thing and we approached it differently. I felt so bad but the Lord is so gracious and we were able to talk to her and say that we didn’t realize that that was a real thing, but it was,” Alli shared. After receiving answers and making a game plan, the time came for Reese to start counseling. She recognized what she dealt with as social anxiety and prepared herself to begin learning more about coping with it and growing through it.

Even though she prepared herself, Reese experienced nerves going into counseling for the first time. Paris worked to ensure Reese felt comfortable talking to her and built trust with her in the early sessions. After building a strong basis of trust, they started doing role-play exercises. Paris helped Reese consider what other people may be thinking or feeling to help put her at ease. She taught her conversation starters and then practiced them with her. Reese took what she learned in counseling and put them into action at school.

Reese accepted challenges from Paris, including the 100 conversations challenge. With this challenge, she needed to start 100 conversations by the end of the school year, which was right around the corner. At the end of the first week, Reese initiated 15 conversations at school. As the weeks went on, she added to her numbers until she reached 70. By that point, the conversations happened so naturally that she forgot to keep counting. She finally felt confident and the anxiety started to diminish.

Toward the end of the school year, Reese casually told her mom after school one day about a girl she had started to become friends with. The two girls even exchanged numbers so they could reconnect before school started in the fall. Alli held back tears as she looked back at the transformation Reese experienced from the beginning of the school year to that moment. Her daughter carried herself differently and showed a confidence she had never witnessed before. Reese started to feel better herself and looked forward to the summer.

Reese’s church decided to spend one week of their summer serving at STCH Ministries Homes for Children. She felt excited leading up to the week but also some anxiety about traveling to a new place and meeting new people. During their week on Boothe Campus, they hosted Vacation Bible School (VBS) for the younger children and games and other activities for the older children. For Reese, the interaction with the younger children came easy, but when it came to students her own age or older, the anxiety crept back in. Reese and her family started attending this church in November 2021 and the relationships she had already built helped her feel confident going into the week. She also thought back to the many counseling sessions with Paris as she prepared for the trip.

Once on campus, Reese’s anxiety started to lessen with the support of her friends. She led VBS worship on stage and started conversations with others on campus during their activities. Most importantly, she continued opening up to her friends from church. This huge step for Reese was made possible by prayer and counseling. Alli also attended the trip; she sat back and watched as her daughter acted as the hands and feet of Jesus. Alli knew a year ago, Reese would have never interacted with others this way. Her fear and anxiety would have hindered her from making friendships and spreading God’s love. Reese no longer let her anxiety define her. Coming home from the trip, she reflected on the change she saw within herself but knew more challenges stood ahead.

As summer came to an end, Reese prepared for her freshman year of high school. The night before the first day of school, the enemy used her anxiety to speak lies to her. Memories of last year started flooding her mind and she started to get discouraged. Her parents, armed with compassion thanks to their counseling sessions, began speaking truth over her. They assured her, “God is within you, you will not fall. With Him at your right hand, you will not be shaken. Be strong and courageous, He is with you wherever you go.” Armed with these words, she knew she could make it through her first day of high school.

During the summer, Reese connected with the friend she made at the end of her 8th-grade year. Having a friend made her feel a little more at ease about entering this new season of life. Alli shared, “she walked into 9th grade with confidence, not in her ability, but what He did, can, and will continue to do in and through her!” The coping techniques she learned through counseling helped her confidence. The challenges given to her by Paris allowed her to make new friends and see herself in a different light. Her parents’ new understanding empowered them to encourage her in the way she needed. God called Reese into a situation where she did not feel comfortable but He came through, gave her the tools to move forward, and allowed her to share her story for His glory through it all.

Created on Purpose for a Purpose

LAURA STORY, a contemporary Christian singer and composer, uses the phrase “the aching of this life” to describe the problems swirling about us in our world1. Anxiety, depression, burnout, isolation, discouragement and disenchantment, lostness—the list is endless.

The search for a solution ranges from substance abuse and suicide to abandonment of family and faith to the Great Resignation or constantly switching jobs, and more recently, “quiet-quitting”— just doing the minimum to get by and not get fired. Perhaps the cause and the solution are embedded in the word, purpose.

Just how important is purpose for our lives? Research has consistently linked purpose to heightened levels of emotional and mental well-being and overall life satisfaction. A Yale University
School of Medicine study linked individuals’ experiences with depression to a declining sense of purpose. Viktor Frankl, a holocaust survivor and psychiatrist, wrote, “Woe to him who saw no more sense in his life, no aim, no purpose, and therefore no point in carrying on. He was soon lost.”

The Apostle Paul wrote, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” From the beginning, we were created with an innate need
for meaning and purpose in life. The STCH Ministries’ mission of “healing hearts and sharing hope” influenced the development of

Faith & Work, a curriculum that guides individuals to discover their God-given purpose, develop a vision for their future and acquire the tools to fulfill their goals. Faith & Work classes use a 10-week curriculum to focus on the critical intersections of work, values and a meaningful life purpose from a biblical perspective. Before time began, the eternal God planned to accomplish his purposes in Christ through us as we work. Work existed before the fall when all things were towb, the Hebrew word meaning excellent, pleasant and agreeable (Gen 1:22). God designed us to reflect his image in our ability to create, cultivate and care for our planet and the people who inhabit it.

Sin changed all aspects of God’s design; work that once produced abundance became “painful toil.” Even worse, sin broke our relationship with God and with others. The human companionship we need was infected with the “aching” of this life—anxiety, fear and shame. The resulting internal and external conflict changed how we work and why we work into burdensome
and unproductive toil.

How do we recover work that is good, pleasing and agreeable, even if those words do not describe our work environment? Dorothy Sayers challenged us to reject “the notion that a man’s life is divided into the time he spends on his work and the time he spends in serving God. He must be able to serve God in his work.” In Christians at Work, the Barna Group reported that the average Christian will spend 90,000 hours at work, and only 2,000 hours in church. When we understand the sacredness of work and discover our unique giftings, work becomes an expression of worship,
adding a holy purpose to any job.

Faith & Work classes use practical methods to examine our identity and the experiences that shaped us, good or bad, in light of biblical truth. Interactive tools help to highlight aspects of personality, spiritual gifts and core values that equip and motivate us in our labors. Equipped with such self-knowledge, we can dig into how to express our faith through teamwork, effective communication and overcoming challenges in the workplace. Finally, we look at specific ways to integrate faith and work so “people may see your good work and give glory to the Father” (Matthew 5:16).

When we see our job as an opportunity to accomplish God’s purpose in this world, it impacts the quality of our work, our relationships with co-workers and even our families. Faith & Work provides intrinsic motivation for how we work and serve others, found in the love of God expressed through Jesus.

Kevan Etheridge is an excellent example of how participants learn and grow as a result of Faith & Work. Kevan had a background in home remodeling, which prepared him for his role as Facilities Manager for The Warrior’s Refuge, a homeless shelter for military veterans. Through a Faith & Work class, Kevan came to incorporate faith in his day-to-day life and expanded his service to veterans. He took advantage of growth opportunities provided by his employer, becoming a specialist in equine therapy for PTSD victims. Now pursuing his certification as a licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor, Kevan attributes the advances in his career and self-esteem to the concepts he learned in Faith & Work. Aware that God’s plan encompasses every part of his life—home, family, church and work—Kevan is thrilled at the prospects for his future and the blessings he has received.

STCH Ministries continues to expand how we offer both Faith & Work and Faith & Finances courses. A major advance has been translating all the course materials and teaching into Spanish, opening opportunities across Texas, the United States and internationally. In addition to in-person classes offered in the Corpus Christi, Houston and San Antonio areas, we also provide live Zoom and hybrid formats. Some exciting conversations are underway with potential ministry partners in the Rio Grande Valley and West Texas. We invite our readers to join us in praying for more great teachers to facilitate classes in English and Spanish as God opens new doors.

Millions of people are re-evaluating their relationship with work and seeking more meaningful lives. Faith & Work groups, under the direction of a trained facilitator, provide the opportunity for significant life change as individuals discover that they were created on purpose for God’s purposes. There is no better time for individuals, churches and community groups to take advantage of the Faith & Work courses provided by STCH Ministries.

For information and registration for future classes, please visit:

1 “Blessings” on the album Blessings, Laura Story, 2011
2 “Why Work?” Letters to a Diminished Church, 1942, p.8. Christians at Work (2018), p.17.

Finding Joy in Reading

THE “SUMMER SLIDE” is described as the loss of learning most students experience while on summer break. “Summer slide,” “brain drain,” and “summer learning loss” all describe the phenomenon that occurs when students “turn off their brains” during the summer months*. Researchers and educators concur that about two months of reading skills are lost over a single summer. The statistic only skyrockets with each higher-grade level. With its Summer Reading Program, the O.B. Vaughan Library at STCH Ministries Homes for Children Boothe Campus is committed to encouraging students to continue learning during the summer.

The old saying often goes, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” With that in mind, most local libraries offer the community a summer reading program and free book access. STCH Ministries’ Vaughan Library is no different. Open for extended hours during the summer months, the library on campus celebrated its tenth anniversary of offering the Summer Reading Program to all the students at Homes for Children.

Each year, the reading program kicks off at the start of summer break, and Homes for Children students are invited to compete based on their grade level. While the program is meant to encourage students to continue reading throughout the summer, the reading program is not mandatory; however, students love being able to compete. STCH Ministries librarian, Mrs. Perkins also creates a theme for the reading program every year to help increase excitement. Over the years the themes have included Dr. Seuss, Carnival Fun, Treasure Chest and more. This year the theme was God’s Masterpiece. With this theme, Mrs. Perkins encouraged students to create artwork to display in the library throughout the summer. She also hosted a celebration on campus where students could create masterpieces out of food. The biggest goal of this summer’s theme was to remind every student that they are God’s masterpiece no matter what they have been through.

Throughout the summer, rewards are given to students as they reach certain reading milestones. For every two hours of reading initialed by houseparents on a student’s reading log, they receive a reward. Rewards include candy, soda, other treats, small toys and stuffed animals. These small incentives help students continue to be excited to log more reading hours. “Students that participate in the reading program are always excited to read; they beg to read,” one houseparent shared. A total of 478 hours of reading were completed by the 47 student participants this year.

The Summer Reading Program hosts a reward recognition for all participants at the close of summer break. Top readers within each age group are recognized, including the top 12 readers out of all the age groups combined. This summer’s overall top reader was a middle schooler named Jade. Mrs. Perkins noted that Jade, “read almost half her hours while the library was open.” Mrs. Perkins went on to share that each time Jade entered the library this summer, she chose to read over getting a turn on the library’s computers, as most of the other kids often do.

Jade’s housemom, Robin Fisher, shared how the reading program’s motivation to read has helped the girls in their cottage to “have a healthier respect for reality and doing the work to be entertained instead of always being focused on technology.” The access to books the library provides is vital to help prevent learning loss over the summer amongst the students. “The fact that they’re asking to pick up a book instead of getting on the computer or watching television is huge,” Fisher added.

Jade first arrived at Homes for Children Boothe Campus in 2020. Each year she’s been at STCH Ministries, she has participated in and placed in the competition. In her first year, she totaled 42 hours and placed 1st in her age group. This summer, Jade surpassed her previous record of 42 hours and was also recognized as the Top Reader of the entire program with a total of 54 hours.

Participants of the Summer Reading Program demonstrate commitment, responsibility and integrity, as they are encouraged to complete reading logs honestly. Potentially influencing their peers to read is another excellent benefit of the program. If a student reads to another student, they both get to include that time in their reading logs, older to younger or younger to older. Reading together encouraged students to continue their reading all summer long.

The reading program can also lead students to want to read outside the program. Jade realized reading did not have to be a chore and that she actually enjoys reading. This new excitement for reading has led to her wanting to continue to read, for fun, outside the Summer Reading Program. She also began sitting with her houseparents in the evenings as they started reading the Bible in a year. She loves following along and hearing Bible stories as her houseparents read aloud. “If you ask Jade right now, her favorite part of the Bible is 1 Chronicles because of all the silly names in it,” Robin shared.

The Fishers admitted that, before the summer reading program, they would invite the girls to join them in their evening Bible reading, and most declined. Once the reading program started, Jade joined them every night. Due to Jade’s eagerness to join the Fishers in their daily Bible reading, other girls in her cottage began to join them too. “The reading program has impacted this cottage for His glory,” Robin excitedly shared. The summer reading program increased overall reading in the Fishers cottage, leading to the enjoyment of family Bible reading each evening.

Jade entered the 7th grade this school year with all the benefits of having stayed in her books all summer long. Children who read four or more books over a summer perform better on reading-comprehension tests in the fall than their peers who don’t.*

Learning does not have to come to a screeching halt each summer. Encouraging students of all ages to continue reading while out of school can reduce the “summer slide” immensely. Jade is just one example of how summer reading programs, library access and encouragement from houseparents can help make the transition from one grade level to the next easier. Mrs. Perkins is already at work preparing for next summer’s reading program, anticipating an increase in the number of participants. She prays that more students find new joy and peace through reading.

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old, they will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)

Mission Minded Families

STCH MINISTRIES’ MISSION of “Honoring God, reaching children and families with His love and truth, and enabling others to join us” spurred the international ministry expansion to the Dominican Republic and the development of unique family mission trips in 2005.

God began guiding our thoughts and fledgling efforts as we envisioned the impact on families and children on an international mission trip. How could children and families share God’s love and experience together the joy of serving others? What if families could have the chance to get their eyes off of the American “bubble” of material values and priorities? Could a mission trip impact a family system with more lasting values?

Family mission trips were not common. After all, what could a child do on mission realistically? The logistics were daunting—family housing, good food, translators, transportation, plus hands-on
activities for children—to name a few. Although we did not have all the answers, we began with a faith step. Not a cloud by day, nor a pillar by night, but just as clearly, God led the way.

We began to see God’s fingerprints all over the process, beginning with a partnership with the Quisqueyana Baptist Church (IBQ) and Pastor Rudy, a relationship whose roots extended more than 70 years into the past. Their passion for reaching children and families matched STCH Ministries’ mission and purpose. Pastor Rudy soon led us to our gifted Dominican ministry partners, among them, Rebeca Dinzey to direct the children’s ministries, then Russell Jerez to direct construction projects. With the growth of our sponsorship program, the medical needs of the children became a priority—just as Dr. Francisco finished medical school in Cuba and was looking for a job. God led to orphanages and schools with incredible needs. Despite grossly insufficient resources like a chicken coop or a lean-to perched on the side of a gorge, their love for Jesus motivated their passion for teaching children.

American churches, families and individuals soon responded to God’s call. First Baptist Church in Kenedy and Trinity Baptist Church in Kerrville were among the first family mission teams. Fifteen years later, some of the original parents are now grandparents and the former children are now married with children of their own who continue to serve.

Recently we visited with them and several other long-term mission participants and asked them about the experiences that impacted them. We asked how God spoke to them and what the results have been in their lives back home.

Many shared the relationship-building effect on their individual families. Jennifer Ebell from University Baptist Church in Houston reported, “Family vacations are often about persons doing their own things. On a family mission trip, we are working together towards a common goal—serving others. As our family shared a room and a bathroom for a week, we had to depend on each other. It helped us to connect with each other as we shared our experiences.”

A common theme reported by several was the quality time spent with families from their own church. “Most of us attend different services, or are involved in different ministries or Bible classes and we don’t really get to know each other. It was an awesome opportunity to build and strengthen those relationships.” The Houston CityRise participants added, “It is amazing how much closer we grew to other CityRise church families that were serving on the trip with us. Bonds were forged doing life together and serving during the week that cannot be created in other environments.” They also enjoyed seeing their children bond as older kids looked after younger kids and the parents worked together as one team.

The priority of relationships was emphasized even during the work projects. One participant remembered, “We were building a train for the orphanage in Santiago. In this case, we had to find a
way to lift our heavy wooden train over a 10-foot wall, and we were challenged to get this accomplished. Russell Jerez took me aside and reminded me that although the task was important, the most important goal was relationships and allowing even the children to have a part. This insight has changed the way I work on a team to serve God no matter where I am.”

Rynie Badenhorst agreed, “Construction was not just about getting the projects (benches) done. We were encouraged to involve the smaller kids and to give them a chance to try some of the tasks. This changed my whole outlook from getting it done as soon as possible to taking time to notice others, teach them, involve them and encourage them. This did loads for my son’s confidence and sense of accomplishment.” Rynie went on to say, “An added bonus about going on consecutive years was finding the benches we built the year before now being used in the Higuey orphanage. All the kids signed the benches on the bottom last year and they felt a sense of achievement finding the benches they built being put to good use.”

Many commented on the relationships developed with sponsored children. Every trip prioritized a time for each sponsoring family to spend with their child. The relationships deepen and grow over the years. The STCH Ministries model of investing in children to develop their God-given potential and become future Christian leaders is an inspiring process in which to
participate. The sponsored child becomes a part of the mission trip family and both eagerly await the next opportunity to be together.

The joy of serving others was a common theme. “For our kids, the most important thing was realizing that serving others can be a joyful and fun experience,” the Shung family wrote. Other comments were, “We came to serve, but were blessed by their service to us. We think we sacrifice and give up certain things to come, but these Dominican Christians show us what a heart of service really looks like.”

Most participants recognized the planning of ministries and logistics by STCH Ministries’ staff as a significant factor in successful family mission trips. “The trip is convenient and accessible in terms of travel, doable ministries that are family-focused. The proposed schedule for the trip included an opportunity to help with light or heavy construction projects, VBS, medical outreach, sewing and sports for kids. We would also spend time at an orphanage, deliver food, visit with families in need and get a little time to explore the city of Santo Domingo.”

Some linked serving to careful planning. “I learned that serving God needs to be strategic—our ability to involve everyone, even the children, was due to careful planning.” Others shared, “The trips are so well-planned that it takes responsibility for the logistics away and lets us focus on using our gifts and doing the ministries without worrying about tools, transportation, translation. Food is safe and tastes good.” Families also appreciated the housing, “Each family received a room assignment which was named after one of the fruits of the spirit. Our room had two bunk beds for the kids and a queen bed for the parents including A/C and an ensuite bathroom.”

Parents expressed varied reasons for bringing their children on a mission trip. Exposure to the larger world, international travel, the awareness of different cultures and the ability to relate to another culture, were coupled with the opportunity to practice Spanish.

Parents desired to impress on their children that their suburban American life was not the norm. “We wanted our kids to see how others live and appreciate what they have.” Others elaborated, “You can hear about poverty from others, and read the statistics but there is no comparison to the impact on our empathy meter when actually seeing it, eating together in a home with heavy cardboard walls, curtain doorways, and dirt floors and discovering our common love for Jesus.”

The Vickery family from Kenedy reported, “The trip completely changed our home. The way they welcomed us into their homes, dressed in their very best, honored to host us, in spite of dirt floors, and not enough dishes for everyone to eat at the same time. We came home and decided that our home would be a sanctuary where people are welcome to eat, stay and share our love for Jesus with them.”

When asked about the trips, children’s responses included a wide range of perspectives, depending on their ages. Younger children commented, “The best part was playing with all the kids. It helped me not be afraid; I could interact even with a different language.” Others stated, “I learned Spanish!” and, “We could share what we know about God with others through our skits.” While some talked about their experience with serving a tangible need, “I liked serving others when we delivered groceries. I remember a little girl who was disabled. She sang for us. She was so joyful some Americans visited her.”

Older high schoolers mentioned, “It affects how I reach out to others in my school, church, neighborhood who are from other cultures—makes it less intimidating, more comfortable.” Others shared, “I learned appreciation for my own blessings and am challenged to be joyful without depending on material needs being met.” Some left with questions, “It confronts me with the question, ‘What do I do next? How does God want me to live when I get home?”

Without exception, every family shared on the spiritual impact of the trip. Worshiping together and singing familiar hymns in two languages was a powerful experience. Comments included, “I felt a sense of awe, and glimpsed eternity.” “A different language but same God.” One family shared how it truly changed their lives, “Our first Mission Trip had such an impact on our kids that our two daughters asked to be baptized when we returned home to Houston. It felt like a lot of the ‘gospel puzzle’ came together for our kids on this trip.”

For others, the most valuable activity on the mission trip was the morning worship time on the roof overlooking the city. “It was an opportunity to recalibrate—get my priorities refocused on God’s
values and our purpose on earth.”

Raising children and building a family on a solid foundation of faith and Christian values is often a daunting, confusing, and fearful responsibility. A STCH Ministries family mission trip offers
a unique opportunity to help parents reinforce the training in “the way they should go,” as Proverbs states. “We highly recommend families make the time so they can create the room to expand their Christian walk, especially for their kids,” stated one father. Charles Kemp concluded, “Sixteen years later, I see the results in my children’s lives that mission trips have helped to create—a servant heart toward God and others.”

For more information about STCH Ministries International and family mission trips visit,

Never Giving Up

DEBBIE MOVED TO STCH Ministries Homes for Families in 2014 with her five children. Her children had been in and out of Child Protective Services (CPS) and moved between children’s homes, including Bluebonnet Youth Ranch and foster homes. Debbie wanted to find a place to go where she could learn how to leave the darkness of her past behind and gain custody of her children without worrying about CPS taking them away again. She did not realize at the time how difficult leaving her old life behind would be. Over time, she learned to lean on God and His strength and persevere even in difficult times. With support from her resident coordinators, counselors and case workers, God allowed her story to transform from one of brokenness to one of redemption and obedience.

The first time Debbie came to STCH Ministries Marshall Campus, she and her children stayed eight months. With hard work, Debbie was able to complete Phase I of the program, however, with Phase II she started hitting a wall. She chose to leave the program and return to relationships and situations that were not healthy. She wanted desperately to escape a life of darkness but was continually pulled back in. Debbie returned to the program in 2016, this time seven months pregnant with her sixth child. She wanted to make it this time, if not for herself, then for her children, but she hit the same wall in Phase II that she did the first time and decided to leave again. “I didn’t know how hurt and lost we were, and I kept hitting the same wall so we would leave and come back. I know the Lord was working through me and through the process to grow me,” Debbie shared.

Debbie returned in 2017, ready to make it through the program. She found Phase I to be more difficult this time. Debbie pushed forward and made it to Phase II. She did not want to give up and leave again this time because she knew what she needed to do for her kids.

In 2019, while in Phase II, Debbie worked hard and graduated from high school. She describes graduating as the most amazing time because she had the opportunity to go back to school and persevere with the Lord’s help. She was honored that her children were able to watch her go back and finish what she had started. She also received her driver’s license. After completing these two big steps, Debbie moved to Phase III and continued working on herself and her relationship with her children. She graduated from the program in April 2021 and she and her children were able to leave Marshall Campus.

Debbie’s children felt the strain of moving around as Debbie struggled with how to build a healthy parenting relationship with them. The STCH Ministries Homes for Families staff continued to check in with her even after she graduated. They worked to encourage her and support her. Debbie herself was doing well and thriving, but the place she felt she still needed to grow was in her parenting. In July 2021, STCH Ministries partnered with Bluebonnet Youth Ranch to open a Homes for Families campus on the Bluebonnet Campus. Some of the staff from Bluebonnet Youth Ranch applied to work with the new program opening up on the campus. Homes for Families Director Theresa Klackman saw this as an opportunity to help Debbie and her children.

In November 2021, Debbie and her children moved into Phase III on the Bluebonnet Campus. Debbie knew she was not where she needed to be as a mother and wanted to continue growing. Her children also needed a safe place to heal and grow from the wounds they had suffered over the years. Bluebonnet Campus was a familiar place for her older children, and they saw familiar faces when arriving on campus. The staff, including the counselor, activities coordinator and childcare provider, started working with the children to help their hearts heal. Debbie started working with the staff to learn how to better parent her children. The staff provided biblical words of wisdom that she had heard before, but for the first time, she really listened and put it into action.

Debbie’s relationship with her children has grown immeasurably since first coming to Homes for Families, and she gives all the glory to God. Her children’s relationships with Christ have also grown since moving to the Bluebonnet Campus. They enjoy going to their local church and having a church family that supports them no matter what they have been through. Recently Debbie’s oldest son was baptized at their church, and she could not be prouder. “Tears were just rolling down my face. It was an amazing holy moment as a mom to see my son who was heading down the wrong path as a teen giving his life to Jesus in an open public confession. Words could not even describe what I felt,” Debbie shared.

Despite all she has faced, Debbie now radiates joy. “Everything I went through made me who I am today. I am one of the blessed ones who get to be here and share my testimony about what Jesus did for me. This last time I came back, the Lord told me not to run. I was convinced I wasn’t going to run but then caught myself running from the hard things. But now I have the Lord to help me through the hard times so now I’m not going to run!” Recently Debbie applied for a part-time job with STCH Ministries as the commissary assistant on the Bluebonnet Campus. She is overjoyed to be able to work for STCH Ministries and be a part of the ministry that helped save her and her family from the darkness they were living in.

Debbie is forever thankful for the resident coordinators, counselors, case workers and other staff that have come alongside her and helped her become the mother and woman she is today. Most of all, she is thankful for God’s unending love in her life. Some of her best memories are conversations she had with her mentors on campus. Debbie sees a bright future for herself and wants to continue working for STCH Ministries mentoring other women in similar situations. Her advice to other women considering Homes for Families is, “just come with all your junk and all your brokenness. God will restore you!” Debbie faced the pull to return to her old life but she never gave up and now she is able to be a light for Christ in a dark world.

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” John 8:12