iCare 2022

On Tuesday, August 2nd, STCH Ministries Family Counseling hosted our 6th Annual iCare Conference. STCH Ministries Family Counseling created this conference as a way to reach people who help people. The attendees included teachers, counselors, pastors, church staff and others who work to impact the lives of others. Attendees received continuing education credits for the breakout sessions they attended but more than that, they heard from professionals about various topics that will help them grow in their field.

This year’s breakout sessions included Understanding Generation Z, Raising Highly Capable Kids, The Brain and Body on Stress: How Stress and Trauma Impacts Us and many othersThe last session of the day was taught by Cheryl Miller from Quantum Circles Consulting and Training. Cheryl shared about surviving the work of helping others and how to turn challenges into opportunities for the miraculous. Due to the heaviness of the topics, comedian Mike Goodwin brought humor to the lunch break and showed how there is healing through laughter and encouragement. 

STCH Ministries is thankful for all the individuals who made iCare a success, including the presenters for their time and effort in preparing for this event. Also, thank you to Parkway Church Victoria for allowing us to use their facilities for the day. For more information on STCH Ministries Family Counseling visit, https://www.stchm.org/family-counseling/.

Kingdom Impact

When it’s all said and done, at the end of our lives or at the end of a mission trip, what will remain?

For those who follow Christ, this thought accompanies our actions—an unvoiced whisper in our subconscious or a louder drumbeat in our hearts—perhaps alternating between both extremes. Possibly for mission team participants who make the effort to step out in faith, to fly our uncertain skies, to disembark into an unfamiliar country surrounded by loud, unintelligible voices–for those individuals, the answer to “What impact will my life make?  Is it worthy?” is crucial.

Calvert Grace from Maryland and Trinity Baptist from Kerrville, Texas made an unusual team—only God could have put them together seamlessly, united in heart and purpose. Combining talents allowed them tremendous versatility in ministries. Mornings were spent sewing curtains, training teachers, rebuilding a house and building beds for Samuel’s Fund children. In the afternoon they joined the IBQ church in developing the unevangelized area of La Ceiba with a VBS for younger children and a sports camp for the older ones, where several children gave their hearts and lives to Christ.

Early one morning they loaded a bus for the orphanage in Santiago—in some ways a heart-heavy experience, loving on children marked with severe abuse and tragedy. Although they receive food, clothing, medical, education and the knowledge of a loving Savior, they are raised without a personal family environment. It was encouraging to learn that the majority are now spending weekends, or longer with a Dominican family (known as missionary families) and some have been permanently placed in those families. Permanent couples would be ideal, and they are committed to search for these. With only a few hours to invest, what can a group do in Jesus’ name? The only answer, “Love.”  One team, many children, few hours. Yet, for those hours, children smiled and laughed. Children were heard—not as a group, but individually. You are loved. You are important. We trust the Spirit will continue to confirm and reaffirm their worth and value through more visits, and through others who invest on a consistent basis in these children.  And we trust that the team members will continue an earnest prayer ministry for these children and the Mercy Network Home. 

Family Time

Thank you for taking the time to connect with STCH Ministries through our Messenger! As you read through this issue, I hope that you are encouraged by what you read and challenged as to how you can become involved.

It has long been said, show me your friends and I will show you your future. While this “saying” has merit, I believe show me your family and I will show you your future is a more accurate statement. The role our family plays in who we are and who we become is vital. Unfortunately, in the United States, we are suffering a crisis of the family. A major relational issue we face is that of the father. I personally dedicated my thesis to the research and study on this topic. The role of the father in our families must not be overlooked.

One important part of my research pertained to shared quality time by fathers. Generally speaking, since the rise of the industrial revolution the need for men to work outside the home has grown significantly. What this meant for the family was that fathers were away more leading to disengagement. The number one way that I found fathers and sons connect was through shared quality time.

As summer rapidly approaches, I implore us all to make time for our families. The window of influence for our children is directly correlated to the amount of quality time we spend with them. It is also important to note that ideally, biological fathers would be the “father figure” involved. However, research shows that men that are in the fathering role can have a very similar level of influence or impact as compared to our biological fathers.

As a STCH Ministries family, we recently celebrated our Week of Hope and also our 70th anniversary. It was a great week of connecting with familiar friends and also meeting new ones. Our open house locations were in McAllen, Corpus Christi, Victoria, Houston, San Antonio and also on our three campus ministry locations which are our Boothe Campus, Marshall Campus and our Bluebonnet Campus. As I traveled to all these different locations, it was amazing to reflect on our humble beginnings and see where the Good Lord has brought us to today. I also had time to dream about what our next endeavors will be. While as an organization we celebrated our 70 years of ministry, I also celebrated my 10 years of service as President/CEO. How thankful I am to serve alongside such a great team of God-called people!

In closing, I want to implore us all to fight for our families. You may be reading this in the middle of a family struggle, maybe we can help. The stress and strain on families is greater now than ever in our history; we are here to help. Our families are the building blocks of society and the church is the hope of the world. Let’s all commit to investing all we have in our Faith and in our Families!

Answering the Call

At the age of 22, Wayne decided to make a life change by joining the military. He did not know then how this decision would ultimately impact the rest of his life or his family’s lives. Almost 25 years after enlisting, everything changed drastically, and moving forward seemed impossible. Through God’s healing power and aid from a STCH Ministries counselor, his and his family’s ability to face daily struggles grew in ways they never thought possible.

GROWING UP, WAYNE ENCOUNTERED many difficulties that led to substance abuse and not knowing what direction to go following high school. Around that time, he fell in love with Claira and knew that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. Still not knowing what to do with his future and wanting to prove himself to Claira’s father, he enlisted in the United States Army. Wayne received his orders for a high clearance position. He would not be able to share with Claira his position or any details of his missions. Having to keep what he experienced to himself would lead to emotional and physical trauma in the future.

Wayne’s exposure to trauma started early in his military career. Being exposed to things that most humans cannot even imagine led him to building walls in his brain to hide his experiences. Claira would write to him sharing about her life at home, wishing he was there with her. Wayne traveled home and after being together for four and a half years, proposed to Claira. She said yes and they married the next year. Even after marrying, much of his work travel did not include Claira. She still believed that his work in the military involved nothing more than fueling trucks.

After a little more than ten years, Wayne left active duty but remained in the reserves for a few more years. When discharged, he received two different sets of discharge papers, one that explained what his true job was although most was redacted) and what his family and others thought his job was. During his time in the military, he endured multiple physical injuries as well as countless emotional scars. He kept the emotional trauma tucked in the back of his brain as he started a new job and tried to move forward with his family, including his two children.

Although he tried to move forward, his family experienced unexplained bursts of anger from Wayne and did not understand where it came from. Claira recounted, “his anger was so bad so many times through our marriage literally we were almost done so many times. I would say, ‘I can’t take it anymore. We’re done.’ He would get mad. I would get mad. He would pack up. I would pack up. I would say, ‘there is something wrong with you. You have to get help,’ but he didn’t know where to go.” His anger created a division in his family and their daughter ran away.

Shortly after their daughter ran away, Wayne and Claira started watching a television show that depicted military scenarios. During one of the episodes, the glass wall that Wayne built in his mind to hide his trauma came crashing down and flashbacks started flooding his brain. He started to share with Claira some of the experiences from his days in the military. A few months later, a sudden explosion of emotion combined with post-traumatic stress disorder and conversion disorder caused him to suffer a major stroke. While at the hospital, he also suffered sudden blindness, loss of speech and a seizure.

One of the doctors called Claira out of the room and shared with her that he believed Wayne was suffering from conversion disorder. He explained that the amount of mental anguish he was feeling was causing physical ailments to appear. He also explained that no cure existed, but going through counseling could help with the emotional and mental aspects relieving some of the physical ailments. After being discharged the family faced many difficult situations in a short period of time that allowed them to realize that anytime Wayne became extremely sad or mad or extremely happy, it caused him to suffer a seizure.

The family knew that he needed help and he started seeing psychiatrists, psychologists and counselors. Finding one that would truly listen to him and believe his stories proved difficult. One day Claira ran into a friend who worked for STCH Ministries. He shared with her about Family Counseling and told her to try it. Ten days later, Claira brought Wayne in for his first session. Early on his STCH Ministries counselor saw the level of emotional trauma. She saw him disassociate and heard about his post-traumatic stress disorder and conversion disorder. She listened and walked hand and hand with both Claira and Wayne. Their daughter also attended counseling and the family began to heal.

Wayne tried counseling before, but no one seemed to listen to him or understand him the way STCH Ministries did. Wayne shared, “STCH Ministries counseling has allowed me to talk about it in a sense that it’s okay to talk about it, instead of holding it in, putting it in the back of my mind, locking it up and throwing away the key.” The ability to open up and try different methods of counseling allowed for Wayne to start learning how to cope with his disability.

Due to his seizures, Wayne stopped working and the family dealt with financial stress. Not knowing how to move forward, they sought help from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration. Both agencies struggled to provide assistance because the discharge papers they received did not show Wayne’s actual job so the level of trauma was unexplainable. Also, at the time, conversion disorder was a new diagnosis and the Social Security Administration needed more proof of his emotional distress. The couple sought help from a lawyer and a judge took their case. The judge provided paperwork for a counselor or doctor to fill out stating they had witnessed the level of emotional distress Wayne suffered.

Wayne and Claira approached their STCH Ministries’ counselor, who already helped change their lives and start the healing process, to see if she would help them through this as well. The counselor jumped at the opportunity to write a letter detailing the work Wayne had done in his sessions, including the day he showed up to a counseling session and was disassociating along with his other mental health disorders. This letter, along with a psychiatric hospitalization, led to the Social Security Administration finally recognizing that Wayne suffers from a severe mental health disorder that prevents him from working which allows him to collect full disability.

The future still contains uphill battles for Wayne and Claira. Currently, they are working to find a way for Claira to stay home and be a full-time caregiver for Wayne. Through this process, Wayne learned that his body cannot handle emotional highs or lows. He works to keep an even demeanor and avoids situations that cause either. He started writing a blog to help other veterans dealing with similar situations. He is learning to play piano as an artistic outlet. He continues to see his STCH Ministries counselor and both thank her deeply for all she helped them accomplish. Wayne’s STCH Ministries counselor shared, “Wayne went beyond the call for his country and gave up more than people can ever fathom by his service. It was a complete honor to answer my call to help him and his family.”

The Cumulative Lasting Impact One Year Made

91 children. On average, 91 children* find themselves at Homes for Children on STCH Ministries Boothe Campus each year. Many come for a variety of reasons – a parent or grandparent can no longer care for them due to personal issues, health problems, severe depression, substance abuse or experiencing a season of crisis. No matter the reason, every child is welcomed with open arms.

IN 1988, THREE SIBLINGS found themselves reunited at STCH Ministries Homes for Children after being previously separated in foster care. Shaunna, Crystal and Robert were in grade school when their parents, struggling with alcohol and drug addictions, separated and the state intervened taking the children away. Their mom desired nothing more than for her kids to stay together when she entered rehab and pleaded with the state to make that happen. Her requests were answered and once her three children were placed at Homes for Children they would remain together for the duration of their time there.

Mr. and Mrs. Minter became the family’s houseparents. While living in a cottage with The Minters, the siblings were able to experience a consistent, loving and strong family dynamic. Shaunna, Crystal and Robert were enrolled in the Pettus school system and attended a local church with The Minters. “Our time there was 100% happy memories. We loved the Minters and felt safe,” Crystal recalls. The siblings had previously experienced a negative placement situation. The oldest, Shaunna, who was 11 at the time shared, “The Minters made us feel comfortable and not like we weren’t their children. I felt comfortable and secure for the first time in my life.”

For the duration of their time at Homes for Children with The Minters, Shaunna, Crystal and Robert continued to feel loved, nurtured and invested in. Whether it was attending chapel together on campus each Wednesday night and feeling comfortable enough to go up on stage and sing with the other children or going into town with The Minters on a Walmart run. “We had chores and we had our own savings jar and we would put our money in there and Mrs. Minters would take us to Walmart and we would spend it,” Shaunna reminisced. The family had food in the pantry, clothes, a daily routine, church involvement and love from their houseparents. This consistency and normalcy were key for the siblings.

Even at the young ages of 11, 9 and 4, the siblings were strongly impacted by the true, genuine love of Christ shared by the daily actions of their houseparents and every other adult on campus. Shaunna, Crystal and Robert, like all the other children that journey through Homes for Children, were also given guidance by an onsite counselor and support from an onsite caseworker. The siblings experienced a well-rounded, Christ-centered support system while at Homes for Children, something they did not have before. “We had structure and church and it was wonderful… we did not want to leave,” Crystal shared as she reflected on her time at Homes for Children.

STCH Ministries Homes for Children ultimately seeks to restore relationships and return children to their families when possible. That was the case for the siblings. While sad to leave after only a year at Homes for Children, their mom was able to take them back. The siblings struggled with having to leave especially since they knew they were going different ways. Shaunna moved with their aunt, Crystal stayed with their mother and Robert moved in with their dad. Their year at Homes for Children helped prepare their hearts for the future. As years went on and the siblings continued to grow, they would see the fruit of the seeds sown into them during that very impactful year.

Shaunna, now 44, has been married for 21 years. They have three boys and they own their own electrical company. Shaunna also owns a med spa/salon in Rockport, TX. “Having that healthy, family dynamic allowed me to know that that was the kind of life I wanted to live,” Shaunna admits. She credits the life she is able to live now and the way she parents to what she witnessed and experienced at Homes for Children.

Crystal is now 42 and a family nurse practitioner at an OB/GYN clinic. Her daughter, who just turned 14, recently beat cancer. She was diagnosed in July 2021 with Osteosarcoma and went through chemo at MD Anderson from August 2021 – April 2022. Numerous doctor visits and treatments for her daughter reminded Crystal of what Homes for Children taught her upon leaving. “We were going to be present,” she shared. In the good and the bad, Crystal and her husband have been able to now be that healthy, structured family unit her daughter needs.

The youngest, Robert, is now 38 and has a daughter who is 7. He also owns an electrical company in Rockport. While recently thinking back on their times together at Homes for Children, Robert admitted he still remembers the chapel songs despite being so young during his time there.

The siblings hope to revisit the campus soon to show their children where they once lived and reminisce on all the impactful, life-changing memories made there. “We are hoping to meet up with Mrs. Minter soon,” Crystal shared, as they recently reconnected with her via Facebook, Mr. Minter passed away a few years back.

All of the positive experiences Shaunna, Crystal and Robert were able to have, over 30 years ago, while at Homes for Children left such a cumulative impact on this family unit. The siblings remain close to this day and have a fully restored relationship with their mother. “Our mom is doing amazing,” Crystal happily shared. This renewed relationship with their mom has also blessed their children who are able to enjoy times with their grandmother. It is evident how that year’s influence continues to spill over onto each sibling’s individual, growing family.

While it is often seen how Homes for Children changes children’s lives while they are on campus, it is beautiful to hear how the trajectory of these siblings’ lives were changed upon leaving Boothe Campus. The great harvest of individual growth, success in business and determination to break generational pain began with the seeds planted by their houseparents and everyone else they encountered at Homes for Children.

If you or someone you know would like to learn more about STCH Ministries Home for Children or if you would like to give to help fund this wonderful ministry, please visit www.STCHM.org/care.

Celebrating 70 Years of Ministry/Week of Hope – Sharing Hope Through Giving

Celebrating 70 Years of Ministry

ON MAY 1, 2022, STCH Ministries celebrated 70 years of ministry impacting the lives of children and families. In 1952, with help from area churches, individuals and organizations, land and a dream provided by Laura Boothe Overby, Rev. Jess Lunsford opened South Texas Children’s Home on the Boothe Campus just outside Mineral, Texas. In the years that followed, the campus would grow with the building of new cottages and with it, the ability to care for more children. Little did Rev. Lunsford know how STCH Ministries would continue to grow.

In May of 1970, STCH Ministries opened another campus in Goliad which today is known as Marshall Campus. Originally used as an extension of the children’s home, Marshall Campus now serves as a Homes for Families campus impacting the lives of single mothers and their children. In 1973, Dr. Jack Green replaced Rev. Lunsford as the Executive Director, going on to serve in the role for twenty-five years. Under Dr. Green’s leadership, STCH Ministries would expand by opening new ministries, including Family Counseling. All of the ministries continued to flourish and countless lives were impacted by the work of STCH Ministries.

Fast forward to 2012, Eron Green became President/CEO and STCH Ministries continued to serve children and families through five ministries including International and Homes for Families. By 2016, under Eron Green’s leadership, four more ministries, Faith & Finances, Pastor Care, Family Support and Ministry Consulting, were added bringing the total number of ministries to nine across four major cities and two campuses with close to 100 staff members. Getting out into the community and reaching people where they are at, led to the Faith & Work and Faith & Finances ministries opening up more classes and recruiting volunteer facilitators. Today, virtual classes take place throughout Texas and internationally.

Since 2020, with many organizations having to downsize due to the Covid-19 pandemic, by the grace of God, STCH Ministries has continued to grow. In 2021 alone, STCH Ministries added Homes for Families on the Bluebonnet Campus, counseling expanded into the Rio Grande Valley and we broke ground for a new counseling center in Victoria and a children’s center on the Marshall Campus. This growth will allow for STCH Ministries to reach more children and families with God’s love and truth.

From the beginning, STCH Ministries adopted three founding principles that remain true today, 1. STCH Ministries will never incur any debt, 2. STCH Ministries is 100% privately funded and does not take any state or federal funding, 3. STCH Ministries provides their services regardless of an individual’s ability to pay. With no signs of slowing down, STCH Ministries continues to pray for God’s guidance as we look to the future and find new and innovative ways to impact more lives.

Week of Hope – Sharing Hope Through Giving

For a second year, STCH Ministries Week of Hope served as a time of sharing hope through giving while engaging supporters and partners through nine open house events. A team of STCH Ministries leadership traveled to eight locales where local staff coordinated the events to share what God is doing in and through STCH Ministries. The week started in the Rio Grande Valley, STCH Ministries newest ministry region. Church partners as well as ministry partners attended the open house to hear more about STCH Ministries vision for the area.

TUESDAY THE TEAM TRAVELED TO CORPUS CHRISTI for two events. The first, hosted at the Family Counseling and International office, allowed guests to learn more about these two ministries. During lunch time, Faith & Work and Faith & Finances staff in Corpus Christi hosted their open house. Shortly after the event started, a neighborhood wide power outage threatened to end the event. With light pouring in from open doors, STCH Ministries staff and President/CEO, Eron Green, stood to share with guests about the growth and future plans for STCH Ministries. Not even the heat of the day and darkness could stop this moment.

Later that afternoon, the team traveled to Victoria where the counseling staff hosted tours of the new Jack Green Counseling Center. Although the building is not open yet, much of the building is completed and the staff enjoyed getting to share their vision for the new space with individuals from the community. With smiles on their faces, they shared about the play therapy space, the offices and the hope of healing for individuals that come through the door.

The Houston counseling staff hosted Wednesday’s event at Crosspoint Church in Bellaire. During the presentation time, Eron Green asked if there were any questions, one man stood up and shared how his and his son’s lives were changed thanks to Family Counseling. Tears filled his eyes as he stated that he will never stop talking about the life change he experienced. Thursday, the San Antonio office hosted their event. Volunteers, partners and friends of STCH Ministries came to see the office and meet new staff. The halls of the office filled with conversations of healing and hope as people shared their stories and prayers for the future.

Friday morning started at Homes for Families’ Marshall Campus in Goliad where staff toured attendees through the new Petty Family Children’s Center while the moms gave tours through a cottage. Although the new building is not finished yet, the excitement for a wonderful space to better serve moms and their children filled the air.
STCH Ministries celebrated their 70th anniversary Friday evening on Boothe Campus in Pettus. The place where it all began filled with over 300 excited faces ready to celebrate. The On the Moove ice cream truck and Shark Shack snow cone truck served dessert first as children enjoyed bounce houses and adults enjoyed tours of Foster Cottage. Dinner was served by Fly By’s Smoke-N-Grill while the Singing Men of South Texas performed. Vice president of campus ministries, Greg Huskey, and Eron Green shared about the history of STCH Ministries as well as plans for continued growth.

STCH Ministries newest campus, Homes for Families on Bluebonnet Campus hosted the last event of the week. Phase 1 moms toured attendees through one of the houses and other areas of the campus. Long time supporters of Bluebonnet Youth Ranch attended to see the changes and show their support for STCH Ministries and the new ministry taking place on the campus.

Sharing hope through giving also played a large role during the week. With over 380 donors STCH Ministries raised close to $300,000 during Week of Hope. 70 years of ministry is a huge accomplishment and STCH Ministries wants to thank everyone who prayed over Week of Hope, attended an open house or gave during the week. The ministry would not be possible without supporters like you!

Breaking Generational Chains – One Family at a Time

Ruth sat at the table in the two-room shack where she lived with her abusive husband and four hungry children. She stared at the cup of tea in her hand, hoping to abort the fifth child she was now carrying. “I was lost, my children were hungry, and I was desperate.”

IN THE ISOLATED AREA AROUND THE VILLAGE of Hatillo, deprivation was inherited at birth and then passed on generation, after generation, after generation. The hopelessness of this cycle can often lead single moms to the same desperate measures Ruth faced that afternoon.

UNICEF reported recently that across the world, about 1 billion children are multidimensionally poor, meaning they lack necessities as basic as nutrition or clean water, and 356 million children are living in extreme poverty. Estimates in the Dominican Republic report that more than one million children live in poverty. In addition to hunger, they often lack shelter, health care or proper sanitation and education opportunities.

The problem of hungry children is so immense that it tempts us to sing another hymn and get a little busier to ignore the sadness of this tragedy, or, guilt-stricken, we respond to a manipulative appeal for funding, aware at some level that whatever we give is at best only a band-aid. Torn between our Christian conscience and the incalculable reality of hungry children, do we give without an informed appraisal of the effectiveness or stewardship of our investment?

STCH Ministries (formerly known as South Texas Children’s Home) began meeting the needs of children and families in South Texas in 1952. In 2006, the ministry expanded internationally to meet the needs of children and families in the Dominican Republic. Their experience working with children in need had taught them that giving children hope and a future requires more than providing material needs for water, food and clothing.

The vision for a unique sponsorship program began in the hearts of a Dominican pastor’s wife and an elderly missionary. Recalling the Old Testament prophet, Franklin and his family
Samuel, who was called by God as a young child, they named it Samuel’s Fund. Under STCH Ministries leadership, this holistic child sponsorship program became the focus of their international ministry. In addition to strengthening families, the Samuel’s Fund program would intentionally prepare children to become Christian leaders in their churches as teachers, government employees, business owners or wherever God leads them. The priority would be education, discipleship, respect for caregivers and giving back to others. To accomplish those goals, shelter, hunger and other obstacles would be addressed as needed.

Samuel’s Fund sponsorship is unique in many respects. The current monthly donation is $35.00, five dollars goes to medical needs and the remaining $30.00 goes directly for the child’s benefit without any deduction for administrative expenses.

Every child is assigned a STCH Ministries caregiver who visits regularly to establish a personal relationship with the child and to support their families and teachers. A personal relationship with the child means that additional needs can also be addressed – tutoring, school supplies and uniforms, needs for shelter, food and medical care. Enrollment in a Christian school is encouraged to benefit from teacher to student ratio and to instill the principles of God’s Word. This wrap-around care often costs more than the$35.00 monthly sponsorship, and these additional expenses are covered through the general fund of STCH Ministries.

As Ruth sat alone, hopeless, surrounded by hungry children, she heard a voice, “Ruth, Ruth! I haven’t seen you recently. Come see me.” An elderly woman, Rosa Elena, had begun a school outside the village of Hatillo, mired in generational poverty and multiple levels of degradation and abuse. She passionately labored to rescue children through the Gospel and education. Samuel’s Fund sponsorships allowed her to feed, share the Gospel and educate Ruth’s children, along with many others.

Before she died, Rosa Elena passed on her vision to Ruth. Today, Ruth serves as the principal of that little school, while finishing her own education. STCH Ministries has stayed involved in many ways. Rebeca Dinzey, Samuel’s Fund Director, provides training and encouragement in the area of administration. A regular donation provides breakfast for the children. STCH Ministries partners, including Valentina and Diosmary, often fill in as teachers of English or physical education. Once a week, Valentina meets the older children for a Bible study after school. Regularly, Diosmary visits to help with budgets and accounting.

Ruth’s oldest daughter, Arianny, is in college. Her tuition is covered by the college scholarship sponsorship, CLEP (Christian Leadership Educational Program). Ruth frequently shares with visiting groups, “Today we are fed, today we have hope, and I am able to provide for my children. Many mothers in my area of Hatillo would like to join me today to share the difference that Samuel’s Fund sponsorship has made in their lives.”

Like Ruth, countless other children and families have been similarly impacted by the holistic features of the Samuel’s Fund sponsorship program. Today, they also give back to others. Franklin was the oldest son of an alcoholic abusive father. Sponsored for his education, his whole family accepted Christ and began to attend the IBQ church. Their falling-down home was repaired, beds were constructed by mission teams and frequently they received an offering of food. During his education process, he also helped with STCH Ministries computer issues and tutored other children, giving back what he had received. Today Franklin is married and the father of two children. He shares his faith at every opportunity in his work as a computer program designer for the Dominican customs department.

Jose Alberto was orphaned as a child, raised in the Kids Alive orphanage. Sponsored by the CLEP program, he will complete his dental education in December 2023. In the meantime, he gives back by educating younger Samuel’s Fund children, helping in the clinic and cleaning teeth. Others, like Naomi and Michelle, recently graduated and sponsored by the CLEP program, share a Bible study in Raquel’s school every week. Ricardo Giron, Haitian by birth, is now a leader with younger boys as he also studies through the CLEP program in the university. We are not always successful, as children age and make their own choices, but countless numbers of children have changed their future through a sponsorship that personally and intentionally invests to develop Christian leaders in their own culture for the future.

STCH Ministries President, Eron Green, often reminds, “It’s not about numbers, it’s about the weight of the impact.” We can feed 1000 children today, and 2000 tomorrow and 10,000 in a few years. Alternatively, we can invest personally in children living in poverty, support Christian schools, strengthen their family support system, introduce them to Christ and discipleship by a local church, tutor them, assign a caregiver to them, give them opportunities to discover and use God-given gifts to serve others. Through this, they can reproduce themselves through forming Christian families, working in business, teaching in schools, leading a youth group, pastoring a church or working as a dentist, doctor or computer programmer. Isn’t that what Jesus did? He invested in a few disciples, and through those original disciples, the world today is still being impacted. We can’t feed the world, but we can feed and educate ONE child, restore hope for ONE family and God CAN break generational chains one family at a time.

There are countless children waiting for a Samuel’s Fund sponsorship that could change their lives and the lives of others for generations. Please contact Victoria Orr, vorr@stchm.org or call 361.994.0940 for more information.

“I am only one, But still I am one. I cannot do everything, But still I can do something; And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.” ― Edward Everett Hale

Preparing to Face the Growing Need

“I have never seen a harder time to be a pastor than right now,” is an often-repeated statement at pastor gatherings these days. This statement on the state of pastors today has a strong backing from recent nationwide studies.

ALARMING TRENDS IN THE LIVES OF PASTORS

A recent Barna Group study confirms the difficulty pastors are facing. The study found, “With pastors’ well-being on the line, and many on the brink of burnout, 38 percent indicate they have considered quitting full-time ministry within the past year. This percentage is up 9 full points (from 29%) since Barna asked church leaders this same question at the beginning of 2021.”

“The change that has been accelerating in the last 18 months has left a lot of pastors with their heads spinning and their hearts spinning as well,” said Joe Jensen, Barna’s vice president of church engagement. “All the chaos, all the pressure, the magnifying glass of social media, the pandemic, the politics, the hyperdigital context, it makes sense that you have a lot of pastors saying, ‘Is this really what I signed up for? Is this what I was called into?’” The Barna study also found that, “Only one in three pastors is considered ‘healthy’ in terms of well-being.”

Another nationwide survey also found alarming trends in pastor health. LifeWay Research’s 2022 “Greatest Needs of Pastors” study found, “of all the mental challenges U.S. Protestant pastors face, stress stands out above the rest. Distractions and discouragement are also significant factors for pastors. Almost 2 in 3 pastors say they are facing stress in ministry (63%). Nearly half also point to discouragement (48%) and distraction (48%) as ministry mental challenges.”

So, what can be done to address these problems?

THE PASTOR STRONG INITIATIVE

In 2019, STCH Ministries was included in a partnership with Texas Baptists to address the needs of pastors. With the backing of a grant from the Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio, actions were put in place to form a ministry to pastors and their families in San Antonio and the surrounding area called, The Pastor Strong Initiative.

Initially led by Ben Hanna, son of former STCH Ministries leader Homer Hanna, the Pastor Strong Initiative is now being led by a group of San Antonio pastors who early on saw the positive impact the ministry was having on their lives. In the Pastor Strong Initiative, pastors were connected to peer support groups in different geographic areas of the city. There were events and retreats for pastors and wives, even in the pandemic. A strong core of participants found mutual encouragement in these relationships. The efforts are now continuing with leadership coming from veteran Pastor Strong Initiative participants.

One of those leaders is Pastor Joshua Fuentes. According to the Crestview Baptist Church pastor, the Pastor Strong Initiative is meeting some of the key pastor needs that the LifeWay and Barna studies detailed. “What I have seen, and experienced myself, is genuine friendships that are being cultivated among pastors. Usually gatherings like ours are more about “talking shop” and they never go beyond that conversation. Yet, pastors who participate in the Pastor Strong Initiative are moving past the surface conversation, and are having more “friendship” conversations that everyone, especially pastors, so desperately need. There is a difference between a work friend and a friend, and what makes the Pastor Strong Initiative unique is its value on friendships,”

Pastor Joshua went on to say, “Ultimately, the Pastor Strong Initiative has given me a multitude of brothers I can go to when I am dealing with a difficult time. There’s wisdom in numbers, and there are many men who participate that have weathered some mighty storms, and their experiences give hope, encouragement and guidance to guys who are in the middle of their storm.”

Monthly pastor gatherings are now taking place at the San Antonio Baptist Association building where participants have lunch and then a discussion around the individual tables.

Joshua Fuentes’ wife, Melissa, has been a leader in putting together events for pastors’ wives throughout the Pastor Strong Initiative efforts. She recently helped put together the first ever Pastor Strong Family Retreat held at Highland Lakes Camp and Conference Center this past May. Over 80 pastors, wives and children gathered to spend time with God and with each other. Along with regular camp activities – ropes course, archery, rifle range, camp fires and s’mores – there were times of praise and worship with teaching times led by the participants.

One scene captured in a post on Facebook at the retreat, was of a group of elementary aged girls talking about being a pastor’s kid. Those types of encounters are incredibly rare but important in the faith development of children in pastors’ families.

Another Pastor Strong Initiative leader, Pastor Chad Shapiro of Ignite Church in San Antonio, described the retreat this way, “What a weekend at our first Pastor Strong Family Retreat! It was a couple of much needed days of activities, praise and worship and devotionals to help us grow together. Kids and families had a blast and united to move forward in our work for Jesus in our communities!”

As the needs of pastors grow, the Pastor Strong Initiative is also changing to help encourage pastors and families in the calling they seek to answer. STCH Ministries’ Pastor Care Ministry will be there as a partner to help pastors develop sustaining relationships with each other and with the One who called them.

PASTOR COACHING

Knowing that the needs of pastors everywhere is growing, STCH Ministries is enabling Director of Church Relations, Tim Williams, to receive training as a certified pastor coach. While STCH Ministries Family Counseling is making it a priority to work pastors and family members into their schedules to counsel them on a personal, couple or family level, pastor coaching seeks to work with pastors on an individual level to discern how to go about what he senses needs to be done.

A pastor coach is a sounding board for pastors to throw out ideas in a non-threatening setting. Pastor coaches are trained to walk with pastors by asking strategic questions that help a pastor determine the next best step towards the place he feels God is leading him to go. Coaching in the pastor world has a lot to do with helping pastors stay on task, especially in the environment that many pastors face today – doubt, discouragement and distractions. Having a coach available to them, with no fee for the ministry, is an idea that several pastors have affirmed enthusiastically. STCH Ministries sees the needs of pastors today and is seeking ways to help them in the calling God has given them in these trying days. Pray for your pastor and pray that STCH Ministries will be able to continue to find ways to help pastors answer God’s call.

 

Students Giving Back

Last week, students from STCH Ministries Homes for Children traveled to the Dominican Republic on a mission trip with STCH Ministries International. The week started with them building bookshelves to deliver to an orphanage. They took turns cutting, drilling and sanding the pieces until five bookshelves were completed and ready to be delivered the following day. They enjoyed seeing their finished pieces installed at the orphanage when they went for a visit which also included activities with the kids at the orphanage and a tea party for the house moms. The rest of the week they spent digging a trench for the foundation of a new house. The house belongs to the family of two Samuel’s Fund students and other mission teams will work to complete the house throughout the summer. Through the heat, the students pushed to finish the trench before they left. Dominican ministry partners commented on how impressed they were by the work ethic of the students. The students also hosted a VBS for a local church and loved getting to interact with the kids despite the language barrier. Throughout the week the students talked about the impact the week had on their lives, from gaining an appreciation for the opportunities they have to learning how to find joy and thank God even for the small things or hard times. All of them were excited to come back home and share how God moved through them and in them. STCH Ministries is thankful for the opportunity for these two ministries to work together to change lives. 

Unforgettable Moments

The Comical and the Inspirational

On a mission trip, God speaks individually to each person—through laughter, in singing or in a child’s eyes, during painting, playing, devotions on the rooftop, or a food delivery.  In early June, Hunters Glen Baptist from Plano joined First Baptist from Kenedy to serve together in the Dominican Republic.
Sunday morning at IBQ church was “a picture of heaven,” reported Marcia.

The Spanish and English words of hymns sung at full volume,
gave new meaning to the ancient words,
“This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long!”
One afternoon the group gathered groceries and visited the humble zinc-roofed home of Meisy Mercedes, a sponsored child living with her grandmother. “How can we pray for you?”  Her response? Not toys, or clothes, or an Iphone. “Pray that my family will be complete in Christ, that my grandmother will accept Jesus.”

Ladies took turns sewing curtains for Raquel’s school.  Some would measure, others would cut, and others would sew.  But no matter how diligently they worked, the curtains weren’t coming out the same size. Frustration turned to laughter when they compared their measuring tapes—tapes marked 60 inches were different lengths!

Meeting their sponsored child in person provided special memories.  Celine Alvarez cried with joy and disbelief when she was told that her sponsors wanted to meet her.  She had been sponsored for 7 years by the children’s ministry of Hunter’s Glen.

On the opposite end of those emotions was Enmanuel.  Tina’s family have been sponsoring for 2 years, and they knew that Enmanuel was misbehaving and failing in school.  Imagine his surprise and embarrassment when his sponsor showed up, speaking Spanish, and talked with him about his behaviors. “I’ll be back next year to check on you!”

The group traveled to the Higuey boys home, and spent two days with them.  Building a porch, painting, sharing devotional time along with a mountain of pizzas—but their most precious memories were loving and playing with 25 boys.
“I was reminded that God is always good, always faithful.”  “I was blessed to see love in action.” “ I was nudged to invest in our youth at home.” “I met a child that needs a sponsor.”  God spoke personally, and willing hearts responded to His call.