A Beautiful Example of God’s Grace

FOR KIDS OF ALL AGES, a full day of activities is much more exciting than a day of chores or just sitting around the house. This past August, our kids at Boothe Campus experienced a day to just relax, play and be a kid. Buffco Production, Inc., an E&P oil and gas company based in East Texas, generously provided four water inflatables, a dunking booth, lunch from Chick-fil-A and ice cream from the On the Mooove Creamery for everyone to enjoy at Homes for Children.

This partnership materialized in a very unique way, and both organizations believe their joint work will
last a lifetime. Buffco first connected with STCH Ministries through Mr. Howett. Before his passing, Mr. Howett deeply supported STCH Ministries and personally worked to further its mission. Eleven years ago, Buffco acquired rights to develop a portion of Mr. Howett’s property in Zavala County. Following this deal, the company learned about STCH Ministries and its mission through a friendship between Gary Jones, STCH Ministries vice president for land management and Mr. Howett. After Mr. Howett’s passing, Buffco pursued STCH Ministries as a charitable initiative, and a strong partnership formed.

In 2014, Frank Buffkin, president of Buffco, and Jason Moore, chief operating officer at Buffco, decided to plan something big for the children at Boothe Campus. The event started as a Fourth of July party where Buffco could spend the day giving the children an unforgettable experience. In the end, the impact on Jason and the others from Buffco proved to be just as great if not more. Jason shares about his experiences below.

“I think it was the impact on all of us that attended the first event that solidified our desire to maintain that relationship in a more active way. I think we expected something special just given Mr. Howett’s devotion to the program, but I did not expect to see and feel something so tangible and such an obvious example of God’s presence at our first visit. God tells us that we are to protect and love children and to see that at work, in action, has never become less moving. We walk away from the event each year simply feeling like we have received such a blessing even to have a small part each year in serving the kids. The staff, the parents, the children that are always so gracious and thankful, it is truly a humbling experience at each visit. To see God’s call on his people to meet a need and see that need being met so compassionately is something awesome in the very truest sense of the word.

Over the years, participation in the event has also had the same impact on many industry partners who have stepped in with us at the event. Donald Callaway and his wife, Terra, and the crew at Legacy Safety have shared the same sentiments and desire to be a part of the program in the same way. It’s always an honor for us to be able to bring new industry partners along to witness this beautiful example of God’s grace.

First and foremost, we thank God for the relationship with STCH Ministries that we have today and will also never forget how that was born from Mr. Howett’s generosity and devotion to this amazing mission.”

Seeing truly is believing, and STCH Ministries is thankful for the generous support of Buffco and others who help fulfill the mission of serving children and families. The impact of our partnerships certainly goes both ways. The staff and children at Boothe Campus embody the same sentiments as Jason in being thankful for the great day of fun and ability to make new memories. Buffco and Jason’s shared goal is to provide the thrilling experiences but also provide for everyday needs. This year, they decided to assist with back-to-school supplies and clothing for those living on campus.

For Christopher, a 13-year-old who has lived on Boothe Campus since before this event began, says, “I like Buffco. I look forward to them coming each year because of the water slides and Chickfil- A. They are the GOAT–greatest of all time.”

Each year, this event is penciled in before the dates are even solidified due to the anticipation of children and staff. Benjamin Brewer, student ministries coordinator for Boothe Campus, exclaims, “Buffco brings so much excitement! It’s one of those days that builds with anticipation. What they provide for our campus is awesome, they bring so much joy and fun to our kids by creating such an awesome family experience. There is nothing more fun than seeing our kids smiles when they play on the waterslides and run around and have fun. I truly love and appreciate them for loving our kids so well. Awesome people!”

STCH Ministries is thankful for the Buffco team for their unwavering support for the fun day of activities as well as the support in other ventures. It is because of numerous partnerships that STCH Ministries can provide so many opportunities for everyone in our nine ministries.

Thank you to Buffco Production, Inc. and many others for your unending love and support. You are making a tremendous impact in the lives of so many people within our community and also serving as a beautiful example of God’s grace. If you are interested in getting involved with STCH Ministries visit, www.STCHM.org/get-involved today.

Building Healthy Churches Through Strategic Partnerships

Healthy pastors lead to healthy churches. This concept is the driving force behind STCH Ministries Pastor Care. The ministry was designed to strengthen and replenish the well-being of church leaders by providing confidential counseling for ministry families and pulpit supply when time away is needed. So when Texas Baptists approached STCH Ministries Faith & Finances to partner and provide training for pastors and churches within the convention, it was an easy decision.

STCH MINISTRIES originally taught financial courses within the Jobs for Life (now Faith & Work) curriculum, but they quickly realized that the program could reach a wider audience on its own. The team reached out to the Chalmers Center to create a partnership where STCH Ministries could teach the curriculum and train class facilitators. In 2016, STCH Ministries taught Faith & Finances as a twelve-week program for families, youth and church members to learn what the Bible says about managing money. In 2020, Faith & Finances served 524 individuals through classes primarily taught in the Corpus Christi, Houston and San Antonio areas. Texas Baptists recognized the need for pastors themselves and their congregations to receive financial training and reached out to STCH Ministries Faith & Finances to partner together.

The proposed partnership would “provide financial literacy education to Texas Baptists pastors and churches across the state that is affordable, faith-based, easily understood and proven to be effective.*” Texas Baptists agreed to pay for the cost of the certification and curriculum with grant funds from the Lilly Endowment through the Center for Ministerial Health, Financial Health area. The African American Ministry, Inter-Cultural Ministry, Church Starting Team and Texas Baptists en Espanol would approve pastors and designated church leaders for facilitator trainings. STCH Ministries would teach the classes as a ten-week condensed class for these pastors or their designated leaders and combine them with the facilitator training. This would allow pastors and church leaders to turn around and facilitate the classes for their own congregations.

At this point, the Chalmers Center had not created a Spanish Faith & Finances Facilitator Certification Course. STCH Ministries staff worked with the Chalmers Center to create a new Spanish
Certification Course and finalized the material in October 2021. Nick Holguin, a volunteer facilitator from San Antonio, launched the Spanish Facilitator Course for the pastors and church leaders from Texas Baptists. This will be the first class to complete the new Spanish Certification Course on the Chalmers website in November 2021. Thanks to this collaborative effort, the Spanish Certification Course will be available for all of the Chalmers Center partners worldwide.

The Faith & Finances directors all have pastoral backgrounds, so from the beginning they understood the impact the programs could have on churches and the kingdom of God. They knew from experiences with other Faith & Finances classes that when pastors and leaders stand behind the course, the congregation will also be more committed and involved. The widespread buy-in has helped in the teaching of the classes. “Pastors know the concepts, and it is a lot of the things they are teaching and have been teaching for years, and to hear another pastor expound on those areas and offer additional insights and frame it in the way the Chalmers Center has laid out the curriculum has been really helpful for a lot of them. It has been exciting,” shared Darrell Jackson, pastor and Faith & Finances director in Houston.

Even within the first few weeks of the classes, STCH Ministries received very positive feedback from individuals taking the class.

“I am really enjoying the class so far. The class will have great value on our church in which I will be ministering too. The benefits of the class will be for me to teach what I have learned in the class, such as learning to budget, which involves keeping a daily log on the money they spend daily. I plan to use the Faith & Finances material to help put more money into our church myself and to teach the church on how to budget more and to get more from the money they make.” – Alethea Russell co-founder of City of Hope Project in Dallas, Texas

“I believe every church should have a financial seminar at least once a year. The benefits to our memberships would be invaluable in learning the stewardship of God’s money and our responsibilities in its use. I plan to use the Faith & Finances materials in holding classes for our congregation, the faith community in my city and the community as a whole. I think that the materials can and will be used during stewardship month in our church.” – Pastor Billy R. Ashley, Bethel Missionary Baptist Church of Midland, Texas

“The Faith & Finances class provides good information for Christian families, and it helps to eliminate erroneous concepts about money and our relationship with money. The impact this class can provoke is to teach families to supply for their immediate needs, as a result, to learn to be better stewards of the goods that God provides them and reciprocally contribute in a better way to the kingdom of God.” – Pastor Eduardo Carrasquillo from Centro Cristiano Moreh in Killeen, Texas (Translated from Spanish)

“I am grateful for Texas Baptists work in Texas generally and with Hispanics specifically. I pray that the Faith & Finances resource is a blessing that reverberates through Texas Baptists in the coming years.” – Jesse Rincones, J.D., Executive Director, Convención Bautista Hispana de Texas (Hispanic Baptist Convention of Texas)

“When my wife and I learned about STCH Ministries Faith & Finances, and especially the opportunity to be trained as facilitators, we wanted to help our church and the community get healthier in their finances as well. Many thanks for your efforts for us, and for our Master, and for investing your time in us.” – Pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista de Belton, Texas (Translated from Spanish)

“Brothers in Christ. I am very grateful for this Fe y Finanzas class that we are receiving. This class is helping me in managing my personal finances. This class has challenged me to strictly control my expenses. I told sister Yesenia that after finishing the Fe y Finanzas class, I will teach this class in my church. Many of my members have problems with their finances. They no longer see another option for getting out of debt. I believe that the Lord has shown us a way of how we can help the Church.” – Pastor Dario Bá Xuc from Bautista Emmanuel Guatemala (Translated from Spanish)

STCH Ministries is excited to see how this partnership with Texas Baptists will continue to grow. The initial agreement is to teach the facilitator course to pastors and church leaders of 100 Spanish speaking churches and 100 African American churches, but STCH Ministries directors do not want to stop there. They are looking forward to reaching other pastors and church leaders across Texas, the United States and internationally. With the ability to teach by Zoom, the possibilities are endless. On top of these classes, their goal is to teach individuals in all walks of life and are always looking for facilitators to join the team. If you are interested in serving or want to attend a class, visit www.STCHM.org/ff.

Healing for the Brokenhearted

ISABEL’S STORY BEGAN in darkness. With trauma woven throughout her youngest years, patterns of neglect and abuse plagued her childhood. STCH Ministries entered the picture more than a decade later. At Homes for Children, Isabel finally found the consistent care, attunement and unconditional love that her early formative years lacked—and her life would never be the same.

At age two, Isabel left the foster care system and entered a family through adoption. While care within the bounds of a family unit is ideal for most children, this specific environment did not meet her needs. With seven brothers and sisters in the same house, she felt the weight of her unpredictable home. As she entered her teenage years, Isabel felt alone and helpless. She held anger in her body and lacked the ability to relationally connect with others. In short, Isabel needed to process the traumas experienced in her first 14 years of life.

In 2012, Isabel arrived at Homes for Children. On a hot August day, she stepped onto Boothe Campus with one bag of clothes in hand. With painful memories of foster care and adoption, she held little hope that this environment would be any different. “When I first arrived, I hated it,” Isabel recalls. “There were so many rules. But I always told everyone that it was better than where I was before.”

On campus, Isabel lived in a cottage that functioned like a traditional home. When she experienced bouts of anger, her houseparents held space for the big emotions, and they felt empathy for the heartache behind the hate. With a Christian faith guiding their parenting techniques, their inner peace slowly became contagious through quiet words, calm tones and gentle hugs when she expressed overwhelming feelings.

Over time, Isabel grew accustomed to the new way of life at Homes for Children as she found certainty in her physical and emotional safety on campus. “The environment change was big for me,” said Isabel. “They didn’t punish me like I was used to. The love and attention I received was so big. I spewed a lot of hate to my houseparents, but they always returned the words with love no matter what I did or said. They still loved me, and they always took care of me.”

As Isabel progressed through her high school years, she thought about what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. As the college admissions process began, she narrowed her focus to human science, family development and psychology. She assumed these fields of study might provide a window of insight into previous life experiences while offering techniques to break the cycle for future generations.

On an early fall afternoon, Isabel’s houseparents drove her to college, and the next chapter of life began. With strong bonds formed during her high school years, this proved to be an emotional moment for everyone. “The children’s home was like a family,” said Isabel. “I wrote a poem about it during college. I included a lot of metaphors—a home that’s not your home. People love you and take care of you. They give you literally everything you need.”

Following her college graduation, Isabel pursued an MBA in Houston. As she graduated from the rigorous master’s program, she fully recognized God’s guidance throughout her life. That week, memories from her past resurfaced. Most notably, she felt grateful for her time at
Homes for Children. “Not everyone gets to go to a children’s home, and often, they struggle for the rest of their lives,” said Isabel. “I was lucky enough to get this support. It was definitely life changing for me.”

Today, Isabel searches for the right career for her unique skill set and finds fulfillment in her current work driving routes for a large shipping and delivery company. She feels confident that the right job will soon come her way. “I can use my MBA in any industry,” said Isabel. And while she waits for career direction, she is moving ahead with paperwork to take her houseparents’ last name. “I felt unconditional love from my houseparents,” said Isabel. “You can see God in their decisions and how they move about the world. They’re inspirational.”

Isabel feels appreciative for the time spent at Homes for Children. She recognizes that not all children get to experience the same love that she found, and she thinks about her brothers and sisters with a heavy heart. “My siblings have struggled with homelessness, crime or living without an education,” said Isabel. “I owe so much to the children’s home. I have my own apartment now, two beautiful German Shepherds, an education and a job.”

While living in Houston as a young adult, Isabel witnessed her relationship with Christ grow deeper. She encountered two distressing situations while living on her own, but during those times, she relied on her faith and the consistent support of her houseparents. With a life rooted in truth, Isabel felt mentally strong during these difficult experiences. She confidently reached out to
others for support, saying, “If you are willing to do the work, your life can change for the better.”

Isabel often remembers her younger self with empathy. “I always felt so broken, sad and depressed as a child,” she said. “But if I wouldn’t have gone to the children’s home, my life would have been cut short by tragedy.” When harrowing memories resurface, she finds comfort in her favorite Bible verse, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

She views her teenage years at STCH Ministries with nostalgia. “Life was so much simpler at Homes for Children,” said Isabel. “I’m just grateful and thankful. When you’re young at the children’s home, you don’t appreciate it all, but once you leave, you look back fondly.”

The team at STCH Ministries recently video called Isabel to hear about life in Houston. After the conversation, they mentioned that someone else wanted to say hello. A few moments later, STCH Ministries vice president of campus ministries, Greg Huskey, appeared on the screen. Their faces lit up when they saw each other. After a few minutes of small talk, he said, “This was the best part of my day today. I miss you. Please know you can come back whenever you want. You’re always welcome. We’re so proud of you. We love you. Keep rocking and rolling.”

This brief conversation exemplifies the kind of support that children at Boothe Campus receive every day. From houseparents to counselors, STCH Ministries staff members pour into the lives of vulnerable children with little reminders that their presence is always wanted and they are doing a good job. Children who feel alone find a family that pursues them. Children who feel the effects of neglect find adults who care about their physical and mental wellbeing. And children who experience the horrors of abuse find safety and security within the bounds of Boothe Campus. Isabel built this strong network of support at Homes for Children, and today, she is thriving in adulthood and living a life she never dreamed possible.

Privileged to Serve Through STCH Ministries

Every ministry faces similar challenges. From advocacy organizations that support children, youth and the homeless to nonprofits that provide drug and alcohol programs. Every leadership team grapples with the question: How do we invest our limited resources to meet the greatest needs for the greatest number of people?

STCH MINISTRIES INTERNATIONAL began work in the Dominican Republic with a similar question, “From an eternal perspective, where do we focus our teaspoon of resources for the ocean of need surrounding us?”

Our mission statement seeded the answer. “Honoring God, helping children and families with His love and truth and enabling others to join us.” To accomplish this mission, a unique
sponsorship program would provide:
• Eternal hope and spiritual development through faith in Christ
• Opportunity for sponsors to personally invest influence and resources in these lives
• Education to break shackles of generational poverty
• Support to develop as Christian leaders in their own culture

The Samuel’s Fund sponsorship identified disadvantaged children with potential, ages four through high school. It was named after the biblical character of Samuel, a great leader and influencer in the nation of Israel. When God called him as a child, Samuel answered, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” He was only a child, yet his training had begun. In the Dominican Republic, the Samuel’s Fund program grew to benefit more than 400 children with this opportunity.

As children matured and graduated from high school, the creation of the Christian Leadership Educational Project (CLEP) extended the development of “Christian leaders in their own culture” through college. Those who demonstrated leadership potential in their church or Christian ministry would be eligible for a scholarship.

Jose Alberto Regalado is one of these young adults. Jose was born in Monte Plata, the youngest of four siblings. His father abandoned the family before he was born, leaving the family in abject poverty. At the age of 10, his mother died. Through the care of his Heavenly Father (whom he did not know at the time), he was chosen to live with Ramon and Juana Prensa, founders of the Monte Plata Children’s Home. Jose recounted, “They treated me as a son, and guided me all of my life. I learned everything about life from them—how to eat at a table, take care of my clothes, work and study, drive a car—everything!”

Dominican law requires a child to move out of an orphanage at age 18. Although he was still in school, Jose moved out. He worked at the school, helping out in their small dental clinic until he graduated. This experience led him to pursue training as a dental technician, traveling every day to Santo Domingo. However, the length and cost of the one-way, three-hour trip, plus poor job opportunities for a technician were discouraging.

Through a series of God-planned circumstances, Jose began to help STCH Ministries summer groups. He met Christians with generous hearts, and soon he became a CLEP scholarship recipient. The sponsorship enabled him to move to Santo Domingo and enroll in dental school.

In addition to the financial help, the CLEP sponsorship provided much needed support. Jose’s life has not been easy. He identified the lack of a mother’s love as an aching void in his heart. It has contributed to some serious mistakes as he searched for a substitute. Along with his sponsors, STCH Ministries staff stood by him with loving counsel and support. In addition, due to the circumstances of his birth, Jose lacks required Dominican government recognition (similar to a social security number) necessary for licensure when he graduates. With faith that God will intervene, prayer and work continue, enabling Jose to focus on God’s purpose for his life—to serve others through his skills as a dentist.

Vladimir Minier was always fascinated by numbers and the topic of finances. As a child, he lived in one of the poorest sections of Villa Mella. He suffered from depression and rarely spoke or smiled. Overweight and painfully shy, Vladimir received regular abuse from peers. When he was thirteen-years-old, a Christian teacher at school told the story of Christ dying for our sins. “Come to me,” she quoted. “Put your burdens on me.” She stated with assurance that Jesus could change lives. Vladimir bowed his head over his desk and committed his life to Christ. Life became a little brighter. He was not alone anymore.

When a church opened in his neighborhood, he began to attend faithfully. Attending grew to assisting, then teaching. He led the singing and joined the drama group. Diosmary, a part time STCH Ministries tutor, told him about the CLEP program and invited him to apply for a scholarship. Vladimir was accepted, and soon he enrolled in a private university with a major in the area of finances.

In October 2021 he will graduate as a Licensed Financial Advisor. He is presently working in a bank as he waits to apply for a government-funded master’s program in France. Long-term, his goals include owning his own firm, consulting, giving back to others through guidance in money management. Vladimir credits the CLEP scholarship with providing many opportunities that have benefited him, saying, “It gave me hope, and helped me to reach seemingly impossible goals in the university.”

As Vladimir also assisted with summer teams, he reported, “I was inspired by their noble hearts, how they sacrificed themselves to help others. I want to do that through my career in the future.”

Carlos Cruz lived an uneventful life in Puerto Plata until at eight years of age, his world turned gray and the light of hope was extinguished from his soft brown eyes. His dad left and remarried. Lack of stability and financial needs became a daily reality. Carlos disconnected emotionally and retreated to books and videos. Sometime later his mother also left for Italy.

Carlos came to faith through his involvement in a church during his early teens. His despondency coupled with his habit of reading attracted him first to Ecclesiastes and later drew him to the book of Proverbs. He memorized significant portions, saying, “Proverbs helped me to make many good decisions since I didn’t have anyone else to guide me.”

Carlos moved to Santo Domingo after high school, hoping to find a way to enroll in the university. He lived with grandparents for a short while and began to serve in his uncle’s church in the impoverished neighborhood of Brisas del Este. There he learned about the CLEP program, applied and was accepted. While Carlos studied construction engineering, he also dedicated many hours to helping other Samuel’s Fund children as he helped to lead mission teams. COVID disruptions pushed his graduation to spring 2022. His goal is to remodel homes and flip them for a profit. He will continue serving with STCH Ministries and in the Brisas del Este church.

Dark-haired and strikingly beautiful, Jeffy Ariza plays clarinet in the IBQ praise band. Although she seems too young, she will finish her studies in medicine this year as a CLEP scholarship recipient. After serving two years of residency she will continue to specialize as a pediatrician. Jeffy is passionate about her goals, explaining, “I want to be a different kind of doctor, compassionate, serving God and my community rather than making money.”

Perhaps her passion can be traced back to her early years with five siblings. Jeffy remembers poverty and hunger, lack of school supplies and uniforms for school attendance and a father who struggled with rage. She grieved to see her younger siblings and her mother suffer. Her health was affected by the stress. She struggled with depression and developed serious gastrointestinal issues.

She accepted Christ at 11 years of age along with her mother, through the outreach of the IBQ church. Later, they were chosen for a Samuel’s Fund sponsorship, and their home stabilized. Jeffy’s impossible dream to become a doctor evolved into a reality through a CLEP scholarship. Jeffy cannot count the number of ways that the scholarships have benefited her and her family—tuition and school supplies, food during difficult times, medical care and medicines, tutoring and even a laptop for their studies.

Although life has not been easy, Jeffy believes that God allowed everything for a purpose. Reflecting over the past, Jeffy concluded, “It was a test, like gold being refined, and I was able to grow.”

Nemesis Chalas grimaced a bit as she shared that her greatest obstacle is her impatience. As she neared graduation from university, impatiently praying for a job, she suffered hours of overwhelming anxiety and frustration. “Now I see that God had something specific in mind for me, in His time, at the right time.” Today, she has a great job with the Department of Education.

Nemesis’ life shares a familiar pattern in the Dominican Republic—a broken home, lack of resources to continue her education. She recounted that in spite of impoverished circumstances, learning was always easy for her, and she finished high school with honors. She accepted Christ at 14 years of age. When she was 16, a paralyzing fear of death motivated her to pray, “If you let me live, I promise to serve you.”

A visionary and ambitious young lady, Nemesis plans to have her own business in the future as an event planner—lights, sound, food, music and decorations. She has already begun planning smaller celebrations like birthday parties. Inspired by the work she did with the summer mission teams, she plans to use these opportunities to share her faith and be a blessing to others.

Keren Ramirez lives in La Romana. As the daughter of a pastor in a very needy area, economic deprivation has always been a huge obstacle, both personally and for the church. Keren shared, “God always sent angels who donated at just the right time for our greatest needs. One time my father checked his bank to see whether there was enough for our immediate need and discovered he had a large balance. Although he queried everyone, he never discovered who made that deposit.”

Those experiences made an indelible impression and grew her faith. With no means to pay for a university education, she knows God provided the CLEP scholarship. Keren will graduate in November 2021 as a lab technician. Her experiences working with mission teams have inspired her. Although their economic circumstances are very different, she learned that Americans have the same faith as she does. “They sacrifice to serve and give their resources. We serve God together and have faith in the same God, and He uses all of us to accomplish His purpose,” she reflected.

In 2006 STCH Ministries expanded internationally, responding to God’s call to serve beyond the South Texas region. We began with faith and a lot of questions. Where to start? How to invest in keeping with the calling God had given STCH Ministries? What is the best way to invest for long-term impact and eternal benefits?

The success of the sponsorship and university scholarship program (CLEP) is demonstrated in the lives of these young people and many more. Doctor, dentist, financial advisor, event planner, construction engineer and more—productive citizens, able to bless their families, committed to serving Christ as leaders in their own culture. The credit for the vision, and the glory for all that has been accomplished belongs solely to the great God we are privileged to serve through STCH Ministries.

When God’s Hand Guides

Mothers arrive at Homes for Families for many reasons. Sometimes financial instability, abusive relationships or a lack of family support are at play. Other times, mothers find themselves homeless with nowhere else to turn. No matter the situation, when a mother arrives with children in hand, STCH Ministries Marshall Ranch and Bluebonnet Ranch campuses provide a safe environment to pause, breathe and then dive into the underlying issues.

JUDY IS A MOTHER TO SIX CHILDREN. She has four girls and two boys between the ages of two and thirteen. Her story is one of difficulty, and in fact, it’s non-linear. As humans, we love to hear about people conquering something hard after one attempt, but more often than not, our stories include road bumps, detours and dead ends. Judy knows this disruption well, but through hardships, heartache and growing pains, she ultimately experienced life change.

As a mother stuck in a difficult situation, Judy first heard about Homes for Families through a local church. She felt a desire to call the campus and learn more about the program, but as she listened to the rules and expectations, she felt nervous. “I couldn’t do it,” Judy said. She assumed it would be too hard to let go of a living situation that tied her to the life she actually needed to escape. With these details in mind, she hung up the phone and pushed the idea out of her mind.

One year later, Judy experienced the physical and emotional harm of domestic violence. With children living in her home, a CPS case quickly opened. Through this personal trauma, she again heard about STCH Ministries. As she talked with a family advisor, the advisor suggested that Judy explore the benefits and offerings of STCH Ministries Homes for Families.

As she talked with a family advisor, they explored the benefits and offerings of STCH Ministries Homes for Families. While discussing the logistics of a move, she recalls the advisor saying, “Don’t think of it in a negative way. Think of it as a blessing in disguise.” This phrase provided the lightbulb moment that Judy needed. On that day, she consciously chose to shift her mindset about the future and view opportunities with optimism. Soon after, Judy made the call to move to Homes for Families with her children in hand.

On November 6, 2018, they arrived on campus. The move was hard on everyone, and as a family unit, they struggled with a new home, a different schedule and a lack of independence. She felt grateful to be in a program that surrounded her children with love and support, but it was hard to fully commit to the campus’ expectations. After nine months, Judy walked away from Homes for Families feeling stronger than when she first arrived.

With the economic upheaval in 2020, Judy lost her job and lacked the support of a solid family network. She eventually purchased a home with the help of the COVID-19 stimulus checks, but after a series of hardships, Judy again turned to Homes for Families. This time, she needed spiritual direction, financial assistance and guidance for her children. “I just wanted to build my relationship with the Lord,” said Judy. “I felt strong after my first time at STCH Ministries, and then I fell back into old habits when I left. The world was pushing me to do things I didn’t want to do, but the Lord pushed me to come back. I had to make the decision to return.”

On August 2, 2021, Judy and her six children moved back to Homes for Families. This was a hard decision because the children wanted to avoid a second upheaval to their friend groups, schooling and extracurricular activities. Following the move, Judy felt less anxious. “I’m not all over the place, screaming, shouting or cussing,” said Judy. “I feel humbled. I learned to not do things on my own and wait for what God has in store for me.”

Today, Judy is moving through Phase I at Homes for Families, and her children are adjusting remarkably well. While recalling the return to Marshall Ranch, Judy said, “It felt like coming back home. The two years in between were hard. Walking through the door at STCH Ministries brought peace, and now I’m not as angry, and I’m not as depressed. Yes, I still get flustered, but as a whole, I’m at peace. At Homes for Families, they’re teaching me how to deal with struggles the right way.”

Today, Judy has more patience in interactions with her children. She recognizes that each child is different, and as individuals, they experience the world in unique ways. With new parenting skills at her fingertips, Judy tries to give her children love, time and attention each day. She is also working to implement structured chores in her house, a new venture for her family.

Judy regularly expresses a profound gratitude for the team at STCH Ministries. “They welcomed me here with six kids,” said Judy. “That felt big. A lot of places don’t have room for a family of seven people, but they made room for us.”

For Judy, life change is happening at Homes for Families. She is not the same person as the woman afraid to take the first step of faith and reach out for help more than four years ago. “I learned that the world is not going to save me. Jesus died on the cross for my sins, and we should follow in his footsteps,” said Judy. “At Homes for Families, I learn something new every day. It’s really changed my way of thinking.”

Judy hopes that other women experiencing heartache, hardships or abuse will find their way to Homes for Families. “It’s well worth it,” said Judy. “It’s hard in the beginning. It truly is hard. But you’ll feel peace within yourself, and you’ll see the change within yourself. It’s overwhelming and joyful. When you let God in, your whole life will change. Before I found STCH Ministries, I was depressed. I felt hopeless. Now, my life has changed for the better.”

While planning for the future, Judy holds two dreams close to her heart. First, she wants to be a resource for teen girls who find themselves in unexpected pregnancies. After watching relatives struggle through pregnancies at young ages, she wants to make a difference for those who feel hopeless.

Recently, Judy discovered her entrepreneurial spirit. If personal growth continues at a consistent pace, her second dream is to open a shop that sells party supplies—specifically balloons. She feels so much joy thinking about the possibility of owning a small business someday and recalls a simple balloon shop in her hometown and the smiles on her children’s faces when they hold the inflated treasures.

Homes for Families served as a beacon of hope for this family, just as they do for countless others who show up at their doorstep willing to walk the path toward real and meaningful change. Through stories like Judy’s, God’s providential and protective care is often noticeable over an extended period of time. Some might say her continued encounters with Homes for Families were by chance or completely random, but others will recognize God’s hand guiding each decision. If you or someone you know needs help, visit www.STCHM.org/hff.

Surviving to Thriving

As I write this my mind is full of images from 20 years ago when two planes were flown into the World Trade Center buildings on September 11. I am currently watching a documentary that interviews and tells the stories of many survivors of this tragic event.

You see, to some extent we are all survivors. “Survive” is defined as “to continue to live or exist, especially in spite of danger or hardship.” As children we were all taught basic survival skills—some
came more naturally than others. Do not play in the street, you might get run over. That one is fairly simple. You might also have been taught how to hunt for food and even how to grow your own
food. These can be seen as survival skills.

We all also face hardship of various sorts. Maybe you were raised in a single parent home. Maybe you didn’t make the sports team. Maybe you suffered the loss of a loved one. Hardships are a way of life, no one is insulated or immune.

Thriving, on the other hand, is not being satisfied just surviving. Thriving is living and thinking abundantly.

A thriving mindset is defined by continually challenging oneself. To be a better person. To be a better spouse, parent, child or friend. To be more understanding, more supportive or just be present more. Challenging yourself to be more committed, to be the solution to the problem.

To thrive we must look up!

As you read through this Messenger, you will see stories of survivors. Survivors that have faced challenges and trials. Survivors, that due to no fault of their own, found themselves in difficult situations, much like those that survived the devastation on 9-11. But at some point, we must all move past the survival mentality so that we can thrive.

You will read Judy’s story. Judy and her six children were welcomed into our Homes for Families program as a family that learned to have a survival mentality. Judy shares that it was difficult in the beginning but so worth it in the end. You will also see Isabel’s story. Isabel is a special young lady that overcame almost insurmountable odds and recently graduated college with her MBA. The interesting similarity in their stories is they both found the key to go from surviving to thriving was God!

Here at STCH Ministries, we are blessed to believe in those we serve more than they believe in themselves. We serve an awesome God who is working out His masterplan. Let me be clear, that doesn’t mean that the path will always be smooth. What it does mean, is no matter our situation, He is with us.

Thank you for taking time to read our Messenger and for your
support and prayers!

Psalm 145:14 in The Message translation says, “God gives a hand to
those down on their luck, gives a fresh start to those ready to quit.”

“You cannot change your destination overnight,
but you can change your direction overnight.”
– Jim Rohn

Made to be More

High school and college graduations are a time of celebration. A time to reflect on the years of hard work leading up to the moment when the next chapter of life begins. For three siblings, John, Mary and Edna, their recent high school and college graduations held a deep meaning as they paused to recognize how far they had come through their formal education and personal lives. If you would have asked them seven years ago if this moment would ever be a reality, they would have told you no. But in June 2014, God moved them to STCH Ministries Homes for Children, and their lives were forever changed.

Edna was 12 when she and her two older siblings moved to Boothe Campus. Child Protective Services (CPS) removed them from their family in 2014 and placed them under Permanent Managing Conservatorship which meant they were to remain in the state’s care. CPS placed them at STCH Ministries Homes for Children, and even though they were not all in the same cottage, they stayed together as a family. Edna recalled what it meant to stay together, saying, “It was a comfort. We were going through it together. We were experiencing everything together, and we could bounce ideas off of each other. It was good to have each other and to have that continued relationship with them.”

Mary arrived at Youker Cottage the day before her 15th birthday. When initially placed, the campus did not have room for the sisters to be housed together, but a week later, they moved in together at Barnes Cottage. The girls grew close to their houseparents quickly and attribute their success to the support they received. John came in a month before his 17th birthday and moved into Brown Cottage. He also created a deep relationship with his houseparents and still relies heavily on their support.

Prior to coming to Boothe Campus, the three siblings had not received any formal education. They had never set foot in a classroom, let alone a public-school classroom. They arrived on campus in the summer, so they were able to build relationships with some of the other children before going to school in the fall. Even with a foundation of friendship, the first day still shocked them. John entered school as a sophomore, but due to the fact he did not complete a freshman year he took double classes. He recalled his experience, sharing, “According to the state, I was considered a freshman, but the school put me in as a sophomore. I had a very weird high school schedule. I started out with English 3 then worked my way backward. English 3 one year, then 1 and 2 the next, then 4 my senior year. I also had both Algebra 1 and Geometry my first year.”

Mary started school as a freshman but struggled initially since she missed many of the academic building blocks in previous years. The school placed Edna in 6th grade, a year behind other students her age. From the start, all three siblings worked hard to prove that they could succeed. They attended tutoring in the mornings with Ms. Thiede, Ms. Staples and Ms. Custer. “If there was one day of the week that I didn’t go to Ms. Thiede’s, it was Monday mornings because we had the weekend to do homework. Other than that, we would go to her classroom, finish eating our breakfast, talk for a little bit and then work. She cared about our lives outside of the classroom, but she also pushed us. She would give us practice sheets and things to work on, and she would never say, even about simple math problems, ‘Oh you should know this.’ She was always very kind and would celebrate with us,” said Mary as she reminisced about her time in tutoring. All three siblings remain very thankful for the support they received from their teachers at Pettus Junior High and Pettus High School.

Over time, John and Mary’s hard work paid off. John completed school in three years and graduated salutatorian of his class. A year later, Mary graduated salutatorian of her class. Edna viewed her older siblings as role models and watched as they set the bar high. “Throughout my junior high years, I felt like I was in my siblings’ shadow; that I was not capable of reaching the same achievements they did. However, I just had to realize that I was writing my own story. I know now that it is not about the accomplishments, the awards or even the ranking but about how you make your story unique,” said Edna during her high school commencement address. Not only did Edna accept the challenge set forth by her siblings, she exceeded their academic successes and graduated valedictorian of the 2021 senior class at Pettus High School.

The three siblings’ stories do not end with high school though. Edna is excited to continue writing her story as she attends Hardin-Simmons University in the fall. Edna will study social work, and she plans to become a medical social worker. While living on Boothe Campus, her housepop became ill and needed continuous medical care. Edna sat back and watched as her housemom dealt with hospitals and doctors, and in turn, saw the value of a career as a medical social worker. “I think it would be really cool to connect people with the resources that they need. What locked it in for me was just seeing them work with everybody through his sickness,” Edna shared as she reflected on the recent season of life.

Mary graduated from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in May 2021 with a degree in social work. She attributes her time in CPS care to her desire to be a social worker. The siblings had three or four different CPS caseworkers throughout their time at Homes for Children as well as the caseworkers from STCH Ministries. Mary shared how this impacted her, saying, “You really saw a difference in the ones who really cared and really went the extra mile. That is so evident.” This fall she will continue her education by attending the University of Texas – Arlington to pursue her master’s in social work. “I want to help kids understand this doesn’t define you. Your story goes on, this is not the end of it,” Mary shared. Her desire is to see children succeed and realize they have a purpose in life no matter where their journey began.

John graduated with a degree in range and wildlife management from Texas A&M Kingsville in May 2021. He will continue his education in pursuit of a master’s degree in range and wildlife management. John found his passion for this field while living on Boothe Campus. Homes for Children takes the children on hunts every year, and in this setting, John met game wardens and biologists. John would ask them questions, and they would take the time to not only answer the questions but truly explain and educate him. “Ultimately that’s my dream job. Finding somewhere to be able to do that, to educate,” John shared. These experiences led him to where he is now, with the ability to give back and impact lives in the same way his life was impacted.

The three siblings’ faith also grew during their years at Boothe Campus. In her time with STCH Ministries, Edna learned many things from her houseparents, including how to walk with the Lord. “Papa would do our devotions and pray for us and pray with us. He was the one who talked to me when I wanted to give my life to God. He was the one that made sure I knew what I was doing and the value of the decision. He was the one who baptized me. I would have taken the long route to find God if they wouldn’t have shown me this is who He is. This is why we do what we do. This is why we love you. This is love. He is love,” Edna shared. Edna knew about church and God before coming to STCH Ministries but did not have the relationship with Him that she does now. She thanks her houseparents and other Homes for Children staff for their guidance throughout her time on campus.

John and Mary both felt like they had a strong relationship with God before coming to Homes for Children, but after attending church regularly with their houseparents and seeing the way their houseparents lived out their faith, they started to see things in a different light. These two siblings both left for college with a renewed sense of what it meant to follow Christ. They sought out churches where they could get involved and grow spiritually. “Part of it is me growing in my faith and walk with Christ, but the other is being able to love who I am in Christ now. This year is the first time that I could honestly say that I love myself as a person,” said John. They both lead in their churches and love the ability to help others grow in their walks. They attribute this desire to lead to houseparents and other staff on Boothe Campus who showed them what it means to truly follow Jesus.

“I know when I came to STCH Ministries I had this idea of myself that I was this person who was damaged goods and was someone who was so tainted that I couldn’t really truly move forward, and I no longer see myself as that,” explained Mary. “I don’t have to think of myself in that way anymore. To know that someone can say, ‘You can be more, and I believe that you are made to be more. You don’t have to stay where you’re at.’ That’s hope.”

John, Mary and Edna shared that without STCH Ministries they would not be where they are today. They would not have dreamed of college, let alone master’s programs. The siblings attribute a large part of their growth to the counselors, caseworkers, houseparents, Boothe Campus staff and teachers in the Pettus school district. Today, each of the siblings recognize the intrinsic value of their lives because of Christ and know that long before their first day at Homes for Children, they were made to be more.

Faith & Finances Volunteers Across Texas

As local communities emerge from an extended season of uncertainty, STCH Ministries Faith & Finances courses are positioned to help where people need it most. With three Texas locations in Houston, San Antonio and Corpus Christi, these training sites reach expansive regions with a message of financial hope. All courses are operated by generous volunteers who bring a solid knowledge and understanding of money matters from careers in the financial sector. In partnership with these professionals, students benefit from the practical guidance and direction of volunteers who model a healthy integration of faith and finances within their personal lives.

The Faith & Finances volunteers lead busy lives yet consistently find the time to give back in a way that aligns with their professional calling while furthering the gospel. Eddie Zuniga lives in Houston and works as a financial planner at Edward Jones. While his tenure within the company sits at four years, Eddie’s exposure to the world of financial planning extends to 2010 when he first became an Edward Jones client.

Eddie revealed that his financial acuity did not materialize overnight, and it took years to become fiscally savvy. Because of this, Eddie recognizes the value of the Faith & Finances course and believes it provides a safe space for people to think about money differently. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Eddie. “No other group does it better than STCH Ministries. Faith & Finances connects Christianity with behaviors. After this, everything else falls into place.”

While reflecting on his path to volunteer work, Eddie recognized the privilege he holds as a course facilitator where his pro bono contributions directly impact the community. He finds purpose in
connecting personal core beliefs with his career. Eddie notes, “When I see people release themselves from debt it is the coolest thing ever. Helping someone get to retirement is a goal, but helping someone find fulfillment is an achievement.”

Even with a background in financial planning, Eddie avoids a hard sell on investments for new students as he sees this wealth-building strategy as the cherry on top. Eddie reminds his classes that money is a tool, but without a goal rooted in truth, vulnerabilities and misdirection arise. “God has a plan for you,” says Eddie. “Don’t miss out on what God can do through your finances and for your family and community.”

Two hundred miles southwest of Houston lies the community of Corpus Christi, Texas. Here, Lavonne Spears volunteers with a local Faith & Finances program. As the employee development supervisor for CoastLife Credit Union, Lavonne spends her working hours training staff in the company’s products and services. With a financial career spanning 29 years, she finds fulfillment by discussing savings and lending topics with students in her class. “When I see that light turn on for others, it’s so rewarding.” Lavonne adds, “But the most rewarding thing is to see somebody free. To see that bondage lifted off of them. To see people now filled with hope and bypass their desperate situations.”

Lavonne began her volunteer work with STCH Ministries as a guest speaker and slowly integrated into a teaching role four years ago. “This volunteer work has taught me obedience,” said Lavonne. “The Bible says, ‘Go ye therefore into all the world and preach and teach the gospel.’ This is the gospel. Be obedient to what God has called you to do, and He will connect it all. This is my way of tying work and faith together.”

Throughout the course, many students encounter “aha!” moments where everything comes together. As the course instructor, Lavonne experienced her own moment of clarity when she looked down at a one-dollar bill and read, “In God we trust.” This prompted her to further pursue the concept of finding God’s will within her money. “I now see how God was really working things out for us to live with purpose and for us to be helpers from one to another.” Lavonne continued, “Faith & Finances is an awesome program, and even through the pandemic, God provided ways for us to do this virtually. We were able to reach even more people than before.”

On a personal level, Lavonne sees why it’s important to integrate faith into work. She recognized firsthand that students who complete the course leave with a tangible connection between their spiritual life and careers. Following hours of course preparation, Lavonne noticed how her Faith & Finances training grants her more freedom to talk about how faith should connect with money. Throughout her time as a volunteer, Lavonne witnessed people move from homelessness to security and eventually create and sustain a savings account. “They had lost everything,” Lavonne recalled. “It’s truly God’s hands and feet moving through this program.”

Today she encourages her local community to find a way to take the course. “Just take it. There are things you can add to the class and also things you can take from the class. It’s an exchange, and everybody brings something to the table. Don’t think you can’t be helped because you can. There is hope for everyone.”

In San Antonio, Texas, 150 miles northwest of Corpus Christi, Nick Holguin volunteers as a Faith & Finances instructor while serving as the CEO of Baptist Credit Union. Nick is within his first year of teaching the course, and he brings a unique perspective to each session as a previous Faith & Finances student. Surprised by its impact in his own life, Nick now feels fortunate to work in a place where he can live out his faith through vocation while pointing others to STCH Ministries resources.

As an advocate for the underserved in San Antonio, Nick regularly observes the results of poor financial education by way of expensive interest rates and bad credit. “It’s a matter of educating people who would otherwise be trapped in that cycle,” he says. “We’re using Faith & Finances as part of the credit union to teach the basics and the building blocks for financial stability.” Nick prioritizes the need to help credit union members experiencing hardships find refuge from dire situations.

With a personal story of financial and spiritual disconnect from his past, Nick speaks from experience when he shares how money is intrinsically tied to relationships. He sees how people value relationships more than anything else, yet too often, spending patterns do not reflect this value. “We need to consider our relationships and how they’re affected by how we spend or invest our money,” says Nick. He encourages people who are considering the Faith & Finances course to not waste another minute. “I’ve been a banker for 30 years and a CEO for 24 years, yet I didn’t understand how money was a part of my spiritual life,” Nick explains. “Once I understood that, I was able to make decisions filtered through the lens of faith being merged with finances.”

Eddie, Lavonne and Nick each bring unique gifts to the table as they freely offer their financial aptitudes to benefit their communities at large. Because of their willingness to walk alongside the financially disadvantaged, STCH Ministries volunteers get a front row seat to the redemptive work of Christ as vulnerable people find financial security.

Week of Hope – Celebrating 69 Years

Sixty-nine years ago in a rural Texas town, J.M. Lunsford stepped aside as the pastor of First Baptist Church Beeville with a desire to pivot toward a new venture in ministry. Harnessing a vision and property contributions from Laura Boothe, STCH Ministries found its way into existence in 1952 at the hands of two visionaries. This year, the organization celebrated 69 years in operation by inviting ministry partners, volunteers, class participants and supporters to participate in a series of events during Week of Hope. With a goal of raising $200,000 in seven days, friends of STCH Ministries gathered to celebrate the organization’s impact on the lives of children, families and local communities.

THE LEADERSHIP TEAM AND STAFF spent the first week of May traveling between six Texas locales where regional ministry sites hosted Week of Hope celebrations. Each open house event served as an opportunity to engage with supporters and partners in a face-to-face forum while enjoying food, site tours and meaningful connection. Following a year of virtual events and programming, the team recognized the importance of reinforcing the bonds between the organization and its valued supporters. Through the generosity of several anonymous donors, the team announced that all monetary gifts received during Week of Hope would be matched up to $100,000.

The first event kicked off in Pettus, Texas, at Boothe Campus on Monday, May 3. The Homes for Children team welcomed local supporters with open arms as they recounted STCH Ministries’ growth throughout the years. In the 1950s, the organization began with 10 children living in a small home. Today, this campus houses children from birth to age 17 in multiple cottages with loving houseparents and extensive activities and opportunities for personal development.

On Tuesday, May 4, the team prepared for two events in Corpus Christi, Texas. The morning gathering showcased the counseling ministry as guests mingled throughout the Corpus Christi Counseling and International Office. This ministry area provides care for individuals, couples and families through scheduled sessions with professional counselors who provide a safe environment for clients to process difficult emotions and situations. The afternoon event allowed Faith & Work and Faith & Finances class participants to visit the Corpus Christi headquarters and say hello. These two training programs provide equipping opportunities for the intersection of faith, career and money. By Tuesday evening, the fundraising goal reached the halfway mark of
$100,000 in donations. STCH Ministries’ staff celebrated this milestone as they pushed ahead into the middle of the week.

On Wednesday, May 5, the day began outdoors under a large white tent where the future Jack Green Counseling Center will break ground in the coming months. STCH Ministries President and CEO Eron Green spoke to the attendees and oversaw the site dedication ceremony. Event attendance included Jack Green’s daughter and daughter-in-law as well as members from local churches and the community at large. By Wednesday evening, a second site dedication began in Goliad, Texas, on the Homes for Families campus. Here, mothers and children from Marshall Ranch gathered alongside others in the community at the future site for a new multi-purpose building.

After two additional open house events in Houston and San Antonio to close out the week on Thursday and Friday, the $200,000 fundraising goal was nearly met. Throughout the following hours,
generous donors continued to give. Before the week ended, STCH Ministries exceeded its fundraising goal with donations totaling over $237,000 from over 240 donors.

In a social media update the following week, the STCH Ministries team expressed their gratitude for a successful Week of Hope. “We want to say a huge thank you to everyone who made STCH Ministries Week of Hope last week such a success! We exceeded our goal of raising $200,000 in a week and had great turnouts at all of our open houses. We are blessed by an amazing staff that worked hard to prepare their locations and welcomed everyone with a smile. We still can’t believe we are celebrating 69 years of ministry and can’t wait to see how God continues to move for the next 69!”

Each of the seven open house events served as an opportunity for ministry partners, volunteers, class participants and supporters to learn more about STCH Ministries’ mission and connect with staff. While speaking to Week of Hope event attendees, president and CEO Eron Green consistently communicated that all donations, no matter the size, propel STCH Ministries forward in healing hearts and sharing hope.

Kyle Luke, STCH Ministries vice president of development and communications, recently sent a letter to Week of Hope donors, saying, “The Lord has truly blessed STCH Ministries in many ways and you are one of those blessings! Your support makes it possible for many to hear about the love of Christ—which changes lives forever. Thank you, again, for your continued commitment to STCH Ministries. Plans are already underway for next year as we will celebrate 70 years of ministry. Please continue to pray for STCH Ministries as we continue in healing hearts and sharing hope.”

With a threefold purpose, Week of Hope accomplished its goal to celebrate 69 years of ministry, re-engage new and existing supporters and raise $200,000 to fund the mission of STCH Ministries. As the week concluded, the team expressed profound gratitude to those who gave financially and through in-kind donations that stocked the commissaries at Homes for Children and Homes for Families with highly needed items like toothpaste, disinfecting wipes and cereal. “Thank you again for your commitment to STCH Ministries,” said Eron Green. “Let’s celebrate God’s Work as He continues to heal the lives of children and families—together we impact lives.”

Through the work of caring staff who reflect God’s love, thousands of children and families are forever changed. From decade to decade, the past 69 years clearly display God’s provision, and year after year, the mission remains the same. STCH Ministries is in the business of healing hearts and sharing hope, and as the organization moves into its 70th year, the journey continues throughout Texas and on an international scale.

Supporting Hope

A young boy living on dirt floors, hauling water for cooking and bathing in a two-gallon can, then walking in baking sun, or clay-like mud
to half-day school. Nevertheless, he dreams of becoming a doctor. In another country village, a truck careens down a hill and smashes
the leg of a child living in poverty. Without medical care she would die of gangrene, or at best her leg will be amputated.

IMAGINE HOPE for these children.

STCH Ministries took root in the middle of brush country outside of Beeville in 1952. Action-based, the vision of healing hearts and sharing hope expanded to nine different ministries including children and families in the Dominican Republic. Hope envisions possibilities beyond despair. Hope excites and inspires. However, hope dims, and the shine wears off of vision when facing
daunting realities: isolated villages, dirt floors, alcoholism, poverty, hundreds of thousands of single moms and fatherless children.

In 2020 when the pandemic hit the Dominican Republic, the country locked down immediately. Government support was nonexistent
for the majority of the population. Food was hard to access, limited in quantity. The STCH Ministries family of donors responded
generously as hope became rice and beans for several months.

As people huddled fearfully in their homes, the government closed schools and ordered distance learning. Without computers and technical support, teachers were discouraged and overwhelmed. STCH Ministries donors responded again with their support. Dominican Republic ministry partners scoured the island to purchase laptops and tablets for teachers and the children in our
orphanages and Christian schools. But how to effectively use them with weak and spotty internet service?

Loyal IT is one of the largest managed service providers of technology in Central Texas, serving over fifty businesses and thirty non-profit establishments. They provide on-call tech support,
unlimited remote support and technology consulting. COVID-19 brought an explosion of technology needs in Texas and around the world. Yet in the midst of all of that, Marco Leal, owner, and Will Krauss, CEO, flew to the Dominican Republic to upgrade internet capacity at their own expense. Recently we asked, “Why? What motivates you?” Will answered,

“I have always found that my faith in God and my fascination for technology and connectivity has helped me wind up where I am today as the CEO of Loyal IT. At Loyal IT we believe we can help Christian ministries focus on their “WHY?” by making their complex technology needs our mission.”

Will went on to say, “One of the things I love the most about our work is that the owner, Marco Leal, is a strong believer and
shares the same values in our walk with God and love for people.”

Marco’s answer was deeply personal.

“I started my first computer electronics venture in March of 2000, and our store was wildly successful. I was realizing my dream come true, when 9/11 and a recession brought catastrophic results. Everything we had accumulated was gone in a couple of months.

In 2002, we decided to change the business structure from an electronics store to a service company. I worked longer hours, even kept the store open on Sunday in the attempt to make ends meet. The situation seemed hopeless. Family life suffered. I questioned God and doubted His presence. It seemed that the more I doubted Him, the more my life would deteriorate. I remember a stranger telling me, ‘My friend, you need to take your will and your life and place it in God’s hands.’ I chuckled and arrogantly replied, ‘How do you suggest I go about placing my life in these invisible hands?’ The message stuck in my head, but I was not ready to try that approach. The feelings of guilt, shame and failure continued omnipresent until I found myself in bed crying out, ‘God, catch me! I am falling!’

If you could combine every amazing feeling in the world and feel them all at once, it would describe what it felt like to fall in God’s hands. My problems did not disappear overnight, but I no longer
felt alone. I simply wanted to serve everyone. With this renewed life and mindset, the following year our business became twenty times more profitable than the six previous years combined.”

Marco summarized, “Today we teach our team members at Loyal IT to go above and beyond in our service. Regardless of whether we are called to serve a front desk clerk, a president & CEO or a volunteer at a homeless shelter, we should serve them all with same level of sincere gratitude.” Will added, “We often recall Matthew 5:41 which says ‘Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.’ Going the second mile and giving amazing service to our clients is what we love to do.”

In November 2020, Marco and Will boarded a plane in Austin and went not only a second mile but 2000 miles. They shared their hearts for service and their talents for technology to improve internet service for many sites. Their support rekindled a strong beacon of hope during a dark time for schools and orphanages in the Dominican Republic. Formerly fearful and discouraged, teachers’ ability to prepare lessons and communicate with their students gave new energy as everyone re-dedicated themselves to the new normal of learning.

Marco and Will reported at the end of their trip, “We love going down to the DR and using our gifts in technology to help the ministries of STCH Ministries. We absolutely love our relationship
with STCH Ministries. We are excited to continue our trips with your team to minister in the fields that God has put in your care.”

Healing hearts and sharing hope is never a one-and-done project. It is like assembling a puzzle, taking hundreds of little pieces to accomplish. Transforming hope into a concrete reality requires support from hundreds of seemingly unrelated individuals and churches and businesses. Volunteers who go on mission trips contribute their piece, those who give donations also help to fill in pieces as we create a picture of hope for children and families.

Together, we reflect God’s love and give hope to each child and family we are able to reach. The young boy who only dreamed of becoming a doctor, today ministers as Dr. Francisco Paredes with STCH Ministries International. Dr. Francisco was able to rescue the child with a crushed leg. Over two months of continual care, he worked with specialists and eventually saved her leg.

Supporting hope involves vision. It continues through God’s leading and calling of individuals. The process requires sacrifice, prayer and trust in God and obedience to His calling. Investment of skills—medical, dental, teachers, construction, sewing and technology—all are part of the great army of God to spread the Good News of salvation and rebirth.