Laying Down Her Life

When 28-year-old Ashley Kaufman discovered she was pregnant in 2016, she was devastated. She and her two young sons had recently escaped an abusive marriage, but not before Ashley lost custody of her daughter from a previous relationship. Heartbroken and afraid, Ashley struggled to think about bringing another child into her world.

“My life was in shambles,” Ashley said. “I hated myself and couldn’t understand why I kept making bad decisions. I started thinking about an abortion. I thought it would make everything easier.”

Growing up in Santa Rosa, California, Ashley had never known stability. Her father was a musician and she, her mother, and an older half-sister often traveled with him. She was only seven when her parents divorced.

“My mom was addicted to drugs, and she often left my sister and me alone for two weeks at a time,” Ashley recalls. “I felt so scared and alone. I also got sexually molested by a relative during one of those times.”

During high school, Ashley left home and eventually dropped out of school. She became pregnant when she was nineteen and had a son, Jaden. She then met another man and within a year gave birth to Alexis, her daughter. After five years in that relationship, Ashley returned to Jaden’s father and had a third child, Adrian. Ashley began to sense God’s conviction and started going to church on her own.

“I wanted so badly to try and make my marriage work so my sons could be with their father,” Ashley shared. “I thought I could fix him, but he never stopped his abusive behavior.”

One Sunday morning after leaving her husband, Ashley went to Bear Creek Baptist Church in Katy, Texas. She became so upset during the service that she ran out and asked if there was someone who could help her. She was told that STCH Ministries offered counseling services at Bear Creek and was soon able to talk with a counselor.

“What I really wanted was for someone to tell me abortion was okay…that it would be the best choice for me. Instead, the counselor told me abortion isn’t okay and if I went through with it, I would feel more pain in the end than if I chose to have this precious baby God was giving me.”

The counselor also told Ashley about another program of STCH Ministries called Homes for Families, a place that could give her the support she needed to face her pregnancy as she worked toward a more promising future for herself and her children.

Although leery from her experiences of staying in shelters, Ashley finally made the phone call. Theresa Klacman, program coordinator at Homes for Families, was ready and waiting.

“The counselors let me know that this was a young woman contemplating abortion, which is something really close to my heart,” Klacman said. “I had an abortion when I was seventeen, and I know that you never ever forget the experience. Ashley shared about her situation and we talked about the power and forgiveness of God, and His hope and redemption. I believed Ashley really wanted this child but was overwhelmed by all the obstacles. She needed someone to tell her that she had options, and that she wouldn’t be in this alone.”

Ashley and her two sons arrived at Homes for Families in Goliad, Texas, on Valentine’s Day 2017. She was given a vase of flowers with a card that said, I love you. From God. “It was like God was saying to me, ‘You can breathe now. It’s okay.’”

Ashley poured herself into Phase 1 of the program, a time devoted to the restoration of body, mind, and spirit and developing a more intimate relationship with God. Four months later, Isaiah was born, bringing a new peace Ashley had never known.

“I am so glad I didn’t go through with the abortion and that I have Isaiah!” Ashley exclaimed through tears of joy. “Being here has been the best experience of my life. The hardest part was facing myself and the issues inside, like pride and unforgiveness. The staff here have held my hand and guided me. They taught me what it takes to have a personal relationship with God, and how to truly lay down my life for Jesus. I knew it was time. I just hadn’t known how.”

Ashley’s resident coordinator has witnessed an amazing transformation in her.

“Ashley is a dedicated mother who loves her children more than herself. She takes every situation to God in prayer and has attained a wonderful resilience. I believe one day God will use her strong personality and joyful spirit to lead others.”

Ashley is so grateful for all God is doing in her family. Jaden is in fourth grade and loving his new school. Two-year-old Adrian is cared for at the Homes for Families onsite childcare, and baby Isaiah stays with his mom during the day. Soon Ashley will begin taking classes that will prepare her to enroll in college, where she plans to study nursing.

“STCH Ministries has helped create a foundation for the rest of my life,” Ashley said, “and I know two things for sure. Every single day I am here, I am in God’s will, and every day He is healing my brokenness.”

If you would like to learn more about the Homes for Families ministry, visit www.STCHM.org/HFF.

God’s Blessings

“I have learned that God hears my prayers even about little things,” Abril Lorenzo shared.

Abril is a 12-year-old sponsored child who longed to attend a drama presented by the Quisqueyana Baptist Church in the National Palace of Fine Arts. Abril knew that the possibility of paying for this would be impossible for her family. In the quiet of her own heart, she shared her desire with God. “Please, God, I would love to go to this drama.”

How pleased she was when she learned that her sponsorship would pay for her ticket!

For children to know Christ, grow in their faith, and get an education—these are the most important goals of the Samuel’s Fund sponsorship program. In addition to help with tuition, school uniforms, and books, the children frequently receive additional benefits—a backpack, an outing with their class, groceries for the family, medical care, and even a birthday cake! Over the Christmas holidays many children also received extra gifts of games, toys, and clothing. Our staff was kept busy delivering these gifts, which were received with great joy!

It may seem like such a small thing, a ticket to a drama. For Abril, it meant that God hears the concerns and prayers of a little girl. Sometimes it is those small extra benefits that impress a child with God’s care and love for them.

Celebrating Ten Years of Jobs for Life

Crossbridge Fellowship Church brimmed with contagious energy earlier this year as a group gathered to prepare for the spring semester of Jobs for Life (JfL) in Corpus Christi. With beaming faces, and a few heartfelt tears, alumni and volunteers of all ages and backgrounds shared inspiring stories of how Jobs for Life had changed their lives and homes.

For RC, who graduated from JfL in the fall of 2017, this meant ending a life-long struggle and finding new purpose.

“The hardest thing was being real with myself,” RC shared. “I always wanted to be a people pleaser, but JfL helped me define myself more and grow in my relationship with God.”

RC now volunteers in the JfL office and serves as an ally to encourage women enrolled in the program.

In February 2008, STCH Ministries first began offering job and life-skills classes in Corpus Christi through the Christian Women’s Job Corps program. In 2014, the name was changed after adopting the Jobs for Life curriculum, and the main program hub was relocated to CrossBridge to help STCH Ministries better meet the greatest needs in Corpus Christi. The twelve-week program continued its focus on helping women become more self-sufficient but recently began offering men’s classes as well. In the fall of 2016, one component of Jobs for Life called Faith & Finances grew to become a new, separate program at STCH Ministries.

Jimmy Rodriguez, Director of Jobs for Life and Faith & Finances for Corpus Christi and San Antonio, is grateful for the strong partnerships JfL has established over the past ten years with individuals, churches, businesses, and local community resources. As a ministry that is primarily volunteer driven, these partnerships are critical to success.

“Nothing is more important than relationships,” Rodriguez said. “Our relationship with Oak Park Elementary School in Corpus Christi led to a recent invitation to set up an information booth at a PTA meeting. Fifty women signed up that night as interested in participating in Jobs for Life!”

Through partnerships like this, STCH Ministries Jobs for Life now exists in Corpus Christi, San Antonio, and Houston, and the program continues to expand. The first Spanish-speaking class took place last year in Houston, and an evening coed class began at CrossBridge in Corpus Christi this spring with an emphasis on business and ministry building.

Joanna Berry, Vice President of Family and International Ministries, looks forward to what the upcoming year holds.

“All of our ministries are joined in a type of symbiotic relationship with local churches in their ministry to families,” Berry said. “Our priority this year is to continue to develop and refine the Jobs for Life program and methods so that it becomes a more viable and effective outreach tool for churches that want to help the needy and broken but have mostly been limited to food pantries and clothes closets in the past. There are so many diverse opportunities for volunteers to deeply impact the lives of women and men through Jobs for Life.”

To learn more about participating in or volunteering at Jobs for Life, go to www.STCHM.org/JfL.

Collaborating for Kingdom Work

In 2006 STCH Ministries launched our International Ministry, reaching out to the Dominican Republic, and recently we have begun the process of exploring God’s direction in other countries, such as Costa Rica. The groundwork for our international expansion was contained in the principles of the STCH Ministries mission statement: Honoring God, helping hurting children and families, and enabling others to join us in this work.

Honoring God through fulfilling the Great Commission—possibly there has never been a time when so many differing priorities compete for best use of resources. Multiple values, passions, opinions, and experiences affect the decision to expand into other countries. So how does STCH Ministries determine the what, the where, and the who of our next phase of growth?

In contemporary culture, big is the ultimate measure of success. It is tempting to focus on reporting thousands of conversions in a ten-day mission trip. Or to tout meeting physical needs— thousands of people fed, healed, or clothed. The Great Commission begins with sharing the Gospel, but includes the directive to make disciples—a slower and numbers-deficient process. Jesus, who invested heavily in only twelve disciples, informs the most effective model for ministry. STCH Ministries believes that investing in the development of capable leaders for tomorrow is the wisest use of resources, exponentially multiplying future ministries and leaders.

When STCH Ministries began working overseas, we sought an effective systemic approach to address short-term mission involvement. One of the keys was to find trusted, locally-owned ministries with a similar focus on helping children and families. We respect God’s call on individuals to reach their own culture, and we desire long-term relationships, so we work to identify resources and training that we can provide to enable them to fulfill their calling. As a result, the investment made by an American mission team will continue long after the team has gone home.

The first years of International Ministry were about building those relationships and establishing protocol for our ministry activities. Now as we look to future opportunities in another country, we will use that experience to guide our path.

Guidelines for Finding Trusted, Local Partners Internationally

  • Do they have a history of commitment and faithfulness? Do we have a good report from credible people?
  • Are their leaders competent and dedicated to their calling? Do they have a vision for the future?
  • Do we have expertise and resources that they need? How can volunteer teams help?
  • Accountability in finances—how are they funded? Do they work from a budget?
  • Is there evidence and testimony of their primary dependence on God?
  • If an orphanage or a school, do they have a priority relationship with a church? Do they focus on sharing the Gospel along with discipleship? Do they have sufficient staff, appropriately trained?

It takes considerable time to discover the answers to these questions, and some trial and error. As we did in the Dominican Republic, we have begun with visits to Costa Rica, during which we shared our vision and heard from local ministry leaders. In 2018 we hope to return with a few American volunteers who have been to the DR who can give us feedback on their perceptions of this new area. During future visits, we will share some resources such as groceries, school supplies, and clothing. Later, is there evidence that the children are using the school supplies or clothes donated? Is ministry staff present? Are the facilities maintained as best as can be expected?

We inquire about their needs and vision.

  • Do they have a plan, and are they making efforts to achieve their plans?
  • Or are they waiting or dependent on handouts? (We walk a fine line between helping and hurting with financial assistance.)
  • Is the safety and well-being of children a priority?
  • Are they willing to work with us and do they ask for our advice?

This part of the vetting process is crucial. Although we seek to nurture partnerships without imposing our American “right” ways of doing things, we must make sure that the foundation is biblical. As our president and CEO Eron Green often reminds us, “Partnerships can be messy!”

One more very important consideration for STCH Ministries is logistics. We evaluate several factors:

  • Is the work something that fits family mission teams?
  • Is there safety and political stability in the country?
  • What is the distance, cost, and ease of travel?
  • What accommodations can we provide in local transportation, lodging, and food?

As you can imagine, the process of expanding our International Ministry is a slow one, and that is how it should be. When a family decides to join a mission trip, traveling thousands of miles to an unfamiliar country with children in tow, they are trusting that STCH Ministries hasn’t taken any shortcuts!

Mission teams are also trusting that their labors will have an enduring impact, and that is why we put such an emphasis on collaborating with local partners for Kingdom work. When we co-labor, or labor with our brothers and sisters in Christ overseas, God moves in the work and accomplishes something greater than we can envision.

Stay tuned for more information in the coming year as STCH Ministries investigates new opportunities for international missions.

A Season of Refinement

Boothe Campus
Bee County, Texas

I want to begin by thanking each of you for your support in 2017. Here at STCH Ministries, 2017 was a year of blessings and growth, with many more children and families impacted by the work that you are making possible. To God be the glory!

I must also say that while 2017 was tremendous, I am really excited about 2018! I believe God has big plans for STCH Ministries this year. While I do believe we will see growth, I believe 2018 will be built around refinement. As we look to refine all aspects of our ministry, we will adhere to, cultivate, and immerse ourselves in our core values:

Excellence, Integrity, Accountability, Vision, and Glory to God.

What do you value today? What is your most prized possession? As a popular Christian song lyric states, “We’re all one phone call from our knees”. In the blink of an eye our whole world can be turned upside down. The stories seem all too familiar: a wife leaves her husband, a mother and her children are evicted from their apartment, the boss comes in and today is your last day, a pastor is overwhelmed by the weight of bearing his congregation’s burdens. You see, we all have a story. Our collective stories are of tragedy and triumph.

What is your story? Recently I had the opportunity to meet two young ladies who have come to live on our Boothe Campus. What they didn’t know is that I had been praying for them for months, ever since their pastor reached out to me concerning their situation. (It was such a blessing to put faces with the prayers I had been praying!) You see, in the midst of their very difficult surroundings, God was writing a new chapter for them, a change for the better that they couldn’t see coming. The decision to come live on our Boothe Campus may be the most important one they have made in life to this point. Their story is unfolding in a new direction, and STCH Ministries is now a part of it.

As I write this letter, I am sitting in our Koinonia House in the Dominican Republic. This morning I was able to see the dream of Pastor Rodney and his wife Nilsia in progress: the completion and expansion of a new Christian school in the town of Villa Altagracia. To see their faces and hear their gratitude for how God has allowed us to be a part of their story (and the 165 children that attend school there) was a powerful reminder that we all have the ability to be an influence for the Kingdom.

Because of your support, we at STCH Ministries are privileged to be a part of God’s work in the lives of children and families, and to see His hope come alive in their hearts.

Thank you again for your generosity and please be in prayer for us in 2018,

Eron Green, President and CEO

Senate Resolution 803

Over the past 65 years, STCH Ministries has had countless opportunities to stand beside numerous organizations in bringing hope and healing to hurting children and families. It is an honor to have recently been recognized by the Texas Senate in Senate Resolution No. 803, memorializing the work STCH Ministries has done over the last several decades.

Judith Zaffirini, a Texas State Senator from the 21st District, has had a long-standing rapport with STCH Ministries and sponsored Senate Resolution 803. It declares, “STCH Ministries has had a profound impact on the lives of children and families in need for 65 years, and the organization is truly deserving of special recognition as it achieves this milestone in its history.”

Relationships and partnerships made with senators, churches, foundations, and businesses are vital to the future of STCH Ministries and we celebrate occasions such as these that highlight how far we have come and the noteworthy people we have met along the way.

It is a blessing and a privilege to be acknowledged by such a reputable entity. As Mark Childs, Vice President of Homes for Children, ardently stated, “Now, more than ever, there exists a need for the private non-profit sector to work closely with our local, state, and national governments to advocate for children.”

Looking back to where it all began, with Laura Boothe and Jess Lunsford, an empty lot of land and a heart and vision to care for children, it is amazing to see how God has flourished the original vision and multiplied the number of people we are able to reach throughout our nine different ministries in Texas and the Dominican Republic.

On December 2nd, 2017, STCH Ministries will host a celebration in honor of the past 65 years and all God has done in and through this ministry. It will be a time of reflection on the past and expectation to what God holds for the future. We invite everyone to come out and celebrate during this momentous occasion, and learn more about the heart and mission of STCH Ministries. It will be a day of fun and fellowship for the entire family. Our doors will open for the general public at 3 pm and we hope to see you at our 65th Anniversary Celebration!