Never the Same Again

I will never be the same again…nunca seremos los mismos! Words we love to hear in any language. Changing lives for God’s glory…changing lives to enable them to fulfill their potential…empowering others to become Light-bearers for their families, communities, and the world.

For over 10 years we have ministered to children and their families in the Dominican Republic—in orphanages, schools, churches and through our Samuel’s Fund sponsorship program. Most of these children have suffered trauma during critical stages of their development due to abandonment, hunger, and abuse in many forms. With limited knowledge and virtually no available training, the staff at orphanages, teachers in the local schools, and children’s caregivers struggle to handle the behavioral symptoms of this trauma. They work tirelessly to love the unlovable, set appropriate limits, heal wounds, and meet need.

After searching for some time, last fall God led us to find a training course, Trauma Competent Caregivers. Amazingly, certified facilitators offered this training in Spanish in April, 2018 in two different locations in the Dominican Republic. STCH Ministries sponsored a total of 33 staff members, teachers, and caregivers from the local community to attend. Additionally, our Dominican STCH staff stepped up, volunteered their time, and traveled to Santiago, spending two nights and two full days caring for those children, so that 18 caregivers could be trained.

Some of the comments we have received:

Janibel: “I learned to have empathy for the abuse that children have suffered, how to understand them better…the importance of listening to them, and even playing with them.”

Ruth Ester: “I learned the importance of three things for children—security, sense of permanency, meeting their needs for well-being.”

Alejandra: “I have better tools for disciplining children in my home, responding according to the occasion and the behavior. This will help me to better connect, empower, and correct their behavior.

Valentina Flores, one of our own STCH Ministries team members, summed up the experience for everyone, “In reality, the knowledge we received has impacted the lives of each of us, and we will never be the same again! Now that we learned about different temperaments, how to calm them, meet their needs and identify trauma, we will not see children as we did before.

You and I are the blessed ones, the ones God has entrusted with the privilege of caring for children, counseling for broken lives and marriages, teaching truths from God’s Word that can set people free. And we are blessed 100 times more to share these ministries with you–volunteers, churches, mission trip participants, and sponsors.

Finding Potential with Limited Resources

One of the most difficult aspects of the Samuel’s Fund sponsorship program is choosing which children to sponsor. How we wish that resources were unlimited, but only God is limitless. So we must choose. We cannot go strictly on need. The criteria is not only need, but also potential.

Potential includes a reasonable degree of support in the child’s environment—someone who will provide accountability for school and church attendance. It also includes a good attitude and willingness to invest efforts in their schoolwork. When those standards are met, our STCH Ministries team invests whatever it takes to help that child succeed.

Recently Rebeca, our Samuel’s Fund Director in the Dominican Republic, traveled about two hours to visit a school in Bani.

I went to Bani to visit with Christopher Cabrera’s mom and teachers. I had received information that Christopher was stuck and not progressing in his learning. I talked to mom who admitted that she had failed to help him to do what the Special Ed. teacher had recommended in the past. I helped her explain to the homeroom teacher, who didn’t know his past difficulties, all that Christopher and his previous teacher had achieved.

As a result of this visit, an online group called “Christopher support group” was created. Both mom and the current teacher were encouraged and they promised to work hard. It was worth making this trip.

Once a child is accepted in the sponsorship program, we are dedicated to their success and to minister to their families. Staying in contact, finding resources, addressing issues, advocating for them—it’s intense and time-consuming. We make it a priority to be faithful stewards of our resources in an effort to develop the potential God has given to each child.

Not So Impossible After All

The single moms who live at Homes for Families are on a journey of faith. They are building a relationship with God and learning how to be the mothers that He created them to be. In the past few months, they discovered that faith has a big impact on their finances as well.

STCH Ministries brought two of our programs together: a Faith & Finances class was conducted at Homes for Families to teach the moms about biblical principles of money management.  In the first few classes, the moms learned the basics: what the Bible says about money, how to create a spending plan, and how to save for emergencies. As the semester progressed, so did the depth of the topics. The women learned how to understand interest rates and avoid predatory lenders.  They pulled their credit reports for the first time and, in some cases, were a bit shocked to discover how many past mistakes were still following them around. The Faith & Finances instructor worked individually with several students to make an action plan and begin setting things straight.

Perhaps most importantly, the class taught this group of moms that their dreams are not so impossible after all. Debt doesn’t have to be a way of life, and poverty doesn’t have to be permanent. An education and decent job are within reach. One day, they can provide a safe and comfortable house for their children and even pay it off. Faith & Finances showed them how to stop living in a financial crisis and begin the slow, steady process of building a foundation for the future.

The moms recently celebrated the completion of the class and received their certificates, along with the Homes for Families staff who also took part in the course. Their graduation was held on the first day of spring—a fitting metaphor of the renewed financial life that these ladies are beginning.

To find out more about Faith & Finances, take a look at the latest edition of the Messenger. If your church or organization is interested in partnering with us to host a class, visit to contact the office nearest to you.

The Impact of a Mission Trip

How has this trip changed your heart?  In what ways has it strengthened your faith?  Has your experience caused you to redefine the meaning of poor? Rich? How has your being here brought glory to God?

Soul-searching questions to ponder as the FBC Allen family group and the West University Baptist Church (WUBC) college group from Rice University celebrated the end of their time in the Dominican Republic with a banquet, packed their suitcases, and loaded onto the buses traveling to the airports.  One group left for the Las Americas airport in Santo Domingo, and the other traveled to the Punta Cana airport the next morning.

In response to the questions presented at the banquet some shared an observation of what appeared to be an oxymoron—people poor in material things, but who were rich in joy and love.  Another learned that his faith grew when he let go of control, and trusted God to work in His own time.  Others reported, “I came thinking I was sacrificing to bless others and found that I received so much more than I gave.”

The two groups on this trip were comprised of both individuals and families, young and old.

“I brought my family so that my children would experience the priority of living out our faith,” a father shared.

Another man stated, “I have renewed my hope for the future of our country and our churches by sharing this trip with the college students from Rice University.”

Many commented that their faith was energized by the experience of evangelizing as they went door to door sharing their faith.

“I will be bolder in my witness for Christ when I return to my world,” reported many.

They were able to share their faith and pray with over 57 individuals during their time in the Dominican Republic.  Ten of the individuals that the group met with responded by praying to accept Christ, while another eight people promised to visit the Quisqueyana church.

The trip also included the FBC Allen group building a playground for the school in Monte Plata where the orphanage children attend.  At the same time, the WUBC group built bunk beds for the boys in the Betesda Home in La Romana and worked on the upstairs safety railings of the Villa Altagracia School.  The two groups’ ministry efforts made an eternal difference for many, and the projects will bless schools and children’s homes long after the trip.  But more than the projects, the value of a mission trip is the impact on the hearts and minds of the participants.

Anxiety: A Doorway to Deeper Faith

Anxiety is a common malady that affects many in our modern world, and Christians are not excluded. Some may assume that anxiety is a “sign” from God that there is something wrong, plans needs to be changed, or we need to stop activities that cause anxiety. Possibly for others anxiety is sinful, and causes guilt, because the Bible clearly states, “Be anxious for nothing.”

In our American world control is paramount. We have a security-driven mind set. The unknown creates a high level of anxiety. Our cure for anxiety often pushes us to focus on every detail, minimize the unknown, eliminate risk, prevent every unforeseen possibility, or stop all anxiety producing activities. On this mission trip, God had a different and better plan to deal with anxiety.

The recent Yorktown Baptist Dental and Medical trip was fertile ground for anxiety on several levels. The first morning they were challenged by the story of the eagle chicks, and mother eagle who pushed them out of the nest. While they flapped their wings frantically in terror, she swooped under them and lifted them back to the safety of the nest. After a few repetitions, the eagles gained strength and flew confidently on their own. They were assured that the same God who designed the eagles would also accompany their endeavors, and would never let them fall beyond His ability to sustain them.

One participant shared, “I was anxious about my husband’s health, so I signed up to support him.” An experienced nurse was anxious about the preparation and organization of a new-to-her ministry. Several had fears about the language barrier. Debbie Craver, who led the group, experienced anxiety at multiple junctures—would the team be cohesive? Would there be enough medicines? Would 30 pieces of checked luggage, which were filled with supplies, arrive on time? Dr. Francisco also battled anxiety as he spent hours answering questions, and emails of concern. He spent more hours organizing translators, purchasing supplies, making preparations for multiple sites, and planning for concurrent medical, opthomology, and dental clinics.

The results? Debbie said, “I learned that I only needed to do my part, and God took care of all the rest!”

God showed up for another participant with a mysterious note that said, “God will be with you and He will use you.”

For another, God confirmed His presence in spite of limited Spanish through prayer with a 13-year-old pregnant child.

Anxiety—an opportunity to overcome fear, to step out in Abraham-like faith who left his country, “not knowing whither he went,” as the Bible records. Anxiety can become an opportunity for obedience—to stretch outside of our comfort zones, to forget about ourselves as we focus on the needs of others in blessing them through actions of compassion. Anxiety requires a decision to use wisdom and to prepare diligently. It ultimately requires faith to step out into the unknown, the un-controllable.

“I learned that God expects me to do my part, and then relax, de-stress, and watch Him work,” Debbie stated.

Over 800 patients were treated in the clinics. Through diligent preparations, and faith to follow God’s leading, anxiety was overcome. “We learned that we can always depend on God—He will always show up, and He will never be late.” Is it possible that anxiety can become the doorway to a deeper relationship, a life of obedience and the kind of faith that overcomes fears?

Transforming Work

Our spring classes are in full swing and we have had some awesome things happen so far. In our last Faith & Finances class at One Voice Praise & Worship we had a woman open up to us about some big and tough things that have been going on in her life. She stated that due to a heart attack and heart issues she has lost everything. She has no home, no car, and loads of medical bills to pay.

She voiced that she was so thankful and recognized God’s timeliness in her finding out about our Faith & Finances class and being able to attend. After class she proceeded to walk to the alter of the church that we were in, get down on her knees, and pray over the difficult circumstances in her life.

We are so thankful for God bringing her to our class and for the transforming work that is already beginning to take place in her life. She has begun to realize that there are better ways for her to handle and manage her finances, and that with the help of God and others around her she is not stuck in the place that she has been in.

Submitted by Faith & Finances – San Antonio

A Life Worth Living

For almost 5 years, John Gilbert, Headmaster of Yorktown Christian Academy, dreamed and worked towards getting students and families involved in missions. He desired to help them see the needs of the world around them—both locally and internationally. John’s ultimate goal was to make YCA not only an excellent academic preparatory school, but also make the school a CALLING preparatory school.

“I want each student to discover and develop their unique gifts in order to fulfill the callingGod has for each of them,” he explained.

“Thank God for STCH Ministries family trips! Families serving together has had the greatest impact on both children and the entire family,” John stated at the end of their second annual mission trip.

Last week YCA took all of the eighth graders along with at least one parent from each family to the Dominican Republic. They ministered to children in both schools and orphanages. They taught English, performed skits, delivered groceries to needy families. They also built stools for the computer lab—sawing, screwing, sanding, painting—although most of them had never constructed anything before. During their orphanage visit, they shared manicures with the girls, played games with the boys, and the YCA moms shared a special mom-to-mom time with the housemoms.

Language was never a barrier, although it gave students a chance to use even the limited vocabulary they had learned in school. One student reported towards the end of the week, “You know, the faces are so different, but the trials and the difficulties are the same, even the way we can get close to God.” And others reported, “I have learned to appreciate what I have at home.”

As far as the total impact on the eighth graders, many of them challenged themselves, overcoming their shyness and overcoming the egocentricity that is often ingrained in children. Most enjoyed every moment.

A parent summed up the impact of the week in this way, “During our stay I learned about another culture, I saw people with another skin color. I heard people with another way to speak. But you know, that is just what we can see with our eyes. When you open your heart, you don’t see or you don’t hear that anymore. I saw my brother and my sister. This trip changed my life deeply. I know now I would like to serve God in the way He wants.

Mission accomplished! Each trip is unique. But on each trip, God speaks in a special way and has the opportunity to change our lives. Life, after all, is just a blink. Making it count—for the benefit of our loved ones, our communities, and ultimately for eternity—is what makes A LIFE WORTH LIVING.

Strengthening Families Through Faith & Finances

Pastor Raul Elizondo has seen firsthand the impact that financial struggles have on a family.

“A big percentage of my church grew up in poverty—welfare, food stamps,” says Elizondo. The statistics show they are not alone: one in five American households receives government assistance.

“But those programs are to help temporarily,” continues Elizondo, “not to be a way of life.”

The Federal Reserve has also reported that the average household debt in America is more than double the median household income. Putting the debt problem in a spiritual perspective, Pastor Elizondo says, “We have people that have been freed from sin, but are still slaves to the lender.”

As the pastor of New Life Baptist Church in Corpus Christi, Elizondo believes that the church needs to take a holistic approach to teaching and discipleship, and that includes the topic of money.

“A healthy perspective when it comes to our finances can just make a world of difference in our churches. I believe there are a lot of churches struggling because, to be quite honest, we’re afraid to talk about finances in our churches.”

When STCH Ministries’ Jimmy Rodriguez approached Elizondo about hosting a Faith & Finances class at his church, the decision was not a difficult one.

“I said, ‘Yes, sign me up!’”

Over the twelve weeks that followed, STCH Ministries staff conducted the largest Faith & Finances class in our program’s history, with more than forty regular attendees meeting at New Life Baptist Church every Sunday evening. Classes covered biblical truths about money, such as the fact that “the borrower is servant to the lender” (Prov. 22:7) and God’s ultimate ownership of everything (Ps 24:1). According to Elizondo, the spiritual focus was one of the defining marks of the program.

“Every Faith & Finances class started in prayer. You felt God in the sessions.”

See Faith & Finances in Action

Pastor Raul Elizondo from New Life Baptist Church shares his perspective on Faith & Finances in this video.

But Faith & Finances is every bit as practical as it is spiritual, teaching participants how to track their spending, get out of debt, and set savings goals. The curriculum follows the story of Eva and Isaac, a fictional couple who learn to manage their dysfunctional finances by applying the principles in each lesson. Just like the real life participants, Eva and Isaac struggle on their journey and sometimes make mistakes. (When the story recounted Eva’s visit to a payday lender, the class at New Life responded with a collective “BOOO!”) But in the end, persistence and self-discipline win the day for Eva and Isaac.

According to Pastor Elizondo, the happy endings were more than just a fairy tale in the Faith & Finances class.

“There were several cases that I would consider great breakthrough. One of them, within a twelve-week span, got rid of most of their credit card debt. They were inspired the first two or three sessions, and I loved it when the lady started sharing her testimony, ‘Me and my husband started talking.’ So not only were they able to accomplish a financial goal, but also a relational goal.”

In another instance, a young woman spoke to her pastor through tears as she realized how her spending habits were resulting in her poverty. “It was a sad moment, but also a positive moment, because I told her, ‘Sister, at least you’ve realized what the problem is now, and I consider that a victory.’”

New Life had used other financial training material before, but Pastor Elizondo found the Faith & Finances curriculum to be more accessible to all participants, regardless of their age or financial background. In fact, one of the star students of the class was also one of the youngest.

Even as a middle schooler, Juan already knows how to work hard for his money. With his parents’ encouragement, he started a lawn care business at the age of eleven to earn extra money for activities he wanted to do. Now at the age of thirteen, he hires his friends to help work on yards in the neighborhood. As Juan made more money, it became more important for him to learn how to handle it.

“What this class is teaching me is to better understand where my money is going and to control it,” Juan says. “Before, I wouldn’t even write it down. If I needed to buy fuel, I would buy fuel. But with this class, it’s teaching me to write it down so I know.”

Armed with a spending plan, Juan is now able to make sure that the fruits of his labor don’t slip away inadvertently.

“Recently I’ve realized that most of my money goes to food because, well, I’m always hungry. So now I’m learning to budget that and keep enough money for a business and even for an [emergency fund].”

Juan’s experience illustrates that it’s never too early to begin learning the principles of biblical money management, just as other participants have seen that it is never too late to change old habits and start doing things God’s way.

At STCH Ministries, Faith & Finances is one of several ministries designed to assist families at the prevention level, before stress and conflict result in the breakup of a home. In the sequence of events that bring residents to our Homes for Children and Homes for Families campuses, financial issues are often a contributing factor. By partnering with local churches, our goal is to strengthen families in the community, who in turn are able to minister to other families.

At New Life Baptist Church, Pastor Elizondo has seen the first fruits of that process, and believes that changing attitudes about finances will pay even greater dividends in faith.

“God wants us to have an abundant life, and I believe that will affect our spiritual maturity, our ability to trust in God, and hopefully change the tide for the next generation as we become more educated, more knowledgeable about the role finances should have in our lives as believers of Christ.”

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

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.