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The Sacredness of Work

“I GET UP EVERY DAY and go to work because I have to earn a living. I come home frustrated and exhausted, only to get up the next day and do it all over again. Then the weekend comes and I have a break. But by Sunday evening I have knots in my stomach when I think about doing it all over again on Monday morning. Is this all there is to life?” a friend messaged.

How can we find meaning in our work? Is it just about making money, buying stuff, keeping up with the neighbors?” Recent research by the Barna group states, “It’s no surprise that 75% of adults are looking for ways to live amore meaningful life.” In The Message translation, Paul asks, “How do I take my everyday, ordinary life—my sleeping, eating, going-to-work and walking around life—and place it before God as an offering?” (Romans 12:1,2)

Since 2008, STCH Ministries has been offering jobs and life skills classes to men and women. The goal has been to strengthen families by helping people discover God’s principles for their life and work. Throughout this time, the curriculum, location and target audience has changed, as they sought to develop a more effective program that could be implemented in partnership with the local church. Joanna Berry, Vice President of Family and International Ministries stated, “The church has always been God’s Plan A. Our ministries are joined in a type of symbiotic relationship with local churches in their ministries to families.” This vision has fueled the recent development of a new curriculum called Faith & Work.

Faith & Work is a Bible based work-enhancement course which guides one to discover God’s purpose for their life and how to fulfill that purpose through their work. Participants are provided the opportunity and tools to achieve their full potential as they become more confident in their ability to succeed at work, become leaders and positively influence their work environments. Using biblical and practical insights, the new eight week course is designed to sharpen student skills and deepen their understanding concerning each Christian’s responsibility to be leaders in the workplace while serving the world with excellence and integrity.

The curriculum itself best explains, “We can develop our gifts in virtually any job or position in which we find ourselves, for working on God’s behalf requires many different giftings and vocations. I Corinthians 7:17 says, ‘Each person should continue to live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God called them.’ In the Old Testament, Ezra was a priest and Nehemiah was a civil engineer and city planner. God used both of them mightily, along with countless other men, women, and even children, to accomplish His purposes. And He continues to do the same today.”

Faith and Work provides a framework which enables learners to fully embrace the truth that work is a blessing and an opportunity to serve a higher calling while supporting their families.

The topics covered in the curriculum begin teaching identity and purpose allowing participants to assess their own strengths and abilities through personality and spiritual gifts assessments. They can learn practical skills like setting goals and writing resumes. They will better understand their unique role, how to build healthy relationships and even overcome issues that sabotage success. During the sessions, the student is challenged to see themselves as created in God’s image with purpose and potential.

Darrell Jackson, Director Faith & Work/Faith & Finances at the Houston location, led a group of men at a non-profit ministry called Agape Development through the new study in the Fall of 2018. Agape Development and Restoration Community Church are partners in the mission of rebuilding the lives of individuals, families and the community. Ten men, including employees and supervisors of the Agape ministry, commented on how much the Faith & Work curriculum helped to strengthen their relationships with one another and taught them a biblical understanding of their individual roles at work and as kingdom men. “As I taught these men, I could not help but to reflect back to when I pastored a church in a community filled with needs. I would have loved to offer a course like Faith & Work that helped people learn about God’s view of work, while assisting them to increase their job skills,” Jackson reported.

For every Christian, work needs to be more than a job, more than a title or a profession. There is no division between the secular and the sacred when work becomes a calling to reflect God’s love and glory in every action, in all of our roles. As a successful doctor recently shared, “My life was changed when I decided that all of my work would be a form of worship to God.”

STCH Ministries has Faith & Work/Faith & Finances offices in Houston, Corpus Christi and San Antonio. The staff at all three locations are excited to bring this dynamic curriculum to the churches of South Texas. “Because of the benefits we have seen in the lives of individuals, families and in communities throughout our cities, we believe that God has given us a tool that will help individuals succeed, and bring glory to God!” stated Darrell Jackson.

Faith & Work is a companion ministry to our Faith & Finances program, a curriculum which teaches biblical principles for money management. Both programs are offered by STCH Ministries staff in and for local churches. If you, your church or ministry are interested in offering either of these studies to your organization, please go to www.stchm.org/faith-work for more information. STCH Ministries is faith-based and entirely supported by donations from God’s people, and does not charge for our services.

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The Healing Power of Normalcy

NORMAL. A WORD EVERYONE understands, and yet most find it difficult to agree on its meaning. My favorite definition is “the usual, average or typical state or condition.” I can assure you that what was normal for me growing up as the oldest of two in the suburbs of Houston, Texas was not normal for my husband, the only son and youngest of four on a farm in North Georgia. Our children’s experiences as missionary kids crisscrossing the northern and southern hemispheres add a completely different flavor of “normal” to our family. However, there are several elements common to our individual childhoods that are strikingly similar. We each grew up with parents lovingly committed not only to one another but to the success of the family as a whole. We both attended church regularly with our families where we were taught through lessons and actions of the tremendous love of God and His care for the most intimate aspects of our lives. Our distinct families shared an important common denominator, a love for God and respect for the principles laid out in the Bible regarding family life.

At STCH Ministries Homes for Children, we strive to create that same type of normal for every child. Dr. Greg Huskey, Vice President of Homes for Children (HFC) clarifies, “We want to create an environment that allows children to enjoy a ‘normal’ faith-based family.” Which means a family-like experience complete with both a mother and a father who care and take an active interest in the lives of their kids. The eleven cottages on our Boothe Campus form an inclusive neighborhood where friendships are developed and lives are shared. Church attendance, public school and extra-curricular activities are all regular, even normal parts of life. The nuts and bolts of living are also included: chores, homework, doctor visits, dental care…even college and preparation for life as an adult are provided.

Children come to Homes for Children from both private placements as well as through the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services for a variety of reasons. For many of them, the healthy, stable family-like experience provided by the houseparents is completely foreign. And that makes creating normalcy a high priority for our houseparents and the HFC staff. Beginning with their first moments in a cottage, children are given a bedroom to share with another child and are shown where they can store their personal items – a space to begin to belong. Life inside the cottages revolves around family; family meals, family chores, family outings, family devotions and even family vacations. Birthdays and Christmas are intentionally celebrated with parties and gifts for each child in each cottage.

Kelsey and Mary Motes have been houseparents for almost five years at Love Cottage. Theirs is an all-girl home where the ages range from 16 years to ten months old.

Kelsey tells me that their blended family of eleven – six cottage girls and the three Motes’ children “Live, love, laugh and cry as a family.” Just like any other family, Kelsey and Mary move at full speed keeping up with the busy girls.

This school year, five of the girls played volleyball followed immediately by basketball season. The Christmas holidays brought a bit of a break – just a bit – as there were still Driver’s Ed classes and monitoring the mandatory drive time with a parent to keep up with. Second semester has them gearing up for track and field which will keep them running through the end of the school year. A couple of the young ladies are also involved in singing and math competitions as well as Career Development Events through the FFA Chapter at school. And, these are the activities at just one cottage on campus! The beauty of the closely knit community is demonstrated through the housepops taking turns taxiing kids from home to school to ballfield and back home.

Kelsey takes care of the project animals barn on Boothe Campus. FFA and 4H provide excellent, even therapeutic opportunities for the children. Participating in stock shows allows HFC young people to experience healthy commitment, sometimes for the very first time in their lives. Raising project animals provides the possibility to take on the responsibility of caring for something beyond themselves; it also allows them to build meaningful relationships in a wider community than they have previously been exposed to. Bringing the national 4H format to Boothe Campus by chartering the STCH Ministries 4H Club this year enables Kelsey to shepherd the progress of both the students and their animals closely. For many, taking the risk of committing to the needs of an animal is a chance for healing to begin in their own hearts and lives. This year, 4H’ers participated in the Beeville Junior Livestock Show and will be showing a goat and a lamb at both the San Antonio and Houston Livestock Show and Rodoes.

In the life of a believer, God is present in each aspect of every day. When you look for them, you can find His fingerprints everywhere. Houseparents and staff are diligent to identify those godly markers in order to bring them to the attention of young hearts unused to His tender mercies. Kelsey remarks,

“Biblical topics always seem to come up and we discuss those with the girls. Often, we’ll help them look it up in Scripture to prepare and talk about what they learned.”

The Love Cottage household worships together on Sundays at First Baptist Church, Kenedy, and during the week through bible studies and activities on campus. Joel Bowden, Director of Student Ministries, describes his position as identical to any student minister at a local church except his kids are always around. And, like any minister to youth, Joel wears many hats: Bible study leader, hunting guide, Awanas coordinator, swimming pool life guard, counselor, dodge ball referee, confidant and event planner to name a few. In addition to weekly Bible education for all ages, Joel organizes the social calendar and coordinates the numerous church groups who participate in special events with our kids.

Support of our residents does not end with their high school graduation. Scholars work with staff to plan for college or trade school while they explore their career interests. Scholarships are provided to each graduate who qualify, making it possible for success in their future. Throughout the course of higher education, transitional apartments on campus are available during school breaks – although many opt to spend the weekend with their houseparents in the cottages…just like normal college students across the country.

Life on Boothe Campus is rich and full. That does not mean that it is without difficulty. Counselors, caseworkers, and houseparents conscientiously work day in and day out helping each child to process and understand their past while equipping them to be successful in the future. Maintaining normal, faith-based families empowers our purpose of healing hearts and sharing hope permitting us to witness the beauty of God changing their stories day by day.

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Thankful For The Past, But Anticipating The Future

THANK YOU! 2018 was a year to remember and celebrate the goodness of our Lord and Savior. Our donors, churches, foundations and many others are appreciated for the sacrifice and committed partnership to STCH Ministries.

In 2018, 15,301 individuals were served in one or more of our nine distinct ministries. Please take a look at what God is doing at STCH Ministries.

83 Children, at Boothe Campus, enjoyed exciting experiences such as attending youth camp, FFA project animals, and activities at church; along with receiving the basic necessities in a protected, loving home at Homes for Children.

17 College students received scholarships, books and housing to prepare for a successful future.

59 Moms and their children thrived as they reside in safety on the Marshall Ranch Campus at Homes for Families.

111 Pastors plus their families have been strengthened and replenished through Pastor Care.

4,360 Individuals, couples, children, and families received counseling that is clinically excellent and distinctively Christian at one of our 17 counseling offices throughout South Texas.

10,214 Through our International ministry, orphans and disadvantaged families were spiritually ministered to in the Dominican Republic.

85 Men and women graduated from the “life-changing” Faith & Work ministry.

222 Men and women mastered Biblical principles concerning money through the Faith & Finances ministry.

43 Families have been connected with resources through Family Support.

500 People received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

This past year, in Ministry Consulting, we continued to work with several organizations to share our expertise and resources that helped them operate more efficiently. This ministry is an opportunity for STCH Ministries to continue to serve others and is a means to effective stewardship.

As we anticipate the future in 2019, we at STCH Ministries will continue to trust God for what is to come. Thank you for collaborating in our vision to show the love of Christ to those whom we serve. By God’s glory and grace, STCH Ministries has been blessed with 66 years of ministering to those who are in need of hope, healing and restoration.

There is no end to God’s goodness as we expectantly wait to see His blessings.

2018 was great, 2019 will be even better. Thank you for partnering with us in Healing Hearts and Sharing Hope.

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Relentlessly Pursued by God

The Bible makes it clear that God is active and present in each individual’s life whether they recognize Him or not. Jeremiah 29:11 shows us that God has a plan for our good and He is dedicated to working out that plan even if it means disrupting what we have planned for ourselves. This was certainly the case for Maria Hart, one of the moms currently living with her two teenage daughters, Valerie and Brook, at STCH Ministries Homes for Families. As she looks back on where God has brought her from, Maria realizes, “He took my kids away. He took my life away, twice…all for me to learn that I had to do something to stop doing the drugs.”

Drug abuse had been a factor in Maria’s life from an early age. Her first child, Frank, born of a teenage pregnancy, was raised by her parents as though he were a younger brother. While a young adult, Maria met and fell in love with her husband. Even though they attended church purely out of a sense of duty to his family traditions, she remembers hearing God whisper truth to her through those experiences. Unfortunately, one of the factors that drew the couple together was a shared dependence on narcotics.

In the midst of bad decisions and harmful habits, Maria could see God’s activity around her; she saw God’s fingerprints when her son Frank decided to turn his life around through trusting Jesus as his Savior. Even so, she was not ready to make any major changes in her own life. The situation of Maria’s young family was continuing to deteriorate. When problems arose at school, Maria decided to pull both of her girls out. Neighbors in their trailer park had also reported concerns for her two young daughters.

“The girls were always outside asking people for food,” Maria recounts.

A lifetime of living in the moment and seeking the release of chemically induced highs came to a dramatic climax when Child Protective Services (CPS) stepped in. They required Maria to take a drug test—a test she knew she would fail. Driven by the fear of losing their daughters, Maria and her husband tried to avoid the authorities, but soon Valerie and Brook were placed in an emergency shelter by CPS.

Meanwhile, God was faithfully working His plan to bring this family into relationship with Himself. In February 2017, the girls moved to STCH Ministries Homes for Children. Valerie and Brook were apprehensive about a new place and leery of all the new rules, but very happy to be together. After spending time with their cottage family and settling in to a healthy routine, they both flourished in their new environment.

Maria, on the other hand, was heartbroken to have lost custody of her girls. She spiraled into a dark depression and heavier drug use, switching from merely snorting methamphetamine to shooting it directly into her body. One fateful day Maria remembers taking the meth and feeling unwell. Her husband found her unconscious and called an ambulance. Maria’s heart was wildly out of rhythm. The EMTs were forced to take extreme measures to get it under control. Her heartbeat and breathing had to be stopped and resuscitated twice before she stabilized.

Her survival shows, once again, God stepped into her life to work for her good and His ultimate glory. When she returned to consciousness and recognized she was hospitalized, Maria finally came to the conclusion that something had to change.

As she recovered from her heart attack, Maria resolved to do whatever it took to make a new start. She immediately quit using drugs. However, the caseworkers made it clear: her only chance at reuniting with her daughters meant getting a job and finding a better place to live. She started applying for any job she could think of, but she was turned down without exception because of her history of drug use. Encountering obstacles at every turn, desperately trying to make things right, she was sucker-punched again when her husband decided to leave, merely stating that after sixteen years of marriage he was done.

With no job and no husband, Maria also had no place to live. Her cousin opened her home and in July the girls were released to the cousin’s custody. The two women continued to seek alternatives, and a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) representative suggested they look into Homes for Families outside of Goliad, Texas.

Homes for Families is a program for mothers and their children who are living in situations that threaten the stability and safety of the family. Families stay together while the moms receive one-on-one training and counseling to help them succeed with their children and with life. Topics covered during this program cover both spiritual growth and practical life skills.

At first, Maria found the structure of the program to be daunting; she was not used to having boundaries. Yet, she knew this was her best chance at making a real difference in her life and for her girls.

“It was something that had to be done,” she declares. “It was the only way to better myself and the girls.”

It didn’t take long to realize the structure and continuity the program provided gave Maria a sense of security. For the first time, immersed in an atmosphere steeped in Scripture and surrounded by people deeply committed to her success, Maria has blossomed. Resident Coordinator Patricia Urech has steadfastly walked alongside Maria from the first day she moved on campus.

Maria has now surrendered her heart to Jesus, and her trust in Him is increasing every day. She’s learning how to manage her anger and let go of the strife she battled for so long. Her dedication to change has impressed CPS as well: they have now restored full custody of the girls to Maria!

On a visit with extended family, the topic of the future was discussed. Maria’s family believed that she had achieved her goal—to get the girls back. They assumed she would walk away. But Maria realized that quitting now would be turning her back on her best opportunity to create a better future. She recognized God’s goodness in bringing her through all of the past and she committed herself whole-heartedly to finishing the program.

Valerie and Brook have benefitted the most from the changes in Maria. Where they once knew a mother full of fear who was constantly anxious, the mom they live with now is slow to anger and quick to pray. Those changes are taking root in the girls’ hearts, too. The family has celebrated great milestones together, such as when Maria and Brook were baptized in March at First Baptist Church, Goliad.

God’s faithfulness is evidenced in a restored relationship with Maria’s son Frank as well. Maria felt led by the Lord to reach out to him and share the transformation God is working in her life. This year’s Mother’s Day celebration was a joyous one; the entire family spent the weekend together at Frank’s home.

At Homes for Families, Maria is moving through the phases of the program and is preparing for a career in childcare. She is researching options and requirements for obtaining a teaching certificate. Her days are filled with Bible study, parenting classes, and other courses to prepare her for independent living.

Maria’s experience shows that God relentlessly pursues those who are lost. For Maria, it took reaching the absolute end of her own strength before she surrendered to His infinite love for her. Maria explains that she feels a peace deep in her spirit that she has never experienced before. Her ultimate goal remains true to her new faith, “to keep walking with God and take care of the girls.”

Maria is thankful to have found in STCH Ministries a place where hope is a reality. She marvels that God Himself is active every day in her life. When asked how STCH supporters could specifically pray for God to work in her life, she radiates contentment as she responds, “He’s already done it. He’s changed us all.” Just a moment of further reflection causes her to add, “Ask them to pray for other mothers to find Homes for Families.”

God continues His work of reconciling individuals to Himself. At STCH Ministries, we invite you to join us in praying for those families He is pursuing even now.

Changing Their Story

We all have a life story – the facts, the events, the circumstances, the tragedies and the triumphs that we can put on a timeline, type out on a résumé, or tell in a testimony. We can tell how God intervened in our lives to change us at crucial and needed moments. There is something even deeper, though, that is more important. It is the story that we live by. The story we live by shapes how we see ourselves, how we see the world, and how we see God. Often the story that we live by is shaped by pain, by problems, or by our past clinging to us and causing us to live with a sin-marred view of ourselves, others, and God.

One of the times I treasured in twenty-seven years of being a senior pastor was the opportunity to be the shepherd to children, houseparents, and staff of STCH Ministries Homes for Children in my years at First Baptist Church of Kenedy, Texas. I look back on it now as a unique ministry unlike I had ever experienced before or since. I was able to see lives changed then, and now that I serve on staff at STCH Ministries, I am able to see how the stories of some of those lives continue to change as I am around former residents and many of those same houseparents.

One incident clearly stands out in my mind of a little girl who was about ten years old, and who was only at Homes for Children and my church for a short time. I was leading a group of kids through a Bible lesson and I had asked the children what verses of the Bible they could quote from memory. Hands shot up all around the room and one by one the kids began to say John 3:16 from memory.

I finally said, “OK, who knows a verse other than John 3:16?”

This little girl looked at me with her big brown “My life verse is eyes and raised the only hand in the room at that point. I nodded to her and she said, “My life verse is Psalm 27:10.”

There was a pause, as if I was supposed to know that one by heart, and then I asked her to share it with us. Very calmly, as if this verse brought her great peace, she quoted, “Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.”

Now there really was a pause in the room. I felt all the eyes of the adult workers turn from her to me as the possibilities began to go through their minds of why a ten-year-old girl would know that scripture by heart and call it her life verse. But there was something about the peace with which she said it that brought a peace to me. I knew God had done a work that only He could do of changing someone’s life at a very crucial point. There was a lesson far beyond what I was going to teach that day that she had already learned. God had showed her that life-changing reality, and the story of her life was being changed. More correctly, perhaps, the story that she lived by was being changed.

I affirmed what she said and what God was doing in her life and moved on into the lesson, but the memory of that moment would stay with me. Though I never knew much of the life story of the little brown-eyed girl, she gave me a glimpse of the story that she had lived: “Though my father and mother forsake me…” Meanwhile, God was giving her a glimpse of the story she could live by: “…the Lord will receive me.”

Loving houseparents, skilled case workers, and dedicated staff, along with generous donors, were part of a process in which her circumstances—the story of her life—had changed. God was using all of that to intervene so that the story that she lived by could change.

To me, that is the great joy of seeing what God does through STCH Ministries. He makes sin-marred stories become the story of the gospel. It is the story God offers us through faith in Jesus Christ, despite what others have done to hurt us and despite what we have done to hurt others. It is not just changed circumstances, but a changed life.

Thank you for what you did to help that little ten-year-old girl, who had endured such pain in her life that she knew the first phrase of Psalm 27:10, “Though my father and mother forsake me,” to come to know the reality of the last phrase, “the Lord will receive me.”

So what is the story that you live by? Are you ready to let God change it?


Read more stories of life change in the Messenger online! Our digital edition has all the stories from the printed magazine plus videos, blog posts, and the latest news. Visit www.STCHM.org/Messenger today!

Staying Connected

The neglect and abandonment of children is a nationwide problem.
STCH Ministries is part of a nationwide solution.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly half a million children are in foster care and children’s homes throughout the nation, and more are added every day. The sheer magnitude of the need is beyond the capacity of any single institution or agency. At STCH Ministries we believe that collaboration with other like-minded, Christian organizations is essential if we want to address the big-picture issues of family brokenness in our world. In the last issue of the Messenger, we highlighted the many ways we join forces with Texas Baptists to reach people in need. STCH Ministries also has a long history of collaboration on the national level, bringing together ideas and relationships that result in a solution greater than the sum of its parts.

In September 2018, STCH Ministries participated in the Connections Conference, an annual meeting that brings together children’s homes from across the country to collaborate on development and communications topics. The conference included the twenty-one organizations from nineteen states that are members of the Baptist Coalition for Children and Families (BCCF), and the theme of the event was “Staying Connected.”

When it comes to meeting the needs of children and families, the areas of development and communications are typically behind the scenes, supporting the more direct ministry roles of houseparents, counselors, and caseworkers. However, the conference sessions emphasized the need for advocacy at both the state and national levels, giving a voice to the most vulnerable members of society. To a room full of professional communicators, the objective resonated deeply.

And yet, as a discussion panel of Baptist news editors pointed out, a single organization does not have the kind of reach necessary to affect the broader cultural conversation. To do that, multiple voices must be united in a chorus. Whether it is a children’s home working with churches and their state’s Baptist convention, or a collection of children’s homes like BCCF, the element of teamwork gives greater societal relevance to the cause.

Rod Marshall, BCCF President, underlined that cooperative commitment in his address to the group, saying, “We work closely with the North American Mission Board, the Women’s Missionary Union, and Baptist Press to address the needs of families in the United States. Baptist childcare providers have been the best in childcare for over 150 years.”

In addition to guest speakers, the Connections Conference featured many presentations by the staff of participating organizations, including STCH Ministries. In the spirit of “Staying Connected,” attendees shared both their successes and challenges, gleaning ideas and solutions from each other’s experiences.

STCH Ministries staff member Jeny Cortez commented, “There’s no sense of competition. We all want everyone to be successful. We know it is all for the glory of God and the healing of broken lives.”

Historically, STCH Ministries has seen the fruit of collaboration and the power of a united front. Mark Childs, STCH Ministries Vice President of Homes for Children, recalls the work of childcare pioneers in Texas, including Jess Lunsford, the founder of the South Texas Children’s Home.

“He made numerous trips to Austin, along with other faith-based organizational leaders, to advocate for the safety of children in Texas. Their efforts led to the creation of a licensing department within the Department of Family and Protective Services to ensure the safe treatment of children placed into the foster care system.”

More than sixty years later, Childs says that this unity and cooperation are just as essential as they were in the past. In addition to BCCF, STCH Ministries is a member of several associations that bring together children’s homes from around the country, such as the Coalition of Residential Excellence (CORE) and the Association of Christian Childcare Administrators (ACCA). These groups promote best practices in childcare, and they also provide a national platform to influence public thinking about the needs of children.

“The only way that can be achieved is through a network of providers coming together to share strengths, expertise, and resources,” says Childs. “STCH Ministries will continue to strive to be an integral part of this network of hope.”

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How To Be A Partner In Hope

Hope – a word often used in times of turmoil or crisis, but which sometimes describes a joyful anticipation of what is yet to come.  Everyone, at some point or another, experiences either the loss of hope or the desire for something positive to happen. Either way, hope is a powerful word.  It means “to cherish a desire with anticipation,” according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

In the Bible, hope is used 129 times and appears in 121 verses.  One particular verse is Hebrews 11:1 (ESV):

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

As believers, we know that Jesus is the source of all hope, even when hope seems lost.  We should closely rely on our Savior and Lord for all things unseen, even during the times of struggle and chaos. But how do we extend that hope to the lost and hurting?

This year, STCH Ministries adopted the slogan Healing Hearts and Sharing Hope.  We unashamedly share the love of Christ with every person served in our ministries, and we are grateful that in 2017, 323 children and adults accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. Individuals moved from neglect, abuse, and abandonment to a new life of restoration, forgiveness, and safety. It is no secret that hearts were healed and hope was shared.

Here are a few examples of how STCH Ministries is Healing Hearts and Sharing Hope:

• Children are given a place to call home when their family is in crisis.

• Marriages are restored through Christian counseling.

• Single moms and their children are provided a safe home to escape abusive relationships.

• Men and women come to understand their value and identity in the workplace.

These acts of Healing Hearts and Sharing Hope would not be possible without the support of churches, individuals, and businesses who share our mission.  As you know, it requires resources for STCH Ministries to care for children and families in our ministries.

Would you consider joining us to become a Partner in Hope?

STCH Ministries is committed to providing excellent care and service to children and families.  By becoming a Partner in Hope, you are helping to provide hope when it is needed most.

With your help, every child and family served at STCH Ministries will have the opportunity to put their faith in the assurance of Eternal Hope. Visit www.STCHM.org/Hope to learn more.

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An Agency of Texas Baptists

STCH Ministries is a Texas Baptists affiliated agency, one of twenty-eight Christian education and human care institutions across the state that are part of the extended family of the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT). Each member of this family operates independently, but we are intrinsically linked by our faith and our mission to advance kingdom work. Consisting of more than 5,300 Baptist churches, the BGCT serves a vital role in supporting the ministry of its member organizations.

STCH Ministries President and CEO Eron Green (left) shakes hands with BGCT Executive Director David Hardage at the 2016 Annual Meeting.

“We are institutions that are cut from a very similar cloth,” STCH Ministries President and CEO Eron Green said about the relationship between STCH Ministries and the BGCT.

So how does this connection play out in the day-to-day work of STCH Ministries? One significant benefit is the support that Texas Baptists provide through the Cooperative Program. The program brings together financial contributions from participating churches to fund missions, evangelism, education, and ministry efforts.

Over the past ten years alone, the Texas Baptists Cooperative Program has given $5.85 million to STCH Ministries to help provide homes, counseling, and life-skills training to hurting families.

“The convention believes in the mission, the results, and the work of STCH,” said Steve Vernon, Texas Baptists Associate Executive Director. “We value the partnership and rejoice in the amazing work that is ongoing at this vital ministry.”

Tim Williams, STCH Ministries Director of Church Relations, is one of the staff members who travel across the state sharing with churches about the work of STCH Ministries. He often speaks to church members who do not realize that their regular church giving already helps support our ministries.

“There are a lot of different ways that the program makes an impact that people are not even aware of,” Williams said. “STCH Ministries is their ministry to children and hurting families because they support us and have supported us through the BGCT Cooperative Program. They help us do it.”

The Texas Baptist Hunger Offering provides groceries for families served by STCH Ministries International.

While the Cooperative Program supports the overall mission of STCH Ministries, there are additional resources for specific areas of need. The Texas Baptist Hunger Offering provides a monthly grant to STCH Ministries International, which buys food in the Dominican Republic for needy children. Our local ministry team members already have relationships with families who are benefitting from our medical, dental, and construction mission projects. The additional resource of Hunger Offering groceries brings another element of stability into the lives of children who are on the verge of breaking free from generational poverty.

Closer to home, the relationship between STCH Ministries and Texas Baptists helps open doors to the future for children who grow up at Boothe Campus. STCH Ministries Homes for Children has always maintained a commitment to provide an opportunity for higher education to the children who graduate while in care.

“Our kids placed in care have the opportunity to attend college or universities in the state of Texas through our STCH Ministries Higher Education Scholarship program,” says Greg Huskey, Boothe Campus Administrator.

Thanks to Texas Baptists, that scholarship program frequently gets an extra boost. Upon high school graduation, many students attend Baptist universities, which provide significant scholarships to students coming from a Baptist children’s home. Young adults who may once have had no prospects of college whatsoever are able to receive a private, Christian education without the burden of student loans. Frequently, these students are the first in their families to achieve a college degree.

While at college, many of these students find fellowship and spiritual support at their local Baptist Student Ministry (BSM) chapter, of which there are more than one hundred across Texas college campuses. BSMs are a ministry of Texas Baptists that serve college students, while at the same time empowering those students to serve others.

Students from the Corpus Christi BSM, at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and Del Mar College, have donated weekends to serving at Boothe Campus. During this time, students interact with the children, cook meals for the cottage families, and do minor maintenance work around the grounds.

STCH Ministries participates in the Texas Baptists Annual Meeting, enjoying fellowship and collaboration with dozens of other Baptist organizations and thousands of Baptist churches.

Texas Baptist churches and institutions have invested in many different facets of STCH Ministries. One of the ways that we give back is through a collaboration of our Family Counseling and Pastor Care ministries with Texas Baptists Counseling Services. When a crisis arises in the family of a pastor or church staff member, STCH Ministries is equipped to provide confidential counseling.

“We feel that if we can help to strengthen those called to ministry, they will in turn help to strengthen those they minister to,” said Darin Griffiths, Vice President of Family Counseling at STCH Ministries.

“STCH and BGCT have partnered together offering ‘intensives’ to ministry couples who are experiencing difficulties which could hinder their ministry opportunities,” explained Griffiths. “The normal counseling experience provides a one-hour session every other week for about 10 to 12 sessions. An intensive is different in that a couple can receive about 10 hours (equivalent of 10 sessions) worth of counseling in one-and-a-half days.”

As with the other areas of partnership, Griffiths believes that this collaboration is a natural fit, saying, “Our values are very much alike. From my perspective, the BGCT exists to assist those who are on the front lines of ministry, sharing the gospel to a hurting world.”

STCH Ministries is grateful to be a member of the Texas Baptists family and we look forward to many more years of fruitful ministry together in Texas and beyond.

If you are a member of a Texas Baptist congregation, we hope you will visit our booth at the Texas Baptist Family Gathering this summer. The annual meeting will be held in Arlington, Texas, on July 29-31, 2018. Learn more at www.TexasBaptists.org/FamilyGathering.

The Powerful Work of Play

The first time I came to the play therapy playroom, it was kind of hard to believe. The shelves were stuffed with every kind of toy I could imagine! Cars and trucks, games and crafts, tons of animal and people figures, play guns and swords, dolls, dollhouses, and things to build with. And there were other fun things…like dress-up clothes, an art easel, puppets, a BIG bop bag, and even a small sandbox! The lady my mom told me would help me said I could play with anything in the room in any way I wanted!

But…I didn’t know what I wanted to do, or what to say. So I just sat at the little table in the middle of the room and looked around. It was quiet for a long time. I liked the quiet, and the lady seemed okay with it too. She just smiled, and she didn’t even ask me a bunch of questions or tell me what to do! Finally, I built a sandcastle in the sandbox and put a few special things by my castle. And when it was time to leave, I didn’t want to go.           – A young child’s reflections

For young children dealing with trauma, the play therapy room quickly becomes a safe spot. Yet much more than “child’s play” takes place as the children interact with trained therapists who understand the importance of play.

According to the Association for Play Therapy, the natural process of play helps children regulate emotions and improve communication and problem-solving skills. Play also lifts a child’s spirit and self-esteem.

“Play is a child’s language, and toys are their words,” said Lorena Mendez, Regional Director-Corpus Christi for STCH Ministries Family Counseling, quoting a common axiom among play therapists. “There’s no better way to establish a connection with a child than to say, ‘Hey, let’s play.’ Play therapy gives a child the freedom to express their experiences, needs, wants, wishes, and feelings in a way that is developmentally appropriate for them.”

Mendez, a licensed professional counselor-supervisor (LPC-S) and registered play therapist-supervisor (RPT-S), divides her time between counseling, sharing her expertise through conferences, and overseeing the work of other STCH Ministries therapists, including those working toward their registered play therapist (RPT) certification.

Parents typically bring their children to STCH Ministries for counseling because of behavioral issues at home or school. Changes in behavior can arise in situations of bullying, divorce or abandonment, past physical or sexual abuse, and grief over the loss of a parent. Depression, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and conduct disorders also create difficulties for children and their families.

“Trauma is very disruptive and makes everyone feel out of control,” shared STCH Ministries therapist Carolyn Cocklin, who is currently working toward her RPT. “Emotionally speaking, children have some of the same feelings and thinking as adults who experience post-traumatic stress – anger, confusion, fear, guilt, or shame. However, children lack the reasoning abilities to understand the why behind a trauma, or the cognitive ability to express in words what they are experiencing. So, they typically blame themselves. It is important to give children a place where they can feel validated and in control. The play therapy playroom becomes the child’s little world where they can mentally process things and begin to stabilize their behavior.”

STCH Ministries therapists are trained in various play therapy methods to meet the unique challenges of each child. Often, they choose the non-directive client-centered approach to best build rapport, trust, and consistency, Mendez said.

During a client-centered session, the play therapist patiently listens and observes the child at play without judgment. The therapist does not ask questions about what the child is doing or question them about their past. To give the child greater creative freedom, the therapist also avoids labeling any object or behavior. If a child asks the therapist for help with decisions or actions, the therapist will return responsibility to the child with gentle, empowering phrases such as: “You choose”; “That can be anything you want it to be”; or an encouraging “You can do it.”

Therapists see parents privately every three or four weeks during the play therapy counseling process. Therapists work hard to give parents positive feedback on their child to help them see the child as a whole person and not just the problem. As adults in a child’s world become healthier emotionally, and family dynamics improve, children get better too.

“What I love about play therapy is how unique it is,” Mendez said. “It is unlike anything the child will experience in life because it is so non-directive. Kids get plenty of teaching, instructions, discipline, and criticism in the big world. The small play therapy room gives children the opportunity to get what they need without anyone telling them what that is. It’s a chance to learn who they are and how they would do it if given the time and space.”

Children will be kept safe, of course, and are not allowed to hurt themselves, the therapist, or any property. But limits are not set until there is a need for a boundary based on a child’s behavior. When children do test the boundaries with their behavior, the therapist will show empathy first, then verbalize a limit and gently redirect the child.

Important work takes place in the playroom when children use toys as symbols to represent something in their life. Therapists call this a play metaphor.

“Many times children are unaware they are using metaphor in their play,” Mendez explained. “They will use the metaphor to express feelings, to show what they want to happen, or to work through a painful memory, fear, or experience. A vital part of our connection with kids in the playroom is to stay in the metaphor with them.”

Cocklin also finds this to be true. “A child’s metaphorical play provides a picture of how the child perceives themselves and their life,” Cocklin said.

“As they live out events of their past in the playroom, the metaphor is ‘live’ and it can be controlled. The child can even rewrite the ending for what is happening in their life. This is how they get a big win!”

It is important to realize that play therapy is not a quick fix for children. It helps stabilize the child at the developmental stage they are at, as well as provide the child with a greater ability to perceive, respond to, and manage their lives and behaviors in a healthier way. It helps them regain some control over their lives. But the effects of trauma may need to be addressed again in the future as the child reaches a new level of development.

Over the course of the treatment, parents gradually begin noticing their child seems “better,” has fewer tantrums, or doesn’t get in trouble as much. Children move from being sad, angry, or fearful in the playroom to being more spontaneous, content, and confident. Therapists also see improvements in the areas of problem-solving, communication, self-care, and self-control.

“The world is God’s playroom,” Mendez concluded. “He allows us time, space, and energy to get what we need or what we think we need. Just like the therapist in the play therapy room, He sits WITH us as we learn from the boundaries He has set, and His unconditional, loving presence. It takes a while, but He is patient—watching, waiting, validating, hoping, and believing the best for our lives. This is the love we take into the playroom each time we enter a child’s world.”

To find out if play therapy is right for your child, contact STCH Ministries Family Counseling at 1.833.83.STCHM.

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.”