R E P SU O R E H N O I T I D E
STRONG ARMS FOR PROTECTION, YET GENTLE ENOUGH FOR THE BEST HUGS
by Rod marshall, president/ceo
STRONG WILLED YET PATIENT DOESN’T NEED A CAPE FEET READY TO SERVE
READER’S TIP: LOOK FOR THE STAR SYMBOL THROUGHOUT THIS ISSUE TO FIND WAYS YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE LIVES OF CHILDREN AND FAMILIES IN NEED! 2
id you see the animated Disney movie The Incredibles? It is a delightful pro-family movie about a family of semi-retired superheroes. The heroes have to come out of retirement to try to save the world, and they are looking for new, updated costumes. They meet with a special seamstress to the hero community who explains to them why she never designs a costume with a cape! After her impassioned speech about the risks of capes, even Superman might consider retiring his cape.
. . . I saw an assembly of superheroes . . . but I did not see even one of them wearing a cape!
During June 9–11, I saw an assembly of superheroes converge at Shocco Springs. I was privileged to be at this wonderful meeting, but I did not see even one of them wearing a cape! For our regular supporters, you know I am talking about our 25th annual Camp of Champions! I look forward to Camp each year. This year, I saw some heroic figures. This year, we had 833 attendees at Camp, including 401 children and 432 staff and volunteers.
serve their foster-siblings and to help their parents.
I really wish each of you could attend Camp of Champions. You might begin to believe in superheroes. I am always impressed by our house parents and foster parents. I saw men and women who are heroically patient and compassionate with the children in their care. I saw strong, tough-looking men very gently hold and care for fragile babies and scared children. I saw moms who stubbornly refused to lose their temper, even when a child was purposefully trying to “push their buttons.” I saw nearly infinite patience supplied by house parents to children who need more nurture and comfort than any individual can ever provide. I saw young men and ladies (some even pre-teens) who went to great lengths to
I saw volunteers who drove miles on golf carts full of children, who labored in the snack wagon, who freely gave of their time and energy holding babies and providing one-on-one time with children who have a hard time keeping things together. I saw young children awarded medals for their accomplishments at Camp and smiled when they declared, “I am a champion!” I saw volunteers helping children do amazing gymnastics! I saw our staff going well above their job descriptions to teach a class at Camp or to run the snack distribution and hydration stations. I saw (very up-close and personal) our senior leaders taking turns putting on silly costumes and sitting in a dunking booth to make the kids smile. The 432 folks I watched at Camp (and served alongside) are absolutely heroic. In this issue of Lifeprints, you will meet some of our resident heroes. I think you will be impressed. When you provide prayer support and financial support for our ministry, you join the ranks of the superheroic! Superhero Edition
Zach Daniels and Rhoda Weber
SINCERE HEARTS FOR OUR KIDS b y tay l or f u n d e r b u r g , M ar k et i ng co or di n ator
hoda Weber, a retired school teacher and member of Calvary Baptist since 2000, volunteers her time to the children in care at our Dothan Campus Care home by tutoring them in various subjects. “It’s an honor and a privilege that God trusts me to do this work. I wouldn’t trade anything for it,” she says. In her time reading books and helping with spelling words, Rhoda has formed sweet relationships with the kids. Her heart is evident for them: “You just want to hug all of them and take them home with you! You pray for them and know that God has not forgotten them.” Several of the kids have come to Rhoda’s 5th 4
grade Sunday School class at Calvary, and she has had opportunities to pour into them and to pray over them. Zach Daniels, Director of Children’s Ministry at Calvary Baptist, has the opportunity at our Dothan campus to intentionally form relationships with kids from 1st–5th grade and to become a fun friend for them to look up to, and certainly for them to laugh with. While at a church in Ozark, he heard about our ministry, but it wasn’t until he started in his ministry at Calvary Baptist that he was led to get involved. He began to meet children in our care around the church and started to wonder about
what their lives must be like. “I was curious what it must be like to live in someone else’s home, and I got a passion to get to know these kids in this home,” he says. He now comes one day a week to do just that! Overall, both Rhoda and Zach have expressed their gratitude for our house parents and how impressed they’ve been with the care we are able to provide. Zach even says, “[Getting involved in foster care] is one of the most important things ministers should strive to do. As a pastor, I can easily sit in an office all day, but coming to the home and hanging out with these kids for an hour trumps anything I could do at a desk. If you want kids to feel loved and feel a part of your ministry, you have to seek them outside of the church, where they spend the most time. I advise all children’s ministers to get involved with this in some sort of way.”
WORKING TOGETHER There’s no doubt that working closely as a church family to bless the lives of children in our care has brought the members of Calvary Baptist closer together, in heart and in spirit. “It definitely has brought us closer together,” Rhoda says, “It has helped us connect, laugh, and have fun together. It also helps us in church because it creates a pyramid of relationships for these kids within our church family. We all sit together with the kids on Sundays at the service and even get to have a meal with them afterwards every now and then.” Greg Pendergrass, who serves as Director of Community Ministries at Calvary, says, “Our Calvary family
considers it an honor and privilege to work with ABCH here in Dothan. We have been blessed in so many different ways from being a part of the purpose and mission of this awesome organization. Our church and entire community is so grateful for the efforts of the house parents, staff, and administration of Dothan’s ABCH that shares the love of Jesus Christ with these precious children.”
A NEW PERSPECTIVE Zach believes that serving at our home in Dothan has changed the way he ministers to kids: “I’m obviously not allowed to ask many questions as to why they’re here,” Zach says, “but sometimes they just tell me without asking, since I become a person of trust for them. It’s interesting to see how kids, no matter what their parents do to them, still want to be with their parents in the end. It’s made me, as a children’s pastor, put more of my time into the families and help parents raise their kids in the Lord. It’s made me reach out to more parents, and share the need for foster parents and adoptive parents for those kids who don’t have a place to go.”
The congregation at Calvary Baptist Church has been a huge blessing to our children in care at our Campus Care home in Dothan! If you would like to learn more about volunteering with us, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit online at alabamachild.org/13ways for more information. Superhero Edition
ANSWERING the call
TO FOSTER Jason and Casey with their two boys, Jackson and Jacob
by taylor funderburg, Marketing coordinator
he first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But the good Samaritan reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’” —Martin Luther King, Jr. After Jason and Casey Askew had their second child, they began to look into adoption and foster care. At the time, their pastor and his wife were 6
licensed foster parents with Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes (ABCH). One day in November, this couple got a placement—a little six-weekold boy. They called the Askew family and asked to borrow any baby clothes they had. When Casey arrived at their pastor’s house, the little boy was lying in a bouncer seat in a pink onesie. “It was winter,” Casey said, “and he had no socks, no pants, no other clothes
except that pink onesie . . . I can remember leaving there and feeling the total hopelessness of that child and calling my husband and saying, ‘This is what we should do—this is it.’”
Through fostering, she’s been able to speak to the preconceived notions that some have of what foster care really is. “Not all children in foster care are the same,” she said, “and I get Although the seed was planted for to show people my sweet babies who fostering, Casey admits they had a smile and blow kisses to strangers in number of excuses as to why they the grocery store and say, ‘This is the couldn’t do it immediately, but God face of foster care.’” She has been able had another plan in mind. “I kid you to talk to people and open minds to not, within hours, any reason we came the ministry that foster care is, and up with to not do it right then, God to spread the word about what she’s removed. Within 24 hours, we decided able to provide spiritually to those she to go for it—we were going to be fos- and her husband care for because she ter parents,” Casey said. They’ve now fosters through ABCH. “I’m not just been foster parents for three years giving them a home,” she says, “I get to tell them about Jesus.” and have cared for six sweet kids! Courtney Wade, Social Worker at our Oxford campus, said, “Foster parenting is a true calling for the Askew family. It doesn’t matter what type of placement you call them with, they say ‘bring them on.’” Casey says it’s all about James 1:27 for them, and they are willing to do what they can and trust God to work out the details. “I have people ask me all the time, ‘How do you do it?’ and I’ve always said, ‘For whatever reason, these children can’t be where they were, so why not with us? For however long they’re with us, I know they’re getting loved and getting Jesus.’ That’s what it’s all about,” Casey said.
Additionally, Casey has been able to connect with some of the biological parents of her children in care and minister to them, too. Even after these children move on from their home, Casey is still able to create a bond with their mothers and help them, making those transitions easier for the parents and for the child.
GROWING AND SERVING
On a Friday evening in July of 2015, the Askew family was traveling to the lake when they received a call about a placement. All they knew at that point was that the child was seven and a half months old and that her weight was low for her age.
Casey has been so encouraged in her foster care journey to benefit from opportunities God has given her and her husband along the way. From connecting to other foster parents, to building new relationships with communities around them, they have been able to grow not just inwardly, but outwardly as well.
Casey saw her for the first time as her husband carried her inside the door to their home. Abby weighed around 11 pounds on the day the Askew family took her in. “When I held her, she was completely limp. There was no muscle tone and she couldn’t hold her head up. She was gray and had no emotion. She was barely surviving. It was scary.” Superhero Edition
They received her with very little information as to what her medical condition was, but they did all they could right away to take the best possible care of her. After many doctors appointments and feeding changes, things started looking up. They found out that, through genetics, Abby has a deletion on her ninth chromosome— an extremely rare condition called Kleefstra syndrome. With that, she is developmentally delayed and will most likely be nonverbal. Through a surgery and continued therapy sessions, Abby is doing extremely well, despite her condition! She is now able to gain weight at a great pace, is able to eat a wider variety of foods, and is even walking with slight assistance and has started pulling up to stand on her own. “She is thriving, and we are excited to see what God is going to do with her as she grows!” Casey said.
THE BLESSINGS OF FOSTERING Casey had a lot to say when we asked about her favorite aspects of being a foster parent. From providing new experiences for kids such as a day at the aquarium, to seeing her biological children be so generous and loving to any child that comes in their home, her experience in caring for children in need has been plentiful in blessings. Overall though, her best memories are from Camp of Champions. “Gosh, I love Camp! It is so nice to be able to go somewhere where everybody is on the same page. Everywhere you turn, somebody is wanting to help and not looking at you crazy-eyed because you have 4, 5, 6 kids, or more. They don’t look at you funny and you don’t feel bad asking for people for help! Camp is so great!” 8
I’m not just giving them a home . . . I get to tell them about Jesus. A MESSAGE FROM CASEY Casey is passionate about the ministry of foster care, and wanted to share her heart in this story: “If I had one thing that I wanted people to know,” she said, “it is that the need is great. There are too many kids that need foster care and nowhere to put them. Even if you are not called to foster, you are called to do something if you are a believer in Christ. Whatever it is that God is calling you to do for these kids, do it. Don’t sit by, because every moment we sit by, there is a child in a home that is being mistreated or abused or just doesn’t have what they need, and they are wanting to be rescued. The need is great—we all just need to do something.” *Name has been changed to protect identity.
We are grateful for followers of Christ like Jason and Casey Askew, who generously volunteer their homes, their lives, and their families to the mission of loving and caring for children in need. If you would like to learn more about Foster Care or how you can help, you can visit alabamachild.org/fostercare.
Bill and Dani-Ga Chester
A SWEET SEASON IN CAMPUS CARE by michelle glassford, commun ic at ions dir ec tor n January of 2009, through related experiences, a Christian concert, and a Word received in their separate Bible studies and quiet times to “defend the orphan and plead for the widow,” God directed the steps of Bill and Dani-Ga Chester to the Mobile campus of Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes (ABCH). For eight years, they have lived out our mission to protect, nurture, and restore children and families through Christ-centered services, as faithful and sacrificial house parents to more than 100 children in need.
ministry and as house parents for Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes. They have three children of their own, and early on, they learned that their oldest, daughter, Brooke, has a level of autism which requires 24-hour care and supervision. The Learning Tree was able to provide her with support, educational, and residential services to best help her grow. In 2008 however, that placement would take her six hours away to Alabama, and that just didn’t sit well with mom and dad, so they began searching for work closer to their daughter.
They transitioned this summer into a wonderful new season in life for their family that takes them away from ABCH, but before they did, we got to sit down with these superhero house parents to hear more about their calling, their time in serving, and their prayerful encouragement for house parents and children today.
Bill shared, “I had sent applications and resumes for ministry in pastoral positions, but nothing transpired or moved forward. Dani-Ga said to me, “What about the Children’s Homes? We decided that God would open those doors if He wanted that, and if not, He wouldn’t.”
Prior to coming to ABCH, Bill and Dani-Ga had worked in student
When they got in touch with the Mobile director, she asked if there Superhero Edition
I’m not just giving them a home . . . I get to tell them about Jesus. Bill, Brooke, Dani-Ga, Ethan and Josiah Chester were openings for house parents. His response? “As of today, yes!” They interviewed, and after touring the campus, felt it was where their hearts were. Now instead of being six hours from Brooke, they would be just 10 minutes away. Dani-Ga shares, “It was the icing on the cake!”
GROWING IN THEIR FAITH They began serving as parents for the girls’ cottage, but with two boys, Josiah and Ethan, ages 9 and 6 at the time, they knew they would eventually need to transition to the boys’ cottage. After one year, that door opened, and they served our boys in Mobile for the next 7 years.
come in her prayer life and need for quiet time away: “I know I can’t do this ministry without the Lord. There is a constant awareness, and I can tell when I get a little foul attitude, and I just need to get alone and spend time with the Lord. I pray all the time, whether I’m cooking dinner or need something, even little tiny things.”
POINTING KIDS TO CHRIST Through prayers and being intentional, the Chesters have lived each day with one main hope in mind for their kids: how do we continually point them to Christ and His great love for them? Bill says, “Sometimes, it’s just kids asking questions and being able to connect them back to God. There was one boy, Braxton*, and as I was tucking him in one night, he said, ‘Mr. Bill, I miss my momma,’ and I replied, ‘Well B, your momma misses you too, buddy . . . you know, God has taken care of you until you see your mom again, and He’ll work things out.’ We talked about trusting Him, even when we don’t understand, and I think it’s the little conversations like that that shines light into their hearts . . . Sometimes, for a child to know that someone bigger is working things out, it gives them something to hold onto; a little bit of peace.”
A lot happens in 8 years, and in regard to how serving here has grown them, Bill shared, “It’s helped me to see how God sees me. These kids come in with no boundaries; often with no discipline or structure. Because they’re In addition to nightly devotions she just kids, sometimes they do things has with the boys, Dani-Ga has loved deliberately because it’s all they’ve using object lessons. In the summer, known, or without thinking because they often vacation at the beach, and of muscle memory. It reminds me one of her favorite things to do is talk that that’s exactly how I do with to them about the waves. God—I get so into my way of things “We have a wide variety of kids, but and my way of thinking, that somethey can all see the ocean and relate times it just takes God correcting me.” to it. We would walk up and down the For Dani-Ga, growth has especially shore, and I would stop them and say, 10 Lifeprints
*Name has been changed to protect identity.
‘I want y’all to just stand here and try to push the waves back.’ And of course, they laugh, and they’re guys, so they’re really trying hard to push. But then I say to them, ‘There’s no way you can do that, and you can never push away God’s love for you either. You can’t run from it or hide from it. It just comes over you like a wave. And I just want you to remember that.’”
REMEMBER IN PRAYER One of the best things anyone can do for our children and parents is to pray for them. The needs are seemingly endless, but the Chesters point out a couple of specific ways you can support them in prayer, one being to simply pray for them and their situations.
That there would be a hedge of protection and for us to keep our focus on why we do this.”
PARTING THOUGHTS The Chesters got news earlier this summer that they would finally be able to bring Brooke home—their hearts’ prayer for years. Bill says, “It’s been a long time coming. We never expected it to be this long, but we see God’s hand at work in it.” There are many things they will miss—hugs from the kids and their amusement over little things we often take for granted are just two. But they are confident of God’s hand in this move and are hopeful of where life is heading for both them and ABCH. Looking back, Dani-Ga reminisces, “ABCH has given hope and new beginnings to so many families. We have witnessed the Gospel in the sweetest of ways, and we have been honored to be a part of what God has done and is doing at our campuses across Alabama. Our ABCH President, Rod Marshall, said in one of our last meetings, that we are going to “our” Jerusalem. As we walk out this door, I’m thankful for the relationships that were birthed and the character God has equipped and established in me and my family . . .”
“I think for the kids,” shares Bill, “Remembering that the goal is always to reunite them with their families— but (knowing) the reality is that not all of these kids go home to their families . . . sometimes, one thing I pray with the kids is that God would work things out for their good and His glory. And it might be years before the kids can look back and something will click, and they see that maybe God didn’t work things out the way they wanted Him to, but He worked it out well. Pray that God would turn *Story has been edited for space. Read the full version their hearts to that understanding, online at alabamachild.org/ASweetSeason. however long that takes.” For married house parents all across our state, Bill and Dani-Ga share the value of praying for their communication and time together, “We are normal people doing something God called us to do. Pray for us to remember to communicate and to protect our marriages and time together.
Plan to visit with our teams in Mobile this December at our annual Christmas Open House, and see first-hand how super our house parents truly are! Learn more at alabamachild.org/openhouse. Superhero Edition 11
A FAMILY on mission
by taylor funderburg, Marketing coordinator hether working hard and enjoying his job with Southern Company in downtown Birmingham or spending time with family and friends in his off time, Stephen Burns loves being surrounded with good community. Stephen is husband to Lisa and father of Elijah and Luke, two servant-hearted boys who helped the Children’s Homes recently through participating in our newest video for kids, “A Simple Idea.” Like their parents, they have a heart to help children in need too, and the entire family has been a great support to ABCH.
JOINING THE ABCH FAMILY Stephen first heard about Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes through 12 Lifeprints
Lisa and Stephen Burns with their two children, Elijah and Luke Director of Development Jay Boyd and Director of Accounting and Finance, and good friend to the Burns family, Sam Allison. Jay reached out to Stephen in the first phase of building our Regional Advisory Board (RAB) team in Birmingham. This group of young volunteers is passionate about the mission of ABCH and helping others know how they can support our ministry. While on the RAB, Stephen was able to help brainstorm and plan the first Party at the Parks event held in Birmingham in the spring. He shares that his favorite part about being on the team was seeing how each member got more and more involved and feeling the excitement toward the ministry’s work and toward being a part of it. It was
energizing to him to be in a group of people who were all focused on the same goal—to multiply God’s love to children and families in care, and to do it to the best of their abilities. “Once I heard the mission and what drives this ministry, it became infectious. You get passionate about the organization and how the Holy Spirit is leading—not just helping with the tangibles of getting these kids in Christian homes, but giving them spiritual food and changing lives. It’s not about just changing lives from a moral perspective, but from a Christperspective. I just love that,” Stephen says, “I love what this organization does to leave a legacy and truly make the world a better place.”
The Hero Fund is a monthly giving program where: • You choose which location and program to support • You receive an exclusive Hero t-shirt and decal • 100% of donations are designated to meet the most essential needs of our programs:
TAKING THE NEXT STEP In addition to Stephen serving on the RAB for two years, he and Lisa also give monthly to our ministry through the Hero Fund. Stephen says that, for his family, he wants to serve God by thanking Him for the blessings they have in their home, but also asking Him how they can get involved in helping children who are not as fortunate. “Through the RAB, I got involved. When the Hero Fund was just starting, Jay let the RAB team know, and it was another way to get involved. I may not be able to serve as a foster parent, but I can serve this way and help those who are,” Stephen says
Learn more at alabamachild.org/ herofund, or get started today:
“@ABCH hero” alabamachild.org/ to 52014 hero
“Spreading the love of Christ is truly the driving force behind ABCH. Having been a ministry for 125+ years and maintaining the purpose it has for children and families, it’s a ministry worth supporting,” Stephen says. Superhero Edition 13
This year in Lifeprints, we’ve featured Campus Spotlights to focus on one of our campuses, offering real time news and happenings in each area. In this issue’s Campus Spotlight, we are happy to share with you stories, updates, and other news from our Mobile campus!
Lives Changed WE HAVE SERVED WE CARED FOR
60children children 61
THROUGH CAMPUS CARE THROUGH & FOSTERCAMPUS CARE SOCARE FAR &THIS FOSTER YEARCARE IN 2016
children 25children 2 children ARE ON THE HONOR ROLL AT THEIR SCHOOL THIS YEAR
IN FOSTER CARE ACCEPTED CHRIST IN 2016
IN OUR CAMPUS CARE HOMES MADE PROFESSIONS OF FAITH THIS YEAR
WAS AWARDED A GOOD CHARACTER AWARD & HIGHEST AR READING ACHIEVEMENT
Ways to Pray IN CAMPUS CARE WERE BAPTIZED THIS MONTH
Please pray for our new Family Care facility and the mothers and children that will be served through that ministry. Please pray that our Foster Care ministry will continue to grow so that we can serve even more children in the community. Please pray that our house parents, foster parents, and social workers will positively impact the lives of the children in our care by showing them love, encouragement, and structure. Pray that the families we serve will hear the Gospel and see the love of Christ through ABCH staff. 14 Lifeprints
Celena Doggett is our ambassador for the Choctaw Baptist Association and is a valuable asset to the Mobile campus. This year alone, she has organized a “Spring Cleaning” supply drive, which involved collecting laundry detergent, dishwashing soap, Clorox wipes, and many other cleaning products. The items she collected were enough to keep our campus homes stocked for an entire year! At just six-years-old, Samantha* had a particularly difficult childhood, living with numerous family members in her short life. She continually heard, “I don’t want you anymore,” over and over again. When she came into our care, she began attending church with her foster parents. A few Sundays ago, she raised her hands in the air and sang to the Lord, “You’re never going to let me down!” What an incredible blessing to know that she realizes that no matter how hard her life is or how many people have let her down, she can always cling to her Heavenly Father because He will never give up on her! Heather Fore has been a Campus Care Social Worker with ABCH since 2016. “Coming to work at ABCH everyday has been one of the greatest blessings in my life,” Heather shared. “Knowing that I am in a Christian environment filled with love and support is a gift that I am so grateful to receive. Working with the children here has filled holes in my heart that I did not realize I had. I know that I am here to make a difference in their lives but, the truth is, they all have made the biggest difference in mine.”
Our most urgent needs are for our Family Care Ministry. You can find specific items and needs on our registries listed below:
JCPenney: Registry #99159743 Kohl’s: Registry #3319146 Walmart: http://bit.ly/ABCH-WalmartFC Target: http://bit.ly/ABCH-TargetFC Superhero Edition 15
PERMIT #2036 BIRMINGHAM
NON-PROFIT US POSTAGE
Save Dat e THE
This Christmas season, the children in our care want to open up their home to you at our CHRISTMAS OPEN HOUSE events. Please come to a Christmas Open House event near you!
Friday, December 1, 6–8 PM 368 County Line Road, Dothan, AL 36305 334-677-7856 // email@example.com
Sunday, December 3, 2–5 PM 1404 16th Avenue SE, Decatur, AL 35601 256-355-6893 // firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday, December 3, 2–5 PM 6512 Grelot Road, Mobile, AL 36695 251-639-1022 // email@example.com Sunday, December 3, 2–5 PM 1931 Donna Drive Oxford, AL 36203 256-831-4081 // firstname.lastname@example.org All Open House events are FREE. More details are available at alabamachild.org/openhouse.
Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries P.O. Box 361767 Birmingham, AL 35236-1767