s y o J of the
n o s a e AS of
by rod marshall, president/ceo
OW! Is that a word you use very often? According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “wow” is a Scottish word that was first recorded in the 1510s. It experienced renewed popularity in the early 1900s in North America and then again in the 1960s. In 1924, “wow” made it into the dictionary as a verb meaning “to overwhelm with delight or amazement.” When I first walked into the newly completed Grace’s House of Hope in Mobile, I quietly whispered to my wife, “Wow.” Grace’s House of Hope will be our newest Family Care Home to serve homeless mothers and their children. We currently have two other homes in the metro-Birmingham area. Dana Watson, our Chief Operations Officer for South Alabama, has done a great job of supervising the construction of Grace’s House of Hope. At the dedication for the new home, Dana inspired and challenged the audience with his amazing testimony. Dana came to our Mobile campus when he was eleven years old and lived there for eight years. His father passed away when Dana was nine, and his mother recognized that she did not have the resources to keep him safe and to raise him in the manner she desired for him, so she made the remarkably difficult decision to bring him to Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes (ABCH). Dana asked a simple question of those assembled at Grace’s House of Hope on October 1. He said, “I am thankful for my testimony, but I cannot help but think, ‘What if Grace’s House of Hope had been available 30 years ago?’ Maybe my mom could have brought
i leaned over to my wife, resisting the urge to cry, and whispered once again that day, 'wow!' us here and we could have stayed with her.” I leaned over to my wife, resisting the urge to cry, and whispered once again that day, “Wow!” This momentous occasion of expanding our Family Care ministry to provide struggling families the opportunity to thrive is one of several things that truly brings joy to this Christmas season and makes me say, “WOW!” In these pages of Lifeprints, you’ll not only read more about the opening of Grace’s House of Hope, you’ll also read about how two sweet, little children in the Dothan area found their forever family. You’ll read about a ministry in Montgomery, Children’s Hope, that has partnered with our ministry to impact even more children in foster care. Also, as the Christmas season begins, you’ll read how our annual Christmas Open House is more than just an event— it’s an opportunity for children in our care to share why they’re able to make ABCH a place to call home. God is active in the work of your Baptist Children’s Homes, and seeing what He is doing through us is “overwhelming with delight and amazement.” WOW, indeed! Joys of the Season
grace`s house of hope
A New Home in Mobile
by michelle glassford, Director of communications
fter many months of prayerful planning, construction, and decision-making, we are excited to share news that our Family Care home in Mobile has now opened its doors for families! A ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony was held on October 1, for this beautiful new home, “Grace’s House of Hope.” This transitional home for single mothers and their dependent children will serve Mobile area families and is beginning to welcome families. Family Care exists to help mothers get back on their feet after facing difficult life circumstances, which in many cases, finds them without a home. Longtime supporters and advocates of the ministry of ABCH, Grace Pilot and the Pilot family, have been instrumental in seeing this dream come to fruition, along with many other individuals, churches, and businesses in the Mobile community. Family Care operated in Mobile for many years, but due to limited space and location, the home closed in 2015, allowing us to break ground on a state-of-the-art facility near our West Mobile campus the following year. This large, apartment-style home will serve up to seven families at one time and features two-bedroom apartments for families, a common kitchen and dining room, a playroom for kids, an onsite playground, and a business center for moms. Mothers who come into Family Care are given the tools to rebuild their lives in a safe and healthy space during a transitional time. Dana Watson, Chief Operations Officer for South Alabama, has served with ABCH for over 10 years, and in that time, has seen many lives impacted
family care is a new start for you and your family if that’s what you want it to be. through this program, which can last for up to 12 months. Watson says, “Family Care is a unique ministry that allows the family to stay intact while direct care staff addresses the spiritual, financial, and physical needs of the mother and her child(ren). Through this valuable program, we’ve seen mothers leave better equipped to live independently, provide for themselves and their children, maintain steady housing, meet their educational goals, and gain employment. This positively impacts the family, but also strengthens the community in which they live.” Presently, Family Care homes are assisting mothers and children through two homes in the Birmingham area. Last year, through the support of faithful donors, we were able to serve 49 mothers and children through Family Care. We are so joyful that the doors have now opened at Grace’s House of Hope, knowing that even more families will be forever changed through those serving as the hands and feet of Christ in Mobile. Valencia Pritchett, a Mobile native and graduate of Family Care says, “I Joys of the Season
LEFT: Mobile staff, Monte Gilstrap, Haley Danner, and Mandy Irby enjoying the grand opening celebration of Grace’s House of Hope
TOP RIGHT: Rod Marshall, Grace Pilot, Dana Watson, and Daphne Fonde cutting the ribbon at the grand opening celebration
took a step of faith in hopes of a new and better life for me and my daughter. When you think about your children, and how this is going to benefit them in the long run, you do what you need to do. Family Care is a new start for you and your family if that’s what you want it to be. It’s a program that works for you, if you work for the program.” Valencia is now giving back to this program in a very big way, serving as Family Care Manager in north Birmingham.
BOTTOM RIGHT: One of the rooms at Grace’s House of Hope where families will stay during their time in our Family Care program
Many Alabama church and business partners have significantly contributed to the funding and building of this new home in Mobile to serve families: Central Baptist Church, Grove Hill Baptist Church, Hickory Grove Baptist Church, Luke 4:18 Fellowship, Barnett Millworks, Bedzzz Express, Roy Lewis Construction, Jackie of All Trades, Interior designer Diane Berry, Chavis Furniture, the Wellborn family through the Children’s Fund 6
Foundation, Professional Stone, STC Communications, L&Z Logging Company, Taylor Services, Inc., MMR Construction, and Infirmary Health. Josh Farmer, ABCH Development Officer in Mobile says, “We have been tremendously blessed with support from churches and those in our community to make this home a reality. God has worked in the hearts of His people and led them to give so that we can serve families together.” If you are interested in partnering with ABCH in Mobile to serve families, please contact Family Care Manager for Mobile, Rachel Burden, at 251-639-1022.
e m o H for good Jeff and Renee Elliott with their children, Ruthie, Michael Edward, Emma Grace, and Brandon
by kristen jackson, communications intern, and taylor funderburg, communications & marketing coordinator t Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes (ABCH) through our Foster Care ministry, our hope is to reunite every child with their biological parents when possible. Sometimes, however, God’s plan is to give them a new home, and we get to be a part of the miracle of adoption.
Dothan, biological siblings, Brandon and Ruthie, were officially adopted by Jeff and Renee Elliott in July! Not only did Jeff and Renee gain a new son and daughter, but their twins, Michael Edward and Emma Grace, gained a new little brother and sister.
It is with much excitement we share, that after 766 days in care in
Ever since Jeff and Renee were married in 2007, fostering had been on Renee’s
becoming foster parents
Joys of the Season
The Elliott family at court, on the day they adopted Brandon and Ruthie heart. In 2009, their lives became a lot you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the busier as they grew their family with Spirit you received brought about your the birth of their twins, but Renee adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, knew they weren’t done growing their family just yet. Over the years, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies she continued to pray about foster- with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we ing and occasionally mentioned it to are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Jeff, but they never felt like it was the Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferright time. ings in order that we may also share in That changed though, one Sunday his glory.” —Romans 8:14–17 NIV in the fall of 2014. The Elliotts came home from working in their church “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and nursery, and Jeff shared with Renee whoever welcomes me does not welcome that he could see himself caring for me but the one who sent me.” —Mark someone else’s child. He felt that it 9:37 NIV was time to look into becoming foster parents. Two weeks later, they started classes at our campus in Dothan. The following year, they were able to open up their home to children coming into foster care, including Brandon and Ruthie. During their journey of fostering and adopting, the Elliotts have relied on two verses— “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit 88
One final Stop Though first placed with the Elliotts, Brandon and Ruthie were moved from their home for a season and placed into a few other homes while they were in foster care. Jeff and Renee continued to open up their home to more children in foster care during this season of them being away. For the Elliotts, though they had physically left their home, Brandon and
Ruthie had never left Jeff and Renee’s hearts. So when the opportunity came for the Elliotts to adopt Brandon and Ruthie, they jumped at the chance. Earlier this year, Brandon and Ruthie returned to the Elliotts’ home. Brandon came to the door first and rang the doorbell. Renee opened the door, and Brandon immediately said, “Mama, I’m home! And I’m home for good!”
the influence of a Child Both Jeff and Renee have seen growth in their own lives as a result of this process, mostly in their prayer lives. “I think that fostering is much more difficult than either one of us realized,” Renee says. “For me personally, it has pushed me to surrender my life to God because He’s the only one who has control . . . you think you’re going to change all these things for the kids, but what you find is, they actually change you. You can’t bring them into your home and not start carrying their burdens with them.”
a happy ending and a new beginning
made significant progress in settling into their new home. So far, Brandon, who at one time was labeled “developmentally delayed” in speech and other areas, has now, through a series of classes and trainings, surpassed this struggle and is fully caught up to other children his age! “We were told they had never, in 20 to 30 years, removed such a label from a child . . . his teachers go on and on about how bright he is!” Jeff says.
mama, i'm home! and i'm home for good! Area Director of Southeast Alabama, Kim McGainey, says, “We are beyond thankful for the Elliott family, and all of our ABCH families, for the dedicated, Christ-centered example of ministry they provide for children. It is always something to celebrate when we hear of children being welcomed into a family.
The Lord has been so faithful in bringing Brandon and Ruthie into a loving community at home and at school where they will each be nurtured in their personal growth, in their learning opportunities, and, first and foremost, in their spiritual walk with “It is our prayer that children, like Christ. We value the wholehearted Brandon and Ruthie, come to know devotion Jeff and Renee bring to our the fullness of God’s love by first ministry as they have answered God’s claiming their identity as His children. call to foster, and now to adopt. Our families support this mission as While being established into a new they actively reflect what it looks like family requires some adjustments, to be welcomed into a forever home.” such as going by a new last name and having two new, older siblings, Welcome to your home for good, Brandon and Ruthie have already Brandon and Ruthie Elliott! Joys of the Season 99
Christmas Open House
by nicole walker, communications and design specialist
t’s gearing up to be that time of year again. A chill in the air, twinkling lights on trees, garlands adorning mantels, and hot chocolate galore! What are we talking about? Christmas, of course!
event, largely donated or prepared by local friends and volunteers. This year at our Dothan campus, a live nativity will once again be featured, along with a school choir, face painting, a petting zoo, crafts, and much more!
For us at Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes (ABCH) it also means that one of our favorite events is drawing close—Christmas Open House! Our annual Open House events are a special time where we open up our homes across the state to the public in hopes of sharing much of what God is doing through our ministry to serve children in need.
During the Christmas season, while there is much to celebrate in our homes, it can be hard for many of the children in our care to be away from their families, regardless of the circumstances they came from. That’s one reason it’s so important for us to create a place to call home for these children, giving them a space to decorate their rooms and to celebrate Christmas in many ways—and some may even be celebrating for the first time.
At some of our locations, children in our care provide tours of their homes and are oftentimes really excited to share how they’ve decorated their rooms! Guests will also find a spread of snacks and treats to enjoy during the 10 10 Lifeprints
“The children have an opportunity to take ownership in their home during Open House here (in Decatur) and
show others what it means to be a part of the ABCH family,” shared Michael Smith, our Chief Operations Officer for North Alabama. Though this statewide event happens in December, we start gearing up early. “People may not realize it, but we start preparing in October,” Michael said. “I love walking the grounds and making sure we are presenting our best. I love watching the decorations go up and planning with our team for what we will present to our guests. I love that the children get to be tour guides to our guests. It’s just a perfect time of year!” Open House also shows the children in our care just how much the community cares for and supports them. “I never knew there were so many people in Alabama!” one child shared with Michael last year, after roughly 1,700 people came to our Open House event in Decatur. Not only are Open House events a fun way to celebrate the holidays, but it’s also an opportunity to share about Jesus Christ and what He has done for us. A few years ago at our Mobile campus, one of the children pulled out an ornament of Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus, as they were decorating. He asked one of our House Parents, “Who are these people?” This provided an amazing opportunity for our House Parents to share about the true reason we celebrate Christmas—the birth of Jesus Christ, and ultimately, what He did for us on the cross. Though each event may look slightly different across the state, the sentiment of thankfulness is the same in sharing how thankful we are for
House Parents, Daniel and Melanie Lee’s daughters at last year’s Open House supporters like you who are pivotal in equipping ABCH to provide such great care to hurting children across Alabama. Michael says, “Open House is important to the Decatur Campus as a means to thank the community for tremendous support. We look forward to seeing our friends from churches around the state, as well as local business partners, and great community friends.”
Join us for open house friday, december 1 from 6–8 pm Dothan
sunday, december 3 from 2–5 pm Decatur, Mobile, and Oxford Visit alabamachild.org/openhouse or call (888) 720-8805 to learn more about our Open House events. Joys of the Season 11
by Partnering Together
by kristen jackson, communications intern, and taylor funderburg, communications and marketing coordinator hildren’s Hope is an orphancare ministry based in Montgomery, Alabama, and was initiated through First Baptist Church of Montgomery. Led by Andy and Tanya Birchfield, the ministry has three components: adoption advocacy, direct orphan care, and foster care support. In addition to local ministry here in Alabama, Children’s Hope has a strong missions and ministry presence in Jacmel, Haiti, 12 12 Lifeprints
Children’s Hope volunteers providing training for ABCH foster parents centered around caring for orphans. Work there also includes running a medical clinic and surgical center, as well as keeping strong connections to local pastors to utilize mission teams who assist with evangelism, discipleship, church planting, and much more. Jared McCrory, Executive Director of Children’s Hope, is involved in leadership of the overall ministry strategy and operations, as well as in the
integration of local ministry partners. Since he began working with the ministry in December of 2015, Jared has seen much fruit from the efforts of Children’s Hope, as their work is impacting the lives of the children in care in Haiti as well as their surrounding local communities.
helping to host foster parent trainings, to helping to provide meals or child care, they have been essential. They have also been available to help our children with tangible items such as furniture or household items. They always seek to encourage our staff and families, whether through prayer, support events, physical labor (painting offices or moving furniture), or in the development of a foster care team ministry at FBC Montgomery.”
“The Lord has led us to consider how we can serve children and families in the wider community to strengthen and support them so that their families stay together, avoiding the “It has been great to have had a front row seat from the very beginning brokenness and dysfunction that has and see God’s plan for Children’s resulted in the thousands of orphans Hope unfold,” VP of Administration at and vulnerable children,” Jared said. “This is where our medical, education, and church partnership initiatives have come in. We see this all as an integrated effort to serve children and families . . . ” From the beginning, Children’s Hope has looked for ways to support foster care in Alabama by partnering with ABCH. Children’s Hope staff have supported our Foster Care ministry in Montgomery by working to attract new foster families, providing assistance with coordinating Trauma Informed Partnering for Safety (TIPS) classes, and praying for and supporting our families and children in care. Children’s Hope prayerfully and faithfully supports the work of ABCH by also training “care communities” to surround and support foster families, while helping to advocate for the work of ABCH in Montgomery County. According to Montgomery Social Worker Bobbi Olson, Children’s Hope has been vital to our Foster Care ministry in her area: “Anytime we have had a need for the children or families in Montgomery, Children’s Hope has been eager to help; from
we see this all as an integrated effort to serve children and families . . .
ABCH Chip Colee said. “I have had the privilege to be part of the Children’s Hope leadership team and currently serve on the Children’s Hope board. I believe there are many more possibilities for ABCH to continue partnering with Children’s Hope.” It is a privilege for us to partner with the leaders of Children’s Hope as they seek to go deeper in love for one another and the people of Haiti, and to serve alongside them in our Foster Care ministry in Montgomery. We are so thankful for their generosity and look forward to strengthening our partnership in the years to come! Joys of the Season 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 Decatur campus!
Lives Changed WE HAVE SERVED
WE HAVE SERVED
THROUGH CAMPUS CARE
THROUGH FOSTER CARE
WE HAVE SERVED
THROUGH SHELTER CARE
THE CHILDREN HAVE BEEN BRINGING HOME THEIR MID NINE WEEKS PROGRESS REPORTS AND THERE HAVE BEEN SOME GOOD REPORTS. MOST OF THE CHILDREN HAD A’S AND B’S WITH A FEW C’S SPRINKLED IN.
Ways to Pray Pray for additional foster homes. We currently get many requests for children that we do not have homes for. 14 Lifeprints
Rachel Story has volunteered for over a year to tutor one of our Spanish speaking students in English. She has worked with her two hours each week. Her assistance has made a true difference in our student learning English.
We recently had four children in our Campus Care program baptized on the same day.
Sue Morgan has been the social work assistant on the Decatur Campus for 34 years. “In my role as social work assistant, I enjoy being able to interact and encourage the kids without being their House Parent,” says Sue. “I enjoy being a part of a geniune and caring staff.
Urgent Needs We need household items, including paper towels, toilet paper, garbage bags, toilet bowl cleaner, laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, bleach, and more. We also need pantry items, including tea, snack crackers, cookies, Gatorade, bottled water, Kool-Aid, and more.
Household I tems
You can find a list of our most updated needs at alabamachild.org/needslist. Joys of the Season 15
PERMIT #2036 BIRMINGHAM
NON-PROFIT US POSTAGE
Looking for the perfect
Give the gift that
GIVES BACK! You can honor a special loved one in your life by making a donation in their name! We’ll send them a card that will let them know how much you appreciate them with the gift you made.
Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries P.O. Box 361767 Birmingham, AL 35236-1767
Visit alabamachild.org/give to make your gift today!
Published on Dec 6, 2017