PORTALES (BNM) – The New Mexico Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the home's heritage on Wednesday, Oct. 23, with dinner and a celebration service on its Portales campus. The celebration is scheduled as part of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico’s 2019 annual meeting activities.
The NMBCH was originally named the New Mexico Baptist Orphans Home, which opened its doors in May 1, 1919, to a sibling group of four children. However, the home’s work began even before then. For years, Baptist churches had cried out for an avenue to care for orphaned children. An article in the Baptist New Mexican on Feb. 15, 1919 states, "Baptists will not be held guiltless in the final judgment for allowing children to fall into the hands of others when they should have been brought up under the care and training of our own."
Coe Howard, a layman at First Baptist Church, Portales, felt very strongly that Baptists needed a place to care for needy New Mexico children. Howard pledged to support the New Mexico Baptist Orphans Home for life. He and his wife opened their home to orphaned children and often visited another children's home in Texas.
Howard was not alone with his burden. Another New Mexican, Leon Gambrell, pastor of First Baptist Church, Portales, also opened his home to orphaned children. The BCNM later appointed Gambrell as chairman of a committee to search into the matter of a Baptist orphanage.
In early 1919, a small group of people gathered together to pray at First Baptist Church, Portales, about a Spanish Flu epidemic that was orphaning many children. Not to be just hearers of the Word but to be doers also (James 1:22), men and women answered New Mexico Baptists’ call, launching a work that continues 100 years later - the NMBCH. Together, Baptists created a place of hope for hurting and needy children. No one could have imagined what the home would become since the night that first small gathering of people began to pray and ask God what they should do.
After the first four children arrived in May 1919, 26 more children arrived later that first year. The home’s first matron was "Mother Joiner." Joiner was the first in a succession of faithful matrons and superintendents. The initial two-floor, 10-room home soon became too small. After moving to another location, which the home also quickly outgrew, the ministry purchased land south of Portales where the home grew into the current campus.
The most recent addition to the NMBCH property is a chapel, designed as a replica of the original First Baptist Church, Portales, building. As the 100thanniversary approached, plans for the chapel took shape and the home purchased materials. Once construction started, a building team from First Baptist Church, Grandview, Texas, completed the chapel’s structure and exterior in four days. The same group helped with the remodeling of the home’s new Estancia campus two years ago. Also, Don Davis, a New Mexico Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer, and Dale Yerion, an electrician from High Rolls, donated their time to wire the building electrically. All of the construction labor was donated.
The chapel building’s completion is planned in time for the anniversary celebration. In the future, the building will be used as a multipurpose building to host special occasions, meetings and any other suitable event or activity. The new chapel encloses 1,000 square feet, which is half the size of First Baptist’s original 1909 church building. The chapel’s construction funds had previously been saved and designated for that purpose.
Randy Rankin, current president of the NMBCH, explained how the chapel’s steeple was explicitly designed to look as much like the original steeple as possible. As it took shape, he said, it looked more and more like the church’s steeple, especially once painted. Rankin is delighted with the new building and the history it represents. Historical photos of the original NMBCH children, buildings and workers will be displayed during the celebration.
Rankin told the Baptist New Mexican that recently a Texas family – on their way to Colorado – visited the children's home. They described hearing much about it from a great grandmother who had worked there, Mary Joiner. The family was thrilled to see pictures of her and the orphans she loved. They have made plans to attend the anniversary celebration.
No one could have imagined what the home would become since the night that first small gathering of people began to pray and ask God what they should do. Who could have imagined what would have happened had they not?
Randy Rankin said, “We pray you will celebrate our 100thanniversary with us and continue to pray and support the work that began 100 years ago.” Anyone desiring to attend the 100thanniversary celebration should contact the NMBCH at (575) 356-4331.