PORTALES (BNM) - During August, some Albuquerque senior adults surprised the New Mexico Baptist Children's Home and Family Ministries with an unexpected back-to-school gift. Cows, chickens, goats, pigs, farm sights and farm sounds - along with "farm-y fragrances" - greeted the group of Prime Timers from Sandia Baptist Church, Albuquerque, at the home's Portales campus.
The farm-like setting is more than merely an atmosphere. Each child at the home selects an animal (or several) to raise, train and show at various 4-H events. They bring home prizes and money from selling the animals. The money aids the child's future. Prime Timer, Cletus Kauk, said, "It is amazing how these kids are learning to be responsible as they care for their animals. It is encouraging to see what a great job they do as they learn good work habits."
Serenity Richard, the home's area administrator, guided the seniors' on a comprehensive tour of the grounds. They learned about NMBCH's priorities: providing a typical family setting and paying attention to individual needs. Each cottage is a "normal" home for eleven or more children. It has living and dining areas, a kitchen with two refrigerators and two washer and dryer sets. Each child has a bedroom decorated as they wish and shares a bathroom with 2-3 others. Houseparents prepare and serve meals in the cottage where they eat as a family group.
NMBCH owns over 350 acres of land. It provides plenty of room for activities. Among a gym, a meeting hall with a commercial kitchen and offices, children and houseparents live in four separate brick homes. A working farm and garden provide meat (beef, chicken and pork) and fresh vegetables. Also, to accommodate volunteers and other NMBCH friends, a small RV park borders the back of the loop road. Recently, the home added a pottery shed with donor-provided equipment.
Over the years, NMBCH has formed relationships with individuals and community organizations. Portales area volunteers teach children how to care for and train their animals. Others arranged a visit to the Cannon Air Force Base control tower, which is off-limits to many base personnel. A local organization, United Dairy Women, reimburses the home for all dairy products purchased. Richard also showed the Sandia visitors a large storage room filled with non-perishable food donated by Baptist Convention of New Mexico churches.
Concluding the visit, Randy Rankin, NMBCH president, and his wife, Cathy, prepared a home-grown buffet for the Prime Timers, all the children and the house parents. According to the seniors, "The meal provided an outstanding conclusion to our visit."
As everyone sat around tables for the meal, Rankin shared some of the children's achievements and dreams for the future. Then, he announced that the senior adults had brought a $200 gift card to purchase school clothes for the children. The children signaled their appreciation with wide grins and happy smiles.
Prime Timers Ida and Randy Myers commented, "What impressed us most at NMBCH was God's love shown by the caregivers. The children are treated like family and are getting a great education." Ann Boyd, who had previously worked in another children's home, exclaimed, "They are doing a fantastic job here!"
Overall, the visitors said they said the children's home's atmosphere was positive and loving. They expressed gratefulness for God's provision and blessings over the home's 100 years of ministry. Staff members asked the visiting seniors to pray, asking God for more houseparents so more children can experience God's love.
Both the Prime Timers and Andy Donalson, Sandia's minister to adults, agreed that NMBCH was "a special place where children can grow up in a loving and home-like environment." They said it was "blessed by God."