The Sep. 28, 2019 issue of the Baptist New Mexican offers much more than a guide to the state convention's Annual Meeting. Without any planning, the Baptist New Mexican staff finished four related stories at the same time. Each one told something about the New Mexico Baptist Children's Home and Family Ministries. The stories rekindled memories of my journey with the children's home. It started as a pastor.
Each year, I met children's home staff at our annual association meeting. Our church members and I delivered to them the food items we had collected during the home's yearly food drive. We also gave them quilts that our ladies' quilting ministry had crafted for the children. The staff was always so kind and grateful.
One Sunday School class collected money for an NMBCH child. Also, the church budgeted for two other children as well, as part of its regular missions giving. A bulletin board outside the church's worship center featured photos of all three children. We gave until they graduated and moved on. Then, we took on another child.
The congregation even reserved space on a new property it had purchased, hoping that one day the church could host a northwest campus for the home. The need was great.
Later, I visited the home's main Portales campus for the first time to attend a LifeWay Transformational Church seminar held in the children's home gym. I stayed in the guest house with some other pastors. By that time, I had met the current NMBCH president, Randy Rankin. I saw the facilities and heard more details of how New Mexico Baptists help displaced children.
Then, a family in our church experienced a troubling crisis that prevented a teenaged family member from staying in the family home. For a while, she stayed with relatives. However, that was not a permanent solution. As a church, we tried to help the family reintegrate. When the separation continued and options dwindled, I contacted the children's home. They had space.
When I met with the family and suggested the option, they promptly advised me that they couldn't afford to send her to a home. At that moment, I experienced one of a pastor's unique joys. I told them how they only needed to continue providing health insurance. New Mexico Baptists had already prepared together to help their family. If they applied, and the home accepted their daughter, there would be no cost. They would become recipients of ministry. They wept and applied.
Their daughter did move to the children's home. As a pastor, I traveled to meet with her there. Her family also went regularly to Portales to continue pursuing reconciliation. The home rescued a displaced teenager and a broken family from an impossible situation.
When the convention elected me to serve on its Executive Board (now called the State Mission Board), I learned even more. I was serving when the children's home received the Estancia campus from Central Baptist Association. I listened as the NMBCH won a legislative victory that allowed them to accept children from the state of New Mexico's Children, Youth and Families Department. Then, the home expanded its ministries and changed its name, adding "and Family Ministries." Its impact was growing.
Because two of my children have attended Eastern New Mexico University, Portales, I have visited the home often in recent years. I also frequently preach at churches in the area and stay at the home's guesthouse when it is available. My wife and I always try to repair something or add something to the house as a courtesy.
I have listened to so many stories, met children from the home, watched them attend and graduate from college and get married. They have lives. Some of them became my friends. They are real.
I have seen the storeroom where food donated by New Mexico Baptists waits on shelves like a grocery store, ready for houseparents to come "shopping." I have walked through the barns and seen children's goats, chickens, pigs, and other animals. Frankly, I love the campus and the ministry. I love talking about it, being there and smelling the animals. I love the houseparents and children. I am more than a fan.
The second day of annual meeting sessions meets at the children's home to celebrate the home's 100th anniversary. The day celebrates more than a number of years. It celebrates ministry and impact: life-by-life. It celebrates what New Mexico Baptists can do together. Read on and rejoice!