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Annual offering allows Baptists, donors to help children in crisis

Cheerfully jumping into the car, 6-year-old Ethan*, like most youngsters, is excited about missing a few hours of school even if it is for a doctor’s appointment. Fidgeting in the backseat, he bubbly asks his case manger, “Why do you do this for me?”

“I do things for you because I love you and God loves you,” replies Jennifer Long, as she attempts to hold back tears and offers a big smile and wink through the rearview mirror at the youngster.

“I knew that,” exclaimed Ethan! “I love you!”

At first glance, most could not imagine that the cheerful school boy once lived in a world of hurts, disappointments and anger. He was terrified of noises. Anxiety was a part of his life. True love was unknown to him.

But since arriving at the Baptist Home for Children earlier this year, Ethan is experiencing love and care from staff and houseparents who are providing him with a stable, home-like environment. Now the once shy, scared little boy is outgoing and excelling in school. He has learned to write his name and learned to count for the very first time in his life.

Providing a loving and safe home for hurting and needy children is the goal of the Arkansas  Baptist Children’s Homes and Family Ministries (ABCHomes), which raises much of its support through an annual Thanksgiving Offering, traditionally observed by Arkansas Baptist churches since 1908. The theme of the 2013 offering is “Somebody Loves Me.”

“As we minister to the many children entrusted into our care there occurs those special times when it seems ‘the light comes on’ in their mind and, more importantly, in their hearts,” said David Perry, ABCHomes executive director “These moments may happen when they realize that they’ll be safe, have enough to eat, or that discipline will be consistent. A really critical time in their healing from the hurts, disappointments and conflicts in their lives is when they realize ‘somebody loves me.’”

Thanksgiving Offering
Through gifts to the annual offering, ABCHomes continually shares love with countless children and teens at six state-wide locations.

Ashley is one of these children. The Westfork Emergency Home resident, who admits she is homesick at times, said that she did not desire to leave. “It is peaceful here, ... and people love me when they don’t have to.”

Another ABCHomes Emergency Home resident Tucker is also experiencing true love from his houseparents and staff. The once troubled and defiant 12-year-old now, “Throws his arms around me, gives me bear hugs and tells me he loves me,” shared his house mother, adding that she initially feared that the teen was unreachable.

Tucker, in making a profession of  faith in Christ, has discovered the everlasting and eternal love of God. “I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” he told his pastor following his decision to follow Christ.
In addition to the residents at the Monticello campus and emergency homes, ABCHomes staff has provided love and care this year to many boys, ages 6 through 17  at the Boys Ranch in Harrison.

Among these is Jared who arrived at the Ranch earlier this year from a life of disappointments and hurts.
Noting Jared’s initial, “I don’t care” attitude, his housemother has continually loved on him in playful yet demanding ways. Not long ago, she poured her heart out to Jared, telling him of her love and care for him.
In response, Jared, for the first time, admitted of his care for her too.

“I believe she (house mother) is loving him to the point of healing and ultimate restoration,” shared Jared’s case manager, Rachel Mendez.

In Little Rock, Avery, a Promise House Maternity Home resident is,  “Seeing God’s love in a new light,” shared Jennifer Cloyde, Promise House director.

After delivering her baby at 25 weeks, the teenage mom said, “God had a plan for me. If I had not been at Promise House, my baby would not have lived to make the air flight to get her to Little Rock.
“At first, I didn’t see the plan, but now I do.”

Countless other ABCHomes residents will be “loved on,” thanks to the many Arkansas Baptist churches that will give generously to the 2013 Thanksgiving Offering.

Offering promotional packets to help churches promote the offering will be mailed to pastors in late October. These resources include posters, bookmarks, a promotional video, offering envelopes and speaker request forms. Downloadable resources can be found at here: bookmark (front), bookmark (back), poster, speaker request forms, and clip art. The following is a link to three high definition versions of the promotional video http://www.hightail.com/download/OGhmYURLa0RsamQ3czlVag   

For more information, contact Stella Prather at sprather@abchomes.org., or call 501-376-4791, ext. 5168.

(*names changed for privacy)