Thank God for miracles
March 14 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Thank God for miracles | Friday, March 15, 2002

Friday, March 15, 2002

Thank God for miracles

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

On those days when the news is negative and Baptist life is troublesome, I find it helpful to reflect on the positive aspects of our Baptist heritage and the ministries we do together, especially in North Carolina.

I thank God for our Baptist associations and for the Baptist State Convention, and how they have held Tar Heel Baptists together to facilitate cooperative missions for more than 170 years.

I think of our fine Baptist colleges and universities, and thank God for the vision of those who believed in the importance of an education that connects spiritual and secular learning. Our world is better because of the leaders they have trained.

I offer thanks for the ministry of healing, and the many ways N.C. Baptist Hospital has blessed our state through training good doctors, providing specialized care, ministering to the needy and caring for spirits and minds as well as bodies.

I am grateful for those who birthed and built and continue to lead in our ministry to the elderly through the Baptist Retirement Homes. Perhaps no area of need will be greater in coming years, as our population ages.

And I smile with a thankful heart when I ponder the miraculous difference that N.C. Baptists have made in the lives of children through the work of the Baptist Children's Homes of North Carolina (BCH).

That's been easy to do in recent days, as I've walked through history in the form of Michael C. Blackwell's new book, A Place for Miracles. Blackwell, who has been president of BCH since 1983, is as conversant in history as in current management techniques and the art of fund raising, all necessary attributes of a good institutional leader.

After a brief overview of BCH's current values and vision, Blackwell's book begins at the beginning, with an account of the crying need for a ministry to orphaned and neglected children in the late 19th century, and how John Haymes Mills set out to do something about it.

Mills was editing the Biblical Recorder in the 1870's when he became so convinced of the need for an orphanage that he said the idea "scratched at his skull until it bore a hole in it."

By 1885, with experience gained at the Masonic Lodge's new Oxford Orphanage, and with the assistance and generosity of other Baptists who had a heart for children, Mills had purchased land near Thomasville, erected a cottage, and welcomed its first resident, Mary Presson.

By 1894, the home was caring for 133 resident children. They lived in family style cottages, with each cottage group presided over by two matrons who were responsible for everything from feeding to teaching the children.

Those who think today's increasingly stringent requirements for child-care workers are tough should take note of the following advertisement for a matron that Mills placed in the Biblical Recorder: "She should be pious and industrious and free from all the vices against which we warn children. She should understand keeping a house in order, cutting and making clothes and the proper preparation of different kinds of food; she should know how to milk, make cheese and prepare butter for the table; she should know how to raise chickens, how and when to plant vegetables, and how to sow seeds, how to make soap to make it good and to use it when made. Girls in their teens, women who use intoxicating liquors, opium or tobacco are requested not to apply."

The book describes how the growing ministry faced and overcame severe obstacles, including devastating storms in 1899 and 1905. Floodwaters overwhelmed the sanitary system and led to outbreaks of typhoid, but new facilities were built and the home emerged stronger.

Blackwell relates intriguing portraits of what life was like at BCH during different periods of its history, including the Great Depression, telling the BCH story through individual stories of children who grew up there.

Later chapters describe the expansion of a single orphanage into a multi-campus children's home service that spans the state and meets a multitude of needs including residential and emergency care, wilderness camping and "values change" facilities for troubled youths, maternity care and teen mother/baby homes for unwed mothers, a model day care center, a new developmental disabilities ministry, and intensive counseling services to help families stay together.

That kind of growth has required ever-increasing funds, and N.C. Baptists have responded. In 2000, the annual Thanksgiving offering topped $1 million for the first time, and in 2001, despite the economic downturn, supporters surpassed a $1.1 million goal.

Challenges and concerns yet abound for N.C. Baptists, but with institutions like these and the miraculous stories they tell, we also have much to celebrate.

Thank God for miracles.

(EDITOR'S NOTE - A Place for Miracles is available from BCHNC, P.O. Box 338, Thomasville, N.C. 27360 or by calling [800] 476-3669, ext. 1221 [N.C. only] or [336] 474-1221. Normal price is $14.95 for softcover, $19.95 for hardback As a special offer from BCH, individuals who identify themselves as readers of the Biblical Recorder can obtain the book for just $7 to cover shipping and handling.)

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3/14/2002 11:00:00 PM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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