Archives For BCHFS

Throwing out a lifeline

ib2newseditor —  January 26, 2017

Resource centers and clinics aid those facing difficult choices

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Snapshots from Tennessee and Illinois    
When a woman walks into the medical clinic operated by Agape House in northwest Tennessee, she won’t find evangelism tracts or Bibles in the waiting room. While she waits nervously to have an ultrasound to confirm her pregnancy, she won’t be judged regardless of her circumstances. And if she tells the clinic staff that she’s considering having an abortion, she will be given all the information she needs about her child, but won’t be pressured into a decision.

“If someone tries to talk a woman out of a decision to abort” before her heart is ready to accept it, “then someone else can easily talk her back into it after she leaves,” said Linda DeBoard, CEO of Agape House and a member of First Baptist Church in Martin, Tenn.

“When ladies come to our clinic, our mission is to empower them with the truth about life so that they can make the best choice for themselves. We know that’s a choice for life, but she has to come to that realization after she has been given all the truth.”

Agape House is one of thousands of pro-life organizations throughout the country on the front lines of elevating the sanctity of human life. Pregnancy resource centers and medical clinics such as the one operated by Agape House offer various services to support women and men faced with pregnancy decisions.

Some centers minister to those who need assistance throughout a pregnancy in the form of training classes, counseling, or material goods such as diapers. Others, like Agape House’s clinic, focus on reaching women who are at risk for abortion, offering medical services and informing them of their pregnancy options. Illinois Right to Life reports there are around 100 pregnancy resource centers in Illinois.

Angels’ Cove Maternity Center, an arm of Illinois Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services, offers expectant and new mothers a place to live, as well as life and parenting skills, individual and group therapy, and adoption services for those who choose that option.

Doug Devore, who retired this month after almost 44 years at BCHFS, said it’s a joy to see a mother hold her child after making the decision to choose life. “Whether she is 12 or 40, she may not be prepared for that child,” he said. “We have the responsibility to help get her prepared and to help her be the very best mother that she can be. That could be teaching her parenting skills, it might mean helping her get a job, helping her find housing. Whatever it’s gonna take for her to provide the best environment for that child.”

Care at every stage
Our culture has lied to women about abortion, telling them that it is a “quick fix” and that their lives will return to normal afterward, DeBoard said. Agape House is committed to providing truthful information about all pregnancy options—including parenting, adoption, and what abortion is and how the procedures work—and offering a safe space where women can process the information, she said.

DeBoard said that by offering their services this way, they have the opportunity to reach women who would never go to a church for help.

“A woman in our area who is wanting to have an abortion, and has already made the decision to have an abortion, is not going to church to tell you that she wants an abortion. She’s not,” DeBoard said. “She’s running from the church.”

A 2015 study from LifeWay Research supports that assertion. In a survey of women who have had abortions, 59% of respondents said they received or expected to receive a judgmental or condemning attitude from a local church as they considered their decision to abort, while 29% said they received or expected to receive a loving or caring response. And 54% of women would not recommend to someone close to them that they discuss their decision regarding an unplanned pregnancy with someone at a local church, while only 25% would recommend it.

Agape staff and volunteers may ask clients whether they have a faith that might influence their pregnancy decision. This often leads to opportunities to share the gospel or to encourage women in their relationship with Jesus. They also offer a Bible study program for women who have previously had abortions.

DeBoard reminds pastors that their pews may be filled with women who have abortions in their past. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization with ties to Planned Parenthood, approximately 30% of women will have had an abortion by age 45. “What abortion is and does needs to be told and spoken and preached,” DeBoard said, but with sensitivity to the women who are hurting from their own abortion experiences.

“There’s no sin too great that God won’t forgive us and set us free and use our mistakes for his glory.”

Excerpted in part from an article in SBC LIFE, newsjournal of the Southern Baptist Convention. Used by permission.

For more information about services offered through Illinois Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services, go to BCHFS.com.

61226bigtaskDoug Devore didn’t grow up in a Christian home.

“I never knew my father, and I had three stepfathers,” Devore told the Illinois Baptist. Maybe that’s why family is so important to the long-time executive director of Illinois Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services. Devore will retire January 15 after nearly 44 years at the agency, including 21 years as executive director.

BCHFS has four residential cottages for children and teens in Carmi, and also operates Angels’ Cove Maternity Center in Mt. Vernon for expectant and new moms and their children. The agency has 11 counseling centers around central and southern Illinois, assists with adoptions, and partners with an orphanage in Uganda, among other initiatives.

The IB recently sat down with Devore to talk about his extensive ministry, the challenges of ministering to families in a shifting culture, and the success stories of children who have benefited from the care they received through BCHFS.

Illinois Baptist: Tell us how you got your start at BCHFS.

Doug Devore: I was working at Campbell Funeral Home here in Carmi. Gordon Lanthrup, who was the director of residential care at the Children’s Home, was there at the funeral home one day, and he just started to talk to me. He asked me if I would do some volunteer work at Baptist Children’s Home. I didn’t know it even existed.

I came out here and I met the kids and staff and I just fell in love with the place. God began to say, This is what I want for you. It makes me very emotional now to talk about something that happened 44 years ago, but it just began to click with me that there was a place for me to minister here and to be involved.

Illinois Baptist: When you retire January 15, your tenure at BCHFS will be just shy of 44 years. Wow.

Devore: I owe a lot to Gordon Lanthrup and (former BCHFS Executive Director) Leon Tally. To Gordon who saw something in me as a 21- or 22-year-old that I didn’t know was there. Why he ever asked me to do that is a mystery.

IB: It was a God thing.

Devore: I can’t explain it any other way. I always question, Why me?

IB: When you consider all that you have done and seen in your four decades at BCFHS, what touches your heart or brings a tear to your eye?

Devore: Well, you can see that I cry a lot, and the older I get, the more I cry.
(Devore shared an e-mail he received the day before from a young man who lived at the Children’s Home in 1982. He wrote, “I just wanted to say thank you again for being part of my life and helping me grow physically and mentally and emotionally and most of all SPIRITUALLY.” )

He now sings in a gospel quartet and travels the country; married and a faithful Christian, and sends me a little note like that. You can’t beat that.

IB: You can’t.

Devore: There was another man who is now 57 or maybe older. He has been in and out of prison all his life. But he calls me at least every six months to check in. Sometimes he is calling from prison or he’s out on parole. He calls me just to check in and let me know that he loves me and how he is doing. I try to give him my best advice while we are on the phone, but we are his connection, his touchstone. We are his family and I have been here long enough that I’m the only one around that was here when he was.

IB: Even with so many wonderful stories from your years at BCHFS, there have been challenges. What are some of the biggest?

Devore: The kids I saw in the 70s were coming out of situations when mom and dad couldn’t take care of them, so they ended up with us. They couldn’t take care of them because one parent died, or maybe they were orphans. Not so much behavior issues.

The kids today are coming to us because they are out of control and mom and dad can’t take care of them. Schools have thrown up their hands. We see kids today that have a lot more trauma in their lives.

IB: What about shifts in our culture? How have those affected BCHFS?

Devore: Most of the children we serve are growing up in single-parent families because the concept of marriage and staying together has changed over the years. Or, they’re growing up in blended families. With that comes lots of stress. There’s nothing wrong with a blended family, but it brings additional stress to kids than if mom and dad had stayed married and had a happy relationship.

A lot of our kids have been exposed to violence, abused and traumatized, and have post-traumatic stress disorder issues. We see kids coming out of inner cities that have gang involvement. They have seen people killed in front of them. They have had family members killed. It’s a bad situation for them. They are exposed to things that even I wasn’t exposed to in my wild upbringing.

IB: The concept of “residential care” has changed too.

Devore: Very few kids come here and grow up. Our average length of stay is eight months, something like that. When I came, there were kids who had been here for years. This was home for them. It happens a few times today, but generally, if that happens, we move those kids into foster care. If they don’t have a home to go back to, we are looking for them a more permanent situation.

IB: The need for residential facilities has changed in recent years because of expansion of the foster care system.

Devore: Residential care for kids is not a preferred placement today. There is federal legislation preferring foster care over residential care because some think being in residential care is a bad thing. I don’t think so. I think this is a great place for every kid that’s here. When it becomes not the most appropriate, then we will either move them back home or into foster care or some less restrictive care.

That’s always one of our issues: How do we stay relevant to the needs of society? How do we stay relevant now with the changing values? I guess on top of that, how do we stay relevant and still operate within our own values, without sacrificing what we believe in?

IB: What do you think about the movement urging Christians to
become foster parents through the state system?

Devore: I think that is excellent. If kids are going to live in foster care, my goodness, let them live in a Christian foster home. I think that is a tremendous idea and I would love to see more Christian families get involved in that.

IB: You became executive director at BCHFS in 1995. Did you set any goals for yourself?

Devore: The first thing I did when I became the executive director is that we did strategic planning for the agency. In that first strategic plan, one of the biggest things was to get our own board of trustees. The other big part was to hire a development person.

We worked through those goals and in 1999 we did another strategic plan. Every three years since that time, we have done another strategic plan. We have looked ahead to the future: Where do we want to be? How do we want to get there? How do we better minister to children and families? All that has happened—whether it be the international ministry or the Pathways Counseling ministry or the expansion of Angels’ Cove—has come out of those strategic plans.

IB: Are there things you planned to do that haven’t happened?

Devore: Yes. We didn’t become an international placing agency for adoption. It was very frustrating for me for quite a long time until it finally just sunk in that this just wasn’t what God wanted us to do. I think it was what Doug Devore wanted to do.

We talked about trying to have an on-ground school for some of our kids that have a difficult time making it in the public school, but there has always been something that prevented that from happening.

IB: As a leader, what has been your most difficult task?

Devore: How we find the resources to do what we need to do. I don’t want to say it’s about the money, but that’s been a challenge. When I became the director, our budget was $1 million and we were serving 160 children and adults. Today, our budget is approximately $2 million and we are serving over 1,300. The ministry has grown and developed, and the challenge has been how to find the resources to serve more people and how to develop programs to serve more people.

IB: You and your staff experience a lot of things most people don’t. What do you think to yourself when you see a young mom holding a baby she chose not to abort?

Devore: What a joy to see that baby born. To know that baby could have been aborted and not be here. To see that young mother hold that child and be happy they have made this decision to choose life. What a great thing that is, and now it is our responsibility to enable that mother to be the best mother that she can. Whether she is 12 or 40, she may not be prepared for that child. We have the responsibility to help get her prepared and to help her be the very best mother that she can be.

IB: What about those who choose adoption?

Devore: It’s hard to see any mother give up her child for adoption. Often it is the very best decision they can make and I admire their courage to make that decision. But it breaks your heart to see the pain they go through. Then you see the family who is taking that child, and you see the delight in their eyes that their dream has now come true. What a blessing.

IB: Does a specific story come to mind, something you’ve seen God do recently through BCHFS?

Devore: We had a 15-year-old girl come to our maternity center who had been adopted from Guatemala. She was pregnant and had decided to keep her baby. Her parents placed her at Angels’ Cove and said she and the baby couldn’t come back to live with them.

We just began to pray for her and Carla (Donoho, Angels’ Cove director) shared in a WMU meeting over at Woodlawn about this girl and that we were praying for a family for her. Carla finishes speaking, and a woman comes up and says, “I think my husband and I can take her.”

Really?! God does so many amazing things. The woman, who’s one of our board members, goes home and tells her husband. He says, “I don’t know why we couldn’t.” They had already adopted two kids. So they took the mother and her baby, and since then, they have officially adopted the mom.

IB: That’s an amazing story.

Devore: It was just miraculous. How does God find a family? It’s amazing. There have been hundreds and hundreds of those types of stories where God has worked in the lives of people, kids, and families, and made a difference. It has been very rewarding.

IB: What does the future of Baptist ministry to kids and their families look like, especially in Chicago where the need is so great but Southern Baptist presence is relatively small?

Devore: Baptist Children’s Home needs a presence in northern Illinois. We’ve just not had the resources to be able to do it and to make it work. We tried in 1999 when we opened a Pathways Counseling office but had to close it because it wasn’t financially feasible. I think the future for us would be that we would get a Pathways Counseling office open again in northern Illinois and to be able to provide Christian counseling.

We serve a lot of kids from that area and a lot of young mothers, but still we are out of sight, out of mind. We need a greater presence, a greater awareness of the ministry of the Children’s Home in northern Illinois.

IB: What advice would you give to Denny Hydrick as he takes over the executive director role at BCHFS?

Devore: The ministry faces many challenges in the coming years: competition for philanthropic dollars, managed care uncertainties, staff shortages, changing values regarding marriage, family and group care, and more complex behavior and mental health issues.

Denny Hydrick comes with great experience from working in child care agencies in both Mississippi and Florida. He understands the issues we are facing and I’m confident that he will provide the needed leadership for the days ahead. My advice to him is to trust God, who has maintained this ministry for 98 years, and to trust the people who work here. They have proven their faithfulness to children and families over and over.

Mothers Day Offering 2014COMMENTARY | Nate Adams

I remember my dad writing once about an Easter Sunday that came long after we kids were grown and gone. None of us were going to be home for the holiday weekend that year, so my mom suggested that she and my dad volunteer to work in the nursery that Sunday.

In case my dad had doubts, my mom was ready with her reasons. “There are likely to be several young families visiting our church that day. Those who work in the nursery all the time deserve a break. We’re available, and able. Oh, and by the way, others took care of our kids on Easter for years. Even this Easter, others will be taking care of our grandchildren.”

And so those two grandparents who hadn’t needed a nursery nor worked in one for quite a while sat and rocked babies that Easter Sunday. As they did so, they prayed for the families of those babies, and for their own family. I remember my dad saying it was one of the most memorable Easter Sundays he ever experienced.

There is something especially sacred it seems, about giving to others out of gratitude for the way that you have received yourself. In fact, as Mother’s Day now approaches, I think of the countless ways I have benefited from a godly, sacrificing mother. And I think of how blessed our own children have been by my wife’s investment in their lives.

One way to “pay it forward” to others in gratitude for the mothers who have blessed our lives is to give generously to the Mother’s Day Offering for the Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services (BCHFS). Last year, BCHFS provided Christ-centered services to 1,417 individuals – 23% more than the previous year. Through residential care at the Baptist Children’s Home in Carmi, maternity services at Angels’ Cove, multiple Pathways Counseling offices, the Safe Families for Children program, and ministry to orphans in Uganda, BCHFS lives out this year’s Offering theme, “Families are Worth Fighting For!”

Sharing Christ is the central motivation for the services BCHFS provides. Of course they provide ministry and healing that help families through troubled times. But in doing so, the BCHFS staff also unashamedly shares the Gospel of Jesus with those they serve, and seeks to model His love daily to them. Last year alone, 16 children from the Residential Care program and from Safe Families made professions of faith in Christ.

The BCHFS does not receive state or federal contract for care funding, and does not receive funding through the Cooperative Program. Their ministry is completely reliant on the generosity of Illinois Baptist churches and individuals who invest in the lives of those they serve. That’s why the Mother’s Day Offering is so important.

From the BCHFS web site (www.bchfs.com) your church can download information and materials to help you promote this year’s Mother’s Day Offering. And if your church doesn’t receive an offering that particular Sunday, you can still use the web site to donate directly to BCHFS’s important ministries.

If you appreciate your own family, and especially your mom this Mother’s Day, I can’t think of a better way to demonstrate your gratitude to God and “pay it forward” than to support this important ministry to hundreds of hurting families. And remember, if your own family is facing challenges right now, the Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services is there for you too.

Our family will be supporting the ministries of BCHFS this year, and I pray yours will too. Whether it’s thanking our children’s workers with a turn in the nursery, or thanking our mothers by giving to help hurting families, it’s a good, good thing to “pay it forward.” As Jesus said in Matthew 10:8 “Freely you have received; freely give.”

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association.