BR photo by Shawn Hendricks
Each child, youth and adult from the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina received a Christmas present Dec. 18 during a special party hosted by Galatia Baptist Church in Seaboard. They also packed up more gifts to take back to their sites for others. View the photo gallery.
For David Burke, the message was loud and clear one October Sunday while sitting in the pews at Galatia Baptist Church in Seaboard. During a presentation by the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH), Burke would later say, he heard God telling him he needed to “make something happen.”
That Sunday Jeff Joyner, BCH director of development in eastern North Carolina, shared about the ministry’s annual offering and how the church can touch the lives of children dealing with personal struggles, and developmentally disabled individuals. The whole time, Burke was feeling convicted to help in a “big” way.
“I told Jeff I apologize for not listening to you, but the good Lord was talking to me, and he wouldn’t hush long enough for me to hear what [Joyner] was saying,” said Burke, a member of Galatia Baptist for 25 years.
That afternoon Burke met with Joyner and his pastor David Foster and invited the Baptist Children’s Homes – a ministry that has homes in 18 N.C. cities – for a Christmas celebration on Dec. 18.
Following that Sunday, Burke helped lead a toy drive, organize a meal and service that would minister to those involved with the Children’s Homes – and others who attended. He spread the word through radio ads and help from the congregation and community.
“I hope we can make a difference in just one of their lives,” Burke said. “These kids have lived through some tough stuff.”
“God was saying we need to do more for these kids than take up an offering,” added Foster. “David loves to cook. He said we want to have a Christmas party for the [the Baptist Children’s Homes] kids, and it just started from there. It grew – gift ideas, Christmas dinner turkey, ham, potatoes … all kinds of desserts. [The community] really got behind it.”
Church members selected names off of a Christmas tree, held wrapping parties, and a variety of local businesses chipped in on gifts and funding for the event. One local hotel donated rooms for two groups from Zionsville that traveled from across the state.
“I think we had half a tractor-trailer of toys,” Burke said. “People donated money. That’s what it is all about.”
More than a dozen of the homes sent groups to the event.
“I didn’t know what type of response we’d get from the homes,” Foster said. “The response was overwhelming.”
On the day of the celebration, the church had special parking marked off in a field across the street to accommodate the many visitors.
Children involved with the ministry shared their stories and songs during the service. All of them then gathered in the fellowship hall for a Christmas meal before receiving gifts.
Before the end of the day everyone involved in the ministry walked away with a gift – some carried out boxes of presents for those who were unable to attend – and a Bible. The church looked like an explosion of wrapping paper and boxes.
The congregation also presented a gift offering of $1,400 to the ministry to help cover travel expenses.
“I never dreamed it would be what it is today,” Joyner said. “I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything quite like this at Baptist Children’s Homes … a church respond in this way for Christmas.”
“I think it speaks largely to the churches here in the northeast because this is such a depressed area of the state,” he said. “The average household income is below poverty level up here in most cases.”
Joyner mentioned the churches in the area had also helped with a $675,000 capital campaign for Britton Ministries home in Ahoskie. The home opened in May. “Had it not been for the churches up here we probably would never have built that home,” he said.
One counselor added her appreciation to the church and how they’ve ministered to Baptist Children’s Homes.
“It’s really overwhelming,” said Andrea Johnson, a house parent with her husband, Frederick, for the Kennedy Home in Kinston.
“We have a lot of girls that are new … who will not be going home for the holidays,” she said. “This is Christmas for them, real Christmas to receive gifts and see Christ’s likeness from people they don’t even know.”
“The actions today showed love in an unbelievable way,” Johnson added. “They took their time and their money, their love and … this is what the love of Christ is about.”
A changed life
“When I was little I lived with my grandma and my mom, and then my mom got taken away from me because she was doing drugs,” said a 15-year old girl staying at the Kennedy home. She paused for a moment with Johnson by her side during the service, rubbing her back and encouraging her.
“I always looked around and wondered where my mom was,” she said.
“Then my grandmother got sick, and we got taken away from her, too.”
The girl eventually would be placed in the Kennedy home.
“I’m so happy to be there right now,” she said. “Kennedy Home has really been there for me. I’ve changed a lot. Last month I accepted Christ into my life.”
Brenda Gray, BCH executive vice president of development and communications, thanked the church for how they reached out to children like those who shared their stories.
“Galatia, today you have wrapped your arms around my children,” she said. “You have placed your hands on them and you have blessed them.”
“The Baptists across North Carolina are our lifeline,” she later said. “It is such a witness to our children to come to a church like this. It creates miracles in the lives of our children.”
For more information visit bchfamily.org.