Pastor Randy Stewart reached out and took the young boy’s hand as he stepped into the baptismal waters. They had enough time to exchange a quick smile just before Stewart looked out into the congregation.
“I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!” Stewart proclaimed, his right hand raised towards heaven.
The boy took a deep breath as the pastor leaned him back. Emerging from the waters with a smile, the new Christian wiped his eyes. He stepped out of the pool and greeted his two brothers, all three wet from their turn in the baptismal waters.
“I’ve seen the power of God over and over again,” Stewart said. He has served as pastor of Mills Home Baptist Church in Thomasville for 26 years. “And to see these young people step forward and say, ‘I want Jesus to be my Lord and Savior,’ and to baptize them? Wow!”
The church is at the center of the Mills Home campus in Thomasville – Baptist Children’s Homes’ (BCH) oldest location. Stewart has preached, counseled and been a trusted friend to the many boys and girls who have stepped through the church doors.
“These pews – where so many children have sat over the years – they have stories to tell,” said the pastor. “They are stories of children who have come to us out of chaos.”
The three brothers, ages 10, 8 and 7, understand chaos all too well. Their parents were consumed by drug addiction. Most days, the boys had no choice but to fend for themselves.
“Teachers, neighbors and people in the community saw the signs,” Stewart says. “The boys would come to school dirty and hungry.”
The brothers were not given meals regularly in their home. Many days, the school cafeteria was the only place where they could count on being fed. The oldest brother tried to provide for his younger siblings, but he could only do so much.
One night, the family’s already fragile state shattered when the boys’ father died from an overdose. From that point, circumstances only became worse.
“Some days, they were locked out of the house all day long while strangers drifted in and out,” Stewart confides.
The situation took an unexpected turn when police were called to the neighborhood. The boys had broken into a neighbor’s home.
“They weren’t trying to do anything wrong. They were looking for food,” Stewart explains. “They were hungry and desperate.”
Their act of desperation became a crucial turning point in their lives. The Department of Social Services removed the brothers from their mother’s care, and they came to live at Baptist Children’s Homes.
Their family in tatters, all the boys had left were each other. At BCH, the ministry is designed to keep siblings together.
“Our cottages are like large family homes,” Stewart says. “They are large enough for three brothers to have a safe place where they can be together – surrounded by people who love and care about them.”
Those people include the boys’ cottage parents who not only ensure that their every-day needs are met, but show them God’s unconditional love.
“Jesus says, ‘Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,’” Randy recites. “This verse speaks to the heart of what we give to the girls and boys who come to us at Baptist Children’s Homes.”
Ultimately, through the care and compassion the brothers received, they gave their hearts to Jesus.
“This is a generation of young people who are coming through our doors,” Stewart asserts. “We have an opportunity to share the gospel with them and see their lives change.”
Through the support of Baptist Children’s Homes’ Annual Offering, North Carolina Baptists are a part changing these brothers’ lives. To watch their video and download offering resources for your church, visit bchoffering.org.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – The brothers’ names are not used to maintain their privacy.)