The arrival of nine-year-old
Mary Presson at the Thomasville Baptist Orphanage on November 11, 1885, marked
the official beginning of what is known today as the Baptist Children’s Homes
of North Carolina (BCH).
Exactly 125 years later,
current and former BCH residents, staff members, North Carolina Baptists and
friends gathered in Thomasville to celebrate the ministry’s “Quasquicentennial”
“I don’t use the word
‘awesome’ very often, but this is an awesome day,” said Michael C. Blackwell,
BCH’s longest-tenured president at almost 28 years. “It’s a glorious
celebration and a fitting conclusion to 125 years of helping children and families
in North Carolina.”
Multiple events marked the
day at Mills Home, named for BCH founder John Haymes Mills. The first was a
luncheon program that included the opening of a time capsule buried during
BCH’s Centennial celebration in 1985. Among the items included in the capsule
were a letter from then United States president Ronald Reagan, a copy of the
BCH Centennial history book, a wooden craft made by a child in care, and a
letter written to BCH staff, residents and friends by Blackwell, who also presided
over the agency’s Centennial celebration.
Afterwards, the sanctuary at
Mills Home Baptist Church overflowed with nearly 700 guests for an anniversary
worship service led by BCH alumnus Milton Bliss and Quasquicentennial director
Baptist State Convention of
North Carolina’s (BSC) Executive Director-Treasurer Milton A. Hollifield Jr.
addressed the congregation during the service affirming North Carolina
Baptists’ dedication to the BCH ministry as well as Blackwell’s leadership.
“The ministry of the Baptist
Children’s Homes of North Carolina is the heart of God in action,” Hollifield
proclaimed. “We affirm that after 125 years, the Baptist State Convention of
North Carolina continues to be committed to this partnership.”
In his remarks, Hollifield
included a special message for the children in BCH’s care. “North Carolina
Baptists want you to know that God loves you. We want you to grow into that
wonderful and joyous person that you were meant to be.”
Blackwell preached from 1
“These three remain: faith
and hope, but the greatest of these is love,” he said.
“In all the things I have
learned in my 28 years here, the greatest of all of them is the gift of love. I
can, if my eyes are open, see this kind of unconditional love exhibited every
day at Baptist Children’s Homes.
“I have felt it today. I
felt it on Monday (Nov. 8) at the Koury Convention Center during BCH’s presentation.
“And what this year has done
for me more than anything else is that it has increased my capacity to love.
That, for me, is a great gift.”
The final event was the
dedication of the Heritage Walk and Garden, a monument in front of the campus
church built by bricks inscribed with inspirational messages from BCH staff,
alumni and friends. The centerpiece is a bronze statue of a girl affectionately
referred to as the “Child of Hope,” her arms raised skyward in victory.
“Reaching this historic
milestone is a victory for North Carolina Baptists, our many friends who have
helped sustain this ministry and the children and families we humbly serve,”
Blackwell said. “But the ultimate victory belongs to God who has always been at
the heart and center of every life that has been changed and restored
throughout these 125 years.”