The audience at the Nov. 5 general session of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) annual meeting grew silent as lights dimmed. A pulsating sound of a heartbeat broke the silence becoming louder and louder, reverberating across the darkened room.
BSC photo by K Brown
Paulina, right, a Mills Home alumnae from Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH), shares her story of overcoming great obstacles because of the help from people at BCH with Michael Blackwell, BCH’s president and CEO, and messengers to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s annual meeting Nov. 5. She is now a middle school social worker and behavioral specialist in the public school system.
“We are many ministries that beat with one heart,” Baptist Children’s Homes’ (BCH) president/CEO Michael C. Blackwell exclaimed to the crowd at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro.
“Tonight, you are going to hear the heartbeat of this ministry. You are going to see the heartbeat of this ministry. And you are going to experience the heartbeat of this ministry.”
Blackwell was joined on stage by approximately 150 children, special needs adults, aging adults, foster families and staff members for the presentation entitled One Heart.
“One thing these children all have in common is trauma,” Blackwell preached. “They have had heartache, they have had hurt, they have had hunger. But they have found a new hope in Jesus Christ and new hope because of the goodness that Baptist people in North Carolina do with their own heartbeat ministries.”
During the presentation, individuals of all ages took turns stepping up to the microphone. Each spoke of the hope they have discovered through BCH’s cottage homes, wilderness camps, foster care, ministry to aging adults and homes for special needs adults.
At one point, Blackwell asked Jeff, a special needs adult who lives at Mercer Home in Sanford, to share a “heartfelt word” to North Carolina Baptists.
“To all the people here, I love them from the bottom of my heart, and God bless you all,” Jeff responded without hesitation. “You all are my brothers and sisters in Christ across the great state of North Carolina.”
Eighteen-year-old Ciara, who lives at Mills Home in Thomasville, spoke of hurts she endured as a child and the success she now experiences including being academically at the top of her class.
“I am a Christian who sees and understands that all of this was God’s will,” she explained. “I am who I am today because of God and everyone He has placed in my life.”
BCH photo by Blake Ragsdale
Milton A. Hollifield Jr., left, presents a plaque to Michael Blackwell recognizing his service to Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina. Hollifield also gave Blackwell’s wife Catherina a bouquet for her birthday.
Mills Home alumna Paulina told how she overcame her family’s “shattered” circumstances through the care of her staff and cottage parents. She recalled tearfully one particular evening when Bobby Dalke, one of her cottage parents, comforted her during a low point in her teenage life. “He told me about this amazing Savior who died for me. That night I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. I remember that moment because I just felt so loved.”
Today, the 28-year-old is a licensed social worker and behavioral specialist in the public school system working with middle school children.
The presentation that began with silence, ended with a standing ovation and applause as Blackwell encouraged churches to collect generous annual “Thanksgiving” offerings.
“For more than 30 years, I have seen Baptist Children’s Homes programs and reports. The program Monday evening was phenomenal, one of the best ever,” Patricia Honeycutt shared. She is the wife of Eddie Honeycutt, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Stanleyville. “The Holy Spirit moved in a mighty way.”
Blackwell’s evening was not over after BCH’s program. Milton Holifield, BSC executive director-treasurer, recognized Blackwell and his wife Catherine for 35 years of service to BCH during the executive director-treasurer’s address to the convention at the close of the Nov. 5 session. Holifield also presented roses to Catherine Blackwell who celebrated her birthday that day. N.C. Baptist Singers and Orchestra were joined by the audience in singing “Happy Birthday” to her.
“This was a remarkable evening for the Baptist Children’s Homes family as well as myself and Kathy,” Blackwell said later. “We are honored, humbled and grateful for the faithful friendship of North Carolina Baptists.”