“When we first came, the Holy Spirit just kept saying over and over again, ‘This is your home.’ It still feels like home to this day. This is where God wants us to be,” Lieschen Saale said while rocking back and forth in her living room.
Photo by Hannah Hanzel
Houseparent Lieschen Saale voices a calling with her husband David to nurture each child they serve through Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children, not knowing when the Spirit may “bloom” in one of their lives.
Lieschen and her husband David left their ministry and home in New Mexico nearly 14 years ago to begin a new season of life with Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children (OBHC) in Oklahoma City.
Seasons seem to be a recurring theme with the Saales. Long before their calling to be houseparents at OBHC, their first season as a young couple with children formed their entire ministry.
Lieschen and David, as parents of two children, Cathleen and Clinton, were involved in church ministries ranging from Acteens to Royal Ambassadors. They served in children’s and youth ministry and even volunteered as Wednesday night cooks at their church for a time. As young adults, they felt the call to vocational ministry but didn’t know where specifically the Lord wanted them to serve.
One year, their daughter fell ill. To obtain the best treatment, Lieschen had to be separated from her husband for a considerable period of time.
It was during this season of separation and isolation that the Lord began to do a work in David’s heart. Soon he was speaking openly to Lieschen about finding a ministry they could serve in together full time.
Once their daughter’s health began to improve, the Saales began praying and searching and were soon hired to work at the Eagles Wings Youth Ranch in New Mexico where they served for three years.
The ranch’s primary ministry was caring for at-risk children. The children would stay for one week and receive counseling, individual growth exercises and spiritual guidance. Many of these exercises came in the form of regular ranch work such as working in the on-site garden and caring for the livestock.
Recalling her time at Eagles Wings, Lieschen said, “We would see kids step on campus looking so totally defeated. Within just one week, the change in those kids was unbelievable. I still get goosebumps when I think about it. Only God could use just one week to change an entire lifetime.”
Photo by Hannah Hanzel
Lieschen Saale, second from right, a houseparent with Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children, uses a bunny care ministry to teach residents responsibility and how to serve others.
As the Saales began to see God’s work in a one-week experience, they began asking Him what the next season of ministry for their family.
Houseparenting, to most, can be a scary thought. But the Saales knew that was the next step for them. After much research, they found an open position through an online resource, and in a matter of weeks they were on their way to Oklahoma City for an interview with the Baptist children’s home there.
From the moment they stepped on campus to the moment the interview concluded, the Spirit of God repeated the same message to Lieschen again and again, “This is your home.”
After accepting the position and moving in, the Saales got to work. Compared to connecting one week with kids, they now had anywhere from months to years to invest in them.
Asked what the hardest part about her ministry is, Lieschen smiled through tears, “Letting go.” While healthy reunification with the children’s family is the goal of Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children, it is the hardest part for houseparents.
As the boys and girls grow and learn in their homes on the OBHC campus, they develop family ties with those around them. Through these relationships they experience true family and true love, more specifically – Christ’s love.
Along with having to let go, houseparents often have to face the hard truth of not getting to see OBHC residents to spiritual fruition.
A joyful smile returned to Lieschen’s face when describing her favorite part of being a houseparent. “To be honest, some of the children come from abuse and abandonment, so they don’t have hardly any good childhood memories. So it is our desire to create some for them to recall later in life,” whether they’re hiking the Wichita Mountains, having a picnic or jumping into the springs in Sulphur.
Through such activities as a rabbit ministry focused on serving, tea parties focused on purity in young women or working on an annual summer mission trip, the Baptist children’s home keeps children learning and serving year-round.
“Our work involves planting a lot of spiritual seeds. Sometimes our work just barely scratches the top of the soil,” Lieschen said. “Sometimes we actually get to plant the seed. But in this ministry, seldom do we see the flowers. This is our calling, whether we see the Spirit bloom in a child or not. Our calling is to do what we can with each child who comes to us.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Hannah Hanzel writes for the Baptist Messenger, baptistmessenger.com, news journal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.)