While pregnant with her eighth child Sherri* had surgery for breast cancer, and just two weeks after giving birth, quit work to begin chemo treatments.
With her husband deported to Mexico, and Sherri now unable to work for the first time in a long time, she was evicted from her apartment and her family was living at a homeless shelter.
“I was down to my last week,” she said. “I looked all over the state for a place to come, and no one would house us.”
Through word of mouth Sherri heard about the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH) Oak Ranch campus near Broadway. The Family Care program at Oak Ranch is specifically designed for single mothers and their children, with a goal of helping mothers transition to independent living. BCH operates the Family Care program at six of its statewide locations.
Children are not the only recipient of help through Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina. The ministry also helps single mothers as well as special needs adults.
Sherri and her children came to Oak Ranch about a year ago with only what would fit in her truck – mainly a few clothes and a memory box with photos of the children.
“I really resisted applying to Oak Ranch. I have always been independent,” Sherri said. “But it has been an amazing blessing. This is a time I can really grow.”
Since coming to live at Oak Ranch, Sherri has had time to catch her breath and focus on her children, finish chemo and even go back to school. Her goal is to complete nursing school.
Since 1885, BCH has strived to help families such as Sherri’s and remain true to its vision of “sharing hope…changing lives.” In addition to family care, BCH provides residential homes for children, a home for teenage mothers and their babies, group homes for developmentally disabled adults, and wilderness camps for at-risk youth. BCH operates 23 facilities in 19 communities across the state.
In addition to special parenting classes for adults and activities such as karate camp and horseback riding for children, Oak Ranch and all BCH facilities focus on teaching residents God’s Word. Weekly Bible studies have become a critical part of Sherri’s new life at BCH.
“Watching my children come to know the Lord has been a blessing,” she said. “We have people here who really care and live godly lives.”
Two of her children recently prayed to receive Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. Sherri and her family continue to grow in their relationship with God through the teaching and encouragement of houseparents Steve and Sherri Trussell.
The Trussells have served at Oak Ranch since September 2012 and quickly formed a bond with Sherri and her children.
“My mom had seven kids, and my dad left when I was eight,” said Sherri Trussell. “I know how hard that is. When I see Sherri, I see my mom. It’s not an easy job.”
The Trussells came to BCH when Steve was unable to continue pastoring due to health problems. Exposure to asbestos earlier in life caught up with him and caused memory problems, bleeding in his lungs and heart issues, which almost killed him. When the Trussells realized they could no longer continue full time at a church, God provided the opportunity with BCH.
God also brought the Trussells, and then Sherri and her family, to Fusion Church in Spring Lake.
“It was just God,” Sherri Trussell said. “We visited churches for nine months before going to Fusion. We knew it was where God wanted us to be. We wanted a place where our families would feel comfortable. It’s diverse, and everyone is welcome.”
Fusion church planter and pastor Barry Lawrence was introduced to Oak Ranch before he and his family moved to New York for about a year to serve with the North American Mission Board. At that time Oak Ranch was still a facility for children and had not yet transitioned into the family care program.
“Since meeting Steve and Sherri we have come out to Oak Ranch several times,” Lawrence said. “We’ve gotten to know Sherri and the kids, and we want to continue reaching out and serving BCH.”
Sherri is grateful for the ministry of Fusion Church, BCH and the Trussells. What began in her mind as just a temporary move, a quick fix, has turned into a life-changing opportunity and friendships grounded in God’s love and truth.
“Use every moment you have to do better and move forward,” she said. “You have to open your heart and let people help you.”
*Last name withheld