Paulina climbs into the
driver’s seat of her just-purchased 1998 Jeep Cherokee. For many months, she
saved money to buy her very first vehicle.
The teenager smiles as she
grips the worn steering wheel. As she looks through the windshield, Paulina
sees her dreams come into focus. She imagines driving herself from her cottage
at Mills Home to the local restaurant where she works and then to the community
college she attends.
After taking numerous turns,
Paulina, 19, is on a well-paved road to success.
“I know what I want,” she
says confidently. “Here at Mills Home, I am motivated to keep going.”
Paulina has lived on the
Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH) campus in Thomasville since age 15. Being there
has given her stability she never knew.
Paulina’s father was
controlling and often abusive to her mother. Once in a fit of rage, he sent his
wife tumbling down stairs when she was pregnant with Paulina. Paulina was
unharmed, but the defenseless mother fell hard, breaking her nose.
After Paulina was born, her
father took her to other people’s houses without informing his wife. Her mother
had no way of knowing where her daughter would be or with whom. It was a way he
callously controlled his family and punished Paulina’s mother.
“A dad wouldn’t do that,”
Paulina says, a scowl marking her face. “He hurt my mom very badly. I don’t
hold a grudge, but I know what’s real, and the reality is that he wasn’t a good
Her mother filed for
divorce when Paulina was three-years-old and her father was imprisoned for
abuse. Her mother remarried when Paulina was seven, but the second marriage was
wrought with problems and turmoil.
Life became miserable for Paulina. The
couple placed Paulina at Mills Home to remove her from the environment.
Living at BCH has given
Paulina the opportunity to focus on herself and to heal.
“I needed someone to
love me,” she admits.
Her houseparents, Bobby and
Sonya Dalke, gave Paulina the care and comfort she needed.
“I was an angry kid and
hurting. At times, I took it out on them, but they would not let me give up,”
Paulina says. The Dalkes helped her deal with her emotions directing her
energies into academics and sports. Paulina discovered a passion for playing
soccer and running track.
“They helped me believe I
could run track and make it to the regionals,” Paulina says. “But the most
important thing they taught me is that I am a precious child of God.”
On Aug. 16, 2006, Paulina
knelt with the Dalkes and prayed accepting Christ into her heart.
“My favorite verse is
Matthew 19:26,” Paulina says, “where it says ‘with God all things are
Paulina has seen the truth
of that scripture unfold in her own life. Before, hope and happiness did not
seem attainable. Today, Paulina’s goals are within reach. She participates in
BCH’s transitional living program that teaches her skills she needs to be an
independent adult while helping her achieve educational goals.
Paulina is so thankful for
the opportunity she has received at Baptist Children’s Homes that she wants to
become a social worker.
“My dream is to give back
and impact the lives of others just as my life has been impacted by BCH,”
Paulina reveals. “Thank you, North Carolina Baptists, for your support and
prayers. You are making a difference.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Ragsdale is
director of communications for Baptist Children’s Homes of N.C.)