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Jesse Honors God With Words & Music

January 30, 2008

By W. James Edminson

The bright sunlight floods into the meeting room. Trustees traveled from around the state to make the first of two annual meetings held at Baptist Children’s Homes’ (BCH) historic Mills Home in Thomasville. Jesse waits in the hall as the meeting begins. He is nervous. The seventeen-year-old resident is amazed how much he has changed. He is amazed that he would even attempt to stand in front of any crowd to share his testimony in word and song, but here he is ready and willing. The door opens and Jesse steps forward. He looks at the group, takes the microphone and for the next ten minutes shares his heart.

“When I walked into the room with all those people that I had never seen before and I saw the love in their eyes and their smiles, I could tell that I was wanted,” Jesse says. “I just wanted to hug everybody!”

What a difference from the welcome Jesse was accustomed to before living at BCH. “No one would say anything to me when I walked into the house,” he remembers. “There was arguing; I can’t stand arguing. There was never time for me.”

Jesse recalls those days as a dark time – a sorrowful time. “I was sad. My future was very dim.”

Jesse walks into his cottage today after a day at school, and he is greeted by caring child care workers. They ask him about his day, offer help with his homework, and remind him about meetings with his case worker or about activity time in the campus’ gym. “I never had this kind of attention before I came here,” Jesse says.

Usually, children who first arrive in care are unsettled. Often, they are angry and for the most part do not want to be in care. But unlike other children when they first arrive, Jesse was elated.

“The first time I came to Mills Home I wanted to stay,” he says. “I found more freedom here than I had ever known. I had the freedom to be me – to find myself.”

Jesse’s life was very controlled at home. It was tough. He didn’t have friends and found himself being the focus of bullying at school. He fought back at school and rebelled at home. His grades suffered, and he had no positive outlook for the future. He felt hopeless.

“I was glad to be at Mills Home, but I was angry, too,” Jesse confides. “I was depressed. I was withdrawn into a shell.”

But since coming to BCH during the summer of 2005, he has slowly come out of that shell. His grades have improved, and he has begun to think about college.

“If I hadn’t come here, I know graduation would not be on my to do list,” he chuckles. Having Mills Home Baptist Church on campus has been meaningful to Jesse. His involvement in church was limited before. He occasionally attended with his grandmother.

“The people here are friendly,” he says. “There are people here who talk to you when you need help.”

People like Pastor Randy Stewart have especially touched his life. “Pastor Stewart has been a great influence in my life since coming here. He encourages me to lift up God in everything I do.”

Jesse spoke and sang in churches this fall to promote BCH’s annual offering. It was a major trial for him. But with every experience he has become more confident.

“For me, I honor God through my singing and testimony,” Jesse says.

Jesse likes to encourage others, especially children. He often shares with other residents and children he speaks to in churches that they are not insignificant and that they are never too young to do good things for God. He chooses to be a role model and defines himself as a “peacemaker.”

“I want to be an example for them so they might choose to follow God,” he asserts. Although he still struggles at home, Jesse has renewed his relationship with his mother after an eight-year separation. During a visit home at Thanksgiving, he was able to visit her. He learned from her that she had “given her heart to the Lord.”

“I love my Mom and I’m proud of her,” he says. Jesse gives God the credit for bringing son and mother together. It’s something he never imagined would be possible.

Jesse is also proud of living at Mills Home, and he isn’t afraid to share his feelings when he speaks in public. “When I talk to groups and in churches, I want everyone to know that BCH is not about juvenile delinquents. . .it’s not boot camp. For me, it’s my home. I get a lot of love here. I thank God for bringing me to this place.”