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Clay's Story Offers Hope to Families

March 10, 2008

By W. James Edminson

Clay’s story is far too common. A family erupts. Anger, hurt, misunderstandings like wedges drive relationships to disrepair. Hope hangs by only a thread threatening to snap under the prolonged anguish of discord.

Clay yells profanities. He slams his fist into the wall. The door slams as he retreats to the yard. His younger sister hides in her room afraid. Clay’s parents, Glata and Larry Grindstaff, stand in the living room. Tears run down Glata’s cheeks. Larry’s shoulders slump forward in exhaustion.

“I wasn’t thinking then,” seventeen-year-old Clay says. “Something would be said, and it was like a trigger – I would just react. Sometimes I just snapped.”

Larry had tried everything. “I couldn’t understand why Clay would not do what I told him to do,” Larry recalls. “No rules had a bearing on what he would do or not do. I expected my son to act like I acted toward my parents.”

Clay was suffering. He found it difficult to concentrate. Sitting still was impossible. He fell behind at school. He skipped class, gave up and dropped out three times.

“I was mad at the world,” he says. “I was living one day to the next.”

Glata and Larry watched as their son spiraled out of control. “We could see what was happening, but we didn’t know what we could do to stop it. Clay didn’t care if he had to live in hell; he didn’t want to live with us.”

“Looking back, I would say I was acting stupid,” Clay admits. “I couldn’t see what everyone else saw. I thought they were trying to take the fun out of life.”

Clay needed help. Larry and Glata needed help. When Clay was arrested for the fourth time, a court counselor recommended the family call Baptist Children’s Homes. Clay was running out of options. His parents were running out of hope.

Glata and Larry had heard of Baptist Children’s Homes many times before. Larry, pastor of Tuskeegee Baptist Church in Robbinsville, encouraged his church members each year to support BCH. Now, he and his wife were depending on the Home’s support.

Removing Clay from his community and moving him to BCH’s Drake Cottage in Franklin was the first step.

“I had to get out of my situation,” Clay says. “As long as I was there, I just woke up each morning and did whatever.”

Separating Clay and Larry helped, too. Larry’s heart began to heal. Clay began to open up and talk about what was tearing him apart inside. He set realistic goals, and step-by-step he experienced success. School is still tough, but now he sees school as another thing that is helping him to reach for another goal and a future. Clay’s life is more focused. He is not as restless.

“BCH saved our son,” Larry says with tears running down his face.

“...saved our family,” Glata whispers softly.

Clay says that being at Drake Cottage has been a wake-up call. He sees his life beginning to make sense. “My life is better,” he declares. “It’s better since I have gotten closer to the Lord.”

“The biggest change began when his relationship with the Lord changed,” Glata agrees. Larry and Glata hope sharing their family’s story might help other families. “I would recommend BCH to anyone,” Larry says. “Families need to understand that there are options. There are faith-based programs. There is hope for ‘last chance kids’ like Clay.”

A family once broken sit together and look back only to remember how God has brought them from brokeness to a place of healing.

“Everyday when I wake up, I thank God for a second chance,” Clay says. “This has changed my life.”

“Not everyone gets a second chance,” Larry says.

“That’s true!” Glata affirms.

“We thank God He has given Clay this chance,” Larry adds.

“God is good.” Glata ends.

Although this story begins like hundreds of others, it is the story’s uncommon ending that is miraculous.