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Courage to stay the course

The growth of Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH) in the past thirty-five years is nothing short of miraculous. In 1983, when Michael C. Blackwell became president, Baptist Children’s Homes served less than 3,000 children and families. This past year, BCH served 32,576, and 35 years later, we are trending tserve more than 33,000.

Recently, Excellence in Giving, an organization headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado, was asked to evaluate BCH for a donor they represent who was interested in giving to BCH. When Paul Penley, director of research for Excellence in Giving, began his review of BCH, he was surprised. He confessed that the main question on his mind was, “Could an organization that is more than 130 years old with leadership that has been in place for 35+ years be really relevant today?”

But what he found was a vibrant organization on the cutting edge. The donor called and made a lead gift to help renovate a BCH cottage and said that Excellence in Giving had given us a glowing report.

When Mr. Penley visited our campus, he commented to Dr. Blackwell how impressed he was with the relevance of the ministry and commended Dr. Blackwell’s visionary leadership. This is the same visionary leadership that compelled me to join the BCH team in 1999.

Since then, I have had the privilege to serve on Dr. Blackwell’s management team as the executive vice president of development and communications. Before leaving Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children to come here, I had followed Dr. Blackwell’s ministry and knew him to be a leader among the other Baptist childcare executives. I met Dr. Blackwell and his wife Catherine at a childcare executives conference before coming to BCH. The couple’s passion was evident and infectious.

During the two interviews conducted with me before coming to BCH, Dr. Blackwell took time to share with me his vision and we discussed how I might be a part of helping to make that vision a reality.

Dr. Blackwell told me that he valued staff members and he was intentional about showing how he valued them. For me, he has not only shown this to me on a professional level, but also on a personal level. My dad was in the hospital having open heart surgery. We were anxiously waiting to hear a word from the doctor. Dr. Blackwell had called several times during the day to check on my family.

As we anxiously waited, he appeared just in time to pray with us as we celebrated the news that Dad had made it through the surgery. His prayers and calls through those days let me know the value he places on caring for others –– the value he placed on caring for my family.

Dr. Blackwell has a wonderful gift of creating special moments, whether it is during a presentation at the Baptist State Convention or with a child. I have watched him weep as he listened to a child share his testimony. I have seen him beam with joy when one of our young ladies received her master’s degree. I have witnessed him calm the fears of a young woman as she was preparing to walk the aisle to marry the love of her life. She had no father –– but in that instant, Dr. Blackwell was her father. He is a freedom fighter for those who suffered tragic circumstances which left them feeling helpless and powerless. It is this revelation of passion that captures people’s attention and draws them to share in this ministry.

I know that at times his journey has been difficult but he has leaned on God with each step seeking courage to stay the course –– to offer each person who walks through our doors healing and hope, an opportunity to become all that God intends them to be.

Congratulations on your 35th anniversary, Dr. Blackwell. Thank you for inspiring us with your vision and your courage to keep the course God has set before us.

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