When the call to help children comes, Baptist Children’s Homes’ (BCH) childcare workers and camp chiefs never hesitate –– no matter what the distance. Historically, BCH staff members have moved from other states to North Carolina to serve. But today with the advent of the internet, the “where” from which they come reaches from Washington State and Nebraska to Texas and Mississippi to New York and Vermont –– more than 20 states in all. Nearly one half of those serving residential children are “out of staters.”
“We knew we wanted to work with children in residential care,” says Mills Home cottage father Steve Preckel. “Heather and I worked for four years providing care for ladies with severe developmental disabilities in Kansas. When the time came for us to begin looking –– we started by looking online."
Online inquiries have increased as BCH’s online marketing has increased. Prospective staff members from anywhere in the world can now learn about opportunities with a click of a mouse.
“Folks looking to come to BCH have a sense of calling,” says John Adamcik, director of human resources. “People attracted to BCH look to discern where God is leading them. Online, they can explore the differences in ministries.”
The hardest thing Heather and Steve Preckel did when leaving Kansas to come to Mills Home in Thomasville, was to drive away without their daughter.
Then 19-year-old Kiersten was in college. She had a job and was working toward her future. They knew it would be hard, but the close-knit family sought God’s affirmation as they turned their attention to North Carolina.
“We knew without a doubt that God called us to become houseparents,” says Heather. “Once we stepped out believing, it was amazing to see how God worked to meet not just the needs of Steve, our six-year-old son Kaden, and myself, but Kiersten’s needs, too.”
Mom and dad helped their daughter find her first apartment and rallied a support network of friends around her. The only family member who still wrestled with the move and leaving Kiersten was Kaden.
In July 2018, Steve, Heather and Kaden began their trek from the country’s midwest. Kaden seemed a little blue, but mom and dad chalked it up to leaving his big sister.
“We learned as we were on the road moving to Thomasville that Kaden actually believed he would never see Kiersten again,” recalls Steve.
Kaden was grieving. His sister meant the world to him. Heather held her son close and comforted him as mom and dad assured Kaden that he would see Kiersten again –– soon. Kaden’s anxiety lessened. He slowly began to look forward to the family’s new adventure.
“It’s a big commitment for someone to move from out of state,” says John Adamcik, BCH’s director of human resources. “For someone to pick up and come to North Carolina says a lot about a person’s sense of calling.”
Adamcik was the first Baptist Children’s Homes’ (BCH) contact the Preckels made when they called to inquire about an opening for houseparents. Adamcik listened as the couple shared their sense of calling. He told them that BCH’s houseparents and wilderness camp chiefs were missionaries –– people who immerse themselves in service to the Lord.
“John was encouraging,” remembers Heather. “Everything we heard resonated with us and the prospect of coming to Mills Home was amazing.”
Heather and Steve met when they attended Toccoa Falls College in Georgia. A friendship turned into a nine-month dating relationship and then marriage. Their first years of married life was spent in full-time ministry as part of a group that traveled across the United States helping struggling churches.
“God captured our hearts and we never let go,” confides Steve. “Heather and
I learned at that time in our lives that when God comes near it can be life changing. It can be remarkable if you allow Him to work through you.”
Now married 25 years, the Preckels testify how God uses all their life experiences for this time of ministry. The couple serves as houseparents for the girls at Blackwell Cottage.
“At the most trying times,” says Heather, “being the house mom for these girls is the best. I can honestly say that I love my job. This is a special place.”
Heather says the job can be exhausting, but rewarding. It can be great fun, but have moments of heartache. And she laughs and confesses, “Sometimes it all happens in just five minutes.”
Steve and Heather had troubling childhoods. Both experienced abuse. Steve was bullied and physically abused. Heather was emotionally abused.
“We understand where the girls come from,” says Heather. “Steve and I have hearts for children who hurt. We know what it’s like to be down and need help.”
Heather came to Jesus as a teen. Her difficult childhood became even harder when she turned away from her family’s religious traditions.
Steve came face to face with his past when as an adult he worked with his father, “I had to deal with all the things I had grown up with. All my hurts were opened up and exposed. I had to depend on God. It became His strength and grace that brought me to a place where I could forgive –– where I could find peace and freedom.”
The couple doesn’t shy away from sharing their testimony. They see the power of God in their story and use it to encourage the girls in their care. “Sometimes life doesn’t turn out the way you thought or would have liked,” says Heather, “but here the girls are given an opportunity –– a glimpse of hope.”
Heather and Steve say they look for times when they can “speak life” into the lives of the girls. They say the girls have heard harsh words and been torn down by words spoken in meanness.
“One young lady was quick to be angry –– she was cross,” recalls Heather “But she has the most amazing smile.”
The couple began to tell her at every opportune time, “You have the best smile!”
They spoke words of life into her. It began with that small affirmation but led to other encouraging words, and they began to see a change.
“God, given the chance, changes what is broken and brings healing.” says Steve. “He comes near to all who call out to Him. He desires for us to know Him, to trust Him, to learn from Him. God is everything.”
Are you servant-minded? Are you seeking a mission career opportunity? Baptist Children's Homes is committed to providing only the highest quality of care for children and families We look for people who feel called. Learn more at www.bchfamily.org/careers
Article by Jim Edminson, Charity & Children Editor