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Mary Howze returns home on Harley after 37 years

As the sun rises over the Atlantic Ocean, bikers load their saddlebags, check their fuel and engines, and take one more look at the itinerary, mapping out their day's ride. The nearly 150 motorcyclists participating in Baptist Children's Homes' (BCH) annual charity ride, Ride to Clyde, will traverse across the state, arriving at BCH's Broyhill Home in Clyde on May 11.

All set for the day, the riders gather for prayer, then mount their motorcycles and start their engines. Kickstands go up and the eastern group rides out from the NC Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell much like it has the past nine years.

But this year is different. This Ride to Clyde includes Mills Home alumna Mary Howze and her husband Tim.

"The second I hit the submit button signing us up for the ride, Mary's tears began to run down her cheeks," Tim recalls. Fifty-four-year-old Mary had not been back to walk on the Mills Home campus since leaving at age 18. She lived there from 1985 to 1987. It was only two and a half years, but it is the place she could finally call home. In two days, she and Tim will ride their silver Harley Davidson, emblazoned with a chrome cross, beneath the campus arch.

The torturous abuse began when Mary Shaw was six. Her father mentally, physically, and sexually abused her and her two sisters. They were denied food, forcing them to scavenge garbage bins behind restaurants and grocery stores. Beatings were punishment dished out on his whim. One time when Mary defied him, he threw a glass bottle, hitting her and cutting the back of her head. She lived in constant fear. Home was never a haven in those days.

Grossly underweight and defenseless, nevertheless she believed in God: "I prayed to Him all the time and I just knew that one day He would rescue me from this horrible place."

When she first tried to tell about her tragic home life, no one believed her. It wasn't until she was 12 and found a photo of her father abusing her that someone finally took action.

"It all happened quickly," she remembers. "I had no idea where I was going, but anywhere was better than where I had been."

Four foster homes in four years exhausted Mary. There were ups and downs and after each placement, she longed for a permanent place where she could rest.

At 16, Mary came to Mills Home in Thomasville. She was withdrawn and feared it would only be a short time before she was moved again. It took time for her to believe life could be different. Eventually, she settled in and began to feel at home.

"I joined the 4-H program and got a calf to raise," she says, smiling. "Every day after school, I would drop my books at the cottage and run to feed my calf. The quiet time at the barn was such a peaceful time for me."

Sunday morning church affirmed her belief in God. She learned Bible lessons during Sunday school and sang in the choir. This resulted in her walking to the front one Sunday and giving her life to the Lord.

She graduated high school in 1987, and at age 19 joined the U.S. Air Force. Her first duty station was in England. She began going to church nearby where she was nurtured in the Lord. She met Tim on base and the two attended church together. He recommitted his life to the Lord, and a year later the couple married on September 5, 1992.

After the military, Mary graduated college with an accounting degree. She returned to the USAF as a civilian employee, eventually becoming part of the U.S. Space Force as a resource advisor for the 5th Space Launch Squadron. Now, the couple live in Florida near Cape Canaveral and are active members of Spirit Riders Motorcycle Ministry where they are known as "Padre" and "Madre." Tim became pastor of Oak Hill Church of The Nazarene in 2020.

On May 10, they ride beneath the words "Baptist Children's Home of NC" onto the Mills Home campus, concluding their first Ride to Clyde. As the motorcycle's engine gears down, Mary's heart begins to race. She is home again.

Written by Jim Edminson, Editor of Charity & Children

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1 Comment

It was a while before she dordle could see that things could be different. She eventually became comfortable and started to feel at home.

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