Updated: Aug 3, 2021
Railroads are lifelines in this country, moving goods and people between borders along narrow spines of steel.
In days past, towns sprung up at water and fueling points. During the Great Depression, hobos hopped trains without paying and rode to the next opportunity or disappointment. Trains are a part of our cultural landscape. Musicians have written songs inspired by the lonely, piercing whistles of a steam engine, and artists have captured with brush the billowing clouds of black and gray smoke once spewed from stacks as trains choked and chugged lines of
freight cars behind them up steep grades or along stretches of treeless plains.
Trains represent the hope of a new beginning, the sadness of leaving, the thrill of an unlimited future, the sorrow of a failed past.
Crowded roads and better service have increased train interest in North Carolina’s Amtrak that runs daily between Charlotte and
Raleigh, capturing the interest of business people and day trippers who otherwise would have toiled on glutted highways.
Baptist Children’s Homes state administration offices are at Mills Home in Thomasville where one of the busiest train corridors on the eastern seaboard runs. There are so many railroad crossings in “Chair City” that travelers are sure to be stopped by passing trains most any time of day. I’ve waited for a train coming from the left, and before the guard rails go up, another passed from the right.
Several dozen trains of all descriptions roll by Mills Home at all hours. The ground shakes and the train whistles rattle cottage windows just a stone’s throw away. I tell you this because it strikes me lately how much BCH is like a train.
One of the awesome characteristics of a train is the incredible momentum it has, even when traveling slowly. The combined forces of mass and forward motion means it takes a train a long
time to stop. Baptist Children’s Homes has 135 years of momentum. The combined mass of children and families, supporters, trustees, administration and staff, buildings, land,
and other assets has moved through the history of this state like
a freight train, slow, steady, and mighty. It has followed along straight tracks, glistening with promise and running true.
Holding those rails together are the firm ties of the trustees, solid and true. Our mission rests on their guidance and support. The rails don’t separate or start to split off into odd directions because the trustees hold them together on track.
Any engine needs fuel and BCH’s contributing individuals, churches, corporations, foundations, and families supply the fuel to keep this train rolling. Without them we coast to a stop and this trip is over.
Passengers on this train are the children, foster families, intellectual and developmentally disabled adults, senior adults, and families in crisis. They board from all directions and from every situation. Some are put on by caretakers, some by family members, others jump aboard on their own. They often sit next to a window, noses pressed against the glass, wondering how they got there and where they’re going. They wonder, what will be waiting when the whistle blows, the train stops, and the porter hands them their luggage and they begin the BCH leg of their journey.
Child care workers and foster care families are conductors on this train. They walk the aisles and help passengers find their way. They provide blankets for comfort and answer bewildering questions. The conductors nurture the passengers until they arrive.
If you remember just a few months back, the cyber-attack of the east coast Colonial Pipeline threatened fuel shortage and was tremendous cause for concern. Our “friend raisers” are constantly scouting new sources of fuel to ward off any shortages, arranging to have the fuel deposited and ready to power the engines. Trains don’t pass silently in the night. Our overriding purpose is to sound off like a whistle announcing a train is coming.
And I am the engineer, head out the window, one hand on the throttle, and an eye on the track ahead. I’ve already lost my striped cap to the wind, and we’re moving on, working together for the well-being of our passengers. This train is bound for glory. Bring your gifts, your fears, your needs, your hopes. Whether you’re running from failure or sprinting toward new hope––ALL ABOOOAAARRRDDD!
By Michael C. Blackwell, President/CEO