First Bonifay embraces needs of displaced children

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Shelly and Carole Chandler looked at their soon-to-be empty nester home and heard God speak.

“He moved our hearts,” said Shelly Chandler, to see they could fill their house once again with gales of laughter brought from small children. And that their home could be a vessel to give hope to one more child.

“We were led by God to move into foster care as our home becomes available,” said Chandler, pastor of First Baptist Church of Bonifay.

He shared their plan with the congregation, preaching on how Christians are called by God to respond compassionately to the needs of hurting children—innocent youngsters taken from their own homes because of the actions of their parents.

He enlisted Julie Boyd, vice president for church relations of Florida Baptist Children’s Homes, to come share with the church about the needs of children and FBCH’s ministries.

When the church offered the licensing and training through the Florida Department of Children and Families, eight families responded to God’s leading to meet the needs of broken-hearted displaced children. Together, they completed the training.

“All of these couples were parents like us, in our age group, headed to empty nests,” said Chandler. “We were amazed they shared our same feelings.”

“Non-Christians are stepping up (to serve as foster parents) and Christians are not. There is something wrong in that pattern that speaks to what we believe and how we act.”

Knowing that sometimes these children in crisis are taken away from their home in the dark of night at a moment’s notice the church began a ministry to stock a foster care closet gathering supplies and clothes, organized by gender and size.

“These kids leave their homes with only the clothes on their back, and have nowhere to turn. We want to be prepared,” said Chandler.

“We are trying to build ministry bridges to the community, knowing there are not enough foster care facilities and not enough Christian families willing to be foster care parents.”

Last year in support of the FBCH’s Mother’s Day Offering, the church devised a little “friendly” competition between the men and the women to see who could give the most to the offering. For four weeks, offering plates painted in camouflage were passed among the men. For the next four weeks, pink offering plates were distributed among the women.

Children attending vacation Bible school added to the offering through their missions giving.

At the conclusion of the emphasis, the church had raised more than $15,000—their largest Mother’s Day Offering ever collected.

When the women handily won the competition, the men cooked and served dinner for the victors.

This year, the church plans to hold the offering competition from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day to spur even more involvement and giving, Chandler reported.

FBCH’s Boyd gave accolades for First Baptist’s “generous and sacrificial commitment to children and families.”

“Every year, the church participates in the FBCH’s diaper drive and the GAs bring school supplies to the Tallahassee campus, while youth volunteer there. Many members have included us in their estate plan to make sure children are cared for by FBCH for eternity,” she added.

Chandler urges other Florida Baptist churches “to step up to the plate” to partner with the FBCH’s commitment to give hope to one more child. “Expose the need and create sensitivity among your congregation,” he suggested.

And consider having a representative from the Children’s Homes speak at your church.

“When we exposed the needs in our county and shared the numbers of children desperate for help, it broke the heart of our church.”


By Barbara Denman, Florida Baptist Convention, April 19, 2016


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