The boy told the Rev. Lynn Meadows-White, “If I weren’t here, I’d either be in jail or dead.”
Through the years, the pastor has heard similar remarks from residents at Our House at Carpenter’s Way in Cataula, Ga.
“The boy saw being here as being rescued from the life he was living and the path he was on,” Meadows-White said. “This ministry is literally life-changing.”
Carpenter’s Way — a campus of The Methodist Home, a faith-based organization founded in 1872 in Macon, Ga. — provides specialized care for boys who have been abused, neglected or abandoned. Another local campus, Arabella in Waverly Hall, Ga., does the same for girls.
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“Many of these children have had traumatic experiences and are broken. We believe in making a child whole again. We are about restoring childhood and bringing families together,” regional director Nick Alford said of the residential care facilities.
“I remind the children their current circumstances do not define them,” Meadows-White said.
She and her husband, the Rev. Howard White, have been pastors at Pierce Chapel United Methodist Church in Midland since 1991. They are longtime supporters of the two campuses.
“We really love these kids. They have a special place in our hearts,” said White. “We feel these campuses are part of our ministry. We do our best to make the kids feel like part of Pierce Chapel. Our congregation is actively involved in their lives.”
Meadows-White is confident the children understand they are loved.
“I think they know they matter to us and we try to convey to them that they certainly matter to God,” she said. “They are precious to me on their bad days as well as on their good days and it is our privilege to get to walk even a short distance of their journey with them.”
Some children have asked to be Baptized at the church and have had their request granted.
Recently, two boys attended a service and told the pastors they wanted to follow a new path and become disciples of Christ.
Many of the children are brought to the campuses from the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services. Money for their care comes from the state and donations.
A fundraiser luncheon will be held at noon Nov. 7 at the St. Luke Ministry Center in Columbus. Notre Dame football legend Rudy Reuttiger will be the speaker. The 1993 film “Rudy” was based on his life. The $40 tickets are available at www.themethodisthome.org/events.
Alford said there is room for 30 boys and 10 girls at the campuses. The average age is 12-18, though some younger children are accepted.
There are three cabins at the ranch and counselors are present 24 hours. Children may be residents for a few months or a couple of years. The goal is to get them back with family, if possible.
Alford said the children attend Harris County schools and participate in activities including sports.
Children receive tutoring as well as therapy on the campuses.
Yolanda Upshaw, a child care worker at Carpenter’s Way, says a holistic approach is used toward the children.
“We are concerned with the whole person. Physical, emotional, mental and spiritual here,” she said.
Upshaw said the children learn independent living skills such as cooking, doing laundry and budgeting.
“The progress I have seen with some children is just amazing,” Upshaw said.
“The children get more love here than anywhere they have been. It is a blessing to me to see the changes in them,” White said.
He said members of Pierce Chapel are “passionate” about the work done at the ranch and provide a weekly meal for children and staff.
Asked about his time at Carpenter’s Way this week, one resident said, “I feel comfortable here. I like it here. It is much better than any of the other three places I have been.”