Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27, ESV).
Scripture says much about caring for widows and orphans, beginning in the account in Genesis when Tamar was left a widow after her husband, Er, was struck down by God.
In Deuteronomy 24:19 (ESV), God clearly makes a provision for widows and orphans, “When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.”
For 125 years Baptists in Arkansas have honored God through the ministry of the Arkansas Baptist Children’s Homes and Family Ministries.
What began as an orphanage on land donated by a Baptist woman in Monticello in 1894 has grown into an expansive statewide ministry that has touched tens of thousands of lives. Be sure to read more about the history in a special pullout center section beginning on page 7 that includes a historical timeline (pages 8-9).
To mark the 125th anniversary of the work of the Arkansas Baptist Children’s Homes and Family Ministries in 2019, I am reprinting the editorial from the Nov. 3, 1994, edition of the Arkansas Baptist Newsmagazine. The editorial was written in commemoration of the Children’s Homes centennial.
“‘Celebrating a Century of Caring’ is a worthy milestone for any institution. The celebration is especially significant when one considers the rich history of the Arkansas Baptist Children’s Homes and Family Ministries.
“Established in Monticello in 1894 as the Arkansas Baptist Home for Orphans, the ministry has grown to include 22 sites throughout the state. The spectrum of ABCHFM ministries now includes a boys’ ranch in Harrison for young men who have completed an intensive drug and alcohol abuse program; Promise House in El Dorado, a residence for unwed pregnant teenagers; six emergency receiving homes, which provide temporary shelter for abused, abandoned and neglected children, as well as battered women and their children; five area offices which provide a full range of counseling and intake services; and seven satellite offices where counselors are available one day each week.
“Much of the growth of the Children’s Homes ministries has come during the 23-year tenure of Johnny Biggs as ABCHFM executive director. His vision and commitment, along with that of the staff, trustees, donors and Arkansas Baptists in general, has helped ensure that the selfless service of the Children’s Homes continues uninterrupted as long as there are needy children and families in Arkansas.
“In addition to celebrating a century of service, the centennial theme also emphasizes that the ABCHFM is ‘Dedicated to a Future of Sharing.’ Arkansas Baptists can be both proud and thankful for this vital ministry that not only celebrates the past but looks with anticipation and enthusiasm toward the future.
“The ministry of the Arkansas Baptist Children’s Homes and Family Ministries echoes the words of Jesus in Matthew 19:14, ‘Suffer little children, and forbid them not to come unto me: for such is the kingdom of God.’ Thank you, Johnny and staff, for personalizing Christ’s call to compassion on behalf of all Arkansas Baptists.”
May God continue to bless efforts of Arkansas Baptists to care for the “least of these” for another 125 years and well into the future until Jesus returns.
Tim Yarbrough is editor/executive director of the Arkansas Baptist News.
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