Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children

 

God Put His Hand on Me

The Story of Charles Lance

“I learned by the fifth grade that I was in charge of Charles and nobody else, so as a ten-year-old boy, I did just what any ten-year-old boy would probably choose to do: I ditched a lot of school. I missed so much school the first time in fifth grade that I was retained.” Those were the words of Charles Lance, relating how he came to live at the Baptist Children’s Home in Oklahoma City and how God led him to become a fifth grade teacher at an inner city school.

Charles Lance today

Charles was the only child to a single mother who was distant and negligent. His parents had divorced when he was two, but he knew who his father was and what he looked like. Charles would occasionally see him at the store, the post office, or walking down the street, and would always say “Hi” to him. Charles says, “He always ignored me. He was always indifferent.”

One day, when Charles was age 10, he and his mother were shopping at a supermarket when his dad happened to walk down a cross aisle. “I waved, and said, ‘Hey, Dad!’ He turned around, came down that aisle, looked me dead in the eye, and told me, ‘You are not my son. I don’t know who you are. I don’t ever want to know you.’ It just crushed me.”

Charles says, “That was the point where I started to ditch school. I was crying out.” Charles failed the fifth grade a second time, and when he was promoted to the sixth grade he continued ditching school, thus leading DHS to remove him from his mother. The family knew of the Baptist Children’s Home, and he was placed there the weekend before his 13th birthday.

Moving to the Children’s Home, where he spent four years, was one of the defining moments in his life. Charles thought “Oh, wow! This is what a stable home is supposed to be like.”

“I didn’t always like it, no one ever does,” says Charles. “As a kid you just don’t understand. I was coming from a life where I had everything I wanted. I could eat peanut butter and jelly and watch The Price is Right in the middle of the day, Monday through Friday."

"So I griped a lot and didn’t like it, but God was working through that whole process to show me that there was a better way.”

Every evening during the school year, there was an hour of study time in the cottage. He says, “The only way that you didn’t have to study was if you had straight A’s and you had no homework.” Charles started catching up in the 6th and 7th grades. By 8th grade, he was a straight A student.

“By the time I got to 9th grade, I was in all honors classes. It was all because of that one hour every night; I can put my finger right on it. I knew I had to do something every night for one hour – no TV, no radio, no games, no anything, so it turned me around.”

Charles pondered his future. He says, “I can remember being behind a push mower and picturing in my mind, ‘I’ll have a shirt and tie on, and I’ll be going to a basketball game, a football game, or band concert, and my son will see me coming through the door. He will feel a sense of pride, and say, “That’s my dad.”’ I wanted that. There are not very many fourteen-year-old boys thinking that far ahead.”

Charles graduated from high school in 1990; married his high school sweetheart, Jennifer; and joined the Naval Nuclear Power Program, serving on a nuclear, fast-attack submarine. After six years and the birth of their first son, Charles left the Navy. He says, “The Navy was not for me because I knew I couldn’t be the kind of dad I wanted to be.”

“I can look back at my life and see defining moments. The Children’s Home was the very first defining moment in my life. I really feel like God put His hand on me to start me down a different path. The Children’s Home, meeting Jennifer (who would become my wife), and then the birth of my sons started the process. By the time I got to the birth of my first son, I was becoming a strong Christian.”

Charles and Jennifer live in Oklahoma City with their three sons, and Charles teaches fifth grade at an inner city school. He feels a very specific call and says, “God put it in my heart to teach fifth grade. That’s where I started making my mistakes.”

Jennifer Lance, Charles’ wife, is the founder and director of Critter Tales Inc., a not-for-profit outreach organization that has as its mission to promote awareness of wildlife and natural conservation through exciting educational programs for all ages. Charles and Jennifer travel extensively throughout Oklahoma presenting programs with live animals to schools, churches, libraries, camps, and other groups. Information about their ministry can be found at critter-tales-inc.com.

Charles says, “I can look back at my life and I can see where God had deliberate steps planned out. Without the time and efforts of the Children’s Home, especially my houseparents, and the reassurance of a regular schedule with tangible rewards for doing well, I never would have achieved my full potential.” Charles is thankful for the support given by Oklahoma Baptists to finance his college education, saying, “That support made my decision to follow God into teaching possible.”

Charles as a boy
Charles with his family, Christmas, 2010
          Charles with his family, Christmas, 2010

Recently, Critter Tales visited our Home Office. Click here to see pictures.

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