Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children

 

Connecting Others to Christ: Henriatta Collins

Story by Steve Childers, Communications Director
First published: OBHC Blog | March 25, 2014

HenriattaHenriatta had heard about Baptist Children’s Home in Owasso, but the things she had heard from her peers over the years made it sound like a place she would not want to live. She pictured a place with bars on the windows. She heard there were people who sat in trees; their watchful eyes making sure children did not escape. No, that kind of place was not somewhere Henriatta would like to live.

The summer Henriatta turned 17, she and two of her sisters were left without a place to live. A woman they were staying with temporarily in Owasso encouraged Henriatta to visit Baptist Children’s Home. Because of the things she had heard about the Home, she was hesitant to go for an interview. She was told to pray about going. She did not know what it meant to “pray about it,” but decided anyway to go for the interview.

A week later, Henriatta was accepted to live at Baptist Children’s Home, Owasso. She moved into Oklahoma Cottage in August 2004, not knowing what to expect from her new home. She did not find any bars on the windows or people sitting in trees. What she did find was another family, one that loved her and cared about her.

Henriatta’s houseparents, Mr. and Mrs. Kehl, were like actual parents to Henriatta. They kept the cottage on a schedule and disciplined the girls when necessary. They were always there for Henriatta when she needed to talk, and they would pray with her.

The cottage would eat dinner together every night at the large wooden table in the dining area. They would also have Bible study together. This “togetherness” was new to Henriatta, and she realized she was happier at the cottage than she would be at home.

Henriatta started attending church regularly at First Baptist Owasso with her cottage. Before coming to live with OBHC, she only went to church to get out of her house.

“It was like being forced to do something you didn’t want to do,” Henriatta recalls about her first few weeks at church. “I didn’t understand it. I would get bored sitting in the seats.”

Over time, Henriatta found herself wanting to go to church. The only explanation she has for this desire is that God was working in her heart. That November, Henriatta gave her life to Christ after listening to a guest speaker at her church.

“He came and told his story, and it really spoke to me. I thought if God can do that in his life, he can do that in mine,” Henriatta said.

Henriatta wanted to learn more about the God she had given her life to, but the Bible had always been difficult to understand and boring to read for her. She began to pray that she would better understand the Bible and become passionate about getting to know God. Slowly, Henriatta began to have this understanding and passion.

Henriatta spent her first year at OBHC staying busy with homework, college preparations and activities on campus. Henriatta remembers spending a lot of this time reflecting. Moving to campus at the start of her senior year, she came at a time when she was faced with many decisions about her future. The year was a time of growth and change for Henriatta, punctuated by times of silliness with other girls and memorable moments with houseparents.

One night, Henriatta began yelling for her housefather from the game room in her cottage.

“Mr. Kehl! Mr. Kehl! You have to come here right now!” Henriatta cried out, throwing her controller toward the movement she had seen out of the corner of her eye.

Mr. Kehl came running into the game room.

“There’s a spider in the room,” Henriatta said in distress. “You have to kill it.”

The spider had already scurried out of sight. Unable to do anything, Mr. Kehl left the room in bewildered amusement. Henriatta did not like spiders.

Her rescue from the spider is a memory Henriatta will always cherish. The presence of loving parents in her life, even in the small ways, made a significant difference in her life.

After graduating from high school, Henriatta moved from Oklahoma Cottage into an independent living apartment on the campus.

Staying on campus throughout college allowed Henriatta to continue enjoying the love and mentoring she received from those at the campus. Lois Schara, her houseparent at the apartment, was one of these mentors.

“I know you probably think we want to give up on you because that’s what you’re used to,” Mrs. Schara told Henriatta after Henriatta had made a bad mistake. “We’re not going to give up on you.”

Henriatta knew this statement was true. The staff at OBHC would not give up on her. While in college, Mrs. Schara would invite her and other residents to weekly dinners and Bible study. Henriatta would also spend time with other houseparents and staff.

During college, Henriatta took the mentoring and love she received from OBHC staff and became a mentor herself to youth at her church. She felt God calling her to teach Sunday school and started teaching the 11th grade Sunday school class.

Several years had passed since beginning college, and Henriatta was close to finishing her bachelor’s degree in marriage and family counseling. She knew it was becoming close to the time for her to move off of campus, so she moved in with a fellow Sunday School teacher from her church.

Once completing her master’s degree, her goal is work with troubled youth and married couples.

Since moving into Baptist Children’s Home, Henriatta has learned that as she follows Christ, she needs to live her life as an example to others. Family and friends she interacts with may listen to her words, but they also look at her actions. Knowing this, Henrriatta is striving to show people, as well as tell them about, the love of Christ and the work He has done in her life.

She has maintained strong connections with family and friends, and her Christian lifestyle is an effective tool to connect others to Christ.


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