stories from the book
by James V. Browning
A Special Bond
My life would have been much different if it were not for the ministry of the Baptist Children’s Home. My biological parents were divorced when I was very young. My father was not a part of my life after the divorce. I recall seeing him only one time after the divorce and do not remember very much about him. My mother remarried into a family that was very dysfunctional. There, I experienced a great deal of abuse. When my mother divorced for the second time, I really thought my life would be different. It was not. My mother was an alcoholic, which caused a great deal of pain in our family. The alcoholism contributed to her being unable to parent effectively.
At the age of 12, my siblings and I were placed into the Baptist Children’s Home in Oklahoma City. I rebelled against this a great deal. I ran away, got into fights, and sneaked out when I first got to the Children’s Home. The staff at the Home decided to separate me from my brother and sister because they felt I was a bad influence on them, and I was. It was amazing to me the love that was shown to me despite my ugly behavior. Limits had to be set, but they were done in a loving, but firm way. I slowly began to accept being separated from my family and began to adjust.
A turning point in my adjustment came when I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. I continued to get into trouble, but I began to change. I will never forget the time Grandma Miller sat down with me and told me about Jesus. This was the first time I knew that God loves me. It was not long after this that I accepted Christ. Many of the staff at the Children’s Home demonstrated God’s love for me through their actions. My biological family was Catholic. They were also very dysfunctional for the most part. The consumption of alcohol was a part of the daily life of most of my extended family, as well. I am so grateful that I was placed in the Home. It saved my life. I now know that I will spend eternity in heaven because of what Jesus did for me on the cross. I may have never become a Christian if it were not for the tragic circumstances that led me to the Baptist Children’s Home. Romans 8:28 is a great description of how God has worked in my life. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
There was a special bonding between my houseparents, their two sons and me. When they resigned as houseparents and returned to full-time pastoral ministry, I felt a great loss. As I became more emotionally stable, my social worker began talking to me about placement into a foster home. I requested that she ask my former houseparents if they would consider being my foster parents. When they said yes, it was one of the happiest moments of my life.
After Fred, Lola, Wade and Allen Hambrick became my foster family, my life drastically changed for the better. For the first time, I was able to be a child in a “normal” family. For the first time, I had parents who were actively involved in my life and were living in a loving, nurturing, caring, stable environment.
I became not only a member of a family, but was allowed to become an individual. I became a good student and was proud to go to school and to be all that entails. I enjoyed my friends and our relationships. I could invite them home without shame. For the first time, I was free to play and have fun. I began to have feelings of accomplishment and pride. School became fun and rewarding. I was very involved in band, FHA, church, academic clubs, and attended church and band camps. I continued to grow in my relationship with Christ, as well. This growth continues today.
I enrolled in and graduated from Oklahoma Baptist University. I have completed 45 hours at Southwestern Seminary. In addition to these, I attended the University of Central Oklahoma and completed a master’s degree in Adult Education with an emphasis in Gerontology. I am currently working on a geriatric psychiatric unit at Presbyterian Hospital. I have been approved for appointment as the Director of Community Development in Southeast Asia with Cooperative Services International. CSI is a relief organization affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.
Southern Baptists’ cooperative giving through the local church has made a contribution in allowing me to be where I am today. Through these programs, the Children’s Home is able to provide care and hope for individuals like me. Southern Baptist gifts also allowed me to complete my education. I have seen first-hand the importance of associational, state, and national cooperation among Southern Baptists. It is such a blessing to see their commitment to state and international missions.
Mr. Browning has been the most influential person in my life. He never gave up on me and always encouraged me to do the best I could. He believed in me. He continues to be involved in my life. I consider him to be a part of my family and a very dear friend. Thank you, Southern Baptists, for being faithful in your ministries.