stories from the book
by James V. Browning
Lola (Capps) Hambrick
When asked to tell my story about living in the Baptist Children’s Home, memories flooded my mind--the vision of a teenage girl from a large family where the mother had died and the father had problems with alcohol, brothers and sisters who ranged in age from a new-born to 14 years of age. What was to become of these children?
God had a plan and part of His plan for my life was the Baptist Children’s Home. I feel this was probably a detour, because I feel God’s perfect plan would have been for the family to remain together; but since this did not happen, God was not short-sighted in His plan for my life.
As I recall the facts I was told later, my father sought help from the Harrisons. Mr. Harrison was the superintendent of the school where I attended and Mrs. Harrison was one of my teachers. My father told them he was unable to care for the children any longer and needed help finding a place for them to go. The Harrisons were Methodists and thought the Methodist Home for Children in Tahlequah might be a good place for the children to live, but God had another plan. The District Attorney, who helped with the legal aspects, was a deacon in a Southern Baptist church and thought we needed to be in the Baptist Children’s Home in Oklahoma City.
The first I was aware something was happening was when Mr. James Browning came to our home for a visit. He explained who he was and where he was from. He showed me a picture of the Home, and told me my brothers, sisters and I were going to live there in Oklahoma City. What a SHOCK! FEAR! ANGER! Mr. Browning told me all about the Home. He told me my sister Rachel and I would live in the Potter Cottage with 14 other girls, a house mother, Mrs. Huffman, and a cook, Mrs. Combs. I did not believe him. I thought he could have taken the pictures anywhere and there was no telling what kind of place we were going to live. Talk about no trust and anger toward my father. In the first place, I was angry my mother had died. Second, I blamed my father for her death because she was pregnant and died in childbirth. She had a bad heart and was told not to get pregnant again and for years, I did not want to see my father for I thought it was all his fault she got pregnant and died.
In a very short period of time, we were on our way to the Home. We arrived in the afternoon on a Saturday. What a surprise! It looked just like the pictures I had seen. I was still concerned because I was not sure where my younger brothers and sister would be staying. Mrs. Huffman explained she would help me get settled and then I could see where my other family members were staying. She introduced me to Mrs. Combs, our cook, and the other girls in the cottage and told me my sister, Rachel, and I could room together. She felt this might make our adjustment easier.
Later in the evening, Mrs. Huffman came to see how I was doing and could see how confused and afraid I was. She invited me into her living room and talked with me for a long time. She told me she knew I was upset and wanted to help me. We talked into the morning hours, she read Scripture and prayed with me. She told me she loved me and she knew how hard that would be for me to believe, but she loved me through God’s love and she felt God had called her for this purpose. It was at that time, I knew everything would be all right.
In a very short time, I began to adjust to my new home. It was great not to have responsibility for my younger brothers and sister and not to worry about what to prepare for them to eat and try to keep them clean and keep track of them. It was a great feeling to know they were being taken care of and I was free to do things for myself. This was the first time since my mother’s death that I felt free.
Trinity Baptist Church became my home church. There I had wonderful teachers and adults who became role models for my life. I was exposed to Christ’s teaching through the lives of Christians who influenced my Christian growth. I was taken to church and encouraged to become involved in the activities for my age group. There I met women and men who cared about me as a young woman and taught me values I have used throughout my life. Dr. Robert Scales, Mrs. Gene Bartlett, Dr. & Mrs. Holden and Mr. Cleta John Rogers were some of those individuals.
It was good that I came to the Home in the summer because it helped to have some time between leaving home and starting a new school. The day arrived when Miss Mildred took me to enroll in school. Anxiety and confusion followed me. To help others to understand how I felt, a comparison of where I came from and where I was going would need to be visualized. I came from a small farming community in Western Oklahoma, attended a school with less than 100 in all 12 grades, attended a church with possibly 30 members. John Marshall High School, where I was to enroll, had 2,000 students. Talk about culture shock! Oh how frightening—there is no way I can adequately describe how afraid I felt. All the old anger and hostility surfaced. Miss Mildred recognized something was bothering me. After arriving back home, Miss Mildred invited me to her office for a visit. She told me she knew I was having a difficult time and talked with me for a long time. Before I left, she opened her Bible and read from Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” She helped me understand I needed to let go of my anger and fears and the only way to do this was through God’s love. We prayed and I asked God to help me forgive and leave my concerns and fears with Him. This began a life-long process. Today, when problems surround me, I turn to this Scripture and remember where my help comes from and thoughts of Miss Mildred return.
As I reflect back on my high-school days, I remember how inadequate and inferior I felt. I felt I was not very smart, although, I made fairly good grades. I felt out of place at school and had few friends. I had friends who lived in the Home, but I had very few opportunities to have outside friends, because I was not allowed to spend time with my classmates after school or on the weekends. I was allowed to join certain school clubs and attend the basketball and football games.
One could not tell by looking at me I lived in a children’s home; I was dressed as well and was as well cared for as any other student, but I felt everyone knew who I was and where I came from. These feelings prevented me from enjoying school. Because of my feelings of inadequacy, I was concerned about what would happen to me when I finished high school. I did not feel I was smart enough to go to college or any other post high-school program. So what would happen to me after graduation.
At the beginning of my senior year in high school, Mr. Browning arranged for me and one other girl from the Home to make application for nursing school. I was accepted. I did not know I wanted to be a nurse and felt I would probably not be successful, but felt I had no choice but to try. Again, God had a plan.
As happens, the seasons and semesters passed and it was time to go to nursing school. The school was at the Baptist Hospital in Muskogee. I attended Muskogee Junior College in the morning and the nursing program in the afternoon. I was not a very good student, but for the first time I could ever remember, I felt good about myself. I made friends, dated and felt I was accepted. I have life-long friends from the nursing program there.
In my junior year of nursing school, the program was moved to the Baptist Hospital in Oklahoma City where I met the young man I married. At the time I was in nursing school, a student could not be married and continue in school. I dropped out of school and married. Five years later, I entered the nursing program at St. Anthony Hospital. I finished the program, passed the State Boards and became a registered nurse. Thereafter, I completed bachelor’s and masters’s degrees.
The young man I married was a Baptist Minister and pastor of a church in Oklahoma City. Fred Hambrick became my best friend and has had a great influence in my life. He has loved and cared for me and we have a beautiful family. Our oldest daughter is a professor at Biola University in California. Our second daughter is in the process of being appointed to the International Service Corps as a community development worker in Southeast Asia. One son is still at home and the other son is a senior at Oklahoma State University.
I spent the first 18 years of marriage at home with my husband and our four children, working occasionally part-time in nursing. The past 16 years, I have practiced my profession in the field of epidemiology and occupational health nursing.
Mr. Browning and I were having lunch one day and I was trying to tell him how much I appreciated the Home and those who had taken care of me during a difficult time and how I gave them credit for my being and becoming who I am today. I remember Mr. Browning’s response. He told me I was only partly right, that I became who I am because it was always inside me, the Home had only provided me the opportunity to become what I am. Thank you, Mr. Browning, for confirming me.
I feel it was in God’s plan for me to be in the Children’s Home. Psalms 139:15-16, “My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret places. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” There may have been some detours, but God was in control. My mother’s death, the Children’s Home, the man I married and his family who accepted me as one of their own, my mother-in-law, who accepted me as her second daughter, my sister-in-law, who became my sister, were all part of God’s plan. My restored relationship with my father was part of God’s plan.
Today, I know who I am, where I have been, and where I am going. I give the glory to my Savior. He provided for me through Southern Baptists of Oklahoma and all the people who have touched my life through the Children’s Home. My life was changed and I have had the opportunity to touch the lives of others because of the priceless gifts that were given me. When my husband, Fred, and I became houseparents at the Home, a dream came true for me. I had wanted to work at the Home for a long time and eventually it became a reality. Through this experience, we became foster parents to a 13-year-old girl. We knew that our new daughter had become a true member of our family when our older daughter called from college and told our son who answered the phone, that this was Sister and wanted to talk with Mother. He wanted to know which sister was on the phone.
Thank you for asking me to share my story. My prayer is that it will be a blessing for those who read it.
I praise God for Southern Baptists and the Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children for taking such good care of me.