Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children

 
James Browning

stories from the book
by James V. Browning


Finding a Pot of Gold

Shirley (South) Watts


In September 1960, I came to the Baptist Children’s Home after my father had died. My mother was in a mental institution, and unable to care for me, my younger sister and brother. I think the shock and unpreparedness of my father’s death that summer made a strong impact on me. I can only remember that the Judge in my home town of Shawnee, wanted to put the three of us in a Catholic Home. I strongly objected, as I was a member of the First Baptist Church and a Christian, not a Catholic. Somehow we ended up going to the Baptist Children’s Home in Oklahoma City. It may have been that my local pastor, Dr. Lowell D. Milburn, had a direct influence on the judge’s decision—I don’t know. I just know I was relieved to know that we were going to the Baptist Children’s Home. I had a strong church family in Shawnee that probably influenced my life more than my immediate family.

The first experience in group living that I recall was working in the Rinard Cottage with the young boys and girls. There were four girls about my age and we lived together and shared the responsibilities of cleaning, bathing and dressing the young children. I remember the housemothers were Mrs. Tisdale and Maude Shipman. They were there to listen to our problems and give guidance and suggestions with the problems we were having. It was in that cottage with those young children that I had my first experience of “public speaking,” as it was part of our responsibilities to prepare and give daily devotions with reading those few verses of Scriptures, a Psalm, or words of inspiration each morning at breakfast. I remember the 5- and 6-year olds always wanting a hug or someone to listen. I count that as a blessing—the time I shared with those young children. It probably had some influence on how I raised and treated my two daughters.  I recall my ultimate goal of moving to the senior girls’ cottage, called Potter, when I got to be in senior high school. The group living there, I remember more vividly. It was the daily routine, with chores and responsibilities that we needed to teach us character and give us a sense of order and destination in our daily life. I remember many wonderful people I shared those high school years with in the Home and at John Marshall High School. In group living, we learned to live with and how to get along with all kinds of people and personalities. There was a bonding that gave me a sense of family, stability and security. I felt very happy and content while I was in the Children’s Home. I never resented the chores after school and going to the laundry to iron clothes for the little children. The responsibility of sharing in the cooking and cleaning of Potter Cottage helped prepare me for adult life.

Going to church was full of opportunities. You could go to choir and Training Union, where I learned so many of the Scriptures that so often come to mind when I have been confronted with many of the daily challenges in my life. At the Post Office, where I spent 24 years working with all kinds of personalities, they often heard me come up with a verse from the Bible, to give an answer to a question or discussion. They knew not to challenge me on my beliefs and the Bible. I think the church experiences from the Home prepared me in so many ways for the challenges I was to face at work and in everyday living. I remember getting to go to Falls Creek and the fun and experiences there, with Bible study and singing. I still recall many of the songs we sang at Falls Creek. The one that comes to mind so often is: “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.”

Maybe these very words are the ones that have stayed with me and given me the strength to carry on through many adversities and different paths I could have taken. Like my youngest daughter always tells me, “Mom, you stand up for what you believe is right, no matter what others say.” I never walk alone, God walks beside me.

I recall the experiences of spending time with my church sponsors, First Baptist Church, Guthrie. They were all fabulous people and made a special effort to make sure my visits were full of good times with ball games, trips and adventures I would never have experienced had I not lived in the Home. I still have and use many of the gifts they gave me for birthdays, Christmases and graduation from high school. I still often use a dictionary given me, a piece of Samsonite luggage and a necklace. I always looked forward to the times I spent with my sponsors. They provided the money to help with my school clothes and supplies. The members of the Baptist churches in Oklahoma made sacrifices so the children in the Home would have a better way of life. As I look back now and see how unselfish those people had to be to give to the Children’s Home, they practiced through Care ‘N Share. It seems so many people today only give out of the excess rather than out of their heart. An example of this is “If I have any money left over after payday, I’ll give.” I don’t think I would have had the opportunities that the Baptist Children’s Home provided for me, if people had not given from their hearts by sacrificing.

The people at the Home who touched my life in a very special way were Mr. James V. Browning and family, as I remember feeling so special, to get to work for them one summer. I loved being trusted and given the responsibility of helping care for their children. Miss Mildred, as we called her, was always there to take us shopping for school clothes, the dentist, etc. I still keep in touch with her at Christmas. Mrs. Irene Huffman was my housemother at the Home, and then again at OBU. She was always there to listen and share advice. Through the caring attitude of all the workers at the Home, an example was given, an impression made; a foundation was given for me to grow from, to mature and develop into the person I am today.

Looking back some 30years and seeing the opportunities I was given, the challenges that I have had to face and choices I have made—I give credit for my strong work ethic and character development from Christian people and the environment that the Baptist Children’s Home provided me. The strong Christian upbringing and that Christian environment has helped me cope and endure so many of life’s challenges that I have had to face through my adult life.

The Baptist Children’s Home gave me strong religious teachings, Bible study and scripture memory that has remained with me and strengthened my daily life.

I always said if anything happened that prevented me from raising and caring for my two daughters, I would have wanted them to go to the Baptist Children’s Home where they would have a Christian environment and be raised by people who were sacrificing to share their lives with the children of the Home.

I think of the experience at the Children’s Home as being that pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. A pot of gold to me is finding that “thing” you need right now, whether it be a Home, some money for an emergency, or someone to put a smile on your face. In California, we are always looking for that “liquid gold” called rain. So the end of the rainbow does have a “Pot of Gold.”

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