Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children

 

Hope & Homes

Commemorative Book Outlines OBHC’s History

by Bob Nigh, Baptist Messenger

It all began with 3-week-old Gladys Smith, whose mother was near death and living in a shack near Washington Avenue church in Oklahoma Station—now Oklahoma City. Since that day in 1902, more than 16,000 children have received hope and a home from Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children (OBHC).

Originally opened as the Oklahoma Baptist Orphans’ Home in the one-story residence of Washington Avenue pastor J.A. Scott and his wife, OBHC today consists of four separate residential campuses located across the state, a maternity home and two Hope Pregnancy Centers.

The book, which Kennedy readily acknowledges is the result of many people’s efforts, and not his alone, is an account based on diaries, letters, newsletters, other publications and interviews covering the events of OBHC from 1903-2002. As author, however, he selected the final copy.

The book was unveiled at the recent annual meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma at Moore, First. Also at that meeting, OBHC actually kicked off its centennial celebration with a video presentation and a mini concert by hundreds of children and staff members. The concert featured a rendition of Ray Boltz’s popular song, “Thank You.”

“Our focus was to get the kids there and to acknowledge the work that began with the action of the convention in 1902,” Kennedy said.

Approval of the orphans’ home came from both the Oklahoma Baptist State Convention and the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma Territory. Those two conventions unified into the Baptist General Convention of the State of Oklahoma on Nov. 9, 1906. Thus, the Oklahoma Baptist Orphan’s Home predates both the state convention and the state of Oklahoma itself, which joined the union on Nov. 16, 1907.

In addition to the presentation at the state convention and the commemorative book, OBHC will conduct centennial celebrations at all of its campuses during the next year. They include:

  • May 3—the 30th anniversary celebration of the Baptist Children’s Home Owasso campus.
  • July 5—a homecoming reunion for alumni and friends at the Baptist Children’s Home at 16301 S. Western in Oklahoma City.
  • Aug. 15—a fish fry and 25th anniversary celebration at the Baptist Home for Girls in Madill.
  • Sept. 1 (Labor Day)—50th anniversary celebration and homecoming at Boys Ranch Town in Edmond.

In addition, children from each of the homes are available to go to churches and present testimonies during the year, as are the signing group, “Speechless,” from Madill and the drama group, “God’s Gang,” from Boys Ranch Town. The book, itself, is the culmination of work that began in May 1999. The initial printing of 6,000 copies is available to the public at the LifeWay Book Store, Mardell’s and Borders Books.

“We started looking three years ago at ways to observe our centennial, and we went over many different ideas,” Kennedy said. “But, as we worked to get to the best of them, we decided that a book showing our history would be something that people would want to own.

“I asked several people to make recommendations for a writer, but they all said, ‘you need to write it yourself.’”

The decision to make the book pictorial was made to make it interesting to all ages, Kennedy said. “Because it was about children, I wanted it to be a book that children would enjoy, even if they couldn’t read very well,” he said. “The photographs we used are excellent.”

Kennedy also wanted the book to be educational, and he has hopes that many school districts across the state will obtain one and use it in their history classes.

“We strived to really put our childcare in the context of state, national and international news events,” he said. “We didn’t try to make it a chronological story as such, but throughout the book, you see what was happening in the lives of our children in the context of what was happening in the world at the time.”

The book is divided into two basic sections: the first section is a look at the OBHC history through each decade, with highlights of current events presented through the use of a cover page of the Daily Oklahoman and photographs purchased from the Associated Press. The second section is called “Then and Now,” and tells about daily life at the OBHC campuses today. Each campus and non-residential ministry also is highlighted, and the final two pages present a chronological timeline of OBHC events and happenings.

“The Daily Oklahoman graciously allowed us to use a front page of their paper for each decade to show what was happening at that time,” Kennedy said. “Readers will be able to see how current events affected the children at our homes here in Oklahoma,” he added. “For example, what effect did the attacks of Sept. 11 have on the children at Boys Ranch Town? Well, some of those boys are now serving their country in the military and are involved in the war against terrorism.”

Kennedy hopes the book will give Oklahoma Baptists, and Oklahomans in general, a look at what the OBHC has accomplished in the past 100 years, and what it hopes to accomplish in the future. “We feel privileged to be significant in the lives of so many boys and girls today, and we look forward to helping more children in the next 100 years,” he concluded.


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