A Place to Call Home
by Angela Sanders, Freelance Writer
“My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.” Isaiah 32:18
After a lifetime of uncertainty and being moved around, 18-year-old Gabriel is relieved and grateful to have found a true home at Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children (OBHC). One of seven siblings, Gabriel has been a resident of OBHC for almost three years, his brothers and sisters far-flung and scattered.
“My mom abused us and basically drove us all to poverty. We moved in with a guardian, but that person was pretty rough on us, too, so we ended up in a shelter. A few years ago, they told us we had to leave — I still don’t know why. We went to live with my oldest sister, but she’s young and has a baby of her own. There was no way she could take care of the rest of us, too, so we started looking for a place for me. After about a month of living with her, I came here.”
Optimistic even before his arrival, Gabriel was nonetheless pleasantly surprised by OBHC. “I imagined being here would feel like being part of a big family,” Gabriel says. “I was even ready for there to be fights because that’s just what happens in big families sometimes, but it hasn’t been this way. It’s been way better. Basically, this place has everything you’d expect to find at a Christian home, but there are also other things I had no idea would be here, like opportunities and programs, especially the horse program.”
Gabriel has formed a special bond with his houseparents, the Ingrahams. “They are great! Really great!” Gabriel says nodding. “They know how to handle all kinds of situations and are very encouraging. Plus, they are really good cooks.” Gabriel smiles, reinforcing his viewpoint. “I’ve had some trouble at school, so they’ve been helping me through it. It’s a personal struggle, but they’ve encouraged me to face it and showed me how to avoid temptation.”
Gabriel became a Christian before coming to live at OBHC. “When I lived at the shelter with my siblings, we were in service listening to the preacher, and I felt like it was time to become a Christian. I went and told him, we talked and he led me to Christ. I was baptized soon after. Becoming a Christian has made a big difference in my life. It’s like a burden is gone off of me. I still make mistakes, like I said, but those mistakes just remind me that I’m still human and always need God.”
Gabriel has found faithful mentors in the Ingrahams. “They’ve helped me learn and know more about the Word,” Gabriel says. “They’ve encouraged me to use my gifts. Like, I found out I’m really good at talking to people and can teach people things. I’m just trying to lead by example like Jesus did and be willing to sacrifice for others.”
Gabriel is looking forward to the next step in his journey to independence.
“I’m working on moving into the transitional living program,” Gabriel explains. “I’ll get to live in an apartment on campus and still have the safety and security of a family. Instead of just throwing me out into the world to figure things out, they will help me transition into adulthood and help me get ready to do things on my own. When I follow the rules, I’ll get more privileges until I’m ready to live by myself.”
In the near future, Gabriel hopes to attend Oklahoma State University or a similar college and study archeology and/or theology. However, for now he’s content to keep learning life lessons at OBHC while he gains work experience. To those whose financial gifts afford him this opportunity, Gabriel offers his thanks. “Thank you for giving me a place to go,” Gabriel says. “Thank you for realizing that even though we are just ordinary people, we have special gifts. Thank you for giving us a peaceful place to figure things out.”
“Being here, I’ve learned the best way to do things is to just try to be better than yourself. If you compare yourself to others, you’ll come up short and get discouraged, but if you just do better than you did last time, you’ll eventually get up there where you need to be. You can’t rush it. If you do, you could mess up. You’ve got to take it slow and steady and let people help.”