Overwhelmed With Gratitude
by Angela Sanders, Freelance Writer
“But now thus says the Lord, He who created you, O Jacob, He Who formed you, O Israel; ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name. You are mine.’” Isaiah 43:1
Fifteen-year-old Andrea has been waiting seven years for her turn to sing the praises of Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children (OBHC). Clearly eager to begin, she opens up quickly, sharing a little bit about herself and all of her story.
“I am really big into art,” she says, eyes bright. “It’s just something that’s in my family. My dad was good at drawing, and my grandpa did pottery, too. My half-sister went to college and became an artist. Last year, I did paintings for my houseparents and every girl in my cottage. It took about three months, but it was a lot of fun, and I was proud of myself.”
“I love school,” Andrea continues, smile wide. “I’m pretty good at it, too. When I grow up, I want to be a vet because I’m absolutely in love with animals, but I also want to do art on the side.”
“I used to want to be a brain surgeon,” Andrea says, her expression growing serious. “When I was a kid, that was my first choice. When I was five, my dad passed away from a brain tumor. I guess I wanted to help people who went through the same thing.”
Andrea pauses for a long moment before continuing.
“I remember my dad. Every Friday, we had movie night and would eat pizza and watch movies. He definitely held our family together. My mom had a mental illness, but he kept her stable and on her medication. When he passed, my mom was broken. It really, really, really hurt her. She just stayed in her room all day every day. I remember being really worried and confused. I was little, but I was practically raising my little sister and taking care of my mother.”
Andrea continues, “My sister and I were taken away from our mom. She had been offered help, but wouldn’t take it, so they put us in foster care originally. Then, my grandparents took us because they didn’t want us split up. We lived with them a year, but it got to be too much because they had health problems, so my aunt and uncle adopted us. I was already traumatized. I’d been through so much. My sister was excited about a new family, and I tried to be happy for her, but I missed my mom.”
“After we were adopted, things changed between me and my aunt,” Andrea says. “I honestly don’t know what went wrong, but I didn’t feel like her daughter. I told my therapist I wanted to go somewhere else and they suggested OBHC. I knew there would be other kids who had been through stuff like me and was looking forward to that, but I didn’t like meeting new people then and was nervous.”
Andrea expression brightens. “Now I love meeting new people and hearing their stories. I’ve always been someone who liked taking care of people. It’s good to be here and be part of such a big, nice family.”
Andrea has two sets of houseparents and is very close to both of them. “We have to call them Mr. and Mrs. Neely and Mr. and Mrs. Hopkins, but I definitely consider them my parents,” Andrea says with a big smile. “They’ve taught me so much, like how to open up and say how I feel when something happens, as well as many life skills. Spiritually, they’ve been a huge help, too. Before I came to OBHC, I heard about God because my father took us to church all the time, so I remembered a little bit of it, but I was still confused. When my mom died, I went to a very dark place. I was angry with God because I’d already lost my dad and everything else. I was depressed. I cut myself a lot and even tried killing myself. I was surrounded by people who I knew loved me, but I still felt completely alone.”
God met Andrea in her grief, and she soon gave her life to Jesus at church camp. “I remember feeling so relieved and happy,” Andrea recounts, eyes glistening, “like a new person. At the time, my housedad was Mr. Doyen—I loved the Doyens, too—and he was able to steer me in the right direction. I think that man could talk about God forever, like nonstop! I didn’t know how to be a Christian or what to do next, but he was really patient and good about answering every single one of my questions. He taught me how to pray and read my Bible.”
Andrea’s gratitude to those whose financial gifts have given her a home is obvious, almost overwhelming. Through tears, she expresses what the privilege of living at OBHC means to her. “If it weren’t for you, I know I wouldn’t be in a good place at all right now. It’s actually hard to think about. Now, I feel like I’m going to be a lot more successful in life and more prepared for anything that comes my way.” Andrea pauses to wipe away tears with her sleeve. “Thank you! Like, really, thank you. It means a lot to me to be able to be here, and I know it wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for you. THANK YOU!”