I recently received a call from Trey Oakley, Vice President of Development with the Methodist Children’s Home in Waco who extended an invitation to me to attend their 2013 Annual Commissioner’s Meeting. Additionally, Trey asked me to be the speaker on the last day of their conference at their luncheon and their would be 100-120 people in attendance. That luncheon was this week on Wednesday, October 23rd. I was excited to share the story of Elizabeth, Fischer, Benjamin and Hayes and how July 30th has impacted my life and how I became intertwined with the MCH family.
For those that are reading my blog and don’t know that much about the Methodist Children’s Home it was established in 1890 through the efforts of Bishop Joseph S. Key of the Northwest Texas Conference and Dr. Horace Bishop, pastor of Waco’s Fifth Street Methodist Church. The city of Waco bid successfully for the orphanage by donating cash and a 10-acre estate to the Home. Today, MCH offers residential group care for youth, ages 12-18, on the Waco campus and Boys Ranch. MCH provides foster care in Texas for children and youth, ages birth through 18, and a variety of family services throughout Texas and New Mexico. They also provide support for grandparents who serve as the primary caregivers for their grandchildren and for former residents who are making the transition to independent living.
The event began Tuesday night with a tour of the Boys Ranch! Let me just say what a beautiful piece of Texas! The University of Texas has a Charter School on the Waco Campus and a teacher at the Boys Ranch teaches them agriculture, welding, and wood working. Several of the residents shared with us about raising/showing their animals and some students PLACING with their animals in the Heart of Texas Fair. They also showed us their welding and woodworking projects. We visited one of the Boys Ranch homes to see where they live and meet the house parents! And let me pause here and say that I know what John and I want to do when we retire in a couple of years……..become HOUSE PARENTS! MEET THE DIEMS! Has a nice ring to it I think!
Wednesday morning, we started with a devotional with Ahmad Washington one of the ministers at MCH. I then heard AMAZING stories that brought tears of sadness to my heart and then stories of redemption, hope and success throughout the MCH programs. The stories of heartbreaking beginnings to redemption continued to fuel my belief in what an amazing place MCH is. These stories further affirmed for me that this ministry is the hands and feet of Christ in action!
Then we gathered for lunch that was prepared by the amazing staff at MCH. Let me just say they have quite a reputation for their yeast rolls and their bread pudding……and it did not disappoint!
For the luncheon, I had brought six of my wreaths that I created and placed them around the area where I would be speaking. The staff provided me with a quiet room where I could finalize my preparations of what I was going to say and pray. I wanted God to use me as his vessel and share my daughter’s story, touch their hearts and their passion for this amazing ministry that my daughter chose to be a part of.
For those that do not know the history, several years ago, our family decided that we had more “things” than we needed, and chose to no longer buy gifts at Christmas except for the children. Instead, we chose to pick a charity that meant a lot to us and donate what we would have used to purchase a gift in honor of others. Elizabeth’s charity that she selected over the last few years she was with us, was the Methodist Children’s Home in Waco Texas. Methodist Children’s Home is a ministry that her home church Salado United Methodist Church (www.saladoumc.org) strongly supported with gifts and service.
In lieu of flowers at her funeral, the family requested memorial donations be made to the Methodist Children’s Home to honor Lizz and the boys and her favorite charity. The outpouring and generosity from so many was overwhelming. MCH received donations in their memory that total upwards of $15,000. I went for a visit to the Waco campus last October. I participated in their “Race to Connect” 5K the following April. And as many of you know I have recently decided to begin building an endowment scholarship for Elizabeth at MCH for a student that wants to attend a trade school. Elizabeth wanted to attend the Aveda Institute when the boys reached school age. This would be how I would want to honor her legacy. To help some of the students achieve their dream! To fund the scholarship, I decided to fund it with selling my wreath creations. My wreath creations that started from making personalized memorial wreaths for Lizz and the boys. With God ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE! I was able to provide my 1st installment towards my $25,000 goal by giving MCH a $2500 check! I’m 10% there from wreaths that have been purchased by people who knew Lizz, heard the story about Lizz, or just liked my wreath creations all to help MCH!
So, with my wreath creations on display, Trey Oakley graciously introduces me. I say my final prayer to God and walk up to the microphone and tell them the story of a daughter and three grandsons who on July 30th left us and went to live with Jesus. I tell them about my unlikely connection with MCH with Lizz donating in our honor for Christmas and the outpouring of donations after the accident. I tell them that God has asked me to do “hard”. I tell them that you come to a place in your journey where you make a conscious decision to let this destroy you or to take this terrible event and build a legacy for your loved one. I have chose the latter. I tell them about the 1 year anniversary of their homegoing and how I spent the day doing things my daughter loved. How I went to “that place” on Hwy 95 and told the enemy he did not win, my daughter and grandsons live on, I am more determined than ever and my family and I are overcomers! I share with them that this is not a path I would have chosen nor would want anyone else to walk, but since this is my path, may I do it with courage, grace and honor to my God. And lastly, my God was the same on July 29th as he was on July 30th. My God is not part bad or part good. My Almighty Savior is full of grace AND truth! AMEN! I am also confident that God is bringing beauty from the ashes just as he says in Isaiah 61:3.
I shared with them that I feel closest to my daughter when I am at MCH because she is now a part of the campus, the staff, the food, the buildings, the chapel, their everything. So when I am there I feel her and it warms my heart.
I was the most concerned about the tears that surely would and did form in my eyes and roll down my face as I told part of this story. I explained the tears were because of my love and they were my memories that were falling from my eyes and rolling down my cheeks and I would ask for their grace and what grace they would provide.
I closed with sharing that Lizz had bought us matching bracelets as gifts one year. I reached into my pockets and pulled both of them out. I shared that she would call and nag me about wearing my bracelet. Recently, Sam gave me her bracelet that was like mine. What I didn’t know until very recently is that they aren’t exactly alike.
Elizabeth’s bracelet says:
My bracelet says:
Even today, she points the way for me. She “lived BIG” before she went……and now I am to “give BIG” before I go. Part of that giving BIG is to MCH!
Here is Lizz on location doing the make up of a bride. You can see her bracelet very clearly!
I closed with reading the Starfish story. I told them that I thought this illustrated the essence of MCH. There are LOTS of starfish (children) that need services and it can be overwhelming and discouraging to know you can’t save them all……but just like the starfish…….it does make a difference to that one!
To honor my gracious hosts, I made a wreath (what else!) and presented it to MCH. They are the bulldogs and have a 6 man football team that is undefeated and nationally ranked! GOOOOO BULLDOGS!
Lastly, they were such a gracious and attentive audience. They allowed me to share a tender and precious part of my life…..my daughter and my grandsons…….and indulge me in talking about how I am the keeper of her legacy and how I will help MCH save a starfish one at a time with the memory of my daughter and grandsons. And then something happened, I’ve never had happened before……they stood and applauded! Many of us had tear filled eyes and tear stained cheeks. My prayer is that the story of Lizz and the boys will re-energize people to never tire of their mission at MCH and that God will be glorified!
My sincere thanks to the staff and leadership of MCH who extended me the honor. I look forward to the spring as I assist with their prom! Something I know that Elizabeth would definitely approve of!
Here are some pictures of the luncheon:
So what’s next? Well, MCH also interviewed me for their upcoming Sunshine Magazine that should be released soon!
Lastly, as we approach our end of year giving, I would ask that you consider MCH as a way to honor my daughter and grandsons but also helping an organization that is changing lives and sharing the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
To all glory and honor be His,