Specialized Ministry — January 2007
Ministry of the Smoky Mountain Children’s Home
By Ruth Hampton, Smoky Mountain Children’s Home, Residential Care
I am writing to share with you a thumbnail sketchof the Specialized Ministries of the Smoky Mountain Children’s Home. (For this article, I will refer to the Smoky Mountain Children’s Home lovingly, as The Home.)
The Home has transitioned from a rented home, with four children in Cleveland, Tennessee, in 1920; to a 60-acre care campus nestled at the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains in Sevierville, Tennessee, with 55 to 60 children in residential care and 90+ children in our Foster Care Program.
As a former state Women’s Ministries president for thirteen years, I was involved in promoting support for The Home financially and by encouraging our membership to pray for The Home. The Home is more than a place for kids; it is a place to receive love, acceptance, healing, therapeutic treatment, as well as a safe environment.
Now, as a staff member of The Home, I see the scope of ministry that is performed daily in behalf of the children that are placed in our care. Some are here through private placement; the majority of privately placed are here with no funding except through the generous donations of caring people and churches. Other children are placed through the Department of Children’s Services of Tennessee. These children are identified as Level 2 children; they have been severely abused and are emotionally scarred. They carry with them baggage that, no child should ever have to endure; but thank God, we provide a place where the healing process can be initiated.
The m inistry of The Home begins as you walk through the doors of our 110-year-old administration building where the majority of the offices are located. You can image the staff it takes to keep up with all the required paperwork, yet, our staff does it efficiently. A person is greeted with a warm smile by Ginger, our receptionist; she will direct a visitor to the proper place with kindness.
Our services for “our” children : we provide a beautiful, spacious Home, with loving house parents and relief staff; Spiritual Life emphasized daily, with Parkway Church of God located on our campus; Clinical Services, providing counseling and residential therapy; Foster Family Care & Adoption, which places children in carefully selected, fully trained and supervised foster families; Training, an intense program to equip all of our staff in working with children; Transitional Living Program, providing young people a structured and supervised independent living arrangement while equipping them for the future; The Warehouse, an Operation Compassion warehouse to serve The Home, Widows Ministry Center, and area with food and other essential goods; Cherish the Child Foundation, a charity whose mission is to provide financial assistance and increase public awareness in the area; Campus Life/Activities, which provides an organized physical program and extracurricular activities; Care Campus News, is our network of public relations and communications media telling the stories of the various ministries located on our campus (visit at www.carecampusnews.cc)
Sponsorship , is a way indirectly to touch the lives of our children at The Home. Guardian Angel is sponsoring a cottage for $100.00 per month (equals $3.28 per day). Hero of Hope is sponsoring a child for $20.00 per month ($.67 per day). Box Tops for Education (we receive 10 cents for every one). Campbell’s Soup UPC codes, is another way to bless The Home. That is the way we receive vans to transport the children. Visit the web site www.smch.cc to see what product labels, etc., we can use.
I will introduce three people, employed by The Home, to you. As you read their article, you will see their heart.
I want to introduce you to — Valerie Price, one of our counselor/case managers who works in our Clinical Services Department. Valerie is originally from Alabama. She was raised in a loving and stable home environment with a mom and dad. As a child she was aware of children needing help and thought, “One day I will help these kind of children.” She’s been in the mental health profession for twelve years, fulfilling her dream. She has been at The Home for three years. Most of our children have a weekly visit with their counselors but are available if more sessions are needed. She is loved by the children she “ministers” lovingly to. She has a teenaged son.
A message from Valerie Price:
The social services department at the Smoky Mountain Children’s Home is made up of a team of professionals dedicated to providing the resident children with the best possible care while sharing with them the love of the Lord. The department is led by the clinical director who supervises three therapists, four case managers, a healthcare coordinator, and other support staff. The team meets weekly to discuss the care and progress of the children and to receive new children in need of care. They work closely with the house parents, foster care department, school system, court systems, families, placement agencies, and others to develop an individualized plan of care for each child and to see that it is implemented.
The plan covers all aspects of the child’s life, including: family reunification, in many cases; emotional and spiritual needs; educational goals; health care; independent living skills; and other areas specific to the particular child. Each team member is well acquainted with the children and seeks to be a positive role model and to demonstrate love and support for each of them. The team recognizes that it is a privilege to be a part of these children’s lives and takes every opportunity to be involved with and make a lasting impact on them.
Will Kahkonen (and Dana, his wife) will celebrate seven years at The Home February 15, 2007. They were pastoring a Church of God in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. They heard about The Home in a camp meeting service and visited the web site (www.smch.cc) for more information. They requested an application and the rest is history. They served as relief house parents until June 2002. They became the first house parents of The Yellow Rose Cottage, a transitional living program, (which they helped design the program), for the older teen girls who have graduated from high school and are going to a local college, tech school, or getting a job. Will also serves as our Training/Intake Coordinator which he will share about with you.
God has blessed them with two children in the last three years, Josiah (3) and Rebekah (newborn, November 17, 2006).
A message from Will Kahkonen:
The seven years that my wife and I have served at the Smoky Mountain Children’s Home have produced some of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of our lives. It is “non-typical” ministry; yet the very essence of Christianity.
During this time we have had the opportunity to serve as Relief House Parents, Directors of The Home’s traveling choir and House Managers of the Girls’ Transitional Living Program. In addition, I currently sit on the Elder’s Board for the Pathway Church of God (the campus church), and serve in administration as The Home’s Training/Intake Coordinator.
As the Training Coordinator, I am responsible for the development, implementation and continual revision of the staff pre-service and in-service training program. This program assists each employee in honing their skills and increasing their knowledge as mandated by the State of Tennessee and the Department of Children’s Services.
As the Intake Coordinator, I receive the applications for all potential private placements, ensure the document is reviewed by the Intake Committee and make any pertinent recommendations. If the individual appears appropriate for our program, I will schedule an interview to meet with the family and follow this with a date to receive the child into care.
As an Ordained Bishop with the Church of God, I find joy in meeting the needs of people and continually look for opportunities to convey the principles of God’s Word in a practical, yet powerful way.
Greg and Kathy Dace have been house parents at The Home since June 2006. They married in 1979 and shared a concern for hurting children. Becoming Christians in the summer of 1987, a journey began that would transform their concern into a calling. They became associated with the Church of God in 2004 and heard about The Home from a friend. They brought with them a wealth of experience, working with troubled youth since 1987 through youth ministry, street ministry, and the juvenile courts. They served as house parents at another facility for three years prior to coming to The Home. They are house parents of Cottage #8 (Chesapeake), a home for Level 2 boys.
They have four daughters and a son who is with the Lord after a car accident. Two of their daughters, and a son-in-law, minister faithfully at The Home as relief staff on cottages.
A message from the Daces:
House Parenting is not a “job.” It does provide a means of financial provision, but it takes a heart for these children to work with them. They learn very quickly if this is just a “job” for you. We deal with children and teens that are filled with anger, and understandably so. They have been neglected, abandoned, abused; with many of them going through things that are incomprehensible. The fact that they have even lived through their past is a miracle in itself.
Their behaviors, and oftentimes appearances, have labeled them as delinquents, punks, rejects, troublemakers and lost causes. Many of those labels were reinforced by the very people who were meant to love and nurture them. As house parents, and Christians, it is not for us to judge these children or their families; but to reach out to them offering them help and hope. Our homes should be a refuge of safety for them and our role modeling should be built on a foundation of love, truth and integrity. When you look at these children through the eyes of God, you see through the walls of anger and pain, and see their potential and gifts. You are able to hear beyond the foul language and hate, and hear the voice of the hurting child crying out to be loved and accepted. We are able to see what they cannot see in themselves. The question then becomes, “Lord, how can we help them?” We begin our work as vessels for Him to do His work. We begin teaching, in love and truth. We give them “tools” they will need in life and pray they will choose to use them. We study to show ourselves approved; and we sow. Where they have been robbed and torn down; we sow restoration. Where there is hopelessness; we sow hope. Where there is pain and deep wounds; we sow healing. Where there are lies; we sow truth. Where there is fear; we sow peace. We work diligently to demonstrate and sow the unconditional love of Jesus.
Many of these children have lost their childhood. They do not know what it means to be a child, or how to play. There is no innocence of childhood, as it was stolen. I remember one young man who did not have much of a childhood. He had a hard time playing or letting his guard down and just being “silly.” He purchased a remote controlled airplane and put it together with Greg. I saw the face of a boy, gleaming with excitement about his new toy. There was great anticipation of getting it built so he could fly it! The time had arrived; it was ready for flight. He went out into the field with Greg to fly “the plane!” Once the plane was in flight, he became very nervous and scared! Greg was right beside him guiding him. He was talking him through the process; how to work the controller, giving the correct commands. This young man kept saying, “Mr. Greg! Here! Take it, I can’t do it! It’s gonna crash!” He was so afraid of the unknown, so afraid to fail. Greg continued to stay by his side, instructing him, encouraging him and reinforcing that, “He could do it!” He did have a few crashes, but continued working, not giving up! He learned to fly that plane well. He got to where he could fly the plane right to him and catch it. As we watched him fly his plane, we also watched him grow in confidence and pride of his accomplishment. We knew that as he watched his plane soar high in the air, his heart was soaring, too.
Our prayer for these children that God has entrusted in our care is this: That they will all know the love and healing of being made whole through salvation in Jesus Christ; that through resurrection power working in their own lives they will have victory; no longer a victim; that they will discover God’s awesome plan for at their lives, a future of hope and prosperity, a captive set free, and that they will soar!
To summarize, The Home has the interest of each child at heart. They are ministered to 365 days per year, 24/7. Our resident census changes often because some come for a short time while others will be here until they are legally mature. Our goal is to sow into their lives for the Lord — to assure them their Creator is with them. Thank you — the membership and friends of the Church of God and friends of The Smoky Mountain Children’s Home for your continued prayers and support; without them, we could not exist.
Please visit us on our web site: www.smch.cc. Donations may be made through our web site also.