Karen Culler’s legacy is not one of perfection; it is of faithfulness. Through many trials and challenges, she prayed, rolled up her sleeves and went to work – uncertain of God’s plan, but confident in His calling. “I learned to trust God each step of the way…not giving in to asking ‘why,’ but simply keeping on keeping on,” Karen said. “They will see us when we fail and fall short, but if we determine every day, anew, to live according to His standards, it will show that our lives are being transformed.”
Living the American Dream
By the world’s standards, Karen Kohn lived a picturesque, American life. She grew up on a farm near Bethel, Missouri, in a strong Christian family. Through her daily life on the farm, she developed a strong work ethic, the courage to try many things, and a deep personal faith.
A month after her high school graduation, she married her sweetheart, Gale Culler. Both had good jobs and looked forward to a house full of children. In 1967, the couple was blessed with their son, Troy.
Karen and Gale yearned to be used more by God, but without having a formal Bible-college education, doubts crept in and they struggled with what their mission was supposed to be. They kept praying for direction and serving where they were.
A Life Spared for What?
In 1971, Karen’s pressure cooker exploded while she was canning peaches in her kitchen. Her body was severely burned, but her face was spared because her double oven had prevented the lid from flying all the way off. During her long hospitalization, she nearly died from infection. Gale and Karen both felt that God had spared her life and He must have a purpose for doing so.
Was it children? For years the couple tried to grow their family without success. They endured several miscarriages, and after the birth of Troy, they had been told by their doctor that any more children would be unlikely. How could God leave this overwhelming desire on their hearts?
Learning of an adoption option at Cookson Hills, the Cullers took a trip to receive a baby that needed a home and family. At the last moment, the baby’s mother changed her mind and canceled the adoption. The Cullers were heartbroken.
Yet, the journey was not in vain. They were touched by how children were being loved for the Lord through Christian childcare families. The seed had been planted. They knew this was something they could do: take care of and love children. This feeling was confirmed when a friend called telling them about a need for houseparents at a children’s home in East Tennessee. Soon after, the Cullers packed their car and headed south to start what seemed might be a dream come true.
“Love Them for What I Can Make Them”
In Tennessee, the dream quickly became a nightmare. The family ministry they envisioned was more an institutionalized setting. Gale and Karen were house parents for 13 teenage girls, all of whom did not want them there. None of whom seemed to have any desire to change. They did everything they could to get the family to give up and leave. It brought the Cullers to their knees.
“I have never been exposed to anything like this in my life,” Karen cried out to God in anguish. “How can I live with them under my own roof? How can I love them when they are so unlovable?” God’s answer transformed her: “Love them for what I can make them, not for what they are today.”
Gale and Karen came to realize that each of those hurting young people had been through more in their short lifetimes than they could ever imagine. The Cullers’ rules, discipline, and even fortitude would not tear down the walls that the girls had put up to protect themselves. As one girl put it, “I never wanted to love you. Anyone I ever love leaves.” The girls had to choose to lower the walls. By reflecting God’s unconditional love, trust could be formed. With trust, the walls came down, relationships were built, and a family began to bond. Those lessons from Tennessee would prove instrumental in the next step of the Cullers’ journey.
“It’s Got Potential”
Ray Gipson, the Executive Director of Show-Me Christian Youth Home, had for years tried to court the Cullers to come see the Missouri ministry. Finally, on their next vacation, the Cullers visited Show-Me. At first glance, the struggling ministry in La Monte wasn’t much to look at: three facilities that cared for six children, one calf, and a badly built barn. Still, the Cullers both felt with certainty that God was opening another door. Gale phrased it best, “It’s got potential.”
In 1977, they rolled up their sleeves and went to work. In addition to caring for children, Gale oversaw farm operations and Karen did the bookkeeping. Six months later, Show-Me had 18 children in residence and Gale was asked to become the Executive Director.
Their experience in Tennessee had shown them how an institutional setting wouldn’t work as effectively as the rural-family structure in which they had grown up. Working together in a farm setting, the children would be taught a good work ethic, build character, and see God at work in their lives in spite of all the struggles of the past.
From livestock to houses, from children to staff, Show-Me grew and grew for the next 20 years. Each day began early with family prayer and devotions, then out the door to start chores before heading to school. The children were responsible for assisting Gale with the care of the animals, which included cows, chickens, and pigs. Karen worked with the girls throughout the day, cooked and cleaned, and spent late nights doing the book work and publicity.
Things were never easy, but God met them every step of the way. With limited resources, Show-Me tried to help as many kids as they could. Tight finances, uncertain futures, and dealing with kids during their “rough times” were facts of life. “The Lord is keeping it that way so we’ll never forget to totally depend on Him,” the Cullers would say.
Show-Me…Where Love Grows
Nevermore would that statement be personally tested than over the last 25 years of her life. The Cullers leaned heavily on the Lord through the loss of their only biological son, Troy, in a car crash. Karen would face the failing health of loved ones, Gale’s cancer and dementia, and finally her own battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease. He would be with her as two of her grandchildren and Gale, her dear husband of 54 years, preceded her in death. Through it all, Karen remained faithful.
In 2011, Gale and Karen passed the baton to the next generation, having established a six-home campus with a Christian School, ball stadium and office complex, as well as satellite homes across the state of Missouri. Over 50 children were raised in her home and thousands under her leadership. She remains endeared by the staff, community, children, and the childrens’ children, as well as everyone who knows her simply as Grandma Karen. Through their passion to meet the needs of hurting kids, the Cullers established an extensive network of support and provision of resources.
Ever faithful, Karen pressed on with the eternal work the Lord called her to do to make Show-Me a place “where love grows.”
“She’s a stubborn, bad horse!” a new Leadership U student muttered as he sat anxiously on his horse with tears in his eyes. “She won’t listen. I quit!”
Riding up, fifteen-year-old James,* encourages the new rider saying, “Don’t give up, you can do this. Yelling isn’t going to do anything. Show her how. You have to be the leader. You have to make a believer out of her!”
James knows. When he first got on a horse just like when he first came to Show-Me, he felt just as lost and hopeless. The unfamiliar setting left him feeling anxious, scared, and wanting to give up. Luckily, his Show-Me family helped encourage and guide him. Using many of the same techniques he is learning in the Leadership U program, James has been able to face and overcome obstacles of his past and prepare for the challenges of his future.
Achieving the Impossible
God provides the ultimate example of leadership in his son, Jesus. The best way to equip a young person to live as a successful, independent adult: teach them to lead like Jesus. To lead like Jesus, a leader must develop the heart and character to serve. Only then can trust be built that compels change, not demands it, and inspires other to follow.
Modeling this kind of leadership is at the heart of every aspect of Show-Me. “Leadership U is a practical, “incubator” where our young people can put to the test everything they learn in school, church, and counseling to develop confidence, leadership, and healthy relationship skills,” explains Director Chad Puckett. “It gets our kids out of their comfort zones and gives them opportunities to do things they never believed possible.”
The program teaches that the first objective to accomplish the “impossible” is to break it down into a series of smaller, achievable steps using the core principles of Leadership U. Service is the root of Christ-like leadership. Through actions, the leader signifies to the follower that “I am here for you, not me.” Next, the leader must equip themselves with the knowledge – basic information and skills – needed to complete the task. Persistently refining that knowledge day-by-day develops the work ethic, attitude, and character required to build confidence to lead through future challenges. Displaying that wisdom inspires the follower to believe in the leader’s ability.
New Insight Through New Roles
“Working with the animals opened the kids’ hearts to receive instruction,” stated Nathan Smith, the program’s creator and coordinator. “When they see how your advice makes the horse do things they never thought possible, they begin to trust and are willing to listen to what you have to say about horses, life, and even God.”
Leadership U’s hands-on model of training horses and dogs has been especially effective in helping at-risk children like James. Utilizing the emotional connection with animals provides a healing environment that lowers defensive barriers. The class’ physical activity gives a way to work out some energy. Seeing how the animals reflect his own emotions has made him more aware of his need to control his own. “I know that if I want my horse to be calm, I have to be calm,” James explained.
Being responsible for the animals, kids experience from the caregiver’s perspective the importance of obedience and discipline. These concepts take on a new understanding. When applied in their own life, rules and routines seem restrictive and controlling. Now, they understand them as necessary to reach one’s fullest potential.
Teenagers Have Horse Brains!?!
When you ask a teenager why they did something, they will likely say, “I don’t know…because I felt like it.” A teenager is a lot like a horse: impulsive, defiant, and emotional. Many times, they “feel” more than they “think.” Part of the reason stems from the make-up of their brains.
A human’s brain will not fully develop until they are 25-years-old. The prefrontal cortex is immature in a teenager; horses have none at all. This is the “thinking” part of the brain that performs reasoning, judgment, and impulse control functions. Until the brain fully matures, the teenage mind relies on the amygdala to make decisions and solve problems. This is the “emotional” part of the brain responsible for immediate “gut” reactions including fear and aggressive behavior. Horses have an extra-large amygdala to alert them and react to threats. When the amygdala is triggered, the brain shuts down its thinking side and immediately goes into “fight” or “flight” mode.
For children who have experienced trauma, this reflex is magnified. This is why direct approaches with teenagers rarely work and usually end in confrontation. The emotional bombardment either causes them to shut down or fight back verbally. They react emotionally, and do not think rationally.
This unconscious defense mechanism, combined with unresolved trauma from his past, created trouble at home and school for James. “If you challenged him, he would get defensive,” stated Jeff Eades, James’s housedad of five years. “He would always have an answer and it was never his fault.” Both parent and teen were left frustrated and nowhere closer to solving the problem. Using the understanding of the mind’s wiring, Leadership U uses a five-step process to learn how to overcome obstacles (see chart on left).
The Problem with Pages
James’s obstacle was his struggle with reading. School frustrations spilled over to anger and outbursts at home. In his head, he read over words so quickly that by the time he got to the end of the page, he had no clue what he was reading. If he didn’t know a word, he would come to halt. Both issues led him to act out to avoid feeling like a failure.
To help James, the Eades applied many of the steps of the Leadership U process. First, they made reading a positive thing, not just a school task. They had him read for fun in subjects that interested him. Second, they worked to reprogram his negative reaction to avoid reading by redirecting him. When he became restless and frustrated, they did not fight or argue. They had him get up and do something physical like walk the dog or go running. Getting that energy out helped him to focus. Third, they had him read out loud. Saying each word helped slow him down enough to hear and comprehend the story. Jeff remembers how the results could be seen by the size of James’s smile when he saw his reading test score. “100%! How is that possible!?!” James said proudly.
Trust Built on a History of Victories
James’s victory with reading has led to improvement in school and a reduction of fights at home. Yet, like all of us, he will face challenges in his future. Whether on a horse or in the classroom, or eventually in a job or a relationship, each obstacle he overcomes grows his confidence and makes the next obstacle seem less daunting. By “Learning to lead like Jesus,” James is learning to believe – in himself, his future, and God.
The Miraculous Power of Second Chances
Dante knew something was missing in his life. Every waking moment he had been searching for it because he knew it was the critical piece he needed to fill the empty, painful void that tore at him inside. The void that reminded him of his pain, loneliness, and worthlessness. Watching from afar, he had seen glimpses of people who must have found it: the girl at school who never judged him because of the smell from his clothes, the genuine joy that he saw on the people coming out of the church across the street, and the families he saw laughing as they played at the park. Why could they find it and it remain so elusive to him?
He must be broken. Why else would a 15-year old that so many others called “extremely smart” be such a failure? It had to be the case. His parents abandoned him. Foster families couldn’t deal with him. Even the families that talked about God and His love for Dante still didn’t want him. It was the only reason that made sense to explain the events of his life. Why else could nobody love him?
Now, after they caught him again trying to run away, he found himself in the psychiatric hospital for the third time. Years of heartache, pain, confusion, and instability had driven him to the point where he could no longer find a purpose for life on earth. Then, news came. One hopeless young man would give life one last shot…
Six Months and “Good-bye”
Dante’s childhood was filled with instability. He was born to a mother who was addicted to drugs. Knowing she was unable to raise him, she tried to put him up for adoption. Unfortunately, the mandatory DNA test needed for the process brought into Dante’s life a danger she was desperately trying to keep out.
At the age of two, he and his younger brother were removed from her home and sent to live with their alcoholic, abusive father. Over the next five years, Dante stayed in numerous houses as his father was continually on the move outrunning authorities. Dante took on a parental role, trying to care for his little brother as best he could. At the age of seven, the law caught up and he was placed into foster care. Shuffled between homes, he usually never stayed in a place more than six months.
With each move, each rejection by those who said they cared and would love him, Dante withdrew more into himself. ‘Family’ and ‘love’ were just words, not real things.
“Each place just felt like another four walls,” Dante recounted. “There was no special relationship. I was not their child. Another mouth to feed so they could get a paycheck. Nobody loved or wanted me. Time after time, when I got to be too much to handle, the foster family would just get rid of me.”
Life had taught him that he could not trust others, only himself. That was fine. He would play their game and go through the motions until they were ready to throw him out. He stole food from the kitchen and hid it away in his room or backpack. He acted out, pushing people away before they could reject him. He did not want to interact with other kids at school, fearing that if they got too close they would see how broken and ugly he really was.
In 2009, eight-year-old Dante and his brother were ordered by the courts to live with a relative in Missouri. Things did not get better over the next seven years. Conflict, abuse, and chaos filled the house. As he grew in size and age, the lonely boy spilled over into a depressed and angry young man. Each day left Dante feeling more broken, out-of-control, and worthless. He had thoughts of ending his life and tried to run away multiple times. Counseling. Medications. Hospitalizations. Dante had tried it all and nothing seemed to help.
In 2016, his counselors reached out to Show-Me as a last hope. Even if Dante didn’t believe it, they had faith that this young life could be rescued and restored to a future of success if he had the right supportive environment and a loving family to guide him.
“My first impression [at Show-Me] was that it almost seemed fake because of how well I was treated,” recounts Dante. “I kept watching for the inconsistency. But, it never came. It was the exact same every day. Everyone showed me love and care in this entire community – from my house parents all the way down to the volunteers.”
One Last Chance…Again
The skeptical teen didn’t know how to react in this strange new setting, so he reverted to his self-sabotaging survival instincts: hoarding food, lying, arguing, and closing off. “I was not a pleasant kid,” admitted Dante. “I did a lot of dumb things. I had so much anger about my past. Most of all, I hated myself because I believed the inner voice that told me all the hurt in my life was my fault.”
Dante’s defiance escalated to more dangerous activities. Something had to change. “He was doing everything he could to try and force us to dismiss him,” said Rachel Reynolds, Children’s Services Director and long-time house mom. “But, we all felt like Show-Me could not give up on this kid. We had faith that we could still help him and knew he had nowhere else to go.” Believing a fresh environment could give him a clean slate, the difficult decision was made to have him join the Carman Family at the Drysdale Campus.
Quitting is Not an Option
Things didn’t magically change. “Dante was a difficult kid, but we committed to fight for him so he could have the love and stability everyone deserves,” the Carmans expressed. “The Lord put it on our hearts that giving up on Dante was not an option.”
Like most kids who grow up in chaotic homes, he tested boundaries trying to add instability in order to create a more familiar environment. The Carmans remained consistent: in the way they treated both their biological and Show-Me children, in how the rules were enforced, and in the love they showed.
Dante knew that he did not have to accept the Christian faith to be at Show-Me, but he did need to be respectful of it. Unknown to him at the time, God was planting seeds as he listened about God’s love while participating in family activities like daily devotions, church, and camp. “Before Show-Me, I knew of Jesus and His love, but I didn’t understand it because I had never had an example of it,” stated Dante. “It didn’t change the people who told me about it, so why should I want it.”
The Final Straw
The Son would bring those seeds to life at Dante’s lowest point. A few months into his stay with the Carmans, Dante forged a note and got on a bus prepared to run away. Fortunately, his attempt was derailed when the bus driver, a local youth minister who knew the Carmans, alerted the family. “I just knew this was going to be the final straw,” said Dante. “The moment their love would quit. Instead, they hugged me and told me that I had made a dumb choice, but it doesn’t mean that they love me any less.”
Something inside Dante changed in that moment. “I came to know the true love of God,” Dante stated. “Not just for others, but with the tough and constant love of my mom and dad, I experienced this love personally.”
Secure in that love, he began to embrace the opportunities surrounding him. The Show-Me school helped him catch up and graduate on time. Path to Purpose identified a college and career in precision machining that fit his personality and meticulous nature. The sports and the Leadership U programs grew his confidence. Most importantly, he realized that if others saw something in him to love, then maybe he wasn’t broken after all.
“The more I saw, learned, and felt that love from the Show-Me community, the more I wanted it for eternity, stated Dante. “I wanted that thing that allowed my parents to love me in a way that humans can’t.”
A Forever “Welcome Home”
With hard work and guidance, Dante turned his new found hope into a solid future. In 2018, Dante was baptized. In 2019, he graduated from high school. This spring, he received his college degree in Precision Machining Technology. Thanks to a summer internship, he had a full-time job waiting for him to start in May.
“It seems unreal at times, Dante said standing on the front porch of his house. “If I had not come to Show-Me, I am not honestly sure I would have a life. My second chance gave me more than I could ever repay. It gave everything: a new outlook on life, the family I always wanted, and a love that will never end.”
See more of Dante’s story here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cq1f0SZlSnw&t=20s
The Fires & Refinement of the Class of 2021
How would you survive if you were bounced between 30 different foster care home or had dozens of siblings? Imagine being forced to go to a new country where no one speaks the only language you know. What would you do if you had the responsibility of caring for five children, all under the age of five years, without the most basic of resources? What if, in the blink of an eye, an accident causes you to suffer a near fatal brain injury that leaves the majority of its victims unable to ever speak or walk again? To any adult, these tasks would be daunting. To a child, they would seem impossible to overcome. For the Show-Me Christian School Class of 2021, these are challenges they have faced and came out victorious. Battles that have not broken them. Trials that have strengthened, refined, and inspired them to set out on a mission that God has uniquely designed each to complete.
From a Junker to God’s Classic
For most of his life, Michael thought of himself as a junker car that was ugly, dented, and unwanted. Born to drug-addicted parents, Michael bounced between 30 different foster homes before he was adopted at the age of 5. He acted out trying to be “cute” as he desperately worked to earn his new parents’ affection. His “cuteness” may have gotten him noticed as little child in the foster homes, but his antics created more negative effects as he got older. At school, kids would pick on the childish, short, skinny kid who was always trying to get the teacher’s attention. The bullying made him afraid to talk to other kids or make friends. It led to a vicious cycle of problems and isolation. Michael struggled in school, each year falling further behind. For eight years, Michael constantly worried that his adopted family might not want him either. Instead of taking responsibility for his actions, Michael would lie, telling the adults what he thought they wanted to hear. As he got older, his sadness boiled over into anger, then depression. Feeling lost and without purpose, he tried to take his life in 5th grade. His parents felt helpless. If the years of counseling and trying everything they knew didn’t help, what else could they do? Someone told them about Show-Me in 2014. They realized that the structured daily routine, positive Christian atmosphere, and one-on-one teaching style was an environment in which
Michael could thrive. “I thought it was going to be a vacation from home – boy was I wrong” Michael laughed. “It isn’t easy, but Show-Me is a fresh start for us kids coming here.”
When 13-year-old Michael sat down for lunch on his first day, he realized there was something different about this place. Miguell, an older 8th grader, sat next to him and started to talk with him. Michael didn’t have to do or say anything to earn his friendship, this guy wanted to be his friend. For the first time in a long time, he didn’t feel lost or alone. Over the next few years, Michael learned to accept the love of family. Focusing on his studies and with extra help, he caught up in school. He discovered his mechanical gifts and learned the value of hard work by assisting his houseparents with hands-on projects – gifts he hopes one day to use in his own automotive shop. The biggest change came the day he heard Pastor Alan talk about what Christ’s sacrifice meant. It not only showed God’s love for us, but it was proof that each of our lives have purpose.
Trusting in that love and believing for the first time that his life truly did have purpose, Michael asked to be baptized. Michael no longer worries about earning God’s love or being wanted. He knows that he is a child of the King of Kings. In his senior devotion message this March, Michael used the illustrations of cars to explain to his classmates how God rescues and restores each of our lives. Michael knows that he
is not the worthless junk car he once believed he was. He is a classic Mustang that God is in the process of restoring.
Hope in Hidden Answers
Ever think having a brother or sister can be a lot to deal with, try having 42! Sadie has been a part of Show-Me all 18 years of her life. Never the oldest and rarely the youngest, she learned to be very observant, keep calm, and find organization in chaos. The details of each siblings story’s may be different, but all share a common factor – they are children caught in the crossfire of struggling families. They are broken lives who don’t understand how or why they ended up in this situation. Many are angry because so much is out of their control and fearful their life is destined to turn out like their parents. Sadie saw that the thing her brothers and sisters were really searching for was hope: hope for their future found in answers from their past. It is that hope that compels Sadie to seek a career in criminal justice. “The love, loss, and hope I’ve learned and gone through has taught me to want to fight for hope for others,” stated Sadie. “Working for a federal crime fighting agency, my wish is to give hope to the families and loved ones of the victim by finding answers, solving cases, and preventing the suspect from
destroying more lives.”
Failure Leads to Success
When Jonas arrived in Missouri to meet his adoptive parents, he could only speak and read in his native Ethiopian language of Amharic. Communication was a great challenge since no one else around him could speak it. Without words, how could he let people know how he was feeling or what he needed? Even though over the next few years he would learn English, his difficulty in communicating snowballed into more problems. Jonas began his education three grades behind. The language barrier made
learning extremely slow and frustrating. Despite putting in many extra hours of work, Jonas fell more and more behind in school. His inability to communicate left him feeling angry and alone. He began to believe the lies in his head that he was a disappointment to everyone, he would never be good enough, and he could only count on himself for help. His anger grew more out of control each year, even to the point where he needed to be physically restrained to calm down. Finally, realizing Jonas needed more help than they could give him at home, his parents reached out to Show-Me. The new environment was good for Jonas. The individualized school program allowed him to go at his own pace. The smaller
class sizes and additional help from his teachers gave him the means to understand. He finally had the tools he needed to catch up in school and graduate. Yet, if you ask Jonas what led to his success the most, he will tell you it’s “failure.” In his endless failed attempts to be “good enough,” he realized that no matter how much he accomplished or how many people liked him, he was never going to be worthy in everyone’s eyes. It is an impossible task to achieve. “Nothing matters except how God sees you,” realized Jonas. “God loves us for who we are, not what we accomplish or what we have. If God considered me – flaws and all – worthy, maybe I could, too.” Jonas began listening and trusting the people that God
was sending to help him. In failing on his own, He learned success could be found in trusting God and the community of support He sends for guidance.
A Rough Start for a Greater Cause
Ana never really had a childhood. The oldest of five siblings, Ana became the caretaker early on while her mother was out. There was no time to think about what Ana wanted or how Ana felt, she had a job to do. Her siblings needed her. That all changed in 2010. Two ladies from a Vacation Bible School told her mom about Show-Me. The next thing seven year-old Ana knew, she and her five younger siblings were
living at Show-Me. Her old job was taken away. Her new job was to be a kid. “I was overwhelmed because I didn’t know what to do since they didn’t want me taking care of my siblings,” Ana recounts.
Over the next few years, Ana saw how God had always been watching out for her. She remembered how an unexpected- person seemed to pop into their lives at just the right time when they needed food, a place to stay, or some other kind of help. She realized how God had protected them from the bad people
Seeing that the God of the Bible, who was always there for His people, was the same one in her life, Ana accepted Christ. “Jesus used my bad life for a greater cause: my growing and maturing in Him (my Savior),” Ana stated. “Jesus led, not by forcing others to follow, but by being the model that made others choose to follow.” Desiring to be that positive role model, Ana heads this fall to college to become a social worker. She hopes to shows young people, who look like her, that they can beat the odds, too. “I want kids, who feel broken like I did, to see that they can overcome their past,” Ana said. “They can find another way to succeed, and not become the statistics society says they will be.”
Focus on God Can, Not “I Can’t”
Brendan’s life changed in a instant that day in 2016. Playing tag, he ran into a volleyball net, which caught him by the face and slammed his head against the hard floor causing his skull to fracture. He was life-flighted to Children’s Mercy Hospital. The doctor’s warned his traumatic brain injury (TBI) might
cause him to never be able to see, walk, or talk again. His only chance was to have an emergency surgery to remove the blood clot on his brain and put in two titanium plates. Over the following months, the physical pain slowly decreased but the emotional struggles increased. To give his brain a chance to heal, the doctors told him he had to eliminate most physical activity for the next two years. Thinking about all
the things he could no longer do made Brendan become more and more depressed. How could God let this happen? Maybe he should just give up and accept that he could no longer ever have a “normal” life as an independent adult.
Then, Brendan made a decision. He would not give up! He would focus on what he could control and trust God to take care of the rest. Philippians 4:13 became his life verse. Brendan might not be able to do certain things, but through Christ’s strength, he could do what God wanted him to do. He focused on his school work and strengthening his muscles a little every day. Over the next four years, Brendan’s dedication and faith revealed a bigger picture that he had once missed. In rehab, he saw other young men, who had suffered TBI injuries. These men could not talk, walk, or do basic life functions. Seeing Brendan and the progress he was making gave these men hope. Those men helped Brendan realize that God didn’t abandon him in his injury. He shielded him, sent people to encourage him, and be with him
through every step. Instead of being upset about what he couldn’t do, Brendan is now grateful for all
the things that he can do.
Choosing the Refiner’s Fire
A few years ago, the members of the Class of 2021 might have written their life’s stories a little
different if they had the choice. Now, they are grateful for each moment of their testimony. In the
refiner’s fire their eyes were opened. In the flames they saw how they are not alone. God was and will
always be there with them through every step. He uses experiences the world wants us to believe
can only destroy a life to strengthen and refine His children into the change agents He will use to
transform for good their families, communities, and world. As the Class of 2021 has shown, we
only need to be brave enough to trust Him and the work He is doing.
Homelessness. Loss of a job. Addiction. Coronavirus. The recent upheaval has brought to light for the country something that every child who comes to Show-Me has had to learn. Since God is a loving Father, all-knowing God and Lord, who only wants the best for us – then, not only did He know of the struggles we would face, but He allowed them for some reason. Crises, unforeseen hardships, and out-of-our-control life events reveal greater truths. Instead of focusing on the darkness, we need to look for the lights He is surrounding us with. The worst of times bring out the best in people. Only if we learn to trust God looking past our current difficulties will we discover these overlooked blessings.
Show-Me was bustling as 2020 kicked off. Schools and homes were near bursting at the seams as we continued to push our capacity. Volunteer groups, staff, and skilled craftsmen flooded the campuses to keep progress moving on the construction of two new houses and site improvements. Volunteers put finishing touches on the interior of the Leadership U Arena. The main campus looked like giant moles had invaded as trenches were dug to update water, waste, and electrical infrastructures. Phase I of the 2020 Vision Campaign to Rescue and Restore Even More was on schedule to be completed in the summer.
Then, COVID-19 happened…
In March, the difficult decision for safety was made to begin to isolate our families and limit any outside contact. Sporting events, the school play, and the Troy Culler Memorial Basketball Tournament were canceled. Volunteer activities, mission teams, and tours rescheduled. All off-campus travel, promotions, and church visits postponed. School continued at each campus, but satellite homes no longer came to the main campus for programs like Leadership U or Path to Purpose. But, for the most part, day-to-day family life still remained relatively “normal” except for maybe not seeing new places or faces.
A New “Normal” !?!
That all changed in April following the governor’s stay-at-home order. Since the physical, emotional, and spiritual mission of rescuing and restoring young lives is considered essential, our staff were frontline workers providing around-the-clock care. The main office remained open only on a limited basis. Staff worked remotely from home, coming in only as needed. Remarkably resilient, our houseparents played the role of teacher, counselor, and recreational director as they balanced the needs of eight to ten kids under the same roof.
School was conducted at home. The flexibility and self-paced format of the Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) curriculum adapted well to the circumstances. Using rotating schedules, each family was able to meet with school administrators for testing. Regular counseling appointments were conducted by video conference. From the gym to the clothing barn, families coordinated ways to share resources and keep the routines as normal as possible for the kids. Minimizing any chance for germs, each area was cleaned before the next family’s turn.
School wrapped up in May with all 46 students finishing their studies and passing their classes. Each of the five seniors received their diplomas. Due to social distancing, this year’s graduation was a small event with only immediate family attending. Those not able to attend in person watched the ceremony online. Face masks were as much in style as the traditional cap and gown.
Now, as restrictions ease, Show-Me is shifting back to traditional routines. Staff resumed full-time on-site operations on June 1st. Families have begun speaking at churches and other promotional gatherings. In July, volunteer groups, tours, and outside contact will gradually start again on campus. At the end of July, Show-Me Christian School students will start their 2020-2021 school year. And, our families are eagerly looking to reconnect with YOU, our bigger Show-Me family, at the 2020 Annual Open House in September.
Like the rest of the country, we improvised and adapted to ensure everyone remained healthy, basic needs continued to be met, and that there was always enough toilet paper. Yet, in the chaos, God, through His people, continued to meet each challenge with a blessing.
With so many teenagers under our roofs, you might think that food would need to be rationed. But, our food supply was one of the biggest blessings. Each family had plenty of meat due to 12 cattle from our Drysdale campus being butchered in February. We didn’t have to deal with empty store shelves because we utilized the donated items in our food barn. We continued to receive the left-over baked goods from local grocery stores and returned clothing from Walmart. Hiland Dairy provided milk to each of our households. A steady supply of fresh fruit, vegetables, and eggs was brought to us from local farmers. We were even able to share these blessings with former Show-Me families, local ministries, and other non-profits.
There were even benefits to being quarantined at home. No longer having to juggle sports schedules and church visits, houseparents found some much appreciated downtime. The kids helped with projects around the house and campus. Some of the older boys helped Nathan Smith finish putting together horse stalls for Leadership U. The extra time also helped the three new sets of houseparents – the Bowser, Holloway, and Stilfield families – get settled into their new surroundings.
Families coordinated movie nights on the lawn, pool times, and other activities for the kids. Pick-up games of volleyball, basketball, and kickball were organized. They united around kitchen tables and backyards to play games or talk. Using their musical talents, some kids led worship in the homes on Sunday while others sang or read scripture.
Even from a distance, supporters found ways to encourage and keep spirits high. A church in Nebraska filled our food pantry with 250 boxes of kid’s cereal. An anonymous couple sent each of our staff a letter of encouragement and $20 to do something nice for their family. Two RVs were donated for our families to share. To help remind them of better days ahead, one supporter offered to pay the cost for each family to go on a fun recreational outing together.
COVID Only Confirms the Mission More
Show-Me has not been immune to the effects of the pandemic. Financially, there has been an overall decline in donations as some long-time supporters and churches face financial hardships of their own. God answered our immediate need with a large estate gift, which at this time has made up for the current loss.
COVID-19 may have caught the world by surprise, but not God. We know that times like this magnify problems and hardships for families. Too often, children are the ones caught in the middle. Situations like this reflect on how crucial our ministry is to take care of these vulnerable lives, and to show Christ’s message of love in action, not just words. In faith, we continue to strive ahead carrying on the mission He has given us. And, thanks to you, we know that we are not alone.
A Step to Connect What We Love with Who We Know
“A Journey Of A Thousand Miles Begins With One Step”
– Lao Tzu
“IMPOSSIBLE!” would be the gut-reaction of most of us, if we saw God’s plan for the rest of our lives. Knowing the challenges ahead, our fear could paralyze us before we start. Lao Tzu’s saying, the 2020 Restoration Gala’s theme, reminds us that all tasks – no matter how big or difficult – start in the same way…with a single step. It doesn’t matter if it is expanding to meet the ever-growing need of children, or trying to outrun childhood ghosts. Each seemly ‘impossible’ journey starts with a single step of faith, trusting God to provide along the way everything else needed.
“How Can I Do Nothing?!?”
Left to grow up in unhealthy environments, children experience traumatic events that remain with them the rest of their lives affecting relationships, prospects of a successful future, and their faith – in God, in others, and in themselves. Even the lucky ones, who appear to break the cycle (see Keyon Dooling’s story on page 3), may carry emotional scars that threaten everything. Without help, the odds are stacked against these young lives having a happy childhood or growing into healthy, independent adults.
Over 50 years ago, upon seeing these battered young spirits, a group of Good Samaritans were compelled to answer, “How can I do nothing!?!” Collectively, they stepped forward to create Show-Me and rewrite the near and eternal futures for hundreds of children.
Can We Keep Turning Them Away?
The sad fact is that each year Show-Me can only say “YES” to five percent of the requests for help. Our current homes have reached their capacity. Safely, we can no longer add to the 50-year-old framework with short-term renovations, which are not cost-effective or adequate. If we are to meet the growing demand to help more children, our infrastructure must be rebuilt so new homes can be added. Compelled once again by the Spirit, a request is being sent out to find compassionate hearts willing to step with Show-Me as part of The 2020 Vision Campaign to Rescue and Restore Even More.
The $3 million campaign will enable us to serve up to 85 children by adding three new homes and expanding our school capabilities. The first step is almost complete and funded with the updating of the main campus infrastructure (water and waste management systems). The next step is to build two new homes and enlarge the current school facilities to accommodate up to 80 students. The second campus in Barnett, MO continues its development with the Reed home currently under construction. Future steps will include a new office across from the homes and school, creating more safety check-in points and relocating non-school staff and programs.
If Children Can Be Helped, But No One Knows…
To provide the stability needed for the new families that will live in the three homes currently under construction, we must not only maintain, but increase our steady, ongoing, monthly support. The estimated cost to support a new 10-person family is an additional $5,000 per month per home. New supporters must be found to help the children waiting.
But where? Each year, more and more of our most faithful, long-term supporters have gone on to be with the Lord. Congregations struggling to keep their doors open trim their missions support. Today, fewer churches and Sunday Schools provide time for missions to speak. Christian Conferences and camp attendance have seen a steady decline over the last 25 years. Relying more on mainstream methods such as billboards or commercials is just too costly to be practical.
The problem is not people believing in the mission; almost everyone who talks with a child or comes out to visit becomes active in some way. “I never knew a place like this existed for kids,” is a common phrase uttered by first-time visitors. The problem is how do we connect Show-Me in its rural locations with new supporters, most of whom do not live anywhere close to Show-Me and whose lives are dictated by their hectic schedules.
If They Can’t Come to Show-Me, Bring Show-Me to Them!
In 2018, the 1st Annual Restoration Gala was held. While financially a success, the greatest treasure came in the form of new relationships, which have opened doors for Show-Me to speak at their businesses, community groups, and churches.
Kim Ream, a former American Family Insurance agent in Warrensburg, MO, was instrumental in connecting Show-Me with the American Family Insurance Charity, Inc. (AFIC). Thanks to her nomination, Show-Me was selected as the beneficiary of the 2018 AFIC Annual Golf Tournament. The tournament raised over $25,000 and resulted in American Family Insurance donating over $45,000. “I don’t know many people who can write a check for $25,000 out of their own bank account,” laughed Director Chad Puckett. “But, many of us have relationships that could have a tremendous impact to help the ministries we love.”
With this in mind, this year’s 2020 Restoration Gala is focused on raising new friends. We are asking those passionate about children to use this event to connect Show-Me with these kind of key relationships, who may have the expertise and gifts we need to take the next step. In hopes to get the message out to as many new people as possible, ticket prices are $25 (covering the cost of the meal). Former NBA player and Mizzou star, Keyon Dooling’s testimony offers a rare and candid glimpse into how events in our childhood set the foundation for the rest of our lives. Hearing from Keyon and a teenager at Show-Me, Josie, folks will understand the critical help and healing that a place like Show-Me provides.
A Formula to Move Mountains
By ourselves, the journey to solve these problems seems impossible. We are just ordinary people with limited resources on our own. Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 12:9-11, our weakness is our greatest strength because that is the formula God has used time and time again for the world to know His grace and love. Jesus promises we can move mountains. We just have to trust Him enough to take that first step, then enjoy the journey ahead.