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.