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.
Twenty-one years ago, as a single youth minister in Pittsburg, Kansas, God shook up my little world. I admired the work of Show-Me Christian Youth Home since my college days, as a volunteer with the Christian Campus House at Mizzou, and as an intern one summer. I intended to return “one day” to serve – “one day”, when married and with parenting experience. But, that day had not yet arrived. Nevertheless, my Father showed me the “multitudes” of children who needed a home and a family. They
longed for someone to invest in their lives, love them now and prepare them for a stable future. They were like shepherd-less sheep. Many prayers poured out for those kids, prayers for their provision and their security, prayers for them to have the home and families they deserve. I remember pleading with God. “Father, I see so many kids struggling without a home and family.” “Yes, I do, too.” “God, please provide them a home with a family who loves them.” “You do it. You take care of them. You provide their home. You become their family.”
“Me? I don’t have what it takes. God, those kids need a home with a father and a mother.” “A home with a father is better than no home at all.” At the end of a long list of excuses, He spoke tenderly to my heart: “Give me all you have and I promise I will make it more than enough.”
A Bachelor to the Rapture
A few months later, four boys started calling me “Dad.” God allowed me to be a father to some of the neatest kids I ever dreamed of meeting. I also served as Children’s Services Coordinator (aka “caseworker”) for all the kids at Show-Me. Gale and Karen Culler took me under their wings. I quickly caught their passion for this dynamic ministry.
I continued to long for the day I could provide these kids with a mother in the home. I prayed for her often, to have a passion for God and His work at Show-Me that rivaled my own. However, I started to accept the fact that I may be a “bachelor to the rapture.” With six boys in the home, I didn’t appear to be the most eligible bachelor in the world. And I was okay with that; God used single people to accomplish His purposes.
A Delivered Bride and 42 Children
Two years into ministry, a beautiful young lady interviewed for an internship. Admittedly, I’m not a “romantic type,” but there were some sparks! Jennifer started her internship in January 2000; in May I asked her to be my bride; we married in August. My Father gave me a wife beyond what I ever asked or imagined! In 2007, after Gale retired, Karen chose me to be an Associate Director. I questioned God again,
whether I had the “right stuff.” Again, He said, “Give me all you have, and I will make it more than enough.” Unfortunately, I would have to end our houseparenting role in order to make it work. In 2008, God opened up a window for us to depart from parenting at Show-Me. In ten years, He had blessed me to be “Dad” to 42 children!
In 2011, the Board readied to choose a new Director, as Karen retired after 34 years. Many people assumed I would be the natural choice, but the ambition to be the Director never enticed me, personally. After all, my business cards lacked those fancy extra letters after my name. Plain ol’ Chad Puckett doesn’t have what it takes to oversee
this incredible ministry.
Knee Patches & Big Shoes
After a time of prayer and fasting, essentially begging God to find someone else, I submitted my resume. God trumped my long list of self-identified disqualifications with that simple phrase, “You do it. Give me all you have and I will make it more than enough.” After two rounds of interviews with some impressive candidates, the Board chose me to succeed the Cullers in directing Show-Me. Terrified, I stepped into some really big shoes, relying on God like never before. The past seven years as Director seems like a few months. Tough days, long nights, successes, failures, and many
worn patches on my knees, I continue to remind God that this is His work, and I’m only here so He can get it done. Many times, I felt completely inadequate to do what
He asked me to do. Each time, my Father reminded me of the only miracle recorded in all four gospel accounts: Jesus feeding the 5,000. Jesus’ disciples saw the need: a hungry crowd. They suggested a solution: send them away to fend for themselves.
Jesus directed them: “You give them something to eat.” They focused on their limitations: “We don’t have what it takes.” Jesus assured them that if they
give what they have, He will make it more than enough. He showed them the problem and invited them to become part of the solution.
How Can We Send them away?
I’m standing here again. I see more children who need homes and families and all the opportunities to face a great future and excellent eternity that Show-Me is set up to provide. Every program and procedure has been evaluated to assure successful
results. Tough decisions have been made, programs have been developed and refined.
I look back through my life, and the last 50 years of Show-Me Christian Youth Home, and clearly see His fingerprints all over the place. I look at the lives of kids who benefited from Show-Me and the ways they are contributing to our society today. I look at the kids who currently call Show-Me “home” and see their potential and determination, rooted in the security and support they receive today.
Amazing. Satisfying. Inspiring. And, all the credit goes to God working through His people.
Each day, I still see the multitudes of little faces of children who have yet to find “home.” Instead of asking my Father to send them away to fend for themselves or to fill their needs elsewhere, I am trusting Him to take what we have and multiply our resources so we can meet their needs. And, with eager expectation, I look to my Father– this time without excuses — but with full confidence knowing He can take whatever we have to offer and make it more than enough.
Rescue and Restore
Rags to riches
Trash to treasure
Before & After
1 Samuel 16:7 – For the Lord sees not as Man sees, man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.
2Corinthians 5:17 – therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!
It has been my pleasure to work with the kids in the past—months on some projects. We often receive donations of furniture. Some of the furniture is in good condition and other pieces have been discarded because they are flawed or their owner didn’t recognize the value or potential of the item. These have become some of my favorite pieces. With some sanding, stain, paint, knobs, patterns, and embellishments of all sorts we can make these pieces look like new.
We can parallel our lives with these unwanted pieces. Frequently we, and the kids we love here at Show-Me, feel inadequate, flawed beyond repair, unwanted, and hopeless. We fail to meet the expectations of others or the expectations of ourselves. We see ourselves as the world sees us, never measuring up.
At the beginning of the projects, the students look at their pieces, thinking, how is this ever going to look like anything that someone would actually want? Sometimes there is a stripping process that the furniture must go through before anything else can be done. This is often the case with people as well. When what we believe about ourselves is firmly attached to our identity, those beliefs must be stripped away before we can believe the truth about who we are, our value and our potential.
As the students set to work sanding and painting and adding personal touches, they begin to see it for more. They recognize the beauty beneath the rough exterior. Smiles take over their faces as they see hope for their rescued piece. They look at their creation with pleasure as they compare the drastic difference between before and after.
I am thankful that our Creator looks at us and sees more than we see. I am glad the things others have said about me and believe about me pale in comparison to what the God of the universe says and believes about me. He created us, who we are, for His exact purpose, and we no longer live in the confines of what used to be. We are a new creation. The old has gone and the new is here!
Broken pieces…changing our brokenness into a masterpiece.
Belinda Smith, houseparent.
Every year we plant a garden and my 5 year old girls love to help! This year the little girls and I planted by ourselves, chatting about how wonderful the veggies will be, and praying for God to send plenty of water for it to grow. I showed them how to step around the rows, not to smash the seeds and new plants. One of them, not wanting to disappointed me, followed along right behind me while I made a row and she picked up rocks. “Look mommy! I’m following in your footprints!” She had no idea how profound that statement was for me.
I shed a small tear and bent to kiss the top of her head. “Yes sweetie, you are.”
This little girl has had more heartache in 5 years than I’ve had my entire life. Witnessed more than she should, and dealt with the passing of her mother. I’ve had her for 3 years and she knows me as mommy. I took a step back that day to evaluate myself. If she’s following in my footprints, am I following in Jesus’ footprints? Am I walking the walk? Am I talking the talk? I want them to see a difference in us from the life they’ve left behind.
I sing a song for my dad on fathers day written by Mark Lowery
Thank you dad for showing me the father
I see his love in everything you do.
Like a clear reflection in the water
I’ve always seen the father in you.
My parents were an excellent example of Christs love and compassion. I want to strive to be worthy every day of my kids following in my footprints.
For many of the 2,000 children who have called Show-Me “home,” the path that brought them here was treacherous—one filled with neglect, fear, and uncertainty. Some have been homeless, some have parents in prison, and some of the kids got in trouble with the law themselves where Show-Me was their only alternative to juvenile detention. For others, their guardians’ just felt like Show-Me could provide them with a better life than they could on their own.
Jerrica’s journey is a fairly typical case. She joined our Show-Me family when she was 14 years old. By the time she reached our doors, she had been placed in home after home staying with countless faces. Nothing seemed to work out. “My whole life was a mess. Nobody wanted me. Nobody trusted me. I had burnt all my bridges,” remembers Jerrica.
The thought of graduation and a positive future seemed an unachievable goal. “I never believed I would make much of my life,” said Jerrica. “The idea of graduating in 2012 seemed a million years away. I kept telling myself that I was never going to make it. I should just give up and drop out now.”
Life at Show-Me wasn’t easy at first. Her rebellious attitude and distrust of everybody and everything made “fitting in” difficult. In her eyes, no one seemed to want her. Searching for acceptance, she acted out to try to be “strong” and “hard.” But, her Show-Me houseparents, Jeff and Jessica Weber, would not give up on her. They accepted her for who she was, not how she acted. She became a part of their family providing her with a structure and stability she never had before. That love and guidance changed Jerrica. She began to trust others and with that trust, slowly, came change.
Jerrica has now blossomed. She is active in her youth group, loves to help with the other kids on campus, and always has a smile on her face. She finished her studies early and will not only graduate, but receive her diploma with honors after managing a 3.5 GPA.
Our new Path-to-Purpose program has helped unite her passion for kids with a solid plan and set of resources. She has earned a number of scholarships and is working this summer at a nearby Christian camp to help with school expenses. She will start college in August at Central Christian College of the Bible in Moberly, Missouri working toward her degree in Elementary Education. She hopes to teach Second Grade and make a difference in children’s lives.
“I don’t like thinking of where I would be if it weren’t for God. Before, I dreaded each day. I didn’t know what I would do, who I would meet or where my mom would take me. Now I feel safe and secure,” exclaimed Jerrica. “For the first time, I am excited about the next part of my life and ready to get there. I know it is going to be a bright future and I know I have a huge family who always has my back!”