By Shawn Hendricks
Contributing writer, B&R
BRENTWOOD — When it comes to navigating the COVID-19 pandemic while houseparenting four elementary kids and their 15-year-old daughter, Nathan and Laura Mankin have become firm believers in a daily routine.
Or, what they have humorously referred to as the “apocalypse schedule.”
“We’ve had to adjust it like six times,” Nathan said with a laugh in a phone interview with the Baptist and Reflector. “Now we have a pretty good one.”
As houseparents for the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Home (TBCH) at the Brentwood campus, the couple has found that the added task of home- schooling, working from home and managing a busy household amid the coronavirus crisis work better with a lot of structure.
‘Nothing is normal’
“Everything is written down in our house — morning schedules, afternoon schedules, chore schedules,” Nathan said. “All of that is posted on the wall. So, it gives them a sense of comfort to know that I know exactly what is expected of me.”
Providing some sense of normalcy “is so important to kids that come from trauma,” said Mankin, noting the TBCH training houseparents receive for days like this. “Obviously in this world today, nothing is normal.”
And with church services around the country having been canceled the past couple of months, TBCH President Greg McCoy shared some of the financial challenges the children’s ministry is facing in the days ahead.
“We are expecting a pretty serious dip in financial support for the next couple of months,” he has reported. “As always, the Lord has taken care of us for the past 129 years, and we expect that He will continue!”
McCoy highlighted the importance of this year’s Mother’s Day Offering, which will be collected throughout the month to help support the ministry. The organization also announced a plan B since many churches will not be passing the offering plate in May and will continue to rely on online giving or a postage stamp. In response, TBCH held its first ever “Drive Through Mother’s Day Offering” on May 10 at TBCH campuses to help make up the difference.
“The Mother’s Day Offering is the single largest fundraising event of the year for TBCH,” McCoy said in a recent letter to church leaders. “This offering, over and above the Cooperative Program, gives churches like yours the opportunity to meet nearly 30 percent of the funding it takes to keep our campuses and foster homes open to welcoming children in hard places.”
But some local churches and partners, McCoy said, have already stepped up in sending special financial gifts and providing groceries to help houseparents cut costs for routine expenses. Right now, in response to the coronavirus risk, TBCH also has not been taking any new children in residential care.
“We are doing well in the midst of everything,” McCoy said. But the situation “is challenging for our houseparents to have the kids at home all of the time; however, due to our acreage (on the TBCH campuses in East, Middle and West Tennessee) they are able to get outside and enjoy the sunshine and wide-open spaces.”
Michelle and Sherman Flynn care for eight teenage boys at the TBCH Ranch in the Memphis area. And caring for a group that size is no small task, Michelle told the Baptist and Reflector.
“We always need groceries,” she said, noting her boys “eat like grown men.” And with everyone out of school and working from home every day, the expenses of keeping food on the table and providing other routine supplies, such as deodorant, socks, etc., add up.
Opportunities for ministry and discussing God’s sovereignty during uncertain times, she noted, also add up as well.
“I know our boys are missing their families,” said Michelle, noting the boys haven’t seen their families in weeks — other than video calls. “They’re waiting patiently and doing okay, but (pray) that the Lord would just fill that gap.”
She noted, “We’ve had a lot of good discussions about faith and trying times, and when it gets difficult, we have to plug in even more with the Lord, do it daily.”
Nathan Mankin said evening devotions usually spark a lot of healthy discussions in their home.
“Even in the last week, we’ve been getting some interesting questions from the little kids on uncertainty of the future,” he said.
“I think it just weighs heavy on them,” he added, noting questions like, “Hey, why can’t we do anything?”
“That’s a constant prayer request,” he said, “just peace for our kids so they can settle and do what kids are supposed to do and not worry about all these things.”
Ed and Shirley Caram, houseparents on the Chattanooga campus, have been houseparents for both the Tennessee and Florida Baptist Children’s Homes for the past 19 years.
Right now, they are caring for four teenage girls.
The added responsibility of homeschooling has been challenging, they note, but their faith and the girls’ good attitudes have helped them through this time.
Shirley said, “They know they need to lean on their faith because He is in control. … They’re well aware that the Lord is working here. “
Ed added, “I’m looking forward to seeing the good that is going to come out of this.” He said, “I just think that the Lord is working in a huge way, and I’m just anxious to see … where we could look back and say ‘Yeah, it was a dark time. But man, the Lord really, really showed out here.”
For more information, go to tennesseechildren.org. B&R