By David Dawson
FRANKLIN — Greg McCoy, president and treasurer of Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes, has dealt with some difficult days during the past 15 months, and he knows there are likely more hardships still to come.
But McCoy has not let circumstances and situations — even those as daunting as a pandemic — deflate his enthusiasm or affect his outlook about the day-to-day ministry of Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes.
McCoy, in fact, said he has been encouraged by what he has seen in the past year, and said he is energized by the possibilities that lie ahead.
“I’m excited about the challenges facing us in 2021,” said McCoy. “We are praying over some God-sized plans (for this year). … TBCH has been welcoming children in hard places with the love of Christ for 130 years, and we are looking forward to seeing what God has in store for us.”
The TBCH, like most organizations, has felt the impact of COVID-19 since last spring. But McCoy and his staff were able to navigate through those strenuous days, thanks to their willingness to adjust and adapt.
“Just like everyone else, we had to get creative with our children’s education,” said McCoy. “We added staff on each campus to provide the necessary support for remote learning. I must tell you that I am super proud of the way our staff has risen to the occasion and provided excellent care to our children during some very challenging days.”
McCoy said he believes that 2021 can be a pivotal year for TBCH, and said he is excited about several projects and upgrades that are slated for the coming weeks. He said he is also optimistic about seeing churches continue to respond and support the ministry.
The month of May will be an especially important time for TBCH, as the organization focuses on its Mother’s Day Offering. The annual offering accounts for nearly 20 percent of TBCH’s yearly budget, and, equally important, generates a great deal of attention for the ministry.
In the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day, McCoy and his staff often visit churches to promote the offering. “Having the opportunity to seek support from our churches on Mother’s Day also gives me and our team a number of increased opportunities to represent TBCH on a Sunday morning,” said McCoy.
“We are always grateful for these opportunities to share what God is doing in the lives of our children,” he said.
Approximately 400 churches (among the roughly 3,000 in the TBC) request Mother’s Day Offering promotional materials from the TBCH each spring.
“For many churches, the Mother’s Day Offering is the one time during the year that the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes is on their minds,” said McCoy. “While a number of churches support us throughout the year, there is another significant number of churches who promote and encourage their church family to give through this special offering.”
Last year, TBCH received direct gifts from 1,171 Tennessee Baptist Covention churches. And although that number represented an all-time low in the number of supporting churches, many churches gave more than they had ever given before.
“God is faithful and has proven Himself so over and over again at TBCH,” said McCoy.
McCoy noted that the challenges created by the pandemic have affected almost every aspect of the TBCH ministry. But McCoy said his staff found ways to continue assisting children and families, especially in regard to helping children find loving, Christ-centered homes.
“While the pandemic slowed some adoption proceedings down, we were still able to rejoice over 17 adoptions in 2020 and have already seen six adoptions in 2021,” he said.
McCoy hopes to see those numbers continue to climb in the months and years ahead: “While getting started in the Tennessee foster care world seemed a little slow at first, we are now believing that the only thing limiting our ability to care for more children is the number of Christians who will respond to the Lord’s call to become foster parents and our ability to hire the necessary staff,” he said.
McCoy said one of the biggest obstacles during the pandemic has simply been the availability of the volunteers.
“We’ve lost hundreds of volunteer man-hours,” he said. “We are blessed with so many teams who come to interact with our children and to do projects on our campuses. When that had to stop, not only did our children miss these opportunities, more work landed on our already overworked staff. But I’m happy to say that we are scheduling mission teams for this summer who want to come and work in wide-open spaces.”
Each of TBCH’s three residential campuses were quarantined at some point due to COVID-19 exposure. Several children tested positive as well as a number of houseparents.
“As I think about our day-to-day operations, COVID-19 has mainly caused us to have to make decisions that are designed to protect our children and our staff. While it seems that the virus hasn’t had an enormous impact on children, we knew that it could certainly be a problem for our houseparents.”
Looking ahead, McCoy believes that TBCH’s best days are in front of them. The ministry has several new projects scheduled to be completed in 2021 — including opening a new foster home in Kingsport and remodeling the home on Stratford Avenue — and McCoy said he and his staff have been encouraged to watch these ideas become reality.
McCoy said that TBCH is in the process of making some additional upgrades: “We are at the place where we continue to deal with an aging infrastructure,” he said. “We have developed a new floor plan for the houses we need to build in order to provide excellent care for children throughout the remainder of the 21st century.”
McCoy noted that TBCH remains committed to the same objective — providing love, guidance and assistance to children — that has been the backbone of the ministry for more than 100 years.
In the past seven years alone, TBCH foster families have cared for more than 400 children and have been a part of nearly 60 adoptions.
“These numbers mean that children in hard places have been made part of a family, temporarily or permanently, that will share the good news of Jesus Christ with their children!” McCoy said. B&R