By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
BRENTWOOD — Every year churches across Tennessee collect an annual offering for the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes.
Other than Bryant Millsaps, president of Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes, probably no one is hoping for a better Mother’s Day Offering than former TBCH president Gerald Stow.
Stow, who served as president of TBCH from 1984-99. has continued to serve with the Tennessee Baptist Convention entity as an “ambassador” for the ministry.
In April he celebrated his 30th year of involvement with TBCH and the work of the agency remains very dear to his heart.
The Dresden native, who has been in the ministry since 1958, noted his 16 years as president of TBCH was “the most significant of my ministry because of the changes he saw in the lives of children.”
Stow served as pastor of churches in Texas while he was getting his seminary degree at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. He returned to his home state in 1964 and served as pastor of South Fulton Baptist Church in South Fulton for four years before accepting the pastorate of First Baptist Church, Cookeville, where he stayed for eight years before moving to the TBCH.
Stow recalled that shortly after accepting the position he came to realize how important the ministry was in the lives of children.
And, as the years have gone by, the importance has been reinforced as he has encountered “alumni” of TBCH who have gone on to be successful in various aspects of life, including the ministry.
In recent years, Stow has continued working on behalf of the TBCH while dealing with his own health issues.
In 2010 Stow was diagnosed with lung cancer. Surgery and chemotherapy treatments followed. Since then Stow has dealt with cancer in other areas of his body, along with brain tumors. Last December he had a large tumor removed from his brain and tests later revealed it was not cancerous.
Stow noted the irony that during his approximately 16 years as president of TBCH he “never took a sick day.” Though dealing with the pain and the issues that go along with cancer, Stow and his wife Barbara have kept a positive outlook.
He noted early on that they decided as a couple they “would not change a thing as long as they were physically, emotionally, and spiritually able.”
His faith has seen him through the difficult times, he said.
“It’s either real or not,” Stow said, and “God is real.” He noted that he has to believe in the faith he has proclaimed over the years. “I’ve got to believe that God loves and cares for me.”
Except for times of recovery following surgery, Stow has remained active.
He is especially passionate about the TBCH’s new foster care ministry. The TBCH is in the process of recruiting, training, and certifying foster care families. Once trained, the TBCH will provide ongoing support.
Stow noted several things that were accomplished while he was president including the addition of new homes, the construction of the state office on Franklin Road in Brentwood, and more.
He is convinced, however, that his greatest contribution to TBCH could be his work with the foster care ministry by helping churches, pastors, and Baptist families see the ministry and missions opportunities that exist with foster care.
“God said to me that the best contribution I could make will be to help enlist foster care families,” Stow related.