OLD HICKORY — Matt Ford normally sits in front of the fireplace as he reads a children’s Bible during nightly family worship. He started in Genesis 1:1 and has made it to Jesus feeding the 5,000.
“Matt, can we see the pictures?” someone asks.
The home is Brooks House, a Tennessee Baptist Adult Home in Hermitage. And the family is Ford, his wife Alli, their four sons and seven women residents, all of whom have special needs.
Ford has been the Brooks House manager for just over 18 months. He and his family live at the two-story house every other week while a team of other house parents covers the off weeks.
Tennessee Baptist Adult Homes provides residential care for senior adults and adults with special needs. There are multiple group homes across the state for those with special needs.
Ford’s goal as house manager has been to get the Brooks House ladies into the Word. He wants them to know that they are loved by God and are made in His image. He wants the gospel to change their lives.
“I try to make sure that everybody gets a little bit of understanding of how much God loves them, how He created them, what He created them to be, how we’re going to treat each other, how great church is, how the Holy Spirit lives in us,” he said.
Ford has found an integral partner in his mission in Tulip Grove Baptist Church, Old Hickory.
Last summer, Ford preached at TGBC for their Father’s Day offering that typically goes toward Tennessee Baptist Adult Homes.
TGBC normally does multiple international mission trips a year but had to put those on hold during the pandemic, said Renee Mathis, Women on Mission director. Instead, they decided to focus on local missions.
“The Lord just landed Brooks House in our laps,” she said.
Since then, TGBC has been pouring into the Brooks House women, financially, socially and spiritually.
The church has provided money for appliances to be updated and carpet to be installed.
“Thank you God for Tulip Grove,” is Ford’s prayer as he does the dishes using the new dishwasher TGBC provided.
The WOM groups come to the house monthly, bringing meals and games. The Brooks House ladies especially love playing Bingo, Mathis said.
During the summer, Mathis and the WOM groups took the women to see movies at the Roxy theater in Lebanon and eat CiCi’s pizza.
They’ve also been able to get Christmas and birthday presents from the ladies’ Amazon wishlists.
Most importantly, TGBC has been helping the women grow in their knowledge of the Bible. On Wednesday nights, TGBC has a Bible study tailored especially to the Brooks House ladies that is led by some of the WOM members. The curriculum is missions focused, and the women have even been able to correspond with some missionaries.
“I think the ladies are understanding more about God by the way that Tulip Grove spends time with them and loves them,” Ford said.
On Sundays, the Brooks House women are always in church, Ford said. They rotate between TGBC, Solomon’s Porch Christian Community in Smyrna and The Experience Community in Murfreesboro.
Ford described a tangible impact of seeing the ladies really start to realize the truth of the gospel. The women treat each other better as they understand everyone is made in the image of God.
“It’s unbelievable how much these ladies are comprehending about God and His story,” he said.
The women can answer questions about Scripture, even down to which of David’s sons inherited the kingdom.
“It’s really impressive how much these ladies grasp, and I think it’s because we do it day in, day out,” Ford said.
But the impact doesn’t stop with just the Brooks House ladies themselves.
The partnership has also made TGBC more aware of the needs in their own community, said pastor Gerald Bontrager.
Brooks House reminded him of Matthew 25:40 where Jesus says “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
“This is a way for us to really minister to Christ and to those who are indeed more weak and vulnerable,” Bontrager said, adding that the Brooks House ladies also minister to TGBC.
“It’s really a two-way street,” he said.
The Brooks House ladies will recognize you after they meet you once, Mathis said. They’ll remember your name and come give you a hug.
“Being around them is the closest thing I’ve ever had to unconditional love,” she said.
Mathis said it was her prayer that other churches would be involved with loving on the Brooks House ladies through sending cards, taking them on fishing trips and just getting to know them.
“We are the ones who get the blessing of just being around them,” Mathis said. B&R