Friday, August 24, 2007

BRECKENRIDGE VILLAGE - Compassion in Action

The tranquil 70-acre campus of Breckenridge Village is located just west of Tyler, Texas among the tall trees and rolling hills of scenic East Texas. Campus facilities include residential houses, chapel, administrative building, candle workshop, greenhouse, swimming pool, physical fitness room, computer lab, RV park, indoor activity areas, and plenty of space for outdoor activities. Excellent facilities are tools which enable us to offer a wide range of programs that meet the individual needs of our residents.

One of the greatest blessings in my life is the ministry of Breckenridge Village (also called BVT for “Breckenridge Village Tyler”). About 16 years ago, Jean Breckenridge, a member in our church, approached me with the idea of using her property as a facility for adults with mild to moderate mental retardation. Her son, Jimmy, fit that profile and she was worried about what would happen to Jimmy after she died.
Realizing this was a huge challenge, our church studied the feasibility of operating such a ministry and determined that it would require a larger organization than just one church to make Jean’s dream a reality. Not long after we studied the issue, I just happened to meet Kevin Dinnin, Executive Director of the Baptist Child and Family Services Ministry in Texas. In our conversation, I mentioned Jean’s dream. Kevin’s eyes got larger as he told me that his agency was currently looking for property to build and operate that very kind of facility and ministry–it was one of those God things!
It was with great joy that I was able to introduce Kevin to Jean Breckenridge .. and as they say, “the rest is history!” Rather than history, however, it’s more like ‘His story!”
Hundreds of Texas Baptist Men (and their wives) descended on Tyler and built the initial facilities for Breckenridge.
For the past ten years or so, happy residents have enjoyed a beautiful facility where they can build relationships, live independently, learn more about God’s love, and learn a meaningful trade.
I love the residents of BVT! Although they are all adults, we often call them, “God’s forever children.” Many of them attend worship at Green Acres and I can always count on them laughing loud (and long) at anything remotely funny that I say (and sometimes my humor is VERY remote!). One Sunday morning, one of the guys decided he wanted to sing in the choir, and the next thing the leaders knew, he had disappeared. A few minutes later, he was seen entering the choir loft with a robe and stole on – he had found the robing room, robed up, and was ready to make a joyful noise!
Due to the cost of building materials and start-up expenses, BVT faced a huge financial challenge over the past couple of years. The initial $3.5Million debt was a chronic drain on the budget of the Baptist Child and Family services, which operates other care facilities and ministries all over Texas.
Two years ago, it seemed (from a CPA's perspective) that the prudent thing to do would be to sell BVT – with no guarantee that the next owner would operate a faith-based home for these "forever children."
But Kevin Dinnin, along with me and many others decided that if BVT went down, we would go with it! Some of the residents of BVT have no living parents – we are their family, and the possibility of having them moved into a state facility was beyond our level of acceptance.
This past spring God performed a miracle! Thanks to the donations from the Rogers Foundation in Tyler, and Green Acres church, and several other benefactors (including a Jewish family), the entire $3.5 Million was committed, and now BVT can move into the future without the millstone of a huge debt around its neck.
Charles Dodson, the Director of BVT, and Linda Taylor, the development director have worked tirelessly to help reach this goal.
I’m humbled and thankful to be a small part of the team of people who are providing a loving environment for these who may be the ones Jesus meant when He spoke of, “the least of these my brothers.”
I can rest easier at night knowing that Jimmy Breckenridge, and all of his friends will be cared for as long as they live.
NOTE: There are currently some vacancies at BVT. If you know of a family who would benefit from the ministry of Breckenridge Village you can call 903-596-8100 for more info. Or, you can leave a comment on this blog, and I’ll make sure BVT gets your request.