I’ve just returned from a 24 hour “missions trip” to the Hope Children’s Home in Tampa, Florida. This trip was courtesy of my best friend, Tim, who has been so impressed by what God is doing down there that he insisted upon giving me a first-hand look. I’m so glad he did. Though God is no doubt at work in our “Carmel-By-The-Retention-Pond” backyard, His abundant grace is too often overshadowed by our sheer abundance. Not so at Hope Children’s Home.
Over the past forty years, Hope has helped nearly five thousand discarded, abused, unwanted, or orphaned children. But “helped” doesn’t begin to describe what they’ve been doing. Hope children are given everything they need to lead healthy, happy lives, including a first rate education via the school on their beautiful 55 acre campus. This campus is home to 70 children plus all of the staff necessary to support them. Every staff member lives on campus and receives a small paycheck in addition to their room and board. Executive Director, Mike Higgins, says, “Our staff members don’t merely come to work. They are called to ministry.” One house parent couple recently celebrated their 30th anniversary with Hope. That’s commitment…the kind that only comes from a true calling.
Virtually everything on the Hope campus has been donated or produced with volunteer labor. Amazingly, they have never spent a dime to feed any of their children or staff. The Hope philosophy is to trust God to supply all of their needs…and they do mean ALL. “Pastor Mike”, as he’s affectionately called by the children, loves to tell the miraculous stories of how God has met the needs of the children over the years. Like the time during evening devotions when little Lisa asked everyone to pray for Frosted Mini-Wheats. She later clarified that she only wanted Kellogg’s brand, not the generic variety. It was eight-thirty in the evening. While they were praying, a man knocked on the dormitory door asking if he could drop off a case of (surprise!) Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats.
Lisa’s cereal miracle highlights the greatest opportunity afforded every Hope child. From two-year-old toddlers to twenty-year-old young adults, every one learns what it means to live by faith in a faithful God. When Hope kids bow their heads to give thanks for the evening meal, it’s anything but a tired and empty ritual. Pastor Mike’s successor once led the kids in at mealtime prayer at the dinner table, despite having no food to eat. After they said “amen”, the phone rang. It was a local restaurant calling to see if they could use the sirloin tips leftover from a large banquet. And God said, “let them eat steak!”
The Prayer Needs board in the Hope girl’s dorm reminded me of a powerful Bible verse:
“And my God will meet all your needs…” (Phil. 4:19)
Hope kids pray for everything from food to toiletries to cleaning supplies…even feminine hygiene products. Imagine being an orphaned adolescent girl asking her heavenly father for “pads w/wings”. After just a few hours at Hope, I could easily imagine an angel with wings flying to Tampa to meet that need. No imagination is required, however, to see the profoundly positive impact that such daily faith adventures have upon these precious children. Their sweet smiles, sparkling eyes and tender hugs poignantly tell the story.
Disadvantaged children? I left Tampa wondering if the truly disadvantaged ones lived in “Carmel-By-The-Retention Pond”. I would encourage you to visit Hope Children’s Home and decide for yourself.