Letting go

The farming community is no stranger to Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children, providing for the needs of children in our care since 1903. While times have changed over the years, the commitment of those who provide for these children have not.

Tiger, a young man living on one of our campuses, is one such recipient of this commitment, and whose mother shares how his life was changed through this ministry.

“I remember the day we dropped him off—I was scared and sad. When you become a parent, you know at some point your kids will move out. In my head, I thought I would have him for 18 years, and all I could think about was that I was going to lose four years with my son. I felt in some way that I had failed as a mom, that we had failed as parents.”

Erika recalls that moment she and her ex-husband made the difficult decision to send their oldest son, Tiger, 14 at the time, to live at Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children.

Tiger, an identical twin and older brother to three sisters, had difficulty navigating the ever-changing circumstances from early childhood. Where is home? A question not easily answered.

Tiger’s family lived a fairly unconventional lifestyle, as their dad’s job required them to move states frequently. From Michigan, to California, Arizona, North Carolina, Texas and now Oklahoma, Tiger lived in six different states and even more cities before he was even 13 years old.

“He always had a difficult time adjusting to change,” Erika says. “Eventually, he began to act out, skip school and drink—it was like a cry for attention. It didn’t seem like what he wanted or needed was something that either of us could do for him.”

When Tiger began to self-harm, his family started seeking alternative measures for help. He went to counseling, started medication and spent a couple stints in an inpatient psychiatric facility. Then, things got even more challenging. Erika and her husband divorced. Tiger struggled even more, ultimately leading to an arrest for fighting.

Erika and Tiger’s father decided their main goal was to effectively co-parent their children. Erika explained their frustration and guilt while trying to help Tiger, “I’m in social work. I teach parenting skills and healthy living skills to families. I’m used to working professionally with children who have been through trauma. I have a lot of those tools and skills, and it was frustrating for me to know I have all those skills and it still wasn’t quite enough for Tiger. We didn’t know what to do. He was getting worse and worse.”

They started researching residential care options after friends of the family shared their experience working at a residential home for children in Nebraska. That’s when they found OBHC.

Once accepted, Tiger moved to one of OBHC’s campuses in March of 2018 at the age of 14. Erika recalls the struggles and conflictions she felt that day.

“Why can’t my son live with me and function under my rules, in my house? Ultimately my desire for him to feel happy, safe and secure outweighed my desire to have him with me. I had to let that go. All I could do was hope we were doing the right thing and leaving him in good hands. The thing I remember most was the first weekend I got to see him after he moved there. He was happier. Calmer. He felt good.”

Tiger’s behavior has improved drastically since his arrival nearly two years ago. He spends his time interacting with the other children, takes younger children under his wing, especially when they first arrive to campus, and is always first to help with chores. Tiger is a normal teenager—an avid basketball enthusiast (evidenced by an injury scar on his cheek), Frisbee golf and cooking—however, quiet, people pleasing and well mannered. Campus staff say that while quiet and still reluctant at times to share beyond the surface, he is as kind as they come.

His positive and helpful attitude provided him opportunities to attend OBHC leadership trips to New Mexico and Washington D.C. Tiger currently has a job, working toward buying a car and considering his future in college or a trade school. In addition, Tiger has been exposed to the gospel while living on campus. Erika supports Tiger learning differences in his faith. “We are a Jewish family so initially there was a little bit of trepidation knowing this is a Baptist organization. He has been able to bring together lots of parts of his life, begin to figure out his faith and I’m glad he’s getting a chance to experience different opportunities and be exposed to Christianity.”

Erika is in awe of the change Tiger has made in such a short amount of time.

“Moving our child out of the home was pretty much the last resort. There’s a selfish part of every parent that just wants to hold on to your kid. This has reminded me that it’s not about me—it’s about my kids. Really when it came down to it, what was best for Tiger was being at OBHC. That was difficult to accept, but ultimately, it’s the truth. I miss him, but he’s happy. That’s the most important thing,” Erika shared.

“Everybody says they would do anything for their kids, but this experience has really tested the idea, ‘What will I do for my child? Am I willing to let go? Am I willing to trust that the people with him are going to be positive influences on his life?’ This wasn’t planned for him to leave the house at 14. It was a leap of faith to do what was necessary.”

Erika has a hard time imagining what life would look like if not for this opportunity. “If we hadn’t found OBHC when we did, I believe his life would have continued spiraling downhill. We probably would have just ended up finding a bunch of Band-Aid solutions—temporary fixes—I don’t think we could realistically foresee a situation where he would be stable and happy long-term,” adding, “I’m incredibly grateful to the donors who make it possible for families like mine. OBHC saved my son’s life. They made my family better. I want you to know that your support is making a difference and you have had such a positive impact on my entire family.”

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Tiger is just one child whose life has been impacted by the support of individuals across the state. Because of their faithfulness, children have safety, security and their basic needs met, families have been restored, and even better, children have come to know the life-saving message of Jesus Christ.

For more information about OBHC’s ministry or how you can support children through our 10-Acre Challenge, visit obhc.org/10AcreChallenge or contact Michael Williams at 405-942-3800.