Baptist Children’s Village celebrating 125 years
Sean Milner came to the Baptist Children’s Village orphaned when he was only five years old and commemorated the organization’s 125th-anniversary celebration at their Ridgeland headquarters last Thursday as its executive director.
“I came to the village when I was five and lived here until I graduated from Mississippi College,” Milner said. “I hold the record for living here longer than any child in history.”
Milner, originally from California, was one of five children in his family to come to the Baptist Children’s Village after his father left and his mother suffered from alcoholism.
He said the organization is still very near and dear to his heart, and he’s glad to celebrate its legacy every year.
Gov. Tate Reeves signed a proclamation last week declaring May 12 The Baptist Children’s Village Day.
“I’m very appreciative of the governor,” Milner said. “For him to step forward and acknowledge the effort of all the house parents, case managers, and campus directors over the last 125 years. That meant so much to us and we are very grateful for it.”
“The most important people here are the house parents since they act as foster parents,” Milner said. “We encourage people to consider coming out here and getting to know the kids, and maybe even become house parents yourselves.”
Since 1897, the Baptist Children’s Village (BCV) has cared for hurt and lost children, and that mission is still being carried out today.
In The Baptist Record in 1893, the Rev. L. S. Foster, a pastor in Senatobia, Mississippi, raised the question of establishing a home for orphans. He wrote: “If this thought is of God, He will put it into the heart of some person to send a contribution for this cause.”
In December 1893, Mrs. Lou H. Moore of Tillatoba, Mississippi, responded: “With my prayers, I enclose this dollar for the institution. If it finds company enough to effect a movement, you will hear from me again.”
After much cultivation of pastors and individuals throughout the state, Rev. Foster moved to Jackson in May of 1897 to accept the first child and then the position of Superintendent of what was then called The Baptist Orphanage in west Jackson.
They moved the headquarters to the Ridgeland Support Center after selling their Flag Chapel Road campus in 2011. Now, there are BCV campuses throughout Mississippi.
Emphasis was given to family-style living as children moved from the Woodrow Wilson campus, where children lived in dormitories, to a new campus on Flag Chapel Road.
In his 1965 report to the Mississippi Baptist Convention, Paul Nunnery, who served as executive director from 1960 until 1990, said, “A vision became a dream, the dream became a purpose, the purpose became a prayer, the prayer became a reality, as the boys and girls at The Baptist Children’s Village moved into their sparkling new quarters on Flag Chapel Drive on June 7, 1965.”
Sherry and Garry McDugle, a Ridgeland couple who have served as BCV house parents, said they take the child God has hand-picked for them and strive to be good stewards.
“We seek to teach these children to be leaders through Jesus Christ and not followers of the world,” Sherry McDugle said. “We guide them to their real ‘Abba’ Father. Our encouragement to them, is that they are not failures but a gift from God. It is amazing to watch Jesus transform day by day.”
The BCV Support Center on the Highland Colony in Ridgeland, their headquarters, hosted an anniversary reception last Thursday where Milner and Ridgeland Chamber Rep. Ray Balentine spoke about BCV’s mission.
Besides the support center in Ridgeland, BCV serves children across the state with homes in places such as Wiggins, Brookhaven, Louisville, Florence, and Waynesboro.
Tim McWilliams, director of partner ministries for the BCV since 2018, said God called him to work for the organization, and he wanted to help the children learn about Christ and assist them in their needs.
“What helps me get out of bed every morning is knowing I’m making a true kingdom impact on children in our care and I’m helping change their lives,” McWilliams said.
“We’re thrilled to celebrate 125 years of serving over 8,000 children across the state of Mississippi. To be recognized by the governor and state Legislature in such a special way was quite an honor.”
McWilliams said he wanted to thank the house parents and case managers since they are always the ones on the front lines taking care of the children.
“It’s an honor to work with people who work directly with the children as people like the house parents are the true heroes of our ministry,” he said. “They are the ones who do the most for the kids. We need husbands and wives who feel called by God to work with the children.”
For more information about the Baptist Children’s Village, visit www.baptistchildrensvillage.com or contact the support center in Ridgeland at (601) 952-2422.