Taylor was a rebellious teen hanging out with the wrong crowd and getting into trouble. Then four months ago she became a resident of the Methodist Children's Home in Waco.
Now the 14-year-old is an ambassador for the home. She's one of the students selected – based on their accomplishments at the facility as well as their abilities and desires – to visit groups and share their stories. Taylor recently spoke to the congregation at Memorial Methodist Church in Walnut Springs.
Because she's underage, her last name was not disclosed. It was the first time she had given a testimonial to a church crowd.
“I'm not doing bad stuff anymore,” Taylor said. “My life is turning around.”
Pastor Kathy Mahlow invited representatives of the Methodist Children's Home to visit the congregation. The home is one of the regular recipients of proceeds from the church's annual Lord's Acre fund-raising project in November.
“It’s an opportunity for the local church to be aware of the ministry and support it,” Mahlow said.
First United Methodist Church in Glen Rose and other Methodist churches throughout the district also contribute to the facility. First United Methodist awards scholarships so some of the residents can attend Glen Lake Camp. Each year it also invites staff and students from the home to speak to its congregation.
“The church youth really want to hear the kids' stories,” said First United Methodist Pastor Billy Strayhorn.
Becca McPherson, the home's director of development, accompanied Taylor to Walnut Springs. She said the facility, founded in 1890 as an orphanage, provides services to about 1,400 at-risk children, including two from the surrounding area. The home has outreach offices all over Texas and in New Mexico.
Youth receive residential care at the home's main Waco campus, the Boys Ranch near Axtell 10 miles north of Waco and at a satellite campus in Waxahachie, as well as foster care and other services.
The ages of residents range from birth to 25. The home awards scholarships to residents who maintain a “C” or better average and who want to attend college or a vocational school in Texas.
McPherson also related Mark’s story. He came to the home after his parents no long could manage him.
“He arrived here telling his parents and everyone he hated them,” McPherson said.
For a year Mark was extremely difficult and challenged the staff's authority. Mark gradually came around because of the patience and unconditional love he received, McPherson said.
One day he said he finally understood and he, too, wanted to be an ambassador for the home. Mark became an inspiration to so many young people, McPherson recalled.
Sadly, just as his life changed course, Mark was killed in a car accident. But his message of hope lives on in students who are trying to make new starts at the home.