If there is one place close to the heart of the parishioners at Bunker Hill Baptist Church, besides Heaven, it’s the Baptist Children’s Village. A place so dear to their hearts that, for 2020, the church was the top giver of the year.
Sunday, members of the Baptist Children’s Village based in Clinton, and the Dickerson Campus in Brookhaven, came to celebrate the accomplishment with a special service, followed by dinner on the grounds.
“It was a great day,” Bunker Hill Baptist Church Chairman of the Deacons Doug Duncan said.
The village is an in-house residential place for children who are unable to stay at home for several different reasons. They live in a setting at the facility that provides support and love for them while they grow. The children attend school and receive physical, emotional and spiritual support to succeed in life.
The executive director of the Baptist Children’s Village is Sean Milner, who attended the celebration Sunday at the church.
“These are people who give for children and families that they will never meet on this side of Heaven. They won’t see the lives changed because of their giving. Yet they still faithfully give to support God’s children that they personally will never know,” Milner said on Monday.
Milner said this only works in the economy of God because the facility does not receive any state or federal funds. It only receives funds from private donors and the Mississippi Southern Baptist Convention.
“Without them (the donors), there is no Baptist Children’s Village,” he said.
It was announced at the church's celebration that in the past 34 years, the church has given more than $485,000 to the village. Since records have been kept, Duncan said the church has consistently stayed near the top in giving, among the 2,100 Southern Baptist churches across the state. Duncan said the place has always been at the heart of the church. In fact, Duncan said his mother, Sherriell Duncan, helped get support from the church for the facility when she served as the WMC director.
Duncan said he and his wife, Theresa, worked at the Baptist Children’s Village for several years in the late 80s and early 90s.
He said Columbia has a strong connection with the place, and Chrystelle Thames, the public relations director, is from Columbia. Duncan said Thames was a resident for years before becoming the public relations director.
Milner, while speaking at the celebration at the church, shared his story. He’s not only the executive director, he also holds the record of being the longest resident to ever stay there, a total of 18 years. He is one of five family members that lived there and he grew up in the village, graduated high school, and went to college, where he eventually got his law degree and had his own practice for years.
Despite not having a traditional upbringing, Milner said he would not trade his childhood with anybody. His heart has always been with the village. He said everyone was wonderful to him while growing up.
Milner said the Lord impressed upon him when the position of executive director became available.
He said it is important for the children to know that they are God’s children and have value, which is why the village exists. Circumstances do not matter, he said and each child, in his or her own right, has an innate value because they are God’s creation.
Milner shared that he actually failed two grades in school, the third and the seventh grades. Yet, he said he was encouraged to keep working at it and through it so he was able to not only graduate high school, but was able to have his college paid for as well, by the Baptist Children’s Village.
“Failure doesn’t define you. That everybody has a bad time. God has a plan,” Milner said.
Duncan said the village is very important to the church and that is why they keep giving.
“It’s a great thing and a great place,” Duncan said.