VBS offering leads to new home
WASHINGTON—For years, boys and girls attending Vacation Bible School at Washington, First have challenged each other to see which group can bring the largest offering during the week. Most of the time, the offering has gone to benefit the Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children.
Last year, however, the children’s gifts to the Lord stayed closer to home in this McClain County town of about 550 just northwest of Purcell, thanks to the vision of church secretary and VBS director Charlotte Singletary.
Singletary knew a young lady in the community—then 16-year-old Leah Hays—was facing brain surgery in August to help alleviate the debilitating effects of grand mal seizures she suffers as a result of a fetal stroke.
“We always have a huge VBS offering where the boys and girls have a little contest with coins,” said pastor Davies Vanpool. “Generally, there are hundreds of dollars in pennies brought in, which we have the privilege of counting.
“This year, we decided we wanted to do something local and God just laid Leah on Charlotte’s heart. She talked to me about it, and I saw it was an awesome deal and the boys and girls at VBS jumped on it. Then, when we had our big family day at the end of VBS, the moms and dads added to it and it just took off from there.”
The children collected an amazing $1,100 on their own that week, and their parents gave another $1,600.
“The church added some more, so we were able to give Betty a check for $3,200 to help pay for the surgery,” Charlotte said. Then, the local Methodist church gave $2,500, and money kept coming in and we were able to give Betty another check for $3,700.
Meanwhile, donations for Leah continued to come in. That’s when Charlotte’s vision grew into more than just helping with her surgery, and a plan for an “extreme home makeover, Washington-style” was born.
“People kept sending money, and that’s when I decided we needed to try to fix their little house up,” Charlotte recalled.
A short time later, church member Larry Mobley was asked to install a new water heater at the Hays home. He did so, but came away from the job with the uneasy feeling that the structure really needed to be replaced.
“I thought it really needed to be torn down,” Mobley confessed.
“It was a piecemeal, wood frame house that had been brought in in three sections and put together, and honestly, you could see the ground through the floor in some areas,” said Charlotte’s husband, Larry Singletary.
So, on Sept. 18, 2008 Betty and Leah watched as their house was demolished to begin the process of building them a new one. It was an act of faith beyond measure.
“You have to remember, Betty stood out here and watched her house being torn down on faith,” Larry Singletary said. “We didn’t have any financial backers. We didn’t have a money man saying OK, if this doesn’t happen, I’ll write a check. This was all God and all faith, and a lot of the faith came from Betty, believing God was tugging at Charlotte’s heartstrings, saying you’re going to do this. And God provided.”
Now, whenever she gets the opportunity, Charlotte shares the story of her little group of about 100 children in VBS who stepped out in faith and changed the lives of a mother and daughter.
“I want people to see this is what can happen through VBS,” she stressed. “It started there, and we should never doubt what God can do. It can start with the littlest ones among us who sometimes have the most faith of any of us.”
On March 9, Betty and Leah, who had been living with Betty’s mother for six months in Norman while the construction was completed, got to see their new brick, two bedroom, two bath, 1,056-square-foot home for the first time. KWTV reporter Doug Warner was on hand to broadcast the big “reveal” at 6:45 a.m.
As a crowd numbering around 50 applauded, they took possession of their home with tears of joy.
“I think this is the way God intended for us to treat one another when you look at the church model in the book of Acts,” Vanpool said, “helping those, who through no fault of their own, find them in a circumstance in which they cannot help themselves.
“The church has bent over backwards and has done things that we don’t see a whole lot of in today’s world, and it just blesses your heart to know that when Christ gets ahold of someone’s heart and gets ahold of everything in them, it is awesome.”
It was especially gratifying to see the huge smile on Leah’s face, the pastor said.
“Leah suffers from really severe grand mal seizures. Since VBS last year, she has had two brain surgeries, both of which worked for a time, but even as late as last week, she was still struggling with her seizures pretty severely,” he said.
“As for Betty, over the course of years, taking care of a sick child like that, she has worked several jobs at a time. She has never been willing to just take what people give her; she has always wanted to work, and she is still doing that now.
“But, when you have a sick child like that, she has to be the caregiver and that’s hard on employment, but she’s a trooper.”
Leah, who is home schooled, turned 17 in January.
“I can’t believe this,” Betty said as her daughter hugged friends and volunteers who had shown up for the occasion. “I’m so glad there are still people who follow Christ and want to be so humble. It’s amazing. I never thought it would be like this. It’s so wonderful. They’re angels on Earth.
“I know Jesus puts a lot of humility and love and caring in our hearts, but to take it from your heart and give it to someone else is amazing. We are definitely surprised. I can’t wait for all of my family to see it. They’ve done a great job with it.
Watching the delight on her daughter’s face, Betty smiled and said, “Leah is doing OK. God has blessed her; He’s kept her with us. We’ve had some stressful moments lately, and it has been hard at times. It’s great to see her smiling so big. But she’s really always done that.
“Sometimes she gets discouraged, but then she’ll call her brother and sister-in law, and they’ll pray with her and, of course, we pray, too.”
After taking a tour of the furnished house and filling it with laughter, Leah took a moment to sit in a new recliner and reflect about what had just happened.
Asked what her favorite part of the new house was, she said, “Favorite part? I don’t have a favorite part. I think it’s the whole house; just to have the house. And knowing the people who did it did it out of love. That’s my favorite part.”