EDMOND—Retirement was six years away for the Embry family, but Sandy and Sherry knew they wanted to spend those six years investing in something that had an eternal impact. Sandy worked in insurance, and Sherry was a school teacher when they began searching online in hopes of one day becoming houseparents.
“We’ve always had a soft spot for children’s homes,” said Sherry.
After their youngest child graduated high school, Sandy and Sherry began doing an extensive search on children’s homes, researching every southern state in hopes of finding a place where they would be a good fit.
“With us being brand new to this, we decided we wanted to go to a campus that would provide lots of support,” Sherry said.
They took a road trip and visited seven different children’s homes from South Carolina to Texas.
“We made it back home the night before our scheduled visit at Boys Ranch Town (BRT). We were exhausted; it had been a long week, and we were finally at home in our own bed, and we both said ‘Do we really need to see this last one?’,” said Sandy. However the Embrys decided to go on the visit, since they had already scheduled an appointment and made the drive from Keller, Texas to Edmond.
From the moment the Embrys set foot on the property, they felt the Holy Spirit telling them they had found a place to call home.
BRT is a 145-acre working ranch located in a rural setting within the city limits of Edmond. The campus contains modern cottages, each with a capacity for eight residents and one married couple serving as houseparents.
Each cottage contains a spacious living room, kitchen and dining room for family-style dinners. Each cottage also is equipped with a laundry room, four bedrooms, each with a private bath and an apartment for the houseparents and their family.
In most cases, two residents share a room and a bathroom. The family arrangement in the cottage models how a Christian household should operate. Residents come to live at BRT between the ages of eight-years-old and 16-years-old and may continue to live at the ranch until high school graduation if needed. The average length of stay is approximately 18 months.
The ranch’s Christian-based program encourages each resident to develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Each cottage attends a local Southern Baptist church; however, residents are not required to join a church, become a Baptist or make any religious decision or commitment.
Each resident is encouraged to participate as much as he likes in church activities and programs. Houseparents conduct daily devotions in the cottages and biblical principles are taught.
The home is run much a like a traditional household. Mealtimes are spent around the kitchen table, and homework is done together each day.
“Sandy and I both have quite a bit of math experience,” Sherry said about homework time, “so there isn’t an algebra problem that we can’t tackle together! The boys were surprised to see how engaged we were in their studies.”
Time spent on social media is considered a privilege and computer time is gained with good behavior.
“The boys come in the door every day from school, and we are here to meet them. Our goal is to give them the best opportunities that we can, so they can succeed at what they do. We want to provide a safe, secure environment,” said Sandy.
Many of the BRT residents come from single-parent homes or have been living with aging grandparents who are no longer able to properly care for the child. Despite the struggles the boys may have faced prior to arriving at the ranch, the most successful boys are the ones who stay in touch with their family.
“We take on some of those parental-type responsibilities but we don’t assume the role as parent,” said Sandy.
When school is out for the day and daily chores are complete, the boys have a number of programs in which they are able to choose to participate. There is an agriculture program, which teaches boys how to care for the animals on campus and a welding program, which teaches them how to work and repair things around the ranch. The boys are also allowed to spend time in the gymnasium where they can play basketball, football, board games and utilize the swimming pool in the summertime.
BRT hosts a yearly rodeo and cookout event which is a fun-filled day with the young cowboys entertaining the crowd, as they compete in different categories, like barrel racing, for example. The boys spend their evenings in the fall planning for the annual Christmas Pageant, a free event for the community.
Visitors are given a guided car tour through the ranch as the boys act out different scenes from the Christmas story. The pageant also features two camels that were donated to BRT from a local family.
When asked about the hardest part of their ministry, Sherry explained, “There’s a big push these days to make allowances for people because of what they have been through. If you make excuses for your behavior, then you’re never going to be successful.
“Let’s deal with those past issues, I want the boys to face them head on. I want them to talk to me about their struggles, talk to a counselor or talk to someone at church, but let’s commit to going forward with a positive outlook and be the best person we can be.”
July 1 marks the second year that the Embry family has been working at BRT. Whether it be driving boys to wrestling practice, orthodontist appointments or to their local church on Wednesday nights, the Embrys know that they are exactly where God has called them to be.
OBHC accepts applications for qualified Christian couples to serve as houseparents. For more information visit obhc.org/employment/current-opportunites.