Monday, November 14, 2011

Branson Doulos Revisited

"Jesus chose the twelve that He might be with them..." -Mark 3: 13-15

I spent most of the day Friday at the Branson Doulos campus cleaning, vacuuming and rearranging. The beautiful property is still for sale after shutting down at the end of the summer of 2010 (though Shelterwood continues in Kansas City). As I wandered through every building and room, so many memories came flooding back. So much healing and growth happened in that place. Branson Doulos was fueled by such a tremendous, godly staff and I am honored to have served with them. So many lives were changed one life at a time.

The Doulos-Shelterwood formula worked because there was a concerted effort to prayerfully focus on each teen as a person. By the way, that same formula works in parenting too. Taking the time to listen and respect our kids spells L-O-V-E every time.

While I was cleaning one of the classrooms, I came across the attached message written by one of the kids on a whiteboard. Yes, it was and is truly God's place. Lives were changed for 30 years on that Branson campus. Kids found hope, families were reunited and staff grew in leadership skills.

Hundreds and hundreds of teenagers reluctantly came through the Shelterwood gates because someone intervened and wanted them to find freedom from struggles in their lives. They typically stayed for about 12 months and in that time were challenged to face their issues, reconcile with their patents and engage with their heavenly Father.

Families that were shattered were brought back together. Not always, of course. Some kids’ stays we're cut short or unsuccessful. There are no guarantees. But most of the time, through countless hours of counseling, families were refocused and reunited. That was probably my greatest joy in working at Shelterwood. The healing that took place will have generational effects forever.

All the Staff who worked at Doulos were never the same at the end of their tenure on the leadership team. The intensity of the ministry had its effect on everyone involved. Living and working with the teenagers required more than most of us possessed. Someone said, "Attempt things so great that they're doomed to failure unless God be in it." We always “bit off more than we could chew” but God was faithful and lives (including ours) were changed.

I thought of Richard Beach the other day, too. He was the founder and leader of Doulos. He was my boss and mentor. He passed away from cancer a few months after Branson Doulos shut down. Doulos was just an extension of Richard’s vision and calling. He loved people and loved leading them to freedom in Christ. He simply liked being with people. That's what makes any people-work successful.

I've moved on now and love my work at First Baptist Branson, but my years at Doulos will never leave me. God engraved the mark of discipleship on my heart. Richard's voice will always be whispering in my ear, "Love others one person at a time." Of course, that's Jesus reminder to us all as we work, play and parent.

We’re called to love others as God loves us: personally and unconditionally.

Thanks for the reminder, Doulos.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

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