For 120 years, an orphanage in Columbus, Mississippi, has offered hope and love to children in need. Palmer Home for Children is a residential orphanage that cares for more than 100 children from birth through age 18 on its Columbus and Hernando, Mississippi, campuses.
For the children’s sake, and for the health of the wider church, Palmer Home has developed a program for groups to serve the campus by working on maintenance projects and spending time with the children. Tom Green coordinates the groups. He finds projects that everyone in a group can do, regardless of age or skill level. As a result, when churches partner with Palmer Home, members see God working in the residents and in their own lives as they draw together in joyful service.
In 2010 Palmer Home alumna Lucy Harris suggested to her pastor, Benny Collins, that he consider taking students on a trip to serve at Palmer Home. Collins is the associate pastor for youth and missions at Evangel Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Alabaster, Alabama. In summer 2010, he led the church’s first trip to Palmer Home. The trip was so successful that Collins took student groups again in 2011, 2013, and 2015.
During the weeklong trips, students from Evangel form bonds with Palmer residents, but they also catch a vision for what a blessing their own families are.
Evangel members now take three trips to Palmer Home each year, with about 30 members participating in each. In addition to the weeklong trip every summer, families from the church spend one weekend at Palmer each January, and a group of women also spends time at Palmer each November to decorate the campus for Christmas.
During the weeklong trips, students from Evangel form bonds with Palmer residents, but they also catch a vision for what a blessing their own families are. “All who serve at the Palmer Home are deeply impacted by the children who live there. Evangel youth often return home with big hugs to give parents,” Collins said. “[They] begin to understand that their parents and families are a great blessing from God.”
Collins sees God using the time his church has spent at Palmer Home to change hearts and lives at Evangel. One Evangel student hopes to intern at Palmer Home next summer. Families collect items throughout the year to donate to the orphanage, and a woman in the church crochets baby booties for the babies at Palmer Home.
Collins said one family from Evangel was so changed after a week at the campus that the family sponsors a Palmer Home child to join their family on special occasions. The parents are considering becoming Palmer Home caregivers, living on campus and caring for eight children.
Investing in Palmer Home has forced Evangel members to see the world’s brokenness and the ways that children are harmed by it. But Collins is reminded that God is a Father to the fatherless and that the Gospel has the power to change lives.
For more information visit palmerhome.org.