To receive a child is to receive Christ himself

contributed by Michael Mattox, Senior Pastor of First UMC Rogers

As we “recover” from the hectic holiday frenzy – shopping, celebrations, decorations, gifts and meals – and look at these first days of the New Year – I’m reminded that at their core is the beckoning of a new beginning; a new beginning in the form of a child.

The birth and life of Jesus ushered in not only a new way of thinking about salvation, but he also spoke to prevailing attitudes toward those who were the least of these: children, women, old men and slaves. Before Jesus, many in society viewed these people as burdens. In Greece and Rome, it was even accepted for unwanted children to be abandoned on the roadside.

However, it wasn’t acceptable for Jesus. He welcomed all children. He viewed them as valuable and worthy of love. Matthew writes that Jesus said, “And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” (Matthew 18:5)

These words are simple, but they are abounding with meaning to me as I reflect on Methodist Family Health’s 120 years of service. As the pastor of First United Methodist Church in Rogers as well as a member of the board of directors at Methodist Family Health, I think about the early Christians who gathered children abandoned on the roadside and raised them as their own. It’s essentially what Methodist Family Health still does every day.

Methodist Family Health began as the Arkansas Methodist Orphanage in Little Rock in 1899. From the beginning, Methodist Family Health welcomed children in the name of Jesus, and what started as a mission of the Methodist Church in Little Rock has now become a statewide continuum of care, one that offers help for children and their families who have been abandoned, abused and neglected.

Residents of the Arkansas Methodist Children’s Home at the turn of the 20th century.

Like the children left on the side of the road, the children who have received a home and care from Methodist Family Health had nowhere else to turn. Like the families who could not care for orphans, widows, the disabled or enslaved, Methodist Family Health was and is a safe place to turn for help.

Since its beginning, Methodist Family Health’s mission has expanded from providing short-term care for orphaned children and helping them find homes in 1899 to seeking homeless orphans, finding loving homes for them and making it possible for families to adopt a child who would be a blessing to their home in 1910. Its current mission in 2019 is rebuilding the lives of Arkansas children and families struggling with psychiatric, behavioral, emotional and spiritual issues by giving the best possible care to those who may need our help.

As the Kingdom of God welcomes both children and adults, Methodist Family Health does the same. Women with a dual diagnosis of a mental health issue and a substance abuse problem can find help – and bring their children with them – at the Arkansas Centers for Addictions Research, Education and Services (Arkansas CARES) program. Children who are a danger to themselves, someone else or both will find help at the Methodist Behavioral Hospital in Maumelle. Families who need guidance for a child’s learning, behavioral or emotional issue can get the care they need in Methodist Family Health’s outpatient and schoolbased counseling services, day treatment programs, psychiatric residential treatment centers or its grief center serving children and adolescents.

As always, children who have no family who can provide for them can find that care and consistency in Methodist Family Health’s group homes and emergency shelter.

As I reflect on this season of new beginnings in this blessed season of Epiphany, I encourage you to learn more about how Methodist Family Health’s legacy of welcoming the least of these continues to create new beginnings for the children and families in Arkansas.

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