If asked to list those whom they consider to be ‘major players’ in the ministry of Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children, people familiar with the organization would probably begin with those who play a visible role, beginning with President Tony Kennedy and including, of course, campus administrators and houseparents.
However, if they weren’t careful, they might forget to list two groups of people who are absolutely crucial to the success of OBHC’s mission to help children become capable, caring Christian adults by sharing Christ’s love and providing them with hope and homes. Those groups are the financial donors and the unseen army of prayer warriors who petition the Lord regularly on behalf of the children and those who come in direct contact with them.
A former Marine and retired public school teacher of twenty-eight years, ninety-four-year-old Lucy Shank is one such prayer warrior,
...a relentless soldier for the cause of OBHC and a cheerful giver to the organization as well. Surprisingly for one so dedicated to this among other Baptist ministry efforts, Lucy was not raised in the Baptist church. The daughter of Mexican parents who left Mexico during the Mexican Revolution, Lucy was raised Catholic and remained a practicing Catholic up until, and for a time during, her time in the Marine Corps at the persistent urging of a Catholic friend.
“Sally woke me up every Sunday,” Lucy recalls with a chuckle. “I didn’t want to go, but, you know, she was a Marine, too, so it was no use telling her ‘no.’”
Lucy met her husband Carl while working in the records office of Camp Matthews Rifle Range just north of San Diego, California. Having just returned from six years of duty in the Pacific with the Second Marine Division, Carl served as Corporal of the Guard at the Camp Matthews main gate and regularly checked the liberty passes of Lucy and her friends as they came and went, prolonging necessary conversation whenever possible and eventually instigating a relationship with Lucy.
“We got married in Yuma,” says Lucy with a pleasant smile. “We went on VJ Day. The Japanese were in the process of surrendering, and no one was supposed to leave the base except in the case of an emergency. Well, we had already planned to go to Yuma, so I made passes for us.” Lucy laughs, dark eyes twinkling. “When we got back, we couldn’t tell anyone what we’d done because we weren’t supposed to go. Oh, I had such a hard time keeping the news from the other girls!”
A native of Moore, Oklahoma, Carl brought his young bride back to Oklahoma following her honorable discharge from the Marines. Shortly after the couple moved in with Carl’s parents, Carl was called away to serve in Virginia. “I stayed with his mom and dad,” Lucy explains. “I was expecting my firstborn, Richard, and they were very cordial. They took really good care of me. They were good Christian people and went to church every Sunday.”
After a month or so of refusing her in-laws’ invitations to church, Lucy decided to join them. Intrigued, but a little disconcerted by their warmth, Lucy began to form relationships with the members of First Baptist Church in Moore, relationships that would eventually lead to her salvation and subsequent passion for the ministry of Oklahoma Southern Baptists. She and Carl continued to attend even after his return from Virginia.
“After I had Richard, those ladies would come to the house and take care of him,” says Lucy, “diapers and everything!” Lucy laughs. “One day, they said, ‘You’re coming to WMU with us!’ Well, I didn’t know what that was, but they took me, and I enjoyed it.” Lucy smiles at the memory and adds softly, “Those dear people were so good to me. I’ll never forget that.”
After Carl and Lucy’s second child, Arthur Lee, was born, Carl offered to watch the boys while Lucy went to a revival meeting at church. “That’s where I accepted Jesus as my Savior,” says Lucy. “It was really so amazing, and I believe that Carl was at home praying for me.” Sitting up straight, she adds, “Ever since that day, I’ve been a Baptist!”
In the years that followed, the Shank family continued to grow. Lucy gave birth to three daughters, Cathy, LuAnn, and Rebecca, in quick succession, but that didn’t keep her from setting and reaching professional goals. Lucy earned her teaching degree from Oklahoma City University and went to work teaching Spanish at Capitol Hill High School in Oklahoma City just before her youngest child was born. She spent twelve happy years teaching at Capitol Hill before taking teaching positions in various smaller school systems.
Through it all, Lucy and Carl stayed connected with their Marine Corps family, attending Second Marine Division reunions annually and each holding the office of president of their respective Marine chapters at different times. The couple held leadership positions at church as well, Lucy teaching Sunday school, cooking for Falls Creek, and staying active in WMU even as she saw to the needs of her own children. At one point, Lucy served as local and Northwestern Association WMU director and sat on the state WMU council.
Meanwhile, Carl took an interest in the ministry of Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children. Lucy explains, “Every time that somebody we knew died, Carl said, ‘Don’t send flowers. Just send a check for twenty dollars or more to OBHC.’ He also donated cattle, and that’s how I got acquainted with the organization.” Lucy pulls one of several OBHC prayer calendars from the pages of her Bible and opens it. “We started getting these prayer booklets every month, and I loved reading about the ministry and the kids. I started praying for them.”
Lucy’s OBHC prayer calendar collection is impressive, going back many years and occupying a place of importance in her living room. “Well, I like to keep track of how old they are now so I can pray helpful prayers,” Lucy explains. “When I see a name on the calendar, I go find the story about that child so I can figure how old they are now and remember what they need prayer for.”
Without ever having met the children in person, Lucy knows many of them by name. Obviously concerned for their welfare and spiritual growth, she pauses and inquires after several children without ever having to open a prayer calendar to recall names or circumstances.
“I specifically pray for their knowledge of Jesus Christ, that it stays with them wherever they go,” says Lucy with intense sincerity, looking into the young faces on the front of her most recent prayer calendar. “It’s so important for them. Some of them have such hard backgrounds, I know.” Lucy looks up and continues, “But the Children’s Homes do all they can to help them. Those houseparents are amazing to me, all they do for those kids.”
Lucy moved to Edmond to live with her oldest daughter Cathy in November of 2015 and, finding herself within visiting distance of Boys Ranch Town, made her first campus visit in December. “It was so much fun!” Lucy says. “Those boys were all working. Some set the table. Some did dishes. Well, they were lovely, and I really enjoyed being with them. The men and women I met, you could tell they were so dedicated. Everyone was just very nice.”
Lucy hopes to return to BRT someday soon. In the meantime, she continues to pray for OBHC, its employees and volunteers, and the children who live there, an honorable and effective pursuit from which this former Marine and school teacher has no plans to retire. Says Lucy, “I just want to do what I can to help the kids get everything possible out of their time at the Children’s Homes so they can become good citizens of the United States and good Christians who are strong in the Lord.”