The new Jess Lunsford Chapel, completed in late August, majestically displays the original steeple from the former Lunsford Chapel (1962-2011), as well as the original cornerstone and pews. It stands on the site of the former landmark and is named in memory of STCHM’s founder, Rev. Jesse Monroe Lunsford, who established the Children’s Home in 1952. Approximately 200 friends, donors, STCHM staff and students participated in a dedication ceremony recently to celebrate the addition to the campus.
Plans for a new chapel began several years ago when it was discovered that renovations of the old chapel would be more costly and less efficient that providing a new facility for the campus.
“It started as a dream,” retired STCHM administrator Homer Hanna shared, explaining that two previous STCHM CEOs and Eron Green, STCHM’s current president and CEO, had a hand in making the dream a reality.
“What you see today took the help of a lot of people living by the attitude that God would provide. And He did,” Hanna said. “I wish I could hug the neck of all of those who made this happen.”
Green acknowledged some of the key donors who made the new chapel possible. These included the Velma Lee and John Harvey Robinson Charitable Foundation, the Christ Is Our Salvation Foundation (CIOS), Christian Mission Concerns, and the Ed Rachal Foundation.
During the ceremony, STCHM students opened with a choral reading of Psalm 1, and others performed a song of celebration. In between, speakers from STCHM’s past and present reflected on why the chapel is so important to life at STCHM.
“The steeple of the chapel was the first thing I saw as I topped that hill coming to the campus for my first job interview after graduating from college,” said Diane Gryseels, a family therapist who served with STCHM 40 years before retiring. “The peace that came to me in that moment stayed with me through my interview with Brother Lunsford, which concluded with a visit and tour of the chapel. When I walked into the chapel, it immediately impressed me as a place of peace, and I soon learned why.”
“The chapel has always been the Wednesday evening gathering place for the whole campus to come together to learn of Jesus and His love for them,” Gryseels remarked. “A place where the needs of families are shared by children as prayer requests, and where visiting churches come to share musicals and plays. I remember as a caseworker, I would bring students to the quietness of the chapel to discuss painful issues in their lives, to let them talk in the peaceful atmosphere of the chapel. Brother Lunsford had faith, hope and love and he shared it in that place. And that message and spirit lives on today, in the new chapel that honors his memory.”
Lil Abshier, who currently serves as STCHM’s site coordinator for the Christian Women’s Job Corps program in Corpus Christi, was a member of the first family of children who came to the Children’s Home in 1952. She grew up in the home of Jess Lunsford and recalled one of the most important life lessons her “dad” taught her.
“I learned from my dad that the God who made us is a God who loves us, and a God who wants to show us how to live our lives,” Abshier shared. “I am so thankful for that. So many people have asked me if I was sad to see the old chapel torn down, but I tell them ‘no, I’m not.’ It was a wonderful place, but what resonates in my heart about this ministry could never be contained in a building.”
Green concluded, “The bronze dedication plaque on the wall reads: ‘The Jess Lunsford Chapel is lovingly dedicated to the children and families served by South Texas Children’s Home Ministries.’ We are grateful to the generosity and hard work of all who contributed toward the completion of this beautiful place. It is truly a gift to our ministry and the children in our care.”