ACTIVE SENIOR RESIDENTS AND VOLUNTEERS
Raenelle and Bob Stockmeier – Patio Home Residents Since 2010
The big brown bus rolled into the Dairy Queen parking lot. Shrieks of joy from 13 elementary school age girls (and one little boy) reverberated throughout the cavernous Dodge van! A wonderful surprise visit to America’s ice cream fantasy land! The girls (and one little boy) were relishing the thought of tasty treats! But then the driver swerved back onto the road that led to home; Christian City, Flint cottage. The girls (and one little boy) were crestfallen, but they knew Dad Stockmeier loved to joke with them.
God works in mysterious ways and is not shy about turning us completely around to travel in another direction to do the work He bids us to do. I was in my sixth year of public school teaching, building a solid career. My wife, Rae, our children, my parents (Bob and Jeanette), sister Janice, and brother Terry were all living in the town where I was born and raised. I had not even the smallest thought of leaving Ohio. None.
But then . . . My father died suddenly only two years after my youngest brother, Leslie, had died in an automobile accident. I felt like I needed to be somewhere else – maybe just for a while. When I look back, I see that God was turning me in the life direction that He had purposed for me since being formed in Jeanette Stockmeier’s womb.
Ray and Annelle Black, Rae’s parents, were some of the first house parents at Christian City Home for Children in the 1960s. They were the beloved “Dad” and “Mom” to a home full of younger boys and later to the older girls. Having known Bob (Christian City’s first Executive Director) and Doreen Puckett and Jack Roebuck (Superintendent), my father-in-law arranged an interview and we were hired as house parents in the early 1970s. In a short time, we came to love Jack. He loved God. And he loved the house parents. Jack had a special love in his heart and soul for Christian City’s children. We learned from Jack to strive to love these children as God did. They were family. He saw loving house parents as essential in the familial lives and development of our divinely placed children. I remember Jack saying in a house parents’ meeting that “If house parents need something, and we don’t have it, we need to go out and dig a hole to find it.”
I was a “Yankee” in Georgia! A vivid memory from my first days in Georgia (Raenelle is Georgia-born and cultured, a “preacher’s kid,” — she really is a Georgia peach) a little guy from a nearby cottage walked up to this stranger and asked me, “Is this you-alser’s house?” I knew I was in the south! I can show you the spot today, after almost 50 years, where this cute little guy asked his question! Although it took a little time for the indigenous folks and myself to fully understand each other, we all had good-natured fun with one another.
Summarizing our years as Christian City house-parents brings back many memories.
With great fondness, I remember managing the Union City “Colts” baseball team for 11 and 12-year-old boys. 1973 was an especially good year; we won the local Georgia Amateur Baseball League title! Another house parent, Clyde Moore, was the coach and one of his sons, Danny, was on the team. Danny is all grown up now and works at Christian City.
Raenelle and I grew and matured in the Lord at Christian City. Our sense of love of family expanded to include all 13 girls (and one little boy). Three of those girls were our daughters, and, the one little boy on the bus? Our tow-headed son. I remember shopping trips in the early ‘70s to the Richway store on Old National Highway. People did a double-take when they heard 14 children call us “Mom” and “Dad!” That was special to both of us.
After serving as house parents at Christian City for three years, I returned to the classroom and taught junior high and senior high history and geography for the next 38 years at Christian schools in Georgia. I loved the children and loved my subject matter. Sometimes in class I would stop talking, pause, and then address the high schoolers: “Wow! – Look at this! I’m being paid to do what I love so much—talking about History!”
And now a little bit from “Little Bit” (Rae):
While Bob was having fun teaching, I worked at Southern Bell/BellSouth and later was a deputy clerk for the Commissioner of Roads and Revenue, and even later as Assistant City Clerk in a town outside of Athens. Then, somehow, time, as it often does, sneaked up on us and we “retired” in 2011.
Where to go? Not much time was spent on the “where.” We would retire to a place that we loved – Christian City! Back home! Our new neighbors quickly extended invitations to their church homes. We live in the Harper Valley community at Christian City and believe it is a very special place to live. (I am sure that others feel that way about their own Christian City community – there are four patio home communities and four apartment complexes.)
We all look out for one another. We’re following the two greatest commandments found in God’s Word when we love the Lord our God with all our heart and love our neighbors as ourselves.
We desire to serve the Lord here at this time and in this place as many of our neighbors do the same. Volunteer service fulfills a very important part of the day-to-day needs at Christian City, especially now that the campus has grown to hundreds of acres.
When we were here in the ‘70s, Red Oak Road was a dirt road to Highway 138. There were few senior patio homes, no welcome center, no apartments, no assisted living facility, no rehab or skilled nursing center, no thrift store, and no Children’s Village of today—just four cottages housing the Home for Children.
Today, all of these places use volunteers on a daily basis—in some cases, the need is for someone to just give a smile, a word of encouragement, or a listening ear. You don’t have to sing, play the piano, dance, or give a speech—just the giving of your time and presence is a present given in love to Christian City’s residents.
I enjoy volunteering to play the piano and sing at the Wednesday morning Bible study in the Christian City Assisted Living Center’s Memory Care floor. It brings such joy to me when one of the residents recognizes a song and begins to sing the words! Joy! This is a part of being a volunteer with the Spiritual Care office and it is a great place in which to volunteer. (Bob’s parents had a 30-resident nursing home in Ohio—’reckon that’s where we got our love of ministering to our senior community!)
My part-time work at Lester Road Christian Church (just up the hill from Christian City) keeps me busy during the week, but I still have time before our church’s worship service on Sunday mornings to volunteer at Fairburn Health Care where Bob teaches Bible truths to the residents and I lead the singing. The residents are precious people and souls there, too. Precious souls are everywhere! It is my privilege to minister to God’s children here at Christian City and at FHC.
More from Bob:
A favorite volunteer ministry of mine, aided by Rae, Myrna Johnson (Life Enrichment Director) and her wonderful CNAs, is the weekly People’s Club event, which was created for the spiritual, social and artistic enrichment of senior residents not only at Christian City, but also for those in the senior retirement neighborhoods that surround Christian City.
We have speakers, musicians, singers, preachers, motivational speakers, authors, public servants, and many other great folks in the People’s Club lineup. For their ministry, we thank each featured speaker/entertainer for giving their time and talent for the benefit of our residents. For many Christian City residents, People’s Club is a chance to gather with neighbors to socialize, be entertained and learn something!
Yes—we loved Christian City in the 1970s and we love Christian City today. We are blessed to live among residents, staff and leaders who strive to love our neighbors as God commands.
Truly, the Lord was, and still is, in this place called Christian City!