Caring With Whole Hearts
Cyndi and Justin Walls never imagined they would be serving as caregivers to needy children in Mississippi. After college graduation, they served together with a college ministry in Wisconsin- the same organization that previously introduced them both to Christ. Eventually they both felt God moving them in a new direction. When a friend referred them to a children’s home in North Carolina, the newlywed couple left Wisconsin, excited to begin serving as houseparents in a new place.
Justin grew up on the east coast and in Michigan, but Cyndi was a long time resident of Wisconsin. While they enjoyed their time in North Carolina, a desire to be closer to home motivated them to begin searching for a children’s home where they could continue ministry closer to their families. Through that search, God led them to Palmer Home for Children. “When I saw ‘Palmer Home for Children: Columbus, MS’, I thought that it was located in Missouri. I thought we would be able to serve closer to home! Since then, I have brushed up on my state abbreviations,” joked Cyndi.
Although it wasn’t quite where they expected, they say serving at Palmer Home has been a rewarding experience. Through this ministry they feel they’ve been able to play a small part in a mission close to God’s heart: caring for vulnerable children. In their five years at Palmer Home, many children have come through their cottage. One experience that stands out is a shopping trip with a 16 year old boy who was in their first cottage at Palmer Home.
Cyndi recalled the story, “After only a month or two (of being at Palmer Home), this young man was with Justin in Walmart picking up a few things when he saw a friend. He started talking to his friend, and then turned and introduced Justin as his dad. The friend (and Justin) were taken aback for a moment, partly because Justin is white, and this young man is black. Not to mention Justin is only 12 years older than him! I think his friend was trying to figure out how they could possibly be related,” said Cyndi, laughing.
This particular story stands out in their minds, because it’s a reminder of what God can do through the caregivers at Palmer Home. “Most older kids that come to Palmer Home have a difficult time attaching to people. Yet, God allowed this young man to see through racial divides and understand that God had placed Justin in his life for this time to be a father figure to him,” said Cyndi.
Moments like these are possible because Palmer Home focuses on more than just the physical needs but also the educational, emotional, and spiritual needs of every child who comes to live on its campuses. There’s a strong focus on developing healthy relationships and establishing a family-like feel in every cottage. The children truly belong.
“After serving at a different children’s home and visiting many others, Palmer Home stands out from most of them because it does not take funding from the government. It truly makes this place a different place — a home to the children.” said Cyndi.
Of course it hasn’t all been easy. Being away from their family in Wisconsin, along with the fast-paced lifestyle of caring for a house full of children does wear on them at times. Cyndi and Justin advise those seeking to become houseparents to count the costs first. “The hardest part is the pace of life. Due to the fact that a caregiver serves so many children with many different backgrounds, gender and ages, life can get extremely busy,” said Cyndi. They also say the impact on the lives of these children is well worth the cost.
“We would say if you are considering becoming a caregiver…do it! We have seen this ministry grow in the last five years, and we know God is at work here. It is incredible to be a part of what God is doing!”