Too many of today’s children have yet to discover their personal ‘lift of love.’ We can’t ‘touch the tomorrow’ of them all, but it’s for such as these that Hephzibah Children’s Home shall continue to extend her borders. – Alberta Metz
Since 1900, Hephzibah Ministries, Inc. has been committed to serving the needs of vulnerable children. Founded as an orphanage near Macon, Georgia by Bettie Tyler, our organization has transitioned many times to meet emerging needs. Hephzibah62:4 extends the original vision of serving orphans and vulnerable children in one location, to equipping and mobilizing local churches to serve through hands-on care to vulnerable children in communities across the U.S. and Canada.
Enjoy the story of God’s faithfulness through many seasons of Hephzibah history below.
THE EARLY YEARS: (1900-1922)
The Lord called me to give up all my plans and follow Him into orphanage work, not because I was the best woman He could find to finance an institution and mother and train orphan children, but because He saw this was the best means He could use to discipline and develop my Christian character to where I could love God with all my heart and my neighbor as myself. –Bettie Tyler, founder of Hephzibah Orphanage (Metz, p. 32).
The story of the Hephzibah Orphanage began in January 1900 when Bettie Tyler and her sister Mollie took a leap of faith. The sisters moved into their dilapidated childhood farmhouse on 600 acres in Bolingbroke, GA in order to care for four young boys entrusted to them by a relative. More orphaned children were added over the years, and others joined their work in caring for the children and farming the property.
Directing an orphanage was a constant test of faith and when crisis after crisis drove Bettie to her knees, “…help would come in a way that proved unmistakably that God had heard and answered” (Metz, p. 20). It was during those early days of testing that God revealed to Bettie the Hebrew name of her ministry, from Isaiah 62:4. “Hephzibah” means, “My delight is in her.”
As Bettie and her staff continued to step out in stubborn faith and confidence in God, He continued to provide through the countless daily challenges as well as provision of two more properties as the ministry grew and then experienced a devastating fire, finally settling on Forsyth Road in Macon, GA. During the years of Bettie Tyler’s leadership over 500 children came under the loving care of Bettie and her staff.
As Bettie’s personal ministry and life were nearing the end, God provided for the next step of the Hephzibah journey in 1922 as she administered the purchase of Hephzibah Orphanage by the Wesleyans for $5, along with the agreement to assume the $10,000 debt and take over the work of the ministry (Metz, p. 30).
A letter written by Bettie Tyler from that time ends with a powerful challenge to the Wesleyans:
The thing most to be afraid of is grieving the Father of the fatherless by proving yourselves unequal to the momentous responsibly He has laid upon you ….
We feel this is only the beginning of Hephzibah’s prosperity. We feel that you Wesleyans are going to unite and make this a model Home, that you are going to labor and pray and sacrifice to that end. You shall have my prayers and cooperation as long as I live and when I am dead I have an idea that I will come back as a ministering spirit.
Yours to do and dare and suffer for the orphans,
Bettie Tyler (Metz p. 37-38)
THE MIDDLE YEARS: (1922-2018)
For over 70 years the rich legacy of Hephzibah Orphanage/Children’s Home continued at the Forsyth Road property in Macon, GA through the servant leadership and faithful efforts of many men and women. In 1950 Edward Parker Buck, Sr., a former superintendent of Hephzibah recounted, “The testimony of Mrs. Lucile Ernest, who has been faithfully working with the Home since about 1900 is, ‘These days seem like the days when Aunt Bettie Tyler began here; God still blesses like He used to’ ” (Metz, p. 59)
In 1984 a new 186-acre property was purchased on Zebulon Road, also in Macon. The enormous endeavor of funding, construction and relocation began under the leadership of Joe Neyman, and efforts in the 1980s focused on paying for the land and developing a master plan. Neyman resigned in 1992 after 22 years of faithful service to Hephzibah and Dr. Larry Freels was chosen as the new director to take Hephzibah into a new chapter. (Metz, p. 125-126)
Dr. Freels recounts, “My personal chapter in this chronicle began in the fall of 1993. I stood on the edge of the timbered 180-acre land to which Hephzibah Children’s Home purposed to relocate. The site was perfect. The plans were exciting. The cost was awesome. My personal sense of inadequacy was overwhelming. The assignment to lead in this massive project was frightening. I knew God had called me to this ministry and surely He would see me through. Yet, humanly, there was the temptation to recoil. ‘The task is too big for me.’ But the Lord…
I have been reminded of Peter stepping out of the boat on the water. The miracle didn’t start while he was in the boat. It seemed I was in a boat with Peter. I stepped out of the boat…and the miracle began to happen. Almost immediately, God began a process of bringing the right person, at the exact time of need, with the precise skills to resolve a specific problem.” (Metz, p. 133-134)
After countless miracles and the efforts of over 2000 volunteer workers, the relocation of Hephzibah Children’s Home finalized in July of 1997. By the following year the debt was paid!
For over two decades, vulnerable children and youth were cared for in a variety of ways through Hephzibah Children’s Home and Hephzibah Behavioral Health Services on the expansive Zebulon Road Property. Leaders, workers, and volunteers from across the country sacrificially invested their prayers, finances, time and talents as they entrusted the outcomes of the children in Hephzibah’s care to God. It’s impossible to adequately describe or measure the impact of the immense amount of love poured out in the name of Christ through this special ministry and this special property.
Superintendents/CEOs of Hephzibah Orphanage/Children’s Home in Macon, GA
|1922 – Isabelle Whalen||1952 – Edward Parker Buck, Jr. (and June)|
|1923 – Rev. John Wood (and Lella)||1955 – Jesse E. Towner (and Mrs. Towner)|
|1931 – D.L. Jones (and Mrs. Jones)||1962 – Charles (Bud) Weaver (and Frieda)|
|1942 – Wendell Campbell (and Vera)||1969 – Joe Neyman (and Shirley)|
|1947 – Edward Parker Buck (and Mrs. Buck)||1993 – Dr. Larry E. Freels (and Barbara)|
|1949 – Raymond S. Taylor (and Margaret)||2008 – C.K. Chitty (and Grace)|
|1951 – George E. Davis (and Mrs. Davis)|
TRANSITION TO HEPHZIBAH62:4
For over 118 years, Hephzibah Ministries served the needs of vulnerable children through its residential programs for orphaned, homeless, abused, and neglected children. On January 17, 2018, Hephzibah Ministries, Inc. Board of Directors announced a bold ministry redesign.
“On behalf of The Wesleyan Church, I commend the Hephzibah leaders for this bold move of faith,” said Dr. Wayne Schmidt, General Superintendent of The Wesleyan Church. “When considering Hephzibah’s history, one notes the many times and ways the ministry transitioned to meet emerging needs in changing regulatory environments. Throughout all the adjustments of all the years, Hephzibah’s mission to serve children and families remained steadfast. To continue to fulfill that mission is at the heart of the Hephzibah Board of Directors’ decision to re-vision. I am thankful for their faithfulness and excited about the future of Hephzibah Ministries.”
That same month a re-visioning team was formed, and a prayer-filled and multi-faceted process began, of transitioning Hephzibah Ministries from a residential model to a decentralized model of ministry, which greatly expands Hephzibah’s reach.
God is clearly leading Hephzibah62:4 into a bright new future! He has given us a new mission of equipping and mobilizing local Wesleyan churches to transform the lives of vulnerable children across North America. Our ministry model has changed, but we remain faithful to the vision and spirit of Hephzibah that God birthed in Bettie Tyler so many years ago and has entrusted to the Wesleyans since 1922.