October 2018 – We are the Miracles – miracles of God. Every person is a miracle, made in His image.
In pauses between songs, members of the Miracles choir share a little about themselves. Photo slideshows tell their stories, their interests, and their achievements. One shares something about his faith, another describes “what this song means to me.” The 27-member Miracles choir builds connections while traveling the country from their home at the Baddour Center in Senatobia, Mississippi.
Live, learn, work, play
Baddour is a residential community where adults with mild to moderate intellectual and developmental disabilities can live among peers and pursue their abilities in an environment conducive to their personal growth.
“We want people to experience a full life,” Parke Pepper, executive director of Baddour Center, told AFA Journal. “Freedom and personal choice to live, learn, work, play, and worship are at the heart of our mission. We help people live their most independent lives.”
Some residents live in independent apartments where they care for themselves and attend to daily duties without supervision. Others live in houses with the assistance and care of an in-house direct support professional who prepares appropriate meals, ensures medicines are taken, and encourages each resident in accomplishing daily routines and personal goals.
Work opportunities on campus allow residents to pursue a vocation – doing professional packaging contracted with businesses nationwide, growing and selling plants at Baddour’s greenhouse and garden center, or working for FedEx, printing and labeling shipping materials on site.
At the Community Life Center, residents unleash artistic talents through art, drama, and choir; exercise in the gym or pool; study in the library or computer lab; or get together for community events.
“Through a person-centered planning process, each resident designs a plan most fitting for him or her,” Pepper said. “We see an environment where men and women with intellectual disabilities reach their greatest potential by enriching their lives through programs and services that focus on their interests, needs, and wellbeing.”
The Baddour Center was founded in 1978 by the charitable bequest of Paul Baddour, who had passed away in 1973, and with the help of the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church. The pastoral 120-acre campus is located on the old Baddour family farm. And the family’s spirit lives on.
“Paul Baddour, our founder, said there is really only one unquestionably fatal mistake that we could make,” Pepper said. “And that is to forget Whose we are and Who got us here and Who is with us going forward. Baddour asserts in its Code of Ethics that we share in a ministry and are charged in our daily lives – residents and employees – to strive to operate in a manner consistent with that purpose.”
A staff chaplain leads services in Baddour Memorial Chapel at the heart of the campus, and workdays begin with morning devotions. Many residents attend and engage with churches in the community.
The Miracles choir is a huge part of how Baddour expresses its central faith component in front of all types of audiences, whether Sunday morning church services, county fairs, or the Mississippi State House of Representatives.
“The Miracles first and foremost sing and minister to God for His Glory!” John Matlach, the Miracles choir director, told AFAJ. “It matters not whether we are in a church or a secular venue. Expect to be blown away with what God can do with a willing vessel.”
The choir began in 1979 centered around the talents of one resident who was a gifted pianist. Today the choir is a standard 27-members, and popular requests for their performances lead them on ministry tours on a love offering basis, or with help for overnight accommodations and travel expenses.
“We have a three-fold mission,” Matlach explained, “to worship and praise God, to bridge attitudinal barriers toward persons with disabilities, and to tell the story and raise awareness of Baddour Center and its mission.”
The choir becomes a public vehicle to tell the story of Baddour, not only in the smiling faces of the singers, but also in lyrics that emphasize Baddour’s faith, its mission, and its philosophy.
“The choir’s theme song is ‘We are His Miracles,’” Pepper said. “And the words are ‘We may never reach perfection till we see Him face to face. We are His miracles, miracles of grace.’ Invariably every time that is sung, someone will say, ‘Isn’t that sweet! Those poor little people with disabilities.’ And I contend, whoever thinks that has got it entirely backward.”
Baddour emphasizes the abilities of its residents, who – like all of us – are on a journey of development, growing and learning to become the men and women God designed them to be. Baddour provides an environment where people can safely develop and mature at their own levels.
“We use the term ‘they’ as if they’re so different from us,” Pepper said. “The more time you spend around folks, you find they’re a lot more like us than they are different from us. Everybody’s got a learning curve. At Baddour, the learning curve happens at a pace that’s commensurate with them. To see God’s workmanship is a pretty amazing thing. That’s what makes all of us different.”
The Baddour Center
Martha Ann (photo, left) has lived at Baddour since its beginning over 29 years ago. She lives in fully independent housing.
Spencer (photo, right) was elected mayor by his peers in Baddour’s Resident Government Association. He has won titles in Special Olympics and numerous other awards.
Rachael (photo, left) is a social butterfly and has a flair for expressing herself through the performing arts. She has lived at Baddour for nine years. She enjoys showcasing her talents off campus with the creative movement and drama teams.
Payson (photo, right) is an active member of the Miracles. He loves to travel and meet people, acting as an ambassador for the Baddour Center. He moved to Baddour six years ago.