While a majority of students snooze Saturday mornings, other students cheerfully congregate behind the Nell Sunday residence hall at 8:30 a.m. to make the hourlong drive to the 300-acre facility called Boys Farm in Newberry County. Here, the students assist with a variety of tasks, including grounds and animal care but, most importantly, they fellowship with the boys.
Founded in 1960 by the Rev. and Mrs. W.D. Shealy Jr., lovingly called Pop and Mama, the organization has depended on God’s provision for 54 years. While studying at BJU, Pop Shealy worked with inner-city children in downtown Greenville and felt called to establish a safe environment away from the city where boys could learn and grow. Shealy believed in the necessity of building boys rather than mending men. BJU students began participating in this ministry during the 2013 spring semester and are eager to continue the outreach this fall.
Boys Farm seeks to show love, offer discipleship and provide a safe haven for boys from disadvantaged homes in a family-based environment founded on Christian beliefs. The ministry cares for 20 boys who are raised in three homes: the elementary cottage, the middle school cottage and the high school cottage. All boys attend the local public school.
The boys who come to live at Boys Farm all encountered difficult circumstances at an early age, causing many to struggle with bitterness and anger. Many of the boys come from home situations that include alcohol and drug abuse. Bob Gorsuch, the house parent of the elementary home, said many of them arrive at the farm very troubled because of their unstructured home environment.
“The unique thing about Boys Farm is that here, we are a family,” Gorsuch said.
And this family structure seeks to give the boys responsibilities, to cultivate a solid work ethic and to build self-esteem.
While all the boys are treated like family, the Boys Farm house parents do not take over guardianship.
“Ultimately, the goal is reconciliation with the family,” Gorsuch said.
Sadly, in many cases this is not possible because of the difficult home situations. But still the boys experience a tremendous change after living in the structured environment of Boys Farm.
“The main goal is to teach them about Jesus Christ,” Gorsuch said. “Teaching them the Gospel is the most important thing we do.”
As a private nonprofit organization, Boys Farm is dependent on volunteer efforts and donations to keep the ministry going. Brandon Johnson, a junior Bible major and leader of the outreach ministry, encourages other students to join in their efforts.
Gorsuch said the boys love to have volunteers like Johnson come and that the edifying fellowship benefits them.
“It’s good for the boys to interact with others, especially believers,” he said.
Rachael Wallace, a junior early childhood education major, said the boys, who range from kindergarten to college-aged, are rough and tumble, but very sweet. “The interaction with kids is what I like most about working at the Boys Farm,” Wallace said. “And the love they show in return makes it even more worth it.”
Since its establishment, Boys Farm continues to live by faith each day. “We depend on God for our needs,” Gorsuch said. “And it’s worked for 54 years and counting.”