A crowd of friends, family, colleagues and board members were on hand April 21 in the MBCH’s Spiritual Life Center in Bridgeton to celebrate his career and dedication to Missouri’s children. Kenison also received a citation from the Missouri Senate, presented by Senator Doug Libla of Poplar Bluff.
“Each one of you have had a part in what I’ve done,” Kenison said to the crowd of friends, family and board members. You have to know that every one of you has had a hand to the plow. Everything we’ve accomplished in these 36 years is God’s work. I simply went along with it. ”
A pastor in Hannibal, Kenison joined the staff of Missouri Baptist Children’s Home in January, 1977 as a development officer. In October 1980 he became the Administrator (now called “President”) of the Children’s Home by unanimous vote after a previously divided and contentious search.
“We were at a standstill and we decided to go into a time of prayer,” said Betty Cox, a current trustee who was also on the board that called Kenison. “After we prayed we lifted our heads and all said, ‘Duh, it’s Kenison.’”
A lot has changed at MBCH under Kenison’s tenure: In 1977, MBCH primarily focused on residential care. Onsite residential care is still part of their mission, but in 2014, MBCH programs focus on pregnancy services, transitional living, intensive family reunification, foster care, care for developmentally delayed adults and most recently a ministry to help girls escape human trafficking. In 1978, a total of 43 children were served at the Bridgeton campus and 55 in foster homes. In the first quarter of 2014 alone, MBCH served 254 children in various residential services, and maintains 496 foster or adoptive homes.
The MBCH was a single entity in 1998 with a budget of just over $1 million and now it’s a $14 million operation with several different ministry corporations under the MBCH umbrella. When Kenison came to MBCH, there was a single campus in Bridgeton. Now they have campuses in Bridgeton as well as Peculiar, Mt. Vernon and regional offices in Jefferson City, Kansas City, Joplin and Springfield.
“What we see in the leadership of Bob Kenison is a man who loved God first,” said John Yeats, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention. “He’s taught others how to love children and see them as God sees them. He has God’s vision and a gift for helping people follow that vision. Missouri Baptists are going to miss Bob’s leadership at MBCH.”
“We each one have to serve when it’s our opportunity,” Kenison said. “And there’s no greater blessing than serving with the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home.”
Kenison said he is looking forward to resting at home with his wife, Margie. ν