It all started in 1957, when Lawrence Cayton interrupted a Sunday School class party with a serious question: “Could this class possibly do something to help my child?”
The Caytons had spent several years trying to find satisfactory help for their nine-year-old son, Larry, who was born with developmental disabilities. Their options were limited. After visiting many state-run and privately owned institutions, the Caytons concluded they were either overcrowded, expensive, or poorly run.
The Sunday School class at Garfield Baptist Church in Milwaukee was aptly named the Stewards Class and was led by Dr. Viggo B. Olsen, who would later serve for many years as a missionary doctor with ABWE in Bangladesh. Dr. Olsen organized a committee of eleven couples who then presented a proposal to Pastor William Kuhnle, who was wise enough to immediately solicit a national network of churches. He contacted Dr. Robert Ketcham and asked to be placed on the agenda of the next meeting of the GARBC Council of Fourteen.
When the committee from Garfield Baptist made its presentation on December 19, 1957, the council members made no attempt to hide their opinions. They wept openly during the presentation and pledged their support for the project.
Choosing the organization’s name from Jeremiah 23:4, the group from Garfield Baptist incorporated as Shepherds Home and School on July 31, 1958. The group’s essential idea was groundbreaking at the time. Shepherds Ministries began with the conviction that children with developmental disabilities were capable of learning—and capable of learning God’s Word.
Fifty years later, the respite and residential programs continue to expand. Three new residents were recently admitted with a possibility of ten new residents being admitted by the end of the year.
Shepherds Ministries is celebrating fifty years of ministry by holding anniversary banquets around the country, such as the one held on May 30 at Calvary Baptist Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan.