Mike Morris, administrator at Boise Christian Homes Inc., is shown with resident Diane Miller, who formerly worked as a Bible translator in Papua New Guinea. (Photo by Jesse Fairgrieve)
By Gaye Bunderson
World War II played a powerful role in the beginning of a place that is now called Boise Christian Homes Inc. Specifically, children orphaned by the war were a significant element in the homes’ beginnings, their evolution, and the projects staff and residents focus on today.
WWII ended in 1945, and in 1946 a local couple named Arnold and Eva Kernan sought to help children orphaned by the war. They started Christian Children’s Home in Boise, moving unused U.S. Army barracks to a site on North 36th Street, very near to the old location of Boise Bible College. The refashioned barracks were soon filled to capacity with kids.
For the Kernans, the project was about way more than just giving parentless youngsters a home. The Kernans’ purpose was to mold young lives after what they referred to as “the true pattern”: Jesus Christ.
The Kernans’ work was so successful that, after blessing many children with a safe place to live, they turned their efforts to helping another demographic: people in their retirement years, specifically ministers and missionaries who had devoted their lives to the Lord’s work. After the children’s home moved in 1977, Boise Christian Homes Inc. took over the space, with the goal of establishing a community for believers of vintage age. That project, too, showed great success.
As of late 2023, Boise Christian Homes – or Boise Christian Retirement Village, as it is known – housed 35-40 residents, with plans to build more housing for more seniors.
The current administrator of Boise Christian Homes is Mike Morris, a 38-year-old Nampan who, until a year and a half ago, worked as Director of Technology at Boise Bible College. Due to their initial proximity, both the homes and the college kept close ties over the years, and when the administrator position opened at BCH Inc., Morris felt a nudge to step into the job.
He recently compiled a list of benefits that residents receive from living at the facility, including such things as (in part):
Living in a community of like-minded believers provides retirees with abundant opportunities for spiritual growth and enrichment.
Retirement can sometimes bring challenges such as health issues, emotional adjustments, or feelings of isolation. Living in a Christian community allows for mutual support and care.
Retirement doesn’t mean retirement from service. In fact, this season of life offers a wealth of experience and time that can be dedicated to serving others and engaging in ministry.
Some of the current service opportunities harken back to the homes’ original origins: young people. The missions of Christian Children’s Home and Boise Christian Homes Inc. remain intertwined. Said Morris: “Our mission is to help retired pastors and missionaries have a place to retire after spending their lives serving God. We also assist at-risk youth in our community and try to connect with youth groups to share all of the knowledge held here.”
The concept of elders sharing knowledge with youngsters is a lesson for society, and there are many stories and wise words that the residents of Boise Christian Retirement Village are willing to share. In fact, one of the most interesting things about the Village is the people who live there. The residents’ ages currently range from 60-87; over the years, some have surpassed 90 and even lived to be 100.
Morris said: “There are so many amazing stories here, if you hear a conversation, you’re going to be entertained.”
He offered two biographies as proof.
Diane Miller worked for 10 years with Alpine Christian Missions in Germany, where she learned the German language. Later, for 36 years, she worked with Pioneer Bible Translators in Papua New Guinea. She explained that in that country, she spoke what is called Melanesian pidgin, a kind of bridge language to facilitate communication.
She grew up in Oregon and Idaho; and in an intriguing twist, she revealed that her mother had served as a house parent at the original Christian Children’s Home. “And now I’m at the retirement home,” she said. “When I moved in, there were three people here that I already knew!”
Her move-in date was January 15, 2023, and when queried as to whether or not she’s pleased with the arrangement, she replied, “I love it here.”
What does she love most? “The Christian atmosphere – and the great food and the great people.”
Glenna Apsley co-founded Camp One Way in Illinois in 1972 with Alice Eversole and served there for 47 years. “There was a little piece of land in the country near a pond,” Apsley said. “We purchased the land and opened the camp initially on our own; but the Lord made it clear that if we wanted to continue, we had to give up ownership, form a board, and continue as a non-profit.”
The name Camp One Way was based on John 14:6: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’.”
The camp was founded with the goal of providing a Christ-focused summer experience for youth. Later, a Christian retreat was established in the late ’70s, and many lives were touched thanks to the work of Apsley and Eversole. Camp One Way is still in operation today (see camponeway.org).
Apsley moved from Illinois and into the Village in 2012. She explained: “I have relatives here, and I was invited by relatives to come here.”
What does she like best? “This is like a camp and it makes it easier for me to make a new life here.”
Tie-ins among Boise Bible College, Christian Children’s Home, and Boise Christian Homes are still strong and include the fact that a previous administrator at BCH Inc., Michael Rocks, lived at the children’s home as a young boy. He is now a missionary to South Korea, making him eligible to return to his old childhood homestead – now changed to a senior site – when he is ready.
Danny Harrod attended Boise Bible College when it was located near the children’s home and is now a professor of Intercultural Studies at BBC’s modern location on West Marigold Street in Garden City. Harrod brought a volunteer group of students to BCH Inc. late last year to spend time with the residents and do little tasks for them, like tidying up a garden space, raking leaves, and moving a piece of furniture.
Some of the ways Boise Christian Homes works with young people include:
- Game nights for kids.
- Church neighbors Hill City Church and Foothills Christian Church, as well as other valley churches and Boise Bible College, send their young people to the Village to serve and connect with residents.
- YWAM (Youth with a Mission) participates in service opportunities and resident interactions.
- BCH Inc. worked in partnership with a local business to provide blankets, pillows, and home goods to local women’s and children’s centers.
- It also sponsored five at-risk children through the Christmastime Shop with a Sheriff program.
Morris said, “We are helping kids with their Christian development.”
The Board of Directors of Boise Christian Homes Inc. is pushing forward on a redevelopment project at the BCH site. Board members have established a redevelopment committee and plans have been drawn up for a project that would increase the size of the Village. Currently, there are 12 buildings on 8.3 acres, but Morris and the board members agree that a huge need remains for more residences, and a large lot has been designated for more living space in the coming years.
Christian Children’s Home moved to a ranch setting in Eagle in ’77 and that property has been sold.
“The funds are being reinvested into the 36th Street property’s redevelopment,” Morris explained. “We are hoping to almost triple our capacity, and to have more opportunities for future youth programs.”
Lee Ross has lived at the Village for five years along with his wife, Judy, who served as a missionary in Africa for 16 years. Ross helps with the Village’s one-acre garden and also adopted the role of archivist for the facility. He has an abundance of historic documents and photos in his apartment and said he’d like to try to write a history of the Christian Children’s Home that became the Boise Christian Homes.
Ross loves being a part of the site. He said: “Residents have everything they need here.”
Food is donated by Albertsons, Costco, the Boise Rescue Mission, and the Idaho Food Bank. Churches are near the facility, but a church service is also held on-site. And someone is always available to assist seniors who have no transportation get to a doctor’s office or other appointment.
The Village is in a nice area and is close to the Greenbelt and the Boise River.
Ross continued: “The neighborhood for a mile around is quiet. There’s not much traffic, and there are parks you can walk to.”
Residents pay to live at the Village. Morris stated: “The rental rates are really affordable, and utilities and food are figured into the rent.”
It’s a well-deserved retirement for people who’ve spent their lives in service. Morris and many others want to see the unique housing environment continue and expand so that, hopefully, in 2146 and even beyond, it will still be flourishing and just as full of interesting people as it is today.
For more information, go to boisechristianhomes.org.