Self-less occupation

Courtesy Self

By Argen Duncan: Freedom New Mexico

Jack Self has put his heart into serving at the New Mexico Christian Children’s Home for 50 years. He said he was driven by the “satisfaction of seeing children grow up and make citizens of themselves and knowing that they’re assets to their community now instead of liabilities.”

Self recalls a boy at the home whose stepmother had given his father the ultimatum of giving up his son or losing his wife.

“That’s hard on a kid, to be rejected like that,” he said.

According to Self, the boy already stole and was a habitual liar.

“But after a couple of years at the home, he gave all of that up,” Self said.

Self said he began his journey at the home when, as youth director at a church in Colorado Springs, Colo., he heard a man speak about work at the children’s home.

Self moved his family to Roosevelt County in September 1958. As house parents, he and his late wife, Virgine, made sure 24 girls were fed, clothed, educated and otherwise cared for, he said.

Self later served as bookkeeper, campus manager, farm manager and, from 1975 to 2001, executive director. During those years, Self adopted two children from the home and raised three biological children.

Now, Self works in the home’s Office of Development with his second wife, Jan. He helps people with wills and estate donations.

Children’s home executive director Charles Anderson has worked with Self for 36 years. He called Self a “fine Christian gentleman” with a lot of dedication, drive, initiative and spirit.

“He’s been the backbone of the home for many, many years,” Anderson said.

Janice Culpepper, Self’s daughter who has worked at the home for 25 years, said her father’s biggest concerns are teaching the children about Jesus and his love for them.

Culpepper said her father isn’t afraid to admit his mistakes and tries to do better.

“And he’s never too busy for you to call,” she added.

In Self’s time at the home, it has grown from residential care in one cottage on 80 acres to residential care, single parent assistance and adoption services with eight cottages and 900 acres.

“I’ve just been very fortunate to be able to watch the good Lord work in many different ways,” Self said.

He named staff members and donors as two of those ways. Once, Self prayed about a needed fifth cottage. Shortly thereafter, a representative from a foundation visited, learned of the need and left a check for the entire $350,000 required for construction.

Many children have been special, he said. For example, Self became so close to one teenage boy that the young man asked if he could call him “Dad” and named his son after him.

Self anticipates working with the home at least another two years, depending on his health.

“There’s always going to be a need to help children,” he said.