Steve Long has served as the founding administrator for the new Central Missouri campus of The Baptist Home since January of 2014. Prior to that, Long worked for community health centers and served as a pastor. TBH was started in 1913 by Milford and Mary Riggs as the Missouri Baptist Home for the Aged. On Oct. 24, TBH broke grown on the new campus in Ashland, Mo. This will be the fourth TBH campus in Missouri, along with others in Ironton, Chillicothe and Ozark. The groundbreaking ceremony in Ashland included political and community leaders from Ashland, including the mayor and state representative. After the ceremony, Long talked with Word&Way Editor Brian Kaylor.
You’ve broken ground on the new Central Missouri Campus for The Baptist Home. What’s this moment like for you?
The groundbreaking is a major milestone. There have been many steps along the way in this development since January of 2014. I was on the board of trustees in all of 2013 serving on the project committee, so I’ve got five years in the process. So, a great sense of fulfillment and affirmation that God is providing, and because of what he’s done in the past we’re hopeful about the future. So, there’s some emotion involved in this to get to this point.
The vision that God gave me in the late 1990s for my personal ministry aligns very closely for what I’m experiencing in this work. My vision is to be a spiritual visionary with a passion for creative leadership. I see myself as a pioneer blazing a trail and leading a path for others to follow. To quote Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” So, a combination of that and the scripture I used [during the ceremony] about faith — “Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not yet seen” (Hebrews 11:1). That’s part of who I am and it’s what I want to be a part of in my ministry.
For me, this is all about the future and the faith to get there. As we cross these milestones, it’s an affirmation. It encourages me to worship God, give thanks and give thanks to all our friends that are partners in this.
You started as the administrator for the Central Missouri Campus back in 2014. What’s been going on to get to the groundbreaking?
It’s a daunting task. We bought 73 acres of farm and we have a master plan to turn that into a village with a population of perhaps as many as 250 people when we complete it. When you have to build a town eventually, you’ve got to provide the infrastructure. We’re in the middle of that right now. We had to search and contract a design team, civil engineer, architect, construction managers.
We had to negotiate and develop contracts for public utilities — sewer, particularly, which required being annexed into the city, which is quite a process. We’re still finalizing contracts for other utilities like the public water. We’re installing natural gas on the property. So, there’s a lot to do in developing something from nothing.
This is blazing a trail. There’s nothing here. We’re creating a path for the future.
On top of that, I have to manage a 73-acre farm in the meantime. There’s grass to mow and hay to bale. I don’t do all of that! We hire, we have volunteers and I do some of it. So, there’s a lot that’s gone on as far as on the grounds.
For me personally, there’s training and education. I equate it to learning a thousand different things about The Baptist Home, learn another thousand things about working to be a nursing home administrator and then going out and trying to meet a thousand people and make a thousand decisions.
Meeting people in churches, meeting people in the business communities — Jefferson City, Columbia, Ashland. And Joyce and I moved from Northeast Missouri to Ashland. We chose to live in Ashland, bought a home, so we’re becoming part of the community and members of Ashland Baptist Church.
We’re using local contractors and suppliers wherever we can. We want to have a positive impact on the local and Central Missouri economy.
In three-and-a-half years, there’s a lot of small steps along the way. It’s a process.
What’s next as you move forward with the building of the campus? What will we see over the next year?
We’re about 60 percent done in terms of our rough grading. We’re cutting the hill down and filling in the valley — making the way straight, as the Bible says about preparing for the Lord. We’re making the way for the least-expensive build-out of structures and utilities. We’re in the middle of that, but weather from here on gets pretty dicey so it’s not certain how much more progress we’ll make this year. But we’re close to getting infrastructure started.
We had hoped we would have all that infrastructure done by the end of the year. Now, I’m expecting it will be in the Spring. We had hoped we would have some of our first buildings under construction by the end of the year — and while that’s still possible, it’s not probable. It’ll be, more likely, when weather breaks in the Spring.
We’ll start up with Phase One buildings, with the duplexes first. We have two sizes of duplexes: the patio home and bungalow. The patio home is the larger one. Then we will move toward building the apartment building. Then, as fundraising provides, we’ll start the assisted living home.
You probably get this question a lot, especially from people approaching the age when they consider such facilities, but when can people move in?
Right now my hope is still that by July, August or somewhere in that neighborhood, we’ll have our first residents in the independent living. That’s becoming somewhat optimistic, but I’m holding to that right now.
Looking at the big picture, why build a campus for Central Missouri?
There was a slow building of a request to come to Central Missouri among Baptist people. There were a few that were requesting that we come to Central Missouri before Chillicothe was built [starting in 1985].
Now, three of the four corners of the state were covered already and it just made sense to come to Central Missouri. After all, there were people in Central Missouri that wanted us here.
Once you get past all the building, what are your dreams for this ministry?
At this rate, I’m not sure it’ll all be done by the time I’m done. Retirement’s going to come around one of these days for me.
When all of the components of a continuum of care retirement community are in place — where we have independent living, we have assisted living, we have long-term nursing care — it’s going to be a great place for aging adult Christians to live. My vision for that is it’ll be a Christian community of aging adults who enjoy the fullness of life, who enjoy positive and meaningful relationships, who set and achieve fiscal, intellectual and spiritual goals and who are valued and validated in person-centered care. The last leg of the journey of these people’s lives I hope and pray will be the best. My commitment and the staff’s commitment would be: if you want to come here on the last leg of the journey of your life, we’ll walk alongside you until God calls you to heaven.
Note: Learn more about The Baptist Home of Central Missouri at thebaptisthome.org/ashland.