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Answering a community calling (Story 23 of 50)

CCHO is celebrating 50 years of ministry! Throughout 2019, we will be sharing stories of the lives that have been forever changed by the work God has done through our family of ministries (CCHO, Encourage Foster Care and Encompass Christian Counseling). These five decades of ministry would be impossible if not for the incredible support we have received from partner churches. Story #23 in our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry was graciously submitted by Nate Shultz from Fairlawn Mennonite Church, one of many cherished churches that volunteer their time and talent to impact the lives of the young people on our campus.

Our group from Fairlawn Mennonite Church in Apple Creek, Ohio has been regularly volunteering with CCHO since June 2018. We have been coming one or two Saturdays each month to spend time playing with the kids and sharing devotions and prayer with them. We love supporting CCHO because we are able to see the growth in the kids from month to month, and we know they are seeing Christ in the work of the staff and volunteers. We appreciate knowing that CCHO is carrying out the commands of Jesus to care for one another and provide for those who do not have a place to call their own.

We have seen several children work their program to reach personal goals and set themselves up for success after their time at CCHO. Most recently, we were able to celebrate the baptism of one of the kids that we have known for almost the entire time we’ve been volunteering at the home. It is awesome to see these kids take steps to personally own their faith and make it a commitment in their lives.

We believe that it is the responsibility of local churches to care for the community around them. If they evaluate their calling and realize that CCHO should be a part of their ministry, then they should carefully select a group of people willing to work with kids who deserve grace and understanding. Do not walk into the opportunity as “world-changers,” but as servants who are ready to be the hands and feet of Jesus. It isn’t always easy or pretty, but the results are eternally satisfying. Working with CCHO has shown us the world’s great need for committed believers to step out of their comfort zones and be a part of God’s work in the lives of those around us.

Volunteer Opportunities

We are always looking for new volunteers who want to help more young people experience their worth in Christ. Do you have a heart for volunteerism? Head over to our volunteer portal to see what opportunities are currently open. We would love to hear from you!

Celebrating Five Decades of Ministry

This story is part of our "50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry" retrospective. Throughout 2019, we will be sharing 50 stories about the broken hearts, broken people, and broken families that have been made new by a loving and redemptive God. Have your own story about CCHO and our family of ministries? Click the button below to share it with us.

Read more

Getting close enough to listen (Story 22 of 50)

CCHO is celebrating 50 years of ministry! Throughout 2019, we will be sharing stories of the lives that have been forever changed by the work God has done through our family of ministries (CCHO, Encourage Foster Care and Encompass Christian Counseling). Today, Rebecca Ryder (MA, NCC, LPCC-S), Managing Clinical Supervisor with Encompass Counseling, looks at the transformational role stories have played in her personal and professional life. Entry #22 in our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series encourages us all to embrace the privilege of hearing someone else’s story of growth, healing and change.

Once upon a time…. Probably the most famous opening line of a story.

I have always loved stories. There were many nights as a kid that I was the last one asleep in the house because I couldn’t put my book down. I was the kid who could block out the rest of the world by getting caught up in a story – much to the frustration of my parents or siblings when they wanted or needed my attention. I always carried a book with me everywhere I went so I could read any time I had a free moment.

You may remember that a couple of decades ago, one of the major morning news networks aired a Friday feature called “Everybody has a Story.” I loved this segment so much because it focused on some obscure person who may have never been given a spotlight otherwise to share their personal journey. There was never a time when the person chosen didn’t tell an amazing and inspiring story! At the end of the segment, the reporter would blindly throw a dart at a map of the US to select the next town or city where he could find his next story. I couldn’t wait to see what would be shared the following week.

Since then, I have been moved by the fact that Everybody has a Story – we just have to get close enough to hear it.

Recently, I have realized that all of the major jobs or ministries I have ever done have placed me in the role of witnessing stories. I was made for that. To be a container, an encourager, a keeper and validator of the story. To journey alongside someone as the story unfolded. Changed. Healed.

My first career was in education. My first teaching job was in an inner-city middle school in Kansas City, MO. There was a steep learning curve in finding ways to reach and teach students who came to school daily despite the circumstances and obstacles in their individual worlds. Most days I became a nurse, mom, mediator, social worker, counselor or referee before I ever had a chance to teach them something. I learned quickly that I had to make an intentional effort to know each student if I wanted to gain any trust and have any hope of helping them overcome barriers to learning and growth. Spending extra time with many of them by taking advantage of an after-school program earned me the right to know their stories and unlocked a passion for one-on-one work.

Later, a desire was born for counseling. A lot of that came from the 1:1 experiences I was having with people and their stories. Counseling involves the ability to listen and be a witness to someone else’s story and pain. For me, it is teaching…but in a different way. I teach coping and communication skills, probe for insight, and help people find their identities in Christ. But mostly, I get to become a container for stories.

At Encompass, our work surrounds the whole person. It is built on what the client already knows. We celebrate the courage it took to walk through the door and bravely share their stories. On my office wall, I have a quote from one of my favorite authors, Ann Voskamp. It states, “Shame dies when stories are told in safe places.” I want to be a safe place for clients to share their stories and unlock steps to growth. I can’t do that without God’s strength and Spirit working in and through me. I rely on Him to help people reframe and reshape the stories of their lives so they can bring glory to God….

  • Like the kiddo who went to church on Easter with a friend and announced to me the following day that she gave her heart to Jesus. And just this week I got to explain to her that Jesus is with her wherever she goes and that she can pray to Him at any time. You see, this summer she has to go live with her non-custodial parent who has been abusive and scary in the past.
  • Like the client who has worked so hard to overcome the effects of multiple traumas only to recently be given a serious cancer diagnosis. I have witnessed her faith and identity grow strong and confident to the point where she now regularly prays herself during sessions.
  • Like the grown woman who is learning to find her voice that was taken away repeatedly as a child. Watch her make decisions without worry of what others will think, change jobs to pursue the kind of work she only dreamt of before, and begin to learn how to play for the first time in her life.

Witnessing growth is a privilege. As a supervisor, I get to work with interns and counselors as they hone their skills and develop discernment and wisdom with their own clients. I get to teach them and pass on wisdom I have gained through my own training and experiences. I appreciated my own supervision and ongoing consultation with colleagues, because one of my fundamental beliefs is that, ‘If I’m not growing, I’m dying.’

Most of the stories I have witnessed don’t have a “happily ever after” ending. At least not like you see in the movies or read in books. Growth? Yes. Progress? Yes. Healing? Yes. God showing up and doing what He does best? You bet. He transforms what we cannot. He becomes the wisdom, and power, and glory. He makes beauty from ashes. I just get a front row seat.

You don’t have to be a counselor to know someone’s story. You just have to get close enough to listen.

Ashley's Story

Rebecca shared these words at our 50th Anniversary Benefit Dinner on June 8, 2019. After Rebecca spoke, we debuted the beautiful story of transformation that Ashley, an Encompass client, was generous enough to share with us. If you missed story 17 in our series, watch Ashley’s video now. And catch up on our anniversary festivities by reading our 50th Weekend Recap.

Celebrating Five Decades of Ministry

This story is part of our "50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry" retrospective. Throughout 2019, we will be sharing 50 stories about the broken hearts, broken people, and broken families that have been made new by a loving and redemptive God. Have your own story about CCHO and our family of ministries? Click the button below to share it with us.

Read more

CCHO: The Next 50 Years (Story 21 of 50)

CCHO is celebrating 50 years of ministry! Throughout 2019, we will be sharing stories of the lives that have been forever changed by the work God has done through our family of ministries (CCHO, Encourage Foster Care and Encompass Christian Counseling). During our 50th Anniversary Benefit Dinner, we debuted several original videos to help celebrate the life change God has initiated through five decades of ministry. Today’s video, Story #19 in our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series, looks ahead in anticipation of what God may do with CCHO and our family of ministries over the next 50 years.

The Next 50 Years (#21)

Several CCHO employees share their vision for what’s ahead for our family of ministries and what “More” might look like over the next 50 years. Click here to see the full recap from our 50th Anniversary Benefit Dinner.

Celebrating Five Decades of Ministry

This story is part of our "50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry" retrospective. Throughout 2019, we will be sharing 50 stories about the broken hearts, broken people, and broken families that have been made new by a loving and redemptive God. Have your own story about CCHO and our family of ministries? Click the button below to share it with us.

Read more

How Motley Lou became Pastor Louie (Story 20 of 50)

CCHO is celebrating 50 years of ministry! Throughout 2019, we will be sharing stories of the lives that have been forever changed by the work God has done through our family of ministries (CCHO, Encourage Foster Care and Encompass Christian Counseling). Louie Pantelis takes the storytelling reins today. Louie lived in fear and desperation as a teenager. His family was torn apart with abuse, and he had no sense of purpose and little hope that he would ever find it. But then Louie wound up on the CCHO campus…and today, he is a pastor at Grace Chapel Community Church in Worland, WY. How did that happen? Read story #20 in our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series to find out.

Late in my sophomore year I learned that my foster parents were moving to Florida. As a I ward of the state, I would not be moving with them. Toward the end of that school year, my caseworker told me, “If we do not find some place for you soon, we will have to place you in a juvenile correction facility.” I had done nothing to deserve being placed in a correctional facility. I was five-foot nothing tall, weighed 87 pounds, and the thought of being placed in a correctional facility terrified me. I knew I would be the one everyone mistreated; when you are five-foot nothing, you make an easy target. Throughout school and at home, I had already suffered enough abuse. Not knowing what to do, where to turn, or whom to trust, I chose to call my older sister and asked her if she would help me to run away to Florida. Together we purchased the ticket from the money I had saved delivering newspapers, mowing yards and shoveling snow, and I ran away.

I spent most of that summer living incognito with the parents of my foster parents. They were the closest thing to grandparents I had ever known. Toward the end of July, I called my caseworker and told him I would turn myself in, if he had a foster home for me. The last thing my father told me when I placed myself into foster care was, “You will never graduate from high school and you will never amount to anything,” so I made clear to my caseworker that I wanted to graduate high school. A few days later, I called to see if he had found a place for me, and he had.

As unnerving as it was living as a runaway, the thought of returning to Ohio with the promise of a foster home was just as daunting. I was placed in a temporary home called Providence House upon my return. One day, my caseworker called and told me he had found a group home for me – It was called the Christian Children’s Home of Ohio (CCHO). As much as I wanted to have some permanence to my living situation, being placed at CCHO was the last thing on earth I wanted. My father, who was very abusive, had dragged me to church and called himself a Christian. The pastor I told about the abuse did not believe my account of what was transpiring at home. It wasn’t until I showed up at the Department of Family Services with bruises on my neck from where he had strangled me that someone finally listened. Because of what I had experienced, I did not want anything to do with Christianity.

On the day I was to be interviewed at CCHO, I dressed just the opposite of how you should dress for an interview of any kind. I wore my jeans with holes in them, my leather studded belt, my Motley Crue t-shirt (with the words “Theater of Pain”) and my grim reaper earring, and I feathered my long, black hair. I took a good look in the mirror before leaving and thought to myself, there is no way any Christian Children’s Home is going to want me living amongst their children.

I went through the interview answering every question with sarcasm, spite and malice. They gave me a tour of the place; it was out in the country, and everything was foreign to me. By the end of the day, I thought I had given them every reason in the world to not want me living in their home. When we arrived back at the room where I had been interviewed, I was introduced to Pat and Tim McKelley, and to my surprise I was told they were going to be my foster parents in cottage 2. Over time, they loved me, mentored me, and parented me even though I did not always cooperate with them. Pa Tim gave me one of my favorite all-time nicknames: Motley Lou.

Little did I know, when I went for that interview, that who I was as a rebellious teenager was exactly the kind of adolescent CCHO was looking for. My parents in cottage 2 were my advocates, friends and greatest supporters. I was a part of every school play and musical at Norwayne high school. I won a regional acting award for my role in the one-act play competition. Ma Pat and Pa Tim’s belief in me helped me to believe in myself, and that has allowed me to see the potential that they saw in me. The love they showed me transformed me, I developed a very different understanding of Christianity, and every day I thank God for the Christian Children’s Home of Ohio.

Many years later, when I was an adult, Pa Tim passed away and I was given the opportunity to speak at his funeral. It was an honor to share my cherished memories. I interact with Ma Pat on a regular basis on Facebook, and she continues to give me a word of encouragement whenever she can. Pa Tim and Ma Pat gave me the best understanding of what it is to be taken into a family, to be loved, cherished, valued, and appreciated. Much of what I have learned about family, I learned from them.

As a pastor now, I share this story with those who need to be adopted into the family of God. I want others to know that their past does not have to equal their future. God in His love, grace, and mercy takes the most rebellious people, transforms their lives and allows them to be a part of His story. No matter who we are, no matter what we have done, and no matter how many times we fail, He is there to offer the forgiveness we need to become His child and a part of His family.

Louie’s story reminds us that our God is the greatest storyteller, the ultimate miracle worker, the supreme redeemer. We have seen that time and again during five decades of ministry, a history rich with examples like Louie’s of God reaching down to take the broken remnants of hopeless lives and making them new.

We were absolutely thrilled that Louie was able to join us at our 50th Anniversary Weekend earlier this month. Not only was Louie our special guest at the benefit dinner on Saturday night — taking part in a Q&A session with our campus pastor, Tim Hartzler — but while he was in town, Louie also took some time to speak to the kids in each of our residential cottages here on the CCHO campus. He told them his story, he talked about the hope he found in Jesus, and he made sure they knew that the same hope was absolutely available to them. He even played some kickball!

Louie blessed CCHO in so many incredible ways during his recent visit, a lovely reunion that reminded us yet again that God absolutely loves to make miracles out of the muck and mire of our lives.

As a special gift to those who attended our benefit dinner, Louie worked with CCHO to create a five-day devotional on the story of the Prodigal Son. This booklet, called “There is Another Chapter,” is also available to download at this link.

We’re excited to be able to introduce you to Pastor Louie (AKA, Motley Lou), to show you a few photos from his visit, and to share a copy of his devotional with you today.

Celebrating Five Decades of Ministry

This story is part of our "50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry" retrospective. Throughout 2019, we will be sharing 50 stories about the broken hearts, broken people, and broken families that have been made new by a loving and redemptive God. Have your own story about CCHO and our family of ministries? Click the button below to share it with us.

Read more

The Kandel Family (Story 19 of 50)

CCHO is celebrating 50 years of ministry! Throughout 2019, we will be sharing stories of the lives that have been forever changed by the work God has done through our family of ministries (CCHO, Encourage Foster Care and Encompass Christian Counseling). During our 50th Anniversary Benefit Dinner, we debuted several original videos to help celebrate the life change God has initiated through five decades of ministry. The most touching moment of the night belonged to Julie Kandel and her incredible family. Story #19 in our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series celebrates Julie, her late husband and their legacy of fostering through faith.

When Julie Kandel and her husband Ron began their foster and adoption journey in 1991, they couldn’t have imagined they would one day have 18 children (including three biological daughters). Theirs is an incredible story of answering God’s call for their lives and their family, of trusting during each step of the process, and of persevering through incredible tragedy to provide a safe haven for young children in need of a loving home.

The Kandel Family (#19)

Julie and Ron Kandel have built a legacy of selflessness and unconditional love while welcoming 15 foster and adoptive children from three different sibling groups into their home since 1991. This is their inspiring story. Click here to see the full recap from our 50th Anniversary Benefit Dinner.

We were honored to have Julie and her family join us for our 50th Anniversary Dinner. After the video played, everyone in attendance gave the Kandel family a standing ovation as Julie and her children made their way to the stage, where Kevin Hewitt, CCHO’s president & CEO, gave them a token of our appreciation for all she and Ron have sacrificed to provide a loving home for children in need.

Celebrating Five Decades of Ministry

This story is part of our "50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry" retrospective. Throughout 2019, we will be sharing 50 stories about the broken hearts, broken people, and broken families that have been made new by a loving and redemptive God. Have your own story about CCHO and our family of ministries? Click the button below to share it with us.

Read more

A guided imagery narrative (Story 18 of 50)

CCHO is celebrating 50 years of ministry! Throughout 2019, we will be sharing stories of the lives that have been forever changed by the work God has done through our family of ministries (CCHO, Encourage Foster Care and Encompass Christian Counseling). During our 50th Anniversary Benefit Dinner, we debuted several original videos to help celebrate the life change God has initiated through five decades of ministry. Story #18 in our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series provides a sobering look into the trauma experienced by one of our young residents and the hope that God ultimately provided through CCHO’s treatment program.

When new residents arrive at CCHO, our therapy team writes a guided imagery narrative from the perspective of the child. These narratives are designed to take the reader on a journey through each child’s past while describing their fears, abuse and trauma in detail. Listening to the guided imagery helps CCHO’s residential staff fully understand what the child has been through so they can approach negative behaviors with empathy and compassion. All of this allows us to better connect with each resident by providing treatment that is tailored to their specific experiences and needs.

We shared the following guided imagery during our 50th Anniversary Benefit Dinner to give those in attendance a deeper understanding of the challenges facing our residents, and we’re sharing it on our blog today for the same reason. As a word of caution, the story is intense.

Guided Imagery (#18)

Sadly, this is a true story of the trauma endured by one of our residents. Many boys and girls come to CCHO with similar stories of abuse and neglect. Click here to see the full recap from our 50th Anniversary Benefit Dinner.

Celebrating Five Decades of Ministry

This story is part of our "50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry" retrospective. Throughout 2019, we will be sharing 50 stories about the broken hearts, broken people, and broken families that have been made new by a loving and redemptive God. Have your own story about CCHO and our family of ministries? Click the button below to share it with us.

Read more

A new day for Ashley (Story 17 of 50)

CCHO is celebrating 50 years of ministry! Throughout 2019, we will be sharing stories of the lives that have been forever changed by the work God has done through our family of ministries (CCHO, Encourage Foster Care and Encompass Christian Counseling). During our 50th Anniversary Benefit Dinner, we debuted several original videos to help celebrate the life change God has initiated through five decades of ministry. Today, we’re excited to share Ashley’s video with you as story #17 in our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series.

Ashley's Story (#17)

It is an honor to walk alongside people like Ashley, who has found health and healing for herself and her family during her time as an Encompass Christian Counseling client. Click here to see the full recap from our 50th Anniversary Benefit Dinner.

Celebrating Five Decades of Ministry

This story is part of our "50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry" retrospective. Throughout 2019, we will be sharing 50 stories about the broken hearts, broken people, and broken families that have been made new by a loving and redemptive God. Have your own story about CCHO and our family of ministries? Click the button below to share it with us.

Read more

Fifty years in one big weekend (Story 16 of 50)

CCHO is celebrating 50 years of ministry! Throughout 2019, we will be sharing stories of the lives that have been forever changed by the work God has done through our family of ministries (CCHO, Encourage Foster Care and Encompass Christian Counseling). As our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series continues, we look back on our first five decades of ministry with a new video that was part of our big 50th Anniversary Weekend Celebration. Read on to watch the video and to read our full weekend recap.

What a way to commemorate five decades of ministry! More than 1500 people attended our three-day celebration on June 7-9, a weekend-long series of events designed to look back on all the ways God has blessed CCHO through 50 years of ministry while looking ahead in anticipation of what may be next. Each day was memorable in its own way, helping to make for one unique experience for everyone involved!

FRIDAY

Our 50th Anniversary Celebration Weekend kicked off on Friday, June 7 with the ribbon cutting for our new Children’s Leadership & Recreation Center. This new complex on our Wooster campus consists of a middle school-sized gymnasium, a commercial kitchen and cafeteria, therapy spaces and several classrooms.

Click here to read more about the ribbon cutting, including our guests for the day, and to see photos from the event.

SATURDAY

Our 50th Anniversary Benefit Dinner on Saturday, June 8 proved to be a beautiful evening filled with incredible stories of God’s grace in action. Special guests included Gary Porter, CCHO’s Executive Director for 33 years, and his wife Bobbie, foster/adoptive parent Julie Kandel and her (large) family, and former CCHO resident, Pastor Louie Pantelis. The evening featured a powerful time of worship led by a team of incredibly talented CCHO employees, the sharing of some compelling stories from 50 years of ministry, an inspirational spoken-word performance by CCHO’s own Brandon Jurkovich, and many other highlights.

Throughout the night, we debuted several videos to look back on CCHO’s 50 years of ministry and to look ahead at what may be in store. The first video of the night celebrated our agency’s history, featuring conversations with Gary Porter, CCHO’s current President & CEO Kevin Hewitt, the daughter of one of our original board members, and longtime employees.

Click here to read more about the 50th Anniversary Benefit Dinner and to see all the photos from the evening!

SUNDAY

Our seventh annual Great Grill Off proved to be the perfect grand finale to our 50th Celebration Weekend! With 11 grill teams doling out more than 5000 sliders to nearly 1400 people in attendance, this was our biggest and best Great Grill Off yet. While the competition was stiffer than ever in our burger competition, Spoon Market took home the crown for the third-straight year.

Read a full recap of the Sunday festivities, along with all the stats from the day and a slew of photos, at greatgrilloff.com!

Celebrating Five Decades of Ministry

This story is part of our "50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry" retrospective. Throughout 2019, we will be sharing 50 stories about the broken hearts, broken people, and broken families that have been made new by a loving and redemptive God. Have your own story about CCHO and our family of ministries? Click the button below to share it with us.

Read more

The greatest Great Grill Off yet

Our jam-packed 50th Anniversary Weekend concluded with the seventh annual Great Grill Off on our Wooster campus. This fun family event has quickly become the place to be in Wayne County on the second Sunday in June, and this year people came in record numbers!

Eleven burger teams grilled up more than 5000 of the best sliders you’ve ever tasted for the nearly 1400 people in attendance, our largest crowd ever. Spoon Market took home the burger trophy for the third-straight year despite the fierce competition, and everyone enjoyed the bounce houses, hay ride, bake walk and other activities.

We’ve included a few photos here along with our fun recap video. You can see all the photos from the day along with all sorts of fun stats and facts at greatgrilloff.com. We hope to see you on June 14, 2020 for next year’s Great Grill Off!

Photo Gallery

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A powerful night, a powerful God

How do you pack five decades of life-changing ministry into one night of celebration? That’s exactly what happened on Saturday, June 8 as more than 200 people gathered at the Shisler Conference Center in Wooster to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Christian Children’s Home of Ohio (CCHO) and our family of ministries.

There were former CCHO residents in attendance, past and present employees, people who have supported our ministry for years in a number of different ways, board members, and many others with a heart for helping people experience their worth in Christ. Longtime friends had a chance to reconnect and new relationships were formed. Laughter filled the evening and there were even a few tears as heartwarming stories were shared from the stage throughout the night. All in all, it was a sweet way to celebrate all that God has done through 50 years of ministry.

Gary Porter, CCHO’s Executive Director for 33 years, and his wife Bobbie were popular as former CCHO residents, employees and friends stopped by their table throughout the night to say hello and share some stories. After dinner, the evening’s program kicked off with a powerful time of worship, led by current CCHO employees Rod Kurjian, Matt Malanga, Emily Frazier, Daniel Crites and Brandon Jurkovich. The quintet brought everyone into God’s presence with “Mighty to Save” and “Good Good Father” before welcoming Kevin Hewitt, CCHO’s President & CEO, to the stage.

From there, employees from each of our ministries – CCHO, Encourage Foster Care and Encompass Christian Counseling – shared stories and updates from their departments. Pastor Louie Pantelis, a former CCHO resident, shared the stage with CCHO’s Spiritual Coordinator Tim Hartzler for a fun and touching Pastor Q&A session, while Brandon Jurkovich brought the house down with an incredible spoken word performance about legacy.

The evening was punctuated by the debut of several original videos, which we will share in this space in the coming days, but the most moving portion of the evening was when Julie Kandel and her family were honored for their incredible foster and adoption journey. Please be on the lookout for her video soon.

Thank you so much to everyone who helped us celebrate such a momentous milestone, and for the role you will play in our next 50 years of ministry!

Photo Gallery

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