50 Stories for 50 Years – Christian Children’s Home of Ohio

50 Stories for 50 Years

Riding high with Sons of God (Story 29 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). The Northern Ohio Chapter of the Sons of God Motorcycle Club has been blessing our ministry and the kids we serve on the CCHO campus every summer since 1996. On the heels of SOGMC’s latest visit on Saturday, August 17, Anthony Lehman writes about his club’s incredible event and the ways their members show our young residents the love to Christ each year. In story #29 of our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series, we give thanks for the unbelievable generosity shown by the SOGMC over nearly a quarter of a century.

In 1981, Gary Shire was given a vision from God that became Sons of God Motorcycle Club Ministry. Since our humble beginnings in Mansfield, Ohio, the SOGMC has grown across the United States and Canada, with multiple chapters spread throughout 25 states and Canada.

The Sons of God MC, Northern Ohio Chapter had the pleasure of hosting their first benefit run for Christian Children’s Home of Ohio (CCHO) in 1996. This annual benefit has taken place every August for the past 23 years, with 100% of the money raised going to directly support CCHO.

The SOGMC, Northern Ohio annual CCHO Benefit Run takes the participants on a journey of 75-100 miles, beginning in the Akron/Barberton area, winding its way through the beautiful countryside of Summit and Wayne Counties, and ending at the CCHO campus. While the riders are on their way to Wooster, the children at CCHO are being treated to a host of activities including games, prizes and face painting, to name a few. At the conclusion of the run, the riders join the children for an afternoon of eating, socializing, entertainment and all-around fun. Some of the entertainment provided throughout the years has included motorcycle stunt riding, parachutists, puppet shows, bands and more.

Toward the end of the day, the SOGMC, Northern Ohio Chapter auctions off numerous donated baskets and items. We present awards to the riders from different categories such as furthest distance traveled, largest motorcycle club, and the coveted Kids’ Choice for best bike. We then conclude with what is arguably the best part of the event for the participants and the children: the motorcycle rides. The SOGMC members and participants provide the children with helmets and are then blessed to be able to give the children motorcycle rides around the property.

It has been the pleasure of the SOGMC Northern Ohio Chapter to be involved with CCHO in this capacity, and we look forward to many more years of blessing the members of this community, as they have so richly blessed us in return.

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

Trust, treatment, transformation (Story 28 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, we hear from an adoptive mom whose son eventually found healing from his past trauma in CCHO’s residential treatment program. Story #28 in our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series reminds us how important time and trust are on the road to wholeness.

My son was adopted when he was eight years of age. He had been in residential treatment for three years prior to his adoption, from age five to age eight. When he came to my home, he exhibited significant self-harming behaviors like defiance, aggression and running away. His social and emotional skills were almost nonexistent due to his extensive trauma, which included 19 moves within the foster care system and the loss of his birth family. Developmentally, he had significant delays as well. Cognitively, he had delays and a lower IQ, which made progress even more challenging.

Initially, his behaviors were not too severe at home. However, he suffered from attachment disorder, which made it difficult to help him feel safe or to trust anyone so he could heal from his past, causing his behaviors at home to intensify. After two years, they had become nearly unmanageable. His threats made it unsafe for him to remain in the home, and he was placed at CCHO by the county after making multiple threats to kill me and kill himself.

He initially was unable to deal with any of his past trauma or behavior issues, making his first four months at CCHO largely unfruitful. But once he began to disclose the extensive trauma he endured as a very young child to a counselor that he trusted, his progress was incredible. His counselor and I communicated frequently and worked closely during weekly sessions to further address the attachment issues my son exhibited. He went through an intensive trauma therapy program (Thrive), which shed more light on what he experienced in his birth family. Finally, after his trauma was treated and he knew he could trust me, his behaviors changed for the better. After only four more months, his transformation was amazing. He came home and was the funny, happy kid God created him to be. He no longer had any aggressive behaviors. He did not make any threats to harm himself or me.

I believe that God directed the county to choose CCHO because it was what my son needed to help him become the man God created him to be. He learned that love is unconditional and that moms can be trusted. He is completely attached to me now and trusts me 100% in many areas. He dealt with much of his past trauma and has continued to use the coping skills he learned at CCHO.

He is now 14 and still has areas that need work. He has many delays that will require more attention. But, without CCHO he would likely not be here at all. I was unable to maintain him safely in our home so I had expected to return custody to the agency. I am thankful that never happened.

I have hope that he will be a wonderful adult and contribute in a great way to the lives of others. He challenges me each day to never give up and to recognize that no child is ever a lost cause. Some kids just got started off with more obstacles than others. But with the proper help and lots of prayer, good things can happen. If my son never gives up, I won’t either.

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

Cool cars and warm hearts (Story 27 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). For the last 10 years, the Mid-Ohio Corvette Club (MOCC) has blessed our young residents with a memorable day filled with yummy food, outdoor fun and rides around campus in some of the coolest cars you’ve ever seen. In story #27 of our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series, Jim Morrison and Regi Muich from MOCC share the history behind their annual Cruisin’ for the Kids event, which just drew 162 Corvettes to the CCHO campus this past Saturday, August 10. We are so grateful for this 10-year partnership with MOCC!

During the early months of 2010, the Mid-Ohio Corvette Club (MOCC) met to discuss our largest endeavor of the year. We had always chosen our yearly fundraiser on the basis of the recipient’s overall need. After learning that Christian Children’s Home of Ohio (CCHO) was focused on nurturing young girls and boys who may never have received warmth from a home environment otherwise, we were excited to pick CCHO.

Members quickly worked as a team to organize committees for everything needed to create a successful, fun and financially rewarding day for CCHO. Flyers were printed and mailed to anyone and everyone we knew who owned a Corvette so they could mark their calendars for August 14. From April through early August, the Corvette Club members canvassed an area consisting of at least three counties practically going door-to-door to both individuals and companies asking for contributions for CCHO.

The big day arrived with terrific weather and excitement, as well as butterflies. The gathered enthusiasts enjoyed visiting with one another during a pastry, bagel and fruit breakfast at the Wayne County Fairgrounds in Wooster. They were also treated to the local FM radio station WQKT playing music and asking trivia questions for prizes.

Shortly after, 110 Corvettes were on their way to CCHO on roads chosen to show off some of the Wooster area’s natural beauty. Upon arrival, they were parked in a large grassy area near a pavilion set up for all the activities at the home.

My wife Darlene and I are proud to be members of an organization with fellow members who are willing to do what must be done. It doesn’t really seem like work when we have the opportunity to show a few children love and kindness. It warms our hearts when we as a club can create a smile on a child’s face from something we have done.

-Jim

This Cruisin’ for the Kids event has grown over the past 10 years, and the kids and staff now choose the car show winners. One year, the children chose as their favorite a particularly beautiful car that had won multiple trophies at other shows. The owner later told me that this was the best trophy he had ever received and that it meant more to him than any other.

We now give rides to the children and staff as well, a tradition that started when one of the Buckeye Corvette Club members showed up with a banner for the girls to wear that said, “Buckeye Princess.” The girls who wanted a ride were allowed to sit as Princess of the Day while riding around the campus waving to everyone. When it was discovered that the boys felt left out, all the kids (and staff too) were given rides.

It is heartwarming to see the kids enjoy the cars and attention each year. After getting into a convertible, one little girl looked up and squealed, “This car doesn’t have a roof!” Two years ago, we sang happy birthday to one of the residents. I have never heard a more sincere rendition of the song.

We wish CCHO a very happy 50th anniversary! MOCC and other Corvette enthusiasts are honored to share the day with the kids at CCHO.

-Regi

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 ultimate storyteller (Story 26 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’s sweet story comes from Jeff Stump, one-time CCHO houseparent alongside his wife Susan and current Director of Facilities here at CCHO. Story #26 in our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series celebrates a full-circle story 20-plus years in the making that only God could write.

On July 11, 1997, a little girl was born to a single mom. That young mom was a former CCHO resident. Due to many circumstances, this baby came to live with my wife Susan and me only a few weeks after being born.

On August 30, 1999, we stood in a courtroom and officially adopted that little girl into our family. I cannot express the joy we’ve experience the last 22 years, having her as a part of our lives. Have there been rough times? Absolutely. But watching her become the woman she is today has made the journey worthwhile.

Nearly 20 years later, on May 6, 2019, our son and daughter-in-law stood in a similar courtroom, after more than a year of hard work and invested time. They adopted a little boy, our new grandson, officially into our home. Recently, while tucking him into bed, this little guy said, “I feel safe now. Life is going to be okay.”

Encourage Foster Care has been part of stories like these for years. There are so many incredible families out there with huge hearts and special gifts that God wants to use to bless children who would love to be able to say, “I feel safe now. Life is going to be okay.”

Will it be easy? No way. Will it be rewarding and Kingdom-changing? Without a doubt! Say yes and watch God write a story in your own life.

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

Baptism joy (Story 25 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, we celebrate another baptism, one of four on our campus just this month! In story #25 of our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series, Campus Pastor Tim Hartzler writes about Brent, a young man who outwardly expressed his newfound faith by getting baptized before leaving CCHO. We will share more campus baptism stories here.

I first met Brent when I worked in our older boys’ cottage and responded to a code called in his cottage. Upon arriving, I found an angry Brent leading a crew of youngsters in rebellion against, in his words, “stupid staff”. This would become a common occurrence in the early months of Brent’s stay at CCHO. Most of my interactions with him were a result of being called to assist when he was enraged and violent. Slowly these exchanges decreased, and nearly stopped altogether, as Brent engaged in his program and his behaviors improved.

About this time, I was promoted to the Campus Pastor role and got to spend more time with Brent one on one. He was incredibly intelligent for his age and had the ability to be kind and gentle. Brent enjoyed memorizing Scripture verses and expressed an interest in getting baptized. There was a joy I had not seen in him before.

Brent was working hard to leave CCHO. The problem was, he had no place to go. As the realization set in that he was not leaving anytime soon, Brent began to feel that his efforts were wasted. He pushed people away and struggled with behavior. He no longer showed an interest in baptism or the Bible.

Finally, the day came when Brent had a home to go to. He was ecstatic! He excitedly told me the details, and I praised him for sticking it out when it was hard.

A few days later, as I was walking with one of his peers that was going to be baptized later that day, Brent asked to talk. That was the first time I saw Brent cry tears of sadness. He expressed regret that he would leave CCHO without being baptized. I wasn’t sure what to do, but then his peer spoke up, “That’s no problem. You’ll just get baptized with me!”

Three and a half hours later, I had the privilege of baptizing Brent and, as he came up out of the water of our baptismal, I saw nothing but pure joy in his face.

More from our newsletter

Brent’s story was featured on the cover of the Summer 2019 issue of our All Things newsletter. Learn more about CCHO and our family of ministries by checking out past All Things editions online, or sign up to get a print version in the mail each quarter!

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

Working all things for good (Story 24 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’s story reminds us that, in all things, God is in control, and His plans are always better than anything we could dream up for ourselves. Bryndi Pfeiffer, Operational Manager in CCHO’s residential program, shares about her own career journey and the incredible way God led her to CCHO 10 years ago in story #24 of our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series.

I’d like to take you on a trip back to 2008. I had just earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Malone College and was applying for nursing jobs close to home. One Sunday morning, Gary Porter, CCHO’s longtime Executive Director, spoke at my church about the mission, growth and needs of Christian Children’s Home of Ohio (CCHO). I had never heard of CCHO but I felt a tugging in my spirit that day.

The thought of working for a Christian agency and being able to help kids who were abused, neglected and forgotten about seemed like something I was supposed to do. I prayed about my future career, that God would clearly guide my path. I felt led to apply at CCHO but I also applied to local hospitals and doctors’ offices. Calls and emails started coming in for interviews, including one with CCHO.

When I pulled onto the campus of CCHO, I felt an overwhelming peace and comfort that I cannot explain. My interview felt so comfortable and natural, like I had known these people forever. You could sense the Holy Spirit in the room as we discussed the demands of the job and if I was sure I could handle being cussed at, targeted, assaulted and pushed away. As alarming as that sounded, I knew that God would give me what I needed if this is where I was supposed to be. I was offered a job before I left but explained that I had some other interviews lined up before making a decision. I left feeling excited and energized as I headed to my next interview at the hospital.

This interview went very differently. As the HR representative asked basic questions, I felt anxious and almost queasy. She stopped asking work-related questions and explained that she was a God-fearing woman who was perceptive to the Holy Spirit. She asked me if I had other job opportunities to consider. I explained that I had literally just come from my CCHO interview.

She observed that my demeanor and presence lit up when I started talking about CCHO. She explained that this spiritual tension had never shown up in an interview before but that she felt like God needed me in the mental health field at CCHO. She prayed with me and told me that she would hire me in a heartbeat if I wanted to work at the hospital, but she wanted me to prayerfully consider this decision.

I left there in disbelief. Did that just happen? I prayed that whole weekend about what to do. Over and over God confirmed that I needed to stop questioning Him and join the mission field at CCHO. It wasn’t a popular decision among family and friends. They didn’t understand why I would “waste” my nursing degree and take a job at a much lower starting wage. I ignored the criticism and accepted the direct care position at CCHO.

From the first time I set foot in a cottage and met some of the kids, my heart was at home. For the last 10 years, I have had a front row seat to watching miracles happen. Some of the most depressed, isolated, closed off children and teenagers have learned to see their value, believe they are loved, and develop the capacity to love and trust others – all because their difficult journey in life brought them to CCHO.

The kids I have met and with whom I have connected over the years have left a lasting imprint on my heart. I keep in touch with many of them who are now graduates, employees, mothers, fathers, home owners and more! Their success is confirmation of God’s plan for this agency. It’s why I stay.

My CCHO coworkers are truly the hands and feet of Christ – loving and serving the outcasts from society. My teammates have pushed me to be a better person, a faithful Christian, a loving mother and a true friend. As I have moved through CCHO, holding seven different positions, the peace in my soul has not wavered. I know that through the times of growth, miracles, joy or struggle, disappointment and stress, that GOD IS IN CONTROL.

God brings us the right kids and right staff at the right time. It has been an absolute honor to serve with this agency for 10 of its 50 years, a hidden treasure in Wayne County Ohio that is changing so many lives and giving children the best gift of all by introducing them to Jesus.

Guided Imagery

Bryndi shared her story at our 50th Anniversary Benefit Dinner on June 8, 2019. Afterward, we played a video that took attendees on a journey through the history and experiences of one of our residents while describing their fears, abuse and trauma in detail. If you missed story 18 in our series, watch this powerful video for a deeper understanding of the pain many of our young residents carry into their time at CCHO. And catch up on our anniversary activities 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

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.

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