CCHO Stories – Christian Children’s Home of Ohio

CCHO Stories

Josie’s triumph (Story 7 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). God even uses horses to help kids and adults understand His great and unconditional love for them. Story 7 (first printed in the spring 2019 issues of “All Things”) from our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series takes us to One Heart Stables on the Wooster Campus of CCHO. Our equine program began in 1995 as one more therapeutic approach to helping individuals experience their worth in Christ. This program has expanded to serve adults and children in the general public through Encompass. Equine Therapist Krista Overmire, LCPC, shares about God’s transformative work in the arena.

When I first met Josie, I met a powerhouse of a young woman; she presented as a strong, independent teenager with something to prove to the world. She was fluent in psychology, philosophy, and teenager, and she had an opinion about every current issue facing our nation. I found myself going home and researching current events just so that I could sound intelligent when conversing with her! Josie was strong and fearless.

During her first session with me, Josie’s goal was to meet each of the therapy horses and pick the one that would become her equine partner. She met our elegant Thoroughbred Adam, our charming Arabian Magic, our gentle Quarter Horse Blue, and our sweet Paint Sunny. But it was Moses who caught and held Josie’s attention. Moses is our Draft cross, and both his body and his personality are quite large. Moses has been known to nibble on coat pockets and hair, open his stall door when nobody is looking, and playfully throw his bridle across the aisleway when his stall window is open. Our theory in equine therapy is that people will pick the horse that they truly need; it turns out that Josie did just that.

Over the next few months, Josie came faithfully to the barn every week to work on forging a relationship with Moses. While Josie enjoyed Moses’ company, she found it incredibly difficult to maintain a mutual, emotional connection with the horse. Josie used her body language to ask the horse to come to her, yet the horse often responded by ignoring her completely; she found herself feeling frustrated and hurt from the horse’s seeming rejection.

Weeks turned into months of this similar pattern, and one blustery winter day, Josie broke. She cried as she told me about growing up in a family that viewed women as lesser than men, in both worth and intellect. Josie told me about how she constantly felt the need to prove to everyone around her, including her parents and siblings, that she was smart and that she was worth something. However, Josie’s defenses of intellect and wit did not work with the 1,400-pound animal. Josie had never received the unconditional love of another; instead, any love and connection that she superficially obtained was fought for and earned. Suddenly, her fight for her worth did not work, and she was left feeling alone and empty. I watched Josie shatter, all façade of strong and fearless left in the arena dirt.

Meanwhile, Moses was being, “Moses-y”, or his usual ornery self, on the other side of the arena; he was chewing on a lead rope and throwing it into the air, completely disengaged from Josie and me. As I walked Josie through her brokenness, she said something that I will never forget. Josie started to realize that when the horse started to connect with her, she felt a shift in her body energy, which she later described as, “surprise”. When I asked Josie why she felt surprised that the horse wanted to connect with her, she looked at the ground and almost whispered, “Why would anybody want to connect with me?” My heart sank, and tears filled my eyes.

In that moment of true vulnerability, God did the miraculous. Seconds after Josie released those heavy words and pain poured from Josie’s heart, Moses responded; he picked up his head, dropped the lead rope, turned around, and walked straight over to Josie, stopping directly in front of her. I watched in silent awe as Moses put his massive head over her shoulder and wrapped her in an equine embrace, as if to say, “You are worthy of love and connection, and I am going to prove it to you.”

Silence fell around the arena as both Josie and I let our tears fall. Time slowed as Josie wrapped her arms around the giant horse’s neck, buried her face in his mane, and wept.

Moses taught Josie about her inherent worth that day. After months of desperately trying to connect with the horse the only way Josie knew how, Moses showed her that there is another way. Moses taught Josie that she does not have to fight for connection or prove that she is worthy of love; instead, Moses loved and accepted her by authentically embracing her in a moment of vulnerability and pain. Moses taught Josie that she is capable of being loved unconditionally, perhaps for the first time in Josie’s life.

Isn’t that such a beautiful picture of how our God wants to connect with us? We are marred and stained with sin and shame, yet God wants to connect with us in our broken places. We try to act like we have it all together; we compete with our peers to see who can create the best façade of a perfect life. But God, like Moses, wants nothing to do with our façade and everything to do with the condition of our hearts. He meets us in our authenticity and wraps us in His unconditional, loving embrace, proving to us that we are loved and accepted, flaws and all. What a relief it is to know that I don’t have to be perfect to be loved and accepted!

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for your unconditional love. Thank you for the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ, that we may be freely forgiven and accepted into your family. Teach us to love unconditionally the way that you love us. We love you endlessly.
Amen.

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.

We will also be hosting our 50th Anniversary Celebration Weekend on June 8 & 9. We hope you can join us!

Read more

Healing for a kindergartener’s heart (Story 6 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). This next story comes from one of our school-based therapists at Encompass. Abby Fischer, LISW, serves at Triway Local Schools to support the social-emotional needs of students in the school environment. In story #6 from our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series, Abby shares about a young student whose life has been changed by supportive mental health services.

Throughout my career I have had the opportunity to work in variety of different locations. The change of scenery is one of the reasons I appreciate my career. When I accepted the position of working directly in the school system, I had some worry that my favorite aspect of the job would become somewhat bland and monotonous. However, after meeting Joey I realized I would have more than enough unique opportunities to stretch my knowledge and keep me on my toes.

Joey was a kindergarten student when I started working with him. He had the typical chubby cheeks of a kindergartener. He was missing his two front teeth and had the most stunning eye color. Joey was sitting quietly in his seat when I entered the room, seemingly no different from any other student. Soon after, though, I was understood why I was asked to work with Joey.

Joey was instructed to complete some morning work (a mixture of small tasks to help kindergarten students practice their knowledge). The result of this request was a crumpled piece of paper, a broken pencil and some intense grunting refusals.

Joey’s teacher quietly approached his desk and gently encouraged him to take a break. Joey put his head down on his desk for several seconds, seemingly to agree that a break was necessary, only to explode up out of his seat, catching the desk in the process. A whirlwind ensued; papers, crayons, books, chairs and toys scattered across the room in no time.

Soon after, Joey was taken out of the classroom to calm down in a different room with no onlooking students. He then became aggressive toward teachers, hitting, kicking, grunting and breaking anything he could touch. There seemed to be no end to this angry episode. Joey had a long road ahead.

Reflecting back on this incident, I recall my first impression of teachers and administrators working with this student in true crisis. The calm demeanor they presented, along with their consistent and loving manner with Joey, was amazing to witness. This approach continued for each of Joey’s outbursts that persisted for the next six months.

Joey’s mom came to meeting after meeting and shared how he was struggling at home as well. She spoke of her frustration and occasionally shed tears with school staff, wondering how to help her son.

Joey slowly began to demonstrate some improvement in small areas. He really enjoyed one-on-one attention and showcased that he was highly capable of completing kindergarten level tasks. He learned to give coping skills to older students who came into the classroom struggling; however, it was too difficult for him to implement these skills himself.

Eventually, Joey met with Dr. Reynolds, CCHO’s psychiatrist who prescribed the right combination of medication to meet his needs. Joey’s Attention Deficit Disorder was so severe that life for Joey was like watching the scene selection of a three-hour movie, instead of the whole movie. He was becoming frustrated because he was receiving small bits and pieces of information and it was confusing. The correct medication combined with ongoing therapeutic efforts of school staff, CPST workers and myself helped Joey overcome his symptoms and return to a normal classroom setting.

I’m happy to share that Joey is currently excelling in the classroom. He has the highest test scores out of all the students in his grade and always has a smile and a hug to give. He still enjoys teaching all his peers coping skills that he has learned along the way. Recently Joey received the “Leader of the Month” award at his school. Due to all the positive growth he has demonstrated, his mom now cries tears of joy when she meets about her son.

Joey is just one of 45 children currently being served by Encompass in the school environment. He is a beautiful example of how the appropriate mental health intervention can change someone’s life. I’m excited to see what God has in store for his future.

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.

We will also be hosting our 50th Anniversary Celebration Weekend on June 8 & 9. We hope you can join us!

Read more

Decades with Discover (Story 5 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). We wouldn’t have reached this milestone without the faithful and vital support of incredible churches like Discover Christian Church in Dublin, OH. Discipleship Minister Jim Brechbuhler shares why Discover has supported CCHO for decade upon decade in story #5 from our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series.

As the Discipleship Minister at Discover Christian Church in Dublin, Ohio, I have led our annual CCHO men’s mission trip for the past 10 years. Our senior minister and I discussed how long Discover has been involved with CCHO. While neither of us can remember when it all started, we know it’s been at least 20 years!

This has been a long and treasured friendship. Discover supports CCHO monetarily on a monthly basis, as well as with our previously mentioned men’s construction trips. Our missions ministry and children’s ministry also help with Christmas gifts and pillows for the children, as well as with other periodic projects.

Three words quickly came to mind when I began to think of the people at CCHO, three words that best describe my deep love and respect for this ministry. Yes…CCHO has a physical location, but CCHO is its employees and the kids and families they serve. Each word comes straight from scripture.

The Discover Christian Church team pouring cement at One Heart Stables in the fall of 2018

KINDNESS

From Kevin Hewitt (President & CEO) to our own sitting board member, Bill Roberts, to the maintenance guys who we know well, kindness permeates every level of CCHO. Stumpy, Tim, Winky, Mikey and Mark from maintenance and John from One Heart Stables work closely with us on all our construction projects. We see them interact with the kids and how the kids love to joke and talk with them. Due to behavioral issues of the children that unfortunately often result in things getting broken around campus, these men sometimes have to fix the same things over and over. For many, this would be frustrating, but we only see kindness in their responses. We work long hours to get our constructions projects done in short periods of time, so we’re always asking them a zillion questions and have them running everywhere for us, but they always respond kindly! We’ve seen cottage workers endure less than kind words from children that have only had unkind words spoken to them, yet they always respond in kindness. We watch how the employees treat each other, and kindness is front and center.

PERSEVERANCE

Each day that we’re working on campus, we see Carla and the other equine counselors head out through the pastures, each leading a horse with a child in the saddle who needs to talk. Daily, they lovingly invest many hours in walking and listening, helping kids unpack their deep hurts. Our guys see counselors go home at the end of long days of helping families heal. Even though they might be weary, they often stop to chat or at least wave and smile on their way out. Professionally, helping those that hurt can be tough, in that it takes a toll on caring people. It takes perseverance to go the distance and not give up. The CCHO staff perseveres because they’re professionally strong and know that Jesus walks with them into every situation they encounter.

HUMILITY

Rare is the organization where everyone with whom you come in contact exhibits a humble spirit. Humility is in great shortfall these days, but the Holy Spirit is actively cultivating it among the CCHO staff on a continual basis!

Christ-centered kindness, perseverance and humility explain why kids and families come to CCHO hurting and leave with a new outlook on the future. Every time we pull onto campus, we know we’re going to be blessed more by the staff than we’ll bless them. We look forward to serving CCHO for many years to come and would encourage everyone to join in the mission of CCHO! From all of us at Discover to our CCHO friends, we love you all!

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.

We will also be hosting our 50th Anniversary Celebration Weekend on June 8 & 9. We hope you can join us!

Read more

One Heart, One Family of Ministries (Story 4 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). We hope you enjoy this glimpse of our amazing staff, written by our President & CEO, in story #4 from our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series.

From the first employee hired in 1969 to our most recent group of new hires, thousands of men and women have served at CCHO and our family of ministries. They have served by caring enough to step into the pain and hurt of life to offer hope and peace. They have served by caring enough to support their fellow staff. They have served by caring enough to be the hands and feet of Jesus each day of the year.

Many of those staff members attended our spring All Staff luncheon this week, where we spent some time celebrating 50 years of ministry while looking ahead to what God may have planned for the next 50 years. It was a fun afternoon of food and fellowship for everyone, as you can see in the below picture. I am grateful for each and every one of our current staff – for the heart they all have for our family of ministries – and I am amazed by the impact they are making in northeast Ohio and beyond.

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.

We will also be hosting our 50th Anniversary Celebration Weekend on June 8 & 9. We hope you can join us!

Read more

Perfect love casts out fear (Story 3 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). We hope you will enjoy story #3, courtesy of Encourage Foster Care, from our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series.

It’s not easy being a foster parent. In fact, many foster parents would say opening their hearts and homes to children in need is the hardest thing they’ve ever done.

Gwyn would agree. When she took in a terrified four-year-old boy and his baby sister nearly five years ago, Gwyn’s whole world was turned upside down. The siblings’ two-year-old brother had just died as the result of suspicious injuries allegedly inflicted by their mother’s boyfriend. After months of praying over the beds in an empty room in her house, Gwyn watched God answer her prayers in an unexpected way.

The transition was incredibly difficult for everyone, especially early on. The little boy, who insists he also had been abused by “the bad guy,” bombarded Gwyn with questions, trying to figure out if he was finally safe. Fear and anxiety ruled him, and he wondered why he hadn’t died too. His anger sent him into intense “fight mode,” repeating the words and actions that he endured from his mother’s boyfriend.

Gwyn says she believed that God had placed this little boy and his baby sister into her home for a reason, and she knew she had to love them in return because “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). “I couldn’t guard my heart if I was going to love them and give them what they needed,” she says. “I had to make them feel safe…. So I just said, ‘Okay, God, I’m going to love them while I have them. While they’re in the circle of my arms, my family, my home, you are giving them to me to invest, to love, to nurture, to do my best with.’”

Breakthroughs began to happen during the boy’s trauma-informed counseling, and six months later, he started praying that Gwyn would adopt his sister and him. That prayer was answered two years later.

Today, the nine-year-old boy has a new name – Joshua, which he chose because he wanted to be as strong and courageous as the Joshua he learned about one day in Sunday school. He’s a big baseball fan who loves camping, fishing and riding his bike. “He’s just my outdoor kid that wants to go wander the woods all the time,” Gwyn says. And after starting this school year two full grades behind in his reading level, Josh has nearly caught up with the other kids in his class.

Meanwhile, Josh’s sister, Lena Rose, is now named after Gwyn’s grandmothers. While she tries to make sense of her big brother’s grief and anger, Lena hasn’t been as impacted by the traumatic events as Josh because she was so young when she was placed in Gwyn’s home. She loves reading and will be starting kindergarten next year. “Lena would swim every chance she gets,” Gwyn says. “She’d grow a tail if she could, so we love mermaids now.”

Gwyn, Josh and Lena Rose

We featured Gwyn and her beautiful family in a recent video for Encourage Foster Care. To learn more about this ministry, please visit encouragefostercare.org.

While the initial trials and immediate turmoil have passed, Josh still has days when his emotions get the best of him. However, his overall progress, Gwyn says, is remarkable. He sometimes struggles understanding other people’s boundaries but he has become much more empathetic toward others.

“He definitely puts himself first,” Gwyn says, “but he’s able to recognize he’s doing it and he can come back and apologize (in those moments). I never saw that at all from him at first.”

In particular, Josh still wonders how “the bad guy” could do what he did. “I told him people can only do that if their empathy is broken,” Gwyn says. While Josh’s sense of empathy was damaged by what happened to him, Gwyn says she has explained to her son that they are rebuilding it. “I said…‘we’re teaching you to look at what is happening to others and how others feel, and you’re learning to care about other people.’ And that made sense (to him), and he took it and ran with it.”

Gwyn’s prayer for her children is that they would “love Jesus ridiculously,” that they would both grow up being incredibly strong and courageous, just like Josh’s namesake, while using their gifts to impact God’s Kingdom. As for herself, Gwyn has been reminded that God is big enough for everything she has faced, and that He will be big enough for anything she, Josh and Lena will face in the future.

When asked what advice she would give to herself at the beginning of this emotional five-year journey, Gwyn says, “Hold on tight because you’re in for a wild ride.” She pauses before adding, “It’ll be really hard, but it’ll be worth it. It’ll be worth it.”

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.

We will also be hosting our 50th Anniversary Celebration Weekend on June 8 & 9. We hope you can join us!

Read more

“I don’t want you to love me” (Story 2 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). We hope you will enjoy story #2 from our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series.

Each day, employees of our family of ministries aim to uphold our three core values: relentless commitment, selflessness and kindness. We believe our interactions with the children, adults and families we serve throughout our three ministries, as well as our interactions with fellow employees, should be infused with these values.

Of course, living out these values day-by-day can be challenging. That’s why we love to celebrate moments when employees show relentless commitment, selflessness and kindness with our quarterly COMPEL Awards. Inspired by 2 Corinthians 5:14 (“For the love of Christ compels us…”), COMPEL is an acrostic for:

Christ
Others
Me
Possibilities of
Extravagant
Love

Each quarter, employees send in their COMPEL Award nominations by sharing short stories about ways they’ve witnessed fellow staff members show the love of Christ to others. We typically receive upwards of 50 nominations each quarter from all corners of our agency, and every nomination is read aloud and celebrated at our All Staff luncheons.

We will be including other COMPEL nominations in our “50 Stories for 50 Years” series, but today, we wanted to share one of the most powerful nominations ever submitted, from our former campus minister in 2012:

I saw Jesus that night…. Several weeks ago, on a Wednesday night as I was leaving one of the (resident) cottages, I heard loud yelling, swearing and profanity. Although it was dark, I could see the form of an animated youth and what looked like two staff members attempting to redirect the over-stimulated girl. I heard her (the youth) yell, “Get the *!%@ away from me…I DON’T WANT YOU TO LOVE ME….” The youth began to alternate between sobbing and screaming. After a while, the youth laid down on the cold pavement in front of cottage one and continued to sob.

By the way, it was freezing cold that night and although I was standing with my thermals, sweatshirt, coat and boots, I was STILL FREEZING out there!

Then, I saw Jesus lay down on the hard, cold pavement with that (girl) and stroke her hair and calmly reassure her…five minutes later, still on the ground but sobbing softly…10 minutes later, both still on the ground, no audible crying…15 minutes later, still on the ground…. I felt the need to help them get out of the freezing cold, so I asked the other staff who was there…if he could get some blankets from the cottage and cover them up!

When I left the scene, Jesus was still lying on the ground next to the youth, comforting her…. He was disguised as (former treatment specialist) Mary Fishburn.

On that bitterly cold night, Mary proved to this former resident that she was relentlessly committed to her by showing her kindness and selflessly putting the resident’s needs ahead of her own. It was exactly what that little girl needed, precisely at the moment, to discover some peace in the midst of her emotional turmoil.

What a great reminder of just how transformational Christ’s love can be for people who have experienced so much pain.

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.

We will also be hosting our 50th Anniversary Celebration Weekend on June 8 & 9. We hope you can join us!

Read more

A place where kids and God can meet (Story 1 of 50)

For 50 years, Christian Children’s Home of Ohio (CCHO) has been “a place where kids and God can meet.” It is truly an honor to serve at a place where we see staff each day being the hands and feet of Jesus to children and adults from hard places. Initially ministering to three to five kids at one time, CCHO and our family of ministries today serves more than 1,000 active clients each month. That incredible growth was built on the foundation that was established in 1969 and further cultivated under the leadership of the first two executive directors, Dennis Bowers and Gary Porter. Dennis was the director for the first decade of CCHO’s history and, in 1979, Gary and his family began his over three-decade tenure at CCHO. A big bear of a man with a heart for Jesus that was even bigger than his stature, Gary’s love for all that is CCHO was and still is inspiring. It is with an extremely grateful heart that we present our first of “50 Stories from 50 Years of Ministry,” from Gary Porter.

~Kevin Hewitt, CCHO President & CEO

A farmhouse, small barn and old tenant house sat on 175 acres of land in Wooster, OH. A group of caring individuals with a vision to create a place where kids and God could meet tried to purchase the property, but no local banks would give them a loan. Incredibly, a family from Orrville Christian Church stepped up and bought the farm for $65,000 so CCHO could begin its ministry. Leadership then made payments on the land as finances allowed until the property was fully purchased. What a blessing.

When CCHO began in 1969, I was in the role of youth minister at the West Akron Church of Christ serving under the direction of Senior Minister Rod Huron. This godly man was a positive influence on my life. He also happened to be one of the initial leaders of CCHO, playing an instrumental role in the founding of the organization and in having me become involved in 1979 as well. I was also privileged to know most of the original board members.

At the time of its purchase, the land had been in trusteeship for years and needed a lot of repairs. I was a part of several groups that completed work projects at CCHO, and it was during that time that I fell in love with this emerging ministry. Little did I know or even imagine that in just 10 years, my family and I would be living on that piece of farmland and that I would soon become CCHO’s second executive director.

I believe this was all a part of God’s plan.

Gary in 1989 with his family on the CCHO campus

I have many memories of our years of service at CCHO, with certain individuals coming to the forefront of my mind. These are just a few of the lives God made new through our ministry.

I recall a 15-year-old girl who had already lived in 13 places before she came into our care. Today she has a ministry making comfort bags so that other children never have to use trash bags like she did. She and her husband just adopted two children.

I remember a young man who gives credit to our ministry for how his life was changed. He served four years in the Marine Corps. He is now married with a family of his own, working hard as a master electrician. He says that none of this would have been possible without a loving God and the caring staff at CCHO.

When we began our foster care ministry in 1989, we received a call from Cuyahoga County with a need for emergency placement for three girls who had been abandoned at their office. My wife Bobbie and I headed to Cleveland and as we entered the building, we saw the three young girls sitting on the floor at the feet of a caseworker. Our hearts broke and we immediately took them back with us to Wooster. All three eventually were adopted and went on to college. One of the girls came back to CCHO after graduation and served as a social worker in our foster care ministry.

I remember a young Cleveland girl who put all she could carry in a plastic bag, took a bus to her local children’s services’ office and said, “I can’t take it anymore.” She was placed in one of CCHO’s foster homes in Amish country and thrived there. She was first in her high school class, graduated from the College of Wooster, studied in London for a year, and then went to work for a major auto manufacturer.

I recall a very smart and rebellious young man who went through our residential program many years ago. This same man has been a missionary pilot for more than 20 years.

I think of a defiant teen girl who once told me, “You are not going to change me.” She went on to graduate from Milligan College with a degree in nursing and now supervises nursing at a hospital.

A Tribute to Gary

We honored Gary Porter for his 33+ years of stewardship with our first Heart for the Home award in 2017. Please watch this tribute video to learn more about the godly leadership Gary provided CCHO and its family of ministries for more than three decades.

God provided for my 33 years of full-time ministry. Achievements were and continue to be possible because of the commitment and sacrifice of the best staff serving in childcare anywhere. Our board of trustees consists of some of the most dedicated and caring people I have ever known. I was blessed to serve under their direction.

I had the opportunity to tell CCHO’s story to and seek support from more than 300 churches. And this is where I need to thank my family. We made these church visits together, set up displays, passed out literature and listened to numerous presentations. Any one of these family members could have done the full presentation on their own. I am grateful for their support.

CCHO has been blessed by all of our individual donors. Without them, we would not exist. We have also been blessed by our Lord Jesus Christ. If we continue to know who we are and Whose we are, the blessings will continue.

Gary D. Porter
CCHO Executive Director, 1979-2012

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.

We will also be hosting our 50th Anniversary Celebration Weekend on June 8 & 9. We hope you can join us!

Read more

Trusting in a better plan

As we begin our 50th year of helping people experience their worth in Christ, let’s celebrate God’s transformational work in the life of one young boy over the course of one year and 22 days at CCHO.

Caden* came to CCHO from a foster home when his increasingly defiant and aggressive behaviors were making it evident that he needed more help for challenges that stemmed from physical, emotional and sexual abuse as well as neglect. Additionally, Caden witnessed violence between his mother and her partner. He also saw his mother buy and use drugs.

When Caden first arrived on campus a little over a year ago, just before Christmas, he was defiant, struggled to trust adults and was unable to develop friendships. He had frequent nightmares and flashbacks. And yet, because he immediately felt safe and loved, Caden adjusted to life here pretty quickly, even with the timing of the holidays.

Over the next eight months, he worked hard to complete his individualized treatment plan and achieve his goals. He effectively engaged in both individual and group therapies. He enjoyed recreational activities and also responded well to art and equine therapy. Caden demonstrated a significant decrease in physical and verbal aggression, opposition toward adults and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. His ability to concentrate and focus substantially increased. He was ready for the next step of his journey but there would be obstacles in his path.

For the majority of Caden’s time with us, the plan was for him to be reunited with his biological mother who drove every other week from out-of-state to visit him. We were making steps for his discharge to take place when his county discontinued the reunification plan. Caden was devastated. A letter was sent to his county noting his readiness for discharge and a foster family was identified for him. Steps were made for the transition to this family, but the placement fell through just three days before his scheduled departure.

This was another loss for Caden, and he was faced with feelings of rejection and abandonment all over again. After a couple weeks of processing this loss, Caden came to the staff and said that he was going to be okay because he realized God must have a better family in store for him.

During this time of waiting, Caden’s biological mother gave birth to his baby sister. He was really upset about not being able to meet her. As Halloween and Thanksgiving came and went, he began feeling more and more hopeless. He was devastated at the thought of spending a second Christmas here. He desired to have a home and be part of a family.

Toward the beginning of December, his county identified another foster home for him. After the second visit with this family, Caden came back thrilled that his potential foster father told him he would officially be his foster dad. To top it all off, the foster family has an infant, which helped fill the void Caden was experiencing from not being with his baby sister.

We invite you to pray for Caden and his new foster family as they adjust to becoming a family of four. Please pray that he feels safe and secure in his new home and has peace with being separated from his biological mom and baby sister. If he isn’t able to return to his mother, we hope that he is adopted, finding his forever family. We also hope that Caden uses the skills he learned at CCHO in his new placement and continues to grow closer to God.

Faith played a big role in Caden’s healing story. He enjoyed reading his Action Bible and listening to Christian music on his mp3 player, using the music as a coping skill. He was always excited when it was his prayer day, and he often included all of his peers and staff in his prayers. Because of your generosity, CCHO was a safe place for Caden to receive treatment and learn about his worth in Christ. Your giving allowed Caden to experience love and support in healthy ways. Thank you for making this #OneHeartOnTheRise transformation possible.

Jessie Berry is the therapist for Cottage 6 where our young boys live. She has served on staff since June 2015 helping children overcome past trauma.

*name changed to protect his identity


This story first appeared in our Winter 2019 All Things quarterly newsletter.

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Stand out and shine bright this Christmas

Each Christmas, we are reminded that the boys and girls in our residential treatment program are just that: boys and girls. They have experienced traumas and atrocities that most people will never have to endure. They’ve been wounded, deeply. They can lash out at the people around them because they lack the ability to process their often volatile emotions, much less control them.

But they are still children. And, like other kids their age, most of them still get excited for Christmas.

This year, we wanted to share a beautiful Christmas message from Natalie*, a resident in our teen girls cottage. Natalie came to CCHO in the summer of 2017 with a heartbreaking history of physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Growing up, she heard hurtful messages like, “I wish you weren’t around” and “I wish you were never born.” Because of that, Natalie still struggles with her feelings toward the family members who betrayed her.

Since arriving on campus, Natalie has begun to understand that the messages she heard as a young girl were lies. Instead, she has heard the truth: that she was created for a reason, that she is loved and accepted unconditionally, that God has a purpose for her life.

This Christmas, we celebrate our Heavenly Father, who came down and took on our humanity simply because He loved us. We also celebrate a Creator who made us each unique, who blessed us with our own special giftings and abilities. As Natalie wrote in her message, “God made everyone different.”

As we witness the ways God has slowly and delicately worked on healing Natalie’s heart these past 18 months, we are excited to see how she “stands out and shines bright.” And we pray her hopeful message is a blessing to you this Christmas.

*Natalie’s name has been changed to protect her identity

Provide safety & care for hurting kids this Christmas

A gift of $80 this Christmas will provide one night of safety and care for a child in need. What a gift you can give!

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Wishing for home this Christmas

She doesn’t have a home. Not really. For most of her life, Mia bounced between two different beds in two different states, staying with her mom and dad until the drugs and alcohol got out of hand and her parents beat her again, and then she’d move back in with Grandma and Grandpa. The last time she stayed with her parents, though, Mia was raped by a teenage boy. She was five.

Mia moved back to her grandparents’ care for good after that, but then the problems in school started – having a hard time concentrating, fighting with other students, getting in trouble with teachers. Mia was even hospitalized more than once for suicidal tendencies. Without any hope that things would get better, ending it all seemed like the only way to stop the pain.

Unable to provide Mia the specialized help she needed, her grandparents placed her in a nearby residential facility. The bouncing continued . . .

For a child like Mia, Christmas is always the hardest time to not have a home. “How many gifts will be under the tree when I wake up?” “Will Santa know where I’m staying this year?” “Does anyone love me enough to give me something for Christmas?” And even those few times that she was with her parents at Christmas, Mia never felt safe. It was just another day when she hoped she wouldn’t get hit again.

Children like Mia, who have been abused and neglected by the people they should be able to trust most in life, have such a hard time moving past the trauma they have experienced. For Mia, her horrific experiences resulted in PTSD. She’s talked often about killing herself.

But you can make a difference in Mia’s life right now. Every $80 you give helps provide Mia with the treatment she needs so she can finally have a peaceful and joyous Christmas. And a long, full life after that.

As Christians, we find our greatest joy and fulfillment in our relationship with Jesus. For many of us, Christmas is the time of year when we feel closest to Jesus as we celebrate His birth and thank our Heavenly Father for sending His Son down to save us and give us new life. For Mia and so many kids like her, they have never heard the true Good News of Christmas. You can change that.

With your gift of $80, Mia can have a safe place to call home this Christmas. She can know what it feels like to be loved and accepted unconditionally, despite what’s happened to her. Your donation gives Mia and other abused and neglected children a chance to learn about Jesus for the first time in a safe and loving environment this Christmas!

Mia loves doing cartwheels and crafting and playing with stuffed animals and dancing. But she also hates being alone, and certain songs bring back memories of the worst times of her young life. She sometimes still gets angry. Mia has a long way to go.

Your support ensures that Mia and the other hurting kids have everything they need to overcome the extreme abuse and unspeakable neglect they have experienced. Your gift of one, or even three nights of safety is the first step towards healing. What a gift you can give!

Provide safety & care for hurting kids this Christmas

Will you consider an $80 gift so that Mia and other girls and boys like her can experience a night of safety and begin to experience their worth in Christ?

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