He’d been there all along (Story 40 of 50)
Updated: Feb 5
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 year has been filled with so many stories of healing and redemption that God has orchestrated together over five decades of ministry. Heather Knapik, residential alum, wife, mom and foster mom, shares her personal testimony and how the impact of her season at CCHO is helping others today. In story #40 of our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series, Heather reminds us that God is faithful. He never leaves us or stops loving us even when we walk away from Him.
I entered foster care at age four. By the time I was 15, I already had 13 homes including a failed adoption under my belt. Bouncing from home to home, I was subjected to physical and sexual abuse by several abusers. When I was 15, I finally found the courage to tell someone, and doing so unleashed a massive amount of fear and trauma that I’d been holding in for years. I didn’t know how to deal with the emotions, and I tried to take my own life.
Upon being released from the hospital, I was met with garbage bags full of my belongings. I was moving yet again. This time, I was taken to CCHO. I was scared, lonely, depressed, lost and broken. The first thing I noticed was that it didn’t feel like a group home. I’d been in those before. This place was different. It felt safe and welcoming.
We ate meals together, went to church together, and even went on vacation together! I attended therapy onsite, built a trusting relationship with my therapist and was able to open up and share a lot of my pain and begin working through it. Things started to feel somewhat normal again. I began to thrive. In the summer I had my own horse to care for and ride and that was HUGE for my growth. Over time I decided to give my heart to Jesus and was baptized in the CCHO swimming pool! It was such a special moment for me.
After two years of growth and healing, I moved in with a new foster family. I was sad to leave and afraid to go. But I knew the lessons I had learned during my time at CCHO would stay with me. I struggled after leaving. In early adulthood, I had unhealthy relationships, battled an eating disorder, and turned my back on God. In my late 20s, I again felt lost and broken.
Then I remembered the lessons about God and His love for me. Surely He would want nothing to do with me. I had kicked him out of my life. But I cried out to Him anyway, and in that moment, I felt peace for the first time in years. I knew He was there. He’d been there all along, waiting for ME to come back to Him. I began to climb out of my rock bottom with new hope inside. I worked daily on becoming the best me I could be and in doing so I began to heal again, to bloom and grow. I met a wonderful man and we got married.
God began calling my heart to serve. Two years ago, I poured my childhood pain into starting a nonprofit. We make comfort bags for youth entering foster care so they don’t have to carry their belongings in trash bags like I did. Knapik’s Knapsacks serves four county agencies and still growing!
God was calling my heart to serve further. Last year my husband and I began the process to become foster parents ourselves, and in June of 2018, we received our license! We currently have two placements in our home. We don’t know where this journey will lead us, but we know in our hearts that we’ve been called to it.
I talk often with others about my time at CCHO and the positive influence it had on me. I don’t know where I might have ended up without the love and guidance I received there. Those two short years impacted my life in huge ways. I am truly grateful for the time I spent at CCHO.