When braiding leads to bonding
Updated: May 13, 2022
God often moves in profound and powerful ways to demonstrate His love to people in pain and crisis. These are the exhilarating stories that capture our imaginations, stories that inspire books, songs and movies. But sometimes, rather than doing the seemingly impossible, He chooses to move in simpler and subtler ways. As a supporter of our ministry, your generosity continues to be used by God to accomplish His plan for kids like Karlee* on our campus.
Karlee’s birth parents had been running a meth lab out of her home when she was placed into the residential program at Christian Children’s Home of Ohio (CCHO). A victim of severe neglect and physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her father, Karlee carried the debilitating effects of her trauma into her very first day on campus, when she threatened to stab a CCHO staff member with a pair of scissors shortly after arriving.
It was clear from the beginning that Karlee was mad at everyone – her parents, the county workers who sent her to CCHO, and the staff who were now trying to help her. However, she was maybe angriest at God for not protecting her from the pain and abuse she had endured. Her parents’ choices had not only deeply wounded Karlee, they had also forced her to care for her younger siblings, ensuring they got off to school each day and had food to eat, which robbed her of the chance to lead a typical teenager’s life. Once her grandmother died, Karlee lost what little sense of stability she’d had, and from the moment she arrived at CCHO, she made a point of rebelling against any and all authority.
Karlee’s behavior was a product of her extensive trauma, and she was desperately trying to protect herself from more pain. At night, she curled up into a ball in the corner of her room because she was afraid her dad would find her. We were soon reminded that even the simplest act of kindness can bring down the tallest walls around an anguished heart.
Karlee clashed early and often with Alisha, a CCHO treatment specialist who worked to establish accountability in Karlee’s life in her first couple of weeks on campus. “She never had authority. She never had anyone telling her what to do,” Alisha says. “So of course it would make her angry when someone is trying to parent her….”
When leaving work one day, Alisha discovered that Karlee had used gravel to form a vulgar message on the trunk of her car. Rather than getting mad, Alisha chose to demonstrate God’s grace and love for Karlee. “So many of the kids are used to getting in trouble, getting beat when they do something wrong,” she says. “When they see the staff forgive them, that makes an impact. We can tell them about God all day long and they won’t care, but when we show them the love of God, that’s what makes the difference.”
About a month later, Karlee watched Alisha braiding yarn into a lanyard and asked if she could teach her how to do it. Alisha quickly demonstrated the method to Karlee, not thinking much of the interaction. The next day, however, she found a handwritten note from Karlee:
“Thank you for teaching me how to braid. I really appreciate it. That impacted me in a way you probably wouldn’t understand. My dad knew how to (braid) also, but every time I’d ask him to teach me, he would say, ‘NOT RIGHT NOW.’ After (I asked) a few more times, he got his (belt) out and beat me with it. So, THANK YOU!”
At the bottom, she taped a small green and yellow braid to the page and wrote, “I’d like you to have the first one I made.”
Karlee still has a long way to go in her treatment, but Alisha says she has made incredible progress as she opens up in therapy about her trauma. The walls are beginning to come down, she treats staff and fellow residents with kindness, and her heart grows softer and softer each day as she learns more about who she is in the eyes of her loving God.
The healing process is different for everyone, but it’s almost always messy. The children on our campus require patience as they work through their trauma, and they often take one step back after two encouraging steps forward. Your continued support of the work being done at CCHO and our family of ministries makes stories like Karlee’s possible. Without donors like you, Karlee and other traumatized children like her may never experience grace and forgiveness or hear that they are loved unconditionally by the God who created them.
Will you consider showing the love and generosity of God by making a gift so even more boys and girls can learn just how precious they are in their Father’s eyes?
*name changed to protect identity