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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrating Five Decades of Ministry

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

Read more

Memories from our second resident (Story 12 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 the early days of our ministry. Robert Marshall, the second youth resident at CCHO, shares memories with us about his time living on campus in the 70s and the impact of Dennis and Dorothea Bowers in story #12 from our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series.

I came to CCHO in August 1971 and lived there until I graduated [high school] in June 1975. I was the second resident in the program and still go back often just to visit. I feel that CCHO’s work then and now was and is very helpful to so many. My memories are numerous but here are a few.

Not too long after I arrived, I started going with Dennis Bowers [the first executive director and house parent] almost every weekend to churches all over Ohio to show a slide show. Dennis would talk about CCHO’s mission and what they started in 1969. After I had been at CCHO for a while, I talked a couple of times at these churches too.

I loved to go for walks down in the woods on the CCHO campus just to enjoy the beauty and quietness. When I lived on campus, the farm land was leased out to local farms and at times we would help them bail hay and straw and help unload it into the barn hayloft.

Each year, I went to Round Lake Christian Camp. Even after I left CCHO, I continued to work in the kitchen at Round Lake.

After I graduated in 1975, I went into the Navy. Dennis not only attended my graduation in 1975, he and his wife Dorothea also drove up to Great Lakes Naval Training north of Chicago for my graduation from boot camp in September 1975.

Dennis and Dorothea were like mom and dad to me and sadly there are both with our Lord now. Dorothea passed in May 2017 and Dennis just passed April 2019. I miss them both. We all lived in the main farm house—Dennis and Dorothea, along with their four young daughters. At one point there were four teenage boys and three teenage girls plus the Bowers’ family all living there. We had lots of fun and went to Parkview Church of Christ [now Parkview Christian Church] in Wooster.

I will be at the 50th Anniversary Benefit Dinner in June and hope to see everyone there. God bless everyone and see you in June.

Enjoy the photos below also contributed by Bob.

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

Life lessons learned (Story 9 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 a former teen resident of cottage 1. In story #9 from our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series, Amanda shares how her life has been deeply influenced by the kindness of residential team members at CCHO.

I was 16 years old when I came to CCHO. I was a lost, angry teenager, but the love and support of CCHO helped mold me into the woman I am today. I was a resident of cottage 1 for almost a year. I made friends that I’m still friends with today. I learned how to ride horses and clean stables as well as saddle horses and clean hooves. To this day I still remember how to do those things. I remember the joy of riding and the comfort of being around the horses.

While I was a resident I had tough days, but the house parents (as we called the cottage staff at that time) always helped me smile again. Sarah and Dwayne were one set of parents who made an impact on me. They were caring and fun and loved all of us individually. They tried to connect with each of us to help us the best they could. Sarah and I used to play SingStar when I needed cheering up. We used to make jewelry too. She was the best.

The other house parents Tim and Jenny were just as amazing. They loved with a gentler technique yet still as effective. If it wasn’t for CCHO, I would most likely be hooked on drugs or dead. But because I was blessed to have them, I am a mother and have a happy normal life.

Each of our house parents had a dog. Theirs was Maggie, a little schnauzer who was the sweetest cuddle bug. While I was there we went on a missionary trip to Noblesville, Indiana to help restore a historic landmark. The experience was more fun than it sounds 🙂 Afterward, we spent the next day at Kings Island. Best day of my life!

I may have left CCHO on not-so-good terms but everything I’ve learned from them has helped me grow and mature in ways I didn’t think possible. I’m now a 27-year-old mom who has a good life and still goes to church and uses the life lessons I learned from CCHO.

Thank you, CCHO, for everything you have done for me. I would still be a lost, angry person without 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