Encompass Christian Counseling – Christian Children’s Home of Ohio

Encompass Christian Counseling

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