Friday, July 6, 2018

A lot can happen in two and a half years...

Ephesians 3:20-21, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

A lot can happen in two and a half years.  Amazing things.  Life changing things.  Exceedingly abundantly more than we can ask or think things.  That's what I realized when I logged in to this old blog of ours today for the first time in over two and a half years.  

November 2015, this ministry was heading into the new year with a new name (Hope Harbor), a new logo (that fancy blue anchor) and a new Executive Director (Miss Cindy).  Shortly after, we had a renewed vision and mission statement, core values and a statement of faith.  Then a new website. Then a new email domain.  

Then the big idea came to open a second Hope Harbor site in Winona.  Things were in the works in early 2016.  By the end of that year, we hired a staff that trained in Marshall to help run the home in Winona.  By mid 2017, we hired a site director, counselor and teacher for Winona as well. Volunteers labored tirelessly to renovate a home that would be the future site of Hope Harbor in Winona. The team worked diligently to spread the word and secure supporters for the site.  We hired and trained staff in the fall of 2017.  Did I mention prayer?  Yeah, we did a lot of that too.  From day one and never ending still.  

And the Lord sent the girls. Our first resident arrived to freshly painted walls, crisp new bed sheets and brand new bath towels on October 25, 2017.  Just shy of two years since the announcement of our name change transitioning to our own private organization running a single site, we brought our first resident into our second home.   As of today, we have served over 80 teen girls and their families between the two sites.

Exceedingly abundantly more than we can ask or think.  I never imagined two years ago that we’d have a second home.  That the Lord would expand our team to a group of incredible sisters in Christ in Winona to serve in the capacity we get to serve here in Marshall.  That I would rejoice with teens four hours away as they take their thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ, as they overcome the wiles of the enemy and stand on the firm foundation of Christ for their healing, as they learn their identity in Christ and walk in freedom.  

According to the power that works in us.  I am exceedingly and abundantly amazed (1) that we serve a God whose power is limitless, and (2) He works that power in us.  Us. Little old you, and little old(er) me. The glory can be to none other than Him, as where else could it even go?  There is none but our God that deserves the glory for the work He does in each of us, in each of the teens and families we serve, in each of the homes we open, and beyond our borders.

To all generations. We have obviously watched our families pass on what God has done in their lives to their children; that’s what we get the privilege of doing everyday.  But since we opened our doors in 2005, we’ve now gotten to see some of our teens grow to strong women who are raising their own children.  We get to see the power God worked in them, work in their children, forever and ever.  And it might be even cooler than when we watched it happen to their mothers.

I look back over the past two and a half years, and the ten plus before, and I just widen my eyes and shake my head.  This is a pretty good gig.  We couldn’t ask or imagine what more to ask for, but we know God has much more in store for this ministry.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Transition: Hope Harbor

You heard it here!  After providing residential services to teens and their families for ten years as House of Hope Minnesota, this fall 2015, we are making the transition to our new name, Hope Harbor!

The History of Hope
In the summer of 2002, the vision of providing a home that is a place of refuge for healing teens was given to founders Claudia Stenson, Carla Reynolds, & Karen Wiener.  In September of 2003, the three attended training at National HOH in Orlando, FL, after hearing about House of Hope through a Women of Faith Conference.
In December of 2003, House of Hope Minnesota was incorporated.  In March of 2004, we received our 501 (C)3 nonprofit status.  At the end of July 2005, the day before a Minnesota government shutdown, we were licensed by MN DHS as a residential group home, despite initially being told that would never happen unless we changed our operation from “Christ centered” to “faith based.”  Our founders stood firm, and the Lord came through!
In November of 2005 the first residents arrived on site for services.  For the next ten years, we provided services to teens and their families in our residential setting through school, spiritual growth, counseling, life skills training, and parenting classes.  In November of 2015, House of Hope Minnesota began the transition to Hope Harbor, allowing us to operate exclusively on a local level in the same capacity to which we are called. 

We are so thankful for the past ten years operating as House of Hope Minnesota.  The support of our faithful donors, prayer warriors, sister houses, volunteers, and more has allowed us to bring the gospel to the hearts of these teens and their families, forever changing their lives. 

We are excited for what the Lord has in store for the next ten years and beyond as we venture into the call under our new name, Hope Harbor!

Stay tuned in the weeks ahead as we update our website, Facebook page, and blog, and be sure to look for our new logo, to debut soon!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Spring is sprung!

Okay, we're a little late on that announcement, but looking back we haven't posted since January!  We're a little late on a few things!

The past few months at House of Hope Minnesota have been simply beautiful.  That's a word we use so easily, as an all-encompassing adjective, a precise noun, and even to express our frustrated irony.

Defined, it means having beauty, possessing qualities that give great pleasure or satisfaction to see, hear, or think about; delighting the senses or mind; wonderful, very pleasing, or satisfying; excellent of its kind.

And that's the context in which I use it in regards to the past few months in this ministry.  God's work is happening everyday in the lives of our teens, their families, and our staff.

It is beautiful.

Watching a resident step forward on her own to pray for another resident who isn't feeling well is a situation that possesses qualities that give great pleasure or satisfaction to see.

Hearing reports from parents about visits with their daughters filled with joy, laughter, and love is wonderful, very pleasing, and satisfying.

Looking back at old pictures, reports, documents, and case notes on residents who longed for death and destruction, and seeing today a new creation in Christ, delights the senses and mind and is excellent of its kind.

There are days I wouldn't believe the past reports on residents if I hadn't witnessed the details and written them myself.  The change, the healing, the growth blows my mind.  We are required by our licensing to measure and document change in our residents during their stay, weekly, monthly, quarterly.  We do, but how do you use numbers and reports to describe what God is doing in their lives?  How do you measure divine intervention, revelation knowledge, Holy Spirit healing, and confidence in Christ?  How do you write a report on the hollowness that was filled with the love of Christ?

We quantify change for these purposes in many different categories, and it's an interesting focus shift between what the world wants to see and what we know happens here.  We measure "Respect of Authority" as demonstrating an ability to follow rules and respect authority with increased levels through program advancement.

The world considers parents, teachers, and police officers as that authority-also staff specifically here.  We recognize these authoritative institutions as well, but overarching our emphasis begins with God, for there is no authority that except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God (Romans 13:1).  If we can instill in the minds of our residents and their families the need to first respect, fear, and revere the ultimate, absolute authority, understanding the need to respect all other authority easily flows.  The walking-out isn't always so easy, but we begin with understanding and always move for more walking-out.

We measure "Social Skills" as demonstrating ability and willingness to behave in way that minimizes conflict.  Generally, this is healthy and appropriate relationships, boundaries, conflict resolution, manners, respect, self control, patience.  Our focus on social skills as a ministry  stems from the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self control.  Is there any other way to have healthy, appropriate relationships, to behave in a way that minimizes conflict, than through these principles?

There are many other goals we measure, and we bring them all back to biblical principle.  There is simply no better standard by which to live.  The Lord set these in place for us because He loves us.  The law is unattainable, and He sent His Son for us for that reason.  That's good news all around!  It is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy (Romans 9:16).  We serve a God who is not willing that any should perish but that all come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).  We are so blessed to be able to use His Word everyday to guide us in our walk and to share it with others as they heal!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Because Jesus.

Today, we have a resident heading home.  She came to us exactly a year ago.  It was early January, and we placed her, and then I took off for National House of Hope training in Orlando, Florida.  She was a hurting, sad, scared little girl.  She wore labels of depressed, suicidal, damaged, unloved, worthless.  She marked up her body when these labels filled her mind.  She knew who Jesus was, but she didn't believe He would, or could, ever love her.

I'm heading down to Orlando early next week for training at National House of Hope again.  And I'm doing so knowing the entire world changed in a year, at least for one person.  The girl who is going home today stands tall, confident in who she is in Christ Jesus.  She carries herself with the poise of a young woman who fears nothing, because she fears the Lord.  She smiles knowingly, lovingly, and assuredly at her peers, because she's been there, and she gets it, and she tried that and knew it was nothing, so she surrendered it all and found it all.

This girl laughs all the time, and I miss hearing her laugh already.
This girl hugs and smiles every chance she gets, and she does it like no one else can.
This girl sees others in pain and jumps to go pray for them, and it melts my heart.
When this girl is quiet, it's because the Lord is working something incredible inside her heart and she's listening to what He's saying.
When this girl speaks, you better listen, because she was.

As believers, it's our stock answer to say, "God has a plan for you!"  And it's true, don't get me wrong.  I see it and live it every day.  But I think we fall back on that "plan" phrase, as if we don't need to think about anything else.  We just toss it around to each other like it's our duty to remind, not to live.

When I take a second to think past, "God's got a plan for you!" with this girl and I actually consider what that plan is, I'm telling you, He's got things happening!  For her, for the rest of the girls here, and for those to come.  For our staff, for our supporters, for you reading this.  It's okay that we don't always realize that.  I think if we did, we probably wouldn't move, we'd freak out and stand still anyway.

People are going to tell her how proud they are of her in the days, weeks, months to come.  And that's cool, but I hope it doesn't become so common a phrase that the gravity of the message gets lost.  Only we, inside ourselves, can know how proud to be, because we, inside ourselves, walked it.

I know pride is a sticky word for believers, but we can use pride the right way, and be okay. Accomplishment matters, and we can't negate His work in our life because we fear the word "pride."

So we are proud, and we send her off saying:
Keep your eyes on Jesus, but you know that.
He's got you, but you know that.
Love others, as He loves you, but you know that.
Give it all to Him, but you know that.
He will never leave you or forsake you, but you know that.

We keep our door open at House of Hope Minnesota for graduates to call, text, write, message, and visit.  We want to be a resource for them when things are tough, but also when things are good.  Because both will happen.

I've seen enough girls come and go in my years here that I know at these graduations, we emphasis to families to be prepared because it's not easy and it's not perfect.  Stuff happens.  Tough stuff, even bad stuff.  We don't want anyone to walk away expecting that they've finished the race, only to find it's barely just begun.  And I think it's important that we do prepare them for reality...


...It will be GOOD too.  It will be BEAUTIFUL too.  It will be JOYFUL and SWEET and FUNNY.  It will be AMAZING and INSPIRING.  Some days will bigger and better.  Some days won't.  But many will...


"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen."  Ephesians 3:20-21 NKJV

(In case you missed it: it will be good, because JESUS).

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Service Day: Esther's Kitchen

This week for Service Day, the girls and I went to Esther's Kitchen (which offers a free meal three times a week to those in the community who need it) to help prepare, serve, and clean up the meal. It's always fun to see them step outside their comfort zones and going around to the guests serving plates or using an old-fashioned mop for the first time.

I asked the girls to comment on the trip to Esther's, and this is what three of them said:

"It was meaningful to be able to connect with a whole new group of people and it meant a lot to me and brought me great joy to be capable of providing something to someone to just brighten their day. :)"

"I love being able to help people who maybe don't have as much as we do. I can't explain the joy it brings to see their smiles and how thankful they are. It makes me appreciate a lot."

"To love others is a trait I wish our generation would spend more time spreading to others. Esther's Kitchen showed me that caring and loving others, even if it is just a friendly smile, can change lives."

Although the girls sometimes complain about doing chores around the House of Hope or do a mediocre job on the mundane tasks, it's neat to see how those attitudes change when they are doing the same things for others; on Tuesday night, two of the girls peeled the burnt tops off of baked chicken while two others cleaned out containers of old food from the fridge, and I didn't hear a word of protest. I think it's so important for the girls to learn about and experience the opportunities to serve even in a small community like Marshall, and to keep in mind the question in 1 John 3:17: "But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?" I'm looking forward to seeing the girls' heart for serving others continue to grow during their time at HOHM!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Operation Christmas Child

One sunny afternoon in October, the girls from the House of Hope, a volunteer, and I stormed the Dollar Tree, buying toys, hats, and other "objects of joy" (as one of the girls called them) to send to children in other countries for Christmas. Honestly, while we were at the Dollar Tree, I expected the girls to ask to also buy things for themselves, but it was as if the thought never crossed their minds. We then headed back to the House to pack the items in boxes to send off to the organization Samaritan's Purse. It was wonderful to see the girls filled with joy at just the thought of the kids who would be getting the boxes. As one of the girls reflected,

"When I found out we were doing Operation Christmas Child, I was excited because it's an opportunity to bless kids in other countries; even though it doesn't seem like a lot to us, it means the world to them and may be the only Christmas present they ever get."

A few weeks later, some of the girls and I ended up going to a church that was the Marshall collection point for the boxes the day that they were shipping them out, and I was moved by the girls' passionate prayers as they and the rest of the congregation laid hands on the crates of shoeboxes and prayed for the children who would receive them. A couple of days ago, I received an e-mail saying that the boxes we packed were sent to kids in India (click here to see a short video of OCC's work in India), and the girls' enthusiasm for the project was reignited as they reminisced about choosing gifts for the boxes. It was a blessing to give the girls an opportunity to realize how much they have to share and how much fun it is to share it.

"This was a very amazing experience that I have never done before. I was so excited when we were putting the boxes together knowing that someone out there needs it. I would do this again just to show how much Jesus loves and cares about them."

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


You made it!  And we've made it! Thanks for stopping by.  We are excited to launch our new website for House of Hope Minnesota today, and we're glad you're here checking out what we've got going on.

Bear with us over the next few weeks as we continue to update our website and this blog to better reach you all out there.  We'd love feedback on what we've done so far, what other information you'd like to see, and how we can continue to reach others. 

We hope our new website, and this blog, will be a resource for many people in many different capacities.  Some may be looking for ways to help the ministry.  Some may be looking for ways to get involved.  Some may be looking for help for themselves or someone they love. 

Everyone, we hope, will find love, grace, faith, and Jesus.  He is the center to our lives, our healing, and our program.  We are thankful to be chosen to be part of His ministry.  We pray we represent Him as He would have us.

Stay tuned for more!  God bless!

A lot can happen in two and a half years...

Ephesians 3:20-21, “ Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works ...