A Safe Place to Spread Her Wings
Part 1 – The Need for The Esther House
When a former Charis House graduate tragically passed away a few years ago, she left a portion of her estate to Ministry Village at Olive. The MVO leadership and Board of Directors wanted to use that generous gift to honor her memory in a way that she would have cherished. The seed was planted for what will soon be dedicated as “The Esther House” on the Ministry Village at Olive campus.
Women who enter the Charis House commit to a minimum of one year for Phase I of the program. They live under strict guidelines and are held to high standards of conduct and behavior as they work through their substance abuse addictions, as well as the traumas and emotional issues of the lifestyles that led them to the Charis House. After a minimum of one year of Christ-centered counseling and Bible-based classes on life skill development — all while being monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by a House Manager — the women are reevaluated. If they have met the standards of the Charis House and shown growth and stability, they are invited to go into Phase II of the program.
During Phase II, the women enjoy a bit more freedom from the strict regimen they followed during Phase I, but many things stay consistent. They must still attend church classes and Most Excellent Way meetings each week, but they can enroll in school, and pursue jobs. Many women earn their GEDs or begin college classes when they enter Phase II. They are still part of the Charis House family, eating meals together with the Phase I ladies, continuing counseling with the Charis House therapist, and living without transportation. Since Phase II women are not permitted to have a cell phone or their own vehicle, a House Manager or Charis House volunteer must drive each woman to school or work. Phase II typically lasts around one year.
In the past, when a woman completed the Phase II part of her program, she was counseled by Charis House leadership, given referrals to outside therapists, and encouraged to stay closely connected to her church family and the support network that she developed during her program. Then she was sent out to live on her own. Stan Lollar, Executive Director of Ministry Village, explains the solemn truth he has witnessed over the years. “We tell them, quite honestly, that if they go back to their old people, their old playgrounds, their old places, they will fall back into their old patterns and lifestyle.” To stay sober, and continue down the new path they’ve begun, they must develop new, healthy relationships.
Debbe Jefcoat, Director of the Charis House, stresses the importance of staying “plugged in” as she calls it. “They need to stay in the Bible. They have to stay connected to the Lord. Let Him lead, and don’t get off the trail. The ones who stay plugged in, they are the ones who make it.”
The woman whose legacy will live on in The Esther House was a woman who struggled immensely. She wrestled with a variety of issues during the program, and ultimately, she lost her battle with addiction once she was on her own, outside of the program. “She was talented, smart, and extremely kind,” remembers Ms. Debbe (the name all the Charis House ladies call her). “The fact that she left this gift to Ministry Village is just a reflection of her kindness and generosity.”
Stan remembers the day the woman left the program. “She told me that day, ‘The Charis House has done all it can do for me. Now I need to see if it will stick’.” Ultimately, she was unable to overcome her addiction, and sadly died of an overdose. “The tragedy of how her life ended shows the desperate need for a place like the Esther House. These ladies need a safe place to help them transition back into the community, and we want to help them be successful. The Esther House will help make that transition.”
In next week’s blog, we’ll learn more about The Esther House and how it will provide further support to the work of The Charis House ministry.