Gateway Woods will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of serving children in 2016. With the admission of our first resident on November 7, 1976, we actually became a “children’s home”. There were years of planning and construction and in the months prior, staff were hired, policies developed, supplies assembled and curtains hung. But until there was a child, we did not truly serve orphans.
Anniversaries are occasions for looking forward with anticipation and excitement, but also for looking back with reflection and thanksgiving. Where did the vision come from that led to a facility in Leo, IN? What’s the source of the passion for ministry to lost and wounded children? Who in our past saw beyond the immediate needs of “our own” to heed the Spirit’s call and the Word’s command to “visit the fatherless”?
The Apostolic Christian denomination which began when our founder was driven from the Swiss state church in the early 1800s had an initial evangelical zeal and passion for the lost in their regions. Soon Samuel Froehlich and many of his followers were also driven out of the country and, in many cases, from the European continent. In the New World as they settled near other German/Swiss Anabaptists, a focus equal to evangelism, was simply survival and finding homes where faith could be practiced freely.
Whether because of seclusion and exclusion due to language, customs and faith or a newfound prosperity, the missionary zeal that brought many Apostolic Christians to the US in the first place was almost lost over the next 100 years. In many areas, evangelism was discouraged and missionary efforts were unsupported. Most family needs, crises and care for elderly and orphans were handled within families and local congregations without much effort to extend beyond the church community.
In the 1960s and 70s that slowly began to change as the responsibility of plenty collided with previously neglected or rationalized scriptures. Quietly, on an individual basis, family-by-family, and then church-by-church, a simple equation brought conviction that - what we have is what they need! Troubled children and families around us need what we have in abundance - stable marriages, solid extended families, supportive church congregations, adequate finances, extra places at the table and extra beds in homes. To know this and to not share these blessings would be wrong.
Old and New Testament scriptures that command true believers to give to the poor, visit the sick and imprisoned, and care for the old and fatherless are too numerous to ignore. And, the response needed to be more than just writing a check and agreeing to pray when it crosses our minds. God’s wheels grind slowly but thoroughly. For leaders and believers who truly desire to understand and obey all of scripture, the Word will eventually illuminate, convict and motivate. When that happens the “sleeping giant” awakens and powerful and contagious things happen that can reach around the world.
Events that led to the founding of the Apostolic Christian Children’s Home included couples from the Midwest becoming involved with a struggling Appalachian orphanage named Dessie Scott Children’s Home in Pine Ridge, KY. In 1967 Art and Bertha Gasser and Chet and Roma Rufener from Rittman, OH and Herman and Helen Norr along with their daughter Elaine from Leo, IN visited the home and were moved by the extreme needs. Soon their passion became contagious and by 1968 they rallied 175 volunteers to help replace or repair other various buildings, provide funding, and even become board members. About that same time momentum for Apostolic Christian World Relief efforts was growing and funding was thus provided.
Seeds had been sown and others like the Norrs became catalysts who labored and lobbied tirelessly to develop a program for troubled children in the Midwest where members and resources are concentrated. In 1969, a 9-member children’s home Exploratory Committee was formed. In 1973, final Elder Body approval was received, the name Apostolic Christian Children’s Home was made official, and 73 acres in Leo, IN were chosen by lot from among several sites. In 1974, groundbreaking for the first two group homes was held, construction began, and the motto “A Work or Faith, a Labor of Love” from I Thessalonians 1:3 was chosen. During 1975 construction by hundreds of volunteers continued and the first administrator and houseparents were hired. In 1976, the Indiana license arrived September 17, Dedication was held October 24 and the first resident was admitted on November 7. In the midst of such a flurry of events and energy, the Home was finally in operation!
Over the decades Gateway Woods has grown to provide multiple different but related services. Many of these were delivered through the same patience and perseverance that birthed the original program while some no longer exist. Visit gatewaywoods.org/history if you’re interested in some of these key events in our history.
It is marvelous to see where those who have passed through Gateway Woods in various capacities have gone and what ministry they have delivered across the community, region, country and world. It is satisfying to know that Gateway has been a training ground for many who have moved on to do amazing things for the Kingdom in other places. While some are more direct than others, all are a testimony to God’s patience, faithfulness and provision.
Scores of adoptive and foster parents are raising children from down the street or from across the globe in Christ-centered homes. Numerous full-time workers in the US and missionaries in foreign lands bring faith and hope to the lost and wounded. Organizations like His Ranch in MO, My Sister’s House in IL, 4 Kids of South Florida and New Beginnings in FL, Casa Vida y Esperanza in Mexico, Harvest Call (AC World Relief/Missions), Loving Shepherd, ACCFS, and LifeSong for Orphans operating in the US and in numerous foreign countries have relationships and staff connected to Gateway Woods; who would have thought, who would have dreamed!
"This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes." - Psalm 118:23
May God be glorified and may we all be encouraged as we celebrate 40 years in 2016.
Fifteen-year-old William came to the Gateway Woods Residential Program two years ago. His background of gang involvement, crime and drug abuse was common to many of the other youth in his house. William initially resisted the structure, discipline and spiritual focus of Gateway Woods. But over time, he started making incremental changes, becoming more responsive to expectations and showing a budding interest in matters of faith.
After six months, William had come to appreciate Gateway Woods and had earned much trust from his houseparents. He was doing better in school, had a part-time job, and was participating in church youth activities. He was doing so well, that one month later, the judge who placed him allowed William to return home to his family.
Everyone was optimistic as they bid farewell to William. Even his mother, who was skeptical at first, enthusiastically endorsed his return home. Surely this young man, with a chance for a new start, would take the lessons learned and keep his life turned around.
Unfortunately, once William left the structure of Gateway Woods, he started regressing into old behaviors. His neighborhood and friends beckoned with a siren’s call back into the same life that got him into trouble in the first place. Five months after returning home, William was arrested again, this time on an assault charge.
All of the youth that pass through Gateway Woods learn valuable lessons in the practical and spiritual matters. A great number take those lessons and cement lasting changes that impact the rest of their life. Unfortunately, too many like William, do well at Gateway Woods, but then return to self-destructive behaviors after leaving.
William’s struggles are too common and beg the question, “What can be done?” This concern became a consistent theme, and as a result, we are excited to announce the creation of a new program called Linking to Achieve Responsibility and Community (LARC).
The goal of LARC is to create a network of volunteers, business owners, people from the community, and other resources, that can support clients after they leave our programs. It is our belief that the best way to create lasting change in our clients is to help them develop supportive and nurturing relationships with people in the community who will encourage them and hold them accountable. In short: our goal is to connect young people to those who have a heart to help.
Gateway Woods is not trying to create another program. No matter how good our intentions, struggling young people don’t need another program as much as they need caring adults with whom they can have genuine and organic relationships. It might seem ironic that Gateway Woods is creating a “program” which, in itself, will not directly support kids but simply be a vehicle to create an environment for real, helping relationships to grow.
This initiative is boldly unlike any other program we have started before, and we are looking for the right person to lead its charge. If you are up for the challenge of breaking new ground in the forging of mentoring relationships for some of society’s most vulnerable youth, please reach out to us at 260.627.2159. We’d love to hear from you!
By Jason & Joy Huber
Since coming to Gateway, first in the pregnant teen Oak House, and subsequently in the co-ed Pine House, there has been a passage of Scripture that has served as the impetus for the ministry where God called us in March of 2012. It is found in 2 Corinthians 5:14-20.
"14 For the love of Christ constraineth (also translated “compels”) us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: 15 And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. 16 Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. 17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God."
Jesus’s love is what “compels” us (v. 14) to share the simple message of the Gospel, which is good news to the core. “Compels” can mean to guide, unify, or motivate – all essential ingredients for the mission field. Whether we are caught in the drama of a teen mom who so desperately wants to start a new life but feels a cemented bond to the father of her baby…or, we are trying to rescue a young man caught up in an inner city gang who knows no other escape than to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana to numb his pain– the Gospel is for “all” since “one died for all” (v. 15).
Teens are prone to orient their world view around “the self.” They are busy trying to figure out their own identity and what will make them happy in the moment. We urge them to focus on Christ’s love demonstrated by his death “for them” (v. 15) personally. This begs the question: Because of what God in His Son, Jesus, did for me, why would I ever want to live for myself? What often brings young men and women to Gateway are the catastrophic consequences of living to please self rather than their Creator who created them to live in His image, instead. Their life purpose is often distorted or misdirected.
The only way for a new start for these young men and women’s self-destructive lives is to believe the promise: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (v. 17). These teens don’t need greater self-esteem, or a new identity – they need a complete regeneration by the Holy Spirit so that all things, regardless of their struggle, become new.
The amazing thing about being called as missionaries is that God reconciled us to Christ so that He could not only save us, but also give us the ministry (or task) of reconciliation. It is astounding that God uses us, with all of our own struggles with sin and all of our flaws, to reach lost teens with His ministry of reconciliation.
The incredible truth about The Gospel is that, because God reconciled the world to Himself through Christ, He does not have to count these teens’ sins, or our sins, against us (v. 19). In fact, through simple faith, we don’t need to count our sins against ourselves or count the sins of the young men and women we work with. This is the Good News! Hallelujah! All the praise and glory belongs to Jesus! Please pray for all of us at Gateway that we would be committed to what Jesus has committed to us – the message (word, v. 19) and ministry of reconciliation to Christ (v. 18).
If we have been called to be disciples of Jesus Christ, we have all been summoned to be Christ’s ambassadors (v. 20) meaning that Jesus is making a strong appeal to us to beg those who are lost in the deadness of their sin to be reconciled (come into agreement) with God about their sin and trust Jesus as Savior and Lord. Our single mission as houseparents at Gateway Woods is to continually urge and beg young men and women to come into intimate fellowship with God the Father and be saved and sanctified by His grace.