Living in abuse can become normal. For most, it is unimaginable. But when a child lives day in and day out with abuse, it becomes normal. It is part of a weekly routine. It is something that is managed like other things in life. Besides, who will believe a daddy would hurt his little girl, Christina thought. Christina began living with abuse at age ten. It was secret. The signs were easily overlooked. She was withdrawn—or “shy” as others described her. She was thin—but it was just a “phase” she was going through, concerned neighbors were told.
COVID struck and the now 15-year-old Christina did not have the refuge of going to school. What was once weekly abuse, now became almost daily. There was no way to escape. The trauma was unbearable. It was like she was sinking in water and could not catch her breath. “Jeanna is my friend,” says Christina. “I needed someone to hear me and she believed me.” Christina and Jeanna had been friends since middle school. Even during the pandemic, they stayed in touch.
Now that they were back in the classroom together, Christina had to tell her secret of abuse to someone. Stepping out from the shadows, she approached Jeanna. Jeanna not only believed Christina, she confided to her mom—a social worker with the department of social services, about Christina’s nightmare. Her mom took action, and while Christina was applying for a learners permit at the department of motor vehicles, deputies came to her rescue, removing her from her parent’s custody. That night, she slept for the first time in so long without fear.
In January 2021, Christina entered the foster care system and was sent to a therapeutic foster family home. She was sheltered and removed from the abuse. Her past normal now became absurd as she came to terms with what had been happening. “I couldn’t talk much about me or what my life had been like,” she confides. “It was a very deep, dark time.” She was sent to another foster home in July. The family was kind but it was not working. Life was a struggle.
The next year, Christina was sent to Odum Home in Pembroke. “It was like a switch had been turned on,” says Christina. “I was suddenly with other kids who had gone through bad things, too. The group home was what I needed—I wasn’t alone anymore. I felt comfortable and I began to be happy—a new happy—something I had not experienced before. I finally felt safe.” Living at Odum Home transformed Christina in only months. It was a haven. She became more confident, worked hard succeeding in school, and began to dream of a future. “It’s been a little over a year and I’m a totally different person,” says Christina. “I went from being quiet and feeling alone to feeling hopeful.”
The 18-year-old graduated Early College in June, earning an associate of arts degree. She and Jeanna decided to attend the University of North Carolina at Pembroke together. The freshmen are roommates. The “Saved to Serve” Sunday school class from The Village Baptist Church in Fayetteville organized a party for Christina to equip her dorm and provide for her needs to start college. When Jeanna and the other students go home for the weekend, Christina leaves her dorm on campus and crosses North Odum Street, walking to her cottage at Odum Home. Miss Dee and Miss Sylvia always have a good meal cooking on the stove. There are movie nights with the other girls in the cottage and there are times when the Bible is opened as the cottage moms share devotions.
“Odum Home—the staff here are my family. This is my home.” Christina neither believed nor disbelieved in God before arriving at Odum Home. It was difficult for her to look beyond what she was dealing with every day. It is different now. “I learned God loves me,” says Christina. “God is concerned about me and knows my hurt. Problems are not mine to carry alone.” While attending a youth worship service, Christina gave her heart to God. She turned her life toward God, placing her trust in Him. “I thought being a Christian meant putting the burden on me,” she confides. “But I learned I can leave my past behind. I can give God everything and I do not have to do life by myself.” Christina’s faith has brought healing. She believes God has a plan for her and boldly steps into a bright future with new hope.
You can give help and hope to a youth like Christina: As with all of Baptist Children's Homes' ministries, it takes the generosity of friends like you to help a child at Camp. Make a life-changing gift at bchfamily.org/givenow
Written by Jim Edminson, Editor of Charity & Children