My name is Jessica Emfinger. It seems like only yesterday that I was a student at The Pink House. In 2010, I traveled to Ohio from Tennessee. I was pregnant with my daughter, Anna.
The biggest challenge I had before entering the program was I was childish and I didn’t care where I was going in life. I had no sense of responsibility. I am an outgoing person naturally, but I had taken my life to a dangerous extreme. I was making bad choices, experimenting with drugs, and getting into trouble.As far as I could tell, I didn’t have anything positive going for me. I was on the verge of emotionally killing my mother.
Teen Challenge was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I learned valuable life tools. I met amazing people that helped me to become the person that I am today. I learned who God is and because of that, I learned how to love myself. I was greatly impacted by the teachers that I made relationships with while I was in the program. They showed me self-control and patience. They taught me that my relationship with Jesus comes first. I still practice this truth, daily.
What impacted my life the most was the discipline. There was an abundance of “Tough love.” The drive of the determined staff helped me to improve and to get on the right path. I learned new ways to handle difficult situations. I learned how to listen. I learned that having someone there to help you to make the right decisions is a valuable asset. Failure stopped being an option. The overpowering love I received made me love these ladies back and keep them close to my heart, forever. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything, nor would I change my past because I am not defined by it. I don’t have to be ashamed anymore. My relationship with my family is strong. They are proud of me and proud of everything that I am doing. Anna (my daughter) is eight years old and she is a beautiful, smart, and well-behaved little girl. We go to church every Wednesday and Sunday.
My life is different than before. I love life and I am truly happy. I am doing really well. I have a good car that is paid for and my credit is getting better (taking time but getting better). I got my record completely expunged for free (thanks to God and some help from the judge). I got a job as a front desk agent at a hotel and made it all the way to the General Manager. I have been able to travel some over the past six months: a life long dream of mine. I am interested in looking for work doing something like the women do at Teen Challenge, because I want to help others, and with love and patience I believe I can help change someone’s life too.
My name is Kaydee Johns. I am 28 years old and my new life is just beginning. I am the mother of a beautiful daughter, Autumn. Today, I am proud of the mother that I am, even though being a single mom isn’t always easy. I am determined to rise to the daily challenges it brings. I am excited to see all that our future holds. I am grateful for my life and for hers.
Growing up, I felt rejected by others. I spent a lot of time alone and
I began to believe lies about myself. I used to identify and describe myself using words such as “Ugly” and “Fat.” I often felt like an outsider. I struggled with “Fitting in” and I depended on acceptance from others in order to feel happy and safe. It often seemed that other people had the answers I was seeking. So, I followed their way, and I began to change who I was on on the inside and the outside. Gaining attention and acceptance felt good for a while… But soon, lies, anger, and sneaking around had taken over my life. I was defensive and angry about everything. I had a bad attitude and didn’t respect authority. My drug and alcohol use continued and escalated.
After thirteen years of bad decisions, I was in serious legal trouble. I was afraid and I ran. I left my daughter and I was living in my car. A couple of months later, I was arrested. I am grateful for that now.
When I came to Teen Challenge, I had concerns about leaving my daughter, but I was assured that she was safe and cared for by my mother and step-father. I am grateful to them for taking care of her. For the first time, I was able to completely focus, listen, and receive love and instruction from others. I knew my life needed to change, but I wasn’t sure how that was going to happen. I had an idea about God, but I wasn’t sure how that applied to me or how it was going to change my life. I lacked purpose, discipline, and direction.
I began to pray and to participate in the program. Bible study became an important part of my day. I started to experience hope and joy again.
I was given several opportunities during my time at TC to share my story with others (even speaking to teenage girls) and I enjoyed being able to affect the lives of young women. I realized that I didn’t have to be shy about my past or who I am.
Getting up every morning and working in the berry fields helped me to develop a good work ethic, even though it is challenging at times. I learned how to stick it out and that there is value in a daily routine. I developed discipline and I learned to let go of control. It was during one of our special work projects:tree trimming with Mr. Simms, that I realized that I genu- inely enjoy this kind of work. That experience lead me to pursue the job that I have now. I used to think that, “If I needed something I should just take it.” Now, I work to meet our needs and I trust God with the outcomes.
I am a hard worker.
My life is not perfect and neither am I, but I know who I am today. I used to depend on the world for my happiness, but now I have a different foundation that I stand on. Everyday, God opens doors for our future. I work for a tree service & landscape company, and I am considering joining the National Guard. I focus on physical fitness and staying healthy. I am a full time mom who spends a lot of time helping with homework and playing board games. I pray with my daughter, and I know that she knows that she is not alone…she knows that she can do all things through Christ who strengthens her…and so do I.
My name is Shea Madden. I am 24 years old. I grew up in Amelia, Ohio. I have two sons, Carter (2 years) and Bryar (11 months). I entered Teen Challenge Cincinnati in July of 2017.
I was broken.When I came to Teen Challenge, I made the decision to step away from everything I owned to start my life over again. I didn’t realize that the void I was trying to fill needed to be filled with the Lord. I had difficulty letting go and allowing God to guide me. I was the decision maker.
My life before Teen Challenge was miserable. I struggled with severe depression. Doctors would give me medication to help and temporarily, it would. But eventually, I would always fall back into the same patterns: I was depressed and discouraged. I never finished the things I started. I coped with my problems by using drugs. They made me feel happy.At seventeen,I started abusing Heroin. My life was out of control and stayed that way for the next 6 years. I went to six different, inpatient rehabs where they told me; “I was an addict and I would always be one.”
I overdosed many times. As a result of my last overdose, I lost custody of my oldest son. The pain was too much to handle.It was excruciating to not be able to see my son: to not have him in my care. My drug use got even worse. Seeking help, I went into a treatment program for medical detox and I found out that I was pregnant again. Now, I was on Suboxone and I thought I would never be able to stop using. I didn’t want my child to be born addicted to any drugs.
My friend insisted I go to Teen Challenge. I thought it was my last chance. I had already tried every other way to change my life. Everyday, I was still struggling with the decision to use or to not use drugs. God was never a part of the equation for me.
When I came into the program, I went from seeing my son every single day to only seeing him twice in two months. It was hard for me. I didn’t want to stay away from him, but I was making this choice for our future. My mom was done with me and had to protect him from my choices.
In my past, I lacked motivation. So, when I made the choice to do things differently, I started by diving into my studies at Teen Challenge. I learned to how to pray and how to forgive.I forgave myself for all the wrong things I had done in my life. With help and support, I was able to successfully detox off of Suboxone. My son Bryar was born without the weight of addiction and completely drug free. Eventually, I started to see my prayers being answered. It took time, but I knew God was working in my life. As my relationship with my mother healed, I started seeing my son every weekend. Through prayer and small steps of obedience, all of my relationships with family were being restored.
The women that work at Teen Challenge were great examples of who I wanted to be. And upon completion, I got to go home and live with my son. I graduated from the program in February of 2018. I went to live with my mom. I could finally be with Carter. Bryar was born on February 10th, 2018. He was perfectly healthy, and so was I.
Over the last year, I have accomplished a lot of my goals. I regained custody of Carter. I work 30 hours a week at Amazon. I attend Gateway Technical and Community College.
Without Teen Challenge, I know that I wouldn’t have the relationship with God or my family that I have now. I know that I wouldn’t have the ability to be a successful student and parent. I am on my way to getting my college degree and making a better life for us. I am thankful for Teen Challenge Cincinnati and all of the tools they gave me.
My childhood can easily be characterized as normal. I come from a great family that loves me and is invested in my life. I was an active young person and enjoyed sports. I was social and always had plenty of friends. As I transitioned from childhood into early adulthood, I developed a more rebellious spirit. At the age of 20, I began to experiment with opiate pain medications and I became addicted.
For the first couple of years, I thought I was managing my addiction and keeping it a secret from my friends and family. It wasn’t until I got pregnant with my son that I realized that my life had spiraled out of control. I was a full-blown heroin addict at that point. I was abusing drugs on a daily basis and without my notice, 6 years had escaped by. I spent much of that time in and out of jail, rehab, and sober living homes, often being kicked out for breaking one rule or another. I had an authority problem.
One afternoon, after being released from another facility…I prayed for an answer. God must have known: this wasn’t just another meaningless attempt to be “Okay” for a few minutes. He HEARD my cry. Within hours, my parents called and my prayers were answered. I was offered an opportunity. I was invited by my family to go to Teen Challenge.
When I arrived, I was overwhelmed. I was fearful of opiate detox and I was uncertain if I was going to make it through the physical withdrawal. I didn’t sleep much for the first 7 or 8 days, as my mind and body began the difficult healing process. Sticking it out was the best decision I’ve made in my life, even though I tried to give up and leave on more than one occasion. I am grateful for the people who fought for me (and with me) and those who encouraged me to stay.
In the beginning, I struggled a lot. I had control issues. I was a bully to another girl in the house, because I was completely insecure. I had done terrible things to the people who loved me the most and I struggled with my identity because of it. Battling with insecurity was my biggest challenge before TCC. I didn’t know my own value. I hid behind sarcastic humor and a ton of makeup.
Contract studies required me to read books that I never would have read otherwise. These books stirred up so many questions. I began to ask and to seek the Lord for myself. I was pointed to the story of, “The Widow’s Offering.”
“Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything— all she had to live on.” -Mark 12:41-44
I wanted to be a woman willing to give God everything she had. I made a connection, I knew I didn’t have much to offer, but I could offer ALL that I DID have. At that moment, things which never made much sense began to open up to me. I continued to study and to pray. Through my studies, I began to see how God restored relationship with us through personal sacrifice, through His Son. These truths became personal, real and living. I reached back for Jesus… My perspective began to shift.
As an act of love and obedience, I put my heart into my relationship with God. I started to REALLY pray for the wisdom to understand what I was learning: not just so I could understand it, but so I could LIVE it. Nothing has been the same since…
After graduating from Teen Challenge Cincinnati, I go to church and I am growing in my faith. My family is restored. My relationship with Jesus is something that I hold dear to my heart and value. I am married and
together, Brad and I have 4 adorable children. We are raising them in a Christian home and teaching them the Bible. I love my job at the day spa. I volunteer at the Women’s Home and give back what was so freely given to me.
I am forever grateful and thankful to be the woman God always had in mind when He made me. Today, I am no longer the woman that I was: lost and hiding. I am a child of God. I have value. I am no longer a slave
to addiction. I am all in.
Stephanie Wood delivered this story at Women of Excellence Brunch – November 2021
My name is Stephanie. I graduated from Teen Challenge in April of 2017, and I’d like to share my journey with you all in order to show the way God has used Teen Challenge to save my life.
I was raised in church, but came from a broken home abandoned by my father. I felt unloved, unwanted and unlikable. I wasn’t sure of much except that I wasn’t enough.
I had a very painful health condition and was prescribed copious amounts of narcotic pain medicine starting at age 14. When I took them, I didn’t feel any of my insecurities. I felt confident enough to speak to people and believe they wanted to talk to me too. I didn’t feel bothered that I’d been letting men use me so I could feel accepted. I could be the person I really wanted to be.
The cycle continued into my 2s as abusive relationships and more experiences of rejection reinforced my belief that I needed drugs to function and be happy. The hold it had on me was so strong that not even becoming a mother to a beautiful son could break it. In fact, Children’s Services became involved, and I lost custody of my child; the court had deemed me unfit to be a mother. My own mother had to put a restraining order on me because of how violent I’d become when confronted about my addiction. I was homeless and had nothing left. After several failed attempts at recovery through traditional rehabs and 12 step programs, I’d finally become so weary of crying myself to sleep every night unable to bear the pain of being away from my child that I was ready to die. I was too ashamed to turn to God, as I knew I was such a disappointment and burden to him. I cried out to God only to ask him to take my life as I knew that would be best for my son.
God heard me, and He absolutely took my life, but not in the way I’d asked.
Psalm 18:16-19 reads, “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.”
The Pink House was that spacious place for me. When I first arrived, I felt like I was in jail with warmer toilet seats and better food. Of course, I believed Marty was the warden. As time went on,I realized that being ‘stuck’ at Teen Challenge was God’s way of helping me find freedom that could not be confined by bars. I could slow down and not have to worry about when I’d eat again or if I’d have somewhere to sleep. I wasn’t searching for my next fix. I could let the amazing women there love me and lead me with GREAT patience. Most importantly, I could hear God’s voice. I could see evidence of his working in everything. God used my time at the Pink House to expose the lies of self-hatred and condemnation and replace them with truth. I learned that he was not ashamed of nor disappointed in me, but that he was there through all of my mess the whole time. He never turned away from me – he was always there shining upon me, pursuing me, loving me – I’m the one who had turned from him out of shame, the same shame Jesus despised as he moved toward the cross. And because he did, I no longer have to be ashamed. I got to know God and what a good, kind, gracious and loving Father he is to us. He WANTS to be with us and to bless us. I also learned that Marty didn’t expect so much from us because she didn’t think we as students were enough – it was because she KNEW that we were.
I can’t say that life got easier after leaving Teen Challenge; In fact, it got much more difficult. However, because of the foundational relationship I was able to build with Jesus while at the Pink House, I’ve been able to overcome abuse, rejection and abandonment without turning to illicit drugs or to men. I have been far from perfect, but now I run TO God when I’m in trouble, rather than from him. I’ve learned that in the deepest of sorrows, when everything is shaken up, we realize our faith is genuine and we really believe in the One we say we believe in – the Lord shows us that He is unshakable within us. I have partnered with God in walking as the mother he called me to be. He has helped me earn my bachelors degree in Criminal Justice with a 4.0 and without any financial debt. I had been employed by the same court that told me I was unfit to mother my child for 4 years. I now work as a child welfare caseworker for Montgomery County Children’s Services alongside the caseworker who held me accountable when I was at my worst. I have full custody of my son and we live in our own home. We belong to a beautiful community of believers who show us continually what it means to love like Jesus. I praise God for how majestically he has orchestrated our story and I’m still in awe of his goodness and power to save.