We were a perfectly normal family, by typical standards. My husband and I were professionals, active in our church and community, and involved the lives of our daughters. Our girls were good students, cheerleaders, and competitive dancers. They attended church and youth group and had a healthy circle of friends. We got along well.
Our oldest began experimenting with drugs and alcohol in high school, suddenly thrusting us into an eight-year battle with addiction. Stress and heartache exploded as we went from functional to not, operating in anger, fear, and resentment. Our youngest watched everything spin into chaos and found her control in eating and exercise until she was 75 lbs. and her health was in jeopardy. By the grace of God and the power of prayer, we found the right counseling for our daughters to overcome their addictions. I praise God that they are now healthy, productive, happy, and raising families of their own.
The summer of 2002, with these issues in the past, I heard the still small voice of God say, “I want you to use what you have learned, your time, talents, and resources to help families going through situations similar to yours.” My response? “Who me?? How do I do that?!” With the support of my friends Karen and Carla, we prayed and sought God’s will. He led us to the National House of Hope in Orlando, Florida. When we returned, we began the process of starting House of Hope Minnesota, which became Hope Harbor in the fall of 2015. This organization, under both names, has been a Christian home that is a refuge for teens who need healing and restoration since incorporation in December of 2003, receiving our 501 C (3) in 2004., and becoming licensed by the Minnesota Department of Human Services as a group residential home in 2005.
The ministry received the donation of a home for our use until we were able to purchase it a few years later. We hired and trained staff, and then waited for the Lord to send our residents. They arrived in November 2005, and since then the Lord has sent over 70 other teen girls to us to receive a message of hope, healing, and unconditional love through Jesus Christ. The years since that warm summer day in 2002 have been filled with the generosity of many, faithful prayer warriors, dedicated staff, committed board members, and most of all with God’s tender mercies. We praise God for the blessings He has bestowed upon us and continues to give. We are most thankful for the work He is doing through us in the lives of the girls and families we serve.
Every family that comes through our door hears the gospel as the basis for their reconciliation, and there is no greater duty we can ask for. It is our blessing that God counts us worthy to love, serve, and help the families achieve functionality, parents become equipped, teens choose healing, and to see relationships restored. In the fall of 2015, after 10 years of providing residential service as House of Hope Minnesota, we made the transition to our new name, Hope Harbor. This transition has allowed us to continue to operate in the same capacity to which we've been called on a strictly local level. We look forward to 10 years and more as Hope Harbor!
Claudia Stenson, Founder, Hope Harbor
The vision to expand Hope Harbor into other communities came at an interesting time. Having just undergone big changes in the ministry of a new Executive Director and a transition to a private, individual organization, we thought "Really, Lord? Another home??" Prayerful consideration brought up southeast Minnesota as an ideal location. There, teens from Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin could be served. Hmmm…
Our Executive Director attended a service at a church in Winona while visiting family. Curious if the pastor had any input on the need for Hope Harbor's services in the area, she sent him a quick email to see what he thought. The response from Pastor Brandon of Pleasant Valley Church in February of 2016 was three letters with two punctuation marks: “YES!!”
Cindy and Pastor Brandon met to answer one question, “What do we need to make this happen?” When Brandon heard the answer was a house, his response was, “We have one right here.” Hope Harbor’s expansion into Winona officially began.
The expansion team, led by Founder, former Executive Director, and now Expansion Coordinator Claudia Stenson, got efforts underway. Prayer led every step. Prayer for meetings with individuals in Winona interested in getting involved in the expansion were answered. Prayer about how to share the ministry’s story was answered. Prayer for somone to coordinate the effort on site was answered doubly.
The Advisory Board held their first meeting official meeting on October 25, 2016. Hope Harbor's first fundraising event in Winona was held on November 17, 2016. Nearly $150,000 was raised through personal contacts, events, raffles, and grants in the months thereafter.
Hope Harbor began renting a house owned by Pleasant Valley Church. Huge renovation efforts began, from installing egress windows to converting the garage into office space, remodeling the lower level and much more. The team truly made the house a home where teens can heal.
In August of 2017 we hired Mary Meyer as Site Director and Lael Lemire, working as House Staff in Marshall, relocated back to Winona to head up House Staff duties and help train staff in Winona. In the coming months we hired a teacher, counselor, and full staffing team. Hope Harbor’s Winona location officially opened in mid-October of 2017 and we placed our first resident just one week later! Six months later, four teens have been enrolled in Hope Harbor in Winona. The Lord is doing an awesome work in Winona. Fruit is evident and more is coming. To Him be the glory!
We are excited to announce plans for the opening of a home for boys in the Sioux Falls area. This expansion has been a journey! We have property that has been donated and rezoning approval from Minnehaha County. We are in the process of developing the final “Development Plan” for approval, with collaboration from an engineer, architect, and construction company to finalize this plan.
We will begin a Capital Campaign in May to raise funds to develop the property, build the home and an outbuilding and provide six months of operation expenses. It is our hope and prayer to open our doors for ministry to teen boys and their families in 2019.
The Sioux Falls expansion team includes:
Cody Huisken, Kent and Val Huisken, Don Jacobs, Tony LeMere, Dan Lemme, Cheryl Moe, Jane Newman, Jeff Rodman, Ben Weiner, Carol Woltjer, and Jay Woudstra.