LifeHouse is a Christian residential facility providing care, counseling and support for young women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy.
I came to LifeHouse Houston in August of 2006. I was 19 years old, four months pregnant, two credits short of a high school diploma, and homeless.
When I became pregnant by my boyfriend, I was given an ultimatum by the mother of the friend with whom I was living: I could continue to live with them only if I had an abortion. I thought long and hard. While living in Africa as a child, I had been the victim of a botched female circumcision and had been told that I would never be able to have children. In spite of the difficult circumstances, I saw my pregnancy as a blessing and realized that I could not deny my baby life.
I had a bubbly personality and, in a quiet manner, was a natural leader at LifeHouse. However, I had grown up eating fast food and using paper plates, and, at 19, did not know how to cook, wash dishes, or use a dishwasher. I didn’t like the point system and didn’t understand why they had so many rules. At the same time, I felt motivated to learn as much as I could. I grew in confidence as I learned to complete household chores. Not only did I collect a notebook full of recipes that I learned to prepare, I found that cooking was fun!
I entered LifeHouse having never had a real family, but I found people who believed in me and showed me what family could be.
Setting and fulfilling goals had been a problem for me. I failed to graduate the previous year because I lacked just two credits. I enrolled at Tegeler Career Center and finished in under two months. This represented a major milestone in my life, proving for the first time that I could complete something I set out to do.
Lastly, but most importantly, I accepted Christ while at LifeHouse. During devotions at night, I listened intently to every word the houseparents said and asked many questions later. One night in September, I accepted Christ and on October 1, 2006 I was baptized after church by one of the housefathers.
On January 9, 2007 at 6:00 PM, I gave birth to a six pound, one ounce baby boy named Julius Jeremiah Allen-Copeland (pictured).
After seeing how determined I was to care for my child independently, the birth-father’s family has become interested in helping us. With their financial assistance, the money I have saved, and scholarships, I plan to begin classes at Alvin Community College in September 2009 to work on a degree in Project Management.
I entered LifeHouse having never had a real family, but I found people who believed in me and showed me what family could be. It is a lesson I am passing on daily to my son. He is the focus of my goals and ambitions. I want him to have high standards and no excuses to be a good husband and a Christian man.
I was raised in a blessed environment. My mother and father imparted all the wisdom they owned in order to help me succeed in life as a Christian, a woman, a wife and a mother. My father passed away suddenly when I was twelve, and we moved from Dallas to Houston when my mother remarried a widower here. I attended Memorial High School and was a lifeguard at the local YMCA. At the YMCA I met a much older man and began dating him without the knowledge of my mother or stepfather. I had just turned seventeen and had very little experience with dating. When my parents discovered that I was seeing someone much older, they forbid me from seeing him anymore and grounded me indefinitely. The damage had been done, however, and a pregnancy test showed positive in January of 2001, the second semester of my senior year.
After graduation in May, I came to live with the girls at LifeHouse. Samantha and Mack had just begun their stint as the houseparents, and there were four girls other than me that first week. The LifeHouse life was rather different than the one I was used to. A rigorous schedule and close observation made me feel a little confined, and the discomforts of pregnancy were made more obvious in an unfamiliar home. I missed my family and friends, but I did not find myself wallowing in depression. I began to enjoy meals and outings, and respite weekends with new families. I made friends with girls who came from what seemed to me like entirely foreign backgrounds.
LifeHouse gave me perspective and knowledge.
In January I had made the decision to place my baby for adoption. Although this may sound heartless or cruel, I felt as though the decision to place was a very easy one. I believed, and still do believe, that it was the best and only thing I could do for my child. My parents would have supported me if I chose to raise the child on my own, but my baby could only have a half life without a loving father and a whole family unit. I knew the perfect parents existed already, as part of the Divine Plan, who would take Anna and give her love equal to what I could have shared, but opportunities I could never provide.
It has been almost eight years since I left LifeHouse and gave Anna to Cindy and Jim. Three years later I met an incredible man and we became friends. After a year of friendship Alan and I realized that the Universe wouldn’t offer this opportunity twice, and we got married. I am one year away from completing a degree in Biology at the University of St. Thomas. LifeHouse and Anna aren’t far from my everyday thoughts.
My experience of an unplanned pregnancy went about as well as one could hope given the circumstance. LifeHouse made me realize that not everyone lives the way my family lives, in relative peace and happiness. Not everyone has the education and support that were and are still offered me. LifeHouse gave me perspective and knowledge.
I want to thank the LifeHouse family for being an integral part of my journey and development.
My parents divorced when I was four and when I was nine my mother died from breast cancer. My sister and I were separated, and I went to live with an aunt that did not allow any tears of grief over my mothers’ death. After a few months I went to live with my father, a violent alcoholic who I barely knew. At the age of 16, after enduring years of both physical and emotional abuse, I felt so alone and worthless that I attempted suicide. At 17 I decided to leave home. I was a rebellious, immature and irresponsible young woman. I dabble in every spiteful behavior and desperately searched for love. I searched in all of the wrong places and at 18 I was faced with a crisis pregnancy.
After saying no to the pressures of having an abortion, and being completely disowned by my father because of my son’s race, I was completely alone and VERY afraid. I was homeless, jobless, and barely surviving on charity when through an amazing chain of events I was brought to Lifehouse. The minute I walked into the house I felt a sense of warmth and security I had longed for. I moved into the house in the spring of 1993. It was not easy adjusting to the rules and routine of the house but it was worth it. The staff and volunteers had greeted me with open arms and offered me something I’d never had before…unconditional love. They went on to tell me that I could experience that kind of love for an eternity, and all I had to do was accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. That is exactly what I did and on Easter Sunday 1993 I was baptized.
The minute I walked into the house I felt a sense of warmth and security I had longed for.
It was after this that I truly started to benefit from the numerous programs offered at Lifehouse. The parenting classes helped me look realistically at what being a mother would entail and made me aware of all of my options. The financial classes helped me set up a budget, and the chastity classes helped me regain my self worth and taught me to respect my body. It was the counseling that I think I benefited the most from. I had a lot of healing to do and the counselor helped set me on my path to recovery. While focused on my growth time quickly flew by and on September 2, 1993 my son was born.
When I left Lifehouse I tried to do the right thing by marrying my sons’ father. I wish I could say that we were living happily ever after but that is not the case. In the spring of 1997, after putting up with years of my husbands’ unfaithfulness, my life spiraled out of control. It had been almost 4 years since my stay at Lifehouse, but for some reason I chose to call Pat and Beth Flinn who were the houseparents during my stay there. The first thing they said was “come to church with us this Sunday.” They were offering me the same unconditional love that they had so many years earlier. I was quickly discovering that once you are apart of the Lifehouse family, you are always a part of the family. I was even allowed to receive additional counseling to help me heal from my divorce and refresh my mind of the skills I had obtained at Lifehouse. After accepting God’s grace, I took these skills and applied them to every aspect of my life. Because of this there has been a phenomenal transformation in me.
Today I am 27 years old and have established a good home for my son, one that is standing on a firm spiritual foundation. I am a full time college student and will graduate with my Associates degree in May. I have been offered a full scholarship because of my 4.0 GPA and will transfer in the fall to in pursuit of my BA in education. I also work two jobs to support my household. I am a nanny for 4 children and I work part time for the Flinns. My son Christopher is eight now and is in the second grade at T.H.Rogers School of Excellence. He likes soccer and football and is one step away from his black belt in Tae Kwon Do. I know that I might have been capable of raising Chris on my own, but I believe without a doubt that I would not have been able to offer him a full and rewarding life had God not blessed me with my experience at Lifehouse.
The legacy of Lifehouse does not just end with me though. God uses my life to help others. For example, through prayer, willpower, and just plain hard work I have been able to overcome a lifelong weight problem. I am a witness to others who struggle with weight loss. After having lost almost 170 pounds, I suppose you could say I have become half the woman I used to be and twice the woman I used to be at the same time. Also, I was recently reunited with my father and he was so impressed with my inner and outer transformations that he too received Christ as his Lord and savior. We see each other regularly now and we are working to rebuild our relationship. The neatest thing is that my father not only accepts his grandson, but he simply adores him.
I hope that you can see how worthwhile this ministry is. God uses Lifehouse as an instrument in saving young women like myself.