For 15 years (of my 25 years teaching), I taught emotionally handicapped teenagers in the Orange County school system and at a state juvenile detention center. The situation seemed hopeless for teenagers. They would come and go with no solutions to their problems, and repeat their negative behavior. There seemed to be no lasting help for these desperate young people. I, among others, was not allowed to teach life-changing principles based on God’s Word.
During one of my early-morning prayer times, I cried out to God and asked Him what could be done. In His still small voice, He spoke to me and said: “Sara, I want you to start a place and call it House of Hope.” I shared the vision the Lord gave me with a group of close friends and their hearts were touched. This would be our opportunity to teach Christian principles to teenagers, help heal their hurts and, through the power of Jesus Christ, help change the lives of young people and their parents permanently!
We had no money…no house…no facility, but I had a vision and knew God was directing. (Psalm 32:8). One day as I was praying…seeking God about a location…, the name of a lady who owned a Bible bookstore came strongly to my mind, and I felt impressed to call her. So, I called her and asked if she might know of a location for a home we could use for teenagers. She referred me to a couple who was getting ready to sell their property. After seeing the site and talking with the lady, we immediately knew this was to be the future site of House of Hope. She and her husband were asking $117,000, which seemed like a million dollars to us since we had no money! But I had a dream! We shared the vision with the couple and their hearts were touched. They agreed to pray about it. In the meantime, at the suggestion of someone, we wrote a grant to the Edyth Bush Foundation. I had no experience with grant writing, but several of us, once again, asked God for guidance and, after much prayer, submitted a grant request for $95,000 in matching funds. At this point, I had no idea why God told us to ask for $95,000.
After submitting the grant request, a few days later, the property owners called us (not knowing about the amount of the grant request) and said, “We’ve decided to let you have the property for $95,000! Now we knew…and rejoiced…believing we would get the grant. By faith, I said, “Fine, we’ll take it.” They prepared for the closing…still no money! Two weeks before the closing date, I received a letter from the Edyth Bush Foundation, saying, “We are happy to announce that you will receive your request of $95,000!” God is so good; He is never late!
After being a guest on a local TV program, Charley Reese, a nationally syndicated columnist for the Orlando Sentinel, hears about House of Hope. Hearing about the ministry and being impressed with the fact that we take no government funds, Charley asked if he may write an article about House of Hope. The article was scheduled to appear in the Sentinel on May 29, 1985, the same day that President Regan would visit Epcot Center for only three hours for its dedication. We prayed that somehow, in spite of his busy schedule, the President would read the article. Once again, God answered our prayer. The President read it and wrote a letter of congratulations, encouraging the community to get involved in free enterprise. He included a $1,000 check from his personal account! Another God-incident!
The community began to become aware of what we were doing and of the great need for this unique home. Carpenters donated material and labor; plumbers, electricians, painters, repairmen, etc. rallied to God’s calling. One house on the property had a huge hole in the roof. Early one morning, as I arrived at HOH, five men were on top of the house, building a new roof! These men were unknown to us…but known to God!
Our doors to House of Hope in Orlando – now the National House of Hope Affiliate model – opened August 22, 1985. Just exactly what we needed: beds; furniture; appliances; dishes; linens; pots and pans; clothing, etc. came from individuals, organizations, and churches.
Shortly after we moved in, we found that the carpet in one house was full of fleas! An exterminator told us that the rug was infested with fleas and the eggs would be impossible to take care of in one trip; each visit would cost $40.00. There were no funds for this. A friend’s grandchildren walked out of the house with their legs peppered with fleas! And the girls were coming the next day! In desperation, I felt impressed to use my authority as a Christian (Luke 10:19) and went through each room, commanding every flea to leave. The next day, there was not one flea or flea egg in the house! Praise the Lord! We’ll never put the exterminators out of business, yet God knew we had a need.
We needed some office furniture and chairs. One day, as I looked in the yellow pages for office furniture stores, one name seemed to stand out. The next day, while looking at newspaper ads, the same name seemed to leap from the page. I called that number and introduced myself. The lady who answered practically shouted. She had been trying to get in touch with me for two days. She went on to say that, if it had not been for our 24-hour Prayer Hotline, she would not be alive today. If one of our prayer counselors had not prayed with her, she would have committed suicide. Now, she had hope through Jesus Christ. The grateful lady said, “Come down right now and pick out what you need.” She owned a furniture store!
Another lady, who felt led by the Lord to House of Hope, came to volunteer her services to clean and wax the floors. However, she would need a buffer. At that time, we had very few phone calls. At that moment, the phone rang, and a voice on the other end asked if we needed a buffer! What confirmation! One night the girls prayed for a color television. The very next day a stranger delivered a beautiful color television. And the Lord’s blessings continued to flow! The girls loved grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch, and for a while we had no cheese. They decided they had better pray! Two days later a 50 lb. hoop of cheese arrived at the door!
On October 28, 1985, our part-time bookkeeper let me know that it was time to pay the bills, “We owe $6,000 in bills, and we only have $5,700.” We agreed together in prayer (Matthew 18:19) and believed that God would touch someone’s heart to give. Two days later, a letter arrived from someone in New York. You guessed it! There was a check for $300.00! From fleas to finances, God cares about the hurting teenagers at House of Hope!
HOH began with two little houses on three acres of land. We felt the Lord was wanting us to have boys. At the same time I learned that the state was taking our property to use as a retention pond when they widened Highway Interstate 4. I wrote a letter to the state asking for early access. In the mean time we looked for a location that would accommodate boys and girls. About a mile away from our location we found a 10-acre gated place that had only one house and the land was filled with orange and grapefruit trees. The lady answered the door saying, “I know you! You spoke at our little Baptist church.” After visiting a while, I asked, if they ever sold their property if they would give us first refusal. She said, “We are old and can no longer pick the fruit. If you’ll find us a home in Tangerine, Florida, we’ll sell this property to you.” And guess what? Within two weeks we found them a home in Tangerine, Florida. And the next miracle happened, because the state paid us two million dollars which built our present campus of 14 buildings on a 10-acre peninsula. And by the way, they paid us the money in 1994; however, the construction on Interstate 4 began in 2019. (We were the only property that got early access, praise the Lord!!!)
House of Hope Orlando, the National model, has the capacity for 30 resident teens – 12 boys and 18 girls. We want each teen to receive the individual attention they may have never received and to experience the home atmosphere they so desperately need.
Designed to be an anchor for hurting teenagers drifting in troubled waters, House of Hope provides an atmosphere of love…Christian love…through Christian counseling and intervention techniques to reconcile and restore the family. This ministry has a ripple effect. Not only are the teenagers’ lives changed, but also the lives of their families, friends, and everyone they meet are touched.
At House of Hope, we minister to the body, soul, and spirit. We have a fully equipped gymnasium with exercise equipment. Our on-campus school, Hope Academy, is situated in the National House of Hope Educational Arts Building. Hope Academy uses the A.C.E. (Accelerated Christian Education) curriculum, offering middle and high school courses. The residents work according to grade level placements. They have the opportunity to make up missed grade levels and courses. A.C.E. is a Christian alternative program to public school education.
The number of teenagers across America who desperately need a facility staggers the imagination. In 2001, National House of Hope was formed to meet this need and see other Houses of Hope spring up across the nation. NHOH holds training seminars, conferences and workshops to train others how to start a House of Hope in their community as well as for equipping and training parents and youth leaders. Since 2002, there are over 15 youth residential homes open across America… all of whom were trained by National House of Hope. We believe that, in the future, there will be a House of Hope within driving distance of every major city in the U.S.
The goal of National House of Hope is to prevent hundreds of broken young people from being destroyed on the streets in communities across America. We want to protect them from the drug-altered, child-abusing, sex-for-sale society where children are being exploited, facing horrors, and experiencing defeat. Social agencies and institutions try to help teenagers, yet young people continue to desperately yearn for love and a sense of being wanted. There’s no lasting help when Jesus Christ cannot be shared. Streets and institutions don’t “tuck them in” at night, but we do at House of Hope. What a privilege that God counted us worthy to love, to serve, and to help hurting teenagers, most of whom tell us they would not be alive today, had it not been for House of Hope!
Both National House of Hope and every House of Hope are faith ministries, totally dependent upon the support of local businesses, corporations, churches, and caring individuals who have a heart for helping hurting teenagers.
Sir Edmund Burke, noted Statesman, once said: “A sure way for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” House of Hope is doing something. We are changing lives…the lives of our young people, our most precious natural resource and America’s future.