Giles and Lacey Fort, members at the Summit’s North Raleigh campus, have been married for seven years. For the first few years they lived a fairly typical American life. With great careers, a happy marriage, and a cute French bulldog puppy, life was good … for the most part. While they were fairly happy in their careers, Giles says something was missing: “We couldn’t shake the feeling that we were being called away from the ‘normal life’ we were living.”
Sharing a common background of ministering to young people and more specifically to young girls in need of Christian love and guidance, two years ago they felt led to take a leap of faith and become primary house parents at Christian Life Home (CLH). This not-for-profit ministry is a refuge for pregnant girls between the ages of 10 and 23 who need a place to live.
The home offers residents a safe haven, Christian counseling, and the nurturing of house parents like Giles and Lacey. Here they can experience a structured environment and learn life skills that they may not have learned at home. The Forts’ previous training (Lacey is a licensed mother-baby nurse and Giles has a master of divinity degree) had prepared them well to be able to love these girls and speak wisdom into their lives.
Lacey will laughingly tell you that they are definitely out of the “honeymoon” phase of their job and are now down to the nitty-gritty of what it means to love and parent young girls in crisis who had few options to turn to for help.
“Most of the girls have never been taught to take responsibility for their decisions and for the consequences that follow,” Lacey shared. “Many either have uneasy relationships with parents or have been completely cut off from them. As a result, a lot of them struggle with anger and bad attitudes towards anyone in authority over them.”
This reality can lead to confrontations between the girls and their house parents, but Lacey affirms that God in his mercy has taught them to speak the truth in love to these young women.
“We have a very supportive board of directors who rely on fervent prayers, asking God to lead us in making wise decisions in how we handle the day-to-day interactions with the girls,” Lacey said.
Giles and Lacey agree that staying in the Scriptures and maintaining a deep prayer life are the keys to being able to handle their responsibilities. They also take care to keep their own marriage relationship strong in the midst of this high-stress job.
One of the major decisions facing these girls is whether to parent the baby on their own or parent through adoption. A counselor at CLH assists the girls in working through this decision; she also provides postpartum counseling for those who decide to parent through adoption.
Despite the stress, stories like that of Anna* are what keep the Forts going. Anna, a former resident of CLH, was 17 when she arrived. Having been raised in a dysfunctional family and eventually placed in foster care, Anna’s behavior and attitude were a big obstacle in her life, including the fact that she struggled with honesty and other issues, which caused a huge strain on her relationship with her foster mother. When this young woman insisted on parenting the baby she was expecting, her foster mom decided it was time to let Anna live on her own. With the only available Section 8 housing in a rough part of Raleigh and without a car or job or even a high school diploma, Christian Life Home was a better solution for Anna.
While in some cases it seems wise and appropriate for a young, single woman to parent her baby on her own, in Anna’s situation this was not advisable, though she was determined to do this, even as she went into labor. However, the continual crying of a baby, who has Down syndrome, that could not be comforted finally caused Anna to realize it would be impossible for her to care for her child as the primary parent. She called her CLH family that had walked alongside her during her pregnancy and said that she felt she needed to parent through adoption.
An adoption agency recommended two couples who had shown an interest in special needs children. After interviewing both families, Anna made her choice—a couple who had two adopted children already and whose oldest daughter had specifically asked them to adopt a child with Down syndrome that she could help take care of. Anna was certain that she had made the right decision and saw that God had prepared a perfect family as a part of his plan, and she has never looked back.
After signing the papers, Anna went back to CLH for post-adoption counseling. She remained there a further two months and was able to graduate from high school and mend her relationship with her foster mom. Lacey says Anna is doing very well and is learning to make better decisions and taking responsibility for her actions.
At the end of the day, Giles says that stories like Anna’s make it worth putting up with all the stress of his job. He does admit that he would be a hypocrite if he implied that they could fill this role in their own strength. The only way they are able to endure is by practicing a deep, faithful prayer life.
“Having any type of faithful ministry is always a work of the Spirit,” he asserted.
Is God calling you to step out of your “normal” life and reach out to people in our community who are hurting and need the hope of the gospel? Go to summitchurch.com/missions/local to take your next step.
*Name has been changed.
By Elizabeth Ashford