Home to grace pregnant teenagers
2003. WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND. When Treena and Marcus van Rijssel purchased a house in Wellington last year for the purpose of housing and supporting pregnant teenagers, two pregnant girls approached them to use the facilities which were not furnished or decorated. One of those girls has gone on to appear on Kids – a TV 2 documentary about teenage mums.
Treena says the young woman is now educating herself about parenthood and wants to open a café.
Born out of the loss of their three-month old daughter the House of Grace is beginning the process of interviewing applicants who want to stay at this home for pregnant teenagers. Run by Christians, the trust was officially opened this August by United Future leader the Hon Peter Dunne and is supported financially by Treena and Marcus, The Rock church, automatic payments, and grants.
It is the van Rijssel’s own story that spawned House of Grace. Treena says they had gone through years of trying to get pregnant and when they found out that their three-month old daughter was going to die they started to trust God more they ever before.
“We had gotten to know our daughter for three months and we felt God had put her in our life for a reason. We realised that we were here to serve God and others and to be a witness to disciple people into the kingdom of God.”
Treena says God gave them the vision to open the home. After their first child’s death they were on their knees before God and “He gave us a vision” for the House of Grace.
“We had been living a life where we were quite complacent in our faith, and with what happened to our daughter we thought we wanted to serve God completely, not just on Sunday.”
Treena explains that pregnant teenagers have brokenness and heartache. “It’s a time in their life when they are actually really confused, and they are forced to make decisions they don’t want to make.”
The van Rijssel’s will provide them with the information to make a informed decision. “We are offering an alternative to abortion,” she says. The choices a pregnant teenager will make at the home will be to parent the child herself or adopt out. When they come and stay at the House of Grace, Treena says, they have usually gone through the decision to abort or not.
What is on offer, Treena explains, is a safe environment, a home that is functional where people love and respect each other and that they can be nurtured and taught how to run a household and how to parent.
“Pregnancy can happen to any teenager whether they are Christian or non-Christian. I’ve seen it happen to teens that have loving parents and to those that don’t have parents, and I’ve seen it happen to teenagers that just want love.”
The House of Grace will provide group counselling and opportunity to develop friendships. “Even if you are in a stable family environment it is sometimes necessary that you can come out of that environment and be with those that are going through similar type of circumstances.
“The teenage years can be quite a confusing time where you want to be an adult and quite often you don’t have the right to be an adult because you haven’t quite grown up. I think as a teenager you listen to more what is happening to other teens. Teenagers need the support of their peers.”
The van Rijssels claim the scripture from Jeremiah 29:11 for every girl that they are involved with: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” The ideal situation for a girl is that she leaves House of Grace desiring to be the best mum she can be and that she has lives in a completely supported environment.
“For each girl that comes through they will be affirmed in that God loves her and God has plans for her good and not for evil and good things will come out of this child that they carry, which hasn’t been planned.”
By Peter Veugelaers.
Published 2003, Challenge Weekly