A place for healing

Published 7:32 am Wednesday, January 17, 2007

By By ANDY HAMILTON / Niles Daily Star
NILES – There is a place in Berrien Springs where women and teens can heal from life's challenges.
The New Choices House, which is operated by the non-profit group Choices International, opened in March 2005 and offers a safe haven for those who have been a part of mentally or physically abusive relationships, or who have been exposed to traumatic experiences and need time and support to heal. Traditional methods of therapy are not used, rather Choices International Founder Penny Turner uses a faith-based approach to help victims heal and restore confidence in God.
"I discuss people's lives with them form God's perspective. I live here because our board recognizes the need of 24-seven service," Turner said. "Sometimes when people have gone through pain it takes a lot … to recognize it's not true" what people say in an abusive relationship.
Turner has no counseling or therapy experience, but she does not claim to attempt to treat people in such "traditional ways." Instead, Turner said she uses the Bible and her own experiences as a victim of an abusive relationship to help women and teens heal.
Traditional methods of healing did not help her as much as faith, Turner said, and so she decided she could offer support to others that had similar experiences. It's not uncommon, she added, for her to say to someone she's talking with, "I know what you mean because I went through something like that."
Support is offered in one-on-one situations or through group retreats involving people with the similar experiences, "so the women know whoever is here has been through that," Turner said.
Helping Turner is Raj Massey, who joined Choices International in November 2006 as a development consultant. Massey, who has survived personal battles with substance abuse, said he came in contact with Turner in the process of returning to the church.
"I never thought I'd be here … and you know I just realized it's ok to talk about Christ," Massey said. "I'm not a holy roller by any means. But my ability to talk to Christ is most important to me."
The New Choices House is not connected to any specific denomination and services are offered to anyone regardless of faith. But, Turner said she cannot house people struggling with alcohol or drug addictions because there are other people and agencies more qualified and prepared to do so.
Those who do spend time at The New Choices House can rest in one of the six beds located in two decorated bedrooms. Sitting areas and a large kitchen in other areas of the house provide settings for healing conversation, and The New Choices House address is always kept secret for the protection and comfort of its residents, Turner said.
"They have to feel safe," she added.
The New Choices House is open to individuals and groups in the form of retreats. Turner will speak about abuse and its spiritual effects and how to heal from the experiences through God, and she also offers individuals to talk via telephone or email.
"It's just so much fun to give people something they haven't had before that makes them feel comfortable," Turner said.
Choices International and The New Choices House are donation-based. To support the organization and home visit the Web site www.NewChoices.org.