Finding rest for a family in unexpected ways
By Katie Chatham
As I sat down on the couch across from Ralene Challinor, the warmth, loving-kindness, and acceptance this woman carries around with her spilled out into space between us. Little did I know that I would end up spending the next two hours there, listening to the amazing story of how Ralene became a foster and adoptive mom and began her career with Christian Family Care.
Ralene and her family moved to Prescott about three-and-a-half years ago. She and her husband, Andrew, both went to school to become missionaries and dreamt of seeing people’s lives change in a place like West Africa. They planned and prepared for this type of life, but a turn in their road would lead them into the inner city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
This was the next wild curve on what Ralene calls her “wander.”
“I don’t call this a journey because that implies a destination,” Ralene said, adding, “I call it my wonder, because I don’t know what’s next, but I can’t wait to find out.”
As Ralene dug deep into questions around the need in her current community, a friend mentioned that she had been meeting with a single mother from the inner city and helping her out. Ralene wanted to know more. This mom was from the worst neighborhood in the city. And there were other moms that needed help too. Ralene felt called to help, and she met with her friend to learn what she could do for these women in the inner city.
When she heard they were often in need of childcare over the weekend, Ralene said, “Sign me up!”
Not long after that she and Andrew were driving to the center of the ghetto, so-to-speak, of Milwaukee. “Everyone said [they] were crazy,” but they did it anyway.
Ralene and Andrew met with one of these mothers and agreed to babysit her brand-new baby for the weekend. Over the course of the next few months, they would grow close to this family, and through a series of unfortunate events, Ralene and Andrew would end up fostering the three children. The next wild curve led Ralene and Andrew to sell their house and move into “the hood.” They would end up working with the at-risk youth and community development, fostering 13 kids and adopting two.
As her children grew older, and life in the city became more violent, it became apparent to Ralene that it was time to “wander” in a different direction. So, as sad as it was for the family, they took the next turn on their path and wandered here to Prescott.
“I felt like I could breathe here,” Ralene said. “My soul was refreshed – in the desert no less! Prescott is such a special place.”
As Ralene sat in her yard (a rocky yard that resembles an actual desert), she began to think about what was next for her. She started looking for jobs and not coincidentally came across the Community Engagement Coordinator position with Christian Family Care. When she read that Christian Family Care is “determined to create a future where every vulnerable child is loved and nurtured in a Christ-centered family,” she knew this was the job for her!
Shel loves that she can still help kids from hard places. A major part of her job is to connect children with foster and/or forever families. Her job is to make our community aware of the need—and the need is great. There are currently more 150 foster beds needed in Yavapai County alone. The greatest need is for families for 6- 17-year-olds. Ralene holds no-obligation informational meetings on the second Tuesday of every month at Christian Family Care’s offices at 3611 Crossings Dr. in Prescott.
For more information about Christian Family Care visit www.cfcare.org.