Honoring Cherie McCullah

Almost everyone who met Cherie knew about her vision as it was her driving force. She always spoke excitedly of the one hundred kids and ten homes that she would one day have, of Jeremiah 29:11, and of the dream God had given her while she was in her early twenties. Life’s delays never swayed her and in 2012, after years of serving in other countries and children’s homes, her own dream was transformed into reality when she opened the doors to Residence of Life for six young children in Atenas, Costa Rica. During those early years without government support, Cherie sacrificed everything she had for her kids, choosing to put her own needs aside and go without as any true mother would.

Two years later, Residence of Life moved to the nearby town of Grecia, gained the financial support of child services, and God began to bring much needed help for Cherie. Both missionary and local staff joined the team, Jacsel was adopted by a family in Italy and finally, in the spring of 2016, new kids were added to Casa Casey, filling all ten beds!

Right away, Cherie began the long process to open a second home, all the while God continued drawing a team of people to Grecia. In January of 2018, Residence of Life celebrated the opening of the much awaited Casa Timoteo and the immediate addition of many precious new lives, bringing the total to 20 children practically overnight.

Just one week after the opening of House 2, Cherie went to have a blood test and was diagnosed with cancer, leaving the Residence of Life team stunned. Her parents flew to be with her here in Costa Rica and she returned to the States for treatment in March of 2018. When she went home to be with Jesus on March 7, 2019 after a year long battle with the disease, so many were left with the question why? It’s so difficult to undestand how something like this could happen, especially to someone like Cherie who spent her entire life trying to change the world. While we may not understand God’s reasoning, as a team, we are choosing to trust and believe Cherie’s favorite verse: that God’s plan for Residence of Life always was, and still is, good. During those dark days and months after she left, God whispered to us that He was still in control and that His vision would remain.

The question we’ve received the most is “What now? What will happen with Residence of Life and the kids?”

What many may not realize is that Cherie was in poor health long before she was diagnosed, and that over a period of several years, the Residence of Life team had assumed responsibility for the day to day operations of the home. When Cherie was forced to leave, the remaining financial and legal responsiblities for not only the original home, but the second home and all of the new kids unexpectedly fell in our laps. During those days, we worked 14-18 hour days to keep both homes going and went weeks and even months without a day off. Not only were we trying to cope with what was happening ourselves, we were raising 20 kids, some who had never had structure in their lives and others who were angry and grieving the absence of the only mother they’d ever known.

There were so many days we felt we couldn’t go on, but God always sent us encouragement from the most unlikely sources. When our supervisors with child services told us that they wished they could send all of their kids to us, we knew God was at work despite what we could see and feel. With full support from the Costa Rican government, we pushed on.

Looking back at that tumultous time, we know we only survived because of the grace of God. While we had no idea what was to come, God did and had done the needed work of preparation beforehand, pulling together a team of individuals who not only carried the same vision as Cherie, but whose shared passion is to follow the Lord and lead our kids to Jesus!

In May of 2018, Cherie appointed new leadership and by the end of summer, we began to settle into a rhythm and felt the first gentle waves of a return to normalcy. This isn’t to say that our days are easy: raising children of trauma never is. But we continue to grow as a ministry, grow as a staff and grow in our faith as a family. At the end of the day, though we never envisioned standing in this place without Cherie, we can confidently say that God has been so good to Residence of Life through it all. We will remain forever grateful to God for Cherie’s life and how He used her boldness to birth this ministry and her many sacrifices to clear the way for all the kids who now, and in the future will, call Residence of Life “home”.

E Rodriguez