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Imagine a place with loving and nurturing - Christian City | News

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Imagine a place with loving and nurturing - Christian City

UNION CITY, Ga. (WXIA) -- In this quiet cul de sac on a sunny day the Cater's front porch is filled with kids. Mom and Dad are in and out, never far away. Twelve year old Nick is one of their boys. So are his two older brothers. Nic adores his parents.

"They're the best parents ever. They're just like -- awesome."

Cheryl and Mike Cater are not Nick's biological parents. They are his mom and Dad at Christian City, a unique place in Union City south Fulton County.

Christian City COO Philip Kouns said, "Christian City is a wonderful complex of both children and senior adults."

Nick and 31 other kids live in the Children's Village, a neighborhood of large homes where up to 8 children live in each house with their mom and dad. The children in the Children's Village have been through a lot before they get here. Some come from parents who can't afford to keep them, some come from drug addicted or alcoholic homes, some have been abused.

Sixteen-year-old Kara said, "I was sexually abused for five years and I never told anybody. And my mom kicked me out because she didn't believe me and I had nowhere else to go and I came here."

Kara has been at Christian City for two years now. She attends a nearby private school, she receives counseling, and most importantly, she is safe from abuse.

"I don't have to worry about that. I can just sleep and not be scared. Once you're here it takes a while for you to realize you're safe to realize you're okay and you can be a kid."

Mike and Cheryl Cater have been at Christian City for 25 years. It is here they raised their own four children, and more than a hundred others. It's their job, but it's also a ministry, a calling they had to answer.

Cheryl and Mike laugh. "A lot of people thought we were crazy, including our parents! Some of these kids before they came here, didn't know where the next meal was coming from, didn't know where they were going to be sleeping that night. We've had kids before that lived in cars, vans, didn't have anything to call their own."

Cheryl and Mike cook and clean for seven boys. There is laundry, school activities, church, therapy, family time. It is hard work, raising children they didn't birth, who come to them damaged, afraid, betrayed by the people who were supposed to love them most.

Nic remembers, "My parents couldn't take care of us so they just dropped us here. I was sad and scared."

That was seven years ago. Today, Nick is a happy kid and part of that has to do with something that sets Christian City apart from just about everywhere else.

Kouns said, "We are a permanent home for many children and you know what, that's a good thing."

The goal is to reunite these children with their parents, but that's not always possible. So they can stay at Christian City with their mom and dad and grow up. There is a 100 percent graduation rate and many kids go on to college and live here until after college. Unlike foster care where acting up can get a child removed from a home, Christian City works through the rough spots, because families don't split up.

Cheryl Cater said, "In a way we have to prove ourselves to them, that we're not going to be like everybody else in their life that has run out on them and dumped on them. "

Being a parent is already a pretty thankless job. Christian City recruits husband and wife teams from around the country whose mission is to love these children unconditionally and to make them realize, "They are loveable. They are worthy. They have value."

The longest house parents have been here 37 years.

Kouns said, "Where they live is where they work and it's more than that. They're people that have a great love and passion for children. You never know what seed you're going to plant that will eventually be fruitful. So you can't stop. It gets in your blood."

Kara is now a straight a student who wants to be either a missionary, motivational speaker, or a nurse.

Here, Dreams are realized, children are healed, faith in adults renewed - faith in God, found.

In the simple words of a little girl, heartbreaking truth.

"It's like the best place I've ever been because they take care of us they don't treat us like mean people."