MARTINS FERRY, Ohio (WTRF) — But God, but God.
That’s how Susan Cline describes the arc of her life.
One wounded with self-doubt and emotional pain early on….but one that faith was able to renew and heal.
Through her leadership of New Heart Covenant Christian Center in Martins Ferry, she’s overcome a childhood afflicted by human trafficking—forced exploitation by the neighbors who should have loved her the most.
“I believed I would only have that opportunity, that I was always going to live for someone else’s pleasure or their abuse.”Susan Cline, Pastor, New Heart Covenant Christian Center
Cline was born in a Christian household in southern West Virginia.
She had three brothers, and parents she says loved her more than life itself…but ones she said didn’t have open conversations about uncomfortable topics.
When they moved to Akron, Ohio, their trust in their new community led them to send their only daughter with other families overnight…ones with older children who took advantage of her.
“It became a time of being shared by multiple people. And it was girls and boys and just different things going on that my mom and dad and…I cannot understand the reason why even when as a little girl, I never told them.”Susan Cline, Pastor, New Heart Covenant Christian Center
She says fear of rejection from her parents led her to keep the trafficking to herself…until she was eventually abducted by an adult neighbor.
“I had to be like seven, eight, nine years old. And but I do remember some of the abuse that was going on and the things that he did. And I and I do remember my dad, he became my hero that night and he brought me home.”Susan Cline, Pastor, New Heart Covenant Christian Center
The family returned to West Virginia, but a move back to the mountains couldn’t heal the psychological hurt.
She endured an abusive first marriage before she met her pastor husband, who led her to the words she says finally delivered her freedom.
“The only reason I’m a survivor is because of the grace of God. And I did not have a mentor. I did not have someone listening to my story, but I had God.”Susan Cline, Pastor, New Heart Covenant Christian Center
Now as a grandmother to eight, she’s vowed to break open the closed-off family communication she grew up with.
She made it clear to her own children since they could talk that they could ask her anything.
Cline says with everything they hear at school and from other friends, they have to be both seen and heard.
“They could talk about sex, drugs, rock and roll. I don’t care. We’re going to talk about it…I think you need to have that dinner time of a family as much as possible, even if it’s one day a week, get that dinnertime conversation and really just let them talk.”Susan Cline, Pastor, New Heart Covenant Christian Center
It’s a policy that’s stopped trafficking from continuing its cycle of pain.
And helped 30 years of children in her ministry to grow free from abuse…but for the grace of God.
Tune into WTRF and check WTRF.com for part 2 of Susan Cline’s story on Thursday.