Building a House of Hope
Doug and Donna Spencer were charting a course for their life in retirement, and then God presented a different course. The Spencers embraced the new direction, and the ministry to children known as the Aloha House of Hope was born.
The Aloha House of Hope was formed to provide a safe and loving home for children who have been abused, neglected and/or abandoned by their parents or other caregivers.
The Spencers, who currently have six children they have welcomed in, live on the ministry’s main campus, highlighting how it is not an institution but rather a home.
“We adopt any child that becomes available for adoption that comes into our home,” Doug said. “However, some kids do come and go. We’ve had others that have just come for a few months, a few weeks, whatever it might be.”
The main campus includes an approximately 6,000-square-foot house Doug built that can hold up to 20 children at a time.
Located in Prince Edward County, the main campus comprises 195 wooded acres, including a large creek that runs through the property, five miles of walking trails and ponds of seven and two-and-a-half acres that are good for swimming and well-stocked for fishing. A mile down the road is Aloha House of Hope’s second home, which can accommodate 12 children and is located on 95 acres of land, 60 of which are fenced-in pasture. Doug explained the mission statement of the ministry is to provide hope to hurting children through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Spencers came to Virginia and started this ministry in 2015. Prior to that, they lived in a few different places across the U.S.
“I’ve been in Hawaii most of my life,” Doug said. “I grew up there.”
He noted his parents had a construction company there for many years.
Doug and Donna moved around some, living for three years in Idaho before moving to Hickory, North Carolina.
“The Lord took us there to work at a men’s homeless shelter,” Doug said. “And then we went back to Maui because my family asked me to come back and help with the company.”
The Spencers were there for seven years, and then they began preparing for their empty-nest years.
“The last two kids were off in college, getting ready to get out, and we were just kind of looking forward to what God may have in store for us, but like a lot of people, we were kind of looking for something for us to do alone,” Doug said. “So we basically were looking for a place to build a vacation cabin on a lake somewhere.”
A wedding for Doug’s nephew brought the Spencers to Virginia. While in the state, they took note of the state’s beauty and began researching different places where they might build their cabin.
While Donna went to visit some family in Pittsburgh, Doug continued the search.
“I was sitting in a motel, I think in Roanoke, and just looking at properties on the internet, and all of a sudden, the Lord spoke to me through James 1:27,” Doug said. “It says, ‘Pure religion is taking care of the widows and the orphans,’ and it just broke me right there on the spot. I just fell to my knees in repentance because I was being very selfish and self-centered looking for a place for my wife and I.
“And I called my wife up in tears and just said, ‘Listen, the Lord just spoke to me — we need to open up a home for orphans.’ And she was 100% on board, 100%. And so we shifted, immediately, our focus from that point.”
Doug said through a series of events, God led them to the piece of property they are on now.
“I knew the minute I walked on this property that this is where God wanted us to build this home,” he said. “And so that’s what brought us out here from Maui to what I call the Middle of Nowhere, Virginia.”
Doug built the house himself over the course of two-and-a-half years, though he said he is still technically finishing it up.
The main house includes six bedrooms and five-and-a-half bathrooms. There is a two-bedroom apartment above the garage.
The Aloha House of Hope ministry is funded by the Spencers and through donations.
Doug explained the degree to which the ministry is an expression of faith in God.
“We shut down our family construction company,” he said. “We laid off the last 50 employees. I was the final employee to get fired. I fired myself.”
He noted that he and his wife sold everything they had.
“We sold our home, vehicles, you name it,” he said. “Retirement funds were cashed in. Everything was sold to put into this project out here, and so we have no income anymore. We have no retirement funds anymore, and as they say, we are literally ‘all in’ on this ministry.
Aloha House of Hope is a 501(c)(3), nonprofit, and it has started getting some donations.
“We haven’t gone around and asked for donations, but people have started hearing about what we’re doing, and God’s been so faithful just to provide for us,” Doug said. “We don’t know how it’s all going to get paid for. We don’t worry about it, but we think about it. And so we’re just having faith for God to provide the resources, the people to help us, and we’re relying upon God to actually bring the kids in.”
Children did not arrive immediately.
“We had made contact with social services in Prince Edward County, and we went through their foster care training and got certified as foster parents, and we were waiting, and we made several inquiries of children here in Virginia, around the country, that were available for adoption, and nothing ever happened,” Doug said.
Then in fall 2018, a call came in.
“We got a call from Social Services at Lunenburg County saying, ‘We have four kids on an emergency basis, can you take them in?’” Doug recalled. “We prayed about it, and five minutes later, we said, ‘Yes, we will take them.’ And so that was four children from ages 1 to 4 that came out, and those were our first four children that came out.”
The Spencers had those children for about three months, and then they were placed with some relatives.
Doug estimated he and his wife have taken in 12 children so far, but six is the most they have had at any one time.
An open house/dedication for the Aloha House of Hope was held Dec. 5, 2020, by Calvary Chapel Farmville.
“The open house and dedication was something Calvary Chapel (Pastor) Marv Fisher wanted to do, because we are an official ministry of Calvary Chapel,” Doug said.
More than 100 people showed up for the event.
“From that has birthed a whole ministry team of people who are volunteering to help make meals for us, come help us clean the house, come and babysit the kids once or twice a month so we can have a night out and just people willing to help,” Doug said. “We were just blown away.”
Donations have also come in since the open house/dedication, some in monetary form and some in the form of food and supplies.
“We have a gentleman out in California who has actually physically come here twice, when I was building the house, to help,” Doug said, noting the man is the owner of a paving company. “He just called me right before Christmas and said that he is paying to have a half-court basketball court built out here for the kids.”
A volunteer from Calvary Chapel Farmville is also supervising the Aloha House of Hope’s home schooling.
“The kids are enrolled in an accredited online academy back in Florida, which is an actual brick-and-mortar school, but all the classes are recorded on DVDs, and they send them to us,” Doug said. “I built a school room in an upper loft area in the upstairs where they all have their separate study carrels and everything.”
Life at the Aloha House of Hope is a return, in some ways, to a simpler time.
“We don’t have regular TV, cable TV out here at all, and we don’t allow the kids to have cellphones,” Doug said. “There’s no video games. They don’t have unlimited access to the internet. They’re only allowed to get on the internet for a school project, but they’re not allowed just to go and browse and watch YouTube videos — they just don’t do that. The kids we have out here, they never ask if we can do TV.”
The Spencers do have family movie night, however, in which they make homemade pizzas, pop popcorn, eat candy and watch old family friendly Disney or Hallmark movies.
“That’s the highlight of our week,” Doug said. “The kids look forward to it all week.”
But in their free time, the children are largely occupied with outdoor activities, like exploring the woods, swimming and fishing in the pond and riding bikes, or with games they come up with on their own.
“Where else in America do kids get to go out and just be kids anymore and (are) not stuck looking at a phone or computer screen all day?” Doug said. “They can be kids, and this has provided a tremendous source of healing for these kids just to be kids.
“And kids need two things — they need to feel safe, and they need to feel loved.”
Donations to the ministry can be made at www.GiveSendGo.com/GXEB.