This story is for any parent who has ever had to watch their prodigal son or daughter languish in a “distant country” — rebellion, abuse, addiction and more. Curt and Deneen Czosnek prayed and prayed for their daughter, Candace. As years passed, sometimes they wondered if God was even listening.
Today, Candace is home and well. Her story—their story—is better than they ever could have asked or imagined. It’s a story of restoration, hope … and new life.
‘A Perfect Place for Candace’
The Czosneks live in Racine, Wis., and had no ties to Rockford. But Deneen has a close friend whose sister worked at the Mission. As Deneen would talk about heartaches involving Candace, her friend told her about the Mission and urged her to contact them. “I called that night and talked to the staff supervisor for literally an hour and a half on the phone,” Deneen says. “She explained everything about the Mission, what they stand for. The different programs and what they do. Everything is through Scripture and I knew that’s what Candace needed—because I knew that her spirit was dead. It needed to be filled again.” “And then at the end of our conversation she prayed with me. And through all of that I felt a tugging that this was definitely a perfect place for Candace.” Deneen and Curt floated the idea to Candace, who filled out an application but never submitted it. “She wasn’t ready,” Deneen says. “I remember the staff member telling me, ‘Deneen, Candace will be here. But it’s going to be when she’s ready.’”
A Brave Moment
That moment would come a year later, in 2022. Candace’s life had reached rock bottom.
“I had nothing and I was broken,” she says. “I realized, Where am I going to go from here? I need to make something of my life. My mom revisited the conversation about the Mission and I was in more of an accepting place.” She filled out the application again, and this time hit “send.” “It was scary,” she says, “because you know you have to commit to something long-term and away from your familiarity. It was nerve-racking, but honestly it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.”
A Warm Welcome
On a Tuesday morning in May, Curt drove Candace two hours to the Mission. “When you drive into Rockford, some areas look a little worn out, tired,” he says. “And then you pull up to the Rescue Mission. It’s like a shining lamp on a hill.” Curt pulled his truck into a parking space on the street in front of the Mission. He and Candace talked for a few minutes, then prayed together. When they went to the door, the staff supervisor was there to meet them. Curt immediately felt at ease. “The first thing she said—I’ll never forget it—was, ‘We’ve been praying all night that you would come this morning. A lot of girls back out at the last minute. We’re so grateful you’re here.’” “I had never heard of this place before all of this, but to be welcomed like that with open arms. … We unloaded the truck, I prayed with Candace again and then I took off toward home. And I felt at peace with everything.” Even though her surroundings were unfamiliar, Candace also quickly realized she was in the right place. “They dealt with substance abuse obviously, but that wasn’t my main issue,” she says. “I struggled with a lot of depression and grief and anxiety. It was cool to be able to work on that stuff as well as some substance abuse I was dealing with. And also be able to work on a relationship with Christ, all in the same place. Somewhere that was safe.”
A Big Surprise
What no one knew yet was that there would be two people coming home in a few months. Two months into her stay, Candace found out she was pregnant. She called her mom. “I was overwhelmed,” Deneen says. “I was questioning God, thinking, What’s happening? She was doing so well. And You’re allowing this. Why? I don’t get it. But when I see it now, I totally get it. She’s a great mom. She has a purpose, and everything just fit in place. God does have a perfect plan.”
“That’s another cool thing about God’s timing,” Candace adds. “If I would have found out I was pregnant before I went to the Mission, I probably wouldn’t have gone. And if I had found out any later it would have been a lot different. I feel like the Mission was the perfect place I was supposed to be to carry out my pregnancy.” Carter was born in December 2022, and immediately became a source of joy not only for Candace, but for everyone at the Mission.
The Czosneks didn’t just have a new grandson who would soon meet his older brother, Cayden. After years of heartache, they were getting their daughter back. Curt and Deneen visited Candace at the Mission a few times over her 10-month stay. Each time, they marveled at her progress.
“We thought, Gosh, she looks healthy,” Curt says. “She looks beautiful. She looks vibrant. She’s speaking positively. Not all at once, but you could see a change in her.” Deneen even heard it over the phone when Candace would call.
“The things that she would talk about—I could tell they were getting into her mind and her spirit, getting deep down about why different things have happened in the past. And that was probably the first time ever that anybody was able to do that with her.” During visits, Curt and Deneen also got to know the staff and the other women in the Life Recovery Program — a group that still feels like family to them. “I don’t think we knew we would be so attached to Rockford Rescue Mission,” Deneen says. “We thought it would be more like, we drop her off and we pick her up in a year, and she’s all better. But it was so much more than that.”
Candace and Carter came home to her parents’ house in April. These past months have been filled with gratitude.
“It’s been really rewarding for me,” Candace says. “Right now, I’m in a season where I’m kind of reaping all the benefits of the work that I have done in the past year at the Mission. I’m really grateful to my family and to the Mission for supporting me the whole time and believing in me.” Curt adds: “It’s such a blessing to have her back home. We know where she is. A lot of times we never knew where she was sleeping or what she was eating. She would come here for food once in a while.” Now Candace has her own little suite in the basement. She’s enjoying being a mom, and she works as a server in a nearby restaurant. “She’s a great mom,” Curt says. “And she’s learning the value of getting a paycheck and saving money. She never really did that before. Her whole perspective on life has changed.” There’s still fallout from those painful years, of course. But they’ve crossed a big bridge.
“I didn’t think I would ever be able to trust her again,” Deneen says. “To believe her after all the years. And God restored that also. I didn’t think that would ever be possible but He showed us that it is.” “Everything happens on God’s time,” Curt says. We’ve been lifting up all our kids in prayer for years and years. Sometimes you just think, I don’t know. But it happens on God’s time. In His timing, Candace found her spot at the Rescue Mission. And she just thrived.”
Last summer, one of the first things Candace did once she was home was to have a child dedication for her two sons, committing them and herself to God. Extended family gathered in the Czosneks’ backyard for a celebration. It was one of those moments when the veil between heaven and earth feels especially thin. Now Candace looks forward to getting baptized. She attends church regularly, and wants to start going to a women’s Bible study. “She’s come a long way,” Curt says.“When I talk to people who ask about Candace,” Deneen says, “the first thing I say is that the Mission’s program is definitely for restoration. She was restored. Her mind and her soul.”