I bet that got your attention!
Several years ago, our Pastor asked the congregation to prayerfully consider becoming foster parents. Adoption and fostering holds a special place in his heart since his parents became fosters after he left for college. Once we left the service, I asked Barry if we should think about that. He looked at me like I had two heads. I guess that was a “No”. A couple years after that, the Pastor brought it up again. In the car on the way home, I asked Barry. Still, I appeared to be two headed. I guess nothing had changed since the first time. This happened several times over our marriage and each time the answer remained the same. That is until about a month ago.
We were contacted by an organization called Holding Out Help. (www.holdingouthelp.org) HOH is a group who’s focus is to help individuals who are exiting Polygamist communities. For most of you reading this, Polygamy is not something you think about very often. Most of you many not even realize that this multi-spouse culture still exists to the degree that it does in this country.
It is estimated that over 100,000 people in the U.S., mostly fundamentalist Mormons, practice polygamy secretly (and not-so-secretly). The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) is estimated to consist of 6,000 – 8,000 members. A large concentration of these members live in the twin cities of Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah. (This area is referred to as “The Crick”) The average American FLDS polygamist man has 3-4 wives and each wife averages 8-9 children. The culture of abuse and corruption is so prevalent in this area that those who are brave enough to leave do so at great risk to themselves. They leave with nothing and no one to turn to. That is where Holding Out Help comes in! (…and maybe us!)
I cannot give you the children’s names in order to keep them protected. For now I will just say “Boy” or “Girl” but I want to give you as much information as I can about where things stand right now so that you can be praying.
Boy is 16 years old. He left The Crick a little while ago. His father is being punished and has been sent to “repent from afar” by the FLDS church. When that happens, the church reassigns the man’s wives and children to new men. It is an unthinkable practice, but it is happening. When Boy’s family was reassigned, he decided to leave. Boy has only a 4th grade education and is painfully shy. He is alone and in order to make it successfully into adulthood, he is going to need a lot of help and love. Generally speaking, HOH doesn’t place teenage boys into host homes that have small children. The reality is that 80-90% of the kids that live in The Crick are physically and/or sexually abused. The leadership with HOH have spoken to Boy multiple times and they do not believe that this particular child has been abused or that he poses a threat to the Littles. (I should mention that in the years since they have been doing this, HOH has never had an incident of abuse in a host home)
One benefit to coming to live with us would be that we homeschool. Boy does not want to go to public school because of his shyness. That may be the best since there is no way he can perform on a high school level academically or socially. If Boy does comes to live with us, we can assess his knowledge in each subject and just go from there. The idea that this 16 year old would be learning the same things that Conor (10 years old) is learning completely blows my mind!
There is another family that has stepped up and offered to take Boy into their home. They do not have any small children so that is a bonus. They also have a couple of older children that might be an added benefit. Plus, they live further south than we currently do. I’ll explain why that is good in a little bit.
Boy is meeting with the other family tomorrow. He may want to meet us next week. The decision is his to make about where he goes. We are OK with it either way. We are just praying for his well-being.
There is another child, Girl, that might be in need as well. Girl is still in The Crick. She has been in contact with HOH for a while now. She is just trying to get the courage to take that first step into freedom. It could be tonight…it could be next week…it could be never. We are praying that Girl will be kept safe until she decides what is best for her.
So for right now, we pray and wait for a call. Boy or Girl…or another child entirely. There are new placement needs all the time.
In the meantime, there are some changes we will need to start making. The main one being a move further south. Holding Out Help has a fantastic system of resources to help these people start their new life. Mentoring, tutoring, counseling, job-training, clothing, education, etc. It is amazing and all of it is south of Salt Lake City. We are just too far away to utilize all of the things they offer for whomever comes into our home and it wouldn’t be fair to this child not to give them EVERY opportunity to succeed. So, Barry is looking for work in that area and we are researching housing down there. I am NO fan of packing and moving, but I have to be honest, I am kind of excited abut the possibility of this move. We’ve been unable to really grow roots since we’ve been here and maybe this is the reason why. There are a lot of things to do and this will not happen over night, but we are ready to make the effort.
So many opportunities could come from a partnership with Holding Out Help. They are too many and too distant future to write about now but know that we are praying for God’s will in this every step of the way.
There are a couple of things I’d like to point you to if you are interested in learning more about HOH and the kids coming out of The Crick:
20/20 did a special featuring Holding Out Help last January. In fact, we sat on our couch in Florida and watched it. God broke my heart that night. I do not believe it is a coincidence that we watched that special over a year ago. Here is the link to the 20/20 episode:
Also, if you have Netflix, there is a documentary called “Sons of Perdition” that follows the story of several kids just like Boy and Girl. (Warning, there is a bit of bad language) This will give you a great insight into the lives of these poor kids. In fact, some of the guys in the documentary are now “graduates” of HOH and some have their own families and some are in college! If you do not have Netflix, you can download the movie using this link:
We have been so blessed to have a loving family and amazing friends in our lives. Our hearts are now burdened to give that same unconditional love to someone else. Someone who has never known that love.
1 John 3:16-18 ~ “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
PS – A church in Georgia has contacted us and are interested in joining us for a mission trip. The opportunities for them to serve here in UT are so numerous! We are very excited about this possibility and the future mission teams this could lead to. Just one more thing to pray about!!!!