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Life has truly kept us incredibly busy. It amazes me that summer is almost gone even though it seems like it just began! The Lord has been doing so many amazing things around and through us that all we can do is praise Him! When I wonder how on earth we are going to manage I am reminded, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight” Proverbs 3:5,6.
My mom, husband & I began planning activities, with encouragement via email, facebook messages & phone calls from “Shanna”, early in 2013 to raise awareness of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA). We prayed at the same time that God would move in hearts and bring people to us who had the same strong desire to protect children. In March we hosted an Easter Egg Hunt at our home Church, Valley Church of Christ in Burton, MI and gave out one of our books, WHO SHOULD I TRUST? for free to each family that participated. In April we hosted Family Fun Day also at our Church in participation with The Innocence Revolution. We had professional face painting by Kim’s Fun Faces, a bounce house, indoor games, popcorn and cotton candy. We gave away our books for again to each participating family, and Officer Joe, who came all the way from Roseville, did free finger printing! One mom even had her baby’s footprints done! We are so thankful for all the volunteers who helped at each of our first two events!
The spring and summer months were very busy months for us. We decided to grow a Friendship Garden for the hungry, donating the food to members of our Church and to Carriage Town Ministries. With all the rain the veggie plants grew very well, but so did the weeds! We were very thankful for the small handful of Church members who were able to help out, and Flintopia, who did a lot of weeding, transplanting, and feeding many of the weeds to our goats in mid July. Between gardening, milking/feeding/caring for goats and raising chickens, and regular family life, we also formed a Board of Directors. The Lord brought us Laurie, our Vice President with background experience in starting Non Profits, and Linda, our Treasurer who is also a CPA. 🙂 Laurie did a beautiful job putting together our website!
When we first started with the desire to help protect children, the name we came up with was Treasuring Children and Family Relationships (TCFR). It turned out that another company already owns the acronym for their business website, so we had to come up with another name. In discussing and listing our goals for our Non Profit, we came up with: P for PREVENT CSA, E for EDUCATE survivors and all who will listen, A for ADVOCATE, R for RESTORE, L for LOVE, and S for SUPPORT. How fitting that these words spelled P.E.A.R.L.S.! A precious stone made through pain, irritation, hard work and time. Our children are priceless, more precious than pearls, and even more deserving of our protection and love.
With fall comes school and opportunity for us as parents to watch out for the safety of all children around us and TEACH others how to protect them. We will be spending September preparing for our next event: our Lapeer P.E.AR.L.S. First Annual Fall Fundraiser & Kick-Off on October 12 from 1-4pm. We will have Kim’s Fun Faces again for free face painting and a bounce house as well. We have plenty of opportunities for volunteers: baking apple pies, donating ice cream, apple cider & donuts, acquiring nice items for the silent auction, and serving during the event: serving the food, making popcorn, operating the silent auction, supervising children at the bounce house and playground, etc. We are planning on having two or three speakers to give a very brief, child-friendly talk about what we are doing in Lapeer County and the surrounding area, and why. In between speakers we hope to have live entertainment to help keep the environment light and easy. We would love for you to come and help us celebrate and stand up against CSA! If you are able to volunteer your time, food, or money to help with expenses, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 248-808-1188 asap.
October 4th Scott and I will be attending a Facilitator Training for the Stewards of Children class, by Darkness to Light. This will enable us to teach the Stewards class to parents and individuals who are responsible for the care of children. Our plan is to hold at least one class per month, with the opportunity to schedule additional classes at schools or churches provided there is a minimum of 10 people in attendance.
Other things in the works are bi-weekly Support Groups for Caregivers of child survivors, for adult survivors, and monthly dinners for survivors and family members. We will post the dates, times and locations for everyone on facebook as soon as we have them finalized.
There are many ways that you can be involved with Lapeer P.E.A.R.L.S.; praying for adult and child CSA survivors, praying for caregivers of CSA survivors, praying for us as we provide support and move in the direction the Lord directs us, taking classes to learn how to protect children or to respond to a child who discloses abuse, attending support groups, attending dinners, volunteering your time & expertise, providing food or donations for events, supporting us financially, and more. Please let us know how you would like to be involved by emailing us at email@example.com or calling 248-808-1188.
Parting thought: We know the topic of sexual abuse is extremely difficult to talk about, let alone even think about. When the Lord first began tugging on my heart to rise up and talk, it was harder for me than you can imagine. I am normally a very quiet person, non-confrontational, and easy going. It has been a habit for me over the years to push my feelings deep down and not “be a burden” to anyone. However, the reality of my own past abuse would not stay hidden and I discovered that God could use those experiences in my life to be understanding and helpful to others in whatever way He chooses. Each morning, for about a month, I would wake up with Josh Wilson’s song, I Refuse, playing in my head. Every time I got discouraged and thought no one cared and I should quit, that song would play again, and it continues to play in my heart today. We can’t do this monumental task of protecting children and educating people on our own, but we trust that the Lord will continue to provide whatever and whoever we need as He has already been consistently doing.
Everyone has their own special part in God’s Kingdom. I hope you will listen and do whatever God places on your heart as well.
“…With God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26
God bless you,
It is so very important that our children know without a doubt that we love them no matter how they look or what they do. They need to be able to trust us enough to tell us how they feel in different situations, and even things that they might be ashamed to tell us. Did you know that an estimated 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually victimized before their 18th birthday? Only 1 in 10 will ever tell anyone about the abuse they endured. Why is that?
I don’t claim to know all the answers but I can tell you why I didn’t tell anyone about my own abuse until recently. The subject of sex was embarrassing and “taboo” when I was growing up. It wasn’t something our family talked about except for statements like, “don’t even hold hands with a boy because…I was a boy once and I know!” or “don’t ever let a boy be fresh.” I don’t blame them for the way they taught me -my parents were probably taught the same way when they were growing up! Unfortunately though, when sexual abuse occurred, instead of getting help, the victims in our family felt shame and guilt, as if it were their own fault that they were abused. And because they didn’t talk about it and find the help they needed, the guilt carried on and caused low self esteem and many other emotional issues.
This guilt and shame will never end without a deep faith in Jesus Christ and His forgiveness. The abuse will continue to cycle through the generations without alot of prayer and communication. My husband and I are determined to stop that cycle of abuse and pain in our own family through the blood of Jesus. He and I attended a marriage class a year ago in which I acknowledged the abuse I endured and had hidden deep in my heart. It was very difficult to express my experiences to him, and to pray for each person involved, but it was very freeing to be able to forgive them as well. I don’t have to be held captive by the feelings of guilt and negative thoughts that Satan tried to use against me for practically my whole life. Jesus’ blood covered it all when He died for me (and every person ever born) on the cross. He rose again, defeating death once and for all, and is preparing a place for us to be with him for eternity where there will be no more abuse, pain, sorrow, guilt, shame, or sadness.
We determined when our children were little that we would talk to them about their bodies. We were a little paranoid, probably, but Scott having had an abundance of freedom as a child, and I hiding past abuse, wanted to make sure our kids were safe. I had a dream when our daughter was only 3 that, I believe, was inspired by God because when I woke up at 5am, an entire manuscript was in my head and I frantically wrote it out as fast as I could before it disappeared. That manuscript (at the time we called “Who is a Stranger”) became a tool we used to talk to our children about how special and important they are to us, as well as to be aware of strangers and keeping their bodies private. I made a copy for each of our kids and we all cut and pasted magazine clippings and colored and talked. The mistake I made was trying to fit too much information in all at once, and they soon didn’t want to look at their books anymore. The good thing, though, is that the door had been opened for communication. Even at ages 11, 16 and 17 1/2 our kids continue to talk to us. The best talks are when we have one-on-one time AWAY from home, even if it’s just sitting in the car outside Dairy Queen with our treats so we can communicate without interruptions.
As time went on, Scott helped me edit the book, change the name to “Who Should I Trust?”, and we attempted to find agents and/or publishers. The first agent we contacted turned out to be a fraud who ended up in jail! After that we received rejections or no reply at all. It was my nature to feel discouraged, but now I believe that it was not the right time yet. I think that God had a lot more work to do in me before He could use my negative experiences to be a blessing to others.
So, here we are approximately 9 years later and “Who Should I Trust?” is actually on the market, available to anyone practically anywhere. It’s really almost unbelievable how quickly it all seemed to come together just these past 3 months. Xulon zipped through the editing, designing the front and back cover and whooshed it to the printer, and voila!! Here it is! We are excited to see our book in print and pray that it is a blessing to help parents and children to grow deeper bonds with each other, to help prevent children from being abused or abducted, and even to comfort and give hope to people who have been abused. On top of that, we have promised Christian Family Services 50% of the profits from the sales of this book. These funds will help Christian families to adopt newborn babies who may otherwise be aborted or put into foster care. Lord willing, we will be one of those families soon!
I hope you were blessed by reading this blog, and that you will pass that blessing on to others who may need it. You can find “Who Should I Trust?” on Amazon, Xulon Press, Barnes & Noble, Google, and our website: here.
God be with you!
To go back to our website click on www.sonsetgardens.com .
18 About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”
2 Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. 3 Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. 4 So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.
5 “And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf[a] is welcoming me. 6 But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.
7 “What sorrow awaits the world, because it tempts people to sin. Temptations are inevitable, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting. 8 So if your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand or one foot than to be thrown into eternal fire with both of your hands and feet. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.[b]
10 “Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father.
Our Calling, in keeping with these verses, is to raise awareness of the far-reaching negative effects of child sexual abuse. In so doing we hope to significantly reduce the number of children who are abused and to give hope to victims – We believe that with the help of God we can be more than survivors; we are CONQUERORS that break the cycle of abuse, raising up children who are strong leaders of integrity, compassion and unconditional love to begin the cycle of healthy families.
To share the love of Christ as we help prevent child sexual abuse and provide a safe, healing environment for the abused through:
-raising awareness of the epidemic of and damage caused by child sexual abuse
-providing free copies of Who Should I Trust? to parents/caregivers
-teaching “Stewards of Children”, a class developed by Darkness to Light, to individuals or organizations responsible for the care of children
-praying for those abused and those affected by abuse
-Christian counseling, support-groups and meals
-providing a safe place at Sonset Gardens, our Headquarters, for children to play, parents to meet, and spend quality time together
-family fun days
If you or someone you know needs help, or if your heart is calling you to serve in this ministry through prayer, encouragement, fund raising, volunteering, or financial support, please contact us.