Thursday, March 16, 2006

Outreach in the Real World?

I have been debating with myself about whether to write this post or not. I realize that my blog often is somewhat cold, somewhat aloof and not very personal. Probably because while I don't consider myself as cold, I am somewhat aloof and reserved except with very close family and friends in my life. I suppose God chose to make me that way, chose to put me in the situations in my life that I have been in to groom me that way, has a purpose for me being me. I must say, though, I am just not as emotionally connected as most women. I don't cry at the drop of a hat like some of my friends and often don't get the "warm and fuzzies" about the same things many of them get the "warm and fuzzies" about. I am who I am, I just don't know how to become someone other than that. I wonder, at times, if it has something to do with raising two step-sons who were typical boys. Anyway, I have decided to try to blog about this latest disconcerting episode in my life even though it is so immensely personally and I almost hate to give it enough credence to even blog about it. The reason I have chosen to do so is to point out that church just isn't perfect.

First of all, I have commented on my previous church at some other people's blogs but never written about it here. My husband and I were members there for just a couple of months shy of eight years.

We worked in the children's ministry. We worked in Children's Church, Royal Ambassadors and Vacation Bible School. We loved that work, but in retrospect I realize I could have done a better job in serving Christ than I did there. I could have taken more initiative. I could have promoted more events outside of the normal structured times and I had good intentions, I just never got around to doing it.

We served under an elderly pastor who the Deacons of our church tried to force out without a vote from the congregation. It is my humble feeling that the pastor's authority was undermined for at least two years prior to this effort to oust him. Without going into too much detail, there was an eventual vote and the majority of the congregation wanted the pastor to stay. Due to the extreme stress of the situation, however, the pastor ended up resigning. The stress was having an adverse effect on the pastor's and his wife's health. My husband and I were visiting family out of state when the pastor resigned and we never returned to the church.

I understand that many members in that church believe that anyone who left the church, because of what happened there, left because they were "following the pastor" rather than God. That is not the reason we left. We left because of the unloving nature and sheer evil intent, in my opinion, of many of the members there, Deacons included. We left because of the impatience of people in wanting to hurry into the future of our church rather than wait for God's timing. It is my belief that if all would have just relaxed that this pastor, who had faithfully served the church there for over fifteen years, would have retired as God's will became apparent to him. Instead he was run out of the church and the church was splintered due to the impatience of some members and Deacons. I do not believe that it would have been God's will for him to leave under the circumstances in which he left. This situation was an eye-opener for myself and my husband. We did not expect that our brothers and sisters in Christ at that church could be so venomous, could scream and shout in a business meeting and treat the pastor who had served us so well with such disrespect.

We left that church and joined another several months later, taking the children we had been taking to church for about three years with us. We sought a new church home which offered a good children's ministry and had a heart for children and we found one at this new church. Our hearts were still broken and this was not the church we were used to but we felt it had promise and we wanted to be a part of its growth.

Shortly after we joined, the Church began an AWANA program. This is, by far, the best children's program I have been involved with since I began serving in a church. New policies were put into place for children's workers. Each of us had a background check done on us. Our focus has been on teaching and ministering to the children with a pro-active view on protecting them. I have always totally supported this view and still support this view today, unfortunately, it is this protective aspiration which has pained me recently and it is this that I am going to blog about this morning.

Nearly three and a half years ago we met our next door neighbor's son, I'll call him Eric. Eric was seven years old and he liked to come over and work with my husband on whatever project he happened to be working on in the back yard and only after receiving the permission of his mother. At this time it happened to be our deck. My husband had gotten some lumber from a deck that had been demoed when we were working for the house mover. Eric had great fun wielding a hammer, he'd never wielded a hammer before. We began taking Eric to church and a few months later we began taking his two young sisters, Sissy and Charity with us also. Sissy was three years old and Charity was one. My point, here, is that we did not go trolling for children to take to church, it happened as a natural occurrence as Eric had struck up a friendship with my husband and it developed into us taking he and his sisters to church. We thought this was what being a Christian was all about, outreach. We still feel that this is what being a Christian is all about. As any of you who have ever worked with children will understand, people who haul children around to church with them two to three times a week, teach their classes, take them to lunch and occasionally receive an after school visit from the oldest, tend to get attached to them. We also have a nice relationship with their mother. As a matter of fact, they come and get in our storm cellar with us during bad weather and we have helped financially with the children whenever possible.

That brings us to the weekend which my husband and I were out of town. This was the weekend that we attended the FairTax conference in Momma Twoop's state. Our church was having a "pajama party" for the pre-schoolers that Saturday and we had arranged for another member to pick up Sissy and Charity so they could attend.

On the Friday before the pajama party Charity had taken a fall off of her grandmother's front porch and had received an, oh, approximately two inch long scratch on her little baby cheek for the effort. So, she and her sister got picked up on Saturday morning (you can see where this is going, can't you?) and they went to the pajama party. It also appears, and I learned about this after the fact, that Charity had walked into the bathroom on her mommy when she was having her monthly and noticed that mommy was bleeding. Naturally, Charity wanted to know why her mother was "bleeding down there" and wanted to play mommy herself by comforting her mother because she was bleeding and obviously had a boo boo. Charity's mom tried to brush it off but ended up telling Charity that it was something older women did and she shouldn't worry about it. Charity is four years old, hardly old enough to understand menstruation and hardly old enough to give a detailed accounting of how and why and when and all that. Nothing more was said at home about it.

So, the following Tuesday afternoon I got a visit from Charity's mom. Someone, ANONYMOUSLY, had reported her to the Department of Family Services. Someone had said that Charity has a scratch, some bruises, has been telling this anonymous source that her mother has been making "inappropriate comments" about her own private areas and that a male figure in her life and the life of her sister has been "excessively" hugging them, carrying them and giving them kisses! Because Charity has not been going to school and had been no where else but the pajama party after she had gotten the scratch on her face, we had no question that it was someone who had been involved with the pajama party at church. The mother assured us that the DSF worker thought the whole thing was "stupid" but that she had to file a report, nonetheless. We have no doubt that this "male figure" is my husband. The girls love for him to carry them around, often he'll put them on his shoulders and he, absolutely, does hug them and kisses them on their little heads. Geesh.

Evidently someone has a problem with my husband loving these children whose lives he, and I, have been involved with for three and a half years. At least one good thing may come out of it. The mother is talking about making us the God Parents of the children so that this unconventional relationship may not seem so odd to outsiders. I'll tell you though, the idea that someone thinks that my husband carrying 6 and 4 year old little girls around is inappropriate and felt it necessary to report it to DFS, or even mention it, really irritated both of us and to have it brought up by a member of our own church, the church which we voluntarily gave our consent to run a background check, is even the more galling.

Of course, we both felt that the person who called DFS should have discussed it with the pastor first, who, incidentally, knew NOTHING about it, and that it should have been brought to him before it was taken to DFS. All things considered we are trying our best to continue in the church, and the pastor has encouraged us to do so with his blessing. His words were, more or less, that if someone isn't saying something bad about you then you're doing something wrong. And I should make clear that I believe that if there is a question of abuse in the church that the person who questions it should discuss it with the pastor and that if there is agreement that it should be reported. As it is today, the mother, who we had been encouraging to come to church and working with for these three and a half years is even more alienated by this action and less inclined to come to church or trust the church. Now, there's "outreach," in the real world for ya!


Mini Me said...

Hey stranger,

Yeah, I've been gone for a while - my computer has a bit of a sociopathic personality lately and it's been a struggle to keep up! I got lucky this weekend when it just automatically turned on the first try!! Wow, how I miss my reliable computer :-)

Ok, enough about my computer problems. It just broke my heart reading your post, I hate how our world has become so suspicious & paranoid. I can understand being cautious (we do background checks for all of our children and youth workers) but common sense just seems to go out the window.

I'm also very touchy feely with kids and I sometimes wonder if people look at me and think I'm a little too close. It's sad that it even comes up as a thought!

I imagine this mother appreciates you despite the church - what a terrific witness you can be through all this! She'll be able to see how true christian's act.

Other than this I hope you are doing well - you've been posting a lot, I need to catch up!

Take care my friend

Jacke M. said...

Oh, Mini, thank you so much for your words...they are such an encouragement, especially today.

I found myself near tears all through the music part of our worship service today because this week, "Eric" threw a stick, it bounced up and hit "Charity" right under the nose and left a mark. Her mother kept her home today because she feared that DFS would be called on her again. Isn't that the pits? So, anyway, we went on to church with the other two but it just broke my heart that we didn't get to take "Charity" because I know she wanted to come with us and it just felt so awful, I wanted her with us, too. This is what I feared would happen. Now the mother, and I totally understand her fear, is afraid to send "Charity" to church if she has any normal childhood bumps or bruises because of some over-anxious worker. I can't tell you how emotional I became over this, and I'm really not an overly emotional person, Mini, I just couldn't seem to help myself.


GET THAT COMPUTER WORKING! I have missed you! :)