When Strangers Pray & Plan

It was a mid-afternoon interruption…

Sound asleep in my chair, March 7, 2014, the doorbell startled me awake. It had been an exhausting few weeks, in my search for an agent to represent my book, and I had signed on with Vanessa Grossett, only days earlier…

In my exhaustion, I sent our son to the door; assuming it would be a sales person, he was instructed to politely tell the person I was not available. Moments later he appeared at my side with a message, “it was a friend of our neighbours’… something about having tea and praying for you…”

By this time I was wide awake. Isobel’s friend… tea.. praying…  What was this about? I walked next door, to Isobel Frey’s home, rang the door bell and waited. A bubbly woman, whom I recognized as Isobel’s good friend, Heather Tompkins, and whom I had met several times, answered the door and welcomed me in. She apologized for having disrupted my nap, and explained that a group of five women had been enjoying an afternoon tea, discussing the book I was hoping to publish, and wanted to pray with me and for me.

Isobel welcomed me into her living room, and together she and Heather introduced me to three other friends, whom I had never met: Gladys McClurkin, Mary Bell and Heather Martin. Several were pastors’ wives–which stood out because of the general reticence of churches to broach the subject of abuse–and all were passionate about breaking silence and offering healing surrounding the topic. They shared how they really believe this is a God-thing, and wanted to get behind me on it.

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There I was, moments later, surrounded by a group of godly women, mostly strangers, praying for God to open doors and work out the details for the book. Though I sensed the very things they spoke–that God was in it and had a healing plan–I also had fears to contend with.

The weeks leading up to that moment, and the months that followed, were filled with deep soul-searching, as I edited, reworked, prayed and started the process all over again. One fear was that making my story public would not bring the healing I prayed for, and the enemy would take it and bring destruction. Another fear was that I would be so attacked by those resisting exposure of abuse, that it would push me to a place of unhealthy retreat and escape. I even feared that people would read it, pity me, and leave it there. I hate pity! But, little by little, as God brought prayer warriors alongside and around me, I came to a place of peace. I moved from fearing the outcome, to asking God to speak His message, His love, His truth through my story, so that my story would be all but lost in the shadows of His story, His grace…

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By May 2014 I signed a contract with eLectio Publishing and by August I was working with a private editor–Eric Stanford, to whom I credit the ‘shaping’ of Between 2 Gods, with deep appreciation–and by October it was ‘finished’ with only minor changes and edits needed. And by early 2015 my five praying strangers resurfaced…

Heather Tompkins contacted me to say that she and her friends would like to plan a Book Launch on my behalf; would that be okay? Would that be okay? Wow! Yes! I was excited, humbled and honoured all at one time! And amazed that a group of women, whom I’ve only met a few times, would go out of their way for this, because they believe God is bringing a message of hope.

So tonight, from 7:00pm to 9:00pm we will be at Gale Presbyterian Church, 10 Barnswallow Drive, in Elmira, for Between 2 Gods Book Launch. I’ve invited several ‘characters’–what do you call them in a non-fiction?–from my book to attend, and one is able to make it, for sure–barring an unforeseen interruption.

I had also asked a client to do an interview, and it fell through, so gave that up until Wednesday… I received a message from a current client, Kim Chapple, asking if I would allow her to come and share. I was taken off guard, as current clients seldom have the courage to speak out and be so vulnerable. After some ‘back and forth’, ensuring she understood both the risks and the feeling of the public eye on our stories, I felt at peace.

My heart in ministry is the same as my heart in my book, that it will never be about me, and that healing will flow to others. For this reason, while I will do a short reading and share a few words, tonight is about offering hope and healing to those present. If I missed the mark on that, I know God could still bring that healing, but I’d so much rather be ‘about my Father’s business’ and work alongside of Him, than to try and steal center stage.

We’d love to have you come tonight and join us! For more information or to ask questions visit: Between 2 Gods Book Launch

Love

~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger

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Sexual Abuse Conference, Unleashing the Next Generation (Part 4): Personal Healing

To hear the closing thoughts, and ‘We Draw Near’, by Andrew Thompson, click here.

Unleashing the Next Generation__Part 4

 

 

© Trudy Metzger

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Sexual Abuse Conference, Unleashing the Next Generation (Part 3): Speaking Truth & Affirming Identity

We break generational chains by speaking truth, and affirming our children’s identity. Truth about sexuality. Truth about life experience. Truth about Jesus Christ.  To listen to Part 3 of Unleashing the Next Generation, click Here.

WARNING: Some content may offend. Homosexuality is something I refer to briefly.The statement I make is a true statement, based on my experience with clients. It is not a blanket statement, or the sole cause for girls/women struggling with homosexuality. It is one of many reasons. I make the statement in context, and time did not allow me to expound. Please bear this in mind.
Unleashing the Next Generation__Part 3

© Trudy Metzger

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Sexual Abuse Conference, Unleashing the Next Generation (Part 2): Breaking the Silence

 

To listen to Part 2 of “Unleashing the Next Generation” click Here. (Note: I am temporarily redirecting to the full length version, as there is some issues with Part 1 & 2) Unleashing the Next Generation__Part 2

© Trudy Metzger

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Sexual Abuse: To Confront… or Not to Confront the Abuser?

Trudy Metzger
For the Independent

This less than popular topic is worthy of space in the black and white world of the printed word, even if it is less than popular in the real world. In working with people, I never push it. It’s not my call to make. About 10% of clients, or less, opt for talking to the perpetrator. Most are too afraid.

When victims choose to confront, they sometimes ask me to be present as a mediator or witness, or make initial contact with the alleged perpetrator. Only once did I make the mistake of going alone. For too many reasons to list, not the least of which is the lies and rumours that resulted, I won’t make that mistake twice.

In most cases, when victims approach perpetrators, the person confronted is quick to confess and ask for forgiveness. In one recent case, the victim did not feel stable enough to go, so her husband, my husband, and I went on her behalf. Immediately he said he knows why we have come. Now a middle-aged man, he broke down sobbing, took ownership, and apologized for what he did as a young man. This is the best case scenario, that they remember and own it.

When the memory doesn’t return quickly, with the victim’s permission, I establish the event and the environment in which it happened. And in every case but one, the memory has returned very quickly… before I get to the part describing graphically what the perpetrator did. Most don’t seem to want me to say that part out loud.

It’s not hard to read people. Are they sincere? Are they squirming and shifty, like they know what you’re talking about but don’t want to acknowledge? Are they pale… in shock… with signs that there are memories playing at the fringes of their memories, but they are too terrified of consequences? Or are they confident that they cannot recall the event, but want the alleged victim to find peace?

When I confronted someone who molested me in his mid-teens, he looked horrified. I gave him the day of the week, the time of day it happened, the location, the vehicle. Nothing connected. (Continue reading column here, at the Elmira Independent)

© Trudy Metzger

To Donate: Generations Unleashed, and Help Victims of Sexual Abuse in the Church

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What to Do When Leaders Forbid Sexual Abuse Seminars?

On Sunday October 27 a local conservative Mennonite church made an announcement telling the congregation they should not attend our conference, specifically naming ‘Shattering the Silence’. This inspired me to write a blog, appropriately titled, ‘Local Preachers Forbid Attending Sexual Abuse Conference‘.

Even though I knew the day would come, it still punched me in the gut when it happened because of which congregation it was. I had already helped numerous of their congregants work through abuse, and had done so respectfully, with their leaders’ knowledge. As quickly as the punch came, I ruminated on what good it could possibly inspire.

I am a firm believer that out of everything intended for harm, God already has a plan for good in place if we will but ask Him and reach for that good. Sometimes it comes almost immediately, sometimes it takes years, and sometimes it takes weeks. This time it was barely days.

The thought that went through my mind that night, as I contemplated their announcement, was, “If we can’t get the people to the message, how do we get the message to the people?”

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I already write a blog, but many of the people I want to reach, locally, don’t have computers. I could write a book–which I have, and am working on a second one–but that takes a long time. After writing it, I have to publish it. If I self-publish, I have to raise the money first, and if I don’t self-publish, I have to find a publisher. That takes a very long time. And, furthermore, I believe the message God has given me is needed now. As in yesterday. Sure, the book will be good, when it’s ready, and it will be helpful. But in the meantime how do I get the message out there?

And then it occurred to me…

I sat down at my computer and I composed a message to a local paper…

“Does the Elmira Independent ever look for guest columns to be written? If so, I would be interested in doing this, from time to time, or regularly. [insert explanation about abuse and what I do]… I cannot sit back … without at least attempting to get a message of hope (to abuse victims), so I will nudge every door I can think of, to see which ones will open. And I will become bolder and bolder until those who desperately want help find it. If (writing a column) is not an option or an avenue of speaking into the issues of healthy family life, abuse etc, that’s okay. I am not afraid of closed doors. But they definitely won’t open if I don’t knock.”
I hit ‘send’ and waited. A day later I received an email asking me to write a sample column to see what I have in mind. Immediately I sat down at my computer and tapped the keys for an hour or so, before sending my sample column to the editor. And then I waited.
Several days passed. An email arrived. It was an apology. The editor was sorry she had not been able to find time to read the sample column, as she was sick. She would get to it as soon as possible and let me know.  Again I waited.
A week and several days passed, still I waited, until moments ago when an email arrived saying she had finally had time to read the article and, yes, it is definitely something their paper could use! Would I consider letting them use a headshot photo with it? And what about contact information and a little blurb about what I do, would I be okay with that? And could I have the columns to them a week in advance? And the first one will be printed the first week of December. As for restrictions on what I may say, or write about, how about ‘none’ to start?
Wow! How amazing is that?! I’ve dreamed for years of writing a column but never had the courage to put myself out there! One negative experience, forcing me to ask the question, “How do I get the message to the people?” took me to a place of pursuing another dream.
Over and over I am amazed by God. When I speak locally at conferences, I speak to an audience of under 200 several times a year. Now I will write monthly, for an audience of over 4000. And who knows what doors that will open?
More and more I am learning to trust God when it feels like those who oppose our work have an upper hand. It is impossible to get the upper hand on God, and it is impossible to stop His truth from spreading. When things seem to go against us, and that thing He has called us to do seems impossible, He will make a way if we are willing to listen, and step outside our comfort zone.
And so begins another great adventure with God, as a columnist for a local paper, taking the message of hope out to the community…
Maybe that ‘Christian radio program’, or that ‘Christian TV program’ dream lies just around the corner… Who knows? And it doesn’t really matter. For now I am going to embrace this phase with all that I am.

© Trudy Metzger

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This Battle We Fight

I expected a hard battle against sexual abuse in Christian cultures, when I set out, so I will not be discouraged. And I am  not overwhelmed or shocked. I knew it was prevalent, and the stories would be extreme. And I am not going to quit. I will face hell and high water, if that is what it takes, to help one little girl or boy, to prevent, if possible, that victimization.

That, in a way, is the easy part of fighting against abuse and violence of any kind. Advocating, standing in the gap, being vulnerable and speaking out are all good things. And they hopefully make a difference. But the other battle, the one that is so hard to fight, goes on in the minds of both victims and those fighting on their behalf. Both battles are worth fighting, and important to fight, but the visible one is definitely the easiest!

When someone tells me I’m on a witch hunt, that they don’t believe the problem is as bad as I make it sound, it makes me stop and reconsider. And in that reconsidering there are times I’d as soon turn my back as keep going. It’s not that I doubt my stand, but it’s a lonely road.

I am tempted to be self preserving and, if but for a fleeting moment, to think, “I’m healed. I did the hard work of facing it. I found hope. Can’t others do the same? Is it really something I need to ‘fight’ for? Whether it is 5% of the church population, or 70%… does it really matter? Can’t each person fight for him or herself? Why should I do it?”

The temptation to turn a blind eye, to pretend that it’s not my problem, has been a real temptation at times, though more so in the past. The cost to keep going has been higher than I ever imagined it to be…

But when I stop and think about the victims, those whom I most interact with, and for whom I am fighting, I know retreating into silence is not an option. Victims, unless they have a vested interest in silence, typically encourage me to keep speaking and to break the silence, to be their voice because they are afraid. And the reward for helping them far outweighs the costs I mentioned earlier. Still, weighing those costs is part of the battle I fight.

But those with a vested interest in silence will attempt to discourage me, creating a whole new battle. You can use your imagination as to what that vested interest in silence might be. There are a few reasons… One is to protect their own secret of victimizing another person, or protecting a perpetrator close to them, or protecting a religious culture and image–especially as leaders within that culture who want power and image of truth.

But I am hearing ‘happy murmurings’ that tell me the winds of change are blowing… there are some leaders with integrity whose eyes are being opened. I cannot tell you the hope this brings me! When I first heard a positive whisper, in the last several days, the tears started. It was almost as if I was a teenager again, back in the culture, and my story was being heard. In reality I don’t think it had anything to do with my story, but it still touched a tender spot. A deep wound that I thought was healed.

While I write from the perspective of the Mennonite church, because that was my life growing up, I am very aware that sexual abuse is not only a problem in Mennonite and closed culture groups. It is a universal, human being problem. And, while closed cultures are the safest place for perpetrators to hide, thereby increasing the epidemic of abuse, it is not only in Mennonite ‘closed cultures’, or even religious closed cultures. It is prevalent in any organization, institution or group that is bound, bent and determined to cover up abuse. And it’s usually for the sake of image and reputation. Whether it’s Penn State, the Catholic Church, the Mennonite church, the Anglican church and abuse of Aboriginals,  or any other group, the reasons for covering up are similar. Image. Pride. Arrogance.

In its prevalence, I am always amazed, when I meet with victims of abuse, to discover how many think they are the only ones in their family to be victimized. The feeling of ‘aloneness’ and ‘there’s something wrong with me’, is a powerful mind battle that the enemy uses. I believed for years that I was the only one in my family, the only one in my church. Until I talked. That’s when the web was exposed, little by little, one victim at a time.

So, when a victim insists they are alone, I ask questions like, Do you ever talk about it? Does your family or church know you were abused? Have you ever asked any of them?

I quickly discover, in most cases, that it has never been discussed with peers, and the silence of others is perceived as the absence of problems. They may have gone to leaders or parents, but it was all quickly ‘taken care of’ and the victim either told or encouraged not to bring it up, but to forgive and move on.

I have had the honour and privilege of helping to unravel, at least partially, the lies and misconceptions of, “I am the only one,” or, “it’s only my family”.  And when they discover the truth that there are many others, it is both a relief in the sense that the individual no longer feels isolated, and daunting in that it is no longer manageable. Manageable in the sense of feeling that ‘I am the only one, I’ll survive. No one will ever need to know, and it ends with me…’

When the battle of isolation is done, a new battle begins. If you speak, people will judge you. They will accuse you of wanting attention. (I didn’t get this attack, that I know of, but hear it from other victims.) There will be pastors (or preachers) and other leaders, along with those who have a vested interest in silence for other reason, who will judge you. Don’t let that stop you from breaking the silence.

If there’s one thing the devil knows, it’s the power of silence, because in silence we believe lies and that gives him access to other areas of our lives. He uses those lies in subtle ways to manipulate and control how we see life, how we see others, how we see ourselves. If he can prevent us from seeing what we are capable of, through the power of Christ, then we are no threat to his work and his kingdom.

But, if once we get a glimpse of the power of Christ in us, and the things He will do through us, then we become and unstoppable force. That is a threat to the enemy’s kingdom, and the kingdoms humans build for themselves. And it advances the kingdom of God.

So I fight. I fight the battle against evil publicly by speaking, writing, and influencing whatever change I can. And I fight the battle in my mind, against the temptation to quit. Why should hell get free rent in church without a bit of resistance?

But most of all I fight the battle privately, between me and God, and alongside the victims, encouraging them, and offering a listening ear and a heart that cares. Because ultimately, the greatest battle takes place in the mind and spirit of the victim, long after the perpetrator has forgotten, or blocked the memory that he or she ever did anything.

The battle the preachers who serve image and religion fight is a battle in the mind and spirit, between the will of God and the will of the flesh. To protect the innocent, or to sacrifice them on the altars of Molech, in order to protect pride and image? To respect the laws of the land when it comes to crimes against children, or to cover up and pretend it isn’t that damaging?

Regardless of our role in the issue, the reality is that it is a spiritual battle, and we either fight, or we surrender to evil. There are only two options.

Ephesians 6:12
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

“Spiritual wickedness in high places…” We fight, not against people determined to maintain silence, but against the powers of darkness… The father of all lies, who has the deepest interest in that silence.

So I put on my armour, pick up my sword and shield and march into battle, knowing with confidence who has my back. And never losing my identity as a woman of God.


(c) Can Stock Photo

© Trudy Metzger

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If You Keep Silence… You Will Perish

When all is said and done, by the end of this week, if all goes according to plan and schedule, I will have had my busiest week to date, for meeting with people. The reasons range from relationship coaching, to offering a listening ear to teens who have suffered sexual assaults, attempted murder, and attempted suicides to meeting with middle-aged individuals working through childhood abuse and violence, to cases of extreme spiritual abuse.

I anticipate I will have heard more stories, more pain, and more secrets exposed in one week, than ever before. As it stands, I have heard things already that shocked me. And I am not easily shocked, particularly in the front of spiritual abuse. So much so that, when one woman who called from southern USA and shared her story, I told her that what has been done to her is reminiscent of KKK.

What ‘Christian’ community sends messages to an ‘outcast’ member, involving dead animals with the heart gutted? Repeatedly. And then spreads the lies that the individual is a witch. It is the most shocking, most extreme thing I have heard, to date, coming from a conservative Christian community. And there is more that I won’t share.

A young boy is suicidal because he has been raped. Violated. Demoralized. A young girl has lost hope, and wishes to die because her uncle used her. A mother is in tears because her son’s violent outbursts leave family and friends, cowering in corners. Her son is but a child.

And all of these things happen behind closed doors, in the Christian community. Is it any small wonder that the enemy of our lives, the predator of our souls, wants to keep silence in the church in the areas of abuse and violence? The power this gives him is second to none. Because he can make God look like pure evil in the minds of victims.

When I read the story of Queen Esther, I think of the church of today and how enslaved we have become to the enemy. I hear the questions Mordecai asks her, and imagine God’s desire to free us from the death trap of all the abuse and violence to which we have turned a blind eye. I have no doubt that God is asking many of us, as Mordecai asked Esther, the hard questions found in her story. Questions that come with a warning, that if we choose silence, we and our children will perish. The generations to come will pay a price.

Esther 4:13(b)-14
“Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the (church) you will escape …. 14 If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief… will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were (born) for just such a time as this?”

Queen Esther takes the challenge and warning to heart, and responds with:
16 “Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will do the same. And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must die.”

Oh the difference we could make in the lives of the children who have lost hope, the middle-aged who struggle through the memories, the elderly who tell their secrets for the first time, and the mothers who fear their sons. If only we said, “I was born to take a stand against evil. And if I perish doing so, I perish. My life is not worth more than freedom for my children and grandchildren.”

As I face the third day of this week, I anticipate great things. I expect God to move.  Not because somehow I am ‘all that and more’. I am human. Broken. But I know this, that when I go to the King on behalf of one of these suffering individuals, and He extends His sceptre as a sign of His blessing, their world will change forever. They will know freedom.

The busy-ness does mean I won’t have time to write much. I won’t put out a daily blog this week. But I will embrace the purpose God has set before me, knowing that I was born for such a time as this.

© Trudy Metzger

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Mennonite Bishop’s Bold Stand In Sexual Abuse Case!

Finally, some good news to share! On the heels of The Elephant Grows Fat in Church, it is a thrill to share how a bishop in  Mennonite church, in Ontario, took an unusual and bold stand in a childhood sexual abuse case.

But, good news, in the case of childhood sexual abuse, is always bittersweet, because it comes at a price. Tragically the good news always hinges on the initial crime of victimizing a child. That, in and of itself, makes today’s post as tragic as it is exciting for me to write about.

When it comes to the topic of sexual abuse, I find the material heavy and somewhat depressing. I take a bit more emotional ‘down time’ just washing away the darkness that inevitably wishes to latch on to me, depressing me. I cry out to God a little more. I feel a bit more emotional. A bit more vulnerable. There seems little good to write about.

I admit, I feel badly exposing the dark side of my Mennonite heritage when there is so much good in it, but I fear if I remain silent, as many have, the good will be lost. So, depressing as it may seem, I press on….

But this post is different. It is a beacon in a dark and stormy night, giving hope to the many on the rough waters of victimization in the Mennonite culture.

To protect the identity of any victims, I will not use real names, and will not disclose the ‘brand’ of Mennonites, other than to say they are very conservative. That fact gives me hope that more will follow suit.

The perpetrator, Dan, is a friend of mine from the past, whom I met when I lived in Fresno, California, in the summer of 1987.

Dan was a ‘nice’ guy, and respectful. He had Mennonite background but didn’t ‘buy in’ until he was in his twenties. And that was twenty years ago. Over the years he stayed single, a member in good standing in the church. From time to time, when mom had talked to him, she would pass on his greetings, saying he would love to see me again, and meet my family.

Recently Dan’s bishop discovered that during his twenty years in the church, he has been sexually abusing young boys. What makes the bishop’s response unique, and a noteworthy detail, is that Dan is related to him, quite closely, through marriage. What’s more, Dan’s family is ‘highly respected’ as the ‘elite’ in the church, which alone gives cause for cover up at times, because the potential damage to church reputation.

To his credit, Dan’s bishop talked with Dan and told him he needs to turn himself in to the local authorities and offered to drive him. I am sick and saddened by the discovery that Dan violated young boys all these years. My heart breaks for the victims, some of whom are now adult men, no doubt struggling to make sense of their journey.

And my heart aches for Dan, for making choices that brought so much destruction. I know a bit of Dan’s story. His father was a rather vile man whose example was about as destructive as they get. His older brother raped my best friend in California while I was there.  Who was there for him? Who showed him the way? What was his story? Did he first suffer at the hands of another perpetrator?

Unanswered questions. None of which, if answered, would make the wrongs right. They could only shed light on the journey, but could do nothing to bring any sense of justice to the victims.

Above all, I am proud of the bishop for taking the hard road within the culture. I know him, though not well, having had occasion to speak with him a few times. It encourages me to see men of integrity within a culture of silence, men who are willing to take a stand. I never want to overlook honouring them and acknowledging the good they do.

Whether it will be the new norm, I don’t know. Whether this means that victims will be acknowledged and helped, emotionally and spiritually, without any guilt and shame placed on them, I don’t know. I pray so. I pray this is a new standard being set, for the purpose of hope and healing through Jesus, not any other reason.  Not to judge, punish or condemn. But to bring redemption, through JESUS, to the mess stuff of humanity.

Jesus came to give life, hope and freedom,  and truth is the channel through which these flow. Often we, humans, are called to guide that truth, to carry it, ad to ensure it is protected and revealed. Thank God for those who do it honourably.

© Trudy Metzger

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