This testimony recounts deep wounds of sexual abuse and violence. It is a redemptive story, but also details some specific traumas encountered by the writer when she was a child which may be upsetting to some readers.
So, this testimony about how I came to love Jesus Christ can be attributed to all the grace and inspiration of God provided to me by Tim and Kathy Keller, and Jeff White. Here is my story:
I remember as a very small child going to summer Bible Camp (didn’t just about every kid in a small town in Idaho at the time?) singing with my whole heart “Jesus loves me this I know….”
At the same time, I was being recruited to be my dad’s partner-in-crime. I would go out to play on the swing while he had sex with someone other than my mother. About that time, the beatings started. I remember thinking of the black bruises as “crunchy bruises;” they would be hard and extremely painful, and they would feel crunchy as they broke up before turning yellow and going away. People would make fun of the assorted goose egg lumps on my head, “What a clumsy kid I have,” my dad would say as he joined his friends in making fun of me.
Someone at the local small church told me I was the lamb of God. I wanted to believe that, and I kept a toy and a blanket that had lambs on them most of my childhood.
When we moved back east, my horrible life went from bad to hellacious. I honestly don’t remember when the sexual abuse started, but I remember it as the beginning of my confusing childhood made up of physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
From what I believe to be the spring of 1966 to the spring of 1969, I was used in child pornography. I overheard a friend of my dad named Danny say he was the biggest child pornography distributor in the 60’s and 70’s. This didn’t end because of his success. It didn’t end because he suddenly believed what he was doing was horrible and evil. He stopped because during filming, one of the teenagers acted out and the director strangled her to death in front of me. I started screaming at the top of my lungs and then the same creep started to strangle me!
At that point, my dad rushed in with a gun, grabbed me and carried me out of there as they all threatened to find us and kill us. I spent the rest of my childhood being terrified I would be found and that Danny would kill me too.
What I remember most about my early childhood is being told that I was evil and that God damned me and that I was unlovable and worthless. No child should ever hear a parent say that to them once, let alone on a regular basis. He was obviously projecting his evil heart on me… I don’t know exactly when he got involved with pornography, but I do know he purposely trained me to be a sex worker and how to please men.
My father had no intention of ever getting caught. To make sure that he was never caught, he told every adult I came in contact with that I was a very difficult child who made up creative lies and stories that kept embarrassing him. “So just don’t listen to her,” he would tell every adult in my world. I kept telling anyone who would listen that my father was a monster and they would look at me and give a “hmmmm, sure kid” and nod. And I would give up hope yet again.
Until I met a teacher, who was a deep believer, and he reached into the extremely dark place I was inhabiting and wrenched me out. I did not do well in school due to a a host of learning difficulties and the sexual abuse. At that time I had to live with the sick feelings that my dad was getting involved in other awful things. When he coached my sports teams, I believe it was so he could have an opportunity for grooming other little girls. Once the pornography for me ended, my childhood became a little more normal and with the help of that teacher, I was able to believe I could have a normal life someday.
What I remember most about my early childhood is being told that I was evil…
We lived a double life at that time; my father wanted to look like a successful entrepreneur. We dressed well, had nice cars and things and we were told we were upper class/wealthy. We traveled and my father wanted to give the appearance of prosperity. All the while we had to be very careful to not draw unnecessary attention to our family. My father had to work hard to launder money and hide all his ill-gotten financial gains as exploiting me had made him a millionaire. But he had to be careful how he spent it so he wouldn’t get caught.
As a child I had no safe place to go – disrespected by my teachers, taunted and beat up by my classmates, constantly beaten and raped at home – I just wanted to die! I could not believe that God could actually let me suffer so horribly. I hated God because he had forsaken me.
After my sister went off to college, my parents felt they were done with child-raising and would leave me alone as they treated my dad’s family to trips. My dad made it clear to me he was enjoying the money made at my expense.
Sometime in the 80’s, most likely after 1984, my dad had some interactions with what appeared to be parents of children he molested. He was assaulted twice by random people according to what my mother told me. At this time, he was working with an attorney who was always coming up with scams and schemes to rip people off.
It was in the early 90’s that my parents doubled down, and my mom got a job at the local police station so that she could actively protect my dad from criminal cases. Though his money laundering got noticed multiple times, no serious investigation was ever done. What came out years later is that there seems to have been a cover up. I reported my dad to the authorities every five years since the 1980’s and nothing was ever done. Every single time it went nowhere.
When I took my completely broken self through years and years of therapy, my one main goal was to become “normal” so no one would know I was “ruined.” I wanted to get past my overwhelming anger and be the best parent I could.
I had been told because of having had untreated sexual infections that they had rendered me sterile and that I would never be able to have children. I believed that! I just never believed I would ever have children until I suddenly found myself pregnant at 30. My family told me that if I didn’t get an abortion that I would be disowned. I had my son and my family deserted me and refused to have anything to do with me. I was left sick, with a sick child… my child almost died in his first weeks of life. I begged my family to help me and their response was, “the best thing that could happen is for the baby to die.”
So, there I was, with my child, in the hospital, by myself, when I got down on my knees and prayed “God we have not been getting along. They are telling me my baby is going to die! I just did everything I could to bring this baby into the world, please don’t let my baby die! I promise you God, if you save my baby, I will do everything I can to learn about you.” So, I started seeking – I’d made God a promise. I started going with people to their religious services.
I remember when I was really struggling because of health issues, I had not been able to work and lost every single thing except my children. Bankruptcy, public assistance, being constantly treated like I was worthless – I entered a world I didn’t understand. I had been raised with privilege to a certain extent. If I wanted my parents’ support, I was required to put my kids up for adoption and I was absolutely unwilling to do that.
Then a non-Christian acquaintance invited me to a mom’s group. Since I had been seeking, I thought, “ok let me see what they have to say.” I was intrigued… It was run by a relatively new church. Since it was Presbyterian, I thought I would give them another chance because I felt that since the Church I had sometimes attended had kicked me out when my parents hadn’t joined… maybe they were better.
Next thing I know I am sitting in the church service, and I hear this guy Tim Keller speak. Wait! I’m creeped out, “How can you read my mind? How did you know that was what I needed to hear? WHO ARE YOU?!” My spirit was being fed in ways I didn’t even know were possible. So, I became a fixture at Redeemer Presbyterian Church. I honestly started by hanging out in the back of the audience, just in case they tried to kick me out.
Then I had so many questions… “Tim, if Jesus Christ was the Son of God, why did he let all those horrible things happen to me? Isn’t there a quota somewhere on bad luck, ‘cause if it weren’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all’? Why have all these really horrible things happened to me? How can I believe?” Each week I would hear the answers I needed through Tim’s sermon. How did he do that?
I couldn’t wait to become baptized and devote my life to becoming as Christ-like as is God’s plan for me.
I’m sure if I had talked with Tim before he passed, I would have been able to say, “I have spent the last twenty years devoting my life to making other people’s lives better. I have given my all to create community glue… I have become a prayer warrior and I am grateful and blessed that a totally fractured soul found Jesus Christ through God speaking through Dr. Timothy Keller, his wife Kathy, and Jeff White, who have shown me I am a sinner who is worse than I can ever believe, but more loved than I ever dreamed possible.