Make a Difference on National Missing Children’s Day

Two hundred thousand children are abducted by family members every year. There are many reasons for this — every story is unique — and some reasons can be compelling. Still, the data collected from parentally-abducted kids participating in Take Root is clear: Being taken away from a parent has a profound and often detrimental effect on the child that can become a life-long struggle for him or her. It doesn’t matter what the taking parent’s reasons were.

One of the major problems in missing child recovery is the lack of information and resources available to families after a child is found. After years of being a support system for adults who were once missing kids and speaking out on behalf of missing children, Take Root has a very exciting opportunity to make a difference in countless lives. (Maybe not countless. Potentially as many as 200,000 every year!) Their latest initiative is an online learning lab called Kid Gloves, and it “will provide self-paced online training and tools to families in the process of recovery.”

Kid Gloves is based on research conducted on people like me (and including me). It’s like advice from missing kids to parents of missing kids. What could possibly be more practical or more helpful?

You can help, too. This initiative costs money, and Take Root is a small, non-profit organization. Would you consider donating a few dollars to help little boys and girls like me? It could change a child’s life.

Angela's Photo

GIVE THE GIFT OF A HAPPY ENDING
“Finding a missing child is called making a recovery, but being found is really just the very first step on a long and difficult road. It’s often not the happy ending people imagine.” – Melissa Haviv, Executive Director Take Root

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Finding My Identity

On Tuesday, I asked you to read a post about identity rupture to better understand me and where I come from. Here’s a snippet (but the full post is so much better!):

Today, Take Root defines Identity Rupture as abrupt, extreme changes in the following:

FACTS 
Autobiographical facts about the child’s life, such as name, date of birth, place of birth, names of family members…

FACTORS
Environmental factors in the child’s life; the people, places and things with which the child is familiar…

FORM
The expected and acceptable behaviors…

This happened to me when I was four, when my mother took me from my father. I would like to point out, however, that this also happened again when I was twelve and was taken away from my mother. She was taken to prison, and I was introduced to my dad, his (new-to-me) wife, and my brother. Even though my autobiographical details reverted back to the legal truth, they still changed. Obviously my environmental factors changed; I moved from Oklahoma City to the Dallas area, and into a new house with people I didn’t know or trust. And as is natural any time one moves from living with one family to another, the expectations and standards for acceptable behaviors changed.

While my being “found” ended the period of my life of official “abduction,” it was very similar to being abducted again. The same thing basically happened to me twice, in the practical implications and in the way it made me feel. Thus, my identity was this sort of fluid para-reality; I didn’t really know who I was, but I was also very frustrated about other people not truly knowing who I was. I still struggle with this sometimes, when I let the enemy run away with my insecurities.

It doesn’t matter if I go by Angie or Ang or A.J. or Amy or Angela. It doesn’t matter which last name I had in which grade, or whether I had a middle name or what it was. It doesn’t matter whether my birthday was in August or October. It doesn’t matter who I pretended to be when I was told to pretend, or who I pretended to be when I felt like I had to pretend just to keep my heart safe. It doesn’t matter.

What matters is the truth.

Who am I?

I am unique and treasured and purposefully created.

Psalm 139:13-16
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

I am intimately known.

Psalm 139:1-4
O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.

I am loved.

1 John 3:1
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

I am part of a heavenly and holy family.

Galatians 3:26-27
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

I am intended for future glory, for His glory, for eternity.

Colossians 3:3-4
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

I am made new, so that I might be an ambassador for Him.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

What about you? Do you know who you are? What is your story? You see, I firmly believe that all of our lives either go one way or the other. They either further God’s kingdom or the enemy’s. Everyone has hard times; everyone has hurt. But what do you do with it?

I love the story of Joseph in the Old Testament. There’s not space for me to explain it all here, but he had a really dysfunctional family that did awful things to him. And in the end, he repaid them by saving their lives during a severe famine, and even by comforting them when they were afraid of retribution for their sin. Here’s what he said to those who had hurt him so profoundly:

Genesis 50:20
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

Now that is the kind of person I want to be. I want that kind of perspective. The enemy worked much evil against him, and Joseph suffered for years and years as a result. Still, he chose to stay faithful and open to God, even in the most hopeless of circumstances. He refused to be bitter. Because of that, years later, Joseph was promoted (out of unjust slavery and imprisonment) to a very powerful political position that he would have never, ever had available to him if his brothers hadn’t hurt him. Many lives were saved through his godly leadership, and his character had become so much like God’s that he was able to naturally respond in love and grace to the very people who had acted so selfishly and evilly against him in the past.

The lesson:  God is in control all the time. The enemy means it for evil, but God means it for good. Joseph chose good, and many were blessed.

In a small way, that is what I hope for my story. That by sharing it, you will see Him. That you will see in my life that although the enemy meant to destroy me, God meant to teach me more about Himself. That God wooed me even as a little girl, teaching me of His mercies in the dark and scary times. That He whispered His love. That you might even hear His whispers as I tell you my story. That you will come to know that through the hurt and the sorrow, He is there. And that now, years later, I am beginning to see the good. I can see little glimpses of the “why” of it all. That my story, just like yours, is a story of glory. Of His glory.

So take the time to find His glory in your story — allow Him to turn your mourning into dancing — and then tell people! You never know who might be saved because you had the courage to be vulnerable and share your brokenness.

Pressure to Be Okay

“The enormity of the abduction experience is not something that’s easy to appreciate,” Kirkpatrick says. “People think of it as a person being pulled into a controlled environment, but what’s harder is that it’s as if their whole world has been taken away from them.”

“Everything that happened on the outside,” he says, “is turned inside out.”

Haviv calls it identity rupture.

That loss of identity and heavy pressure to “be OK” has pushed more than a quarter of those involved in the Take Root support program to report that they have at some point attempted suicide.

Take Root’s research also suggests that formerly abducted children are at high risk for drug addiction, depression and other medical problems.

(Sourceemphasis added)

Pressure. 

To be normal.

To move on.

To fit in.

To feel a certain way.

To forget.

To remember.

To understand.

To love.

To hate.

To leave.

To stay.

All that pressure.

It felt like everyone had an idea of how I should be handling it or not handling it. How well-adjusted I should be, or how devastated I should be. How I should feel about my dad or about my mom or about myself. I felt watched and judged. Of course, I was a teenager, and I think all teenagers feel watched and judged — mainly because they are. So because of this, I pretended.

My whole life I pretended to be okay, keeping others away from my heart. I let very few in, and I’m still that way. It’s hard to trust. It’s hard to be real. It’s hard to show that I’m not okay when I’m not.

And sometimes I’m not. You know, because everyone has times of not being okay.

And sometimes I still feel watched and judged. Sometimes I still feel all that pressure. Eighteen years after being found, twenty-six years after being taken. These experiences have deeply affected how I view myself and how I relate to others. I have to fight to trust. I have to fight to be vulnerable. My default is to smile and to say I’m doing just great.

Oh because sometimes the truth takes so long to tell.

But that is exactly why God gave me my story. To tell it. And that is why I write.

Unsettled

I had a post scheduled for today. This morning, an hour before its scheduled time, I canceled it. For some reason, I just don’t feel a peace about it. As I said before, I want my words to be helpful to others and glorifying to God; perhaps that post was not one or either of those things. I’m not sure, but I’m not posting it. That means that I do not have a personal post for today! Boo!

What I want to do instead is share with you these powerful stories, which have touched me deeply. None of them tell my story — we all have different experiences — yet they all tell pieces of my story. This is my unique community; these are my true peers. These former missing kids represent the only ones in the world who could truly identify with me. Please, please click on the picture below to watch the video that so profoundly affected me years ago:

Identity Rupture

How many people do you know who were abducted as a child? I never met any. I have always felt isolated and unique — not in a good way — in my experiences. In a low moment several years back,  when my husband was away for work, or something, I started looking on the internet for information about parental abduction, and I was quickly directed to Take Root‘s site. It is a group that offers support and encouragement to former missing children who are now adults. There’s no other group like it that I know of; every member was abducted as a child. I read and watched testimonies of people that absolutely floored me. Although I was staring at the computer screen, looking at strangers in a video, the words coming out of their mouths told my story. It completely wrecked me.

I had never encountered ANYONE with my story. I had always felt completely alone and, despite others’ good intentions, completely misunderstood.

Total relief and validation filled my spirit as tears poured down my face. I wasn’t alone. Other people knew what it was like to be taken from family. To be taught to lie to teachers and, well, to everybody. To be given a new name and a new birthday. To be scared of the police. To be on the move all the time. That floored me.

Before I continue with more of my experiences related to being “missing,” I would like to share this amazing post by the director of Take Root. Please read it, and know that you are reading my story:

Click here → Identity Rupture

“The Other Missing Kids” by Tony Loftis

The article referenced in my title is so great and right on target. I have been personally very blessed by Take Root, as it was amazing to finally (and very unexpectedly) find a community of people who understood me! They are doing such great work, and I am hopeful for the future of missing child recovery. Perhaps through the perseverance of Take Root, child recovery services will actually help missing children recover!

When people think about missing children, images of scary white vans and bus stop grabs rush through their heads. But for most abducted children, it is a parent’s car, not a scary van that rips them from everything they have ever known. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that more than 203,000 children were victims of family abductions in 2002 alone. It is easy for some to dismiss parental or family abduction as a tiff between parents, or a disagreement over custody issues. It is also easy to assume that the child is safe because he is with a parent. But family abductions are just that —abductions. They wreak havoc on the psyche of young children and devastate lives.

Please take the time to read the full post here.