OUR FOUNDER'S STORY
Our story began a number of years ago, somewhat bizarrely. My wife and I lived on opposite sides of the planet: I was in Australia and she was in the UK. One particular night (as was common for me, as I often don't sleep well) I was doing online research for the Christian radio station I managed at that time. I noticed something on my computer that I had not seen before: a link to a UK Christian chat-site.
I was the single father of three beautiful children, my first marriage having ended in divorce some ten years earlier. I had never been attracted to chat-sites – this was truly a first for me. Something drew me to click on the tab and there I somehow met my wife. She happened to also be on the site, as she was recovering from a very abusive marriage and was chatting to a friend of hers who moderated the site. She had only been on the site a few times herself.
We became friends over the internet, and then by telephone. After about eighteen months we met one another in Australia. When we met, we knew that God had orchestrated our lives to be together. We decided to marry, trying to figure out how it would all work whilst leaving the details to God. He sorted it. We were married later that year, although we still had no real plan for our future – still trusting God with it. This was very difficult but we both knew that God had a plan and that somehow He would sort it all out.
We were apart for the next six months until I was finally able to move to England. Our plan was to spend four to five months in England and then a couple of months back in Australia until such time as my wife’s four children were old enough to make decisions for themselves about where they would like to live.
Just over three weeks after I arrived in the UK, my wife’s eldest daughter, then only fourteen years old, revealed to a youth leader that she had been sexually abused by a close family member. This leader, doing the right thing and following protocol, gave this sensitive information to the church’s Child Protection Officer. For whatever reason (which we still don’t know to this day), the Child Protection Officer decided to do nothing about the information she was given. Our daughter was then subjected to another week of abuse at the hands of this man.
The following week, we were challenged by text by the initial youth leader to ask our daughter about something very sensitive. That night proved to be the night that changed all of our lives forever. Our conversation revealed that our daughter was in fact being sexually abused.
In the following days we learned that all four of the children had suffered abuse at this man’s hands.
Suddenly we found our world completely turned upside-down. The police were immediately involved, as were social workers, etc. Police interviews with each of the children revealed horrendous abuse. The social worker involved described the abuse as the worst abuse of that kind in over twenty years in the job.
In the following weeks we found ourselves struggling with all sorts of emotions. We battled untold abuse and slurs from the extended family, alleging all sorts of conspiracies, etc. I then needed to call my three children in Australia to let them know that I would not be coming home as planned a few months later. I first spoke to my children’s mother and explained the situation. She was very understanding and passed me onto my eldest son who was eighteen at the time. After explaining the situation to him he simply said, ‘Dad, you do what you have to do… these kids need you now!’ Then I spoke with my other son, who was almost seventeen at the time. As I began to tell him what had happened and the fact that we would not be coming home soon, he began to cry: not only for the fact that we would not be returning, but out of sheer desperation and hurt for my wife’s four children. ‘How could anyone do this, Dad’? he asked me. I must say we all felt like that! I then spoke to my daughter who was only fifteen at the time. What she said to me still strikes my heart to this day. As she was crying, whilst we were talking, she said, ‘Daddy, you need to show these kids what real families are like.’ I couldn’t contain my feelings and we simply cried together on the phone. I must say right now that my wife and I are so incredibly proud of our three kids in Australia. The way they have handled every delay, setback and the experience of ‘sharing’ their dad without seeing him for so long is truly incredible. We love them so much.
Within three weeks after the disclosures, Social Services decided that the children were now safe and that there was no more need for their services. The children had just got used to opening up to the social worker assigned to the case. Once again we felt we were all alone, with nowhere to turn. We searched high and low for help.
All of a sudden we had become not only parents – but counsellors, social workers, friends and much, much more.
We sought professional counselling for our four children. It seemed that everywhere we turned we were told the same story: ‘We are sorry, but unfortunately we will not be able to offer any counselling until the court proceedings have been completed.’ We had also been instructed by the police that it would not be advisable to get counselling for the children as the courts may view this as ‘coaching' them. Again, we were left to our own devices. My wife had said to one of the police officers involved at the time that she was genuinely concerned that we may not in fact have four children by the time we got to court. At that time, our eldest daughter and son were self-harming and threatening suicide. It was much more than we could bear. We felt totally alone and, at times, quite scared about the future.
The man involved was on conditional police bail and was instructed not to contact any of us in any way. Despite this, we had several encounters with him, members of his family, and one of this friends. We called the police on each occasion and, although they interviewed him, no other action was taken. (We need to say that since our ordeal we have discovered that in fact our children could very well have received some counselling. An organisation in the UK called the CCPAS, Churches Child Protection Advisory Service, offer a range a terrific services and, with the correct procedures, counselling is most definitely available.)
Finally, after over six months and many delays in the investigation process, formal charges were laid by the police against the perpetrator. He was released on bail, with very minimal conditions. We felt very vulnerable once again. Our lives seemed forever on hold. We were often told by the police to simply just 'get on with' our lives as normal! We asked: ’What about our lives is at all normal?’
More delays continued until finally we got to court some thirteen months after the formal charges were laid. This meant that we had already been dealing with this turmoil for some eighteen months. The trial was set down for six days, but ended up taking twelve. Our eldest daughter was on the stand for almost seven hours, and two of our other children were also on the stand for more than five hours combined. The way that the children conducted themselves was truly amazing. We are so proud of them for simply telling the truth despite all the obstacles they faced.
As we waited for the verdict at the conclusion of the trial, the children kept saying to us, ‘He’s not getting away with this, is he?’ We promised them that no matter what the result, God was still in control.
The jury was having some problems making clear decisions and returned to the court on a number of occasions to get clarification on the law from the sitting judge. They first came back with four 'not guilty' verdicts and then one 'guilty' verdict. The charge for which the perpetrator was found guilty was very serious, carrying a lengthy custodial sentence. The jury was then unable to come to a unanimous decision on the remainder of the charges. The judge then dismissed them, concluding the trial.
The police contacted us immediately afterwards and asked my wife and the children if they were willing to go through another trial for the remainder of the charges. We left the decision completely up to the kids. Their response blew us away: ‘We cannot let him get away with this!’ Truthfully, we could have easily just let the whole thing just lie there, as we had already been through so much. But we also felt that justice still needed to be served.
Our journey was still not over. The re-trial was not to be for another six months. Yet again the perpetrator was allowed out on the same bail conditions as before, despite his very serious conviction.
The next six months were filled with much confusion and frustration. On top of what we were dealing with in the UK, my eldest son from Australia had come to visit us after having one of many physical abuse altercations with his stepfather. My wife and I had gone to visit my three children in Australia for two weeks just prior to the first trial. It was the first time I had seen my kids for almost eighteen months since the whole ordeal had begun.
Just two days before we were due to leave Australia to return to the UK, we found out that the airports in the UK were closed due to inclement weather and snow storms, and we had to delay our return by another week. God obviously had a plan here too! The day we were first due to fly out, we found out that my son had been assaulted. If we had in fact flown out as planned, this assault would have happened whilst we were en-route back to the UK. As it was, we were there to offer support and love to my son. We went with him to the police station and also to court during that extra week we were in Australia. He then came out to the UK for a six week stay, just for a break from it all. Whilst he was there he had the opportunity to meet his new stepbrother and sisters. The way they interacted was truly amazing to everyone. He slotted into being their 'big brother' straight away and made them feel so at ease, which was wonderful preparation for when we would all finally move to Australia permanently.
God had again transformed what was meant for evil, for good!
The re-trial came around and was again set down for six days, but lasted seven. We had been praying throughout this entire ordeal that ONLY the truth would be revealed. A group of friends and relatives continued to support us in prayer as well. People on both sides of the planet were praying for us. We felt in our hearts that whatever happened at this trial, the truth would come out and that this would certainly be it! We could not put the children through any more.
We often commented on the enormity of the ripple effect of this one man’s sin. It not only affected our four children here in the UK, but our other three children in Australia, as well as our extended families, the people he worked with – not to mention other members of our community and, of course, us. It also caused so much upheaval in his own family, none of whom have shown any care or consideration to the children. For some reason, his family has decided to completely side with him. We know and understand how difficult it must be to believe a member of the family could do such a despicable act to anyone, let alone to family members. But unfortunately facts are facts and no matter how much we all want to believe something, sometimes we just have to face the truth. The kids have said so many times, ‘Why doesn’t he just tell the truth? Then everyone will know and believe us!’ It is so important for an abused child to simply be believed!
Once the re-trial was completed and all the evidence and witnesses had been heard, we decided to simply leave everything in the Lord's hands. Within one hour of deliberation, the jury came back with 'guilty' verdicts on all thirteen remaining charges. When we first heard the news, we didn’t quite know how to feel. The children were caught between elation and sadness at the fact that this man was now being sent to prison.
He was held in custody and was due to be sentenced in three weeks. During this time we all had time to soul-search. Each one of the children was dealing with it all in different ways: elation, sadness, tears and relief. The difficult understanding that someone could commit such crimes against them was hitting home. However, one thing they have all come to learn is that the way their life used to be, was certainly not normal. The perpetrator had previousy convinced them that what was happening to them is what happens in all normal healthy families. They believed they could not tell anyone anything about the abuse as they would simply not be understood.
The sentencing came and went and the perpetrator is now spending a lengthy period in prison for his crimes. Does this help us? The short answer is 'no'. We have been asked by a few people, ‘why don’t you feel happy about the result?’ Well, the real truth is: there is really nothing here to feel happy about. No matter what the result, the fact is that our four children have all been abused. The fact is that this part of our life has come to a conclusion. Whilst that has brought some closure, it remains a very difficult thing to deal with.
The Lord has been forever faithful to us throughout this entire ordeal. He has supplied us with everything we have needed along the way. We have made some amazing friendships as well. It is truly incredible how the Lord directs just the right people to come into our lives at exactly the right time. For those wonderful people who have been there for us all, we truly love you all and thank the Lord for you each and every day.
The four children asked me to officially adopt them. This became official after many lengthy meetings and discussions with adoption and court officials. I am proud to now officially be called their Dad.
Our future holds much more certainty now. We are now settled in Australia, arriving in January 2010 once all our visas were granted and after the adoption of the children took place. So I am now officially a father of seven. Being back in Australia has had its challenges, with us getting used to all the different facets of integrating families, finding jobs, settling in to home, schools, etc. But it has been fun and we know that we hold a great future.
AT THE ARK
About a year into this ordeal, my wife felt that the Lord was directing her to start something to support families going through similar situations. She constantly kept receiving the word ‘ARK’ whenever she prayed. I was travelling home one day from work and talking with her on the phone and she blurted out to me, ‘I think the Lord wants me to start a website!’ I immediately said, ‘great, let’s do it!’ When I came home that night she told me about what the Lord had been placing on her heart about the name ‘The ARK’. We decided to look up what the word ‘ARK’ actually meant. Its literal meaning is ‘RESORATION BOX’ or ‘LIFE PRESERVER’. We were truly amazed. We then expanded the name slightly to AT THE ARK. Before we knew it the domain name was registered and were off and running. A very close friend in Australia owns a company called www.domainworld.com.au and assisted us in getting the ball rolling with the site. My beautiful wife however has constructed the majority of it all on her own. She had never done anything like this before, but felt the Lord’s hand forever with her guiding her every step of the way.
Since then we have had the privilege of getting involved with great organisations such as the NSPCC in the UK, who do a wonderful job helping children all over the UK through the difficult challenges of surviving sexual abuse. As mentioned earlier, the CCPAS has some amazing programs and material available. We have a terrific relationship with UCB (United Christian Broadcasters) who were very gracious in supplying us with some sixty-second adverts running everyday on their radio stations in the UK. We have done a few radio interviews to promote the site and ministry as well. We have also recorded a television interview with UCB as well, that aired in early 2010. Their support has been simply overwhelming. This interview has since been re-aired a number of times and each time we get some really encouraging emails from people right across the UK.
We also partner with a wonderful organisation called Milo Services who are a terrific counselling and retreat service in the UK, as well as Compassion Services here in Australia. These people are simply wonderful people of God with a heart for the ministry that has been laid before them. We simply love them.
Since At The Ark began in August 2008, we have been in contact with countless numbers of suffering people: some of whom are dealing with current abuse, others caring for friends or family members, and still others with past hurts. Many have contacted us just to say 'thank you' and send their blessings. We find it such an awesome privilege to be able to offer some assistance or a word of encouragement to all the Lord directs our way. This is truly one time where we can honestly say that WHAT WAS MEANT FOR EVIL… GOD HAS TURNED FOR GOOD!
TO GOD BE THE GLORY!
At The Ark is a registered charity in Australia. This enables us to actively support those whom desperately need our assistance.