Monday, October 17, 2011

Commitment and Compassion


Every time I see or hear Dr. Frasers name I cry. When we see him at Texas Childrens walking down the hall, I cry,when I see my daughter on stage at school I cry. I remember when she turned one I wrote him a letter thanking his parents for having such an awesome son lol. Dr. Fraser and his team will forever be one of the very best gifts I ever received. God Bless you All. ~ comment from a mom on Inside Congenital Heart Surgery at Texas Children's Hospital (took the words right out of my mouth and heart)

Dr. Charles D. Fraser, Jr., Surgeon-in-Chief, the heart surgeon who saved our baby girl's life, featured in the article To Save a Child's Heart:
"I became a children’s heart surgeon because the results last a lifetime.” It’s what gets him up every morning, what sustains him through emergency weekend-long transplant operations, and what makes the time away from his family worth it. His wife, Helen, says, “It’s the difference between a job and a calling.”

When surgery goes well, and Fraser manages to fix and restart the heart, ease the child off of bypass, and sew up its chest; and when, after eight nonstop hours of intense concentration, he finally steps back from the operating table; and when, hours later, the infant opens its eyes and sees its parents’ faces, the whole episode seems, in a word, miraculous.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

What's at Stake: protecting and preserving the innocence of children

UPDATE 9/22/13: I mentioned in the original post that Eddie Struble is living in the Dallas/Fort Worth area now. He is attending and assisting in a leadership position in the worship ministry at Birchman Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, according to the information on their website here. The SBC has a long history of completely ignoring credible allegations of child sex abuse by their own clergy and volunteers, and in this case of credible allegations of abuse by Eddie Struble, there are police reports. The SBC has a long history of protecting and enabling the perpetrators of these heinous crimes against children in their churches by continuing to elevate and place them in public positions of leadership and trust. Predators are master manipulators and use these positions of trust, particularly spiritual trust, to groom kids and gain the trust of parents, preying upon the vulnerable.
5th Sunday Hymn Sing
September 29 at 6:00pm
You are invited to be part of this 
nostalgic and encouraging night of 
worship. Join in singing your favorite 
hymns of praise from our hymnal on 
Sunday evening September 29.
Joining Bro Philip in leading this time 
of worship will be Phil Jones, Phillip 
Smith, Eddie Struble, and Martin Critz
Open Your Eyes
Unfortunately the church is not necessarily known as a safe place for those who have been hurt by this crime. Rather than leading the charge the church is scandalized by reports of abuse within her ranks. Instead of seeking justice and providing safe, healing environments for survivors and their families, the church has become known for its cover ups and lack of competence and compassion when caring for those hurt by sexual abuse.
In a recent article in the Associated Baptist Press, Bob Allen, writes, "A victims’ advocate says autonomous Baptist churches are ill-equipped to deal with the problem of sexual abuse by clergy because they lack the objectivity to respond appropriately to allegations against a trusted minister." This lack of objectivity clouds the better judgement of those in places of authority charged with protecting the most vulnerable in their congregations, children.


When familiarity with a credibly accused minister tragically trumps the *mandate to report the knowledge of abuse or suspicion of abuse to the police, children are placed in danger, particularly when the perpetrator is removed from one place of ministry only to be allowed to move on to unsuspecting churches and communities. I have seen this firsthand in the mishandling of reports of abuse by my former youth music minister (*See Prestonwood Baptist Church John Langworthy).

A few months ago I was made aware of specific concerns about a minister credibly accused of the sexual abuse and stalking of at least one teenage boy of which I am aware. This music minister, Eddie Struble, was formerly on staff at Second Baptist Church, a Baptist megachurch in Houston, with a membership of more than 53,000. He left that position a couple of years ago and sometime after that was hired as the interim music minister at Humble Area First Baptist Church but is no longer on staff there, as of October 2010, and has moved to the Dallas/Fort Worth area. He also worked as a vocal coach at Hits Theatre in Houston. Prior to working at Second Baptist, he was on staff at Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis and Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa.


I have communicated with all of the Houston area organizations involved, as well as the pastor of Idlewild Baptist, regarding my concerns about Eddie Struble. One of the employers confirmed that he was fired for suspicious behavior. Any suspicion of abuse to minors must be reported to law enforcement as mandated by TX reporting laws which were enacted in 1971.

 Under Texas law,ministers and clergy are required to report any suspected child abuse ― sexual or otherwise ― to authorities within 48 hours of being told, otherwise they too are committing a criminal offense. A child is defined as anyone under the age of 18.

Information on mandated reporting laws nationwide is also available here via RAINN. Here is a list of specific behavior signs of a predator from Houston experts and here are some great tips on child sexual abuse prevention in Parenting magazine. Please read and pass it on.


In July 2011 I obtained a copy of a police report from the Spring Valley Police Department, which is public information, from October 12, 2009 detailing a call for service to the former Struble home. In the report, (redacted copy embedded below), there are concerns about stalking of a minor as well as a Houston police department incident number filed with the juvenile investigation unit that handles sexual abuse. The offense listed on the report is "Criminal Solicitation of a Child." On a call to Hits Theatre about these concerns, I was told that they are "aware of the allegations." I advised Hits also to report any knowledge of or suspicion of abuse to the police, and to be aware that kids may be afraid to come forward for fear of not being believed. In my attempts to get more information from Second Baptist on Eddie's departure and the allegations of abuse stemming from his time at Second, David Dixon, executive pastor, responded in a voicemail to me that "we have no information at all." The audio is embedded below. Click the play button to listen:



 A few weeks later,  I received this email from David Dixon:

From: Dixon, David [mailto:ddixon@second.org]
Sent: Monday, July 11, 2011 8:56 AM
To: spacecitysnap@gmail.com
Subject:

Amy, I am aware of 3 emails that you have sent to various staff members regarding a former employee. All of those email have been sent to me as I am responsible for these issues for Second Baptist Church. If you wish to discuss your emails please contact me directly and not anyone else. In addition please provide me the name and contact information of the [*] police detective and I will be happy to contact them.

David Dixon 

Eddie Struble- Spring Valley police report page 1

Eddie Struble police report page 2

Eddie Struble Houston Police Offense Report

As an advocate for survivors of child sexual abuse, I am concerned that there could be more victims harmed by Eddie Struble, such as detailed in the police report above. It is critical for anyone who has seen, suffered or suspected child sex crimes by Eddie to come forward, report these crimes to law enforcement, get help, start healing and protect others. It is also imperative that the staff at his previous churches and places of employment come forward and report to law enforcement any knowledge or suspicion of abuse to kids.

Christa Brown, in the Associated Baptist Press article cited above, states, “Many clergy abuse survivors say that the experience of having been disbelieved and attacked by their faith community is even more painful than the memory of having been sexually molested by a minister,” she said. “It is the community that often causes even more harm than the molesting minister.” Brown, of Stop Baptist Predators, a survivor of sexual abuse by her Southern Baptist youth minister when she was 16, shared her testimony in a 2009 book titled This Little Light: Beyond a Baptist Preacher Predator and His Gang. Christa's story and a review of her book were featured in the Austin American-Statesman,  Christa Brown's saga resonates more for me now that I'm a mother:
Christa Brown's story will likely make you mad. As a naive 16-year-old growing up in a North Texas Baptist church in the 1960s, she was pressured into having a sexual relationship with her youth minister. The married pastor told Brown it was God's will and justified his marital infidelity by citing Bible verses about concubines — then excoriated her as a satanic temptress when his wife found out.


When Brown reported the abuse to another church leader, the minister, like so many Catholic priests we've since heard about, was transferred to another congregation. No police investigation. No announcement to the congregation.


...
 What happened to children at the hands of Catholic priests and bishops was so beyond the pale that no policy could ever make it right.
I see that now because I know what it means to want to protect someone so fiercely. I know what innocence is and the importance of preserving it as long as possible. Molesters don't just ruin childhood, they set their victims up for an adulthood fraught with anxiety and anger, failed relationships and self-loathing — nothing any mother would wish for her child.
I always felt sorry for abuse victims. But as I held my baby and imagined all the wonder and joy that awaited her, I began to understand more clearly what Brown and so many others had stolen from them.
 ...


Like her Catholic friends who tried to effect institutional change, Brown said she encountered hurdles and denial and indifference among Baptist leaders in the national and state conventions. Her abuser, who finally left the ministry after serving different churches, never faced charges. And Baptist leaders have yet to create a national database of abusers or a central reporting point for victims.


But "This Little Light" should stir Baptist leaders to action. And it should help all of us understand just exactly what's at stake.
  
*We all have the responsibility to protect  children from harm. If you suspect the abuse or neglect of a child, it is your duty to report it immediately. Call 911. In TX that would apply to any child under the age of 18 when the abuse took place. Per the Office of the Attorney General of Texas Greg Abbott:


Anyone having cause to believe that a child's physical or mental health or welfare has been or may be adversely affected by abuse or neglect MUST report the case immediately to a state or local law enforcement agency or the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS).

DFPS has a toll-free, 24-hour Hotline: 1-800-252-5400 or www.txabusehotline.org
 
If you suspect abuse:

DON'T try to investigate. DON'T confront the abuser. DO report your reasonable suspicions.

It is not up you to determine whether your suspicions are true. A trained investigator will evaluate the child's situation. Even if your report does not bring decisive action, it may help establish a pattern that will eventually be clear enough to help the child.
Please, if you saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes, please contact the police or local law enforcement agency, no matter how long ago or how recent the abuse occurred. Children's Advocacy Centers are also available across the country to support victims and their families. National Children's Alliance is a professional membership organization dedicated to helping local communities respond to allegations of child abuse in ways that are effective and efficient and put the needs of child victims first. The mission of Children's Advocacy Centers of Texas is to restore the lives of abused children by supporting children's advocacy centers in partnership with local communities and agencies investigating and prosecuting child abuse. To find a local center in TX, go here and you can search by county.

The light of knowledge and truth is our most important tool in protecting kids.

Please contact me at spacecitysnap@gmail.com if I can be of any assistance.

Amy Smith
Houston SNAP 

Update: In light of the events involving Penn State, SNAP urges the new Penn State coach to come clean.
We also call on interim coach Tom Bradley to release a statement to disclose what he knew or suspected and when regarding Sandusky’s crimes. Bradley was also there while this cover up took place, so it is hard to believe that Bradley was completely unaware of the situation. We hope that Bradley comes forward to tell the police and the public exactly what he knew, and when he found out.

May the watchers become warriors in protecting kids.





Thursday, October 13, 2011

Memories Don't Know Time: Shining the Light on Child Sexual Abuse

 About a year ago I decided speak out and not leave it up to someone else to warn about my former youth music minister John Langworthy, at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas, I was someone else. I had to get someone to listen, anyone who could shine the light of truth on this admitted pedophile. I began to search online for Langworthy and found him working at a church and public high school in Clinton, MS. As soon as I learned he was working in a school, I called the superintendent,  Dr. Phil Burchfield. The next day I emailed him and received this reply:        


          Sent: Wednesday, August 18, 2010 1:38 PM
Subject: Re: Kanakuk case in Missouri
I spoke with Sherry this morning.... I will be contacting Prestonwood Baptist Church soon.
Dr. Burchfield mentions speaking to Sherry, a friend of mine who is a former Dallas County probation officer who worked with sex offenders. Here is the story of the sentencing of Pete Newman in Missouri that I referenced in my email to Dr. Burchfield as a catalyst for speaking out about John Langworthy.

In November 2010, I emailed Neal Jeffrey, an associate pastor at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas. Neal was the youth minister at the time of Langworthy's firing in 1989 due to credible allegations of sexual abuse by several boys. I received this reply:

To: 
Sent: Wednesday, November 10, 2010 12:41 PM
Subject: your email

Amy, here is another attempt to answer your email, it has never gone through for some reason,
Here is what I wrote,
Amy,
I sent a reply last Sunday, but it must not have gone through, it kept coming up with an “error” sign, but I am pretty lame when it comes to computers,
Anyway, here is another try,
Dr. Burchfield, the Superintendent did call me and we had a pretty frank discussion of John, and his time here. He said that he was going to call John in and have a discussion with him about all this stuff. I also called our attorneys, who were involved in all of this back then, and they were going to discuss what we need to do, and probably call Dr. Burchfield, etc, The attorney guys did not remember all of the specifics of the case, so they were going to go back into their notes etc, and see what needs to be done. I have not heard back from any of them, so I will make an attempt to see where all of that is.
I will let you know, blessings to you all,
Neal Jeffrey
On Jan. 10, I emailed the pastor of Morrison Heights Baptist Church about my concerns about John Langworthy. He replied about a month later asking me to call him. I did call him and he stated he had been made aware of the allegations of abuse from a phone call from a past victim. He stated he had confronted John who admitted the abuse. In April, Greg Belser called me (audio embedded below) to set up a conference call with him and the six elders to discuss the results of their completed "investigation" and their reasons for concluding that they felt "safe" in keeping John Langworthy on staff. A few months later I received a voicemail from Philip Gunn, an elder of Morrison Heights, attorney and MS state representative. I emailed him asking the purpose of his call. He replied asking if I would be willing to discuss a resolution. I said no. (Update: details of this email exchange are included in my interview with Ross Adams of WJTV Jackson on Gunn's role).



audio of call with Greg Belser, pastor of Morrison Heights Baptist Church and Sherry LeFils, a former probation officer with the Dallas County sex offender unit:





That night (April 12, 2011)  that the conference call was to happen, Belser called to postpone stating that they had "come into some new information." This new information was a call from a past Mississippi victim who eventually went to the police in Clinton to report his abuse. The conference call with me, Sherry, Belser and the elders never happened.




In March, I sent several emails to staff at Clinton High School, including the principal and counselors. I also emailed a few members of the school board, staff at the Mississippi Department of Education and the communications director for Clinton Public Schools, Sandi Beason. I received 2 replies out of these emails. One from Wendy Polk, the director of communications for the MS Department of Education:
From: Wendy Polk
To: 
Sent: Friday, March 11, 2011 3:29 PM
Subject: RE: Concern about admitted sex offender at Clinton HS

Ms. Smith,
Thanks for your input on this matter.
Wendy Polk
and from Sandi Beason:
 From: Sandi Beason
To:
Sent: Monday, March 14, 2011 8:45 AM
Subject: Re: Concern about a Clinton HS teacher
 Mrs. Smith,
How many people are you sending (rather, have you sent) this information to?
Sandi Beason
Public Information Officer
Clinton Public School District
www.clintonpublicschools.com
(601) 924-7533


My additional correspondence with Prestonwood Baptist came in a reply from Mike Buster, executive pastor, after I sent a detailed email of my concerns to head pastor Dr. Jack Graham:
From: Mike Buster
To: 
Sent: Thursday, February 24, 2011 2:49 PM
Subject: your email

Dear Amy,
Thank you for taking the time to write us and share the information on John. I have discussed all of this with Dr. Graham. We were not aware of the most recent developements. Please know that we will cooperate fully with law enforsement agencies concerning this matter.
God bless you.
Mike Buster
Executive Pstor
Prestonwood Baptist Church
I urged Mike Buster to have the staff members at Prestonwood who directly knew about the abuse of children by John Langworthy make a report to the police. To my knowledge, they still have not done this. I do not believe statutes have expired because John fled Dallas in 1989 and has not returned since he was fired for the abuse allegations. It is required by law in TX to *report any knowledge of or suspicion of abuse of a child. A child is defined as anyone under the age of 18This mandatory reporting law was enacted in 1971. It is the right thing to do. Protecting kids has no statute of limitations.

My interview with News 8 investigative reporter Brett Shipp Disturbing revelations about former Prestonwood minister

 The Christian Post

The Oklahoman: Enid pastor renews call for clergy sex abuse database

Houston Chronicle: Ex-minister indicted on sex charges

Fox 40 Jackson

Since the news surfaced about John Langworthy, several victims from MS have come forward to the police, and he was indicted recently. The light of knowledge and truth is our greatest tool to protect kids. A few months ago, I became  the Houston leader for SNAP, a survivors network for those abused by clergy. We applaud these brave men who found the strength to come forward and report the abuse. We also hope it will encourage others who saw, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes by Langworthy or any other offender to come forward, report the abuse to the police, expose predators, protect kids and start healing. Contact Sgt. Byron Fassett in the Dallas police department child exploitation unit at 214-671-4200.

 It’s always tempting to keep quiet about child sex crimes – whether known or suspected.  And for victims, that’s a very effective short term coping mechanism. But over the long haul, it’s terribly destructive. The lifelong effects of childhood victimization slowly and imperceptibly eat away at your self-esteem, trust and faith. And we must hold accountable those in positions of authority who endanger kids when they look the other way and fail to report child abuse to law enforcement authorities whose job it is to investigate the abuse.

Last week Family Life Today interviewed Justin Holcomb, a pastor at Mars Hill Church and director of the resurgence. Justin and his wife, Lindsey, wrote Rid of My Disgrace , a book on gospel hope and healing for sexual assault victims.

You Are Not to Blame is a powerful broadcast that I strongly recommend for survivors of sexual abuse and their families, friends and supporters, as well as anyone concerned with protecting kids. Here are a few notable quotes I gathered from the broadcast:

"Our culture doesn't like to talk about sexual assault."

"Shame is a prison that shuts people down."

"This can happen right under parents' noses."

"Do not offer simplistic platitudes."

"I know the memories and memories don't know time."



               WJTV: Langworthy trial set for April

We hope that John Langworthy will plead guilty to his child sex crimes and spare his victims the ordeal of a trial. But that may only happen if others who saw, suspected or suffered Langworthys' wrong-doing at any time, however long ago or however recent, come forward. The more victims and witnesses come forward, the stronger the prosecutors' case and the more likely Langworthy will admit his misdeeds.
We urge anyone with information about this accused and admitted child molester to call law enforcement immediately.
*I spoke with the Dallas Police Department after Langworthy's arrest to ask for contact numbers for any TX victims to call to report.  You can 911 to make a report of the crime. You will be directed to the appropriate unit. In that conversation, what was clear is that any victims in TX still need to call and make a report of the abuse. The whole truth needs to be known.

Dallas Police non-emergency 214-744-4444, Child Exploitation Unit 214-671-4211, Dallas Children's Advocacy Center Victim Assistant Coordinator 214-818-2613: DCAC will act as the go-between if you do not want to contact the police directly.
In Clinton, Mississippi, if you have any information, if you saw, suspected or suffered abuse by Langworthy or  any other perpetrator, please contact Josh Frazier in the Clinton police department at 601-924-5252. Jamie McBride, assistant district attorney for Hinds County can be reached at 601-968-6568 if you have information about the Langworthy case. Children's Advocacy Centers of Mississippi is also available at 601-969-7111 to assist in the reporting of child abuse and work in partnership with local law enforcement. Trained counselors are available. 
In cases involving child abuse, it is important not to worry about any statute of limitations or try to decipher legal issues. What may seem to be an insignificant detail may be the missing puzzle piece the investigators need. Go to them and tell them what you know and let them determine if it's important! They will keep your identity confidential.
Amy Smith
Houston SNAP, supporting survivors of clergy abuse
spacecitysnap@gmail.com

May the watchers become warriors in protecting kids.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins


Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 Tbs pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 cup plain pumpkin
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 cup chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease muffin cups or use foil or paper baking cups. Thoroughly mix flour, sugar, pie spice, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.

Break eggs into another bowl. Add pumpkin and butter and whisk until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour over dry ingredients and fold in with rubber spatula just until dry ingredients are moistened.

Scoop batter evenly into muffin cups. Bake 20-25 minutes until puffed and springy to the touch in the center. Turn out on a rack to cool.

Great fall breakfast or snack anytime!


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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Chocolate Dream Dessert



Chocolate Dream Dessert

1 cup flour
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1 stick butter, melted
2 containers Cool Whip, divided, thawed
1-8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 box instant vanilla pudding
1 box instant chocolate pudding
3 cups milk

For crust, mix flour, nuts and butter and spread in a 9x13 inch baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Let cool. Mix cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth, then mix in one container of Cool Whip. Spread over crust. Mix vanilla pudding and chocolate pudding with milk until thickened. Spread over cream cheese layer. Spread the other container of Cool Whip over the pudding layer and chill.


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