An Open Letter to Fathers in the Field:
I want to thank from deep within my heart the Fathers in the Field family, Terry and Kristie Leach and John Cunningham and his wife, Katharine, for welcoming my family into your lives. I am overwhelmed with emotion and strengthened in my faith by your outpouring of concern, love and acceptance. I also want to thank their church, New Hope Bible Church in Front Royal, VA, for supporting the Fathers in the Field ministry and doing “whatever it takes” to see one less boy become part of a devastating statistic. I’m grateful because that boy happens to be my nine-year-old son, Aden.
You all are truly a blessing to Aden, a blessing I don’t feel like I deserve. I’m perfectly surrounded by the good Lord’s glory and amazing grace. Fathers in the Field is a monumental blessing in our lives. I have found very few people who understand the impact our situation has not only on a child, but the whole family. Thank you for being there. Thank you for being willing to be there. And thank you for going out of your way to make this happen for Aden.
Aden met his Mentor Father, John, for the first time in the beginning of August. Although we’re one and a half hours away from Front Royal, the time is worth the investment. I was willing to move my family to be involved in Fathers in the Field – that’s how important it is to me, but especially to Aden.
Our church turned down my request to initiate Fathers in the Field since they wanted to develop their own program. Thankfully, God’s hand was in the process. I found Terry Leach, New Hope’s Church Champion, via an internet search and asked if he was the same guy doing Fathers in the Field Aden’s Sunday School teacher, Chris told me about. I wasn’t willing to wait two years or even two months for my church to start its own program. I felt I was already out of time and I wanted him in the program immediately.
I left Aden’s dad when he was a little more than one year old. I couldn’t take the instability and unpredictability of living with someone bi-polar. I remember the negative effect it had on Aden when his dad would communicate with him for six months or a year at a time and then disappear without a word for another six months or a year. I would get calls from preschool after emotional breakdowns due to frustration over not being understood because of a speech delay and desperately wanting his father. “I just want my dad,” was the only reason he gave me for his tears.
I also remember the times Aden would refuse to talk for hours and cry himself to sleep so many nights wondering why his dad didn’t want him, wondering what he did to make his dad angry and what he could do to make his dad come back. His dad told him on his fifth birthday he might never see him again because he was moving to South America. Aden would have a meltdown set off by normal things like seeing a boy and his dad playing basketball or hearing his half-sister talk about what she was going to buy her dad for Father’s Day.
The abandonment and hurt is so deep Aden doesn’t want to go by his legal last name. He thinks his name is a reflection of his dad and doesn’t want to be associated with it. I’ll never forget when he was seven asking me if he could take his dad back and get a new one. I pray his involvement with Fathers in the Field will not only build his faith but also his self-image and ability to forgive.
My own guilt and shame has been overwhelming at times since I know in my heart I created the situation. I’ve gotten into some impossible predicaments, but God has helped me through it. I made the choice to date his father. When I was seven months pregnant with Aden I realized this unhealthy relationship left me with $70,000 in debt. I trusted someone who shouldn’t have been trusted. A simple thing like taking to Aden to Boy Scouts left me emotionally tortured by the consequences of my choices. The pain both Aden and I felt seeing the other boys there with their fathers was immense.
Now, since our involvement in Fathers in the Field, we joyfully sit outside his door at night and listen to him pray and thank God for the men in his life, Chris, from our home church; Terry, New Hope’s Church Champion, and John, Aden’s Mentor Father. He prays for his dad, that he finds God, and that he is happy. It’s a rare occasion anymore that he’s visibly or verbally upset about his dad. I thank God every morning my family has you all.
Aden had so much fun on Sunday after church canoeing with John. He’s still talking about it and can’t wait to see his Mentor Father again. Aden asked me if John was going to stick around. He thought he was cool. The distance we travel to get to John is absolutely nothing compared to the rewards of participating in Fathers in the Field. I’d drive any distance to repair the damage that’s been done to my son.