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Ignatius Press - Catholic Books

Ecclesiasticus 38:1
Honour a physician with
the honour due unto him.

We believed the Bible - we trusted God's promises
We were sure of faith healing as much as believers could be

a family's grief and guilt
~God didn't save our child~

Deborah Elizabeth Shepherd

we love you Debbie

1974 - 1983

Where were you, Lord?

cult abuse?
Faith healing : is it real?

A child's cancer, and her family's escape from a cult like church.

-- written by Bob Shepherd --

The turbulent sixties were, for many of us, a time when "hearts were young and gay." At least there was an exuberance, and in our case, a drive and a zeal to find our niche in the world. I had grown up craving acceptance, yet for me the path of least resistance often wound up being a kind of inward withdrawal. I questioned the faith of my childhood. "Are you running with me, Jesus?" I cried out into the darkness. Nevertheless, a return to old time religion offered me a lifeline out of my private isolation. Even more (speaking of my case again) a special additional byproduct was my marriage.

I met Linda at a 'prayer closet' in Fresno, California, following my emergence from the fringes of hippie counterculture and youthful excess. Turning to the Bible and a Christ-stressing faith, I was attracted by the certainty and security I saw in a tight-knit sect of faitheistic Bible-believers, who exhorted strict loyalty, an ardent faith in God and in divine healing, acceptance of the Lord's chastening as a parent's loving spanking, .... and ... suspicion of "worldly" outsiders. But was Christ`s Church of Restitution a religious cult? In a day when almost `anything goes` -- why should faith healing be called fanatical? Were they even fanatics? So much of the teaching seemed sound, and it was from Brother B. (pastor of Christ Church) that we first heard of the age-old prophecy of Mother Shipton warning of "end times" when people would turn against child-bearing, when women would fondle cats and dogs, when men would behave like hogs.

To me there was something in the challenge of taking on a burden of high responsibility and lofty standards that was appealing. Perhaps out of my own unworthiness I aspired to do something meaningful, something real with my life. I think I wanted to make a contribution, and the avenue that presented itself was one of faith. See a personal introspection. Yet there was controversy, too. Outsiders seemed to regard Brother B. as a false prophet, or a shaman. Some local churches claimed our doctrines were `Gnostic,` or too psychological, or cult-like.

To us, Brother B. was a prophet. He was not a cultist. He was not a shaman. It was Brother B. who taught us the harvest is plentiful, but the Laborers are few; there are countless spirits yet unborn, waiting for a chance to experience life. It was Brother B. who would lay hands on the sick, and (so many times) they would recover. It was Brother B. who exhorted to have strong families, and deep moral roots.

Large families were not uncommon in the church. (No we were not over-sexed fanatics, but tried to be responsible in the dimension of sexuality, in a biblical way.) In time, our own family grew in faith and in number till there were finally eleven children in all born to us. All the children were born at home, without doctors or dope or drugs, all named after biblical heroes or evangelists, all raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, the best we could.

Our family ultimately moved to rural northern California, where the church had now headquartered in Lewiston (Trinity County). The kids were home schooled, studied the KJV (1611) Christian Bible, and our family, like the others in our fellowship, relied on the "prayer closet" and faith-healing as Christ`s channel of deliverance from evil of all kind.

When God doesn't heal

In 1982, Debbie developed a growth on her side. It was treated by Bro. Bee with the prayer of faith and Bible-ordained intercession. When Debbie`s growth (tumor) continued to worsen, we were faced with a dilemma. Isolated and "separatist" though we were, we took Debbie to the child welfare authorities. We told them we believed Debbie would not live, but because we belonged to a church committed to God and faith healing, rather than doctors, we felt stymied. While eager to defend our faith and our Bible, we also wanted to stay within the law. (This was 1982.)

The authorities explained that in cases of "child abuse or neglect" their office would be compelled to intervene (for the minor child). While seeming to be respectful of first amendment safeguards (of faith and conscience), they judged "Christ's Church" to be a cult, or at least suspect --- and rationalized their sidestepping of the First Amendment. A hearing was quickly held, and medical intervention was initiated. The doctors said Debbie had a cancerous Wilms` Tumor. Over the next year they did all they could to save Debbie. But on November 5, 1983, the Wilms` cancer claimed her. A couple doctors said she probably would have died no matter what. One of the nurses said, "Sometimes we will never understand why God saves one and not another." But one of the people in our own church implied that the fault was ours, for not trusting God.

So Costly a Sacrifice

It is so easy to blame God. Like Job in the Bible, we demand that God 'treat us better!' In our irreverence and pain, we even question God's right to use us humans as his 'guinea pigs.' Yet how can we be right to rail and rage at the giver of all life? He loaned a precious child to us ... for a little while. And then, he wanted her back.

Our daughter Debbie was a beautiful, intelligent and precocious child. She loved poetry and art, horses and unicorns, music and reading. We were, as a family, stunned. This was not supposed to happen, we thought. For many months we were in something like shock. Were we falling apart or drawing together? Feeling barely survivors ourselves, we had quit going to church, had begun to question the very foundations of our faith.

Somewhere deep within I knew God's father-right to chasten his children, to discipline and correct, but all I could think was: You can't have Debbie! You just can't. Our grief was heavy. We were hurting, and questioning, and angry at God, at ourselves, at the world, at the doctors. What good was all our "godly" zeal and intensity -- if it couldn't even save Debbie? What good was God, and what good were the genius doctors and all their optimism and the false-hopes they gave us?

It was hard for us to "let go and let God be God." But little by little we have gained peace. When she was dying we were refreshed by so much kindness from those we did not expect it from. It was hard to comprehend that "outsiders" and unbelievers, Samaritans, "lukewarm" believers and "worldly" doctors could have been so kind, while our own righteous zeal had stood judging them, closed (for so long) to their kindness. We found ourselves throwing out a lot of rules and narrow thinking, and turning to a much more basic and ordinary outlook. What if God's healing is bigger than our private demands, what if God is not just a God of this life, but surely the other one, too. And what if God is bigger than the narrow and exclusive sect we had formerly felt certain He had anointed as His special and select ones. When we were hurting and desperate, people of all kinds were trying to help, and it meant so much to us.

We learned other things, too. Like how important it is to be gentle, to "try a little kindness," as Joey Bishop used to say. That God can meet you in many forms, and that he can use MANY agents and channels for his blessing. No longer are we impressed with the logic of distrusting all doctors and all government. Indeed, even if there is truth in the scriptures which say we must not trust in man, we know God does use human intermediaries.

Yes, people, tell your churches. Tell your friends. Even if God chastens and "spanks" his people, even if we sometimes suffer affliction, or sickness, or loss, He has not abandoned us. And guess what!! God does use science for good. He does use doctors for good. He does use government for good. And he will "even" use your neighbors, too. :-)

This insight was Debbie's gift to us.

rose THANK YOU, Debbie. --- We love you. rose

. . . . forgive us, Lord, for doubting . . .

flickering candle
This Remembrance placed here by Debbie's family.

To go to a 1983 photograph showing Debbie's family.

To see June 2001 case in Pennsylvania like the Shepherds

To see recent cases like the Shepherds' but in Florida courts.

To see more of the family's story from Mom (Lindy's) viewpoint.

Much was positive and anointed about Brother B`s ministry, I feel

Come see a Poem Page Edgar Guest - the People's Poet

Dark! is the Night, but oh, Bright is the Day

As I write in June 2002, I feel I need to add a comment on Brother Bee. While I cannot retract the above 'criticism' of this prophet of deliverance, as we regarded him, nevertheless looking at it now, I feel I should temper my criticism with an acknowledgement of the tremendous good this man did for so many of us, the answered prayer that in some cases verged on the miraculous, the knowledge of things spiritual, the heavy stress on scripture. Brother Bee 's preaching was not with enticing words of men's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. He taught us that life is precious, that it comes from God, whose mercies fail not, and whose lovingkindness, He has promised, is better than life itself. (See 1 Corinthians 2: 4, also Psalm 63: 3)   Cont'd

y'all have a good day now
Come on down to my town


divine love creates anew

Below are some links I like, dealing either with spiritual abuse and cults, or escape and healing from such situations, or with grief generally. The prophet Hosea declared: 'My people perish for lack of knowledge.' These links represent varying views theologically, and a site's listing here implies no endorsement whatever in that regard.

Spiritual Abuse and Controversy:
A Pastor Deplores Spiritual Abuse
Not in our town: "biblical" homo-phobia
Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Jan Groenveld's work -- in memoriam
The Next Billy Graham? Or a UPC cultist
Seth Asser: medicine's under-age patients
Contend for the faith: not all "good" is ALL good
Serge Trifkovic: Islam has a fanatic side, too
Atlanta Christian Apologetics Project
Cults and Spiritually Abusive Churches
Answers in Action : fighting falsehood
"Old Time Fundamentalism" : a Bane?
The Church that forgot Christ- Rome
Recovering from Spiritual Abuse
Opus Dei Awareness Network
Apologetics Index (Netherlands)
Religion - its own worst enemy
Jehovah's Witness Child Abuse
Autonomy versus Manipulation
Faith Healing in a biblical context
Counter Cult links and resources
Don Wilkey on the religious right
Mormon history and the cult issue
Walk Away : ex-fundamentalists
Families Against Cults (IBAE)
Survivors of Spiritual Abuse
Christian Anti-Cult Outreach U
Is this actually `child abuse`?
Tyrell Dueck tragedy
Mike's Ex-Cult Site
Hype and Hypocrisy
Time to strip bare
Divided By God
A coach's impact
ReFocus Page
Cults seminar
Folksy Hoax
Fact Net

Stand Up To Cancer:
Wilms' Tumour Information
Cancer Support Groups & Help
Support for Cancer Patients
Cancer Resources on the web
Cancer Kids Home Page
St. Jude's in Memphis
Childhood Cancer Foundation
Cure Child Cancer
Survivors' Resources
Some General Links:
The humble folk who built this land
Historic GOOD of the churches
Audacity of Hope: Audacity of Faith
A Pastor's Shepherd Heart
Repairer of the Breach
America's love affair with God
Path to Joy: Helping Others
Vicarious atonement - is it real?
America needs its Dads
Words to motivate you
Our body is important too
Clean the inside of the pot
A dear, little church in the vale
We the People: honor and patriotism
Schools persecute an ancient faith
We all need hope and joy in life
God's Generals (by Roberts Liardon)
One more General : Clarence Shannon
Hate is NOT a family value (homophobia)
Conservative Christians' tarnished image

Coping with Grief:
Learning to Live Again v
Grief Recovery Online
Compassionate Friends
Wall of Memory Online
In the darkness a promise
Loss of a Child
Grief Net Support
Story of a beautiful hymn
A Reason for Living

Other Friends and Helps:
Mikaila - the Lord Sent a Child
Somehow Let's All Build Bridges
Healing : From letting down your guard
Joys of a big family : a Jewish view _ Y
Seth Asser update : raising awareness
Sing, the Beloved Country!
Surge in Black American Patriotism
Can we all get along?
The essential liberty (Conscience)
Some reflections on September 11 - O
Mother Teresa's Candle Shineth Still U
Vulgate : clunky or superb workmanship
StarShine's Gorgeous Creation Graphic
Classic poems of uplift and faith
Some Poems of hope and courage
Poet-lovers Edgar Guest Page
Spiritual explosion in Africa
Unicorns - symbolic Lover-and-beloved
Lowly gospel roots of the frontier
What men can do for their kids!

Honora medicum propter necessitatem;
etenim illum creavit Altissimus.
Liber eccclesiasticus
nova vulgata
caput xxxviii

America Repent
Time to Repent, America


Faith Beyond Faith Healing by Kimberly Winston

Ron Henzel's Reading List - Recommended

Recent Books, Just Out - Publishers` Notes

CHILD group Bibliography - recommended reading

  Books suggested by Chaplain David Plummer, M.Div., L.M.F.T;
    Clinical Member, American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy



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visits since 7/1/98