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Children Caught in the Middle 05/02/2008

YFZ women and children

Women and children being led
away from the YFZ compound.

I remember it like it was last week, when a strange man knocked on the door of our shack and held up a law officer's ID. The stranger had another officer with him and they announced that I would have to go with them. As a nine-year-old boy, I cannot explain how terrified I was.

My mother had recently married a man in his 60's who could neither read nor write. He had battled alcoholism in his past, but somehow impressed my mother. The bathroom facilities in the house were so dirty that I actually bathed in the river. I could not figure it out then, and cannot to this day grasp how she could have entered into such a relationship.

When the officers arrived, I felt like I was under arrest. I tearfully asked the officers if I could get my pet parakeet "Skipper," that Rev. and Mrs. Hale (my foster parents with whom I'd just visited) had given me to take home. They agreed, I got the cage, and we rode in the officers' car to the detention center.

I was placed in a room that had bars on the windows and a locked door. I had been briefly shown the showers and bathroom stalls at the end of the hallway and told that I would have occasion to go, but for a while I was locked up. I remember taking Skipper from the cage. As he sat on my finger, I looked through the bars outside and commented with great sadness, "Now I know how you feel to be in a cage. I'm going to take you out and play with you as much as I can." Words fail to describe how I wrapped my heart around that little green bird. He was my best friend.

I found out later that my aunt was terribly upset about my mother's marriage. She had contacted the authorities and reported my living conditions, claiming that I did not have enough to eat. It's true that we had meager meals, but I was not going hungry.

That experience had a dramatic and traumatic effect on me. It caused me to distrust people, especially adults. It caused me to doubt if anybody really cared. I can honestly say to you that only the grace of our mighty God and a very real and personal relationship with Jesus Christ has enabled me to deal with the effects of a very troubled childhood. I know that God can give us the ability to forgive, to trust, and to discern while making wise decisions. However, if we are held captive by the hurt and become prisoners of past pain, present problems or future pursuits, we will live a very unfulfilling life. If we do really trust the love of our God who revealed Himself in His Son Jesus, and who through His death redeems us from all past sin, and through the power of His Spirit gives us the ability to live life beyond belief, we find fullness and freedom in the now.

As I watch what's going on with hundreds of children taken from the Yearning For Zion (YFZ) sect in west Texas, I understand the importance of praying for children to know the grace that God offers. It cannot be found in religion or traditions of those who proclaim faith; it can only be found in those who have experienced the legitimate result of faith that produces a Christ-like life.

It is important to note that the closer we get to the real Creator, the more diverse, different and distinct we are. We should not be captured by sameness and conformity. We were never designed to be like everybody else. Our great Creator made no two people alike, no two snowflakes alike, and no two fingerprints alike. Look at the beauty of Creation. We should be cautioned when we see any attempt to shape people in the same way or dress them in like manner.

The practices of the YFZ cult are alarming. They hide behind religion to break the law, oppress women, impregnate underage girls and (allegedly) abuse young boys. Some of LIFE's ministry representatives spent time with these children. Brandon Heckler reported his experience:

We spent three days with the children from YFZ. Outwardly they were angry, cold and distant. As time passed, we found that inside they were broken, unsure and longing for hope. When it came time for their mothers to leave, the workers from Child Protective Services met with each family and explained how the separation would happen. As the mothers left peaceably, the children wailed in anguish. Never have I known a situation where the Father's love was needed more. I sat down next to an eight-year-old boy. He was bitter beyond words. We talked about our Heavenly Father, about His caring Spirit, and God's desire to take care of him and his family.

As he calmed down, other boys circled around and listened as I shared with them the stories of Joseph and Daniel. One boy asked, "Why are you being so kind to us?"

I replied, "Because we love you and God loves you, too."

John Melton, another ministry representative, reported the touching story of a six-year-old girl:

One girl stole my heart the first day I met her. She was among the last to leave on Friday. Before she stepped onto the bus, she grabbed the name badge hanging around my neck and stared intently at my picture on it.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"I just don't want to ever forget you," she said. Slowly, she lifted her tear-filled eyes to meet mine. "Are you going to forget me?"

"Absolutely not!" I replied.

"Even if I have to go back to the ranch?"

Suddenly fighting back my own tears, I assured her that I would never forget her, no matter where she went. I told her that even if we never met again, I would pray to our Heavenly Father to watch over and protect her.

We must never forget any of these precious children. I pray for all of the little ones who have been hurt. They don't understand the separation. They are innocent. Of course, we should keep an eye on the government to prevent abuse on their part, but children are so vulnerable. They can easily be deeply hurt. I know -- I experienced it.

For me, religion was not the cure. It was not the answer to all that troubled me. I needed a personal relationship with a living God through faith in Jesus Christ. This relationship has enabled me and my wife to make it through all the challenges of life for 45 years.

The YFZ children are innocent -- even those who may have suffered abuse within the cult. Their hope rests in discovering the greatness of God's grace and the importance of forgiveness. Otherwise, they run the risk of being held captive to bitterness for the rest of their lives. They have seen what man and religion can do; now they need to see what God can do.

Please pray for the children of YFZ -- those who were removed from the Texas compound as well as those still on other properties in other states. They are all caught in the middle of a horrific situation. I understand, because I have been there, and I know that God's love is the ultimate answer.


Author: James Robison

Word Count: 1240

About the author: James Robison is the founder and president of LIFE Outreach International, a Christian media ministry and mission relief organization. He and his wife, Betty, host of the television program Life Today; He has authored numerous books, including The Soul of a Nation, The Absolutes: Freedom's Only Hope and True Prosperity.

Media Contact: Randy Robison, editor at jamesrobison.net . Photo available upon request. Reprint rights granted with attribution for complete, unedited article. Revisions allowed only with approval.