All posts by barnabas4613

Q&A with Abuse Survivor Shannon Deitz

Abuse survivors are not fragile individuals. They are strong; worthy individuals who have overcome tremendous suffering whether it was physical, sexual, or verbal. Every form of abuse affects the person emotionally, lowering their self-esteem and sense of worth. The best way for a survivor to heal is to give a voice to what has been done or said to them; to be heard and to know they are supported and loved. – Shannon M. Deitz

  • What has inspired you to reach out to others?

I am a survivor of rape and incest. The years I kept the facts of these traumas within me led me down some
dark paths that were filled with bad decisions based on my lack of worth and self-esteem. I want to educate and reach out to other survivors before they get entangled in that dark path and make decisions that can affect them for the rest of their life, adding to the trauma of what has been done or said to them in the past.

  • You recently spoke at a women’s prison, tell us how that came about. How did the women respond to you and your story?

After speaking at a Women’s Conference in Texas City, TX, I was approached by a deacon who was a part of a prison ministry and felt many of the women would relate to my testimony and offer a sense of hope, even if they were not going to end their term in their lifetime. I have spoken at other prisons where many of the women were in for drug possession, prostitution, aggravated assault, etc. who would be released in 3-5 years.
In this particular prison the women in the room with me were in for murder, or attempted murder.

When I prayed about what I felt God wanted them to hear, it was Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.” The only thing that kept me from being in their shoes, in that prison, was the simple grace of God. These women had suffered many of the same abuses as I, incest, rape, domestic violence, but most especially emotional abuse. What put them in that prison was the biggest lie we are left with “I am not worthy”. They made choices that
will remain with them forever and now that lie seems cemented into their soul.

But God’s grace prevails, even in prison, no matter how long the sentence they serve, they are God’s beloved, He knew them before he created them. He gave them a purpose and that purpose can be carried out no matter the surroundings they live in. It’s never too late. They can turn their sights on the Lord every day and reconnect with the gifts and talents He has given them and He will open the doors for their purpose to be fulfilled.

This is what saved me and I prayed in some way it would give them the same hope. Paul was in prison for much of the end of his life, chained to guards too! And yet he still fulfilled his purpose of ministering and spreading the good news. It was what God had planned for him before he was born and no matter his circumstance, because Paul acknowledged every door God opened, he fulfilled it to the end.

After visiting with these women I knew I immediately wanted to go back again. They were welcoming, receiving, and genuinely amazing women. The only difference between us was the civilian clothes I wore. I was invited to speak at the Angela House not long after, a halfway house for women coming out of prison. Once again I witnessed the lie of ‘I’m not worthy’ threaten their true purpose and freedom. I shared the same testimony and the same verse because they no longer have to be bound by what was done to them – and what that shame, anger, guilt, and rage caused them to do.

  • How has sharing your story with others helped you in your journey to healing?

The more you share the truth about your experience the easier it is to accept it and move passed it in order to embrace your present and future. By sharing my story through both REDEEMED and EXPOSED, speaking to groups and leading retreats, I find that it gives me strength and fortifies the healing process. What has been ‘done’ to me is a part of who I am, but it doesn’t define who I am. In fact, I’ve come to the place where I can thank God for every aspect of my life, the dark and ugly moments, along with the joyous times, because He has brought good from it all and allowed me to recognize that I am stronger because of it.

  • Low self-esteem, especially among teens, has become a national epidemic. What do you want someone struggling with feelings of low self-worth to understand?

You are worthy! You are unique and there is no one else in this world just like you and this world needs you and the skills and talents YOU have because each one of us has been given a specific purpose to use these talents and gifts and no one can replace you.

But I also have been in a place that I have felt extreme unworthiness and insecurity. I know that if I heard someone say that I’d doubt what those talents or gifts were, because I wasn’t like everyone else. To that I say, “Would being like everyone else make you happy? Would going against who you are, what sparks interest and joy inside of you just to get others attention bring you joy? Most likely not.”

  • The Hopeful Hearts Ministry offices were affected by Hurricane Harvey with flooded offices. You and your son were also recused from your home by boat. Tell us how your ministry is moving forward despite catastrophic damage and loss.

We are dedicated to helping survivors of all forms of abuse. I have found in these past few weeks how that the trauma of water rushing in and overtaking your home, giving you no preparation only to steal any sense of comfort or security elicits the same fear, anxiety, and betrayal as any other form of abuse. Physical boarders do not define Hopeful Hearts Ministry. We have continued to move forward with God’s grace and held our programs in homes hosted by donor’s .We continue to meet with men and women, peer to peer, to discuss the traumatic experiences they’ve been through whether it is from the flood or from abuse done in their past.

Hopeful Hearts Ministry is a faith-based 501 c3 non-profits which supports the long-term recovery of survivors of all forms of abuse through peer support sessions, counseling, programs that empower, and public awareness services.
www.HopefulHeartsMinistry.com

This may be used with permission and credit given to Shannon M. Deitz 2017.

The Pink Toolbelt – Spiritual Remodeling for Women

“The decision to be like Christ has touched every area of my life. Nothing has been harder to implement, yet nothing has been more rewarding. Because of the changes it has brought to my life, I am passionate about helping others remodel their lives according to the example we have in Christ.”         Mary C. Dodd

  • The Pink Toolbelt – Spiritual Remodeling for Women sounds interesting. What do you mean by spiritual remodeling?

Until just a few years ago, I was a carpenter by trade and spent my life building and remodeling homes, barns, whatever I could sink a nail into. Because of my background, I easily saw an analogy between the process used in remodeling homes and one that could be used to remodel lives. Spiritual remodeling is a process that begins by identifying areas of your life that you are unhappy about, tearing them out, and rebuilding them better than before. All under the guidance of the Holy Spirit of course. Our goal as Christians is Christlikeness, and I believe the spiritual remodeling idea presented in The Pink Toolbelt will help women reach that goal.

  • Women carpenters are a unique group. What started you down that road?

 I often tell people that I think I was born with sawdust running through my veins. I worked with my two brothers to complete my very first construction project. It was a tree house suspended some twenty feet in the air and was little more than a few boards nailed precariously to the branches of the tree. My father was a great influence as well. He built the home that we lived in and always had a project of some sorts in the works. After my brothers left home, I became his right-hand girl and spent countless hours holding the tape-measure and learning the tools of the trade.

After high school, I went to college to study elementary education. But after a year and much to my mother’s dismay, I joined a silo construction crew headed by my brother-in-law, Ron and we traveled the U.S tearing down, relocating, and rebuilding the big blue silos that dot America’s heartland.

  • You likely faced many challenges working in an industry dominated by men. Do you have any advice for young women who find themselves in a similar situation?

 Don’t try to be anyone other than yourself, work hard, and do your best. You have gifts and talents that only you bring to the project. Be proud of those gifts and give glory to GOD for them. I used to put on a tough girl façade, but at the first sight of a mouse, my blood curdling scream would quickly shatter that tough exterior. I soon realized that when I worked hard and did my best, I would always gain the respect of the men co-workers.

So, be the best ‘you’–a ‘you’ that is going through a spiritual remodel that will be an even better version of ‘you’–a Christ-like you.

  • How did you get from carpentry to writing a book, specifically The Pink Toolbelt.

Writing is another great passion of mine and when God began to radically change my world, it seemed a natural progression. Several years ago, my life, my marriage and my family was falling apart around me. As you often hear, I was at the bottom and didn’t know what to do except pray. It was out of that prayer that I heard God say, “You can trust Jesus—be like Him.” I took that to heart and decided that I wanted to be like Jesus in every area of my life. The Pink Toolbelt is my way of sharing the things I learned as I began to live my life as a true disciple of Jesus.

  • What makes you an expert on the subject of discipleship? Are you a bible teacher?

Not by any means. I’m just a carpenter following the Jewish carpenter, Jesus. His words have changed me, day by day, word by word, action by action. While some of my circumstances remain unchanged, I have changed. My perspective has changed. I no longer let circumstances bring me to a state of hopelessness, because I know that Father hears my prayers and is working things out for my good

My credentials come from simple obedience to Him. Father challenged me to be like Jesus in every area of my life. I rose to that challenge and as a result, every area of my life is being remodeled. I have learned to tear out un-Christlike thoughts and rebuild my mind with Christlike thoughts. I have learned to tear out words that are not His words and rebuild my speech with Christlike words. My actions, my attitudes, the way I forgive and resist temptation, even the way I love others and pray, are being remodeled into the way that Christ loved and prayed.

  • You wrote The Pink Toolbelt as a devotional. Can it be used in other ways?

 It’s a devotional in the sense, that the lessons are presented as 70 daily readings with a scripture, application questions and a prayer, but I like to think of it as a remodeling guide. It meets women right where they are and takes them on a step by step remodeling process that will move them from unhappiness to something better than the original. I believe it is also a great tool for small group discussions.

Each lesson draws from my real-life experiences and is presented with construction analogies and anecdotes in a style similar to the way that Jesus often taught. From learning to use the right tools, serving an apprenticeship, building in stormy weather, or passing final inspection, I develop the theme of remodeling one’s life through true discipleship with Christ.

I realize that many women may not think that they will relate to carpentry, but they will quickly find common ground with the principles that are covered. We may have different occupations or interests, but our needs are the same and God’s call to Christlikeness is the same.

www.marydodd.com

The Pink Toolbelt

With the walls of her family falling around her and an ever-present storm cloud of hopelessness overshadowing her, this carpenter from deep in the heart of Texas would begin the most important DIY project of her career. But this time, it was no building that would be transformed. Her very life would be slowly, but radically changed under the guiding hand of her Savior.

It is through this journey that Mary Dodd, a female carpenter following the Jewish carpenter, presents a practical guide for the everyday DIY woman in The Pink Toolbelt – Spiritual Remodeling for Women (Carpenter’s Guide Publishing, October 2017) – leading her readers to their own personal transformation to Christlikeness.

“The decision to be like Christ has touched every area of my life. Nothing has been harder to implement, yet nothing has been more rewarding,” reflects Dodd. “Because of the changes it has brought to my life, I am passionate about helping others remodel their lives according to the example we have in Christ.”

Throughout the book, Mary uses analogies from her lifelong work as a carpenter to illustrate and explain the spiritual lessons that she has learned. While some women might read The Pink Toolbelt in one sitting, it is designed to be read and used as a devotional guide. With the questions for application at the end of each chapter, the book can also serve as a great tool in group bible studies and ladies meetings. From learning to use the right tools, serving an apprenticeship, building in stormy weather, to passing final inspection, Mary develops the theme of remodeling one’s life through true discipleship with Christ.

The Pink Toolbelt is no study on the theory of spiritual transformation but is a work born out of Mary’s apprenticeship served in the workshop of the Master Carpenter – Jesus. In 70 daily readings, she will guide the reader through their very own remodeling process, enabling them to more closely match the life that Jesus intended them to live.

Mary will tell you that she was born with sawdust in her veins. From the rich, black-dirt farmlands of Minnesota, her fledgling instincts were fostered under the steady hand of her father who built the house she grew up in with her 7 brothers and sisters. When her brothers left home, she quickly became his right-hand girl, spending countless hours holding the flashlight, learning the tools of the trade, and assisting him in his next great project. As an adult, she pursued her passion as a carpenter in an industry where less than 2% of the jobs are held by women.

Today, along with her husband Tony, Mary leads Carpenter’s Guide Ministries, a non-profit dedicated to rebuilding the lives of others. They both enjoy sharing their story and the principles they have learned at conferences, seminars, retreats, and churches. In addition to The Pink Toolbelt, Mary will release her new marriage primer, Remodel Your Marriage in 2018. She also regularly shares her love for Christ and spiritual remodeling tips through her blog.

The Pink Toolbelt Spiritual Remodeling for Women by Mary Dodd

Carpenter’s Guide Publishing

www.marydodd.com

Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse Survivors Have a Voice

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Shannon M. Deitz, author, speaker, and founder of Hopeful Hearts Ministry offers hope to survivors. One in every four women is beaten or raped by a partner during adulthood. One in every four girls and nearly one in every six boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18. Until recent years, these widespread problems were rarely made public.

Through the I Have a Voice video project, Dietz encourages survivors to give voice to their pasts. This crucial project consists of ten intensely moving videos, all with a collective purpose to help survivors recognize the abuse they have suffered and expose the truth. Through this they understand they are not alone and that abuse does not define them. The survivor can overcome being a victim and realize the full potential of their lives moving forward. In the most recent video, Victoria shares her difficult story: “I was told all my life that I didn’t matter, I heard it so much that is all I knew and I believed it. I believed I was worthless. But I know better now. I know God loves me and has a future for me”.

Through an online survey Deitz conducted new data and revealed interesting information regarding domestic abuse survivors. 98% of survivors polled indicated that they had suffered abuse by a family member during childhood. Deitz comments “I found that women who have suffered through domestic violence in past relationships have lost nearly all sense of identity and the natural boundaries that come with simple dignity and self-respect. They suffered mental and psychological abuse before the abuse ever turned physical.”

Many survivors of domestic violence also suffered some form of mental and emotional abuse or neglect during their childhood. With this in mind Hopeful Hearts has added a support group program on the topic of boundaries as well as a self-defense course that includes a focus on inner strength and self-worth.

Deitz recently shared her story with a group of incarcerated women. “The universal language of those who have suffered abuse enables Shannon Deitz to speak to their hearts. This was amazingly demonstrated during her recent speaking engagement at the Carol Young Unit of Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Female inmates are the epitome of women who have been the victims of every imaginable abuse for the majority of their lives. Shannon quickly connected with them in a way no one ever has,” comments Deacon Sid Cammeresi.

Raising public awareness of the prevalence and the insidious nature of abuse is vital. People may not realize that domestic violence rarely begins with actual violence. More often, it starts with emotional and verbal abuse. This erodes their self-confidence and self-worth and causes the victim to question their instincts. Ultimately, this dominance can turn to violence when the victim begins to show signs of defiance. “Most domestic violence fatalities occur when the victim has left the abuser,” comments Deitz.

Abuse changes things forever, but healing is possible if the choice is made to overcome the victim mentality and work hard to become a survivor.

To hear Victoria’s story please click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Thwe-b947Hg&feature=em-share_video_user
For more information please visit www.HopefulHeartsMinistry.com.

Hopeful Hearts Ministry is a faith-based 501 c3 non-profits which supports the long-term recovery of survivors of all forms of abuse through peer support sessions, counseling, programs that empower, and public awareness services.

Q &A with John J. Dwyer, author of Shortgrass

The stories of our past, real or imagined, serve as classrooms for today’s traveler. They reveal humanity at its best and at its worst, and as spoken often throughout history, those who fail to learn its lessons are doomed to repeat its mistakes. In the first of a two-part saga, author and historian John J. Dwyer draws from the written and unwritten pages of American history, to weave a story that could parallel today’s headlines.

Q: You are not only an author but a professor of History, what drew you to the subject and how did you become a historian?

A: I was raised by a widowed mother in a home where history and heroes were all around us. Since my younger brother Paul and I did not have a father, nor really any other positive male role model close to our lives, she looked for every way possible to fill in the gap with admirable examples of men who exhibited attributes such as courage, faithfulness, determination, honesty, sacrifice, perseverance, and selflessness that she feared we might miss without a dad. For instance, both the actor John Wayne and the historical figure Davy Crockett that he played in the movie The Alamo could contribute. So could other pioneers, athletes, presidents, war heroes, cowboys, lawmen, etc., as long as they were the sort that exhibited those attributes.

I think it is also in my blood. With a great grandfather named Joseph Jay O’Dwyer, who came to America on a boat by himself at age 17, I have come to realize that I come from a long line, a Celtic culture really, of storytellers. There seems to be an innate sense of wanting to discover an exciting truth, then share it with others, wowing them in the process if at all possible! With that in view, as I look back over my life, I see now why I have been drawn to journalism/writing, theology, and history as my main vocational and avocational pursuits.

Q: Although Shortgrass is a fictional story, you’ve stated that its lessons are timeless and real. What are some of those lessons and how are they pertinent for today’s reader.

A: I think there are many. Keep in mind that on the surface, Shortgrass is a lively story of adventure, romance, action, sports, political intrigue and suspense, a modern Western of sorts, and a historical epic of the Dust Bowl, Great Depression, mass American migration, the Big Band Era, and World War II. Also, numerous famous and colorful characters populate the journey. Shortgrass and its sequel Mustang, which releases early next year, comprise a twelve-year-long Twentieth Century American odyssey of love and war for a clean cut young heartland fellow who sets forth into the world in a time of singular drama, danger, and historical movements.

As far as the lessons conveyed through the story, one is the danger of seeking to impact the world for good, and becoming the one who gets impacted. Put another way, how even the noblest of intentions are fraught with snares and dangers. Lance Roark, the Mennonite farm boy and cowboy protagonist of Shortgrass grows up with an escalating desire not only to leave the hardscrabble Dust Bowl farm in which he feels cooped up, but to go forth and do good for his country and the world. This derives from his heritage of Irish immigrants, American pioneers, and devout, often persecuted Mennonites, all of whom are seeking something better for themselves and to create something better for others. In Lance’s case, he possesses great natural gifts, including working with young people—in particular Comanche Indians—as an athlete—he rises to college football glory—and as an aviator—he becomes good friends with and a mentee of the legendary Charles Lindbergh. And his winsome gentleness wins the heart of the most sought-after woman at his school, who becomes one of the greatest female vocalists of the Big Band Era. Yet, all these accomplishments and associations affect him, almost imperceptibly at first, but gradually, and ultimately very greatly.

Another lesson is how precarious are the freedoms and blessings we possess in our country. As Shortgrass builds to its climactic sequence at the outbreak of World War II for America, we see “behind the curtain” as it were—through Lance’s interactions with friends and even a family member who hold important positions in industry or the government, in a very factual and historically documented fashion—a government that is telling its people one thing, yet acting in a very different fashion, as it tries to maintain power in the midst of the worst economic calamity in U.S. history, a calamity its own policies are unable to solve. This deception and the subsequent actions to mask it, create confusion, division, and ultimately tragic consequences for the nation.

And, Shortgrass depicts, for us, a generation so inclined toward self-seeking, instant gratification, moral compromise, and complaining, what true challenge, danger, and heartbreak—on an immense scale over a period of many years—was faced by an earlier generation of Americans, those who lived through the Great Depression, Dust Bowl, and World War II, the latter which was the most colossal disaster in world history.

Q: You’ve indicated that Shortgrass, and the sequel Mustang, are the closest thing to your own written testament to those that will follow you that you have done. How so?

A: Through the years, people have often told me that they can “see” me in my books, that is, my perspectives, opinions, attitudes, or that they can almost hear my voice telling the story. Others have been able to see this more clearly than I have. I guess I’ve been too close to the forest to see the trees, as they say. This time, with Shortgrass and its sequel Mustang, despite their comprising a fictional American adventure odyssey that takes place in a different era than ours, and despite my not explicitly declaring those elements that form a “testament” of sorts, I believe the characters, story, events, and themes, as they unwind through a twelve-year saga that takes place in multiple countries over the course of two books, truly summarize so many of the convictions, questions, and observations I have after a somewhat lengthy life. For example, they depict what I have learned (thus far) about love and loss, history and heroes, conflictedness and unanswered questions, God and America, and life itself. They deal with inexplicable tragedy, the glee and hope of youth with everything in the world to live for, bad things happening to good people, God often silently yet decisively directing events for His own purposes, when and how and with whom is often least expected.

Also, the capricious nature of worldly pleasure and glory, the ambiguous nature of so many well intended efforts, and the inescapable reality that despite the best of intentions, we are all human, we are all flawed. None of us shall escape the sometimes grievous consequences, to some extent, of a marred, fallen world with resident evil.

And the great responsibility incumbent in leadership, whether of a family or a nation. How greatly the peace and happiness of those under a leader’s influence can be affected for good or bad by that.

Finally, how such sources as the Scriptures and wise parents can guide us toward so much that is good and preserve us from so much that is hurtful, but how we so inconsistently pay heed to these exemplars and even when we do, we may face great challenge and trial, even as part of God’s plan for our good and His glory. “Now we see through a glass darkly…”

Shortgrass and Mustang, though, are historical novels filled with the action, adventure, romance, and intrigue I earlier mentioned, not philosophical tracts. These themes will not necessarily be readily apparent to many readers. And some of them may be so only upon reflection, as with many of the lessons of life itself. But rest assured, they are there.

Q: What can readers expect in the upcoming release of Mustang?

A: The literary ride of their lives. Shortgrass has been compared to Herman Wouk’s classic The Winds of War, which covered the pre-World War II years, up through Pearl Harbor and its aftermath. Mustang has been compared to his sequel, War and Remembrance, which covers the war years. Mustang takes place entirely during World War II, largely in the cockpits of Flying Fortress bombers and Mustang fighter planes fighting the Nazis in the bloody skies over Europe. I spent years researching both this historical era and the unique and crucial military campaign that it involves, and I am confident it will be unlike anything anyone has read before. And it is absolutely unpredictable, as were the real events. I say that having read everything available in the genre myself, both fiction and non-fiction. Plus, those who have already read Shortgrass are going to be very vested and involved in the lives of Lance Roark the protagonist and his friends by the time they begin reading Mustang. I will also say that some of the events, themes, and messages I intended to convey when I began Lance’s long journey through Shortgrass and Mustang remain as I initially intended, but some changed dramatically as I came to better know him, his friends, and the historic events they were part of and helped make.

Q: What makes you different from other authors of historical fiction? How is your work unique?

A: Unfortunately for me, my work probably contains sufficient elements to offend or at least challenge just about everybody. I have always written from a providential Christian worldview, featuring the notion that no matter what happens, God has redemptive and uplifting purposes for His people, of which He has chosen some but passed over others, not because I desired it that way, but because that is how He has clearly explained to us in His Scriptures He has done it. So, not everyone is going to be happy with a literary universe of that sort. Yet, these are imperfect people in my books, with questions that sometimes don’t get answered, dilemmas and choices that frequently defy easy answers or even any answers, and disappointments and even tragedies that remain mysteries inexplicable in this life. Plus, though my literary universe possesses overarching standards of right and wrong, my “good” characters are not always good, and my “bad” characters are not necessarily one-dimensional villains constructed in accord with society’s current trends and mores. So, as in life, but not necessarily some Christian-inspired literary universes, my readers will hopefully depart my books moved and even inspired, but also with things to contemplate or reflect upon, things that are not all formulaically packaged and all tidied up for them by the final page.

Q: What would you say to today’s generation to convince them of the value of history?

A: Mainly, that if we don’t learn the right lessons from history, the wrong ones will damage us worse than learning no lessons at all. We need to learn whom from history we should emulate and whom we should not. For instance, telling our children that a villain is a hero, putting that person on or in our money, calendars, and movies, then exhorting our children to emulate him or her, is a dangerous thing to do.

www.JohnJDwyer.com

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Lessons from a World War II American Odyssey

The stories of our past, real or imagined, serve as classrooms for today’s traveler. They reveal humanity at its best and at its worst, and as spoken often throughout history, those who fail to learn its lessons are doomed to repeat its mistakes. In the first of a two-part saga, author and historian John J. Dwyer draws from the written and unwritten pages of American history, to weave a story that could parallel today’s headlines.

Dwyer’s Shortgrass (Tiree Press, May 2017) offers a realism that differs from your typical historical novel revealing the grit and determination that defined “The Greatest Generation.” The story’s characters embody the many real life heroes that traveled similar paths during those turbulent times of world conflict and human survival and the lessons taught reveal something of the author himself.

“While the story is set in a different era, Shortgrass, and its sequel, Mustang, are the closest thing to my own written testament to those who come after me. They depict what I have learned about love and loss, history and heroes, inner conflict and unanswered questions, God and man – life itself,” offers Dwyer. “Although a work of fiction, the history and the lessons it teaches us are timeless and real.”

The adventurous journey of a Mennonite farm boy, Lance Roark, begins in the drought-ravaged Dust Bowl of Oklahoma where his battle for survival would prepare him for college gridiron glory. As war clouds gather across the seas, he is smitten with teenaged Chickasaw cowgirl and stunt flyer Sadie Stanton. He later finds love with Mary Katherine Murchison, a beautiful oil heiress and singing star of the Big Band Era.

He eventually enters the dangerous world of America First, the Lindbergh-led organization opposing Roosevelt’s drive toward American involvement in the War. When the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, his lifelong commitment never to raise his hand against another human soul brings him to his own crisis of conscience. He is faced with the decision whether or not to accept command of a B-17 Flying Fortress in which he would witness, and inflict, mass slaughter in Nazi occupied Europe amidst history’s most fearsome war.

“John Dwyer writes as he thinks: lucidly, dynamically, engagingly. Wherever John takes you, you’ll be glad you went. And you will want to go again.”

Reg Grant,
Senior Professor and Chair of Media Arts & Worship
Dallas Theological Seminary

John J. Dwyer earned his Master’s degree from Dallas Theological Seminary and his undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma. Since 2006, he has been adjunct professor of history and ethics at Southern Nazarene University. He is former history chair at Coram Deo Academy, near Dallas, Texas. John is the author of the The War Between the States: America’s Uncivil War, the historical novels Stonewall and Robert E. Lee, the novel When Bluebonnets Come and the recently released, The Oklahomans: The Story of Oklahoma and Its People. John is also the former editor and publisher of the Dallas/Fort Worth Heritage newspaper and also worked as a radio announcer and play-by-play football and basketball announcer for several radio stations, winning the coveted position of sports director for the University of Oklahoma’s 100,000 watt KGOU-FM radio station.

www.johnjdwyer.com

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Overcoming Fear to Fight Abuse

Q&A with Abuse Survivor and Founder of Hopeful Hearts Shannon M. Deitz
As a sexual abuse survivor I know first hand the pain that abuse brings, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Survivors want to know they are being heard and that they will be safe and protected. We do not need to be silenced because our situation makes others feel uncomfortable. To the contrary, we need people around us who are willing to listen and willing to stand up for us if we choose to go public. This focus in April is important because the more people who become aware of just how prevalent this problem is in our country, the more beneficial it will be for everyone. Being able to share our story with others serves to help prevent future abuse from taking place. If there is a survivor in your midst, be willing to listen. Be willing to hear their story.          Shannon M. Deitz

What do people need to understand about sexual assault and child abuse? How have these tragic crimes continued to take place and have they grown over the past 5 years?

Child abuse is more difficult to determine the true statistics because those reporting the abuse are often outside of the home, however still, 3.6 million referrals are made a year. Both sexual assault and child abuse are issues that render discomfort and disbelief when discussed so it takes an extensive amount of courage to speak up and tell someone what has happened. The stigma of shame and displaced guilt often keep the victim quiet and fearful.
However, the more we can bring awareness to both issues, especially during Sexual Assault Awareness and Child Abuse Prevention month, the louder survivors can be with their stories, and the more prevalent the issue can become in the public eye. The statistics (from what is reported) rarely change. 1 out of 6 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime and 15% of them will be under the age of 12 the first time they are assaulted. Often when one is assaulted the shame and guilt are embedded so deep that their defenses become lower and they find themselves in the same situation repeatedly throughout their lifetime.

These crimes continue to remain high in numbers because it is such a difficult and uncomfortable subject. We must pay attention and react and respond instead of turning a blind eye when we notice something out of the ordinary, or when a friend admits to an assault.

One young man confided when he was a freshman in college and rushing a fraternity he walked out of the bathroom at his frat house’s party to find a line of his ‘brothers’ waiting to ‘rape’ a young woman in the bedroom. While he didn’t participate, he also didn’t do anything to help the young woman. To do something would have meant to take a stand, to cause waves, and people instinctively shy away from confrontation. Yet that moment missed to help her still haunts the young man today.

These crimes are not fading, yet the more we continue to bring awareness the better chance those listening to other survivors’ stories will be apt to recognize the abuse they are suffering and want to speak out, and or make safer decisions. In bringing awareness we offer the opportunity for survivors to speak out and help others to know that they are not alone and to inform generations to come, encouraging them to get beyond the discomfort of confrontation.
*statistics taken from RAINN and Child Help
What do people need to understand about survivors of abuse?

Survivors of abuse, both male and female, are not fragile. They are strong, worthy individuals who have overcome a great amount of suffering whether it was physical, sexual, or verbal. Every form of abuse affects the person emotionally, lowering their self-esteem and sense of worth. Often survivors will hide or bury the facts and the deep effects of the abuse out of fear, shame, and lack of support. The best way for a survivor to heal from the abuse is to give a voice to what has been done or said to them; to be heard and to know they are supported and loved.

What has inspired you to reach out to others?

I am a survivor of rape and incest. The years I kept the facts of these traumas within me led me down some dark paths that were filled with bad decisions based on my lack of worth and self-esteem. I want to educate and reach out to other survivors before they get entangled in that dark path and make decisions that can affect them for the rest of their life, adding to the trauma of what has been done or said to them in the past.

Why do you feel it is important for you to share your story?

When I began to live my life in the freedom of being a survivor, no longer tethered to chains of negativity, pessimism, and insecurity, I realized how much I longed to see others free from these same chains. I knew the only way to reach others was to tell my story in its truth and entirety. What affected me in my healing process was to hear other stories similar to mine and to witness their successful triumph and victory overcoming their past. I began to realize if they could do it, I could too. I want to share both the stumbling and the victories so that others can relate and recognize that they can also be victorious over their past.

How has sharing your story with others helped you in your journey to healing?

The more you share the truth about your experience the easier it is to accept it and move passed it in order to embrace your present and future. By sharing my story through speaking to groups and leading retreats, I find that it gives me strength and fortifies the healing process. What has been ‘done’ to me is a part of who I am, but it doesn’t define who I am. In fact, I’ve come to the place where I can thank God for every aspect of my life, the dark and ugly moments, along with the joyous times, because He has brought good from it all and allowed me to recognize that I am stronger because of it.

Low self-esteem, especially among teens, has become a national epidemic. What do you want someone struggling with feelings of low self-worth to understand?

My instinct is to respond, “You are worthy! You are unique and there is no one else in this world just like you and this world needs you and the skills and talents YOU have because each one of us has been given a specific purpose to use these talents and gifts and no one can replace you.”

But I also have been in a place that I have felt extreme unworthiness and insecurity. I know that if I heard someone say that I’d doubt what those talents or gifts were, because I wasn’t like everyone else. To that I say, “Would being like everyone else make you happy? Would going against who you are, what sparks interest and joy inside of you just to get others attention bring you joy? Most likely not.”

In this day and age of social media, self-worth is defined by the number of followers we have on Instagram or how many ‘likes’ they give to your posts. It is important to realize that those are numbers and most of those people have so many numbers because they ‘follow’ and ‘like’ everyone just to get more numbers. When it comes down to knowing you, who knows you best?

You, my friend, are worthy of life and others would be so lucky to know you, who you really are and share in the gifts and talents you’ve been given.

What is your goal with Hopeful Hearts Ministry and what motivated you to start it?

Hopeful Hearts Ministry aids the long-term recovery of survivors of abuse through peer support sessions, counseling, and public awareness services. Our faith-based care alleviates suffering and helps restore confidence and self-worth.

When I was called into speaking on a national and international level on various topics regarding faith, the most popular message I gave, the one that resonated best with audiences at least, was when I spoke of my own personal journey, the abuse I incurred and how I overcame the stigma of shame attached.

As the years progressed and my voice became stronger, God led me to more and more opportunities to work with survivors of all ages, especially those in my generation and generations ahead of me who were taught to keep skeletons in the closet. It became very clear that there was a desperate need to empower all survivors to have a voice, to educate the world on what abuse is, to teach others how to listen to those who have suffered abuse, and to learn how to stop the generational cycle of abuse. In 2012 a friend said to me, “Why don’t you start a non-profit? Think what more you could do.” Hence, Hopeful Hearts Ministry was formed.

Tell us about the I Have a Voice project and the feedback you have received from viewers.

In 2013, I realized the importance of a survivor speaking truth and being heard. I decided to create the “I Have a Voice” YouTube video series, revealing 5 emotionally-charged personal stories of survivors of abuse. This hope-filled project consists of intensely moving interrelated videos, all with a collective purpose to help victims to overcome their past and be empowered to move forward. Men and women have responded as a result of the videos, expressing their gratitude in knowing they are not alone. They are empowered to move forward in their lives. Since 2013 we have added 2 more I Have a Voice Videos. From one male viewer:

I came across your website yesterday and was very moved to listen to your short YouTube video “I Have a Voice – Childhood sexual abuse and forgiveness”.

Your sharing of your story, your truth, was very powerful. I especially liked the part where you defended the (any) abused child by saying “it’s not right” (to take away the voice of a child).

That really hit home and I was moved by your honesty, courage, and willingness to stand up for and speak out on behalf of the abused child. ~ James, TX
Shannon M. Deitz is the award-winning author of Exposed: Inexcusable Me, Irreplaceable Him and Redeemed. She was recently listed as one of the best authors in Houston by CBS Houston Radio.

For more information about Shannon Deitz and Hopeful Hearts Ministry, please visit her website:

www.HopefulHeartsMinistry.com

I Have a Voice

This may be used with permission and credit attributed to Shannon M. Deitz, Hopeful Hearts Ministry 2017.

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