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Most everyone in my world is well aware that my son, Ben, and I were kidnapped last August. It was a harrowing experience, but we both came through it alive, for which we are immensely grateful to God! We did not, however, come through it unscathed. Emotionally, both Ben and I have had a good bit of work to do this year, to put ourselves back together again, so that we can go about our lives without being overwhelmed by fear and pain . . . and we’re not done with that process yet!

We’ve had a vast amount of prayer support, and family and friends have gone out of their way to help us through our time of healing. This post is being written to honor one individual who gave, and gave, and continues to give, in her effort to help us on our pathway back to a normal(ish), productive, joyful life.

Kathy Girton came into our lives through a mutual friend. This friend has had her own brush with crime-induced trauma, so she knew what the months following the kidnapping had in store for us, back when I still had no clue. She connected us, and Kathy and I communicated by email, in the month between the kidnapping and my scheduled trip to the US.

Kathy gave of her time to help me research counselors who could potentially work with me during my short stay in Maryland last September. My time was too short, my location too limited, and my budget too small for any of those counseling options to be a good fit, however.

Kathy offered to counsel me herself, and eventually I made the decision to meet with her during my time in the US. I wasn’t especially gung-ho about the whole counseling thing, to be honest. I wasn’t sure if it would be helpful at all. At the same time, good friends were advising me that it was necessary . . . some even bullying me to go (out of love, of course).  Eventually I gave in, not very graciously, with the thought that later people wouldn’t be able to tell me “I told you so” if it turned out that I would encounter lingering problems from the kidnapping trauma which counseling might have averted. Yeah, ’cause I’m all mature like that, LOL.

We managed to come up with a plan that would work. Kathy’s willingness to do whatever she possibly could do, to help, was apparent from the start. Though she lives and works in Cincinnati Ohio, and I was visiting Maryland, she arranged to travel half of the way eastward, while I traveled halfway westward. We met in Zanesville. She wouldn’t be charging me for counseling fees – which can be in the hundreds of dollars per hour – she just asked that I cover her expenses. AND, then, by arranging for us to meet in Zanesville, she was able to stay in the home of a family member, thus managing so that all I had to cover was her fuel cost to get there!

Kathy, it turns out, is a former missionary. She worked in the Dominican Republic with her husband (now deceased) and her kids (now grown). People change when they live internationally, and they change in even more specific ways when they live as missionaries in a foreign country. There is a disconnect which is hard to explain, between missionaries and non-missionaries. It has something to do with the intentional choosing of a lifestyle which requires so much sacrifice for yourself and your family. It has something to do with getting into planes and boats and cars that appear more unsafe than safe . . . with your children at your side. It has something to do with embracing a life that you love and hate at the same time, and with living so far outside of your own ability to control things; where leaning on God becomes absolutely vital, because you can’t depend on your monthly salary or your highway guard rails or your health care system or your local police . . .

Kathy understands all of this. She knows the life, knows the hardships, understands the complexity, the frustration, and the conflicting emotions that come with it on a daily basis. She’s aware of the level of stress inherent in this lifestyle, because she has lived it herself. She knows that you can’t tell a traumatized missionary to go ahead and be rude to people if you’re unsure of their intentions. She knows you can’t tell a missionary that, if someone in the road ahead looks suspiciously like a kidnapper, you should run them down rather than risk another kidnapping by stopping . . . because, the whole reason you’re in that place is to love those people. Otherwise, this life is NOT worth the cost. She understands this.

Kathy is also a current missionary . . . though she works on a different mission field now. She trained to be a counselor so that she could continue to minister. She lives on donated support, just as I do. In the same way that Allen isn’t paid by the people who use the bridges and schools he builds, Kathy didn’t charge us for the counseling she has done with us. It’s her missionary ministry . . . ministering to missionaries.

We set aside several days to meet in Zanesville. In spite of my being a rather grudging participant, I came with the attitude that, if we were going to the trouble to do this counseling thing, I’d give it a fair chance and come in with an open mind. We were together, talking pretty much all day, for two days. There was a LOT of crying involved.

At the end of the two days, the release I felt, the lessening of pent up emotion and anxiety (that I hadn’t even realized I was carrying around with me), was something I could feel physically. It’s hard to describe, but I knew right away that this counseling thing was something I had to keep doing, to keep from eventually exploding like a shaken up bottle of soda!

After our time meeting in person, Kathy and I met by phone, once each week. This was easier while I was still in the US. Once I returned to Honduras, Ben asked if he could talk with Kathy every week, too. So, each Wednesday morning, we’d purchase pre-paid international minutes on our phone and have our counseling sessions. Sometimes we couldn’t get a line out. Sometimes we’d run out of minutes before we would run out of things to talk about. Frequently we cried all over the phone. For about six weeks, earlier this year, when the cell phones in our area were out of service, Ben and I drove to a village about a half an hour away and sat along the roadside in a spot where we could get a cell signal, so that we wouldn’t miss our talks with Kathy.

In December of last year, four months after the kidnapping, Kathy came down to Honduras and stayed for a week, working with Ben in person for the first time, and spending time with me, as well. She also visited our home, and chatted with other family members. In an amazing way, she has blessed the whole family, recognizing that we were all affected by this trauma, not just Ben and myself. She was also able to get a feel for our day-to-day lives, so that she has counseled us not just about the kidnapping, but about all of the stresses of our very full life, many of which loomed larger this year, as we’ve felt our way through the aftermath of the trauma.

Recently, Kathy has been gradually decreasing the frequency of our talks. For the first time, during the month of June, we went an entire month without any sessions. I’m doing okay, but I will admit there were several times during the month when, based on my emotional response to something, Allen felt led to ask, “And how much longer until you talk to Kathy again?”

We owe Kathy a debt we can never repay. Happily, just as we don’t expect repayment for the work we do in Honduras, Kathy isn’t looking for her reward in this life, either.

Thanks for everything, Kathy . . . and Happy Birthday!