The Foger family came to stay with us one spring about 12 years ago while they were on furlough from Mozambique.
Their eighth child was soon to be delivered. Although I had just met the family, I was highly impressed by them. The oldest daughter, 19 years old, was a joyful, hardworking, energetic, blue-eyed beauty. The next, a 17 year old son, was cut in the mold of his father, dedicated, reserved, and very mission-minded. The five other children were 13 years old and younger. The family sang together with strong, forceful voices, no bashfulness among them. The two oldest children provided the instrumental accompaniment. It was an experience just listening to such a group.
They all understood and spoke two languages. The oldest two children spoke three languages. The father had left South America after ten years of mission service to move to another country, which meant learning another language. The parents still stumbled around slowly learning the Portuguese language. The two oldest children were invaluable in the new ministry, which was already showing promise.
While we sat around one evening, the mother casually asked us to pray that their daughter find a husband before they left for Mozambique in the Fall. I asked in a shocked manner, “Why on earth would you want her to marry now? She is such a blessing to you and knows the language. Surely you need her to help you with the other children.” The mother lifted her arched brows as she pondered how she would answer me. Her look conveyed her surprise at my lack of understanding. “We will be in a foreign country for the next 4 years. All that time she will be at the prime of her marriageable age. We feel it is best for her to marry an American. God called my husband to Mozambique as a missionary…not our adult children. We have obeyed God and raised them up to serve HIM…not US. We don’t add; we multiply. It is time for her to live her life.”
That next year we received a mission card with their picture. There were only six children in the picture. The mission letter briefly stated that the oldest son was in Bible school and the daughter was married.
Over the years I received their missions update. I noted that the parents were growing fatter and grayer. The children disappeared from the picture, one or two every year or so. It was sad to see the diminishing of such a magnificent family. The mission letters were filled with gospel film presentations to prisoners and villagers, church camps, protracted meetings, people getting saved, and only a brief mention of their now grown children. They would write something like, “Joshua and his wife are in Romania serving as missionaries; Peter and his wife are in Russia working with the something ministry; Sara married this year. Her husband is the pastor of a church.” And so it went.
Today we receive mission letters from their now grown and ministering children. I see their families expanding. Their joyful, energetic, blue-eyed beauty of a daughter is now the mother of six children. Her family is growing up in Cajun country. I know if I meet them I will be very impressed. I heard that they sing like soldiers…with power and command.
I am thankful for the testimony of the Foger family as well as other families that have come into our lives. They are a prototype to help us understand the problems that are arising among some older homeschooling families. We call it by different names. Today it is the Cloistered Homeschooled Syndrome. Briefly, it is the failure of the parents to understand, appreciate, and respect the individuality of their adult children. They sacrifice the individual identities of their children on the altar of their own emotional needs, making them nurse when they should be killing and dressing their own food, making them obey when they should be learning to command. They seem to think that grown children are God’s gift to them rather than their gift to God. Through letters and personal contact, we see more and more of this cult-like isolationism, parents demanding absolute allegiance to the family group, and fearing outside contact might break up their “fellowship.” Adult kids who want to launch out on their own are told that they are rebellious and disloyal and are causing grief to those who have nurtured them. Emotionally needy parents manipulate their grown children into remaining loyal to the unit. Thirty-year-old daughters sit at home acting as surrogate mothers, watching their prospects to ever be a mother dwindle.
You cannot stop a tree from growing without killing it or deforming it. Likewise, every year of one’s life up until about the age of twenty-one or twenty-two is a year of radical change and development. Some parents are trying to stop that development, clinging to their teenagers like they were six years old. We have observed the victims many times. They either flee their chains in anger, or they are slowly smothered into inordinate submission, and their personalities die as they merge into the ego of their dependent parents.
This medieval hierarchy is preached as Bible doctrine. Father and Mother as King and Queen of their little kingdom preach the divine right of Kings and parents—“Obey me without question, for it is your manifest destiny.” Their “patriarchal” status is the only expression of their significance in an otherwise disconnected world, and they milk it until their children are dry and lifeless in spirit, or until they fly away to breathe fresh air.
For over a year we have been discussing this subject, thinking about how to address it. We have talked with many young adults who are, or were, held captive, the rebellious and the subdued, those who are disciples of Christ and those who are worldly and lost. We have spoken with families who lost their children early, in their teens, and families who lost a child to the world in their twenties or later.
How did this happen? It is the old pendulum at work. Thirty to forty years ago Christian parents were losing their children to the world through public schools, public churches, and public play. The family was disconnected and dating was the norm. We rebelled against the soul eating monster and took charge of our lives. Our children would not be raised on the TV. They would not lose their virginity in a school bathroom or under the stairwell. No more evolutionary philosophy and godless history and science. We took our children home and taught them from used books and the Bible. We created culture anew, abstaining from mega churches with their youth groups and revolving boy-girl relationships. We parents became the principle influence in our children’s lives, selecting their friends and ours with care. No overnight sleeps or backyard playhouses with closing doors. Family worship and Bible study took the place of Television. Once again parents were in charge and there was hope.
It felt good to be in control of our own destiny, to not be a victim, to know that our children would escape the sin and shame that some of us had to go through before we came to Christ.
There was a vacuum, a need for leaders to arise and define what had become a movement, to clarify our journey and give us direction through uncharted waters. First, curriculum was written, then seminars. Sub-movements arose to flesh out the new culture, specialists addressing every conceivable issue—head coverings, dress, doctrine, spanking, scheduled nursing, Kosher foods and Jewish practices, and the list goes on. Books were written, some good, some not so good. Then someone pulled from ancient Chaldean and Sumerian culture, also practiced by Jews of that day as reflected in Scripture, a system of Patriarchal rule. It was the way nomadic clans were held together, a necessity of the times, but never taught by Moses, the prophets, or Christ as God’s divine plan.
I laughed the first time I hear of the Patriarchal Movement. “It will never fly,” I said, “People are not that gullible.” But they were. Daddies who were never in charge of anything, maybe not even their wives, were finally given justification for assuming the throne. Yippee!
It is now become a disease of epic proportions. We call them PDFs, Patriarchal Dysfunctional Families. The children are treated as permanent property of the parents. If they don’t marry, and many of them never have the opportunity, they remain at home as a sort of indentured servant, never rising to the status of an adult, always under authority of the head of the clan, the Patriarch Daddy. Don’t snicker. A lot of kids are hurting. And if you want to see something scary, try to conduct a betrothal with two patriarchal mothers involved. It is uggggly.
Daughter sits at home serving the younger children and doing Mama’s chores—waiting for God’s choice. Daddy and Mama hold their merchandise guardedly, waiting for a buyer who never comes.
What is pitiful is the whole process is done in hopes of getting the perfect will of God, but one vital ingredient is missing—encouraging your children to become responsible, autonomous, well educated, and experienced adults as soon as possible. You should have trained your sons to be men by the time they are fifteen, independent by the time they are eighteen. Your daughters should be capable of living apart from the family by the time they are eighteen and should be allowed to make their own life’s decisions somewhere between the ages of eighteen and twenty. Unmarried, grown (18 years old) children may remain at home; it is good if they do; but the parent-child relationship should evolve into an adult-adult relationship by the time they are sixteen to eighteen years old. Parents should have earned the right to give advice, and kids should have grown in wisdom enough to ask for it. But a parent should never invoke his parental authority on a grown kid. It is demeaning to both and akin to not being potty trained.
To teach a student to drive or fly a plane and then always make him be in the company of his parents is degrading. You teach them so they can become independent of you. Whose need is being met when a Father treats a 22-year-old girl like a child, dictating the parameters of her choices?
The glory of a parent is to work himself out of a job, to stand back and see his kids fly solo. I expected to have supplanted myself by the time my kids were eighteen. And so it was. Long before that, I began to confer with them adult to adult. I have stepped back and allowed them to make decisions that I knew were not the best choices, and sometimes I was wrong; they were wiser than I.
Space does not allow us to say more at this time. More will come later. Sit down and talk with your nearly grown kids. Ask them what they want, feel, aspire to. Don’t express hurt, and don’t emotionally manipulate them. Encourage them to pursue their dreams and support them in their effort.
In 1996, our daughter Rebekah Joy, then a 20-year-old in training to be a linguist, wrote this poem. At the time, the poem was the future; it was full of promise and hope.
There is a mighty army
Being trained to stand and fight.
A Battlefield of soldiers
Learning what is right.
A Company of warriors
That will boldly take the Word
To every tribe and nation
Til every soul has heard.
There is a mighty army,
I’ve seen them everywhere.
Most are wearing diapers
And dragging Teddy Bears.
Infants in the training
Drilled in right and wrong.
Mom and Dad are making
Soldiers brave and strong.
There is a mighty army
Trained in righteous war.
Cheer them on to victory,
Children of the Lord!
At 22 years old, Rebekah went into a remote mountain range of Papua New Guinea to study the language of a tribe who had never even seen a white person. Her 19-year-old brother, Gabriel, went for a few months, then was replaced by Nathan, her 17-year-old brother. Nathan stayed for a few months until he believed that she would be safe. She was left alone on that mountain with the unreached tribe. After two years, others came to help, and she came home.
It was her understanding of languages that gave us the information needed to pass on to veteran missionary Tom Gaudet. He is a publisher of Bibles into obscure languages. He sent out an appeal on the web for any translator that might have been working on a common language of that area. He received 14 replies. One was from a missionary who had spent 35 years translating the Bible, but when he went home he couldn’t raise the money to get it printed. Tom pulled together all the translators, had them correct each other’s work and settle on a finished manuscript. We raised the money to get 20,000 printed and shipped.
Sending a beautiful, unassertive, young woman is not God’s usual way. He was proving a point. He was making a statement to her, to us and to you. “If I can protect and use this young girl to win a remote tribal people, then I can do the same for you.”
Rebekah kept a diary of those years, which we read when she came home. We wept at her courage and resolve. We wept that we had the honor of being her parents. We published Rebekah’s Diary in 1997. She was such a regular, normal girl until God gave her the vision of reaching a tribe. A few years ago, missionaries contacted us and told us that there are now seven strong villages of believers on that mountain and that the village men proudly carry their Bibles under their arms.
Because a young girl went willingly…
Because we, HER PARENTS, didn’t say no.
Because she would have obeyed us and stayed home.
But we cheered her on to victory…
There are new names written down in glory.