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Influencing Free Choice

June 15, 2006

How do we as fathers influence our children's free will to make a choice to love God?
Many young parents write, alarmed by the end results of other people’s grown homeschooled children. They want to know how we raised our children to be emotionally sound, hard workers, free from sin’s bondage, to have happy marriages, and, most of all, how they were swayed to follow the Lord. This letter from a young father named Rob is a good example of that heart-felt cry we are hearing.The Jumping Ship articles were instruction on how to take your children into adulthood, knowing and loving the Lord. You will read in this article the testimonies/perspectives from the 5 Pearl children, as well as testimonies from 9 others who were homeschooled. The testimonies end with an ex-con, now a born-again father raising his sons and daughter to know the Lord.

To the Michael Pearl Children,
My name is Rob Sierk. I am blessed to have three small children, Abby, Ethan, and Jacob, all less than 2½ years of age. I cherish the heritage the Lord has given me in these little ones. As their father, my heart is extremely burdened for their souls, which prompts me to write to your children seeking answers. Soon after Abby was born, I realized I didn’t know what it took to be a godly father, a father who could keep the hearts of his children; a father who could make his faith real to them, and ultimately, a father who could lead them to the foot of the cross. My childhood is filled with bad memories of a father who left me when I was very young, and of an impressionable, naïve mother in her early 20s who was burdened with two young boys and with no real foundation to raise us properly. My mother lost the man she loved to another woman, and my brother and I were left without our daddy. I grew to be a resentful, angry teenager who could find no joy in the world around me. After about a decade of searching this world for happiness through alcohol, drugs, and bad relationships, I became weary, hopeless, and suicidal. Thankfully, the Lord had other plans. He reached down and pulled my soul from the miry clay, and quickened me. Like the hymn writer put it, “My burdens were lifted at Calvary!” Glory to His name!So there I was, holding my little girl on May 15, 2003 wondering what in the world am I to do with this little soul? “Lord, please give me wisdom, please help me” was my plea. The Lord did answer that prayer by putting me in contact with some great resources on how to have a godly home. But as my family has grown, and as I have watched children from good families choose this world rather than the God of their fathers, I have been asking myself this question, “What is it that I need to do to make my faith real to my children?” I had read the books, heard the tapes, and listened to my pastors, but I still found myself asking, “Yes, but how?” It’s all great instruction, but why do some families have all of their children walking with the Lord, and some don’t? What’s the secret? It dawned on me that perhaps the answer is held with the grown children who did indeed follow the God of their fathers.So, if you are receiving this letter, it is because your father has told me that you are grown now and have a family of your own, and you and all of your siblings are following the God of your fathers. My request is simple: list three things your father “did” that made his faith in an invisible God real to you, so real that you felt compelled to want that same God as your Savior.

Youngest Pearl Daughter
Shoshanna (Pearl) Easling’s answer

The things I remember about Dad’s training was that he was not a permissive, love and forgiveness, type of dad. He taught us Bible stories straight, not “how does it apply to your life” stuff. He would read to us through the Bible, and when we got to a story like the one about God sending the bears to eat the kids who mocked the prophet of God, saying, “Go up thou bald head,” he didn’t soften it. Quite to the contrary, he let us see that God was not tolerant of bully kids making fun of people, especially his servants. We knew it was God who sent the bears out to kill the child bullies. Through those stories, I came to know and fear a holy God, knowing that someday I would stand before him and have to answer for my life.My parents NEVER gave me assurance of salvation. I remember when I “finally” knew I was saved. I came home and told Dad, “I got saved today.” He replied, “Well, we’ll know in about 6 months.” He always said that the only person he knew for sure that was saved was himself, although he thought Mom was too. He knew his personality was strong and that what he said might give us kids his assurance instead of God’s assurance.Through his life and the Bible stories, I came to see that being saved meant knowing and loving God. It was NOT just a one-time experience, the event of asking Jesus into your heart. We understood that those who knew and loved Jesus were saved, and those who did not know and LOVE Jesus were not saved, no matter how sure they were that they were saved. I grew up knowing for a certainty that when you know and LOVE Jesus, then it is the most consuming thing in your life. I knew that to be so because I had seen it in my parents’ lives throughout my growing-up years.

The Philosopher Pearl Son
Nathan Pearl’s answer
A good friend of mine once asked me why I was making my 2-year-old finish her last green bean, and I replied, “So she will not smoke pot when she grows up.” He looked at me dumbfounded and asked, “What could green beans and marijuana have to do with each other?” The answer is, of course, quite obvious. When you learn to train and discipline the flesh at two years old, it doesn’t seem so outrageous for a young man or woman not to walk in the flesh at twenty. Now, that is the obvious stuff, because training our children to control the flesh is a very important part of discharging our responsibility as fathers.
The real question Rob wanted us to answer is this, “How do we as fathers influence our children’s free will to make the choice to love God?”
We pray. Pray. Pray. James 5:16 reminds us that our prayers avail much. Ephesians tells us to put on the whole armor of God, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Eph. 6:18).
I did not experientially know the meaning of effectual prayer until I first knelt with my wife over the bed of our daughters and asked God for their souls.
We set an example. When I was a kid, my dad had an old Dodge truck. Every morning we would go out with Dad 20 minutes before we needed to leave so we could tinker with the truck, trying to get it started. It usually took the whole 20 minutes, and when we finally did get it started, we jumped in and took off before it could quit. Now, as I write this article, I look out my window at the Chevrolet truck in my driveway, and I don’t have to wonder why I have never bought a Dodge. I was thoroughly conditioned to “feel” that Dodge trucks are a real pain. So this is my answer: there was no way for Dad to program, formulate, or to construct my free will so that I HAD to choose Christ. There is no recipe that you can subject your kids to that will cause them to love the LORD, but every day as I was growing up I saw and felt peace in our home. I could see that my Dad and Mom loved each other, and loved God, and that what they had actually worked–and worked well. Because of all of those things, I chose to know and love the God of my father.

jumping ship

Oldest Pearl Son
Gabriel Pearl’s answer
It is clear to me what motivates kids to rebel.
1. Hypocrisy in their parents.
2. Anger and/or bitterness toward kids, spouse or anyone else.
3. Authority out of balance.
Teenagers hate hypocrisy. If a dad teaches at church, then goes home and is angry with his wife or lazy in his work, it will breed bitterness in his teenage children. Bitterness will generate into rebellion. If a mom puts on a show of spirituality at church and is disrespectful to her husband at home, that will breed bitterness in her older children. Hypocrisy generates bitterness. If a man is lost but honest in how he relates to others, he will have better kids than a man who pretends to be what he is not. Years ago, we knew a lost family of pot smokers. They were open with who and what they were. Their children loved and respected them (although they smoked pot, too). When the parents turned to God, all their children wanted to know the Savior also. TJ Slayman, Bible translator to a closed Asian country, is their oldest son (see TJ’s sister Sara’s testimony later in this article).
Next is bitterness toward God or others. Parents who harbor anger or bitterness toward each other, extended family, people of the community or in the church, will surely pass it on. Children emulate their parents. No matter what the bitterness is caused from, it will always destroy. “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (Hebrews 12:14-15).
The third thing is keeping authority in balance. It is important for a dad to take authority and responsibility of the family. It is equally important that the wife respect his authority and be thankful for his bearing the responsibility. God set up the chain of command, and any other way is not God’s way, and the children will not prosper.

Sweetest Pearl Kid!
(middle daughter)
Shalom (Pearl) Brand’s answer
Dad was always teaching life as well as the Bible. When we drove down the street and saw a street woman, he would tell us that she sold her body to men, and that she had diseases that made her smell nasty. Then he would tell the story of the bad lady in the Bible who came to Jesus and fell weeping at his feet. He would remind us about someone that we had taken into our home to help and how she was now a different lady because she had come to forgiveness and now knew Jesus. He taught by example that when you know the Lord, you love Him and help others.

First-Born Pearl Child
Rebekah Joy (Pearl) Anast’s answer
1. My dad wept over the sin, death, and destruction of those who fell after having heard the gospel (instead of gloating.)
2. He loved his wife and his kids more than his image and his public appearance (in actions and words.)
3. He wasn’t afraid of poverty, the government, the neighbors, the in-laws, the “church,” or of Mom (Ha ha).

Testimonies from young homeschooled adults. These are the first 9 people interviewed from an area, and were not selectively chosen (names withheld so they could speak freely)


Young Man #1
Parents who do not understand how to point their children to God will resort to some kind of formula to make sure their kids are saved. This causes kids to think they are saved when they are not just because they prayed a certain prayer or took the right religious steps. The kids then trust in a doctrine and their parents rather than the Savior.
The thing that was instilled in us kids the most was the need for repentance of sin, so I was always repenting. When I was still a young boy, I spent the first 10 minutes of every night when I got into bed trying to catch up confessing my day’s sins. I would go through everything I could think of that happened all through the day, and then I asked God to forgive me. I felt creepy because I knew I was doing the same things over and over, and I knew I was playing games with God. But it was all I knew. It was what I had been taught: If I confessed my sins, then I would be forgiven. This kept me from experiencing the fear of God over continued sin. The only time this fear would overtake me was at communion. I dreaded the Lord’s Table because I knew I had to be totally “confessed up” or I would “drink damnation to myself.” Could I be completely sure that I had not forgotten one of my sins? I did have a sense of assurance based on the fact that if anyone ever made it into heaven it would be me, because, as far as most people could tell, I was a really good kid from a big homeschooling family. We were full of principles, rules, convictions in every area of living, and had many family-life stories of God intervening in our lives to help us. In fact, life-threatening or changing experiences were cornerstones of our Christian walk, yet I know that if my dad or some other important figure in my life had quit the faith, it would have shaken my own faith in God. I had no final authority outside of the experience of older people.

strong in spirit
As a young adult, I met people who really loved God and knew Him in such a personal way. I began to see that I did not KNOW God. I knew a lot about repentance of sin, but I did not understand repentance TOWARD God. I wanted to know Him. I came to understand that Jesus paid for ALL my sins, and I was shocked to discover that the term “repent of your sins” was not even in the Bible–the concept of repenting of your sins as a precondition to being born again was completely opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. What I needed to repent of was “dead works.” Truth, the knowledge of the finished work of Jesus, has set me free.

Girl #1
(some siblings faltered)
All us kids had a time of frustration but not exactly rebellion. In our earlier years, our mom had a time of hypocrisy which really irritated us. She also had anger. I think she was frustrated because we were a part of a very strict group that taught that a woman did not do anything but have babies and cook and clean. She had energy and vision to do many things besides that. If she could have been a part of Dad’s business, she would have been happier, and we would have too.

Girl #2
(siblings do not walk in truth)
I think my parents felt that if they questioned our walk with God, they would be rejecting us or judging us. Therefore, they showed complete “faith” in our profession of faith, even in the midst of grave sin and rebellion in our lives. Their “faith” gave me confidence that was not from God. I thought, “Hey, I’m saved. I asked Jesus into my heart. So, you know, once saved always saved; that’s the way we believe, so I’m okay.” It’s a scary, foolish thought that you can have no real interest in God, yet still have total confidence you are promised a place in heaven. I had the “good girl” syndrome, almost like God owed me. All my siblings would say they are “saved,” yet they all have lived rough lives and have no interest in God now. My parents hold on to the fact that all their kids are saved because when we were 4 or 5 years old, we asked Jesus into our hearts. Their wishful confidence took the fear of a holy God away from us. Thank God, I came face to face with the reality of my lostness. It scares me how close I came to eternal damnation.

Girl #3
My dad was the most sincere man in the whole world. He wanted to do what was right. He always forgave us, never rejected us, although he had strict convictions. He was a good balance of conviction and forgiveness. I remember one time he came home from work weeping and could not eat. He told us God had worked in his heart over some issue, and he was torn up over it. I was just a small child, but the impact of his broken heart worked deeply into me.

Girl #4
(some siblings got into immoral sin)
I think the reason my siblings did not do so well was because my parents pretended that evil did not exist. We knew about issues such as abortion, pornography, and kids being molested, but our parents never discussed anything with us. It was like they thought they could keep us in a bubble and that if we didn’t know about it, we would not get involved in it. If we could have freely talked to a parent concerning such issues it would have given us the wisdom we needed to avoid these pitfalls. They had great expectations of us and would be greatly irritated when it didn’t all work out. Their relationship was not what I wanted when I grew up.

Girl #5
(all the children have serious problems)
Looking on the outside, we had a good family. But my dad was the most complete hypocrite that the world and Satan ever produced. We were a large homeschooling family. He made us girls wear coverings on our heads, even in our bedrooms and the bathroom. He made a big show in front of people, but he did not allow us to go to church because he did not agree with the doctrine there. The lack of church kept him from having to answer to eldership. He made sure that we didn’t get to know anyone well enough that they might discover the dark truth of our family. Because of that, we had few friends. We worked all the time because it kept us busy. Our dad was into child pornography. All of us kids suffered; we all have deep emotional scars, and our mom should have known. We should have been able to go to her for help. Good families don’t just fall apart—something is there tearing it up. There is a law of sowing and reaping.

Young Man #2

(family walks in truth)
My parents came from extremely ungodly families, yet they both decided to break the cycle and honor God. I admired their resolve. We had a very interactive relationship. We shared interests and hobbies. I always had a high regard for their opinion in every area. We were always regular in church, although we moved around several times seeking more like-minded groups. As new Christians, my parents did not have a clear understanding of how to share with us the knowledge of knowing God, although their sincere appreciation of God caused me to seek Him. We were older than most of the up-and-coming homeschoolers, so we set an example, and I felt the load of duty to walk with honor. I think my good life made me feel safe before God. I loved God as much as the next kid, so I assumed I was saved. I really did not know what it meant to KNOW and LOVE God. It was as an adult that I finally got into the Word of God and realized I was lost and undone before a holy God. I came to know, love and trust Jesus as the overcoming Champion.

Young Man #3

(one sibling walks in truth, the others are really messed up)
Some of us kids made it, and some didn’t―big time. My Mom provoked bitterness in my sisters by her being lazy, lying on the couch and expecting them to work while she took the credit for having a clean house and such. My Mom also worked up our dad to get upset at us kids, so we were mad at him for believing her. She was not totally disobedient to Dad, but showed disrespect for him and did not serve him.
My parents felt that if they kept us kids from getting driver’s licenses or jobs, we would not be “of the world,” although all our friends at church were allowed to do these things. We were frustrated at being held back and so we had grudges toward our parents. They had religious whims peculiar to our particular church, which bugged us. We were probably as good as most families, and our track record is about the same as others. Looking back, I think maybe my Mom, though a very good Baptist, never came to know the Lord, and our dad was a struggling believer who was not real sure how to be a dad. Being in a good church with a good social circle helped keep us afloat—barely.


Raised by lost dope-head homeschooling parents
Sara, TJ, and the twins were raised by lost parents. When their parents turned to Christ (1990), so did all their kids. TJ was 17 years old at the time and had been doing dope since he was five. From the day he got saved, he has walked in truth and is now a missionary, translating Scripture into the language of a closed Asian country. Mike and I have spent hours discussing why Tom and Kathy Slayman’s children were so open to the gospel and honored their parents, even when they were so terribly lost. Here is the family’s story from one of their own girls. Learn something from her extraordinary account.

Sara (Slayman) Bailey

I can’t remember a time when my parents DIDN’T do drugs and/or alcohol. They were children of the 60s (hippies) and never really grew out of it. Even as a young girl, I remember seeing them get high and not thinking much about it. Their fights bothered me worse than the drugs. My Dad is a visionary who was raised Catholic. He saw a lot of “untruth” and so naturally questioned everything. My Mom was stubborn, raised by a woman who was “in charge.” But she loved my Dad very much and knew what it took to be a visionary’s wife.
I grew up living in buses, tents, OLD farm houses where you could see right through the walls, etc. Even now I thank God that Human Services didn’t know we were there, because we would have doubtless been removed from our parents. What a terrible tragedy that would have been!
Now to answer Rob’s question, “What three things did my dad do to cause all his children to choose the God of our father, even though his choice was late in life?”

1. Children spell LOVE T-I-M-E.

When I was young we were so poor, Spam (cheap canned meat) for us was like rib-eye steak. My dad loved us. He took the time to teach us to cook over a fire, shoot guns (which we all do very well, I might add), live off the land, and hunt. Basically, he taught us to enjoy life. We were #1 in his eyes and we knew it. He LOVED spending time with us and still does. (Although having all the grandkids at once get him a little edgy.)
Along with my dad’s visionary tendencies, he was quite a thinker. He loved lengthy discussions about anything from solar power to speaking in tongues. Sometimes he would just sit down, pick up an encyclopedia, and start reading it to us. When I would get bored (it wouldn’t take long), he would just keep reading. He studied Jehovah’s Witnesses, Messianic Jews, Amish, Hay Bale houses, etc. He was always looking for the truth. He carried us kids with him in his quest. He was preaching to us all the time and making us study (in a Good News Bible) to see what was true. That’s how he met Mike Pearl. When Dad finally understood that Christ was his Savior, it didn’t take long for the rest of the family to follow through. During a very short period of time, God pulled one whole family out of the depths of hell and immorality into Life Eternal. I was about 12 when my family was saved (I thank God for this daily) and baptized in the cold waters of Cane Creek.
Here is Number 2...Once dad knew that he had found the truth about some subject, he was very free to share it with us. I usually believed it, only because I knew it must be true for my dad to believe it so strongly. I trusted my Dad, knowing he wanted what was best for me. Even today I often go to him and ask his opinion about Biblical things, building things, gun things, etc. I have learned to study on my own and to be able to come up with my own conclusions, but they don’t usually vary far from my Dad’s.
Number 3...My Dad’s faith is real. He loves the Lord with all his heart. His greatest passion is telling people about Christ and learning more truth. My dad was far from perfect, but he loved the Lord, he adored my Mom, and loved and enjoyed his children. Now, I am enjoying hearing him preach to my children. I know he used to preach to me like that too.

Redeemed in a Prison Cell
I only met my real Dad once. I walked up to him and asked him if he knew who I was, and he said, no. I told him I was his son. He didn’t seem to care one way or the other. That’s how I felt about most everything. I just didn’t care. I didn’t like my step-dad, so we didn’t get along much. My Mom always had to play the middle man to keep us from fighting. Most of my time was spent on the streets, the only place for me. My first run-in with the law was when I was about 10 years old. My life became one of violence. I was indifferent. I was kicked out of school for violence. During my teen years, I worked at different jobs but finally fell back to stealing guns and electronic equipment. One night a police officer noticed bullet holes in my car and pulled me over. He spotted a gun in my center console and then found that I had a trunkful of stolen guns. For the next 6 months, I sat in jail. While there, I met an older Muslim man and gave consideration to the cultural statement of the Black Muslim world. My mom bailed me out, and then I really turned violent. Guns, shooting, fighting, stealing, and all manner of evil became a part of my life. Within a short time, I was back in jail. This time the bail was a hundred thousand, and Mom could not save me from my sin. While there, someone gave me a small New Testament, and I started reading it. This time, God had my full attention. I fell in love with the Savior as I read the stories in the gospels. Strange as it sounds, the same Muslim man was still in jail, and he noticed the old worn-out Bible I had and gave me a new KJV. After almost a year in “holding,” I was given a sentence of 16 years. Shortly afterwards, I was transferred over to South Central, and as soon as I got there, I asked about Bible studies and church meetings. It was there through Mike Pearl’s Saturday morning Bible studies that I learned how to study the Bible. God’s Word was real and became the driving force in my life. I read and studied all the time. I loved to share his Word. I spent the next 8 years, the rest of my youth, there in prison studying the Word. It is powerful, effectual, and able to change a man. When I got out of prison, I married, and started a family. I am thankful that “he [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). I have now been out for over 4 years. God has blessed me with a wonderful wife, 3 children, and a desire to serve him in ministry. My sons and daughters will know that God reached down his hand and brought me out of terrible wickedness.
In conclusion: When I read the letter from the young father named Rob, asking for wisdom from children of successful dads, I could understand. I, too, have that plea before God. But one thing I have learned through the Word is this: there is no formula to salvation. It is simply coming to know and love the Savior. For me, it was the reading of the Word and discovering who Jesus was that caused me to turn to God.

When my son was five years old he came to me and said, “Dad, I believe in Jesus” I looked down at him with no emotion and said, “That’s good son, now go and feed the dog.” This may seem indifferent, but I did not want to give him the sense that he had now “arrived.” If I had looked at him with delight and said with great confidence, “Oh, son, I am so glad you are now saved,” I would have been bringing to a conclusion that which was not yet concluded. I want his heart to be moved toward God until he comes to a place where he clearly understands God’s amazing grace and forgiveness. God will do His work. My work will be to pray, walk in truth, and be an example to my children and minister and share the gospel to others with them. I will continually show thanks to God for his unspeakable love and forgiveness. I will read God’s Word and teach my family God’s stories so that they might come to see who God is by how he has related to the human race. My sons and daughters will see how much I treasure having an opportunity to have God’s very words to read. I will do my part, and God will do his.

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