My Father’s Story – By Nancy Bicknell

come homeI was raised with deep roots.  You learn a lot on a farm about roots when raising crops and about the worms that eat away at those roots. There is nothing more disgusting than a big green tobacco worm that eats the leaves of the tobacco plant—unless it would be the cut worm—that cuts the plant off at the root.  Even after a cut worm has severed the plant it lives awhile before the withering process begins.  That withering process is what I saw happen in my family and now with my parents’ with IFB abuse.

My father was raised by a mother who loved God.  She had 7 sisters and brothers and they lived off the farm lands in Wisconsin. I remember the day a Bible College student walked out into our tobacco fields to sell us a Bible. My father, who I had never seen buy anything, bought the biggest and brightest Red Bible in the bunch. That Bible sat by his chair by the stove and he read it often as I grew up. He never went to church and was fearful of being in a crowd of people. He could not even talk on the phone comfortably. But people respected my father. When my little sister went to a local IFB Baptist church and said she “Found God,” My father watched. When I went forward in the same IFB church after evangelist Jack Hyles preached, my father watched. When Ron Comfort came to evangelize, we got my parents to go to the church. My sister and I cried during the invitation and asked my father to go forward. He did. Dad became active in the IFB church along with my mom. He learned to give his testimony, lead in prayer and, was elected to be a deacon. He stopped smoking, stopped growing tobacco, and he told others what God had done for him.

Then the cut worm struck when my father was asked to vote on expelling an IFB school student for listening to music with a beat. (You see, secretly my father loved the Grand Old Oprey music.)  He felt coerced, as a deacon, into expelling the student, but when he saw children were being hit and were fearful, the cut worm struck and my father left the IFB church. My dad started a new church that met in an empty grocery store and they had about 30 people who followed them from the old IFB church. I understood the loss my parents felt for their beloved church members. I saw the withering process of grief. My mom lost a lot of weight and my father started having heart trouble. Leaving their roots was hard for my parents. Being quiet about abuse in his church was intolerable for them.

I returned to the IFB church, even as my father was standing up for abused children, in spite of the fact that my own son had been abused in an IFB church. Dad was willing to walk away from his IFB church where he had built the steeple and was truly part of that church’s roots because his mom’s country church had closed and merged with that IFB church. I admired his courage to do the work of the cut worm. I was more of a tobacco worm nibbling at the leaves while leaving the plant intact. I had learned through all of my counseling experience that you can only be a victim of a system one time. If you choose to go back you are now a volunteer. I was walking back into the church system where my son, Scott had been abused, because I missed my friends—the sense of a family—was drawing me back.

When my anger over past abuses surfaced Dr. Professor, a church deacon, encouraged me to let it go and to forgive. I was willing to try. I only wanted to move forward. As my husband Larry and I sat in the back pews singing the hymns I ignored the soundtrack from Jaws playing ever so softly in the back of my mind. Even though the warning built to a crescendo in my head…. “dunt…Dunt…Dunt…DUNT…DUNT…DUNT”—I continued to wade  slowly back into the IFB waters.

Sitting in the IFB pew, I was judged for being divorced. Pastors used the pulpit to bash psychology and spanking of children as the primary mode of discipline.  Complete surrender to rejoin the church was the goal of the IFB in order to graft    their abuse victims back to the root. The roots of the IFB belief system were awakened in me but the true roots my father had given me had gotten tangled up in the IFB doctrines.

My father eventually had a heart attack and was put on hospice at home.  He asked to have his Grand Old Oprey and Gaithers music played at his bedside. My husband, Larry a musician who played old Elvis and Beatles music, understood the importance of music in finding some measure of comfort. Larry used his experience to see to it that my father had the music that he loved. My father stayed connected to his family roots as long as he could but his heart continued to fail him. He gave us all instructions as he died.  His sister, Judy, was to be in charge of cleaning the bird poop off his grave stone, Rita was to watch out for Mom, Jo was to continue to be a nurse and me—I was to continue to draw pictures and write books.

He knew we all loved God and that he would see us again in heaven. He chose to die when I left his bedside to shower. He was gone. My sister’s husband, who had also left the IFB pastorate because of the abuse that he saw in the IFB system, preached the funeral. That was the last time he ever got behind an IFB pulpit. My husband played the guitar and we both sang at my father’s funeral—we sang with the 4/4 beat hated by the IFB—we stood with my father and, for my father. My father had found his roots.

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