As we drove to Tennessee, Dan, Noelle and I talked the whole twelve-hour trip, chattering like magpies over absolutely nothing, nervous as hens. That night—arriving about 9:00 p.m., following their map, locating landmarks that would soon become boundaries for Dan—we drove up to a white columned estate where men acting like happy campers awaited us. Five of them bounded outside, romping about like teenagers when our lights swept the grounds as we turned into the property.
“Hey! You’re here! You’re here! Glad to see ya!” They waved, surrounding the rolling car, slapping its skin. One of the young ones jumped up and down like springs were attached to his feet. This riotous carnival atmosphere seemed juxta-positional against the destruction my husband and these men had committed against their families, but I wrote it off as an exaggerated welcoming committee. Besides, what did I want – a warden and some prison guards to haul him off for retribution? They indicated a parking place in front of a trailer behind the Farmhouse, as they called it, and before I could park, they yanked open all the doors, pulling Dan out to his new home.
“Hey, brother! Let’s get a good look at you! Welcome to The Farm!” They slapped his back, shook his hand and dragged him inside. Noelle and I parked the car, looked at each other left outside, shrugged and sneaked in behind.
The antiquated trailer, divided in half, housed a counselor on one side and six men on the other. Three monstrous wood-hewn bunk beds lined three walls. The available floor space allowed only one person to stand without creating a crowd.
A middle-aged man, and apparently the most garrulous, stood mid-court, his arms folded, a commanding smile spread across his face. I’m Curly; I’ve been here the longest.” The others introduced themselves and then Curly smacked his hand on a top bunk. “This one’s yours, Dan ol’ buddy. We waited for you all day, and since you’re the last to arrive, you get the last bed.”
My heart sank. I know Dan and his claustrophobia, and to imagine him two feet from the ceiling elicited my pity. Having managed to bring his backpack inside with him, Dan shoved it up on the bed.
Curly pulled something metallic off the mattress and said, “These are yours, ol’ buddy. You have to bring them to every meal, so don’t lose them babies!” He grinned and handed Dan a metal bowl and some eating utensils.
I nearly burst into tears; pointing at them I asked, dubiously, “That’s what he eats with?”
“You bet! And he keeps ‘em clean, too!” Riotous laughter followed his statement, and I realized that the little band of newcomers were turning themselves inside out to accept their new and excruciatingly limited environment.
At that point the counselor charged into the room, surveyed the situation, saw where Dan would be sleeping and said, “Hey, come on guys, you can’t make this old-timer climb up there every night. Who’s going to have mercy here?” Dan flinched at being called an “old-timer,” and I smirked behind my hand, hiding my nervousness.
Nobody said anything and finally Curly chirped crisply, in what I considered to be a sudden and complete change of character, “I’ll be blessed to switch with him.” He had his bed stripped and re-established on the top bunk before anybody moved much, perhaps embarrassed they hadn’t offered.
Noelle and I were escorted to a room in the office building behind the farmhouse, separated by a small field. The icy wind whipped at us, the edifice looked dark and foreboding, and Noelle and I clung to each other like scared mice. We made sure we knew how to lock and double lock the doors; we put our things away and returned to help Dan unpack.
Our aid added superfluity, as too many men pressed in already helping. One of them said to me, “I go to your church.”
“Oh, really?” I scrutinized him. “I’m sorry. I don’t remember having seen you there.”
“Well, it’s a big church. I’ve only been going there a year, with my wife. We were married a year ago,” he paused, “yeah, a year ago today.” He grinned and cocked his head as if it just occurred to him that today his anniversary ought to be celebrated.
“How nice.” I smiled. “Is your wife here now?”
“No. I flew in this morning. She’s a psychologist and had clients who needed her. You know how difficult the holidays are for people with problems,” He looked absolutely saddened at the thought of other people having problems.
Being extremely handsome, he made me wonder, and I couldn’t resist asking, “Was your wife your psychologist?”
He brightened, “She was. That’s how I met her. But after we got married, she turned me over to Susan.” He grinned a “What! Me worry?” kind of grin. “Susan’s the one who got me in here.” He turned to survey the bounties of his new home.
Susan, I knew. She attended our church, directed our Thursday night meetings and made her living as a psychologist, one specializing in homosexuality. I continued to look at him not knowing what to say, then not wanting to embarrass him I turned away. However, he came and stood beside me to whisper in my ear. “The men in this facility come with all kinds of sexual addiction and deviation. We’re not allowed to speak about our problems. No one knows why I’m here or why your husband is here. Let’s keep it that way, okay?”
I gave him a reassuring smile and turned to the other men. Three had arrived that day, and, having been well briefed, were all speaking at once trying to bring Dan up to speed. Curly continued to hold court, giving the last word when needed and the sixth man dittoed Curly, having only been in the program two months.
After a while, the men began to cough, and shuffle and I realized they wanted Noelle and me to leave. Curly spoke up, “Lights out comes at 11:00 p.m. no matter what’s going on. We’re not allowed to undress in front of each other, and we’re not allowed to have two in the bathroom at the same time. As you can see, there’s six of us for one little bathroom. I’m sorry to have to be so blunt with you ladies, but since it is 10:00 p.m., we need the full hour for all of us to get ready for bed.”
Noelle and I apologized for our presence and inched toward the door. Nodding goodnight, the men solemnly parted a path for us. Dan looked as if we were despicable intruders, and Noelle and I said goodnight.
We held hands rather tightly as we crossed the field. Thankfully we had left a light burning in our little apartment, which we searched thoroughly after double locking the door. The bedroom contained a double bed and a single bed, and we chose to sleep together that night, whispering for several hours. Noelle, a particularly beautiful young woman, had elicited admiring comments earlier in the evening, and we both imagined horrible scenes of gang rape and dismemberment. But, of course, we were perfectly safe.
The next morning, we breakfasted in our little kitchenette, and then Dan came down to get us. We toured the Farmhouse and the other buildings, visiting the pigs, which made this a working farm. Three couples and several singles composed the staff. The director and his family lived in a secluded house off-site, the other two families lived in trailers on the crowded property, and an odd assortment of men, having graduated from the program and stayed on as counselors, lived among the clients. The males of the couples were also graduates of the program. The clients numbered about forty, all age groups accounted for, and they lived in the Farmhouse, crammed in the trailer or in a couple of privileged rooms situated over the garage.
They all looked so normal, just like Dan. Then some of them made comments to J.J. that weren’t normal at all. After a few introductory pleasantries one said, “Well, it’s a good thing your father is here, or I’d be dragging you off by your pretty hair.”
Another said, “Think you can get away from your battle-axe mother tonight and meet me in the barn?”
One leaned forward to mutter in her ear as he was being introduced. Noelle did her best to ignore the comments as there was no counselor near to put a stop to it.
“Hmmmm,” said another with an appreciative stare. “I’ll bet you know what to do with the goods.”
Another man, who looked like he should be leading the cheering section at a university football game, said, “I really want to go to Logos when I get out of here. I’m gonna serve the Lord, and I want to do it right.”
“Well, that’s great!” Noelle encouraged him.
“I was wondering if you could help me.”
“Sure,” she said, her compassion hormones beginning to flow.
“Do you think you could help me find an apartment?”
“Oh yeah,” she said, “there’s tons of them around the school.”
“Just one thing,” his brow furrowed, “Be sure it isn’t near a day care center or a nursery school.” Noelle looked at me in horror.
Dan then took us to the offices located on the upper floor where we were staying. We met with Dan’s counselor who explained the program to us. We sat rather uneasily on our chairs, I thought, and the counselor appeared as deadpanned as it was possible to be without being dead.
“Now Dan will be expected to work in town to pay his own way, the fellas car-pool, as some have cars. Certain Christian businessmen hire our clients, and no doubt Dan will work where several others are already employed. He will have chores to do on the Farm—we’re quite proud of our prize-winning hogs—and he will have to observe curfews. Dan must be on campus every night by 7:00 p.m. because that is when the evening program starts. There’s a program every night but Friday. He will have some free time on Saturday afternoon, but that’s it. Any questions?”
“Yes, I have one. What do you expect from the men’s families, well, from the wives, I mean, Dan’s wife. What do you expect from me?” I finished lamely.
He never moved a muscle while he spoke; he didn’t even turn his head, only his eyes moved from his desk to my eyes and then back to his desk. “Wives contribute greatly to the program. My own wife doesn’t allow me to do any shopping by myself. Every time I leave the house, unless I am coming to the office, she accompanies me.”
“Why is that?” I asked in astonishment.
His eyes investigated something on his desk. “There are pornography magazines everywhere. You can’t buy gas without being assaulted by a rack of nude women. With my wife around, I won’t stop and flip through the pages.”
Since I felt like a wall was addressing me, I dared to be aggressive. “It sounds to me like you have turned your wife into a watchdog. It has never worked for me to be Dan’s watchdog.”
“Mrs. DuBois, he looked up at me. “I assure you, being a watchdog is an essential part of the program. We couldn’t run this place without the dedicated help of the wives. They give us the balance we need.”
I said with barely stifled resentment, “How can I possibly govern Dan’s thoughts? That’s where he needs the watchdog.”
He looked down at one of the papers on his desk, “Now, Mrs. DuBois, your counselor will be Ruth. She’s the wife of one of the staff members. Unfortunately, she’s not on the grounds for you to meet her today. But she asked me to inform you that you are to call her every week on Wednesday at 10:00 a.m., and she will conduct your counseling by phone.”
“What kind of counseling will that be?” I huffed.
Placidly, unmoved by my ruffled feathers, he continued. The men follow certain studies, especially on the Mercy of God, which helps them get rid of the pride in their lives. We believe Pride and Self-Love,” and he said those words in awe, “to be the root cause of the addictions and deviations. Dan is going to learn to deny himself and to rely on God’s Mercy. You will follow those same studies at home.” He indicated a stack of books on the desk, “Those are your materials. Take them home with you and prepare lesson one before you call Ruth. That way you can keep pace with Dan. If you don’t cooperate, then our experience tells us that you’ll have marriage problems when he goes home after the six-month program.
Riddled with contempt, I picked up the stack of books as politely as I could. Next, we visited the director. His desk-side manner was a little more refreshing. “Ah, Mrs. DuBois and Noelle. I’ve been hearing favorable comments floating around about you from the men. Please sit down.” When we were all comfortably seated, he gestured out the window indicating the community and asked, “What do you think of all this?”
“Well,” I sighed nervously, “I would say you have your hands full.”
He laughed good-naturedly. “That’s an understatement.” He looked out the window leaving the room in silence. He seemed to be a man of great calm and peace. Then he looked back at me and asked, “Are you willing to leave your husband in our hands?”
I wanted to criticize his choice of staff, meaning Dan’s counselor, but I thought better of it. Besides, I didn’t know how to answer that. I wasn’t leaving Dan in his hands; I was kicking him out of the house. Instead of having to admit that, I redirected the conversation. “Before I answer that question, I want to know something about you. How did you arrive at the position you hold now?”
“You mean, why am I the director?”
“Well, that’s as good a place to start as any.”
“Because I created this ministry ten years ago. You see, I was a compulsive adulterer. I had sex with any woman, anywhere, anytime I could. It wasn’t a matter of love, or even of need, it was a matter of desperation. But I also desperately wanted to quit, and I knew I couldn’t. It terrified me to think that my wife would leave me because I loved her very much. She’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. So, I made her sit in the car all day long while I was at work. That way I could look out the window and be sure she was still there, even though I was inside the building having sex in the supply closets or the mailroom or wherever all day long. Then I’d run to the window to check on her. But a pastor started helping me, and little by little I overcame the compulsion. The courses we do here came out of my own deliverance. I know what it’s like to be where your husband is now, and I know he can have victory. It’s a tough road; it doesn’t happen overnight, and that’s why I balked when the Lord asked me to start this ministry.”
“What’s your success rate?” I asked.
“That’s something we can’t determine. After our clients graduate, either the men fall and come back for another session, or we don’t hear from them again. Sexual addicts are selfish people and it probably never occurs to them to contact us with any gratitude.”
“That must be rather disheartening,” I said.
“Not really. We fill them full of the Word of God and help them know the Lord on a personal level. We know they are changed people when they leave. I guarantee your husband will be a changed man when he comes home. Now, are you ready to leave your husband in our hands?”
I smiled, ‘He’s all yours.”
Did this director really think wives wanted to have a selfish husband returned to them? I felt like this program wanted to put that old vise back on me, and figuratively speaking, make me sit in the car waiting for Dan. I could hardly wait to drive away.
We stayed another day to drive Dan around, so he could open a bank account, buy the things he needed and get established. I gave him a hug goodbye and several of the men audibly sighed as if watching something sweet. We drove away, leaving Dan standing in the drive like a piece of granite, not waving, his mouth hanging open, stark terror in his eyes.
When he disappeared from view Noelle said, “Mom, if I weren’t with you, you’d probably be driving away rotating your fist in the air yelling, “Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! He’s finally gone! And I just wanted you to know you’re free to do that if you want. I don’t care. This is going to be good for him.
Slumped on the front seat resembling a sack of potatoes, I felt sobered. “Thank you, sweetheart, but I don’t have the energy for that. This morning in prayer I told the Lord I knew He loved me very much. I also knew He loved your father very much. I asked the Lord, however, why He let Dan ride roughshod over me for so many years. He answered, ‘Because you allowed it.’”
“Ouch,” Noelle said, “That’s harsh.”
“That’s what I thought. Then I asked Him ‘What’s Dan’s and my future together?’”
Since I had paused, uncertain whether to continue, Noelle encouraged me. “Come on, what’d He say?”
“Well, He didn’t speak. I had a vision. I saw myself in a dark tunnel. Before me stood a door. I pushed on the rough wood, and it swung open to reveal a grassy meadow filled with field flowers. To my surprise, Dan pushed past me, ducking his head to walk through the opening, and he stepped into the meadow. I hadn’t known your father was standing behind me.
“Jesus appeared and took Dan by the hand, putting His arm around his shoulders, and He led him into the meadow. As I watched the two men walking away from me, I noticed Jesus wiping away the tears in Dan’s eyes. It gave me great joy to watch them walk away. It also made me sad. And that’s how I’m feeling right now as we are driving away, sad and glad.”
“Me, too,” said Noelle. “I’m sad to be leaving my Dad there; but I’m glad to be with my Mom.” She patted my arm and pampered me all the way home.
For the month of January, I fasted all television and movies, all friends, all entertainment, wanting to hole up with the Lord and hear His voice. It kept me sane, because I could do something as simple as turn around and suddenly be aware that Dan wasn’t there, and immobilizing panic would hit me. I was alone. For the first time in my life, I was living alone.
I started my long-distance counseling with Ruth, and I would have to grit my teeth and make myself do it. She treated me like a spiritual baby, like I knew nothing about the Christian walk and had never encountered the Spirit of God nor knew anything about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. She also lectured me on the basic rudiments of relationships. I realized, after a while, that things had changed at The Farm and her husband had become Dan’s counselor, and her treatment of me resulted from Dan’s discussions with her husband. Dan fed him his version of our relationship, him being maligned, disrespected, unappreciated, and now discarded.
I waited, and about a month and a half into the program she started asking questions about Dan. How did he respond in this situation? Did he always like that in that situation? I realized they were seeing beyond the façade and beginning to deal with some underlying difficulties.
The men couldn’t talk about their homosexuality, but I could, so I asked Ruth, “What special treatment does your program give to homosexuals?”
She replied, “None.”
“What?” I questioned. “They need to have their orientation changed. They are fixated on men. How do you handle that? If you don’t help Dan change his orientation, then you are sending home the same man I delivered to you.”
“Well, I’ve asked my husband about that.” She responded somewhat defiantly, I thought. “He said that in his own addiction he had almost fallen to the point of having sex with men, but he never got that far. So he wouldn’t judge anyone who did fall that far.”
“Ruth!” I exclaimed. “It’s not a matter of judging. Don’t you understand what you are dealing with here? That is not how homosexuals are. They don’t fall to the point of having sex with men. That’s their starting point. Men are where they start!”
“Maggie,” she replied evenly. “I don’t agree. Addiction is addiction. All sexual addiction is the same. Its men controlled by pride and self-love.”
We continued this discussion a bit, but Ruth dug in at her defense and would not budge. So, we hit an impasse. Ruth and I were running out of things to say, anyway, so we changed our time and talked every two weeks.
Dan found a job in a factory where they varnished frames for museum art. The wood came from Europe and required twenty coats of varnish. It demanded detail, which suited Dan perfectly. The plant manager had graduated from the program and hired anyone who came from “The Farm;” therefore, several of them worked together, which included the other man from our church.
That handsome young man dropped out of the program, completing only six weeks, but that’s using the term loosely. He and three others skipped work one afternoon and slipped into a forbidden girlie show. One of the foursome, after several days, could no longer contain himself and confessed to a member of the staff. They waited exactly twenty-four hours for the others to confess, and when they didn’t, the staff stormed into their bedrooms and gave them one hour to pack their bags and leave. The “rat” who squealed was allowed to stay.
This event agitated all the men. Great debate took place as to whether it was handled well and whether the stool pigeon should remain. It shook Dan. He didn’t know what to think. However, when the man from our church showed up at work to pick up his check, Dan asked him, “Why didn’t you confess? You knew the other guy had squealed, why didn’t you go in and tell them what you had done? You’d still be in the program if you’d done that.”
“I know,” came his reply. “But it wasn’t any of their business.”
I happened to call that night, and Dan related their conversation. He said, “The part that shook me was that those had been my very thoughts. I’m just as much a rebel as he is!”
“Yeah,” I said. “That’s a very good word to describe you. But Dan, you and I both know that guy is gay. Why would he break the rules to go to a girlie show?”
“That’s simple. Nobody else knows what he is. He went along to be one of the boys.”
The expulsion was even discussed in our groups on the following Thursday night; Susan had been informed. The young man, apparently, was not returning to Texas, and Susan was devastated. There were opinions on every side imaginable, but I, for one, was glad the staff had treated it as severely as they had. It confirmed my opinion that the director had his hands full, but evidently, they were very capable hands.
Dan could only be reached on a pay phone and during very limited hours after work and before the evening session. I tried to talk to him once a week. Weighing his words, listening for new attitudes, I couldn’t detect any change. Finally reaching the point that Noelle spoke of, I was glad he was gone. To my surprise, I was glad to be living alone. I didn’t exactly rotate my fist in the air, but I felt settled.
Writing has been in my blood, so to speak, but when I surren-dered my life to Jesus Christ and He told me to write, all my trepidations rolled away and I began in earnest! After all, if God Almighty says it was His idea that I be a writer, who am I to stand in His way? My hope is that you not only like what I write, but that your life is moved by it, and that your party to Jesus and with Jesus turns your life into days of Heaven on Earth.