My first steps as a Volunteer
It’s hard to decide where I should start and at the same time very easy for it’s all there. All the memories - pain, fear, stress etc. - are just a recalled flashback away!
My story started simply enough: a failing marriage with a spouse who threatened to leave at any moment and with the spoken and unspoken threat of, “when I leave you will also never see your daughter again!”
Boom! It happened and as I was too close to see, or I did not want to believe, I was taken by surprise!
I shall not go into the reasons or the mental avalanche that I went through. It was hard 20 years ago, for as a male I was told by one police officer to be happy, that since the old lady and kids were gone, why don’t I go have a beer? At the same time I am a male and the stigma of my gender and at that time, people thought I must have done something wrong to bring this about. Hey, you’re a male, just for that alone you probably deserve it!
The fact is that I did not deserve it and no one, female or male deserves it, ever!!
My main concern was for my child. Remember the issues that I did not go into? Well they were many and safety of my daughter was paramount. This person did not take and deny me my daughter because she wanted exclusivity. She took her to extract some sort of warped infliction of pain on me. The proof of this is that in the 20 years plus since I got my child back, she has never tried once to see our daughter. Not that you cannot find me either, as I am not that hard to find, or that she was denied.
For the parents like myself who have lived through this hell, they know what I am talking about. We are all members of an exclusive club that has the highest entrance dues imaginable: the temporary or permanent loss of your own child. Your own flesh and blood, taken due to whatever horror, that you can come up with.
After my daughter was returned to me I wanted to repay those who helped me! Eric Sommerfeldt at Child Find Alberta listened to all my rants, frustrations and pain. During all hours, many days and through many. many, tears.
Even through hard work and a steep learning curve for myself, in a system that at that time had all the odds stacked against me.
I was blessed with the return of my daughter.
I also had help from prayer, my co-workers, family, friends, lawyers, judges, police and many people who I would never have met if not for this tragedy.
I had made 2 promises to God, that if my prayers were answered and my daughter was returned to me safe and sound, then I would make sure that no one I ever came across would have to go through this horror the hard way, like I did. Promise 2, is that I would also become a Christian.
From 1989 to 1991, I helped out with finger printing other people’s kids for Child Find Alberta. That was nice and my daughter had fun helping out as well. It was not really what I wanted to do though and it did not fill the parameters of my self made promise.
I nagged and nagged the office and In 1991 I became a card carrying volunteer of Child Find Alberta.
I was trained by Dave Credland to be a Volunteer Intake Worker for parents of all missing children. I was on call 24 hours a day and seven days a week for Alberta, British Columbia, N.W.T., Nunavut and the Yukon.
While I assist these parents in exploring their options to locate their children, I also give them emotional support while giving/taking information, for essentially I am just a good listener.
Though I am not a trained social worker/psychiatrist or lawyer, what I do let them know is that I am a parent. Who like them, has already gone through the same fog of despair of a missing child. I give them my hand and together, we walk as far as we can.
After I gather the necessary information I send it to the Child Find Case Managers and Investigative Unit via whatever means possible. From that point the case managers then set up appointments and start the process to hopefully recover the Child.
Since then, I have taken 400 plus calls all hours of the day and night and in some of the strangest places.
Once, I was out of town and on a power pole assisting in the installation of a new power line to my parent’s new garage on their acreage. I was passed up a cell phone with a distressed parent of a missing child on the other end. I relied on my memory of the conversation to write my report. At that time of Child Find Alberta’s operations, I was afraid that I would lose the call, if I moved or hung up for a moment. So I stayed on my pole and the bonus was that I also had a great view of the Rockies!
One of my scariest calls and we all have one, is a call that I received at 3 AM from a young man who informed me that he had run away from out of province and he had just arrived in Calgary. He went on to inform me that he was getting no help from anyone even though he was a reported “runaway”. The Police and drop in centers would not help him and I was his last resort.
With help from my current wife I was able to contact the Calgary City Police Services and they were going to send a car around to this young man.
He threatened suicide if I did not come down to where he was and help him out. I explained that I could not come down to where he was and that the Police would soon be there to help him out. Then he abruptly said well, “That’s it!” “Thanks for nothing!” “My death will be on your hands” and he hung up.
I sat there in the dark enveloped in the chilling silence and just did not know what to do.
The Police dispatch said that a car was to be dispatched but how long would that take and was this young man still at that location??
Both my wife and I just stared at each other and I was torn about going but that was not in my training, as I had done all that I could do.
I did not sleep much that night and the next day I was informed by Dave Credland that when the Police arrived at that young man’s location.
That there was, not just one young person but also several others. Who, if I ignored my training and went down to assist him, they would have promptly robbed me for my efforts. This young man not only was a runaway from out of province but one with a long list of warrants for his arrest.
These are again just two of my bizarre stories that we, who do this kind of volunteer work sometimes, come across.
Through all of these calls and experiences I was lucky enough to keep my promise.
This again, was to make sure that no one that I ever came across would have to go through this horror the hard way, like I did.
I then had the honor to be chosen to attend training and become a member of an organization called Team H.O.P.E. (Help Offering Parents Empowerment) this organization is just one part of the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, which was co-founded by John Walsh of “America’s Most Wanted”, after the murder of his son Adam.
I take all calls related to missing children. I am able to handle these through the extensive training that I received. Also I am now proudly part of the team called the “Grief Busters”, which is Team H.O.P.E.’s most western group of volunteers. Within this organization I have worked on missing children calls all over North America.
For I now have more knowledge to offer and I am making great headway to keeping my self made promise. For my promise continues and will probably continue till I do not.
In 2004, I became a Christian, to keep my second part of my 2 promises. I am very proud of this and I am also in awe at how far that has I come since I was the very distraught parent of 20 plus years ago today.
by Sir Richard Abbenbroek...
Friday, May 29, 2009
Thursday, May 21, 2009
The murder of Victoria (Tori) Stafford makes my blood run cold. I know that forgiveness is something, "I" of all people should preach with all my heart.
Sadly (God forgive me) as I can not, for I have friends who have lost children and loved ones to scum like the 2 that killed little Tori.
Even with all that I have learned from them, I still can not imagine what Tori's parents are going through!
No excuse is valid when you murder a child...
I dedicate this song for the late Victoria (Tori) Stafford: http://www.youtube.com/v/k8u0y2c47ts&hl=en&fs=1
Into Jesus arms, I pray that you are now.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Make no mistake, if you choose to test God's resolve, you'll be looking at an outcome that will have a finality that is beyond your comprehension, and you'll not be counting the days, or the months, or the years, but millenniums, in a house with no doors.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Saturday, May 2, 2009
The Promise of Spring
Winter tarries much too long at four thousand feet above sea level.
Here in Calgary, spring comes late and fitfully. We had snow again last week on the last week of April and probably will have some yet in May too. I’ve come to accept that spring here is really a wrestling match between winter and summer, as makes for a long time of waiting.
You see in Calgary, the flowers are pretty much gone in September.
By the first of October, the aspens start turning gold and drop their leaves in a week or two, and come November, all is gray.
Initially, I don’t mind. The coming of winter has its joys, and there are Thanksgiving and Christmas to look forward to.
Though right after the New Year, things begin to drag on.
Through February and then March, the earth remains lifeless. The whole world lies shadowed in brown and gray tones, like an old photograph. Winter’s novelty is long past, and by April we are longing for some sign of life some color, some hope for this is just too long.
Then yesterday, I rounded the corner into our neighborhood, and suddenly, the world was green again. What had been rock and twig and dead mulch was a rich oriental carpet of green. I was shocked, stunned. How did it happen?
As if in disbelief, I got out of my car and began to walk through this clump of trees, touching every leaf. The birds are back as well, waking us in the morning with their glad songs, as I thought early yesterday it was my brakes squealing again. This all happened suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye.
My surprise is telling, as it seems natural to long for spring, it is another thing to be completely stunned by its return. I am truly and genuinely surprised, as if my reaction were, "Really, what are you doing here?"
Then I realized, I thought I’d never see spring again. I think in some deep place inside, I had accepted the fact that winter had become forever and so, I am shocked by the return of spring.
So I wonder, can the same thing happen for my soul? As with all the things that have happened to us lately, I feel as if my eternal wintered soul, is longing for God’s promise of His spring. So I have to ask you my friends, what about yours?
With Love From,