FamilyLight: Successor to Bridge to Understanding
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George was a student at Family Foundation School when Bob Runge called Tom. This was in 1997. Bob was in charge of Admission there at the time. "We have a boy here who keeps running away and getting into trouble. We don't mind chasing him and bringing him back but the trouble is, he is doing damage, and the state police have told us that next time they are putting him into the juvenile justice system. His mother is a Supreme Court Judge in another county here in New York." (in New York, Supreme Court is a trial court, not an appeal court). Bob went on, "We need you to find another place for him where he can't do this kind of thing. If you can take this on, I'll pass your name to his mother."
That was the beginning of an adventure. Our other vignettes are carefully disguised and might even be a composite of more than one person. But this one is very thinly disguised. The reference to Family Foundation School is real, the mother of the actual person really was a judge when this happened (now retired) and, well, most of what follows is also accurate as to location and name of program.
Tom met with George and his mother at Family Foundation School. George's mother spoke of having sentenced a young man, not much older than George to a long prison sentence. She said all she could think of would be the day George would be drawing a similar sentence. George showed precious little evidence of concern for what would happen and seemed convinced he would not be contained. Tom was convinced that George was the client he might reasonably label "least likely to succeed."
George went to Samoa and became resident at the program now called Coral Reef Academy. He did not get off to an auspicious start. Not too long after arriving there he decided to run off just like he had while at Family. Unfortunately for him he chose to run right through the sacred ground of the Samoan Village. More unfortunately, when the program staff located him, he was hiding near a beehive. One of the staff people was bald and got many bee stings on his head. Fortunately, the staff member was not allergic but he wasn't happy. The village chiefs were not happy either about the intrusion on to the sacred ground.
Keep several things in mind that people who are not familiar with Samoa might not know. First the chiefs in the village legally have judicial authority regarding a minor infraction. Trespass on the sacred ground is one such infraction. Second, in general Samoans are kindly, generous, and gentle. This includes the village chiefs. Third, when a man in Samoa becomes chief he generally acquires a full body tattoo.
Then on what might be formal ceremonial occasion, the chief is bare chested displaying his tatoo, with a lava-lava (illusration), as the only visible item of clothing. He will be seated holding a long pole which has significance similar to a mace, and during a formal ceremonial occasion he probably will not be smiling. On such an occasion, a very small group of other village officials will typically gather including at least one "talking chief" who stands and speaks for the seated chief who is actually in charge but mostly silent. Each of the people in the "official party" (no more than a half dozen) will hold a staff. Some will be standing. Some will be seated. All will be showing their body tattoos. No matter how kind and gentle these people might actually be, they do not look kind and gentle. It is a fairly intimidating scene for those who don't fully understand what is happening.
Now allow your mind to shift to all of the cartoon renderings you have seen of jungle tribesmen holding spears with a hapless missionary or other representative of civilization quaking in front if them, which a large cauldron of boiling water for what is probably about to become missionary soup. While the Samoan chiefs are quite civilized, quite intelligent, and compassionate, the scene at the formal ceremony with the Samoan chiefs bears an uncanny resemblance the the cartoon rendering except for the cauldron, which the Samoans would have no reason to include.
George has confided in me that he was thinking of the cartoon situation when he stood in front of the chief awaiting judgment on the matter of trespass. It turns out the sentence amounted to what we in the USA would call community service, but the experience itself of standing in front of the chief had a sobering effect. George begain to mature at that point. His close association with the Samoan staff had much to do with that. When he completed the program he spent an additional year in Samoa living with a Samoan family.
The story has a happy ending. George spent a few years as director of admission for Coral Reef Academy. At last report he is evaluating the potential to become an educational consultant. We are pleased to update this vignette with the information that Bryan Marks, M.A., ("George's" real name) is joining FamilyLight as of October 1, 2012, as a Family Coordinator, a first step to becoming an independent consultant.
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Last updated September 24, 2012
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