Hallelujah, and Bless You, Larry Stumme!

Christianity is restored in Denver, Iowa

Larry Stumme — From the Waterloo Courier

Some time ago I shared a portion of my memoir, When We Were At Your Mercy, in a Medium post linked below called Small Town Life Was the American Dream If You Fit In.

It tells the story of my family’s experience living in Denver, Iowa, my mother’s childhood hometown. Let me just cut to the guts of it. The people of this town were horrible to my family.

The principal of the elementary school turned my father down for a job. Then, he reported to child welfare that my father wasn’t looking for work during an investigation that resulted in my parents losing custody of their children. Our teachers erroneously reported my parents used drugs based on ridiculous and inaccurate evidence. My mother’s childhood church offered next to no help when they were asked to help us with food and shelter needs as both my parents went jobless. Needless to say when a family was in need, a community did everything the wrong way.

Today, while reading my hometown newspaper (to which I have a subscription at the suggestion of Rachel Maddow), I learned that a lawyer-pastor, who lives in Denver, Iowa, is doing something very Christian. He is holding a protest at the Waterloo, Iowa post office every Saturday before the tax bill is passed to raise awareness that the bill is harmful to the poor.

This warms my heart. This pastor is also selecting a location to protest that is locally relevant. It won’t mean much to people reading from most places around the globe, but if you are from the area, it is a good location.

At least someone cares about vulnerable, sick, and poor people right now. It started to feel like my fellow Americans all thought these people should be killed off, and that just starts to feel like Nazi Germany to me. Christians are supposed to care about vulnerable, sick, and poor people.

To go back in time and summarize, both of my folks had developed serious mental illnesses in their early adulthood. For my dad, it was schizoaffective disorder, which has all the fun of schizophrenia mixed with the pizzazz of depression. My mother developed the same bipolar II her father had.

My father’s mental illness was seemingly out of place in his family. It wasn’t until 30 years later while doing DNA tests for genealogy that we located a cousin in Ireland who said we had another cousin with schizophrenia.

Because they were odd people — fundamentalist Christians who isolated themselves — the people of Denver treated my parents in a nightmarish way. They needed healing interventions. They needed social workers.

Instead, they got investigators. They got interrogators. They were made criminals for being poor. Their family was divided into three households, split apart like an ax had been brought down on them. It was a weak family before the community piled on. It didn’t last long after we were finally put back together.

Today, I found my diary from the year it happened. Inside the front cover, it says over and over, “I love Michael Jackson.” But beside that, I have written, “I love” and then my sister’s name. She was a baby when they took her from me. The truth is they did not take my sister away from just my mother when they put her in a different foster home than mine in December 1981. They took my sister away from me. I had been raising her as much as my depressed mother had been.

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Photo of my family from the Des Moines Register, April 18, 1982. As usual, I have my sister on my hip

It is hard to describe what it does to your sense of trusting others when teachers will lie about your parents. When principals will lie about your parents. It is hard to describe what it does to your sense of trusting God when churches will not help you when you are desperate.

It is difficult to describe what a ten-year-old believes about the world going forward when police officers can take her away to a new family because her parents can’t find a job. When you have to be taken away from the witness stand kicking and screaming because you feel lawyers are trying to make you say things that are not true about your parents.

I will tell you this. It restores a sense of hope to your soul to see that a man from the offending small town is going to hold a protest on behalf of the poor. This pastor is trying to raise awareness that this tax bill is wrong. I don’t believe he will be successful in his protest, but at least he’s trying. That’s far more than people were doing in Denver, Iowa thirty years ago.

So thank you, Pastor Larry Stumme. Bless your Christian heart.

Chances are I have a migraine. My spirit guides are Voltaire & Bierce. Considering making SJW into a religion. Genealogist

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