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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Word from Kent Whitaker

November 20, 2007
"Changes to Minutes Before Six"

This is Thomas' dad writing this entry.

When Thomas asked me to help him put up a web site for his journaling, I thought it would be good for him and for everyone. When we first talked about it, I had envisioned it as a platform for him to do two things: One, to glorify Jesus Christ by speaking of the tremendous changes that He brought about in my son's life as a result of his encounter with the living God many months after running to Mexico. And Secondly, it would be a way for him to openly discuss the horrible things which had happened - and which he had kept hidden, until now - within his mind as he grew up. I thought the site would be therapeutic for him, and enlightening for those who knew him. I thought it would help others find closure by helping them understand what had happened within him, and to rejoice in the hope that the person who committed these horrible crimes is no longer as he was. Thinking that it would be a "win-win" situation for everyone, I never envisioned that it would hurt some of those who knew him and who read it.

But that is what has happened. On November 15, I was made aware for the first time that some people I care about very much were being hurt by its contents, and for that, I am truly sorry. My first move that night was to ask Thomas' cousin, who hosts the website, to close it to traffic, and she did that within an hour. Over the next two weeks I spoke with many of you, and I think I understand you better, and I think you know that it was never my intent to hurt anyone. I was trying to help my son, by allowing him to publicly open up for the first time in his life, and in doing so, to praise our God of second chances.

In my over zealous attempt to let him have a free-reign over what he wrote (since from personal experience I knew that if it was to be effective, journaling had to be - by its very nature - without structure), I foolishly allowed some things to be printed that I shouldn't have, and I am so very sorry. And there were other areas that I thought he would have discussed by now, but which he has not, because he has found it so difficult to write of them. Also, the site has taken on some political/advocacy overtones that (while perhaps it shouldn't have come as a surprise) were not its original intent. I have asked him to make some changes in some earlier entries, and suggested that he avoid writing about certain topics. I asked him not to name anyone from our families or friends, or to tell stories from the past that might hurt his friends and family. He can write about them privately all he wants as he digs for personal healing, just don't post them.

I considered asking him to close down the site completely, but have not asked him to do that for two reasons: First, I still believe that it is helpful to him to write these journals publicly; I just want him to be more careful about what he chooses to post. He has already disclosed a great many things - horrible things - that the old Bart would have never admitted. In my opinion, this is very positive and helpful for him. But it can be very painful for those who just want this horrible episode to fade away. To those of you who feel this way, I understand; I also want to find my new life. But in the final analysis, he is still my son, and I will stand by him because I love him; since he is not allowed to receive psychological help, these journals may be the closest he gets. I can only hope that those who want to forget will simply ignore this site.

Secondly, he and his cousin convinced me to let them keep it up. They have shown me many letters from strangers who have mailed him encouragement, and testimonials of how the site has helped them in understanding themselves and loved ones. For example, an English teacher of troubled youth in North Dakota is even using it in her curriculum because she sees some parallels with her students, and is using it to open dialogs with them about things that they have hidden within their hearts, much as Bart did. This out pouring of support surprised me, but there were too many to ignore. It is a positive thing to many, and who knows how God will use it to reach people that would otherwise not be reached.

This entry will be the last thing that I will do with the website. I am no longer associated with it in any way: financial, providing typing, or anything. What little connection I once had with the website is now over. Please contact him or the webmaster directly if you have any input or comments. I believe they will both be courteous and attentive to your concerns.

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