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Notebook Lifestyle

Krieg Barrie

(Krieg Barrie)

Lifestyle

Allies against porn

Pornography’s opponents now include an assembly of secular activists 

She speaks with the fervor of a tent preacher, proclaiming a message that resonates with Christians, but the Bible isn’t her handbook. Gail Dines is a self-described radical feminist who wants pornography stopped.

Dines, of the Boston porn-fighting nonprofit Culture Reframed, is part of a growing secular movement to eliminate violent, degrading sexual images, especially on the internet. Feminists, medical professionals, and legislators are working together, sometimes alongside Christians, in a multipronged attack on porn.

Christians like Patrina Mosley of the Family Research Council appreciate the help. She highlights FRC’s partnering with secular organizations to correct and clarify app ratings to better protect children from online porn.

Patrick Trueman of the nonreligious National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) said, “It’s not just a moral issue, it’s a public health crisis.”

NCOSE, a coalition of more than 350 disparate organizations and individuals, annually spotlights “The Dirty Dozen,” 12 entities as diverse as Google and the state of Nevada that profit from sexual exploitation, pressuring them to change.

Dines helps parents. She calls porn a stealth public health crisis: “Many parents don’t have a clue their kids are accessing porn, don’t know how violent it is, and have no idea how to talk to kids about it.”

Her organization has developed scripted videos parents can use to speak with children about porn. She says some material may offend certain cultural or religious groups.

Another feminist, Taina Bien-Aimé, of Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, calls porn “prostitution with a camera”: “Victims of porn, prostitution, and trafficking are often one and the same.”

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The Boyds (center) and Dorothy (left) with Kingdom Home kids (Handout)

Lifestyle

Career and calling

A major league pitcher supports boys’ and girls’ homes in Uganda to combat trafficking

Many professional athletes establish charitable foundations. Some just want a tax break, but Detroit Tigers pitcher Matt Boyd and his wife, Ashley, wanted to see what they could do at street level in Uganda, where they have now established a nonprofit, Kingdom Home, housing 146 girls and boys ages 6 to 14. Typically born into poverty or abandoned to the streets, the children are among a group that human traffickers often target.

The Boyds’ involvement began with housemother Dorothy, who took in a group of girls who were being transported by van to a local brothel when police intervened. Dorothy’s husband died unexpectedly, and she sought support from Remember Nhu, a nonprofit that sponsors 103 homes sheltering at-risk children in 16 countries, including Uganda. Ashley Boyd had worked four years for Remember Nhu, named after a young Cambodian woman sold into sex slavery, and she knew founder Carl Ralston. Remember Nhu’s infrastructure was at maximum capacity, and Ralston couldn’t offer support to Dorothy’s home, but he brought the need to the Boyds.

Ashley already loved Uganda: She spent a summer there on a high-school exchange program, and Ugandan students lived with her family the following year. Matt was ready to get more involved in service: When he and I talked at spring training this year, Matt said he knew that “we need to spread the gospel. … That’s what we’re supposed to do as believers, … [not] staying comfortable in our bubble.”

So the Boyds started their own nonprofit to support Dorothy, getting Kingdom Home up and running during the summer of 2018. Ashley became executive director, drawing on her experience with Remember Nhu and mentorship from Ralston. To run an organization over 7,000 miles away, she relied on local knowledge from trusted Ugandan contacts, including the houseparents at three established Remember Nhu homes, plus friends from her high-school days who are now young professionals. 

Last November, the Boyds visited Uganda for 10 days, landing in neighboring Nairobi, Kenya. Ashley, talking with me by phone, recalled driving through “countless small towns,” where she appreciated the chance to interact with the people: “It’s different from just flying over, where you get the bird’s eye view.” As they passed into Uganda, the lush foliage felt like “a tropical version of home” to Ashley, who grew up in the Pacific Northwest.

At Dorothy’s home, the girls charmed the Boyds with a welcome song they’d written for them. Ashley marveled at how supportive they were of one another, older girls helping the younger ones, with no sign of sisterly squabbles: “They aren’t living as victims or … as entitled. They were just extremely kind girls.” For mealtimes in an open courtyard in the center of the complex, the Boyds bought them a special gift: “They were all excited to have their own chairs,” says Ashley.

On the field, Matt Boyd had enough success in 2018 to quadruple his salary this season. With his baseball career helping to bring publicity, Kingdom Home accumulated a waiting list of sponsors, so in May it began supporting and managing Remember Nhu’s Ugandan homes. With four homes—three for girls, and one for boys—now operating on rental properties, Kingdom Home has raised funds to buy land with enough space for six homes. By spring 2020, the organization hopes to have at least one building complete and begin relocating existing homes.

The Boyds are excited about the project. Ashley, now pregnant with the couple’s second child (a boy due in late August), said Kingdom Home “has taken our heart—this is another baby for us. These are our girls.” Matt Boyd said, “If my big league career ended today, this is still going to go on, because God’s calling us to do this.”

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Jim, Joshua, and Terri (Handout)

Lifestyle

Long obedience

Where are they now? A return visit to the Cooneys of Maryland

When WORLD in 2005 described the lifestyle of Terri and Jim Cooney (see “Leading by example,” Jan. 22, 2005), they had recently completed their ninth adoption, a teenager from Ghana severely burned by a witch. Their 2,000-square-foot house in Harford County, Md., was a hive of activity. Kids they had taken in—many with physical and emotional disabilities—were regularly hanging onto Terri, who stayed home with them while Jim taught school.

He is now 79 and she is 73. They still have four kids living with them, at least temporarily. Jim has just laid new flooring in the living room and painted the walls. A 5-year-old who lives with them buzzes around Terri: Will she play Chinese checkers with him? Then he spills the marbles onto the floor. One of the grown kids is “desperately attached,” calling many times each day—42 times was the record.

Local adoption agencies routinely called the Cooneys when they had hard-to-place children. Terri helped her kids develop more independence, but for some with emotional baggage from early childhood trauma, that’s a hard task. Joshua, now 33, is severely autistic. At about 5 p.m. Terri carries a small dinner tray up to his bedroom and opens the door. Josh barely looks up. Music pours from a speaker. Two televisions with the volume on play different shows. Joshua stands at a table, sorting his hundreds of books—enough to fill seven bookcases and two tables. They range from childhood favorites like the Berenstain Bears and DK Readers to graphic novels.

Joshua’s sorting is part of a “fixed-in-stone” routine. Breaking the routine might lead to a meltdown. Violent outbursts are now rare, but two years ago he threw a coffee table book that caught Terri in the face, breaking her nose. She’s always felt her job was to “protect the world from Josh and Josh from the world.” But at 5 feet tall and 100 pounds she’s no match for her 5-foot-10 son. When he’s upset, she now slips into his room and hides, praying silently. His sometimes response: “Don’t you Jesus me.”

Terri is concerned about what will happen to Joshua after she and Jim die, so they trust and plan: “I believe the God who allowed Joshua to have life has a plan and purpose for him. He will not forget about him when I’m not here.” One of Josh’s siblings has agreed, when necessary, to step into their role of managing his care. Eventually Joshua will live with caregivers in a nearby condo the Cooneys have purchased for him. Next year they plan to move several bookcases over there, along with some books, so Josh can “visit” and get used to that place.

After 52 years of marriage, more than 40 years of being a Christian, and nine adoptions of kids from hard places, Terri still wakes up grateful for another day. She’s written a letter to her children and filed it with her will: “Each one of you needs to know that God brought you to us divinely … so you can either thank God for that or you can ask Him what in the world He was thinking. The day you came into our world we KNEW THAT WE KNEW you were meant for our family. We have never quit knowing that, through great times and not so great times. All families have both.”

When people look at the Cooneys’ long and faithful service and gush, “You are so wonderful,” she shrugs it off: “We just took the next step. If we had known where those steps would lead, we wouldn’t have gone forward. We would have been too scared. And yet I don’t regret one bit of it. The awfulness in the long run taught me to trust God better.”

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