The things that have happened the last couple of days have brought back a lot of familiar feelings and fears. The feelings that we had while we were driving through the ice and snow and darkness and then the hills and curves of unfamiliar territory while we were both exhausted were very similar to the feelings we experienced as we were forced to leave our house and roam without a clear direction, feeling the weight of responsibility of taking care of eight children and ourselves but not having the means to do so. It literally felt like something was chasing us, trying to kill us.
Then Sunday night we got a call from the recruiter that got Gary this job in Pennsylvania. He said that something from the background check hadn’t come back yet, and the company didn’t want him to start work until they had everything back. We didn’t know what it was except that it was something from Ohio.
We prayed that God would cause them to send it back and that everything would be clear for him to start work as soon as possible. In the past, Gary would have freaked out. He always thought he needed to be at work every day that he possibly could or we would starve. But this time, he accepted it peacefully as God giving him a day or two to rest and sleep in and spend some time with his family. I am totally amazed. He said he didn’t feel like the Ohio thing was anything to worry about. We found out yesterday that Montgomery County was holding things up. Oh boy, them again! They are the ones who accused us of stealing food stamps. We fought the charges, because we did not knowingly take something that we didn’t qualify for.
When Gary went to sign up for Unemployment way back in 2002, the case worker had a fit when he heard how many kids we had. He said he was going to get everything he could for us. We didn’t want anything. We weren’t even sure that God wanted us to get Unemployment, because we were trusting Him for everything. But the guy was very persuasive, so he got us on food stamps and medicare and everything. When Gary came home and told me, I felt uneasy about all of that government aid. But I just let it go. I figured I was trying to be too independent or presumptuous instead of full of faith. So we accepted the aid. We hated using food stamps. I never used them. Gary went grocery shopping after midnight because he didn’t want to be seen using them, either.
He had to go to the Dept. of Family Services once a month to check in with them and report how his job search was going. He knew that he wasn’t supposed to get a job. The Lord had told him not to. But he had to tell them what attempts he had made to find a job. They also asked for different information each time he went in.
Before he went in for one visit, the case worker, who Gary had told me didn’t seem very friendly, sent a form in the mail asking if he had an IRA, and if so to bring the documents in. We had just previously found out that he did get to collect his 401K from the job he had been laid off from, and a representative came and rolled it over into an IRA for us. When he was laid off, Gary didn’t know if they would give him his 401K or not. Well, we now had an IRA, so Gary took the documents in and let her see them. She didn’t say much to him about it. But a few days later, in the mail, we got a letter saying that we were guilty of fraud against the federal government and that we had to come see an officer there to find out what they were going to do to us.
It was really all against Gary, but we are one, so it was against me, too. I went with him, thinking that we could explain what happened. We figured out that the first case worker had asked Gary if he had any retirement when he filled out the paperwork. Gary thought he meant active retirement, like the check his dad gets in the mail every month. He asked the guy, “Do I look old enough to be retired?” The guy said it was just a question he had to ask. Gary remembered that later, and I saw that it was just a misunderstanding. Gary had not lied or tried to defraud anybody. But we had no recourse. We couldn’t explain it to anybody. He was presumed guilty, and there was nothing he could do about it.
We got a lawyer and fought it. It dragged on and on for months. Finally, we got our day in court. Our lawyer was very nervous. He said that the jury was full of people who were financially savvy, and they wouldn’t understand about other people not being aware of IRA and food stamp rules and all of that.
While we were waiting to go in to the courtroom, I was reading my Bible and praying. We were praying that God would make the truth come out, and that we could get all of this behind us. Our lawyer suddenly burst into the room we were sitting in and said that something unbelievable had happened. He said the judge was from outside of Montgomery County. He was a visiting judge from Darke County. He asked why we hadn’t taken arbitration. Our lawyer told him that Gary was a man of integrity and would not admit to something he didn’t do. The judge called the prosecutor and everybody in and videotaped a revision of the charge against Gary. He said that it was based on a misunderstanding and that Gary would just do community service and pay the money back but there would be no federal charges against him and it wouldn’t go on his record.
When Gary first heard that the judge wanted to do this, he shook his head and said that he still wanted to go through with the trial. We wanted to prove his innocence. I was with him all the way. Suddenly, the Lord changed my mind and let me know that this was the only way we were going to get them off of our backs and that this was His solution. So I turned to Gary and said, “We have to take it.” He looked at me as if I had gone crazy. I told him I knew that the Lord just suddenly changed my mind. But that this was what God wanted us to do. This was His way of escape. So Gary reluctantly gave in and went along with it.
The next few days were hard. He felt totally betrayed – by God, by me, by everybody. But God finally spoke to Him and let him know that everything was all right. He ended up trying to do community service, but nobody would let him do anything to help them. He reported to a probation officer every 2 weeks or something. She ended up really liking and respecting him. Myra Wilburn. Gary really liked her, too.
We had some rough times after that, but we paid our $25/month which God miraculously provided even though we had no income. After that, we lost our house and we roamed the country looking for home. It took several months to finally find a temporary home in Kansas City. Gary finally got a job and had some taxable income in 2006. We had gone almost 5 years without an income. God provided for us every day. As soon as we had a job that reported income to the IRS, we started getting letters from Charles Crutcher at Montgomery County Department of Family Services. They wanted their food stamp money.
When we left Ohio, Gary told Myra we were leaving, and she told him that his debt was forgiven and that he no longer owed the food stamp money. But that turned out to not be the case. We got those letters from Charles Crutcher every month for a couple of years. Last year, when we had a sizable tax refund coming, we only got half of it. The Department of Agriculture took half of it, for the food stamp money we supposedly owed. Now, I ask you – of all people who really need food stamps, wouldn’t you think a family with 8 children and no income should qualify to receive them. The bigger kick is that we didn’t even ask for them or want them. They were practically forced on us. If we had known we would have to pay them back, we never would have used them. And if we had known all the problems they would cause we would never have accepted them. I don’t like welfare.
Well, all of those memories came flooding back when I found out that Montgomery County was holding us up from getting this new job. They got the paperwork to fill out in October and still hadn’t sent it back. Gary said he still didn’t feel like there was really a problem. I told him we would sue Montgomery County if they kept him from getting this job. The charges were re-written and stated that he did not lie but that the receiving of food stamps when we were ineligible was based on a misunderstanding. We even paid back the money! So what could Montgomery County say against us?
I woke up this morning with an ominous feeling that they were going to lie about Gary and keep him from getting this job. I had to give it to the Lord and ask Him for the peace that passes understanding. He ministered comfort to me, and I was able to enter into His peace. I did get up and pray, but I wasn’t anxious or crying or anything like that.
Gary told me at about noon today that the recruiter had called, and he is to start his new job tomorrow morning. Everything is clear! So I am praising the Lord all over again. He is always faithful!
We had a little crisis after that. Anna couldn’t find her iPod. We looked all over the place and finally Kelsey found it in her camera case. So I’m rejoicing again like the woman who found the coin she had lost. Everybody, rejoice with me! The iPod that was lost and the job that was delayed have been found! Praise the Lord!
Everybody is finding things to keep themselves busy. Some of us are going to extreme measures to find a quiet place to be alone.