December 26, 1988
It was three a.m. The Christmas festivities were over, and our focus had changed. The time had come, and we knew there could be no turning back. There was no more time to organize or consult with anyone. All that we had arranged and initiated was about to become reality. It was actually going to be put into motion, and there could be no more processing. Standing in a tight group together in the middle of the kitchen, none of us felt like ourselves because we were all so scared. We had no experience with this kind of situation, and we were exhausted from all the preparation and fully aware that any mistake we might make, especially in the next few minutes, could spell disaster.
We proceeded cautiously into Randy’s bedroom where we found him breathing deeply, in a sound sleep. As we stepped up to his bed, I leaned close to him and said uneasily in a low voice, “Randy, wake up. We’re going to take you to a safe place where you can get some help.” I was concerned that he couldn’t comprehend the words because he was so groggy. He tried to shake off the remnants of sleep and get his bearings. Then his eyes popped opened. In a gruff, agitated voice he said, “Leave me alone!” He pulled the sheets up tightly over his face. Defiantly, he pulled the bedding up even further, way up over his head. Who did he think was addressing him? He certainly wouldn’t speak that way to his own mother!
Quickly grasping the situation, Randy knew without a doubt what was going on, and he jerked his blankets away from his face and glared at us. We could see understanding surface as he looked each of us squarely in the face, staring with a brutal glare. Then he shouted in a loud, harsh voice. It was a cruel and fiercely hateful tone I had never before heard from him. “I’m not going anywhere with you or anyone else.”
As my husband Roger tried but failed to get jeans on him, Randy yelled, “I can dress myself.” Then suddenly, with a burst of energy, he became violent and began shouting at us. “I can’t believe this. If I would have known you were going to treat me like this, I never would have come home, even if it was Christmas.” He struggled. “You’re supposed to be my family. This cannot be happening to me! I never should have come home!”
Randy had developed incredible strength from a background of farm work, years of wrestling, and his Navy training.
The battle to dress him escalated as if he were fighting for his very life. Roger, Ryan, and Mitch found themselves in the middle of a gut-wrenching, terrifying, and way out-of-control brawl.
They were being swept along as if in a strong current. Randy was defending himself, and he fought like a wounded wild animal.
We did not know what he had at stake, nor how much. The fear in Randy’s eyes was real. He had been warned that something like this could happen to him if he ever left the safety of the church and Chicago, and he was not about to let it be. He had even been warned by a man we had learned to call L.R. that if Randy left him and the church, God would strike him dead.
Randy was desperate to get away from us. Everything he had invested, caring only about his salvation, was at stake. He roared disrespectfully, “You want me to die, and you don’t care if I’m doomed to go to hell.” He threatened to sue us for kidnapping, declaring, “We’ll sue you for every penny you have, and then you’ll be sorry.” This was not our Randy. He had never been disrespectful to his father or me. This was not our Randy!
We were such a downright unlikely group, anxious family members all in a fully furnished twelve-by-twelve bedroom, trying our best to get him under control. We were Randy, Roger (Randy’s dad), his older brother Ryan, his younger brother Ross (who was thirteen years old), his sister Kelly, her husband Mitch, and me Geneva (his mother).
After what seemed like an eternity and an incredibly drawn out physical struggle, Roger, Ryan, and Mitch got control and forced Randy to lie face down on the bed. They leaned into him and clamped handcuffs on his wrists behind his back. They forced his jeans on him and finally, with much difficulty, pulled a sweatshirt down over his head and arms. Randy fought fiercely against the three men’s every move. Ryan and Mitch held on to him while Roger tied his ankles together with a rope. I saw the determination on each man’s face, and I cried, “oh, no.” I stood frozen in place. My chest was tight. I couldn’t breathe. My mother-heart responded to this unbelievable scene of my Randy in such deep trouble. For the length of one breath, time halted. I looked at each one of my family members in this small, crowded room and saw expressions that I had never seen before. In my wildest imagination, I had not expected this. This was far beyond what I had anticipated.
We were all totally overwhelmed by Randy’s immediate and violent reaction. His lips were tightly pursed, and his chest heaved with fury. All the reliable information we had heard or read had not prepared us for this.
Then something totally amazing happened. It seemed to come from nowhere. We had not prearranged, nor had we even thought of this ahead of time; Ryan, Randy’s older brother who was forty pounds lighter and a couple inches shorter than Randy, lifted him and threw him over his right shoulder as if he weighed nothing. Ryan moved through the bedroom, dining room, and kitchen, sidestepping obstacles, to get out the back door. Once outside, he took the shortest most direct route to our car. Strong and determined, he moved quickly through the yard, which was covered in a foot of hard packed snow.
The car was fully loaded in the driveway and running with the heater turned on high to be sure it was warm. We had prepared and were ready to go to the safe house up north. Ryan literally dumped Randy in the back seat and positioned him to sit between himself and their dad. Ross sat in the front seat with his brother-in-law, Mitch, our chosen and very competent driver. I heard Ryan say to Roger, “I would never treat a dog like this.” And Roger responded, “I will never in my lifetime forget this.”
Kelly and I ran through the house grabbing some of Randy’s clothes and toiletries. While doing so, I noticed Randy’s Bible, which I knew he would want. I put everything in a duffle bag. That’s when the reality of what we had just done and were about to do hit me hardest. I stopped for a precious second to pull myself together. I prayed, “Lord . . . please . . . we can’t do this without you!” I turned off the lights, locked the door, and ran for the other car where Kelly was waiting. We took the lead. We had directions for the five-hour drive straight north to the designated safe house. We’d complete the drive in the bitter cold pitch-black middle of the night.
Before that fateful night, we’d prepared everything we could to smooth the way. Roger had gone to town to seek the advice of a long-retired policeman who told him about an incident that had occurred some years earlier. The weather was thirty degrees below zero with a minus forty-five degree wind chill when the policeman had to transport a substance abuse suspect to the county jail. Not recognizing imminent danger, he put handcuffs on him but didn’t think to tie his feet together. The suspect became wild and belligerent. He kicked out the wires under the car’s dash. The car came to a screeching halt, and the suspect tried to overpower the policeman who had no one there to help him. It was a horrible situation to be in. He advised us to be equipped and fully prepared.
After hearing that story, Roger accepted his handcuffs and a length of rope, and thanked him for his advice.
Roger stressed the confidentiality of our mission and asked the retired officer to be available on the night of the twenty-sixth in case things at our house got out of control. Roger told him about L. R. and how in our extensive reading we learned that L. R. and his men tracked down and found other defecting members and brought charges against their parents for kidnapping. The policeman agreed to be on standby and said he fully understood the critical nature of what we were facing and the need to keep our confidence. He offered sincere wishes for our success.
When Roger got home he took the handcuffs out of his pocket, held them at arm’s length, and stared at them as if they were evil. “I don’t even want to touch these things,” he said. When I saw what he was holding I wailed, “Oh, Roger, how could you even think to do something like this?” The thought of needing to use such drastic measures on our ordinarily docile son was incomprehensible. Handcuffs! Roger told me the policeman’s story. He went to the table, sat down hard, and held his head in his hands.
After a time, Roger said, “You know how much I hate everything about all this. It’s so hard to think about, much less actually do—but we’ve been warned about the need to prepare for whatever might happen. Even the experts don’t know how this is going to play out. We both know this is not our Randy anymore and certainly not the son we raised. We know something is very wrong. This is how we have to do this.”
At that point, I realized how much thought Roger had put into our plan and how much insight he had. He was always so busy with the cattle and farm work that I hadn’t noticed how much thinking and planning he had been doing. Right then, I made a conscious decision to put my trust in him and work together with him. I either had to be there for all of us or I would be against us and of no use to anyone.
That was the beginning of a journey we would not wish on anyone.
(Chapter 1 of Rescuing Randy by Geneva Paulson, Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2015, $13.95) As with all Lighthouse Trails books, Rescuing Randy is available in both print and e-book format at Lighthouse Trails, Amazon, Barnes & Noble; and the print edition can also be ordered through most bookstores. You may also ask your local library to bring a copy into circulation at no cost to you.