“Bring Lexi Home”: The Page Family’s Situation (Part 2)

This was a really hard post to write. I want to express the fiercest disapproval, disappointment, and grief at a child being taken from her family, and I will. But I also want to think about how to respond when something like this happens–not from a “theology of suffering” sense, but from a Christian worldview sense, because I need to be asking myself, “How does the Bible clarify this situation, this stand-off, between a family and the courts?”

So I’ll do a little of both. I’ll give my internal reaction to the Page family’s situation, referring back to quotes from an original court document I excerpted in part 1. (Page references to the document will be given in parentheses, like so: (#).) Then I’ll walk myself through what an external reaction ought to look like as it is shaped and even, perhaps, bounded by Scripture. For lack of better terms, I’ll call those sections “the reality” and “the response” respectively.

The biggest reason this is so hard to write is that it’s not my situation. I don’t feel the pain as keenly, or the outrage as ferociously, as the Page family does. For me to drop a casual thousand-word post on how the Bible should govern a response would be woefully uninformed of the emotions and details of the Page family’s situation, not to mention insensitive. “Rejoice with those who rejoice,” the Bible says, and “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). I intend to weep. And yet, “Set your minds on things that are above” (Col. 3:2a). I intend to do that, too.

The reality

So to recap, the court document says the following: Lexi “formed a strong primary bond and attachment with the entire P. family, viewing the parents as her own parents and the P. children as her siblings” (5). The Pages “have provided her with clear and consistent rules, and a loving environment” (8). Lexi “is bonded to the P.s, and has a healthy attachment to them” (8). It’s clear that Lexi has found a family. God placed her with a mom and dad and siblings who all love her as their own flesh and blood.

Then I don’t think that there’s any other way to put it: Lexi was taken from her family. She was torn away and a devastated family was left in her wake.

I’m upset about it. I feel that key decision makers along the way messed up. Lexi’s attorney, whose primary responsibility is for her client’s best interest, “withdrew her objection to Alexandria’s change in placement [thus favoring Lexi’s move from the Pages to Utah]” (10). One “expert” stated that he “believed that with appropriate intervention and support, Alexandria would cope with a transition resiliently, characterizing the possible trauma as a loss, but not the equivalent of the death of a parent” (11). Because, you know, that’s the high standard we want to maintain when we figure out if we should remove a child from the people she calls “mom” and “dad”–as long as the resulting trauma isn’t perceived as equivalent to the death of mom and dad, go ahead, rip her from their arms. The Choctaw nation leadership–to be clear here, I’m not generalizing to the Choctaw community, or the Native American community, but limiting my reaction to Choctaw nation decision makers–“selected the R.s as the planned adoptive placement” (8). And even after Lexi had lived with the Page family for over a year, the Choctaw nation leadership maintained their request for Lexi to move to Utah (10).

For their part, the courts ruled that “the P.s had not demonstrated good cause to depart from the placement preferences and ordering a gradual transition for Alexandria to move from the P.s’ home to the R.s’ home” (12). This despite the fact that another expert directly countered the ridiculous rationalization above, to say that “compared the transition to the death or loss of a parent or family, because ‘she is being taken away from everything that is familiar to her, everything that she’s known to be stability'” (11). So… failure at pretty much every point in that whole system.

Am I upset? Is this wrong? Yes. And yes.

The reaction

Here the objection might be raised that the courts were constrained by ICWA (Indian Child Welfare Act) and ruled in the only course permitted by the law, even if as individuals, those presiding would have wanted Lexi to stay with the Pages. I understand that, though I still think there were plenty of ways the court could have ruled in Lexi’s best interests. First, according to the Judicial Council of California’s Dependency Quick Guide, a child’s attorney “has the responsibility to represent ‘the child’s interests,’ specifically to investigate the facts; interview, examine, and cross examine witnesses; and make recommendations to the court regarding the child’s welfare. Counsel must interview children age four and older and communicate the client’s wishes to the court” (H-11). I’m not convinced that Lexi’s interests were known and relayed by her attorney, much less represented to the court.

Moreover, given the conflicting testimony by the experts, I would think that there would be room to conclude that yes, this would in fact be traumatic for Lexi. To reiterate, there was an expert who testified that Lexi’s removal from the Pages could be “compared the transition to the death or loss of a parent or family, because ‘she is being taken away from everything that is familiar to her, everything that she’s known to be stability.'” Granted, I am no legal scholar. It may be that the courts were indeed constrained by ICWA to rule in favor of the tribe’s placement preferences. If so, then the courts have an immediate responsibility to uphold the law.

But let me make this clear: the courts have a “one step removed” responsibility to uphold biblical morality, because the courts uphold the law, and the law has an immediate responsibility to reflect biblical morality. Romans 13 makes this clear: “[T]here is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (13:1b); “rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad” (13:3a); “he is God’s servant for your good” (13:4a). Earthly, human government is a sub-authority of God to uphold its citizens’ good and deter bad conduct. It is safe to assume that Paul assumes a biblical moral definition of “good” and “bad” as “that which reflects God and His statutes” and “that which does not.”

I think there is a tension here. The court decided something which is immoral. Isaiah urges, “bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (1:17). Lexi’s cause was not pleaded here. A law was followed, but to the detriment of the well-being of a little girl. How do we react to an unbiblical, immoral decision? How do we respond?

Here’s how Mr. Page responded: “In spite of our pleas to the county, we’ve received word that the county has every intention of taking Lexi today. And we will, with very heavy hearts, comply with the order and we’ll be waiting here for them to come take her” (source–I originally saw the video on Facebook but can’t seem to find it any more). Given that the Pages attend church–my church, actually–I think this comes from a Spirit-led understanding of Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2. Romans 13:1 says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities,” and 1 Peter 2:13-14 says, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.” Given that the historical context of 1 Peter is during Nero’s reign, who was not at all kind to Christians, I think that the “or” in the middle of the passage is a contrasting “or”–as in, some governors that are sent by God do their job properly, or at other times, emperors do as they please in abuse of their earthly supremacy.

There are situations in which we can–and must–disobey the governing authorities. In Exodus 1, the Hebrew midwives disobey Pharaoh’s commands for male infanticide/genocide, and are blessed by God for it. Namely, we must disobey earthly authority if we are instructed to transgress God’s authority. But the Bible does not model disobedience to authorities that are immoral but do not instruct us to do wrong. Such was the case with Nero, who, I’m told, had Christians sewn alive into the carcasses of dead animals and dropped in the middle of sports arenas to be eaten by predators. Did Nero do wrong? Most definitely. It was a horrific abuse of delegated divine authority. Were the Christians instructed to commit evil? No. And in response to authorities that are immoral but do not instruct their citizens to commit evil, Peter does not instruct the Christians to run away, or resist, or disobey. He instructs them to be subject to the emperor, and even to “[h]onor the emperor” (2:17).

The Page family situation, I think, parallels the latter example. The decision makers in this whole process did wrong. It is immoral. They are injuring Lexi and the Page family. They are separating a daughter from her parents, a girl from her family. And yet, the governing authorities have not instructed the Pages to sin. So in the face of all that, I am thankful for Mr. Page’s example: “[W]e will, with very heavy hearts, comply.” Not because the courts were right, or because the Pages want to be separated from Lexi, but because God’s divine authority instructs us to be subject to His delegated human authorities as long as they do not compel us to commit evil. It is a difficult thing, and He means for us to love Him and trust Him in the midst of it.

Meanwhile, God blesses us with a country where citizens have been given means to appeal to the government in a way that honors those authorities. The Pages continue to fight to be united with Lexi, to bring Lexi home, by means of appeals to higher courts. More importantly, though, God fully intends for us to trust Him, appeal to Him, rely on Him. In light of the fierce persecution of the Christians, the close of Peter’s first epistle is all the more poignant: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (5:6-7). The weak, the persecuted, the suffering–God cares for them and encourages them to be humble before Him and to trust Him. We love Lexi and the Pages, and we join them in prayer for the reunification of their family. We pray, too, that they would rest their full weight on the Lord knowing that He cares for them.

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“Bring Lexi Home”: The Page Family’s Situation (Part 1)

A lot has gone around the Internet over the last few days regarding the Page family in Santa Clarita. I’ve read some of the comments (which you should not do) and there seems to be a combination of emotions running high and miscommunication/misinformation about the situation. So, as we should train ourselves to do, I went to the original documents for some clarity. (But not until a friend prompted me by reading it first. Thanks, friend!) Here are some excerpts from an appeal the Second Appellate Court of California. You can find the link to the appeal on the Pages’ petition to bring Lexi home.

In this part, I’ll just provide key excerpts from the appeal with headings that clarify what is going on. I’ve made the headers as factual and unbiased as possible so that you can simply get information on what has happened. Tomorrow, I’ll give my thoughts on the situation.

NOTE: The document calls Lexi by her full name, “Alexandria,” and abbreviates the Pages to “the P.s.” The Pages are referred to as “de facto” parents to distinguish them from Lexi’s biological parents and her extended family in Utah.

A description of the situation
A 17-month-old Indian child was removed from the custody of her mother, who has a lengthy substance abuse problem and has lost custody of at least six other children, and her father, who has an extensive criminal history and has lost custody of one other child. The girl’s father is an enrolled member of an Indian tribe, and the girl is considered an Indian child under the ICWA. The tribe consented to the girl’s placement with a non-Indian foster family to facilitate efforts to reunify the girl with her father. The girl lived in two foster homes before she was placed with de facto parents at the age of two. She bonded with the family and has thrived for the past two and a half years. After reunification efforts failed, the father, the tribe, and the Department of Children and Family Services (Department) recommended that the girl be placed in Utah with a non-Indian couple who are extended family of the father. De facto parents argued good cause existed to depart from the ICWA’s adoptive placement preferences and it was in the girl’s best interests to remain with de facto family. The child’s court-appointed counsel argued that good cause did not exist. The court ordered the girl placed with the extended family in Utah after finding that de facto parents had not proven by clear and convincing evidence that it was a certainty the child would suffer emotional harm by the transfer. (2-3)

The Page family knew that Lexi’s placement was subject to ICWA
The P.s were Alexandria’s third foster care placement, initially arranged in December 2011 as a “respite care” placement5 that evolved into a long-term foster care placement. The P.s were aware that Alexandria was an Indian child and her placement was subject to the ICWA. By the time Alexandria was placed with the P.s in December 2011, her extended family in Utah, the R.s, were aware of dependency proceeding and had spoken to representatives of the tribe about their interest in adopting Alexandria. The tribe agreed to initial foster placement with the P.s because it was close to father at a time when he was working on reunification. If reunification services were terminated, the tribe recommended placement with the R.s in Utah. (5)

The Page family was a good testimony of familial love and care
Alexandria’s first months after being placed with the P.s were difficult. She was weepy at times, did not want to be held, and had difficulty differentiating between strangers and caregivers, indiscriminately calling people “mommy” or “daddy.” These behaviors were considered signs of a “reactive attachment, the disinhibitive type.” The P.s addressed Alexandria’s attachment issues with consistency and loving care. They did not ask the social worker for a therapy referral, understanding the issues to be ones they could work out on their own. After a few months, Alexandria’s behavioral issues resolved, and she formed a strong primary bond and attachment with the entire P. family, viewing the parents as her own parents and the P. children as her siblings. (5)

The Page family wanted to adopt Lexi
Alexandria has lived with the P.s for over two and a half years, beginning in December 2011. By all accounts, they have provided her with clear and consistent rules, and a loving environment. Alexandria is bonded to the P.s, and has a healthy attachment to them. The Department consistently reminded the P.s that Alexandria is an Indian child subject to the ICWA placement preferences. At some point after father’s reunification efforts failed, the P.s decided they wanted to adopt Alexandria. They discussed the issue with the Department social worker, who advised them that the tribe had selected the R.s as the planned adoptive placement. (8)

Lexi’s attorney decided not to oppose Lexi’s removal
Over the next six months [February to July 2013], the court granted de facto parent status to the P.s, the ICPC request permitting Alexandria’s placement with the R.s in Utah was approved, Alexandria’s attorney withdrew her objection to Alexandria’s change in placement [thus favoring Lexi’s move from the Pages to Utah],8 and all parties submitted briefing addressing whether good cause existed to depart from the ICWA’s adoptive placement preferences. (10)
NOTE: The remarks in [square brackets] are mine for clarification.

The court determined Lexi’s best interests by professional testimony
The social workers and therapists who testified all agreed that Alexandria has a primary attachment and a strong bond with the P.s. She considers Russell and Summer P. her parents and the P. children her siblings. Regarding Alexandria’s ability to attach with a new caregiver if her bond with the P.s is broken, Javier and Lingenfelter acknowledged that a change in placement would be potentially traumatic, but that the existence of a primary bond and healthy attachment increases the likelihood that a child will successfully attach to a new caregiver. Marquez believed that with appropriate intervention and support, Alexandria would cope with a transition resiliently, characterizing the possible trauma as a loss, but not the equivalent of the death of a parent. Lingenfelter and Marquez both acknowledged that any transition would pose a risk of trauma, including the possibility of depression and anxiety. Javier did not believe Alexandria would suffer any severe trauma because she sees the R.s as family and would not feel as if she is being sent to live with strangers. Axline, on the other hand, compared the transition to the death or loss of a parent or family, because “she is being taken away from everything that is familiar to her, everything that she’s known to be stability.” She also believed that Alexandria would have a more difficult time adjusting to a new placement than when she first came to the P.s because of the length of time she has been living with the P.s, and because she is able to understand far more than when she transitioned to the P.s at two years of age. (11)

The court ruled against the Page family
The court issued its written statement of decision on December 9, 2013, finding the P.s had not demonstrated good cause to depart from the placement preferences and ordering a gradual transition for Alexandria to move from the P.s’ home to the R.s’ home. In its decision, the court reviewed the law governing the ICWA’s placement preferences and concluded that the R.s were extended family entitled to preference under section 1915(a) and Welfare and Institutions Code section 361.31(h) unless the P.s demonstrated good cause to depart from that preference. (12)

Ultimately, the court concluded that the P.s “were unable to meet their burden by clear and convincing evidence, that either the child currently had extreme psychological or emotional problems or would definitively have them in the future. Without that evidence, supported by experts, there is insufficient evidence to warrant a deviation from the placement preference. The evidence is uncontroverted that Alexandria is extremely bonded to the [P.s] and that she sees this family as her primary attachment. And while the bonding with the [P.s] is significant to this court, it does not supersede the placement preference under the ICWA. (13-14)

Pen Review: Kaweco Sport (blue body, EF nib)

This review has been a long time coming. It’s because I didn’t really like the Kaweco Sport at first, but over the many months that I’ve had it, it’s grown on me for its light weight and reliability. Also, even though I alternate between being mildly enthusiastic and indifferent about its aesthetic, I’ve come to appreciate its clever design.

Kaweko Sport - written review

What’s the deal with the Kaweco Sport? It’s a clever design because it’s about 4.1 inches long when capped, but 5.2 inches long when you “post” the pen, as in put the cap on the back of the pen (thanks to JetPens for the measurements). So it’s a tiny pen. For comparison, 4 inches is about the height of my palm. This makes for a very pocketable (or… purse-able?) fountain pen when the Kaweco Sport is capped. But post the cap, and suddenly you have a pen that is comparable to a full-size pen. I’m not sure that Kaweco is the first company to do this–though they certainly could be–but they’ve implemented the design well and popularized it in the Sport.

Kaweko Sport - pen, capped 2

I should also mention that this is the “Classic” Sport. There are two several a crazy number of other lines of the Sport model:

  • Ice Sport: clear, colored bodies (also called “demonstrators” because you can see the ink and the feed) with silver trim–these are popular to convert to “eyedroppers,” where you skip the cartridge/converter altogether and load ink straight into the barrel of the pen
  • Skyline Sport: like the classic, but with more modern colors, like mint, pink, gray, and white; these have silver trim
  • AL Sport: made in aluminum, with raw, anodized, and stonewashed finishes
  • Brass Sport: made in brass
  • AC Sport Carbon: aluminum with carbon fiber inlays
  • ART Sport: I don’t know if these are still available, but these were made in modern acrylics, often with swirly features in the acrylic

Kaweko Sport - size comparison

When I first got the Kaweco Sport, there were a few aesthetic things I didn’t like about it. I thought the blue was a strange middle ground between navy and indigo (it depends on what light you’re in, and I’ve tried to capture the variation in the photos). I don’t like gold trim on any pen, and the Kaweco Sport is not an exception. I thought the design was rather strange, with the skinny cylindrical barrel and the wider faceted cap. I loaded it with the included (blue! not black) cartridge and found that, while the EF nib was very smooth, it would skip at the beginning of letters on occasion. So lots of little strikes against the pen.

What I found to be the biggest advantage of the Kaweco Sport when I first got the pen was its reliability. At the time, I was using a Pilot Metropolitan with either a F nib from a 78G or an EF nib from a Penmanship. I’m not sure if it’s the design of the Metropolitan or that the nibs aren’t tuned well or if it’s the ink I was using, but if I didn’t use the Metropolitan for about a week, it wouldn’t write. I would get little streaks of ink as if the ink had dried in the nib and feed. (This still happens. I’m not sure what it is. There’s a long-term experiment involving different pens, nibs, and inks going on to diagnose the problem.) But even after the Kaweco Sport had been sitting for a few weeks on my desk, rejected and cast away, I could pick it up and write with it without any problem at all. Major points for the Kaweco Sport there.

Kaweko Sport - in hand

How do I feel about the pen now? I’ve owned it for a number of months, but have started to use it earnestly only in the past couple. All of the things I’ve appreciated about the pen are still true: it is an extremely reliable, dependable pen. I don’t have to worry about if it will start writing right away, even if I’ve let it sit for a week. I really like that about the Kaweco Sport.

I also think that the mini to full-size design is genius. The TWSBI Mini does the same thing, and I think it’s a great idea. There’s a small level of intrigue and joy that I get from using that bit of design and engineering, and if you’re going to spend $25 on a pen, hopefully you get a bit of intrigue and joy out of it. Though if you’re spending $25 on a pen, you’re probably hoping for a good writing experience, which you do get with the Kaweco Sport. The nib is smooth, and after a good cleaning, the skipping issues have noticeably decreased. There’s a bit more feedback with the Noodler’s Black that’s now in the pen than there was with the Kaweco blue cartridge, but nothing that’s really scratchy.

Again, the remaining quibbles are that I would much rather have a Skyline Sport with the silver trim. Despite navy and gold being UCLA colors (fight! fight! fight!), I just don’t like gold trim that much. Also, if you’re taking notes with this pen, you might be better off just leaving it uncapped, because it feels like it takes a lot of turns to screw and unscrew the cap. I haven’t had any drying issues, so leaving it uncapped should be quite feasible.

If you’re thinking about picking up a Kaweco Sport, I recommend a Skyline over a Classic. You can pick one up from JetPens (scroll down to the bottom to see the different Sport lines) or Goulet Pens.

Kaweko Sport - nib and finial

(This pen was provided free for review by JetPens, but the opinions contained herein are solely my own.)

Fulfilling Our Commission (Part 2b)

On the heels of the last post, part 2a, on “How do we fulfill the Great Commission?”, here are a few practical considerations for how to be a faithful supporter and sender of missionaries.

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Fulfilling Our Commission (Part 2a)

In part 1 of this series on the Great Commission, we asked the question, “What is the Great Commission?” Now we answer, “How do we fulfill it?”

The Great Commission:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20)

We have established that the main verb “make disciples” is clarified by the verb “go” and the prepositional phrase “all nations.” So the natural question is, “Does this mean that every Christian must go abroad and make disciples of foreign peoples to fulfill the Great Commission?” I draw my cue from 3 John 5-8:

Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.

John writes of traveling ministers who visited the recipients’ church. These ministers, apparently, had left their homes to minister “for the sake of the name”; that is, to preach the gospel. More than that, they were ministering to Gentiles, and in order to preserve the reputation of the gospel, they refused to accept financial support from their evangelistic prospects so that they might not be a burden (cf. 1 Thess. 2:9) or be seen as using the gospel message to fill their own pockets (cf. Titus 1:7). In short, these were missionaries. As the Great Commission reminds us, missionaries are those who have “gone out” to deliver the gospel to those who have not heard it. Also, their model of ministry is similar to the missionary model we have today. The vast majority of missionaries I know raise their own support so that they will not be a burden or seen as monetarily opportunistic.

So John gives us a description of missionaries and their ministry. Then he delivers an incredible truth: If we “support people like these”–again, these are missionaries–then we will be “fellow workers of the truth.” This is good news for everyone who does not have a calling at the present time to be a full-time, go-to-all-nations missionary! Going to the nations is not the only way to fulfill Jesus’ commission. You can fulfill your commission by supporting those who go, and God graciously allows you to partake in their ministry that way. In fact, we could put it like this: If you are not at this moment going to the nations, you must support those who do. If you do neither, you are not fulfilling your commission. As John Piper puts it:

So, you have three possibilities in world missions. You can be a goer, a sender, or disobedient. The Bible does not assume that everyone goes. But it does assume that the ones who do not go care about goers and support goers and pray for goers and hold the rope of the goers. (source: Ligonier)

Not everybody is called to go. I think most of the people reading this will be reading this from their home country, the one they grew up in. Most of the people reading this may not feel a calling from the Lord to go–and that’s OK. When Paul and Barnabas were sent from the church at Antioch, Luke says of the leaders of the church, “Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:3, emphasis mine). Scripture does not condemn them for this choice to stay and send. The church has a great need for people who stay, but only if they stay in order to send. William Carey, missionary to India, once said, “I will go down, but remember that you must hold the rope.” Missionaries need people who will pray for them and fund their ministry and in all possible ways, partner with them to provide support.

Jesus insists that everybody fulfill the Great Commission. No one is exempt from that. But in His wisdom and grace, He appoints some to go, and some to send; some to venture out for the sake of the name, and some to support workers like them. These are the only two categories for fulfilling the Great Commission. My hope is that as you grow in a passion for God’s global glory, as you are sanctified in your desire to be obedient to the Lord, you will consider your participation in and fulfillment of your commission. You have been tasked with bringing the gospel to every tribe and language and people and nation! What a joyous task, to make known the name of our Savior! I hope that you will eagerly pursue obedience to the Commission.

You may be wondering, “What are some practical ways for us to support missionaries?” By what means can we be faithful senders? As usual, this post is getting really long, so I’ll provide some practical considerations in the next post.