The following article was featured in the Goshen News from local correspondent Denise Fedorow.
“Dads, stay in.”
That was a central message in the talk delivered by Davey Blackburn, keynote speaker for RETA’s (Reason Enough to Act) annual banquet Thursday evening at the Northern Indiana Event Center.
Blackburn is founder and lead pastor of Resonate Church in Indianapolis. His former wife, Amanda Byars Blackburn — an Elkhart native — and their unborn child were killed in a home invasion on Nov. 11, 2015. Blackburn shared how he got through that devastating time — four years to the day they moved into their Indianapolis home.
He said both he and Amanda felt like God was preparing them for a season of pain, so when he walked in and found her lying in a pool of blood, he thought something had happened to the baby. Then he found out she had three bullet wounds — one to the back of the head — and it didn’t look good. He said their entire world was turned upside down.
Blackburn said he prayed for a miracle and with faith that providing that miracle would resonate with those in the hospital and bring many people to Jesus. But that wasn’t God’s plan. Instead, he said, their story is being shared all over the country.
“Sometimes you don’t appreciate life until you experience death,” he said.
Blackburn said he struggled to try to be mom to the couple’s toddler son and said he had an internal conversation with God who told him, “You don’t have to be a mom. Moms are good at telling children about God, but what you have to do is be a dad because only a dad can show a kid who God is.”
That caused a revelation that fatherhood is under attack in our society. “Because the enemy doesn’t want us to know God as Father,” he said.
Blackburn said we tend to project our feelings and thoughts about our earthly fathers onto our heavenly Father. He said most of the famous atheists are fatherless. He discovered that the men who broke into his home were in gangs and the one that is responsible for taking the life of his wife and child was abandoned by his parents.
Blackburn was led to research the detriment of a fatherless country — due to death, divorce or imprisonment. Some of the statistics he shared included: 63 percent of youth suicides, 90 percent of homeless or runaway teens, 70 percent of juveniles in state facilities, 80 percent of rapists, 71 percent of high school dropouts, 85 percent of youth in prisons and 71 percent of pregnant teens are from fatherless homes.
“That’s what I love about RETA," Blackburn said. "They take a holistic approach on this."
Blackburn said these statistics show “the institution of fatherhood is vital in our society. I believe God’s plan all along was family. The best form of evangelization is the family unit. Don’t neglect sharing Jesus with your kids.”
“And Dads — stay in.”
Blackburn also shared that he remarried in December and his wife was present, sitting with his former in-laws. He shared for the first time a little of her story. She was a single mom with a child born out of wedlock. She was ashamed to go to her doctor or to her parents. And she knew other Christian girls like herself who chose abortion to avoid that embarrassment.
“As a pastor, hearing that hurt me because it told me we’re creating a culture in church where sins have to be hidden,” Blackburn said.
He challenged attendees to be fathers for the fatherless and to support single moms and dads. The message Blackburn strives to spread — aside from the importance of fatherhood — is one of hope in the midst of tragedy.
“When we choose life, hope and forgiveness, he (God) will restore,” Blackburn said.
After the event, he was asked why he wanted to speak at this event. He replied, “I think it’s important subject matter. It’s always important to talk about life and hope, especially when there is so much death and war. Anything I can do to provide that message of hope and healing, I want to.”
CELEBRATING LIFE BENEFIT
The annual banquet is a benefit for the organization that started in 1985. This year there were 1,100 attendees — up from the record-breaking 860 in attendance last year — creating the need for an overflow in another hall.
The evening began with a couple of clients sharing their stories about how RETA has helped them.
The first ever Advancement Director Rod Tackett was the master of ceremonies for the event. He shared that the budget for this year was $460,000 and last year they had 2,500 appointments. They have a staff of nine, including two nurses and 70 volunteers. RETA is not government funded and the donor base is made up of 60 percent individuals, 25 percent businesses and 15 percent churches.
They offer pregnancy testing and ultrasounds in-office or in the mobile unit. RETA also offers abortion recovery support and a new pregnancy loss support program for those who have experienced miscarriage or stillbirth. They meet the second Monday of each month at the RETA offices.
Healthy sexual boundaries education through abstinence before marriage is offered through presentations and individual discussion.
Parent Education is also offered with Mom’s Coaching, Men’s Coaching, Couple Coaching, a Mother’s Club and Family Store where clients can earn points to shop for free for clothing, baby items, diapers and more.
All of RETA’s resources are provided free of charge. Newmar Industries was the major sponsor of the event with gold and silver sponsors Norris Estate, Community Foundation of Elkhart County, Premium Concrete, Main Street Roasters and Redeemer Radio (95.7 fm) the media sponsor.
To donate, volunteer or receive assistance from RETA contact them at 574-522-3888 or www.retaforlife.com. A current need is for heated, indoor storage space for the mobile ultrasound unit.