A Gift of Peace

A father's trust in his time of trial.

by Paul White

I had no idea such a beautiful weekend could have such horrible consequences. I had been looking forward to the Fourth of July holiday because four-year-old Kristi and I were going camping with my parents. Though Kristi’s mom, Victoria, and I were separated, I tried spending as much time as possible with Kristi, my only child. She was the joy of my life. Her soft blond hair, big trusting brown eyes, and serene disposition always melted my heart.

We drove to my parents’ campsite, playing games and singing songs the whole way. When we arrived, a flurry of kisses and hugs welcomed us. When my aunt and uncle arrived a short while later, it was hugs all over again.

My parents have a good-sized camper, but it’s more than a little crowded when five adults and one child squeeze in. Despite the cramped quarters, we spent the holiday swimming and boating.

All too soon the weekend was over. I was careful to bring Kristi home on time to avoid problems with her mother. When we got there, Victoria wasn’t home but Margaret, her house mate, was. Kristi’s shiny, slightly sunburned face belied the sadness in her eyes. She did not want to go home, and she didn’t want me to leave. “Daddy, I want to live with you forever,” Kristi cried.

I tried comforting her. “I love you, Kristi, and I’ll call soon.” I had no idea these would be my last words to my daughter.

The meeting

Less than two weeks later I was summoned to a meeting. I didn’t think much about it, since I’m always in meetings. However, it didn’t take long to find out this was no ordinary meeting. Two men I didn’t recognize were there.

One of them flipped out a badge for me to see. “Paul, I’m John Stone from the FBI. We want to talk to you about some recent events with your daughter.”

Caught completely off guard, I groped for a chair. He continued, “If you cooperate with me today, I’ll do whatever I can to help you and I’ll try persuading those in positions of power to be easy with you.”

Fear rising within me, my thoughts raced frantically. Events? What events? What could the FBI possibly want with me?

The accusation

Nothing could have prepared me for his next shocking statement: “Paul, your daughter has alleged you sexually molested her. She says her daddy was touching her in a bad way.”

My mind reeled from the sickening allegations; a heaviness engulfed me. What had happened to Kristi? If I hadn’t done anything (and I hadn’t), what did happen to her? Maybe someone was trying to set me up.

If that wasn’t bad enough, he had more crushing news. “Your days of seeing your daughter are over. No visits, no phone calls, no presents, no cards. No nothing. If you try contacting Kristi or her mother, you will be in contempt and be put in jail until the investigation is complete and the case is heard in court.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. I learned that my parents’ campsite was thought to be on federal property, which gave the FBI jurisdiction in this case. Hour after hour I was pressured for a confession, but there was nothing to confess. I hadn’t done anything wrong. After more than three hours of verbal assaults, the FBI agents finally let me go. I didn’t know I was facing a long, terrible journey.

The test

I was stunned by his accusations because I considered Kristi a cherished present from God. I knew she was God’s gift even as business successes and a failed marriage lured me away from my childhood faith.

However, over the past several months, I had begun renewing my relationship with God at the encouragement of two co-workers. They had been telling me that no matter how messed up my life was, I could trust God to help me. At the time I had no clue how much my new relationship with God was going to be tested.

I had always believed I was in control of my life, but now I found myself being pulled under the relentless wheels of the legal system. My child had been taken from me, and though I was innocent, I would have to defend myself as if I were a criminal.

I refused plea bargains that would have left me off comparatively easy. To accept any meant an acknowledgment of guilt, and I was not guilty. But now I would have to go through a trial and trust that the jury would see I was innocent. Since I was being charged with statutory rape, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault, and indecent exposure, I could be sent to jail for thirty years if found guilty. Would God hear my prayers for help? Could I trust Him? Would He be there for me? I didn’t know.

The wait

For months while awaiting trial, I prayed and worried. What is God doing? Why is He allowing them to falsely accuse me? What is happening to my daughter? Night and day I prayed, “Oh please, Lord, let the jury see my innocence and let me be acquitted on all charges.”

I couldn’t sleep and had difficulty eating. As hard as I tried to trust God, I was still a bundle of nerves.

The trial

On a Monday, almost one year from the date of the FBI’s visit, the torturous trial began. Victoria wouldn’t look at me as she approached the witness stand. She used her best theatrical performance, sobbing as she told the jury how ill Kristi had been the night I brought her home.

Victoria’s lying upset me, but it couldn’t compare to what happened Wednesday — the day little Kristi took the stand. I watched heartbroken as my little blond girl walked to the witness stand with Victoria. She carefully avoided looking at me as she walked past. It was obvious she had been primed to act that way.

During the district attorney’s questioning, he stood so Kristi’s view of me was blocked. I didn’t think I could possibly stand anymore heartache until Kristi was asked who had hurt her. The D. A. moved aside so she could see me. She glanced at me for half a second, pointed a little finger at me, and then lowered her brown eyes. Clearly, she had been coached. I knew of the many other child molestation cases in which the child had been manipulated in corroborating things that had never happened. I was sure this had happened to Kristi.

The verdict

Throughout the trial, I desperately searched the jury’s faces for some indication that they believed my innocence. But after the week-long trial, the jury acquitted me on only two of the four charges. Of the remaining two charges, the jury was hung: nine in favor of acquittal and three against. Somehow the remaining three jurors still thought I had done something, though my lawyers and I made it clear that I had never been alone with Kristi the entire weekend. In a camper filled with five adults, it was impossible to be alone at any time.

I was crushed. I had prayed and believed that God would answer my prayers. It seemed He had betrayed me. I was struggling to trust Him and now faced another trial. “Oh, God, are You there? Do You hear me? I don’t want to go to jail. I want to be Kristi’s daddy. Please, Lord, help me.”

The witness

For five long months I suffered agony waiting for the second trial. When it finally it began, it was almost a repeat of the first with the same horrendous accusations being brought up and the same lies being told.

But this time there were important differences. Margaret, Victoria’s house mate, who had seen Kristi the night I brought her home, was the only witness who could verify Kristi’s condition that night. Margaret hadn’t wanted to get involved earlier, but changed her mind and agreed to be a witness for me now.

She told the jury that Kristi was in fine health after the camping trip, which refuted Victoria’s testimony. My lawyers also uncovered other lies as the trial continued. Still, the prosecutor confidently hammered home the accusations.

The prayer

When the jury was finally sent out to begin deliberations, I retreated to a nearby law library, completely shattered. I sat in silence, staring at the clock, watching the minutes tick by. My nerves bristled with tension. Was this the countdown to freedom or to jail? I had prayed for a total of 17 months for an acquittal; but now it appeared the verdict could go either way.

After two hours and 20 minutes, the pressure of waiting became overwhelming. I didn’t have the strength to take any more suspense or torment. All my life I depended only on myself, but now I was broken and humbled. There was only one way to go.

Bowing my head, I spoke to my Savior, “Lord Jesus, I trust You, but I’m growing so impatient and anxious. I am weary of fighting this battle. Lord, it’s been enough. I can’t take anymore. I beg You, please let it end.”

Unable to continue, I collapsed in my chair. And then something unexpected happened. I felt the presence of Jesus. He brought a gift for me: peace. In answer to my prayer and with great gentleness, He seemed to reach out His hand and touch my head. As He did, I felt the anxiety within me begin flowing out. All my pent-up anger, frustration, and impatience began to drain.

His peace traveled downward, and my arms, stomach, and legs relaxed. An amazing warmth and peace replaced the tension. As I rested in the glow of the Lord’s presence, I somehow knew I had been acquitted on all charges.

The acquittal

I was calm when word came that the jury was back. Once I returned to the hushed courtroom, the judge asked the jury foreman, “Have you reached a verdict?” I already knew they had, and I knew what it was. It had been God’s good pleasure to reveal it to me.

The foreman said, “Yes, we have, Your Honor: Not guilty — on both counts.”

Free! I rejoiced that at last God had answered my prayers and proved His trustworthiness.

It’s been three years since this event in my life. I don’t see my daughter at all, for little hearts believe what they’re told. She’s too young to sort fact from fantasy. Consequently, Kristi is frightened of me.

I was bitter about this for a while, but with God’s help, I released my bitterness. I have remarried and continue praying that God will meet Victoria’s and Kristi’s needs. Perhaps He’ll reunite my daughter and me. God came through before when I desperately needed His help; He’ll be faithful again.