Tanks Silent Lambs
See pictures of the Candlelight Vigil and press conferences here,
See information about the Vigil here,
The week of effort in the York County-Charlotte area was an event that will be remembered. The media offered excellent coverage with four television stations, four newspapers, and two radio stations offering coverage of silentlambs events. The first press conference was held at Rock Hill City Hall . We introduced the Meza Children's Memorial Fund. The fund will be set up to disburse on December 9, 2004 . On that day two volunteers, Faith and Cindy will have a press conference at Rock Hill City Hall and present three checks: 50% of the fund will go to the eleven year-old surviving daughter of the Meza family, Janet Meza. The other 50% will be presented in two equal checks to the local chapter of the Red Cross and Children's Attention Home. You can make your tax deductible donation to "silentlambs-MCMF" (Meza Children's Memorial Fund). Often when you make a donation you wonder where the money goes, this fund will go one hundred percent to help those directly involved. Silentlambs will donate the first one hundred dollars to help get this started.
If you would like to contribute to this fund go to this link,
http://www.silentlambs.org/donations/index.cfm (this is the contribute button on the website)
Donate the amount that you wish and note that it is for "MCMF" (Meza Children Memorial Fund). We will be glad to see that the funds are supported and delivered as stated above. After the first week there was about $350 in the fund. The press coverage announced this several times on television and in the local newspapers all the way through Friday of that week.
The second press conference was held at the Rock Hill Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses. We were happy that four sisters from the local area were in attendance sadly no one from the Rock Hill Congregation was in attendance. We joked that we kind of looked like a car group getting ready to go out. A new two page flyer for protecting children and reporting abuse was introduced. We asked that the flyer be distributed to all institutions in the area with many people expressing appreciation and saying they would help get them out. We started with the Rock Hill Kingdom Hall by placing the flyer, an invitation to the candle vigil, and a lamb on the front door.
You can see the flyer here, http://www.silentlambs.org/brochuretwopagesignsofabuse.cfm
One woman commented that she had never seen something so specific and helpful. She said she would deliver it to local schools and her church. Another stated they would make sure it was placed on their church bulletin board. We left copies on local area Kingdom Halls and hope they will do the same.
We also visited the home site of the Meza family where the murder occurred and left a lamb in memorial. We visited the gravesite of the family and left a lamb there as well. You can see a picture in the link above.
It is interesting to note that when the murders first occurred one authority stated the local elders stated they take care of their own when it came to the funeral expenses. Two days later the elders reversed their position and refused to make comment or assist in the costs. This then became a burden for the community to bear. The local Greene Funeral home, the Red Cross, and a Pentecostal Church paid the expenses for burying the five members of the Meza family at a cost of around $15,000. Some details emerged off the record that appear to indicate much more could have been done to prevent this from happening. According to one source the father had a history of abuse that went back for two years, he was publicly reproved after the matter was reported brothers arranged for him to have housing in the Charlotte as DSS required a restraining order against him being in the vicinity of this daughter. Yet he continued to attend meetings, participate in the field ministry and had an on going book study in his home. When he was to report to prison two elders accompanied him for moral support. When the daughter and mother went to DSS no one went with them. While the sheriff department has yet to make a final ruling on who actually committed the murders, the mother and daughter had defensive wounds on their arms and the daughter had been molested within five days of her death. It appears public reproof was an error judgment that allowed Meza approval of the congregation and access to the family. Is it any wonder they had no comment? One key issue remains is who actually reported the matter. JR Brown the public spokesperson for Jehovah's Witnesses indicated that the elders reported the matter in a newspaper interview. This will only be known with certainty when the DSS surrenders the records regarding this; the Charlotte Observer is suing for this information. The full truth of these matters may never be known until the detailed confidential files of the Rock Hill Spanish Congregation are provided to specify the full story. It is doubtful that any elder will have the courage to share this important information as a deterrent for this happening in the future.
The Candlelight Vigil was attended by 30+ people, we had promises from many more including abuse survivors in the area but it seems circumstances and other events prevented them for attending. It was a powerful gathering and all in attendance expressed appreciation for the positive and uplifting way things were handled. Members of the Meza family attended as well, they were so hurt emotionally it was one of the first events some of them were able to attend. We provided the Meza brother the large picture of the Meza children that was provided and a lamb. We thought it was touching when his daughter asked for a silentlambs bumper sticker that we were glad to provide. The daughter is pictured in the newspaper article at this link,
The brother made the comment to media that it was upsetting that brothers and sisters from the Meza children's congregation did not support the vigil. We hope he understand they were not allowed to do so.
Several in attendance had silent tears as the program progressed and at the end many stayed for close to an hour just to visit and comfort one another while holding candles.
The Memorial was held at the National Guard Armory which is nearby the Meza home and grave site. The Armory is located on one of the main roads in the area, at the start several distributed flyers out on the road inviting others to attend. We could not resist using the large tank as a stage for the silentlambs event it really was the most visible location and made an ironic statement of sorts.
Eight brothers and sisters were in attendance many were in fear of what elders would do to them if it was discovered they were there as some were threatened. One sister had JW family telephone her and say she was an apostate if she tried to attend the Memorial and would be disowned. Another family member stated that that donating time to preserve wildlife and animals would be a more worthy cause than remembering the Meza children at the Vigil. It is sad that a family could be influenced to be so harsh but we hope they see their fears were totally unfounded in looking at this material. We try to protect the identity of certain ones of those who participated due to fear of reprisals, it is a very real threat, to date at least thirty brothers and sisters have been disfellowshipped for simply saying there is a problem in the way child abuse allegations are handled in the organization. Some of them are abuse survivors and they suffer for simply not being silent about the mishandling of their abuse allegations. One sister that attended wrote the following comment:
"When I first read the story reported about the Meza family I was moved to tears. It was so horrible to imagine what the victim's must have felt in their few last hours alive here on earth. To realize that it happened to be someone of your own faith that had endured such pain and agony was especially stressing. I waited for any outpouring of love and concern from their fellow JW's at the local Kingdom Hall, but soon came to realize that would not be forthcoming. The newspaper report begged for a comment and I felt compelled to make one."
"After finding out that other non-JW organizations arranged and paid for the entire funeral expenses and handled the service, it was the least I could do to help in holding a candle light vigil in their remembrance. It felt good, knowing that in some small way, I was able to show my heartfelt abhorrence for what had happened and raise awareness for abuse victims everywhere."
"Jesus Christ set the example and commanded his disciples to show love among themselves. Who showed true love for his fellowman in this situation? I think the answer is obviously apparent."
Why not allow her to remain anonymous as her expressions embody the feeling of those that were there and perhaps many that were not. At silentlambs we are honored to know ones with courage such as these as well as their compassion. On the silentlambs website at the left side of the home page there is located a simple picture,
The meaning of the sign was from a popular song a few months back that stated, "Where is the love?" In Rock Hill , South Carolina that question was answered by a few caring individuals that literally put their lives on the line to simply show love. Their love moved them to not be silent and give a measure of closure with positive purpose to a community that mourned a terrible tragedy.
We think we were in good company as are the thousands that support the work of silentlambs.