What Is May Not Be

Last week our community sat in disbelief as we first heard of the breaking news in our area. Law enforcement set up a sting operation where over 1,000 people responded to online child sex ads.

The arrests of 26 men in the “Tri-Cities Net Nanny Operation” took place between July 5th-9th and almost all of those arrested consisted of members in our modest 250,000 plus community.

The news was shocking enough for our area, but once the names were released, many of us would be left sitting in shocked silence as one or more of the names listed were familiar to us.

John was one of those names.

I remember scrolling down the article to the list of names of those who were in custody.

When I first read the article, I didn’t see his last name. Even then my heart and mind tried to prevent me from recognizing anyone on the list. Once I read the article, I closed it down, heartbroken for the families this will impact. But it wasn’t long before a nagging thought inside sent me back to re-read the article, and it only took a few seconds to see his name.

John, 40 years old.

Husband & Father of four

Youth Mentor

Youth and Children’s Pastor


John and I had been children’s pastors in different churches several years ago. For at least three years, we would each take our group of kids to the same kids camp and years later after we had both stepped down from children’s ministry, we would once again reconnect when he became a customer of the bank where I formerly worked.

After reading that John was one of the 26 men arrested in the child sex sting, I realize that every emotion I’ve experienced this past week is the same emotion a person goes through when someone dies.

Shock & Denial – The shock alone that so many in our community partook of this horrific crime, left me numb for days. Denial was there the first time a read the article when my mind wouldn’t even register that a friend was among those arrested.

Pain & Guilt – My heartache was massive as I thought of the families of these men and how their coming days will be some of the darkest days they will ever experience. Guilt came in me too; what had I missed all those years ago when I worked with John.

Anger & Betrayal – Standing alongside this man, praying for children at the altar is one of the fondest memories for me from when I was a children’s pastor.

Today, I find myself angry for the parents who are suffering betrayal as they now need to have conversations with their children (most of them adults now) to make sure nothing happened.

Depression & Heartbroken – There is a deep sadness that is now running through our community, and even more so for the families of these men. Women and children shattered by these acts will now face life as widows and orphans.

Acceptance & Hope – Acceptance doesn’t condone what has happened, and it doesn’t lessen the pain, but it is necessary to move forward towards healing the heartbroken.

Death is probably one of the most challenging things a person can face, but perhaps the greatest pain is the loss of a person who is very much alive and realizing we never really knew them.

As our community maneuvers through the grieving process of this reprehensible week, I ask for your prayers.

Pray for the victims.

The children, the families of these men, the friends, coworkers, and neighbors.

Also, remember the task force and law enforcement who had to interact and have detailed conversations to catch these people.

To our community or any community that has dealt with something like this, I encourage you to be kind to the families who are victims themselves. Remember empathy and not to judge them based on someone else’s actions.

“A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.” ~ Steve Maraboli

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