Sara Weaver Survivor of the Ruby Ridge standoff and siege
By Billie Jean Gerke
Editor’s note: This interview was conducted March 30, 2017, at Sara’s home near Kalispell, Mont. This August marks the 25th anniversary of the standoff and federal siege at Ruby Ridge that rocked northern Idaho, spread repercussions across the nation, and deeply impacted a 16-year-old girl and the rest of her family. Sara Weaver, now 41, the oldest child of Randy and Vicki Weaver, remembers the events leading up to the siege, those 11 turbulent days that left three people dead, and how she has hurt and healed the past 25 years. In 1996, Sara returned to the West because she missed the mountains, landing in northwestern Montana. The rest of the family soon followed. She suffered from depression and PTSD for many years and went through a painful divorce from her first husband. Several years ago she became a Christian and started recovery as she grew in the faith. Today, Sara lives with her teenage son Dawson and second husband Marc on a small horse ranch near Kalispell, Mont., where they enjoy trail riding and fishing, and pursue an online business with the company It Works! Sara and her father cowrote and self-published a book in 1998, “The Federal Siege at Ruby Ridge: In Our Own Words.” Sara also wrote a self-published book of poetry and journal entries in 2009, “Dawn Over Ruby Ridge,” and her autobiography in 2012, “Ruby Ridge to Freedom: The Sara Weaver Story.” Randy does not give interviews, but following are Sara’s memories from the siege 25 years ago, and the details of how she rebuilt her life and came to forgive the federal agents blamed in the deaths of her mother and brother.
Why did your dad run for sheriff (in 1988) and what was his platform? Sara didn’t know so she called her father, Randy Weaver, and this was his answer: Well, I needed a job No. 1, and No. 2 I thought I could straighten up law enforcement. I thought maybe we could clean up at least one area of law enforcement and drain the swamp. Bill Imacio said he would score me with $1,500 if I would run on the Republican ticket. My platform was to enforce the law the best I could.
Your family life sounded pretty idyllic before the legal trouble began. How would you describe your family life on the mountain? Very close, where my siblings were my best friends. Every day was geared toward doing what you need to do to survive. When you live off-grid, things like hauling water and getting wood in become your work. I think it taught me a lot and it made us very close as a family, because we did those things together every day. I loved to garden.
What prompted your family to leave Iowa and move to Idaho in the first place? Mom and Dad had always visited the mountains when they were kids, and they knew that eventually they would want to move to the mountains. One of the deciding factors for landing in Idaho was that they could homeschool, and it was legal to do so. The mountains were places that they had always enjoyed as kids, and they wanted to share that enjoyment with their kids as well.
What aspects of your childhood were good and not so good? The closeness with our family dynamics was awesome. We were together every single day and doing things together all the time. That was great. Growing up in the mountains was amazing, just being able to fish, hike and build forts and all that fun stuff. I was the queen of fort building when I was little. The not so idyllic would be not having running water and electricity and your daily survival depended on those physical things you had to do like hauling water and getting in wood, and washing clothes on a washboard before we got the kick-start washer from my grandpa. It’s hard work living that way. Nothing about that lifestyle is convenient, but it’s very rewarding.
What was it like to live in seclusion on the mountain for 18 months and, in the middle of it, have a new baby come into the family? It was different, to say the least, to not be able to go off the mountain, but our family just made that choice. It was different to go from being able to go into town for groceries to go to people bringing groceries to us, so that was a big change. Then mom choosing to have Elisheba on the mountain was a scary feeling because I was worried about her and about my little sister. I thought she was very brave for doing that, and Dad delivered her. It was definitely a shift in our family dynamic. We still kind of went along with life as normal with the same daily things you do, but there just wasn’t any leaving to go get groceries or visit neighbors. They all came to us.
Did your mom have any help from midwives with prenatal care or the birthing of Elisheba? And it was a late birth at age 42. When my mom set her mind to something, she researched it out, read all the herbal books. It still had to be terrifying at her age. Mom had long, hard labors with all of us, and we were all big babies. I think I was an 8-pound baby and she was teeny.
Was there more fear and worry because you knew your dad could be arrested? There definitely was more concern during that time, because obviously the things that led up to that up to that were unsettling. We didn’t have any idea though that it would end the way it did, so there wasn’t as much fear in that moment as there is now in looking back and seeing it lead up to what actually happened.
What were you thinking, feeling and talking about in the 11 days after the siege began and up until the surrender? It was like a nightmare that didn’t end. I was missing my little brother and mother terribly, and grieving and sad. We honestly didn’t believe we were going to make it out alive, so I had made peace with the fact that I was going to die. And my main focus was to keep as many family members alive if I could, if there was anything I could do to keep them safe. So it was survival and grief and just making peace with death, for me personally. It was rough, and hurting for my other family members and seeing them grieve. It’s not something I would wish on anybody, ever.
What would you talk about among yourselves? I remember just praying a lot myself. Just praying that the rest of us would be safe. I remember focusing on Kevin and trying to doctor him and keep him comfortable. I don’t think we had a whole lot of conversations about things so much as it was just a survival situation, surviving your emotions, surviving day-to-day little things, taking care of someone who’s critically wounded, and just doing what you have to do from one moment to the next and trying not drown in your own grief.
Did you pray together and did your dad lead you in prayer? There may have been a time or two that Dad did. I have a lot of snapshots of memories, and a lot of my memories are blocked out I think, as a self-defense mechanism. I didn’t have my own personal relationship with God at the time, but I was still trying to reach out to Him in a way that my mom would have, because I didn’t know where else to turn.
Kevin was in so much pain that he was asking your dad to put him out of his pain. That wasn’t a conversation among all of us. That was a conversation I overheard in the middle of the night between Dad and Kevin. I was shocked and horrified. It was just another nightmare moment, like “This can’t be happening. This is not real.” I understand it because he was messed up, and it’s a miracle that we still have him. In the moment, it was terrifying.
Did you ever talk about surrendering before Bo Gritz came into the picture? Every time there was some opportunity to communicate, we did. But as far as picking up a phone and having them yell at us through a bull horn, and then having Paul Harvey communicate with us through the radio program. “Pick up the phone, Randy. Your family wants to talk to you.” That phone that was offered to us on a robot that had rolled up on our front porch, Dad looked out to see if he could actually pick up the phone, and he said, “Come here and look at this.” And there was actually a shotgun attached to this robot that was aimed at the phone. So with being shot at before we had gotten holed up in the cabin, with them killing Mom and shooting Dad and wounding Kevin, and then them offering a phone with a shotgun aimed at it, and of course, with us feeling like, “We’re just sitting ducks in this house, and if we poke our head out … ” We had some discussions about it, but I was terrified about any type of communication because I didn’t know if they wanted to find out where we were just to put a bullet in us. It was really, really hard, and how do you trust somebody who says pick up a phone with a gun aimed at it?
You had people under the house milling around, and you were trying to get the message out that Sam’s dead, Vicki’s dead. That was before anyone made contact. We could hear people and there was no response. Dad yelled through the floor and told them “Sam’s dead, you shot and killed Vicki, Kevin’s wounded,” and there was no response. We had a plywood cabin, so if we could hear them crawling underneath, they could hear us yelling at them through the floor.
Things changed after Bo Gritz came and started negotiating with the family. Then what were you talking about? My biggest concern was getting our side of the story out at that point. So when there was an opportunity when Jackie and Bo came into the picture, it started to feel a little bit more like we were going to get out of this or maybe the world would hear our side of the story. I had written down our side of the story and I had sent it with Jackie when she was finally allowed in the house. Bo’s first concern was taking my mom out of the cabin and getting Kevin to medical help. That was huge. I still was terrified of stepping out, and I was afraid for Kevin. I did have the confidence that because Bo was there to get Kevin out, that Kevin would be OK. But I was still scared to come out of the cabin. I didn’t trust anyone or anything, and it was just a terrifying situation. Even though we had started to have some communication with friends, that trust had been destroyed. I just didn’t know what the next minute was going to hold.
Did each of you write down your story? I remember Dad dictating to me and me writing it down, and we all signed it. We kept hearing reports on the radio that were wrong, and we had no communication with the outside world, so it was important for us to write down our side of what happened. The whole world was hearing what was happening, and it didn’t line up with what had actually happened.
What was it like to finally leave the cabin and walk down off the mountain with the surviving members of your family? That was another surreal moment. I honestly believed that when I stepped out of the cabin, that I was going to be shot. I still had that fear. Once we came out of the cabin, and we were holding hands and walking down the driveway, I could see what I thought were bushes moving, and it was men in camouflage. There were guns aimed at us. Everything in you is screaming “Run and hide.” But you just do it, you walk out and prepare for the worst and hope for the best. I still didn’t know if we weren’t just going to be taken out. It was a very eerie feeling.
How did you feel when you saw the federal agents’ base camp? Seeing the base camp was surreal. I felt like it was ridiculous. It was like a scene out of a movie. I could see guys walking around with boom boxes and in their shorts, like they’re on a camping trip, joking around with each other. It looked like a scene out of a movie with all the tents and helicopters. I was just shaking my head because I thought, “What in the world do you need all this for my one little family? This is such overkill.” Overkill is such an understatement. That was a moment of disbelief. Being taken to one of their headquarters and one of their guys asking me where booby traps were and things like that. He was like “Sara, tell me where the booby traps are.” I just looked at him and said, “You don’t know, do you?” Obviously, they didn’t. But I was like, “With dogs and chickens and kids running around, really, booby traps? Give me a break.” I was in disbelief, like, “How do you not know there aren’t booby traps? With all the people that have been crawling around that mountain this whole time, don’t you think you would have set some off by now, if there were?” It blew my mind.
And how about the people at the blockade? I knew that the people at the blockade were part of the reason we made it out alive. I was incredibly grateful and thankful for them at that moment. I know if they hadn’t have been there, things could have been much worse, because they were eyes and ears and voices on our behalf. I do believe they held a lot of people accountable for what they were doing, and they served as a reminder every time somebody came in and out of there that these are friends and family, people who are loved. I will forever be grateful for those people. They were just brave enough to say, “Hey, we know them and love them, and what you’re doing is wrong.” Had they not been there, we may not have made it. They took time out of their lives and spoke up for us on our behalf. I still meet people today, and they say, “I was at the roadblock” or “My relative was at the roadblock.” It’s a privilege to be able to hug them and say “Thank you for being there.”
Is it true that the federal agents considered charging you as an adult with a crime? If so, what and why? I don’t actually know the answer to that question. I don’t remember that specific fact. I would be interested to know. I didn’t have to testify at the trial, and I think that was a huge blessing. I was in Boise for a little while because they thought I might have to testify, but we never ended up having to. I know there’s a picture of me coming out of the courthouse with my aunt and uncle, but that may have been after the judgment was passed.
What are some of the greatest inaccuracies that you would like to clear up? There are many, but here are a few. As we have maintained from the very first report, my family did not shoot at Geraldo Rivera's helicopter 25 years ago as it flew over our cabin. Last year I was informed of eyewitness proof of this fact by someone who was in the helicopter at the time. My mother died protecting her children the best she knew how under the circumstances. She never would have harmed her own children as was reported. My father never joined Aryan Nations, was not a member and did not consider himself a white supremacist. He was originally asked to go by an informant who posed as a friend and introduced him to another informant who then entrapped him. My family was not a part of, did not endorse, nor gave any permission whatsoever for the completely inaccurate made-for-TV movie. My father did not set out to be a fugitive. The reason my father failed to appear in court for the original entrapment charges was a direct result of being given the wrong court date by the court system. See actual court date document via www.rubyridgetofreedom.com on the Home page.
How did you cope and adjust to being sent to Iowa to live with relatives and go back into the public school system? Sheer grit, is what I would say. It was really hard. I felt like an alien from another planet – being homeschooled and then being stuck in a Des Moines area suburban school where kids couldn’t relate to me. I couldn’t blame them, because they had lived in a completely different world than I had been in. It felt very lonely. I had some really great teachers who reached out to me and made sure that no one messed with me. I’m really grateful for that. It was a very lonely, tough time for me, and I had pretty much decided that I was going to prove everyone wrong, for what they thought about us. So I just did the best that I could do in everything that I did. I think that’s what kept me going, was the prove-them-wrong type of mindset that I had come to.
The siege happened toward the end of August, so did you have to get into school right away? No, there were a few months there that we lived with Grandma and Grandpa that we didn’t attend school. Then when my aunt and uncle stepped in, that’s when they said, “We need to get some normal, family-life routine going on and get the kids in school and start moving forward.”
How did homeschooling work while you were up on the hill? Mom kept up on a schedule, but of course, there was some leeway here and there, which I think most homeschooling families have. It was pretty standard to get up in the morning, have breakfast, get on your books, and then be done by noon or 1 o’clock. Then you can go do your other stuff, your chores and playtime.
Were you enrolled in actual correspondence courses? It was really cool. My mom picked up some of the old-style schoolbooks, like the ones from the early 1900s, the really fun ones. She would find them in thrift shops and garage sales. She had gone to school to be a teacher at one point, and so the old-timey math, history, reading and those kinds of things I remember. There wasn’t anything from the state, per se, for homeschooling curriculum. She didn’t do that, but she put together her own curriculum. It must have worked really well, because I had only gone through eighth grade, but I got put into a public school as a junior because I was 16, and I was on the honor roll and graduated with a 4.0. I think especially with all the emotional trauma, it really speaks as a testament to her and what she taught us and her schooling us herself, and we were ahead of the game. I remember when she started Sam, he was 5, and he would struggle and he would cry, and he didn’t get it. And she said, “You know what, I’m going to wait on him until he’s 7, because sometimes boys take a little bit longer to mature.” And she waited on him and then started again when he was 7, and he took off and that kid was brilliant. Like he loved just to read encyclopedias and soak up the knowledge. He liked to look up words in the dictionary for the fun of it. He was a tinkerer, and he would take things apart and put them back together. He’d fix things for me, and we would get into arguments, and he was always right because he had the facts from the encyclopedia to back him up. So her recognizing his struggle learning at 5 and giving him that time to grow into it at 7 and him just taking off. He and I would read two or three books a day sometimes in the winter time, because we didn’t have TV, so we just soaked it up.
Did your dad participate with homeschooling, too? He did. If we were struggling with a math problem or whatever, he would step in and help us.
What kind of role did you take on for the family after the loss of your mom? Caretaker. I pretty much saw it as my job to step into her shoes and try to fill that gap when it came to my little sisters and my dad. I pretty much took the weight of the world on my shoulders to help and to fix and be there and make good decisions.
It was probably an extension of what you were doing already as the oldest child. Yes, I wanted to take a lot of pressure off of my mom when I was a kid. I really valued my parents’ approval, not that they demanded it, but because I respected them and I wanted them to approve of me. When I was a teenager I took on a lot, especially when she got pregnant with my little sister Elisheba, with the gardening and the laundry and keeping up the house and cooking and baking, to sort of ease the load for her and because they were hobbies that I enjoyed as well. Without other outside activities going on, it was just a natural thing to do, and I still love to cook, bake and garden and all those things.
You were learning real-life skills. You weren’t going off to soccer practice five days a week and playing every Saturday, like we raise our kids today. Exactly, and I still struggle with that. I’m not a soccer mom by any means. I enjoy doing practical things and fun things with my son, but sports are not high on my list. I know they teach great skills, leadership and teamwork and things like that, and I love that. For me, you’re keeping them constantly on the run and constantly busy with all these activities, but in the end, how will those really serve them later on when those aren’t part of their daily life anymore.
What did you feel like you had to prove to the world? That we weren’t everything that the newspapers and television and radio stations were saying that we were, crazy people from northern Idaho with no electricity and running water and all of the labels that came along with that and surrounded the story. I felt like the world got all of the terrible stuff, and they didn’t ever get a chance to know our family. There’s so much more to us than that. I felt that if I could prove that my mom did a good job schooling us, that it would honor her memory a little more. She wasn’t just this crazy person up on the hill. If people could see her through me, it would tell her story a little better. Because she gave me so many beautiful life skills, and she lived for her children. We were the most important thing to her, her family. She gave up and sacrificed so much. She was so self-sacrificing for her family. I felt like all of that got missed in this shocking story that people pointed fingers at. All of that got lost, especially when the psychologist painted her profile of who she was. They didn’t know her. How could they possibly label her with all these things when they didn’t know her? I knew her. I knew what she wanted for us, and it was just the best. She wanted us to be safe and happy. I set out to prove to the world that we weren’t everything they thought we were. I thought if I did really well that it would reflect good on my parents. With my dad in jail, I thought the better I did in high school, the better if would reflect on him, too. I kept myself really busy with positive things. Internally, I had a lot of fear, and I hadn’t experienced a lot of things like flying on an airplane and stepping on an escalator. For me, every little thing that I did and I accomplished was like a little victory. I remember how huge it was getting my driver’s license.
Your mom was described as the intellectual and spiritual leader of the family. Did you see her that way? I really didn’t. I feel like Mom and Dad were a team. The did everything together. They had conversations about things together all the time, whether it was practical or spiritual. I know my mom was a strong, quiet, calm spirit in that house. She was very practical and down to earth, just a calm presence. I think at times Dad was strong for her and she was strong for him. It’s just the way it works in a relationship. I know they both loved each other very much. They both had their strengths and weaknesses, but I don’t think either one had the upper hand. It was a give and take.
What kind of role did your dad’s family play in your family? Grandpa Weaver did come to visit us in Idaho. Aunt Marnis, my dad’s sister, came to visit before everything happened, and she also came to Idaho when everything happened. Dad had asked to speak to her during the siege, and I know she tried, but she couldn’t hear him at all. Living that far from all the family, there wasn’t as much contact as there could have been. They didn’t visit every year like my mom’s parents did, but a lot of that might have been financial, too. That was nine years, that (we never went to Iowa to visit). We did see Dad’s family a lot at that time (after returning to Iowa). They came to visit us at Grandma and Grandpa Jordisons a lot, and we ended up moving back to Dad’s hometown after I graduated, and that’s where all of his family lived, and so, it was pretty 50/50 with his family after I moved back.
Were they supportive? Oh yeah, and loving – just sweet, supportive and loving. They all pulled together and rallied around us. I have really good memories of all of them.
How have you chosen to raise your son? Did you entertain the though of homeschooling and living without running water and electricity? No, in fact, I had moved back to Montana without running water and electricity, and then we had that terrible winter of 1996. And I was like I don’t want to live like this. It’s a lot more work when you’re the adult. When we had talked about having a child, I was like “OK, we need to move closer to a school, and closer to civilization. I need electricity and all that kind of stuff.” I didn’t think I would have the type of patience or know-how to homeschool my son, and because he was an only child, I wanted him to have social interaction and to have that experience of school that I didn’t have. I had never thought of homeschooling him.
After all this trauma, did you consider going to counseling or did the family that was raising you think you should? Counseling may have been a word that was brought up, and honestly I don’t think I would have agreed because I honestly didn’t think that there was anyone that I could talk to that could understand where I was coming from or what I was going through. No one had shown me a single person who had experienced what I had experienced that would be able to relate and understand what I went through. And I didn’t feel like anyone would be able to help me if they didn’t know. No one ever said, “We have set up an appointment with a counselor and here’s the date.” I would have gone along with it if they had done that, but I had pretty much let everyone know that I didn’t think there was anyone who could help me because no one knew what I had been through: “All they’re going to know is what they’ve read in the newspaper or seen on TV, and I don’t want to deal with that. I don’t want to deal with those kinds of questions.” I was so fiercely protective of my family and so hurt by everything that to try to convince someone or educate someone so that they could help me, I was not in that frame of mind. I couldn’t have done it.
Did some of your teachers end up taking that role and being that kind of person for you? They never pried. They never asked questions. They never tried to direct me in any sort of way to something that had to do with what I’d been through. They were just a presence, and they were there if I needed them. They kind of guided me with what I needed help with. I was really good at hiding my struggles, and I really have been for most of my life, until that crumbled.
Is your family still friends with Bo Gritz? I haven’t seen or talked to him for many, many years. As far as seeing him again, I owe a lot to him for what he did. I will forever be grateful to him that he was brave enough and willing and took that role on, stepping in to help us out. I’ll consider him a friend forever.
What’s it like to return to Naples for visits? You’re only three hours away. A lot of good memories. Obviously, I really like it there because I grew up there, but it’s still emotional. I feel close to Mom and Sam and I can let them go at the same time, whenever I visit. I still really love the area. It’s fun to visit. I think we visit at least once or twice a year.
Does your family still own the property at Naples, and, if so, do you have any plans for it? We do, my sisters and I each own a third of it, and we recently had talked about what we may end up doing with it. We’re not sure yet. I’ve always wondered if there would be a legitimate movie made about our story at some point, and if that should happen, how it would be nice to still have the property in the family. If it was something that we were all helping to create and produce, it would be nice to still have that property in the family. If something else comes along the way that would help my family, we’ve talked about different things, but for the most part, it’s just kind of there. The road to it isn’t in great shape anymore. We all visit once in a while. We do interviews up there occasionally, like we went up there for the PBS interview that's now on Netflix. It’s still really emotional for me, the property itself. It’s still a place that I visit and, like I said, I can feel close to them there and let them go at the same time. It would be a collective decision between my sisters and I if we would do anything with it. For now, it’s not open to the public. It’s basically our own personal, private piece of property. There’s nothing on it. There’s no structures or anything, it’s just raw land. I think I’m more attached to it mostly. It’s a historical-type landmark. I still get e-mails from people asking if they can go up there and visit, and it’s absolutely not open for sightseeing or visiting.
Describe your parents’ personalities and what you drew from each one. My mom was more quiet, very meticulous Type A personality, she was good at everything she set her mind to. She was very calming in any kind of situation. My dad was more like fun loving and at times kind of boisterous. He’s always kind of a jokester and fun to be around. I think my dad brought fun to my mom’s life, and my mom brought a calming, level-headed presence to my dad’s life. I think they complemented each other in that way. I’m very Type A, very organized, very prepared type person, but I also like to cut loose and have fun. I can be one extreme or the other. I can kind of be a balance of both of them. I can be that responsible, level-headed side of my mom and then that side like my dad where I like to cut loose and have fun.
What are some of the greatest lessons you learned from your mom, your dad and the way you were raised in the mountains? Work ethic would be one, just living that way for survival, you get things done. You get up and you get your chores done. You do what needs to be done to run the household. I think I learned a really good work ethic. I learned how to make something out of nothing. My mom was very good at that. I learned how to be thrifty, how to not rely on somebody else to rescue me from my problems. I learned through my mom to lean on God, even though in the beginning I didn’t want anything to do with Him. She leaned on Him a lot, and that’s where I think she got a lot of her strength. I learned how to be independent and think for myself and question things that didn’t seem right. My dad had always said “Don’t believe anything I tell you. Go research it for yourself.” There’s kind of a freedom in that. I learned a lot from them. I think I learned some courage from my mom. She left suburban Iowa and moved on top of this mountain and chose a really hard way of life, and she just jumped in feet first and rolled up her sleeves and got to work and didn’t look back. There’s a lot to be said for that. It had to be a huge life shift for her. I remember her crying after my sister dirtied five outfits in one day because we would have to wash them on a washboard. They built the house and had never built anything before. She learned how to can food. She taught herself a lot of things, and I think I’ve taken that away from her. If there’s something that I want to do, I can learn how to do it. But I have to want it, or it’s not going to happen.
How did your attitudes toward authority and trust in mankind change as your healing took place? I learned not to place my trust in mankind and not to place my trust in people or things. I learned to place my trust in God because He’s got me, ultimately. He’s got my back and my past and my future and my in-betweens. If I put my trust in man, I feel man fails you every time, so you end up disappointed and hurt, and you end up giving other people the power to break you. If you put your trust in God and realize that every time someone fails you or you go through a bad experience and something hurtful, that there’s a lesson there and God is always waiting to help you through it and heal you. You just have to give it to Him and give Him that opportunity. I don’t put my trust in man, or people or things. Obviously, I wear my heart on my sleeve and believe the best about everybody, and I’ve been burned for that, but it’s the only way to live. Coming out of what I came out of, at first I went into the complete, self-protective mode, and I wouldn’t let anyone in because I didn’t trust anybody. You can only live that way for so long before you break down. Now, it’s a faith walk with God. It’s putting yourself out there, making yourself vulnerable and realizing that people are going to fail you. Things aren’t going to go the way you want them to, but you’re still going to be OK on the other side of it. And not to hinge your whole life on giving the power to someone to break you. Give the power to God to be there for you and heal you and things will go right. Give him your future and your now. Everything He brings into your life, there’s a purpose for and something to learn from.
What about your attitude about authority? One of the biggest lessons I learned from this entire thing, is that if anyone comes alongside you and is trying to coerce you into doing something illegal, example: sawing off a shotgun, they’re not your friend, and they’re not there for your best interest. If someone tells you not to wear your seatbelt, they don’t care about your life. It’s not just an innocent thing. The people that truly care about you want to see you do well. They want to see you be blessed, be safe, and live a healthy and happy life. Laws are in place for a reason. If someone’s telling you to break a law, their ulterior motives are not good. That’s a huge lesson that I took away from this, to live as blamelessly as possible. Be blameless before God and be blameless before man, as much as possible, but you need God to do that. I lean on God a lot for that, but I am a lawkeeper to the nth degree. We’re built on a nation of laws. Do I think some laws are stupid? Of course, I do. Do I like paying taxes? No, I hate paying taxes. Who likes paying taxes? But I do it because it’s what we need to do.
You struggle with PTSD. Does your heart rate go up if you see a cop or a military person? In the beginning it was much worse. I would hear a helicopter, and I would literally want to duck and hide. I would want to hit the deck. That was my instant reaction, my immediate body response to find a place to hide and find cover. Seeing law enforcement or a military person in the beginning was a lot harder. There were scars there. I really dug into that in a personal way and asked God to help me recognize when those triggers happened. They’re triggers in response to a traumatic experience. When God helps me recognize that, it’s easier to deal with it, calm down, talk to myself, and be like, “You know what, it’s just a helicopter. You’re fine.” Now, I’ve had lots of encounters with law enforcement and military people, and my heart is really to help them and to bridge that gap between them and people that fear them because I was in that position. Really, fear just breeds more tragedy, so my heart now is to reach out to military and law enforcement and to reach out to those people who fear them. At the end of the day, we’re all just people. Each of these, the government, for example, is made up of individuals. Some make good decisions, and some make bad decisions. There’s those of us making good decisions and bad decisions on both sides. It’s just that one of them wears a uniform and follows a different set of laws than the other one. I’ve struggled with PTSD and I’ve worked really hard to overcome it personally. God’s helped me do that, and I can recognize it now when I see it in other people, and I can recognize it in myself. It’s a lot easier when you can recognize those triggers and get a handle on it before they take over your emotions.
Isn’t it kind of ironic that you married someone who went into a career in law enforcement and married someone else who had had a career in law enforcement? Yeah, it is, I guess. But like I said, at the end of the day, we’re all just people. There’s good and bad in every organization and every people group in life wherever you go. I would much rather be married to one of the good guys in law enforcement than one that wasn’t that might not be such a good guy. I have the greatest respect for the guys who were at Ruby Ridge who realized that the orders they were being given were wrong and walked off. To me, they’re the heroes. To me, they recognized a situation that was being handled wrong and said, “You know what, I don’t care if this hurts my career. This is wrong. I’m not going to be a part of this.” I’ve met people that have walked off, and I’ve been able to give them a hug and a handshake and say, “Thank you, thank you, thank you because you are my heroes.” I would hope that if law enforcement sees or is being asked to do something that is wrong, and they know is wrong, that they would not participate in that wrongdoing. I feel that way across the board for everyone. They’re my heroes for walking off and saying, “Nope, I’m not going to be a part of it. Change the rules of engagement? We can’t do this, sorry.” I have huge respect for those guys. I’ve met most of the people through book signings around the country. It’s not really anyone who’s reached out to me personally, but I’ll bump into them at places like book signings, events and things like speaking engagements. It’s been pretty cool.
It seems like what you fear and think about the most, happens. A self-fulfilling prophecy. Was that the case with the tragedy that happened to your family? That’s a loaded question. Anyone looking at it from beginning to end could say, “Oh well, it was.” I do feel that it was fear on both sides and misinformation that caused such a tragedy. When you allow fear over faith to make your decisions, you’re going to have two completely different outcomes. If you base your decisions on fear, the outcome is not going to be as great as if you base your decisions on faith. When both sides base their decisions on fear, it’s a really bad outcome.
You must be getting sick of media interviews, why do you keep doing them? There’s times I ask myself the same question, like “Why do I keep abusing myself like this?” I have seen so much healing come out of my interviews for other people, and that’s what keeps me going. I get e-mails every time I step out in faith and do an interview from people who followed the story, were somehow connected to the story or who just felt connected to the story. Every time I step out in faith and share the healing side of my story, people are touched and they are able to heal somewhat and move on from the memories and whatever trauma it caused them as they were going through it. That’s really been my passion and my focus, to be a part of the healing. I don’t enjoy talking about everything that happened. It’s very hard on me. It’s very hurtful, but if that is what I have to get through to get to the other side, which is, that I have been able to heal and move on, and grow and help other people, then that’s why I keep doing it. It’s not something I enjoy by any means. It’s very hard, but I do really, really, really value the outcome from other people being blessed by the interviews. If something good can come out of something horrible, then I’m all about it. I get a little piece of healing from every interview I do. I get more healing when people come to me and say it’s helped them. It’s hard stepping out at first, but as you do it, it gets easier and easier.
When people are so emotional about what happened 25 years ago, how do you help them? It’s actually shocking to me. I find myself in the position a lot of times to comfort and reassure other people that’s it’s OK, I’m OK. “I’m doing good. I’ve healed, I’m on the other side now. You can let it go. I’ve let it go, so it’s OK now, you can let it go.” It’s actually shocking to me how much people have hung onto it over the 25 years that I’ve run into it a lot. For a lot of them, it feels like just yesterday. It’s not just me who feels like that. It’s feels like that for the grandma who was watching her TV and praying for 11 days that we would come out of the cabin alive. I’ve had people just break down and cry when they meet me, because they say “I prayed for your family, and I can’t believe I’m seeing you right now.” It’s kids that were my age at the time and who experienced it with me and who have had a fear ever since that it would happen to them or their family. It’s made an impact that goes far beyond anything that I could ever have imagined. Just experiencing it myself and surviving my own emotions through it and then reaching out to these people who it impacted has been healing for me as well. It’s kind of a mutual thing. It’s a real blessing. I put myself out there as much as possible to continue to do that because it’s very rewarding. It’s very humbling to know that my life has impacted someone else’s life so deeply.
What would you say to anyone who’s holding on to fear or bitterness from past traumas? Give it to God. Just give it to God, and let him heal that, because we were never meant to carry it. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. Your yoke and your burden isn’t light, so if you’re packing them around, just take them off and lay them at the foot of the cross and just trust that God’s got you and everything is going to be OK. You have to let go, because if you’re going to hold onto it, it’s just going to keep dragging you down.
The Senate hearings must have been a pivotal point. Describe that experience and how you and your father decided to publish the subsequent report in the book you wrote together. The Senate hearings were terrifying for an 18-year-old, and then being questioned by Sen. Feinstein was really hard. She had asked me where the bullet had gone through the door that killed my mom and where the curtains were, and being 18 on the Senate floor and having to answer all these questions from Senators, it was just terrifying, and then watching my dad share his side of the story and breaking down and then watching Kevin, it was tough. I will say that Sen. Arlen Spector and Helen Chenoweth, they were very, very kind people. They were very protective. They were very hospitable. So my memories of them are really good memories, of them just being really great people. It was a terrifying experience as a young person. I felt the gravity of it, I felt the weight of it. And the Senate subcommittee hearings and findings to this day, speak for themselves. I feel if anyone is interested and wants to know the facts, go look up the Senate subcommittee findings. They found a lot of stuff that was messed up. The reason Dad and I decided to write a book is that there were all these other people coming out of the woodwork with their own books and their own stories and their own TV shows and all of their own opinions, and they were telling the story as if they represented us, and they did not. That was very frustrating. I’ve never had a legitimate publisher approach me and say, “Let’s publish your story.” I’ve had to do it on my own and self-publish because we have such a controversial story, that no one has really wanted it from the source, which is us. They’ve taken it from everyone else but not from the source, and that’s been very disappointing to me and very discouraging, which is why I’ve self-published three different publications. This is our story, and it deserves to be told. I’m very glad we did that, but it’s all been on my hustle. It’s been work, but it’s very rewarding too because it’s my story. I put it out there because I got really sick and tired of hearing everyone else’s version. It was time. People were like, “We know what we’re seeing and hearing isn’t the full story. What’s the story? We want to hear it from you guys.” That was just regular people who wanted our stories. Dad would say “My book’s not very long because there’s no B.S. in it.” (laughs)
How did what happen to your family lead to a change in the way the federal government conducts itself (rules of engagement) in similar standoffs, and how does that make you feel? I am very, very grateful that what we went through has made them stop and look at how they handle other situations and maybe take a step back and not be so hasty. I’m very, very thankful that other people have potentially been spared the pain that we’ve gone through because of that. That’s another reason why I keep sharing, that I keep trying to bridge that gap, to spare other people. Spare them that pain, because it’s been hell. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
We had another standoff about a year ago at Malheur Wildlife Refuge. Yes, I actually sent an e-mail to the sheriff and offered him my services. He didn’t get the e-mail until a few months ago. He called me and said "I wish I would have gotten this then.” But my e-mail to him was about bringing in a third-party negotiator because that is what helped us, having Bo Gritz step in. I sent that e-mail on a Friday and by Monday, they had Franklin Graham in there as a negotiator, so the sheriff didn’t get my e-mail, but maybe someone that intercepted it did.
What advice would you give to those (on both sides) who find themselves in a similar situation? Don’t be hasty. Do not rush into life-altering decisions in that situation. Take a step back. You’ve got all the time in the world. I’m grateful that they didn’t rush into major confrontation with the one in Oregon. You can’t get life back when it’s lost, it’s lost, and they still lost life in that one, which is very, very sad to me and it did not have to happen. Once it’s done, it’s done. I don’t want to see anyone get hurt on either side if it can be avoided, because there’s families attached to every single person, and friends, and there’s a ripple effect that you can’t see in the moment that is life-changing for people.
Have you or would you ever offer to help end a standoff as an independent negotiator? Well, I have offered. I’ve sent e-mails both times around for the one in Nevada and the one in Oregon, just asking people to take a step back and look at things with a level head and set aside personal feelings and emotions and recognize that there are families involved on both sides. There are kids who will be impacted. I can only hope that people hear my words. I know a lot of times people don’t want to hear my words because they have their own thoughts about things. I have lived it when there’s a bad outcome, and it is not worth it.
What would you tell someone who considers taking vengeance for what happened Ruby Ridge? The same thing I told William Shatner. Don’t take life in my name and think that you’re doing something good. Because I’ve had family members taken from me violently and it’s a horrible, horrible thing to have to live through and deal with. I’ve watched my family members struggle with it, and it destroys people. The ripple effect is so far reaching, that’s it’s not the answer.
Did you ever consider moving to a different country to get away from the country that inflicted so much harm to your family? No, because I really love our country. I love my roots. I love that I came from Iowa, and my family and my history. I respect the blood that’s been shed for this country and the people who have put their lives on the line so that we can have the freedoms that we have. I’m extremely grateful for those families that have made those sacrifices, that have lost children to defend our country. I love the United States and what she stands for, one nation under God. I’ve never considered leaving the states.
How has what happened to you and your family affected your decisions over the years? Wow, that’s a loaded question, too. Well, besides trying to prove everyone wrong and being an overachiever and thinking that I was going to do everything right and live the American dream, and then going through all of that and crashing really hard and realizing I needed God in my life, It’s affected my entire life. I would not have chosen this path for myself. I fought really hard to choose my own path. Yet, this path that God has for me just keeps finding me. I’ve run from it. I’ve ignored it, stuffed it and pushed it away. I’ve worked through it. I’ve written about it. It’s not a path that I ever would have chosen, but it has been filled with blessings along the way, which helps make the pain a lot less. You just trust that God knows what He’s doing.
Is writing really therapeutic for you, writing the books you have written? Writing for me is therapeutic, but I rebel against it, and I have to get into a really miserable place in order to feel like writing. To write my last book, I literally had to sit down with God every single day and be like, “OK, what are we going to write today?” And I would write literally one page or one paragraph and walk away, because it’s having to face all of those feelings again, all of those things that I’ve tried to distract myself from, so I don’t have to feel. When you write about it, you literally have to sit down and look at it in the face and you have to get real with yourself and real with your feelings, and put them on paper and be vulnerable, and then give it to the world. So there’s a big part of me that rebels against that, and there’s another part of me that’s like, “You need to do this. You need to do this for you. You need to do this for other people. And it’ll be OK. It’ll be good. Just have faith and do it.” There’s a lot of pushing through that goes for me with writing, and a lot of my writing has come from a very miserable place. When things are going great, I’m not sitting there writing.
What did you think God was like in your childhood and how has that changed since you became a Christian in adulthood? I thought God was, when I was a child, an Old Testament, angry judge in the sky waiting to slap me down if I screwed up or did something wrong. I thought He was the punisher. I was afraid of Him for the most part and was angry at Him and didn’t care to have a personal relationship with Him. My view of Him was not fun. I knew the Old Testament God because that’s what I was taught when I was a child. When I became an adult and had my son and was in the midst of my depression, I had PTSD and didn’t know where to turn, I had remembered a Bible verse I had memorized when I was 7 and we were going to a conventional church in Iowa, which was John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life”). I went through the gamut of emotion. One day I was at my very rock bottom with a toddler and then with my little sister, who I was helping to raise as well, and I think they were fighting as well, and I was just at a point where I was empty. I had tried to do all the things right that I thought were going to make me happy, and nothing. I was building the house and had the child, the two cars and the dog. None of that filled the hole in me, and none of that softened the grief. None of that helped like the world said it would help, so I went to my Bible and I opened it. I was like, “What would my mom do?” Getting my Bible just hit me. I got my little Bible from Sunday school and I didn’t even know where to look, and I opened it up to John 3:16, because it was the only verse I had ever memorized, and that was when Jesus made himself so real to me that I literally felt a physical weight come off of my shoulders. I felt like He was right there with me, and He was saying“It’s going to be OK and I love you.” That’s when I met the God of grace. That’s what really changed my life. It’s like He just took that weight, and trying to fix everything for all those years, and just took it off me and said, “I’m here, and I love you and you’re going to be fine.” That’s when I had to know more about Him. I need to know this God. This is what I needed. This is my heavenly father. This is my daddy. I started reading the Bible nonstop. I started talking to a friend of mine who was a Christian. I started going to church. I answered an altar call before they even gave the alter call. (laughs) Literally, I started attending every service I could attend and crying through all of them. Just for a couple years, God just washed stuff out of me, just pain, just washing pain, and loving on me, just changing my mind completely about who He was. He wasn’t this mean, Old Testament God that was ready to punish me when I did wrong. He was my loving father that I could reach out to whenever I needed Him. So that really started my path to healing everything I had tried to run away from and stuff and ignore. He started digging that stuff out and helped me start walking through it and heal from it, and just showing me why what happened up there happened. He started showing me that it was fear that had caused all of that. That was my question, like “Why out of all the millions of people in the world did this terrible thing happen to me and my family. Why?” That was my big elephant in the room, I guess. It’s made a huge difference, believing in who God is today. He’s my savior and He died on the cross for all my faults and all my sins and all my failures. He loves me, and he’s taking me home one day. I couldn’t save myself.
What do you remember most when you think about your mother? Your little brother? I remember her being just beautiful and calm and peaceful and capable and strong, and just there, just a rock, somebody that I could take all of my problems to, and she would have an answer for. I remember her being a very hard worker and self-sacrificing, making our clothes and putting away our food. Everything she did was for us. Nothing she did was selfish. She went without things so that we could have things. She was just amazing. Whatever she put her mind to, she accomplished it. She made our home beautiful and warm and cozy. She made sure we had food and clothes. I remember her making all of Elisheba’s little baby clothes and her blankets. She literally made almost everything by hand, her diapers and all of that stuff for Elisheba. And I remember her being so excited about that and her and Rachel both working away on baby stuff. As far as Sam, as being my best friend and doing everything together, being that person you could talk to and do stuff with, and argue with, just that buddy, that companion. He was so smart. He was very determined. He had a sensitive side to him, too, like he was tough but he was sensitive. He was my best friend, who I could go fishing with and hiking with and build forts and talk to about life and stuff. We gardened together and did chores together. He was my buddy. We had to find stuff to entertain ourselves. I remember one time when we were living on a ranch in Porthill, we were out looking for cows with Kevin one night, and I was on my horse and Sam was riding with me. We actually got lost in a slough area where we were out looking for cows and it started getting dark. I was scared because I couldn’t find my way out, it was like we were surrounded by this huge ditch of water. I remember Sam telling me his hands were so cold, and he was cold and tired and scared, and I was tired and scared, and we had lost Kevin. I told him, “Just put your hands in my pockets.” He put his hands in my vest pockets. I don’t know if we yelled and found Kevin and our way out of the slough or what, but we went back to the trailer and had hot chocolate and peanut butter toast, and I remember being so thankful we were home where it was warm, and out of the dark and not being lost and scared. I have the best memories of that (roundups at Porthill), fishing in the creeks, and rounding up cattle and riding my horse.
What is the testimony and message of hope that you share through your ministry as a Christian? One of forgiveness, and it’s a journey that God took me through. I had struggled a lot of years being the victim of something that had happened to me. People allow you to stay in that kind of mentality. They take pity on you and tell you, “You have every right to feel that way, every right to be angry,” and all of that. When Jesus had found me and saved me from all my sin, He didn’t want me to live in that victim mentality. I didn’t want to live in that mentality, but I hadn’t forgiven people for what they had done to me. When I went through my divorce, God used that as a way to show me the difference between being a perpetrator and a victim. Obviously, when I went through my divorce, I hurt people. That was so hard on me because I had never wanted to ever hurt anyone, because I had been hurt so badly. I had kind of become a perpetrator in that situation. God helped me recognize that it doesn’t matter if we’re the perpetrator or the one inflicting the pain. It’s what we do with it. We just need to take that to Him and let Him heal us. In my journeys, I’ve met people who have hurt other people, and they think they can’t be forgiven for that. It’s just not true. I have been able to reach out and help them understand that I’ve been able to forgive those that hurt me, and I’ve also hurt other people, so you have to forgive yourself, and receive God’s forgiveness for that as well. There’s forgiveness for those on both sides because at one time in life, we’ve all been a victim or a perpetrator. Really, it’s just what we do with that, whether you live with that or you choose to give that to God, and you choose to forgive that person who’s hurt you. It’s a choice that you make, and I made that choice solely on the fact that God had forgiven me of everything where I had failed. I think a lot of people don’t get forgiveness. They have a wrong perception of it. They think it means that it was OK or we have to stay in a bad situation. It’s just not true. You can forgive someone and recognize that what they did was still wrong. Obviously, if that person is still inflicting that hurt on you, you need to set a boundary and get out of that situation, but you can still forgive them so that you have that freedom in your life to move forward. Because that unforgiveness and bitterness just hurts you and separates you from God. You end up hurting other people when you carry that around. My ministry has been one of forgiveness out of hard life lessons that I’ve learned along the way.
How did you make the decision to move back to the West and what has life been like in northwestern Montana? I knew when we moved back to Iowa that it wasn’t exactly my favorite climate and landscape, compared to growing up in the mountains. I love the people and everything, but it didn’t feel like home. I knew I needed to get back to the mountains, just for myself, for my own healing. North Idaho just felt too inflammatory for me to move back to and too many memories that would trigger a lot of things, so northwestern Montana was the next choice. That’s how I ended up here, and after spending twentysome winters here, I’m like “Why did I move here?” (laughs) The people here have been awesome and the summertime here and the fall are beautiful. It’s the nine months of winter that we have a hard time with, so we’re going to try to balance that out with wintertime somewhere warm and summertime here. Montana has been good for me. Montana has been a huge part of my healing.
How is it different from northern Idaho? We haven’t ran into the caliber of people that my parents had run into, the sort that were running away from something or up to no good. There’s a lot of really good people here that are great friends and pretty normal. A lot of them come from Washington state. We get a huge amount of people from all over. Kalispell is going to hit 100,000 soon.
When you first moved back, you sought a life like what you had had. You went way up into the mountains and didn’t have electricity or running water and lived in a cabin. When you bought your property, you were living in a travel trailer. You put yourself through same of the hardships you had had in northern Idaho. Yeah, kind of dumb, huh? The moving out to the middle of nowhere when we moved to Montana was to get away from the media and that didn’t work. At that time in my life, they weren’t respectful about it at all. They would just show up at your door and take a picture and write a story. They showed up in the boondocks and put pictures of my house in the paper. I talked to them and said, “Yeah, we moved out here. Please don’t put my house in the paper.” And they took pictures and put my house in the paper, so everyone knew where we lived. Then I went to open up a post office box, and I was like, “Yeah, my name is Sara Weaver. I would like to open a post office box.” The postmaster jokingly said, “Are you related to that Randy Weaver guy? Ha ha.” And I’m like “Yeah, he’s my dad.” And she was like, “Oooooooh.” And then we became great friends, and we still are years later with their family. That’s been the story of my life: “Oh, are you related to that Randy Weaver guy,” and “Yeah, he’s my dad.”
What lesson do you hope others learn from your life? What I like to share with people that open up to me is that we only see people at whatever point they are in God’s timeline for them, and their timeline, if you can imagine it like a yardstick, and you may be seeing them at the 1-foot mark at that particular point in time, but God sees them at the 3-foot mark. I had my 1-foot mark, and I was sad and miserable and depressed, and then I’m at my 2-foot mark and I’ve gone through a lot of healing, and only God knows what my 3-foot mark is going to look like. But when we look at people and judge them at their 1-foot mark, it’s not fair, because we haven’t seen God’s plan unfold for them yet. So when people are struggling with other people and they’re wanting to give up on them and throw them out with the trash, they may only be seeing them at the very beginning of their journey that God’s going to use greatly later on. You just haven’t seen that unfold in their life yet. It’s not for us to judge whatever point in their journey they are in that moment. It’s for us to love and them and help them the best we can. There’s another side to it, where people aren’t willing to be helped yet, and then you become an enabler and then you end up doing more damage because you’re enabling bad behavior. That’s not what I’m talking about. It’s more the showing of grace for where people are at. Somebody prayed for me at my worst. Somebody prayed for me in that cabin, that I wouldn’t die. They prayed that I would come out of it and find healing. I’m getting there, but it’s 25 years later. I think extending that grace to other people is huge, and I think it can help with their healing and give them the hope to keep moving forward.
What was it like to receive your family’s belongings back from the FBI? That was another step of faith. It was very emotional day for me. I was a little bit terrified before they got here because I knew that I had emotion attached to them and how personal they were. I was praying about it before they got here, and I realized that they were just things, just dead things, that weren’t Mom and they weren’t Sam, and they weren’t representative of them. They were just dead things that could make me more bitter and angry when I’ve already gotten over that, or I could seem them as a gift coming back at the same time, a piece of our history and our past that was being given back to us. I could see it as more of a blessing, that God’s returning something that had been taken. So I had to make a conscious decision to view it that way and not let it get me down and make me angry. It was hard. It was emotional, but I was grateful to get the stuff back, too. The shed was really a hard one for me. I wasn’t sure how I was going to react to that. It brought a lot of memories back. I have good memories of it, too, because my grandparents stayed there when they came to visit us, and Elisheba was born in it.
What is your family life like today? It’s good. I’m in a good place. I’m very happy. I’m enjoying my teenager, and I’m enjoying my husband and the business we do together. I’m enjoying helping people in that aspect. Every day I look forward to getting up and checking my messages, helping people to get healthy and helping people earn another income stream. Being a full-time family is good. I’m really enjoying it. I’m grateful.
If you look back 25 years ago, you never imagined that you could have a happy, good life at some point. No, I didn’t know it was possible, but with God, all things are possible. Time does have a way of healing. I think we have to allow ourselves to heal, too. I think we can fight it, and we can hang onto stuff. You can live a miserable life if you want, or you can go through the healing process and enjoy your life too. I have chosen to enjoy my life, because I know how short it is. I have chosen to love the people in my life, because they’re gifts, and you never know when they’re going to be taken from you.
How are your father and sisters and what are their lives like now? They’re all doing very, very well. My sisters are both successful businesswomen. They each have their own things that they do, and my dad is good. He’s basically living in retirement and still getting around and doing his own thing and seeing his grandkids. He has three. And one on the way.
Are you and your family still close to Kevin Harris? Yeah, but we don’t get to see him as often as we would like to. It’s been a couple years, he works a lot. I keep up with him on Facebook.
What about others from your childhood in Naples? I am still extremely good friends with Maria (Tony and Jackie’s daughter) and always will be. Then Lauren and Nona are like an extra set of parents to me. They were bringing supplies and stuff toward the very end. They’re very close to our family and were very hurt by everything that went down. My friend Dawn lives in Bonners Ferry. Her parents were friends with my parents. Her dad has since passed away. They used to come visit us at the cabin.
What charity (or charities) are you involved in and what motivates you to help? We are with Sparrow’s Nest of Northwestern Montana and they help homeless high school students continue to get an education and they give them a place to stay. Basically, it got started by a woman whose son came home and said, “I have a friend who doesn’t have a place to stay.” He had ended up living in a tent. They let him come sleep on their couch to get him through high school. Then she found out that the problem was way bigger than just this one student, and kids were hiding it. They would be displaced for many reasons, whether their parents were on drugs or they got kicked out or they ran away or whatever, but they were still wanting to go to school and graduate. They started the Sparrow’s Nest. When I heard about it, it really struck home for me because when obviously, when I came out of that, had I not had family, I would have been homeless. My husband Marc came from a really rough childhood and he could relate to that situation. So we both agreed it was a good fit. I wanted to graduate and do well, and these kids want to graduate. They’re not trying to run away from school. They’re trying to run away from problems at home and still become productive members of society, and that really hit home for me. They’re working really hard with all of these personal struggles in their life to do well. It just really hits a soft spot in my heart, that they want to do well, and don’t have a place to live. We chose to adopt them as our charity and help raise awareness for them because they’re a pretty new charity and there’s a lot of expense that goes along with what they’re doing. There’s so many charities out there competing all the time, so anywhere I can raise awareness for them, I talk about them. All the charities are good. I’ve supported many of them. I adopted a child in Brazil and supported him until he was 18. And now I have another one that’s in Ghana, and I’m supporting him. He was born on Sam’s birthday and is the same age as my son. Then the food banks I always like to support. When people would come to church functions, we would never want them to charge for people to hear me speak, but we would ask if they would bring a donation for the local food bank. So we would help collect food that way. I always wanted it to be a free event. The food bank donation was never mandatory. Little things along the way, we’ve tried to help as much as we can when we can. We donate a dollar a book to the Sparrow’s Nest whenever we sell a book.
How did your friendship with Tony Davis (of the film “The Miracle of Tony Davis”) come about and what is your special connection? I did an interview for the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) and then one day we were watching TBN, and Tony Davis shared his story. His story of forgiveness just blew me away. I related so much to the emotion he went through and the same kind of process he went through and God telling him he needed to forgive this person that tried to kill him. He was dead for 30 minutes. After that, we reached out to him. We e-mailed him and told him how much his story impacted me and thanked him for sharing. That struck up a conversation, and he had been working on getting his movie produced about his story. He asked me if I would do a foreword for him about his story and how it impacted me. So we filmed that, and we sent that to him for his movie. I don’t know if it ever made the cut or not. I felt a real connection with him because of his story. There’s a lot of similarities there with his story, with the violence and him forgiving the person, and his walk with the Lord.
What are your greatest hobbies and interests today? One of my huge hobbies right now is our business with It Works! It’s been a total blessing. It’s been a blessing to help people get healthier, to feel better about themselves, to help people earn an income. Right now I’m obsessed with our business because every day I’m getting testimonies from people, “Oh my gosh, this has changed my life.” Those testimonies are so exciting for me. It’s helping them in such a practical, physical way that’s not connected to all the pain from my past, that it’s all just the reward. … Fishing, I also have fun fishing, and trail riding has been my life.
What is your greatest goal for the second half of your life? To have more fun, and to spend more time having fun with my family. I spent a lot of years working on stuff, and working on me, working on just surviving, that I’m ready to start to enjoy some life. My immediate goal is building our online business so we have the financial freedom to do more and to get more physically free so we can do more fun things as a family and enjoy life.
Have you ever thought seriously about commissioning a film that would tell your family’s side of the story? If the opportunity came along and it felt like the right opportunity, I would definitely be open to looking at that. At this point, I’m not pursuing anything like that. If the timing is right, it’s probably going to happen at some point. It just hasn’t been the right time yet. I’ll know when the opportunity comes up, if it’s the right one and if that’s what God’s orchestrating.