By Anna LeBaron

 

I was standing at the sink washing dishes. Suddenly, a brown van screeched to a halt in the driveway of my house. Out jumped members of the “bad side” of my family carrying guns and assault rifles. They stormed into the house and, before I knew what was happening, sprayed the entire area with bullets. Shot in the stomach, I fell to the floor, face first. The shots hadn’t killed me, yet I knew if I got up, they would simply shoot me again. If I pretended I was dead, maybe they would leave me alone.

I have to get to my boys. But if I move, it’s all over, I thought. I felt powerless to help my own children.

Just as I started to push myself up off the floor, I woke up from the nightmare, drenched in sweat, my heart racing.

***

A few days later, I was at the park with my friend Diana. We sat on a bench watching our sons play and I told her about the nightmare. She listened intently, her face registering an array of emotions. She placed her hand on my knee. “Do you have someone at your church you can talk to? Like a women’s ministry director?”

“I don’t think so.”

“A woman at our church does lay ministry counseling. If I make an appointment for you, will you go?”

I just stared at her. It hadn’t occurred to me that I needed a counselor. Then I said, “Yes.”

“Would you like me to pick you up and take you? Or could I babysit the boys while you go?”

Shame on ShantyI grew up in a polygamist cult led by my father, who the media dubbed “the Mormon Manson” in the 1970s and 80s because of the atrocities he committed against rival cult leaders and defectors of his group. When I was three, we began living life on the run from the FBI and Mexican police.

At age nine, I had forty-nine siblings. My mother was one of my father’s thirteen wives. We experienced ongoing trauma and every kind of abuse you can imagine. My siblings and I were split up and left for months at a time, sometimes with people we barely knew.

When I was dropped off in Mexico to live with cult members for over a year, it was especially frightening. I remember standing at a bedroom window looking at a mountain range in the distance, thinking to myself, If I could just get over that mountain, that’s where my mom is, and I could be with her again! But the mountain was too far away for my little legs.

When I was eleven, the Mexican police finally caught up with my father and turned him over to the FBI agents waiting for him on the other side of the border. He was tried, convicted, and sentenced to life in a Utah prison. He died in that prison in 1981—only a year later.

In the meantime, God the Father began to set in motion a series of events that eventually led me out of the cult and into the arms of Jesus at age thirteen.

Then life became a bed of roses. Wait—scratch that. It did not. It became harder. As I entered adulthood, the killings that become known as “The Four O’Clock Murders,” and the repercussions of those tragedies, almost did me in.

When Diana reached out to me in the park that day in 1995, I embarked on a healing journey that continues to this day.

Until 2014, I didn’t know that what I had been experiencing my whole life was anxiety triggered by post-traumatic stress. It’s hard to heal from something when you don’t even know what the problem is. But I did heal—little by little, and in increasing measure. I took advantage of every option available to me. I attended women’s conferences and retreats, Bible studies like Beth Moore’s Breaking Free, church-affiliated programs like Celebrate Recovery, and para-church programs like the Walk to Emmaus, among others.

I wanted healing and wholeheartedness more than anyone I knew. My healing journey has taken a long time, yet in many ways, I am still a work-in-process.

No matter what the circumstances, I’ve come to understand that for healing to occur, there are things that are God’s part to do, and things that are my part to do.

My part is always the possible things and they are doable—with His help. God’s part is always the impossible things. He orchestrates people, events, and circumstances as I keep taking “the next right step.”

I’ve learned to lean in and ask God what my part is; and then listen for the answer. Sometimes the answer is as simple as saying yes to a friend who asks if she can make you an appointment with a counselor.

One of more than fifty children of infamous, polygamist cult leader, Ervil LeBaron, Anna LeBaron endured abandonment, horrific living conditions, child labor, and sexual grooming. At age thirteen, she escaped the violent cult, gave her life to Christ, and sought healing. A gifted communicator and personal growth activist, she’s passionate about helping others walk in freedom. Anna lives in the DFW Metroplex and loves being Mom to five grown children. Her memoir, The Polygamist’s Daughter is available on Amazon.

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