Thursday, April 28, 2016

Wildflower, a psychological thriller with a message of hope

Haunted by recurring nightmares and a traumatic childhood, art student Chloe Moray manifests her inner turmoil through some dark artwork. But she cannot identify exactly where the disturbing images come from, and begins to suspect that they relate to suppressed memories—memories that seem to link to the unresolved death of a teen girl some twelve years prior.

But everyone thinks that Chloe, played by Nathalia Ramos (Nickelodeon’s “House of Anubis”, ABC Family’s “Switched at Birth”) is simply delusional with serious mental issues. Everyone but Josh that is. He thinks there may be something more behind the visions.

Josh, played by Cody Longo (High School, Fame, Not Today, Hollywood Heights…), shrouded by his own sad memories from a personal tragedy, and struggling not to lose his faith, finds himself wanting to help Chloe. In so doing, he finds himself risking his life looking for a killer. Josh’s compassion for Chloe—his desire to walk with her through this tense drama—lead both of them toward healing.

Wildflower brings a strong message of healing and restoration. It is suspenseful with many unexpected twists that keep you guarded till the end. Worth seeing. 

Written and directed by Nicholas “Nick” DiBella, a prolific and successful screenplay writer (Runnin' Home, Address UnknownChasing Bobby Jones, Kart Racer), this inspiring psychological thriller is being released worldwide this Spring.

Find more about Wildflower on Facebook.

Janey DeMeo M.A.

Copyright © April 2016

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Messenger, A Journey of Hope book and album

Society today sorely lacks conviction and courage—particularly with regard to standing for what is right and speaking up against the status quo. Through the use of allegory, The Messenger: A Journey into Hope (BroadStreet Publishing, March 1, 2016) by Mark Smeby and Ceil O.Kemp, Jr. addresses this problem and brings the reader on a journey that challenges us to forgo fear and climb the mountain in front of us.

The Messenger is a novella about an average family that lives in the mountainous village of Bergland in Norway, a place where life is mostly uneventful, even mundane. Bound by Janteloven (the law of Jante) which has been bred into their thinking since childhood, the villagers have little ambition beyond that of living their lives in much the same way as their parents and grandparents before them—a life characterized by bland routine and stifled curiosity. A life that in many aspects is stagnant.

But there is no such thing as a life without events including heartaches and problems as Thomas and his family discover when little Anna falls sick with a debilitating illness. Thomas and Lena have three children—two thriving boys and Anna who is progressively waning as each day passes. She will likely die.

This is not Thomas’s first time face-to-face with the death of a child. As a young boy, he had watched his best friend drown before his very eyes. Unable to bear the thought of another untimely death—that of his own daughter—Thomas makes it his priority to find a way to help her, even if it means stepping out of the acceptable comfort zone and choosing an unconventional almost “taboo” pathway.

Thus his journey up the mountain begins.

While the story is well written and sweet, I struggle with a few points. Thomas’ character is too compliant. He would be more authentic if he were to be a little less mild, a little more resistant to the truth offered to him by Sophia, an old lady and complete stranger that he meets on the mountain. Furthermore, the scene in the church where Thomas stands up and speaks in the middle of the sermon, inciting people to wake up and seek truth is troubling. Although his words were valid, his method was disruptive. To interrupt a pastor in speech and then to walk out of the church taking a couple of folk with him could be seen as divisive.

Criticism aside, the story makes for an easy read with a simple message.

Mark Smeby’s musical CD with the same title, The Messenger, is pleasant, easy listening. Mark’s voice is deep and his songs full of meaning, but variety is lacking. Both book and CD provide Christ-centered relaxing entertainment.

This article also appears in Assist News

Janey DeMeo M.A.

Copyright © April 2016

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Fatal Shootings Affect Orphans First Program in Mexico

Some children are used to seeing murder—and I am not referring to what they see on TV. This is especially the case with the kids in the Orphans First children’s program in Pedregales, a drug-infested barrio of Tijuana, Mexico where four fatal shootings recently took place—two directly affecting kids in the program.

In one case the mother of seven kids was shot and killed over a bad drug deal. One of her sons, David, was shot and killed three years ago at age sixteen. The remaining children have different fathers and no one knows who or where they are. Most of the children are now living with their grandmother, Mary.

Some of these children attend the Orphans First program, including nine-year-old Jennifer who has AIDS and two of her younger brothers. Like most of the kids in the neighborhood, the children are undernourished. (The meals they receive in the Orphans First program are probably the only balanced food they eat.)

The Orphans First program director, Deanna, and Calvary Chapel Pedregales, are doing all they can to help this family in crisis with food and other necessities as they do for other impoverished neighbors including Lupita and her three little ones. Lupita, a girl who cleans the property, is another victim of the recent shootings, which killed her husband.  

These murders stress the importance of the Orphans First children’s program, which provides afterschool tuition, clothes, food, toys, medical assistance and Bible teaching for some forty kids, and also helps their families. But there are hundreds more kids who would like to be in the program. We simply do not have enough help.

For children who attend the program regularly, their chances of a better future are greatly increased. Biblical teaching, general education as well as belonging to a solid church community will hopefully aid these little ones to reach for God’s best and rise beyond the status quo of their environment.

But nothing is simple. Nothing is as it should be. Some kids find it hard to attend regularly simply because they find themselves having to take care of younger siblings. And in the case of older kids, they often drop out of the program when they reach pre or early teen years, drawn away by the world’s allures.

And, given their surroundings, it is no surprise.

Pedregales is, after all, an impoverished drug riddled colonias of Tijuana. The unsanitary conditions of slum homes precariously built onto the slopes of the ravine (propped up by scraps and old tires) starkly contrast the view—San Diego high-rise buildings. Unpaved roads, poor drainage and sewage, unreliable electricity and limited water access contribute to health problems for these impoverished people who, for the most part, have little access to health care.

To add to the problem, the local public school lacks quality education and oftentimes lacks attendance. Kids frequently miss school. Parents are either dysfunctional owing to alcohol or drugs or just plain overwhelmed trying to survive. “I didn’t wake up so I didn’t go,” is a frequent comment kids make. No one was there to wake them. But without education, the children will likely end up like the adults in the vicinity—trying to make ends meet through prostitution or drug deals. (Already by age twelve, many children are drawn into this sordid lifestyle.)

While we thank God for every child in the Orphans First children’s program in Pedregales—for the help they receive—it is nonetheless hard not to feel sad knowing hundreds of others would love to be in the program and could radically benefit from it. It is also hard to ignore the plight of those older kids who leave to get caught up in the fray of the drug rackets. How can we reach them all? How can we do more?

Part of the problem is this: there are simply not enough helping hands to do more at this time. We need more full-time workers to take care of these kids—and, of course, funds are always needed.

No wonder Scripture teaches, “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field" (Proverbs 9:38).

Orphans First programs include two children’s programs in Mexico and four children’s homes in India. Watch the short promo videos and find out more about OrphansFirst here.

Finally, as we pray for these children, let us not forget kids in America who have been thrown extremely painful situations. Recently,a six-year-old girl, Lexi, who was ruthlessly removed from her family in California. Read my article here. Pray and speak up for Lexi by signing the petition here.

May God help us hear His heartbeat and do our part so that these childen’s lives will be significantly better.

This story also appears in Assist News Service

Janey DeMeo M.A.

Copyright © April 2016

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Child Abuse in a Different Form - save Lexi

Imagine seeing your six-year-old child ripped away from you sobbing, “Don’t let them take me. I’m scared!" And you could do nothing to save her! This is precisely what Rusty and Summer Page experienced on Monday when six-year-old Lexi was removed from their loving home in Santa Clarita, California—all because of misuse, even abuse, of the Indian Child Welfare Act, (ICWA)—a federal law that seeks to keep American Indian children with American Indian families.

Lexi is 1/64th Choctaw. It doesn’t matter that the Pages and their three biological children are the only family she has known for years, and that she was thriving in their home. Nor does it matter that the ICWA was originally created for the benefit of the child. Nope. None of that seems to count. Not in this case.

According to an article in PEOPLE, Rusty spoke through streams of tears saying, "She was screaming and she said, 'Don't let them take me.' I told her, 'We're your mommy and daddy and we will fight for you and not give up.' Then they just drove away."

On Monday, with the Page children and their mother weeping in horror as they watched, Rusty Page held his daughter Lexi as she clung to him sobbing and crying, “I’m scared! Don’t let them take me away." Rusty told ABC 7, “At the end of the day, if I can't understand why they would take her, I can't explain it to my kids. We'll fight until I die."

And who can understand? Who can explain such cruelty?

Moving Lexi from her home is, in my opinion as a mother and grandmother, the worse decision that could be made for her. It could traumatize her for life. Most people get this. Thus it was amidst outrage and protests from supporters that the Los Angeles County Department of Children, Family Services officials and Lexi’s court-appointed attorney took this precious, scared little girl from the only people who had been parents to her since she was a toddler.

The Pages love Lexi—so much so that when she became attached, they decided to pursue adoption because they believed it was in her best interests. But that’s where it got sticky. With 1/64 Choctaw DNA, the ICWA makes it harder for Lexi to be adopted to non-Indian parents. Harder - but not impossible. And in this case, the Pages had every right to adopt Lexi. The judge could have granted it—even under ICWA. After all, the ICWA was created by Congress to "protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families" (25 U.S.C. § 1902).

Choctaw Nation also claims to want what is the “best for this Choctaw child.” But a look at the tragic scene as heartbroken Lexi is ripped away from her family—those who have nurtured and loved her most of her wee life—contradicts that statement. Looks more like child abuse than watching out for the child’s best interest.

The top ICWA attorney in the USA, Mark Fiddler, claims that the ICWA was horribly abused in this case. It would seem that the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and the Children’s Law Center (CLC) played very large roles in creating this heartbreaking situation.

Johnston Moore is an advocate for cases involving ICWA abuse. He is also a foster father with seven adopted children, two of which also have some Native-American DNA (four times more than Lexi). I asked Johnston some questions regarding Lexi’s case.

JD—Johnston, you and your beautiful family have seen several cases similar to Lexi’s. Have you seen success in getting them back to their loving foster-adopt families?

JM— I’ve seen success in many ways. The outpouring of support ensures the Pages that they are not alone in this. The growing outrage ensures that ICWA as applied is going to be under much closer scrutiny for some time to come. Washington has to take note. I think another success is that the Los Angeles County child welfare system is being exposed to a degree to be a terribly dysfunctional machine in which children’s best interests all too often take a back seat to politics or personal agendas. Hopefully that will lead to reform. Of course, the biggest success of all will be when Lexi is reunited with her family in California, and that is the main focus of my prayers through all of this.

JD—Aside of signing the petition on, what else can we do to help get Lexi back home?

JM— People can continue to put pressure on those that made this happen. DCFS and CLC cannot simply hide behind the court ruling and act as if they are innocent bystanders. They played very large roles in this saga and in my belief, worked together to orchestrate the ruling they wanted. People can also write or call their elected officials and demand that they take a fresh look at ICWA and the way it is being applied today. This must be fixed before it harms any other children. And, please visit and learn more about ICWA and how it is being misused to the detriment of innocent children, many of whom were never intended to be subject to the Act in the first place.

JD—Any more guidance or relevant tidbits of wisdom you can share with us that might help us grab hold of hope for Lexi and the Pages?

JM— Pray. We were told there was no way we could adopt our two sons when we had a similar ICWA battle in Los Angeles County back in 2001-2002. At one point, it looked like all hope was lost. Still, we believed we were supposed to continue to speak up for our sons, who seemingly had no voice (Proverbs 31:8). We did, people prayed, and miraculously, we won. Our sons are 21 and 20 now, and in spite of the doom that some ICWA proponents would argue most certainly should have come upon them, they have turned out quite well in our home. One even traveled to Minnesota with me last May to testify in front of the BIA in opposition to its new ICWA guidelines. It was a proud moment for me when he said that Congress did not have a right to dictate to him what his best interests were when it passed ICWA in 1978.

To help Lexi, please go to and sign the petition. And use social media to get others to sign. You can also go to Facebook , or Twitter. And to help the family with a donation, please click here. Also, visit Home Forever for more info and resources. 

Here’s a tweet you can steal: URGENT. Little girl heartbroken — ripped away from home. Sign petition to keep Lexi home:  @Change #keeplexihome

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves;ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice” (Proverbs 31:8 & 9, NLT).

Your voice counts. Please pray--and sign the petition for Lexi here

This article also appears in Assist News

Janey DeMeo M.A.

Copyright © March 2016