An Orphan Heart
Studies are replete linking gang involvement with children from dysfunctional families. Gangs prey on individuals who lack self-esteem, strong father figures, and family closeness.
Looking back, Maureen* agrees she fit the profile to a T. “I had such a longing in my heart for acceptance,” she shares.
* Her real name, used with permission.
An Orphan Heart
When Maureen was 14, her mother abandoned the family. As the oldest of three children, she was expected to assume all her mother’s responsibilities. Her father didn’t try to pull the family together: “He wasn’t emotionally strong or engaged.” Maureen remembers she dealt with her pain by drinking and doing drugs at parties.
While in college, the partying continued. Without direction and guidance from her father about making goals for her future, Maureen eagerly joined a gang when a friend introduced her. “I had an orphan heart, and the biker gang instantly became my family. I experienced the acceptance and loyalty they had for each other.”
She became Viggo’s “old lady” not long after committing to the gang. Being married to one of the leaders afforded her the privilege of being his property. Literally. It also meant none of the other men in the gang could mess with her, which was extremely helpful while he was in jail.
Second Class Citizens
I asked Maureen to describe a woman’s role in the gang. She said, “We were treated like second class citizens. We had to have jobs to cover up the money coming in from the gang member’s illegal activities. Any time we were out, the women were forced to carry the drugs and weapons. If anything happened with the police, we would be the ones going to jail. I saw women get beat all the time.”
She remembers the time one of the gang members was attacked by a rival gang, leaving knife gashes all over his body. The gash in his head where they tried to scalp him sent a strong message to Maureen that gang life was much more dangerous than she’d imagined.
The daily violence she saw and experienced made her want to get out of the gang, but she didn’t know how.
A few weeks after the near scalping, Viggo told Maureen they had been ordered to go to Texas to deal with a rival gang there.
The violence that had been at arm’s length suddenly became very real for Maureen the night she was shot by the rival gang. The warnings to only use a lit match at night to see instead of using the light switch were not adhered to, only because her brain was fuzzy at 2am. Gunfire from M16 rifles lit up her house the moment she turned on the bedroom light.
“In the early morning hours, several members of the rival gang opened fire on the house we were staying in. I was standing in the doorway facing the front windows of the house when the shooting started. Silhouetted by the light, they took aim at me. When the first shots rang out, I was hit immediately in my left arm. I felt a burning sensation where my left arm had been blown apart. This arm crossed over my heart at the time of the bullet’s impact. I don’t remember being thrown by the impact, but by the time I hit the floor, another bullet lodged in my right thigh. I fell face forward on the floor. The shooting continued. I could not move.”
When questioned at the hospital, she told the police her husband did not shoot her. Even though she knew who had opened fire on her house, she told them she had no idea who was responsible. The fear of retaliation by the rival gang was more ominous than not giving the police the information they requested.
Viggo rarely visited her during her six months at the hospital, leaving her completely dependent on the nursing staff. A body cast, a bone graft, metal rods, and several surgeries later, Maureen called her father to transport her back home to New Jersey to start the healing process. The following year she would go through intensive rehabilitation therapy.
Her Turning Point
During her year of therapy, Maureen had plenty of time to reflect on the choices she’d made and the consequences that came as a result of those choices. She decided, “I am going to have a new life. I will cut all ties to the gang.”
A close friend of hers became a Christian and invited Maureen to church. The testimonials Maureen heard at her friend’s church penetrated her hardened heart. Her turning point came when she cried out to God, “If you can do these things for others, I believe you can do it for me. I’m giving my life to you.”
She desperately wanted healing for the broken places in her life and heart, and she believed God could help her. Her addiction to marijuana and pain killers dissolved. Facing her shame, anger, and fear were the first of many steps in her healing. “I learned low self-esteem is the root of not knowing God. He took me just as I was and loved me. He molded me into who He wanted me to be,” she shares.
Maureen’s desire to turn away from her brokenness led her to make positive changes in her life. Going to college this time meant earning a degree in recreational therapy and meeting a godly man who would become her husband. Maureen and Tom have been married for 32 years. They have two daughters and a grandson.
Maureen’s passions include On Eagles Wings Ministries and Sufficient Grace Outreach. Both ministries give her opportunities to counsel women who are involved in sex trafficking. “I can help them, because I understand their situation and how they feel trapped,” she shares.
Maureen’s web site Out of the Brokenness provides encouragement to Christ followers, as well as information about gangs and sex trafficking.
Maureen is grateful for every day. She doesn’t ever want to forget what she overcame. She still has struggles as a result of the violence she experienced – her right leg is two inches shorter than her left leg, so she has to wear special shoes. Because of the trauma to her right leg, she has had her knee and ankle replaced. She is unable to bend her left arm. Her left wrist and fingers are twisted, limiting her range of motion – BUT she firmly believes God takes our mess and shows His glory through it.
I couldn’t agree with you more, Maureen!
Share with me: Two of Maureen’s favorite books are God Loves Broken People by Sheila Walsh and Beauty for Ashes by Joyce Meyer. The right book at the right time can be powerful in helping you through a struggle. How do these two titles reflect the journey Maureen has been/is still on?