Pastoral Counseling

PAGE

9

A Case Study on Crossroads: A Story of Forgiveness

By

Dr. Gary P. Stewart

A Case Study prepared for

Introduction to Pastoral Counseling

PACO 500

Liberty University

Lynchburg, VA

June 21, 2008

INTRODUCTION

This case study is loosely based on a true story of a family, which is thrown into the torment of living through the aftermath of an avoidable accident that took the lives of two of it members. As you read through the story, make mental notes on each of the primary characters: Bruce, Josh and Brody. You will be asked to provide a counseling scenario for one of these three protagonists or central characters. Your responsibility is to assign a presenting attitude or position (an attitude with which the client will enter counseling) to the client around whom you will create the Counseling Structure/Strategy in your paper. The three attitudes or positions are: Willing, Blaming and Attending. Once the attitude or position is established, you will work through the four sessions/phases (P1-P4) with the client.

THE FAMILY

The Murakamis are an upper middle class family who live in a single-family home in the suburbs of a prosperous midsize city in California. Bruce and Cindy are the parents of two sons (Josh, 19 and Brody, 15) and an adopted daughter (Chelsea, 11). They are a Christian family who is active in church, known to those primarily within each member’s economic and social strata, and would be considered a caring and functional family by those who know them best.

Bruce and Cindy

Bruce is the owner of the Murakami Construction Company. Business is good but jobs are at a premium. This economic state of affairs forces Bruce to focus on getting and maintaining contracts so that his crews not only stay busy, but have a steady income for the care of their families. A steady income for him is also a concern. His wife, Cindy, of twenty-one years is a stay-at-home mom, which means that the family relies on him for financial stability. He and his wife are extremely close and the addition of their adopted daughter, Chelsea, seems to have completed their family. Josh is in his first year in college. Although he has a partial scholarship, the expenses of college are still a pinch on the family income. The result of this financial responsibility is less time with the family. However, at this point in the family’s life, Bruce’s focus on the economic wellbeing of his family, though noticeable, has not caused any extraordinary pressure on the family’s interpersonal relationships. The reason: mom takes up the emotional slack with her active nurturing style and close relationships with children.

Josh

Bruce and Cindy’s firstborn, Josh, is 19 years old and in his freshman year of college. He is respectful of his parents, academically above average, and is dating a girl with whom he has a healthy and supportive relationship. People tend to see Josh as more mature than his age. He is an academic-minded young man who possesses his father’s love for business. Josh demonstrates no resentment toward his father’s business or the demands that it requires to be successful. He loves his mother and welcomes and enjoys the presence of his adopted sister. Though he is not now at home, Josh was a good big brother to Brody.

Brody

A small statured freshman in high school and interested in music much more than athletics, Brody relies heavily on those closest to him for approval or acceptance. Though a family friend of his mother (Melissa) is more like an aunt to Brody, his mother remains his primary source of stability and praise and his little sister is the free spirit and “full of joy” influence in his life. Both mom and Chelsea love to hear Brody’s creative skills on the keyboard, which is his place of solitude, calm, and reflection. With Mom and Chelsea around, he receives the support that he needs. While he deeply wishes he could get more attention from his dad and knows that Josh cannot give the attention now that he once did, Brody and his father, who is busy in business and has no ear or real interest in music, are able to avoid much conflict that would, otherwise, rise to the surface. Brody is not as self-confident or reliant as his brother, Josh. While Josh is able to focus on what he needs to do to move ahead in life, Brody requires more attention and support.

Chelsea

Adopted from a Korean family when she was four, she has been a joyous addition to the Murakami family for seven years. Chelsea and her new family were united in every way. Even Brody, who could have seen Chelsea as a threat to his mother’s attention, gradually welcomed her and the love that she enthusiastically showed him.

THE ACCIDENT

It is late afternoon on a beautiful spring day. At the worksite, Bruce and his crew is concerned about losing the contract on the building with which they are presently engaged. Bruce consoles the crew and then, while in his truck on his way home, contacts the buyer to determine whether or not he received the bank’s approval for funds that allow the job to continue. The buyer tells Bruce that it looks like the funding is going to continue, but he does not have the final word, yet should know within a half hour or so. It is about 4:00! Bruce arrives home and finds Chelsea having a tremendous time jumping on the backyard trampoline. Briefly, the two exchange niceties and a quick kiss and Bruce continues into the kitchen where Cindy is preparing to leave to pick up a few things at the Mall before serving dinner at 6:00. They embrace and Bruce tells Cindy that he needs to go to the bank to see the buyer about bank funding. Cindy calls Chelsea in from the back yard and tells Bruce that she and Chelsea will be back in an hour.

“The food is cooking in the oven and will be ready for a 6:00 dinner. Will you be back?”

Bruce assures her that he will.

“Brody!” Cindy calls upstairs to where Brody is playing his keyboard. “Chelsea and I are going to the Mall. We’ll be back in an hour; dinner is at six!”

Okay, mom! When you get back, I would like you to listen to this music that I’ve been working on. I think it is pretty good and would like you to tell me what you think.”

“I am sure it is wonderful, Brody. I can’t wait to hear it. Is after dinner a good time?”

You bet mom! Be careful out there! Hey, dad! Would you be able to listen as well?”

As Bruce follows Cindy and Chelsea out the door, he leans back in. “I’ll try Brody, but I may need to talk with my project manage about the building I am working on. We’ll have to see, Brody.”

Quietly Brody, while turning back into his room, says, “I guess it will be just mom and Chelsea.”

Bruce gives Cindy and Chelsea each a kiss as they get into the van and begin backing out of the drive. As Bruce starts to get into his truck, the phone rings. It is the buyer who tells Bruce that the bank has approved the extra funds to continue the project. With Cindy and Chelsea heading to the Mall, Bruce determines that he has time to get back to the worksite before 5:00 to let the workers know that the contract has been extended. They will sleep easier and not have to burden their families if they know that the job is continuing. Bruce’s drive will now take him past the Mall to which Cindy and Chelsea are heading.

He decides to inform Cindy of the great news. Chelsea answers the phone. “Hi Dad!”

“Hello Chelsea! Answering mom’s phone again, huh?”

“You don’t want mom talking on the phone and driving at the same …..” The phone is disconnected. Bruce redials but there is no answer. As Bruce gets closer to the Mall, he hears sirens from any number of emergency vehicles. Then he notices the bellowing of black smoke a couple of blocks in front of him. As he draws even closer, he notices that the burning vehicle appears to be a van. He pulls to the side of the street, leaves his vehicle and begins running toward the accident. As his worst fear becomes more and more evident, the vehicle explodes sending a violent concussion and burning heat in all directions. Bruce is stopped in his tracks stunned by the realization that his wife and daughter could be dead. He frantically runs around to witnesses and arriving police asking if they saw anyone get away from the vehicle. It is painfully clear that hope was not an option onto which he could hold. Cindy and Chelsea were gone.

THE CAUSE OF THE ACCIDENT

Initially, the investigation found that eyewitness reports were contradictory. Without clear evidence, the accident report concluded that Cindy had failed to signal before making a left turn into the Mall. An oncoming motorist, unable to stop, ran into the front right side of the car, which spun the car and caused it to overturn and eventually explode. The report showed, with some certainty that Chelsea was killed on impact, but was uncertain as to the time of Cindy’s death. This initially and obviously caused the family an increase in emotional and mental suffering. Nonetheless, Bruce and Josh were especially concerned with the accuracy of the report. Their mother was the most cautious driver whom they had known.

“Mom, not use a turn signal! Impossible. She was constantly on us about being attentive and driving safely. There is no way that she failed to use a turn signal.”

Unconvinced about the findings of the investigation, Bruce started looking for a high-powered attorney, whom he once noted in a local news story was a stickler for getting to the bottom of issues that could undermine justice. Bruce was determined to acquire the talents of this determined lawyer, whose schedule was anything but light. Eventually, because of Bruce’s unwillingness to relent, she and her staff began investigating the accident. Through revisiting eyewitness reports and finding previously unviewed surveillance material, the lawyer was able to determine that the accident was not the result of failing to signal properly, but due to teenage street racers using local streets to challenge the power of one another’s cars. The evidence showed that Cindy and Chelsea’s vehicle was hit by a car moving at 80 miles per hour, which explained the severity and fatal nature of the impact. Charges were immediately filed against Justin Gutierrez (an 18 year old high school senior). He pled not guilty!

THE TRIAL

Bruce’s anger was somewhat more than simply wanting justice. He wanted justice on a person whom he assumed or imagined would be guilty of such a crime. You know the type: anti-social, long-haired, rebellious leather jacketed drug abusing high school dropout. When he saw the “killer” of his wife and daughter for the first time at the arraignment, Justin was anything but what expected. The only thing that could have upset him was that he pled not guilty. Justin looked just like one of his own kids and his mother and father seemed like replicas of Cindy and him. Bruce was in emotional turmoil, but continued with the trial—though his prejudice was uncovered, justice was still an issue.

Justin’s plea of not guilty was initially a response to his lawyer attempting to limit the degree of punishment that his client might receive. However, eventually, Justin’s conscience got the best of him. Since the accident, his mind and heart had been relentlessly tormented by the consequence of his actions. His foolishness had killed two people. He knew that he was guilty and convinced his parents to go along with his decision to change his plea. Not only was the evidence strong, but equally as strong was the conviction in Justin’s heart. As Bruce watched this young man take responsibility for had happened, his heart began to change. In time, the sorrow and repentance that he saw in Justin and the turmoil in his parents was equal to the justice that he wanted melded out. To the surprise of the attorneys, the judge and his own children, Bruce decided to forgive the teenager for killing his wife and daughter. However, he still wanted a consequence placed on Justin that he thought would not only be sufficient for Justin but would also have a lasting influence on the community at large. Bruce talked with Justin and his parents to determine if Justin would join him in providing seminars in local high schools discussing the dangers of teenage street racing. After much soul-searching, Justin agreed, and with the approval of the presiding judge, Justin was awarded penalties related to his reckless driving and permitted to accompany Bruce on training seminars and local schools in lieu of a prison term.

THE REACTION OF JOSH AND BRODY

We have noted the reaction of Bruce to the accident and subsequent trial. Now, we will briefly discuss the reactions of Josh and Brody to these two events.

Josh’s Reaction

Josh and his girlfriend immediately came home from college upon news of his mother’s and sister’s deaths. He remained home for approximately two weeks. Unable to say goodbye to his father, he told his mother’s friend, Melissa, to let Bruce know that he needed to get back to college for midterms and that he would call when they were completed. Bruce took this well. Melissa suggested that Josh found it difficult to say goodbye because he equated this term with the emotion he experienced saying goodbye to his mother and sister during the funerals. Josh simply wanted to get back to his schedule and move on the best he could; however, he did remain interested in the trial.

Josh believed that justice was required and wanted the young teen punished. But he also trusted his father to deal with the situation properly. Josh was supportive when he learned that his father decided to forgive Justin and have him travel to local schools to share the consequences of street racing. This would not bring his mother and sister back, but it would bring some closure or fortunate circumstance from an unfortunate and tragic accident.

Brody

Just after Josh went back to college, Brody left home and went to see Josh at his college. Brody and his father were not seeing “eye to eye” on anything. Everything that Brody would share with his mother or do with his sister was gone and Bruce was now busy with his business and “quest” for justice, which meant that dad would have even less time to think about Brody’s life and needs. Brody told Josh that he felt invisible and was merely pretending to be alive. He felt unnoticed and, subsequently, unwanted. There was no one home with whom he could share the interests of his heart, especially his music. When his mother and sister, Brody died with them. He would have preferred to die rather than to be alive without them. Concerned about Brody and his father’s relationship, Josh called his father and told him what Brody was experiencing. Bruce dropped everything and went to pick up Brody.

Brody also felt that the trial was a waste of time. Justice was not going to replace his mother and sister; in fact, the only consequence of the trial and his dad’s traveling around with the killer of his mother and sister is even less time with dad. Though his father had done an amazing thing in forgiving Justin, his action did nothing to show his commitment and love for Brody, and this is what Brody needed now more than ever before. One could almost say that Brody not only lost his mother and sister, he was in the process of completely losing his father.

CONCLUSION

At some point in this story, you (the pastoral counselor) are asked to see one of these three protagonists. Possibly the family friend has encouraged one of the characters to come and see you or one has willingly come to ask for counsel. It is your decision to decide how you want the client to come to you, how you will counsel the client, and at what point you will enter this tragedy: just after the accident, during the trial, or after the trial. You are to apply the assumptions and principles of Solution-Focused Counseling, the Hawkins’ Pastoral Assessment Model (and/or the Rice Multi-Faceted Adaptation of the Hawkins’ Model), and Hawkins’ Counseling Scenario to your P1-P4 sessions. Please locate the Final Project Instructions on Blackboard. The path to these instructions is: ABOUT YOUR COURSE/Course Overview and Guide/Essential Elements/Final Project Instructions and Grading Guidelines. Please follow these instructions carefully.

Please note the formatting of this case study. It is written in this manner to assist you in formatting your Final Project correctly. Absent are the appendices, which should be single-spaced, though I hope you will organize the appendices with proper section titles or headings. Supporting material for this true story may be viewed at the following web sites:

http://www.theamericanstoryteller.com/story-details.cfm?story=137 ;

http://www.theamericanstoryteller.com/story-details.cfm?story=138 ;

http://www.touchedby.com/ ; and http://www.safeteendriver.org/aboutus.htm . If you are able to view a copy of this Hallmark Production, watching the Bonus Features will generate an even deeper appreciation for this case study

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Harrison, John K., 2007. Crossroads: A Story of Forgiveness. Hallmark Hall of Fame

Productions, Inc.

Hawkins, Ron, 2008. The Pastoral Counseling Scenario, Part 3. Lynchburg, VA:

Liberty University PowerPoint Presentation in PACO 500: Introduction to

Pastoral Counseling.

Kollar, Charles A., 1997. Solution-Focused Pastoral Counseling: An Effective Short-

Term Approach for Getting People Back on Track. Grand Rapids, MI:

Zondervan.

� John K. Harrison, 2007. Crossroads: A Story of Forgiveness (Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions, Inc.). Details have been added to this story to help with the counseling purposes outlined in the lectures and presentations in this PACO 500.

� Charles A. Kollar, 1997. Solution-Focused Pastoral Counseling: An Effective Short-Term Approach for Getting People Back on Track (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan), 86-89, 93.

� Ron Hawkins, 2008. The Pastoral Counseling Scenario, part 3 (Lynchburg, VA: Liberty University PowerPoint Presentation for PACO 500), slides 4-8. The path to this presentation is: Course Content; Module/Week Two; Instructor’s Notes; The Hawkins Pastoral Counseling Scenario; Part 3.ppt.

 

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