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Couple learns to heal their own pain by helping others

Who could hurt an innocent child? Most people have difficulty imagining the scenario and don’t want to think about acts that could affect the quality of a child’s life long into adulthood. Unfortunately, child abuse is an evil that must be dealt with in society.

According to Childhelp.org and information garnered from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Children are suffering from a hidden epidemic of child abuse and neglect. Every year more than 3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States involving more than 6 million children (a report can include multiple children). The United States has one of the worst records among industrialized nations — losing on average between four and seven children every day to child abuse and neglect.”

A couple in the area has dealt with the painful reality of sexual abuse in their own family. They fought a battle of rage, disbelief and confusion over the despicable acts of abuse perpetrated on their own children. When their journey finally brought them to a place of healing and restoration, they decided to reach out to help other families.

Stephen and Cathy Edwards lived a quiet life on their ranch in Pearl River County, Mississippi. They envisioned grandchildren fishing in the pond and enjoying bonfires on cool evenings. Life was good, and they thought the horrible events of a few years ago were behind them.

But when one of the Edwards’ adult daughters started having flashbacks of her abuse, the Edwards were disillusioned and discouraged. They realized more healing needed to take place in their own family. Cathy Edwards cried out to God in her grief and pain asking how He could ever turn this situation into something good.

She slowly began to envision their 85-acre ranch transformed into a place where children and families could come for help. Much research and prayer went into the plans for what was to become the “Garden of Eden.”

When asked about the name Cathy Edwards replied, “Abuse is never God’s plan for anyone, but He can restore and heal people who have been hurt in this way. The original Garden of Eden was a place of beauty and wholeness. Our goal is for people to experience beauty and wholeness through creation and Biblical teaching. No one is beyond the reach of the Savior.”

Upon learning about a ranch in Oklahoma that uses rescue animals in therapy for abused children, the Edwards embraced the idea. Animal therapy, gardening, fishing and a support group are currently available.

Edwards said, “Sexual abuse tends to steal a childhood. Children and families need to relax in a safe place and learn to have fun again. They need to know that no matter what has happened, with God’s help they can recover and overcome the emotional scars left by abuse.”

The Garden of Eden is a 501(c) 3 not for profit organization. For more information or to volunteer, contact Stephen or Cathy Edwards at 601-749-0836 or 504-301-5223.