by Casey Bonham
Raised in a catholic household, 6th in a brood of 8 children and living in California was life as Tim Ekno knew it. The trajectory of his life was drastically re-routed in at the age of 12 after he experienced the unthinkable while attending boarding school.
Tim spent a total of 3 years at a boarding school in Los Angeles County at-the direction of his parents who were searching for what they thought was the best way to address Tim’s unruly behavior. While at this Catholic boarding school, Tim encountered evil on a level inexplicable and unfathomable.
Today, Tim Ekno is a cherished husband to wife of 38 years, Vanessa, proud father of 4 beautiful children, grandfather to 4, Pastor of Faith Bible Church in Boerne and survivor. He has lead a life of extensive missionary work throughout Asia while leading a congregation of non-denominational believers in Christ and been a pinnacle of the community for the last 7 years. From the outside in, Tim fits the part, looks the part (with a little extra spunk) and presents himself with transparency and endless knowledge in faith, community, love and personal growth. His tall slender build and magnetizing personality captivate believers with ease and transform even the non-believing leapers of Sri Lanka.
His experience is one shared by many but rarely talked about, yet his story is a phenomenal example of survivorship, insight and rebirth. The details of Tim’s survivorship are being shared in hopes of destigmatizing victimization and provide hope, guidance and encouragement to those who have endured similar abuse.
“As a 12 year old boy, I thought I was doing something that made him to choose me to molest. Of all the boys there, why me? But as I got older I began to think he was really molesting many more boys than just me,” Tim recounts his 3 year stent living and suffering at the hands of a Brother Pacheco at a boarding school.
“At one point I decided to tell my parents and distinctively remember my mother telling me ‘Catholic priests don’t do that’. So I tried to put it in the back of my mind”. He was somewhat successful in suppressing away for many years. However, his Junior year of high school Tim had returned home and was unapologetically on a mission to prove his sexuality in an effort to overcome the damage and ruminating questions stuffed in the depths of his mind. His sexual prowess was later accompanied by explosive, irrational anger.
While in college Tim met his wife Vanessa, a story of infamy and favored by his congregation who also adore and are warmed by the spirit of Vanessa. “I really wanted to go out with her and finally got her to agree, but on the second date she said to me ‘Look, I’m sorry but I can’t date you. You are not Christian.” Tim was flabbergasted, he was Catholic and convinced of his security in Christianity. Nevertheless, Tim’s love struck senses motivated him to go to church with Vanessa. From that point, his journey through survivorship began to shape and manifest in ways his family could have never predicted. And around 1980, in church with his soon to be bride, a seed was planted, “I heard a message of forgiveness.”
A year later, Tim and Vanessa got married, Tim built a successful career in commercial lending and they began to start a family. On the outside looking in Tim’s family, career, marriage and life appeared to be favored, but on the inside there was a tornado of “explosive anger over the smallest most trivial things” touching down periodically and reeking havoc on his marriage and family. Vanessa tolerated and she and Tim engaged in counseling for years to work through the rage devastating their lives. It was after a particular explosion when Tim knew he had to take action to address what he knew would persist and damage. He called a dear and trusted friend in Denver who had served as a counselor and mentor to him and Vanessa over the years, “I told him I needed to do something about my anger and asked if he would meet with me. He agreed and I flew out the next day.” In the basement of his friend and counselors house they prayed and Tim’s friend called on the expertise of the one entity he knew would lead them both to aid in Tim’s healing. He asked the Lord to show Tim what was behind his anger and Tim’s answer was made clear: the molestation. “Lord, what do you want Tim to do about his anger?” Tim was met with an obstacle beyond expectation: he must forgive. Tim’s response to this was an absolute, predictable, “Hell no, I am not forgiving that man.” With all sincerity Tim’s friend responded, “Then you are going to continue to be angry, is that what you want?” The path to healing had been made clear. At the age of 40 and more than 25 years later the name of his perpetrator flew out of Tim’s mouth in a plea to seek forgiveness for what had been done to him. “For all those years I thought if I forgave the Brother Pacheco then I was saying what had been done to me was okay.”
So began Tim’s journey, years after he heard that message of forgiveness in church with Vanessa as a 20 something. Here he was in his 40’s, facing what he knew he had to do to save his marriage, family and himself from a life of victimization manifesting as a rage hidden in the depths of his being, “During my journey to true forgiveness I began to understand what power forgiveness truly had in my life. It was a release of the debt of how they (perpetrator and his parents) wronged me, not an acceptance of what had been done to me.”
After returning from Denver, one of Tim’s brother’s called him, a very uncommon occurrence, and just as one might ask, “What’s for dinner?” his brother ask him “ Were you molested while you were at boarding school by Brother Pacheco?” Much to Tim’s dismay, other victims had come forward with allegations of abuse while at the same boarding school and were looking to proceed with an investigation and hopeful prosecution. As the investigation developed, it was discovered Brother Pacheco had passed away from an AIDS related illness and would not therefore face the earthly consequences so many victims require to move forward with healing. What came out of Tim’s mouth next was beyond conceivable, “When I found out of his death I grieved for him and knew there had been a change in me.”
“We live and grow up in a fallen world and most all of us, unfortunately, suffer some kind of trauma at the hands of another. We act out in unfathomable ways, thinking it will hurt the perpetrator and until we come to a place where we can truly forgive we engage in a re-wounding that spreads to those we love,” in this case it was Tim’s family. He was determined to transform his story of being a victim into a story of victory. In order to preserve those he loved most, Tim sought and found liberation from the effects of his abuse.
As a clinical social worker and therapist, I have been charged with becoming fluent in the treatment of trauma. I have worked with hundreds of clients who have been victimized in countless, grotesque ways. My arsenal of therapeutic techniques and treatment modalities have clinical validity and reliability but in no book or training have I ever been trained to coach people on how to forgive, yet, I know there endless is liberation in it only because it is the hardest possible skill to master.
Tim’s ‘rebirth’ into a life of victory has provided him with divine purpose and peace. He continues to find healing working with others and having a positive impact on those who suffer. True to fashion, life threw another curve ball. Tim was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease a few years ago after a long and arduous stent of medical testing and questioning. Once diagnosed, Tim’s outlook shifted further and he knew his journey of forgiveness would need to include his parents. By this time, the extent of abuse was an open topic within Tim’s family. His father was the first to reach out and provide insight, “We thought we were doing what was best for you.” Understanding his father’s perspective was one thing, but his mother’s struggle forced a gut wrenching response, “It really couldn’t have been that bad.”
Such a jarring response is often similar to what many victims of abuse are faced with when coming forward to parents, particularly in situations such as this. But Tim did not let this impede his journey to forgiveness, “I knew she just couldn’t cope with the idea that she had put her child in place where he was so horrifically violated. So I was going to have to work through reconciling that notion on my own.” Sadly, Tim’s mother suffered the fate of Alzheimer’s disease and later died before he could receive the condolence he so much wanted from her. Nevertheless, he continued on his path to heal, forgive and evolve in his rebirth. His evolution resulted in a deep understanding of how his rage for so many years effected his family, particularly his children, “I wrote them letters asking for forgiveness for my behavior, really talking to them about their experience as child in the midst of my anger. I learned so much and was grateful for the opportunity to tell them I was sorry and acknowledge what I had put them through was not okay.”
The suffrage one endures at the hand of abuse whether as a child or adult is immeasurable. There are many who live as victims, accepting the fate of a life filled with anger, promiscuity, addiction or even abuse of others not knowing the shackles that bind them can be broken. This holiday season we are reminded of the birth of Christ in the midst of family, blessings, indulgence, privilege and joy. For many, making memories and celebrating is jaded and masked with the demons of pain and holding on to life as a victim. Tim’s transparency regarding his journey is intended to be a gift to those who also may be suffering. It is our wish this holiday season for anyone seeking refuge from victimization to experience victory through ‘rebirth’ and receive one of the greatest gift of all this season, a life of liberation and peace.