NEW PORT RICHEY – The doorbell rang shortly after 11 p.m. on a Sunday, and the Rev. William “Rusty Boles Jr. got out of bed to answer the door.
It was a man and a woman from church. They were crying.
He invited them inside, sat them down on the couch and offered them a drink.
They told him their story.
A few days before, the couples five children, ages 2 to 11, had been sexually molested by their stepgrandfather in their Hudson home.
The parents said they walked in on their children and the man in the bedroom.
The mother called the sheriff’s office to have him arrested, but there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute, they said they were told, so the case was dropped.
The family had heard about Boles’ ministry for sexually abused children from friends and members of Pasco’s tightly knit evangelical community.
They didn’t know where else to turn.
They had heard the reverend could help them.
They had heard he would listen.
And he did.
‘We showed them love,” Boles said. ‘We showed them a path to healing.’
The victims come to him with tales of incest, molestation and rape.
They write letters and leave messages detailing the horrifying encounters to Boles and his wife, Linda. They show up on the Boleses’ doorstep in the middle of the night.
He welcomes them into his New Port Richey home, listens to their stories, offers help from state- certified counselors who he pays out of his own pocket.
Above all, though, he teaches them about Jesus.
‘When a child is sexually molested, their whole life is taken away from them,” he said. “Ws an emptiness that can only be filled by spirituality. By GOd.
Boles started his Crosswaver Christian Ministry nearly six years ago. Since then, his flock has grown as word of his work has spread.
He doesn’t preach sermons or hold Sunday services, and his followers come from a multitude of Christian backgrounds: Catholics, Baptists, Methodists and Lutherans.
This is a church without walls.
There are no pews to pray from, no altar from which to give bread and wine. He visits people at their homes, at work or wherever the Lord’s work calls him.
‘We preach right out of the Bible,” he said “That’s God’s plan.”
His dream is to build a shelter for sexually abused children on four wooded acres he bought in Hudson.
The nondenominational ministry is one of a growing number of religious groups across the country working with victims of sexual abuse and their families.
Increasingly, the mom-and-pop ministries are reaching out into communities, providing counseling for mental-health problems and alcohol and drug addictions.
Their message is simple: Conventional methods of psychotherapy, medication and self- improvement books are only part of the process for healing the wounded.
Many of them work with doctors, psychologists and health care groups – some donate their services – who care for patients in a Christian-based environment.
“Our belief is that an individual is made up of three parts: the body, the soul and the spirit,” said Jose Suarez, who with his wife runs Hope Youth Ranch in Hudson, a state-funded, faith-based residential facility for abused children.
“Psychology deals with the mind; but nobody wants to deal with the soul.”
Boles, 56, with wisps of thin blond hair, wrestles with his own demons.
He talks of being sexually assaulted by an older man as a child growing up in North Carolina. It was someone he knew, someone he trusted, the way it usually is.
He remembers it now. He wishes he couldnt.
As Boles grew older, the memory of that event – the old man, the dark bathroom, the loss of his innocence on a sweltering summer day – faded into nothing. He forgot.
Years later, married with two children, his life began to fall apart. The memory of abuse was returning. He couldn’t handle it.
So he turned to the bottle, but that didn’t work. He withdrew from family and friends and spent day after day out on his fishing boat.
He abandoned his God.
The nightmares kept getting worse, the memories more vivid. He recalled thinking about the proverbial walls of Jericho tumbling down around him.
Then he learned that his daughter had been Sexually assaulted by another teenager. His ex-wife told him it was consensual. He knew otherwise.
The realization that he couldn’t protect her was overwhelming.
“It broke my heart,’ he said.
That’s when he had a vision. It was the children. They needed protection. They needed Christ.
9 opened my heart to the Lord’s healing powers,” Boles said. “He saved me.”
And now he tries to save children, with God’s guidance.
Rising From The Junk Pile
It has been several months since Boles and his legions of volunteers got down to work at the Hudson property.
A local architect has offered to design the center and get county building permits. Others have volunteered muscles and machinery to remove abandoned cars, trucks and piles of debris.
Much progress has been made.
But money is a problem. He has tried to get funding from state and federal agencies, but none would help his ministry.
When President Bush signed legislation in 2001 creating a branch of the federal government to work on “faith-based initiatives,” many in the state’s religious community thought it would mean a windfall in funding.
The reality is, when it comes to doling out billions of federal dollars for charitable causes, God takes a back seat to the demands of the secular world.
Most, if not all, government grants require that a nonprofit organization not be actively engaged in proselytizing the people they are trying to help.
“The funds can’t be used for church-related activities,’ said Suarez of Hope Youth Ranch. “And if you’re using those funds for counseling, it can’t be based on the word of God.”
Boles found that out when he sought money to build his Hudson retreat.
Even private corporations don’t want to help religious organizations like mine,’ he said. “In my work, Jesus has to come first. I believe that’s the only way to help children.”
So he relies on volunteers from churches like Calvary Chapel Worship Center in New Port Richey, cash donations and his trusty Dodge pickup.
“That little truck has moved it all,” he said. “It’s a miracle.”
Every weekend, he climbs into the old pickup with “Jesus Freed Me” emblazoned on the passenger side window, gathers his flock and heads to the property.
Strangers hear about what he’s trying to do and offer to help him.
“They just stop by the side of the road and ask what they can do,” he said.
“The Lord has blessed us.”
With dMne guidance and help from his supporters, Boles will build the center. For the children.
For his family.
And for God.
Reporter Christian M. Wade can be reached at (727) 815-1082 or cwadetampatrib.com.