The newly-released Millenial Orphan (Broadstreet Publishing) by Levi Gideon Shepherd is a heart-breaking poignant portrait of God’s redemption while growing up in Kansas City and the failure of the Missouri Social Services system. Levi was raised by a single mom in the rough parts of East Kansas City. After overcoming cancer, his mom died, sending him into a life of chaos, betrayal and abuse. Abandoned by his family, Levi went through a string of abusive foster homes and psychiatric hospitals. His dream of becoming a paratrooper for the U.S. Army was shattered by a medical discharge.
With no hope and tormenting voices of pain, Levi spiralled into a life of becoming a gang leader. There were a few bright lights along the way with adults who saw through the pain and torment in his soul. Mrs. Boyden and Officer Jon Chapman rescued him from his abusive foster father. Ozanam, a treatment center for children with psychiatric disorders, brought several caring adults into his life who saw through the pattern of abuse that sent him into psychiatric care.
What’s disturbing is how the state of Missouri’s social services department let him stay in these abusive homes.
“After that first blow that night by the barbecue, the gloves came off. There was something – from somewhere in his past – that rose like a malovent demon. Perhaps I was a reminder of wrongs done to him in his past or wrongs he’d done to others, because my very presence in that house set him off. From a constant barrage of derogatory swear words aimed my way to random blows, whatever was lurking in his heart found an outlet on me.” p. 94
Levi’s grades spiraled under the constant abuse and torture. He learned that his tormentor was once a youth minister who lost his credentials after trying to molest a boy. This was the second “Christian” in his life who abused him. The first Christian was a woman who taught Sunday School. The shocking revelations of his tormentor’s record caused him to distrust the system that was suppose to protect him.
“Now it all began to make sense. I was a teenage boy, and I must have reminded him of his past, a past he so desparately wanted to hide. But why in the world had the foster care system let him be a parent? I concluded that that they must have not known – or worse, they didn’t care.” (p. 97)
Levi is sent to Ozanam after attempting to run away from his abuser. Mr. Redding, a counselor, learns about Levi’s situation and asks Social Services to change Levi’s placement. Social Services ignores Mr. Redding’s request and Levi is sent back to live with his abuser.
Mr. Redding is the first person besides his mother and grandparents, to show him unconditional love.
“Mr. Redding was the only person who ‘got’ me, and God used him to save my life.” (p. 107)
I couldn’t put the book down, and you won’t be able to either. Levi shares his story with compassion for children and teenagers living in the same chaotic mess who wonder if God cares. He sees the love of God through the people who bring relief in hard circumstances. Everyone who cares about children and teenagers should read this book.