A Dozen Daughters: My Mother’s Other Family

Longenecker family portrait circa 1961: Mark, Marian, Janice, Jean with parents
Longenecker family portrait circa 1961: Mark, Marian, Janice, Jean with parents

This is the family I grew up in: my parents Ray and Ruth with my two sisters and one brother. But after I left home and eventually married, my parents had more children. No, my mother was not a modern-day Sarah. She didn’t have babies in old age. But in their early sixties, Mother and Daddy “adopted” another set of children, about a dozen daughters in all, through an agency called New Life for Girls.

Because they entered my parents’ lives after I left home, I never felt jealous of them. They were simply unknown to me, mysterious. Oh, I did meet two of them, Gloria and Julie. They came to see my mother when she visited her first two grandsons born in Chicago in 2003. By then these girls both had grown children of their own.

Gloria’s Story

Gloria grew up in inner city Chicago with an alcoholic father who beat her mother and more than once tried to choke her with a dog chain. Her mother, single now with 8 children to feed, had to go to work. Alone in the world, Gloria turned to drugs and men, looking for love. She set her sights on rich men, men she hoped would take care of her. But the rich men were users, drug dealers or worse. Not surprisingly, Gloria became pregnant at age 14.

One day an evangelist named Brother Raymond, came into Gloria’s neighborhood. She responded to this kind man’s message of salvation and made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. Though her heart had changed, Gloria’s life didn’t get any easier. Several times she slid back into her old ways and had more babies out of wed-lock. The hard times made her harder. She became tough as nails, always looking for a fight.

Finally, Brother Raymond suggested a way out. “There is an agency called New Life for Girls in Pennsylvania that might help you get your life on track. To enter their program though you would have to agree to their rules and stick by them. Also, your children would be staying in a separate facility.”

Gloria: “Oh no, I can’t be separated from my children!”

Brother Raymond: “Well, then we’ll try to find a host family for you, so that on weekends you can visit with them in a nice Christian home in the country.”

And that’s how my parents’ lives intersected with Gloria’s.

Weekends with the Longeneckers

Gloria was looking for an anchor and she found one in her weekend visits to the Longenecker family on Anchor Road near Elizabethtown. Pennsylvania. Most importantly, she could be with her children. Mother and Daddy would pick Gloria up at the train station with her four children who played with toys including the same marble-roller I played with as a child.

Gloria's grand-children playing with the same marble-roller we had as children: Demetri 12, Inani 13, and Samantha 10.
Gloria’s grand-children playing with the same marble-roller we had as children:
Demetri 12, Inani 13, and Samantha 10.

And she could enjoy Lancaster County abundance. “This is how life should be,” Gloria exclaims as she recalls some of her favorite things:

  • Going to Root’s Sale where fresh farm produce abounds.
  • Helping Mom make applesauce with her metal sieve and wooden mallet.
  • Turning the crank on the ice cream churn, always vanilla with Hershey’s chocolate syrup and peanut sprinkles.
  • Helping with quilting at Bossler’s Mennonite Church Sewing Circle.
  • Eating fresh corn on the cob – and fresh tomatoes out of the garden, both dripping juice.
  • Making tangy home-made root beer from Hires Root Beer Extract, the two-quart jars cooling on their sides in the cellar.
  • Having devotions with my parents on Sunday morning after which my dad would march over to the piano and bang out the melody to “Fill My Cup, Lord,” singing at the top of his lungs.
  • Following the Longenecker rules. And to the letter.

My brother Mark still lived at home when Gloria and her children visited, so she got some first-hand tips on getting children to obey. When Mark questioned Mother about why he had to get up and go to church Sunday morning, Mom would reply, “Because you’re in my house and that is the rule.”

But Gloria recalls Mother’s softer side when she tearfully called her at one point to break the news about yet another unplanned pregnancy: “She never criticized me; she stood by me, and said “’You just have to trust that God is still in control.’”

Gloria Araujo In kitchen with Mother (age 95)
Gloria Araujo in kitchen with Mother (age 95) April 2014

Gloria Today

Over the years, Gloria has told her own children and grand-children this same bold statement when they question her authority: “Because you’re in my house and that is the rule.” And she teaches her clients how to use firm discipline with their children in her role as a social worker at The First Baptist Church of Wheaton, Illinois, where she has recently been appointed deaconess.

“Now I work with many Cuban refugees, help them get into an apartment, find jobs and medical aid—set them on the right track. It feels so good to see lives changed,” she says.

In Retrospect

In a little green autograph book sitting on one of Mother’s living room end tables are listed all the names of the girls from New Life my parents have hosted. This April in her recent visit, Gloria noticed that her name was the first one to be signed in 1978, along with her sister Julie’s. After the signatures of 11-12 other girls, she signed the book again. “It’s only suitable that I sign the last page,” she says.

Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature:

the old things are passed away; behold, all things become new.

​​2 Corinthians 5:17

 Motto of New Life for Girls

 

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30 thoughts on “A Dozen Daughters: My Mother’s Other Family

  1. This is a beautiful story of profound commitment from my view. But commitment seems to suggest duty. Your mom and dad in repeating this twelve times did what was natural to them, parent broadly out of love for family and the family of another. This story is far-reaching and awesome. Only one thing better than life long friends would be life long family members who never forget you.
    What truly deep influence your mother and father carried that reached so many. What a mother your mom is. Happy Mother’s Day, to her, to Gloria and to you who brings us this story.

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    1. Thank you for your resounding praise for my mother on this special weekend. It’s great to have parents and other mentors to emulate. Thanks again for reading and for your thoughtful comment, Georgette.

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  2. Your family picture is the way I remember your family. Great picture! Thanks for sharing the story about your mother’s other family. I never knew about this. What a loving thing to do.

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    1. Thank you, Leona. I would have a similar picture of your family of boys with one special daughter–you!

      I found out so much about this aspect of my parents’ ministry to these girls when Gloria and her family visited Mother in April. I’m going to have a look at that green autograph book in the living room when I visit in June. It will mean much more to me now.

      Thanks for reading and leaving a comment today. Do visit again.

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  3. What a wonderful story of generosity and compassion, Marian. I love that the caring work of your mothers ministry is still changing lives through the work Gloria is doing today.

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    1. Yes, like ripples in a lake, my mother’s influence extends to larger and larger circles. I have no doubt that the next generations in Gloria’s family will be inspirational as well. I appreciate your comment, Linda.

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  4. A beautiful story that demonstrates the difference that one person can make in the life of another. Being a foster child myself, I have the influences of the many families that hosted me, and the people I met at the orphanage. There were missionaries there, from all backgrounds, telling us of the places they had been and how lives were changed. I think it was a good thing to have been exposed to so many cultures and customs. Your mother has earned her place in the hearts of many, I am sure.

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    1. Susan, I had some awareness of our parents’ hosting girls from “New Life.” But because I was busy raising my own family in another state, I had no idea the profound difference they have had in the lives of these girls until I interviewed Gloria.

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  5. What a beautiful tribute to your mother. I got “goose bumps” reading about how she has influenced so many young girls. I especially like that Gloria has not forgotten your mother and all she did for her. From your writings, I sense that you have many of the same qualities of your mother. I’m sure you have also had a great impact on the lives of the students you taught.

    Happy Mother’s Day to you1

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    1. It’s been 36 years since Gloria met my parents and since then they have been in contact, usually Gloria calling Mother or visiting every few years or so.

      She has been a great role model and I do try to imitate her best qualities. Thank you!

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    1. Thank you, Laurie. I knew bits and pieces of the story, but all details were revealed just about a month ago when I talked to Gloria on the phone. And best of all the legacy lives on in Gloria’s children and grand-children. Thanks for the Tweet.

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    1. Yes, I was very blessed and still am because my mother is still living – almost 96 now. I think she would agree that she was a more compassionate parent the second time around. I like seeing you and your loving dog thumbnail in my comment column today. Thanks, Joan!

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  6. Thank you for sharing the story, Marian. It’s interesting how you were not so aware of all that was going on when it happened. I imagine that now, too, your awareness is refracted through your own experiences as a mother. I know people who have taken in foster children and others who have been raised by foster parents. My mom raised my older sister’s daughter after the rest of us were grown. It just shows that there are many different types of parents and families!
    I hope you had a very happy Mother’s Day!

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  7. You are right about the lack of awareness. I recall mother telling me back then (or writing in a letter more likely) that Gloria and her children were coming over for the weekend. At that time though I was in another state with young children of my own, so my recollection of that time is very vague, sketchy.

    When Gloria visited my mother again in April with her own grand-children I was prompted to find out more. Also, technology has improved since those days and I asked Gloria to send some photos with her smart-phone. That got the ball rolling and I wanted to know more. More conversation ensued which turned into a blog post memory.

    I hope your Mother’s Day was happy too. Our children planned a picnic by the pool for all the mothers sponsored by the fathers.

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    1. Irene, it’s nice to see your comment on this tribute to my mother. I know you have a very close-knit family too and can relate to some parts of this story. Your thoughts are always welcome.

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  8. It sounds as if your mom had the proper balance of rules with love. Without rules, we run amok; without love, we live unfulfilled. How beautiful for her to share that lesson with those girls!

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    1. I just saw you on Rebecca White Body’s blog this morning, Traci. And what a delight to find you on mine now. I think my parents got the right combination of rules and love the second time around, probably true of most parents.

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  9. What a wonderful story. Your mother is an amazing woman and girls like Gloria are blessed to have had her in their lives. Thanks for sharing this with us.

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  10. wow. My kind of story. I love hearing about your family, the rules, the spiritual perspective, the generosity, the open-heartedness and open home. Grateful that Gloria met your parents and found a firm footing in life. What a wonderful organization. I had never heard of it. Thank you, Marian. Good medicine for the day.

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    1. Here is a link to the organization cited above. New Life for Girls is a wonderful organization for restoration of lives of girls and their families for generations to come: http://newlifeforgirls.org/

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. You know, stories are the best souvenirs of our travels through life. Thanks, Elaine.

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