Kidnapped: Che Garcia, Sr. father of 6 and husband of Janice
Kidnappers: 18 year old daughter, Ashley, 15 year old son, Che, 13 year old daughter, Gemma, 11 year old daughter, Aliana, 10 year old daughter, Maya, & 2 year old son, James
Practice what I preach….early on Che knew that he wanted to make family a priority for him and Janice. They fell in love at the age of 16 and have been together ever since. With 6 kids you have to learn to juggle life, but with 2 jobs on top of that…something had to give. Unfortunately Che’s family were the ones being bearing the burden.
Working 10 to 14 hours a day, Che wore many hats. Not only did he manage Second Hand Thrift Store, a non-profit thrift for single mothers and people in need, he also served as the youth pastor for the Agape House of Prayer Church.
Knowing what it was like to struggle, Che worked hard…but was no longer present in the lives of his children. Once a father who didn’t miss a basketball or football game, he could barely make it before he ended, if he even showed up at all. When he does enter the house, his time was spent on the computer. With the computer in the living room so he can feel amongst his family, it was only a reminder of the choices he was making to not be present.
The motive was clear for the kidnapping and the kids picked the perfect place…Palm Springs. Their father had taken them their many times before and they each held special memories of it. Knowing he wouldn’t have a phone of outside distractions, this was the ideal place to recapture the connection. The only complication was they wanted to kidnap him at church…in front of everyone! Their mother, Janice knew they needed a little help and called the senior pastor which luckily was Che’s brother. Although it would be difficult, their uncle agreed. With mom taking care of the store, the plan was set. All the kids had left to do was pack and write letters to their father sharing how they felt.
On the day of afternoon on the kidnapping, the kids packed up the bags and headed off to church. As Che made his way there, he shared how church was a nice place for him to be able to spend some time with his family. Little did he know that he was about to get even more.
In the middle of Che making his last announcement to the crowd, his family storms the stage. At first he thought he was part of an intervention, but soon realized it was much more. As the children read their letters, you could tell he was touched. Through her poetry, Gemma let him know that he means so much to them and that they would be heading to Palm Springs. Aliana shared that he was missed and advised him “to take the stress and leave it here.” Maya honestly and simply stated “we want to have a real relationship. I really love you.” Then came Che Jr’s letter… “I love you so much. I love you enough to write this letter and tell you that we are growing up fast…I love that you always help people, but we need you, too. We need your time and your love”. As his wife shared that she wanted him to take this time and enjoy his kids, Che was brought to tears.
On the way to Palm Springs, thoughts of commitments went through his head and he stopped himself and decided to let it all go…and take the time with his kids. It appeared Che felt a bit guilty (as many parents do about not having time) and at dinner he explained to his kids why the ministry and store were so important. The thing is….his kids knew this already, but they wanted him to see that THEY were more important. Seeming a bit uncomfortable, Che Jr commented that “all of us need to make time for each other and want to make time for each other”.
First day in Palm Springs, the family took a hike. It was beautiful and they all seemed to be “present” in the moment. With an opportunity, Che pulled his oldest son aside and apologized for not being there for him. He asked if there was anything he could do and his son simply asked for time together. He wasn’t looking for much…just his father. As he spoke with Maya, she noted that he could come to more basketball games if he came home early…then asked “you didn’t go to one last time, or did you?”. Looking down, he replied “I don’t think so”. He knew…things needed to change. As they arrived back home, the computer keyboard and mouse was removed. Change was a coming…
As he talked to his wife, he shared his feelings about how he had hurt Maya and the kids and realized he was also neglecting her. As he said that, she smiled…he was getting it! Knowing he was consumed by business, his wife was searching for intimacy, not a business partner.
As he started some one-on-one time, Che Sr and Jr started with putting Che Jr’s door back on his room which had been down for a year. Clearly not the best handyman, the two still took the opportunity to bond. Then Che was off to shoot some hoops with Maya which allowed them to laugh and play. Gemma and Aliana decided to take the chance to make smoothies with their father…something they use to do all the time. It may not have tasted great, but they definitely made some memories.
The next day wasn’t so easy on Che…it was role reversal day. He was to do Janice’s job for the day. As she headed off to work, Che was nervous about the day ahead. Every child had something they needed to do and they hoped their father would be able to handle it. Dropping a couple of kids off to play at their friends’ house, they headed to the store to get Che Jr some school supplies. As they arrive at the store, Che had to deal with James peeing in his pants. Without a spare set of pants, dad changed his diaper and did his best to dry him up. As he washed his hands, James took off out of the bathroom door and started running around the store. A silly scene watching everyone chase James around unable to catch the slippery little guy.
When mom came home, the kids let mom and dad know they were going to prepare a date night for them both. As they headed out to get some coffee, the kids made dinner, a cake and cleaned the patio to create the perfect setting for their parents. During their intimate dinner on the patio, Che and Janice were able to talk and reconnect. The children then brought out cake and a surprise for dad…he got his technology back. However Che didn’t want it to spoil his time with his kids.
On the final day each family member was able to write a new letter expressing how they felt. Where did they do it? In church of course. Excited about the future, the kids read their letters (which were lovely). Che realized he had been doing what he wanted and not what his kids or wife wanted or needed. Then Che started his letter with his wife. “For the past couple of years, no holding hands. No walks on the beach. No roses on the table…please forgive me.” He recognized how absent he had been for his kids and asked them to forgive him. He told his kids that he would “commit to spend more time with the family”. There wasn’t a dry eye on the stage…forgiveness wasn’t an issue- it was already a given.
This show was truly touching. Although many of us don’t neglect our family to the point where we are being kidnapped, there are still moments within each show we can relate to. Whether you are a parent who doesn’t make it to your kids’ games or someone who finds themselves glued to your computer…we all can take lessons from this show. I know I do each week and for that, thank you OWN! You are giving a piece of me back to those I love and cherish the most.