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Ministry Helps Parents of Prodigals ‘Realize They’re Not Alone’

Prodigal Child Ministries
Couples involved in Prodigal Child Ministries took part in a retreat earlier this year. Dr. Mark Crawford, wearing glasses, stands in the back beside John Brocard, in checkered shirt, who is next to his wife, Fair, in the off-white shirt. Photo courtesy of PCM

MARIETTA, Ga. (BP) – Only three couples were entrusted to be praying for John and Fair Brocard on the night they risked everything to save their family.

It wasn’t because the Brocards didn’t believe in prayer. What was about to go down was too painful to share with many others.

On this night they had enlisted help from an organization. Two men would arrive around 3 a.m. to transport their out-of-control son to a waiting plane that would take him across the country. He would spend eight weeks in the Utah wilderness at a special camp for teens.

All of it was a desperate move to get their 16-year-old away from bad influences that had transformed their comfortable home into a scary place. It worked for the Brocards, but even more important, it transformed their lives and established a mission to help parents caught in a similar situation through the formation of Prodigal Child Ministries (PCM).

RELATED: To the Parent of a Prodigal

“It’s key to have a strong support system,” said Fair Brocard. “We didn’t have that when dealing with Bubba. It helps parents to realize they’re not alone.”

At the time, Fair was an associate in the children’s ministry at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church. She moved on from that role with PCM’s founding, but she and John remain members. Johnson Ferry has become pivotal to the ministry’s efforts by providing space on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month for a “Parents of Prodigals” support group.

John continued his attorney career. But his direction changed from civil and personal injury litigation to working with kids and young adults mired in the consequences that follow bad choices.

“The Lord changed my heart when we went through what we did with Bubba,” he said. “So, I changed my practice toward adults and kids and families who struggle.”

Their work over the last 24 years has helped hundreds of couples. Do the math. That doesn’t affect just two parents and one child. It spreads to siblings, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles and other relatives and friends burdened by a family’s conflict.

From January to Easter, the Brocards host a Bible study in their home with parents of a prodigal. Another couple in Canton also hosts a group over Zoom. The bimonthly meetings at Johnson Ferry feature prodigals sharing their stories, but also psychologists, law enforcement officers and others in various fields.

While the Bible studies are closed-group affairs, the meetings at Johnson Ferry are open to the public and held from 7-8:30 p.m. The next one is this Thursday, Dec. 8.

Bubba, their son, was a big, muscular kid and part of the swim team. For most of his childhood things were good. He was on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout when he began hanging around a different group at school.

RELATED: How to Love a Prodigal Son or Daughter

Conflict followed along with his drug abuse. Bubba lost interest in athletics, Scouts, church and anything positive in spite of his parents’ attempts to the contrary. Soon, he wouldn’t hesitate to challenge John, a former college football athlete and still in good shape, to a fight. Brocard expected his son to fight the men who were hired to take him on May 12, 1998, to yell and make one more traumatic scene in front of his mother and two siblings before leaving.

Instead, Bubba surrendered and left with only the pair of pants and T-shirt he wore. He went willingly, quietly and without a fight – the three specific prayers the Brocards had been asking their small group to lift up.

Mark Crawford, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist based in Roswell, Ga. During his 33 years of experience, he has written numerous articles on families and parenting and made multiple appearances on broadcasts such as ABC’s Good Morning America, ABC News, House Call with Sanjay Gupta, and CNN Headline news. From 2003-08 he was the team psychologist for the Atlanta Hawks.

He was also the one who was counseling the Brocard family at the time they were trying to figure out what to do with their son.