Beverly and husband Blake Lorenz, pastors who have served in Central Florida for more than 25 years, have been thrust into unfamiliar roles. They've been accused of kidnapping Rifqa Bary from her Muslim parents. They've been accused of brain-washing Rifqa.
Now they're concerned for their own lives."We weren't trying to be secret or hidden," Beverly Lorenz said. "We were trying to help her to the best of our ability." The accusations against them, Blake Lorenz said, aren't true. And they're not anti-Muslim. "I'm pro-Jesus," he said. "And Jesus tells us to love everybody. I do my best to try to do that. And we're praying for her parents and for healing and reconciliation."On July 19, Rifqa ran away from her home in Westerville, Ohio, boarding a bus bound for Orlando and the Lorenzes' home with a ticket paid for by somebody else.
The teen, who had converted from Islam to Christianity four years earlier, told Beverly she feared for her life. The Lorenzes took her in. The pastors said they quizzed her about her life and family.Beverly Lorenz, a former teacher, said it was clear to them that Rifqa was telling the truth. She wasn't a drama queen — or a teen feuding with her parents. If that were the case, Blake Lorenz said, they would have sent her back to Ohio.
"She really believed that her dad would kill her and the Muslim community would kill her. She believed that with all of her heart. She was terrified of going back to Ohio," he said.Rifqa lived with them for more than two weeks before a judge determined she needed to be in a foster home until the courts could decide which authorities — in Florida or Ohio — have jurisdiction. Blake Lorenz, 53, was a pastor at Pine Castle United Methodist Church for 16 years before retiring last year. In October, he and Beverly started Global Revolution Church. Beverly Lorenz, 51, is a third-generation pastor, following in the footsteps of her father and grandfather.
The pastor won't say who bought Rifqa's ticket. He is trying to protect the person or persons because, he said, they are fearful of radical groups that may try to harm them because they helped the girl.In the late hours of July 21 or early morning of July 22, a friend of the Lorenzes' picked up Rifqa from the bus station and took her to the pastors' home.
A member of the Lorenz family alerted some Central Florida media outlets about an Aug. 10 hearing. It was Rifqa's 17th birthday, and she was afraid she'd get sent back to Ohio. One Florida statute says people cannot shelter an unmarried minor for more than 24 hours without the consent of their parent or guardian, or without notifying a law-enforcement officer of the child's name. A violation of that law is a misdemeanor.
A Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokeswoman said the agency's investigation into alleged threats against Rifqa is ongoing. It will present findings to a judge Thursday September 3rd 2009. Asked whether the Lorenzes are part of their investigation, the FDLE spokeswoman wouldn't comment. The Lorenzes are not being investigated by DCF or Orlando police, representatives for both agencies said.Meanwhile, Rifqa's parents are the subject of an FDLE investigation.
Mohamed Bary told the Orlando Sentinel he welcomed his FDLE interview, which happened last week.Rifqa's pro bono lawyer, conservative Christian activist John Stemberger, said the teen is in the foster system, feels safe and wants to remain in Florida.
During another hearing in Orlando, on Aug. 21, Rifqa's parents appeared with their lawyers and asked that their daughter be sent back to Ohio, where they agreed to let her live in a foster home. That's when a judge also ordered FDLE to investigate whether Rifqa's family or other Muslims in their Ohio community are a threat, more...........................