Garden of Eden helping abuse victims
Published 7:00 am Friday, May 13, 2016
There’s a sanctuary nestled among the trees in Picayune for children and families who are the victims of sexual abuse, the Garden of Eden Ranch.
About 10 years ago, Cathy and Stephen Edwards fell in love with the city of Picayune and decided to purchase property here.
Nearly six years ago, the Edwards moved to the area and immediately began searching for a church. They found their niche at Resurrection Life.
“Everyone talked about how good they were and how much they do for the community,” Cathy Edwards said.
Cathy Edwards immediately joined the church’s Safe Haven organization, a support group for victims of sexual abuse.
As a former Court-Appointed Special Advocate, Cathy Edwards has experience dealing with children who are victims of sexual abuse. She and her husband have also fostered children, who share their “stories of terror” with the couple.
However, Cathy Edwards’ personal experiences with sexual abuse are what spurred her to create the safe haven. She said she was a victim a sexual abuse and a relative sexually abused three of her children.
Cathy Edwards’ vision for the ranch gained inspiration after she spent the day with her oldest daughter. Even though it has been more than 20 years since the incident, her daughter still experiences nightmares.
“She has gone through counseling, therapy and is an amazing woman, wife, mother and daughter,” Cathy Edwards said. “Her daughter is now at that age when my daughter’s abuse took place and they say that can trigger the memories. I sat in my car in a parking lot and cried to the Lord. I asked him why this happened and that something good has got to come out of this.”
Cathy Edwards said she felt the Lord’s presence and remembered her history with abuse. When her daughter was abused, Cathy Edwards had to send her to an institution where she was treated for sexual assault trauma. For Cathy Edwards, sending her daughter away was something she said she hated.
“None of us are supposed to experience sexual abuse and drugs,” she said. “It’s supposed to be the Garden of Eden, a place of beauty and all of God’s creations. That’s how I got the name. The Lord showed me that he wanted me to build a pond and cabins, a place where families could come and heal together.”
The program lasts for seven weeks and families visit the ranch the first and third Sunday of the month, Cathy Edwards said. They have the option to attend church services with the Edwards or meet them at the ranch at about 1 p.m. She serves them lunch and then introduces them to one of four varieties of therapies, including Biblical studies, counseling, music and art, gardening and interaction with animals.
During Biblical studies she reads the story of Joseph, during which families learn more about God and receive counseling. The Edwards invited local artists to the ranch to teach participants how to draw and families also plant vegetables and fruits in the garden as part of their therapy.
There are many types of animals on the ranch including a cow, goat, chickens, pigs, rabbits, horses, ducks and dogs.
The couple also adopts rescued animals, she added.
“Animals are great for children and adults who have been traumatized,” she said. “It’s almost as if the horses and dogs feel when a child is broke.”
About three years ago, Garden of Eden became a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and the Edwards plan to build a barn for classrooms and a fishing pond. Many of her participants are referred to her ranch from Resurrection Life, but she will soon be partnering with the Hope Center in New Orleans.
Cathy Edwards is writing a book about a robot named Choice. On the grounds, there is also a six-foot likeness of the robot placed in the garden.
“I tell them God created you in his image with free will,” Cathy Edwards said. “He loves you and you can give that brokenness to him.”
Garden of Eden ranch is located at 367 Dumas Bailey Rd. Contact Edwards by phone at 504-301-5223 or 601-749-0836. Visit the website at www.gardenofedenranch.com.