20 years ago, on August 21st 1992, the tragedy that became known as, “The Federal Siege at Ruby Ridge” began. Over the 11 days of events, Randy Weaver and his family would be the focus of almost every newscast in every part of the country, as a small area of land in northern Idaho had become the center of attention for an entire country.
I was just starting college when the events of Ruby Ridge unfolded in Idaho. I was in Iowa, and that state had a particular interest in Randy since he had come from Iowa and still had family living there. Every news station started with the same story, giving updates as to what Randy and his family were doing and trying to explain the reasons why hundreds of government officials and federal agents were surrounding one family in a small mountain home.
In the years to follow Ruby Ridge, multiple government inquiries would reveal egregious errors on the part of federal agents. While the government never acknowledged absolute wrong-doing in the handling of events, settlement money was paid out to Randy and his three surviving daughters. An empty gesture of goodwill from a government that took the lives of Randy’s 13-year-old son Sam, and his wife, Vicki.
One of his daughters is Sara Weaver, just 16-year-sold when the events of Ruby Ridge took place. She was there when her brother’s life was ended by federal agents, and she was inches from being the victim of a sniper whose bullet took her mom’s life. In the years to follow the terror of Ruby Ridge, Sara tried a lot of ways to cope with the pain and loss of those 11 sleepless nights. But it wasn’t until she began a relationship with Jesus that she experienced true freedom. Today, Sara is living an amazing Overboard Life, and her next book, From Ruby Ridge to Freedom: The Sara Weaver Story is about to be released by Overboard MInistries!
We are so excited to publish Sara’s book (available in just two days...August 1st!), and in light of her upcoming release, I thought today would be a good day to let you “meet” her in a short interview. I hope you enjoy this little conversation and I hope you take the time to pick up a copy of her book.
Joe: As we approach the 20th anniversary of the loss that occurred at Ruby Ridge, do you find your memory of those days/events as strong today as you they were then? How often do you think about what happened during those tragic days in August of 1992?
Sara: If I let myself go there, most of it is as fresh as if it were yesterday. There is still an intense heartbreaking pain...the difference now versus 20 years ago is that God's grace helps me sort through it. I think about it every day, but choose to dwell on the positive things God is doing through it, not the horror of it.
Joe: How would you describe your life before federal agents descended on your home in Idaho? Did you have a good/happy childhood?
Sara: I am grateful for my childhood. It wasn't conventional by any means and it was very challenging at times, but it shaped who I am today and I treasure the closeness I had with my family....my mom and little brother Sam especially, since I didn't have them for very long.
Joe: What was daily life like for you and your family, living in the hills of Northern Idaho?
Sara: Daily survival was a full time job, as we lived "off the grid" so to speak, with no electricity and no running water. My brother, sister and I were homeshcooled by my mom. I did a lot of baking and gardening for the family and enjoyed riding my horse and exploring the mountains we lived in.
Joe: In your book, you describe the terror of being locked up in your house, while federal agents attempted to use lies, bribes and psychological warfare to get you and your family out. As a 16-year-old girl, did you wonder if you were going to get out alive? Did you ever think that everyone was going to be victims of this government operation?
Sara: I made peace with death. I didn't believe I would survive and prayed the rest of my family would...though I didn't think it was likely.
Joe: After your family was finally released, you and your sisters were sent to Idaho to be with your family, while your dad remained back in the NW facing multiple trials and court appearances. I can't even imagine how difficult that must have been! What personal challenges did you face during that season while you were mourning the loss of your mom and brother, learning to reconnect with a culture/community you hadn't been a part of for some years, and adjusting to life in public school?
Sara: It was so hard. I look back and see it was only by God's grace I made it. I had just deternmined to the best I could in school for my dad to prove that my family wasn't nuts. I worked hard to get good grades and I felt I had to convince every one I met that my family wasn't crazy. I don't think I gave myself time to grieve...I didn't know how to grieve. I just hurt all the time.
Joe: You came to Christ 14 years (is that right?) after the events of Ruby Ridge. How did you cope with the painful memories of the past without Jesus? Did you try to forgive the perpetrators before coming to Jesus? Did you just try to forget?
Sara: I met Jesus for the first time 11 years after the siege in the spring of 2003. I didn't even understand forgiveness before Jesus. Before Him, I just tried to run from my past and live a "normal" life. I thought if I could insulate myself from the pain in the world, I would be happy. I had a huge hole in my heart only Jesus could fill.
Joe: After your best friend Maria influenced you to turn to Christ, your life took a radical change. In what ways did your perspective start to change in regards to what happened to you and your family in August of 1992? In what ways did you experience the goodness of God in the memories of the past?
Sara: The moment I met Jesus, I knew I was loved. I knew my past had a purpose and that He forgave me for all of my own failures and sins. I knew He understood me and my pain better than anyone else on earth. I had lived in a very fearful and lonely place. He set me free from the fear that had haunted me every day and I literally felt the weight of the world come off of my shoulders.
Joe: I know the first time I read your book, I kept asking myself this question: How do you forgive someone (or lots of someones!) who have taken away from you something that can't be given back? How can you release them from the debt they owe you?
Sara: It isn't anything we can accomplish on our own. We have to make the choice. We have to partner with God....surrender the situation and the pain to Him and ask Him to help us. He walked me through a painful divorce to show me the difference between being a victim, which is what I had always been, to being a perpetrator....hurting another human being and how the guilt and the shame from that is worse. I put myself in the perpetrators shoes and saw that Jesus had forgiven me....I must forgive them...even if it was based soley on what He had done for me. It wasn't a feeling, it was a choice and He set me free through it. What Jesus did on the cross was for all mankind and He doesn't care if you are the victim or the perpetrator...He just wants us to have a personal real relationship with Him.
Joe: What opportunities has God given you today, to speak into people's lives the freedom He has given you?
Sara: Wow, some really great ones. The first major one was "Aftermath" with William Shatner for the Biography channel. I have had 3 front page newpaper articles, an article in christian women's magazine called Life:Beautiful, radio, TV news and so much more, I have also spoken in public church settings many times. God is opening doors for me that are huge and it is scary to be so public and vulnerable again, but He is showing Himself to be faithful. This is His story of redemption and I am just so grateful to be a part of it.