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Pastor ministers to family during abduction crisis

Pastor ministers to family during abduction crisis

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Pastor ministers to family during abduction crisis

Feb. 1, 2005    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0240}

An e-Review Feature
By Jenna De Marco**

DUNNELLON  — The Rev. Karl Wiggins never expected to find himself caught in the middle of a child abduction case, but he says God prepared him for the challenge.
"I must say that this tragedy has changed my outlook on ministry," Wiggins wrote in an e-mail message. "To be used by the Lord in this capacity is something I never imagined."
Wiggins is pastor of Kendrick United Methodist Church here. He became involved in the search for 11-year-old Adam Kirkirt when the media, police and Federal Bureau of Investigation learned Wiggins personally knew the family and Adam's alleged abductor.

Adam's ordeal began Jan. 19 after he was picked up from Dunnellon Elementary School by Frederick Fretz, a friend and housemate of Ivert Kirkirt of Ocala, Adam's father. Adam was found unharmed three days later.

"I always felt inside that Fred would never hurt the child," Wiggins said.
During Adam's disappearance, Wiggins spent his time speaking with Ivert and many different media outlets about the situation.
Wiggins said his relationship with the trio began last August when Fretz began attending Sunday worship at his church.
"He'd ride his bike three or four miles every Sunday," Wiggins said. "He'd come early and sit and talk to me for an hour or so every Sunday about theology."
Wiggins said the general perception of Fretz among his congregants was that he was an average guy who was just "hard up on his luck." Wiggins said that neither he nor Ivert were aware Fretz was a convicted sex offender in the state of Pennsylvania going back to 1991. Wiggins said he believes Ivert and Fretz met in jail last fall when they both served time briefly.

Ivert and Adam began attending church with Fretz around Christmas. In the weeks since then, Wiggins has gotten to know Ivert and Adam. He describes Adam as a "great little kid," who had served as an acolyte.

Wiggins said he didn't realize how much influence he and the church had on them until the abduction occurred. Wiggins was the first person Ivert called when Adam was found.
"I turned on the TV, and no sooner did I hear they'd found Adam, and the father was crying that they'd found his son," Wiggins said.
Wiggins watched the news in amazement. Ivert was shown talking on his cell phone — he was talking to Wiggins.
"I was his first thought," Wiggins said. "It amazed me that he trusted me and trusted God that much."
Ivert asked Wiggins to be present for his reunion with Adam, which Wiggins was able to do. Wiggins said Adam told authorities Fretz had said they were going on a camping trip.

Shortly after Adam's return, authorities placed him with his mother, although Ivert hopes to regain custody and permanent custody has not been finalized, according to Wiggins. Wiggins said Ivert endured long hours of questioning by authorities over his son's disappearance.
Wiggins said he continues to minister to all parties involved, including Adam's mother, who has not returned Wiggins' calls. Wiggins said he tried to talk to her when Adam was reunited with his family, but she was not receptive.

Ivert was hospitalized shortly after Adam's return with an undisclosed diagnosis, according to Wiggins, who has spoken to Ivert since the hospitalization. Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker and the Rev. Dr. Terry Markin, the Leesburg District's superintendent, have also talked with and expressed their care and concern to Ivert, Wiggins said.
In the meantime, Wiggins also hopes to maintain contact with Fretz, who was jailed in Georgia and will be extradited to Florida soon.
"I think that we had bonded enough that we could talk pastor to friend," Wiggins said. "I am hoping he would be willing to talk to me."
Wiggins said he tries to reserve judgment against Fretz, although he understands why Ivert is finding it difficult to forgive Fretz.
"I really believe that even though what (Fretz) did was totally wrong ... it was (just) a bad move on his point," Wiggins said. "It really got out of hand."
As for Adam's situation, Wiggins said he believes things have turned out as well as possible for now.
"There's no doubt that the Lord was behind this as far as protecting him," Wiggins said.
Wiggins said the entire situation has put unavoidable stress on him "because I feel responsible for the people Got put me in the care of, but I also feel blessed that the Lord would trust me with this. I am honored to do whatever he calls me to do."


This article relates to Community Outreach and Pastoral Care.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a freelance writer based in Viera, Fla.