ShaeLaurel: Witnesses to Dynamic Family Life

By John Amoratis, Youth and Young Adult Ministry

Ten years ago, Andrew Witchger was a published songwriter working as the music leader for a parish of thousands. His wife, Janet, was an economist. They lived in Boca Raton, Florida, a prosperous region that to this day is the home of IBM. Together, Andrew, Janet, and their four children lived what many would consider to be the American dream, but there was a whisper in Andrew’s heart calling him to lead his family to a different kind of life. He could sense a certain unhealthy materialism beginning to seep into himself and his family’s hearts. Simultaneously, he also experienced a profound trust in God that soon spread throughout the family. With one heart among husband, wife, and children, the family gave up their home and hit the road to become ShaeLaurel traveling band, roaming America, playing churches, amusement parks, schools, and a diverse assortment of venues for the next decade. Ten years after leaving Boca Raton to travel throughout the country, ShaeLaurel’s giant RV slowly carried them across the ramp as they disembarked from the ferry which brought them to Alaska. They had travelled thousands of miles from the lower 48 states so they could play music at the Alaska Catholic Youth Conference in Anchorage from June 6 to 9.

We have all heard the maxim, “Preach the gospel every day of your life. If necessary, use words.” This saying calls us all to live godly lives in which our actions, more than our words, proclaim the love of Jesus Christ to the world. The Witchger family provides a living witness to this way of life. As they travelled through Alaska to Anchorage, they stayed at the Shrine of St. Therese in Juneau for two nights. The Shrine staff left glowing comments in the log book that this family had completely cleaned up after themselves before departing. While in Anchorage at the Alaska Catholic Youth Conference (ACYC), this writer can attest that the smiles never left any of their faces. While providing music ministry for Mass, they played with all their hearts,and great big smiles. They also played a concert of contemporary music which had the ACYC youth jumping up and down with their hands in the air. After this concert, the Witchger siblings posed for pictures with fans and signed autographs. The next day, with the glitter of the concert behind them, these down to earth young people sat side by side with the youths attending the conference listening to the talks. This is a family that relishes the spotlight, but does not get lost in it. They work hard on their performances, and they have fun being on stage, but when they leave the concert hall, they are just down to earth people, praying and fully participating in whatever events are taking place.

There are four youths in the Witcher family: Andy (20), Jessica (19), Kathryn (17), and Christian (16). In case anyone is wondering about the ‘toll’ taken on the children by spending most of their lives on the road, it can be pleasantly reported that oldest sibling Andrew is a top academic achiever as he continues his studies for a math and physics degree while the other children are taking lessons in international dancing, foreign languages, and a multitude of other skills. The time spent on the road has actually given them more family time than most families enjoy. Long ago they re-thought their family life, took a leap of faith, and have kept their eye on such fundamentals as excellent schooling for their children.

ShaeLaurel: Jessica, Janet, Andy, Andrew, Christian, Kathryn Witchger

The Witchgers are proof that if parents trust in God, while using life experience and maturity to proceed with thoughtful planning, anything is possible. Most parents are not in a position to spend a decade touring the nation with their children. But perhaps a new job opportunity, an interest in starting a new hobby, or even a family vacation has been put off for too long that requires a leap of faith or trust in God. The Witchgers show that it just may be worth taking that leap and trying something new. Their family is a living witness that family life can take many different shapes. Way back when it all began, Andrew sensed something more was out there for his family. If any parent reading this feels the same way, whether it is a move to a new place, a college they dream of their child attending, a new family business, or something else all together, it just might be worth giving it a try.

[ For more info on the Witchger family: http://www.shaelaurel.com ]