Debra Murphy of Christian Book Previews spoke with Barbara Cameron about her new book, Full House of Growing Pains.
CBP: Could you share with us your Christian testimony?
Barbara: I became a Christian when I was a little girl, I was about eight years old. Went to Sunday School. My parents basically dropped us off, they never really went to church. I think on the holidays is when they went to church.
CBP: So they felt you kids needed it?
Barbara: Yes (laughing). So it was there that I asked Jesus into my heart. I always felt that he was there, but never had any encouragement along the way, never read the Bible. I went to Sunday School and learned Bible stories and sang songs -- learned that way. I kind of resented going to church later on, as I grew up. It's been a long journey, and it wasn't until I heard the message "Hell's Best Kept Secret" that I really understood the depth of sin, and my need for a Savior. And all the words you hear all your life, the Christian words, and you think you understand. But when I heard that message...
I met my husband at eighteen, married him at nineteen, and started having my family right away. Kirk was born when I was twenty, Bridget came eleven months later and I was twenty-one, and then twenty-four and twenty-six.
CBP: What was your marriage like those first years?
Barbara: You know, you always picture what your marriage would be -- so in love with your husband, having a family, and having a wonderful marriage, just like you were when you were dating. And it was good, I had a wonderful husband. I was pretty young when I got married, and I didn't know a lot. He was wonderful, because he was a little bit older and a little bit wiser. He was very encouraging to me, he always let me do whatever it was I wanted to do and needed to do.
CBP: It never felt like you connected?
Barbara: He didn't know the Lord, he didn't believe in God. I don't think he put too much thought into it. I had always thought of marriage being one, I always had that in my brain. Two of us coming together as one. He just kept thinking it was two.
CBP: So you had four children -- what are their personalities?
Barbara: Kirk is my oldest and only son. He was very shy as a child, but very funny with his father's wit and humor, sensitive and caring. Bridget is the neighbor you always wanted to have. She's funny, kind, giving, loving, she's a great gal. She's married with three children. Kirk's married and has six children. Then there's Melissa, she was a middle child. Maybe there's something to be said about the middle child. Melissa, having siblings older and younger than her, needed to find her identity. She was always the sister of Kirk, or the sister of Candace. So, she was our college graduate. My husband instilled college on all the kids, and wanted everybody to go to college. I just wanted them all to be happy. So Melissa is married and just had her first little baby girl about four months ago. Candace is married to a professional hockey player; she met him at a celebrity hockey game. He's from Russia, and she has three children.
CBP: Your decision when the kids were young to find an agent and pursue that, how did that come about?
Barbara: We lived in an apartment building, and across the hall was a family named the Riches. Adam played the role of Nicholas on Eight is Enough. Adam had been going on a bunch of interviews for a while, and Fran would always say to get my kids into the business. I said no for a long time, for many years. After we moved from the apartment, Fran and I would see each other every once and a while.
One time, she came over to the house and I was showing her some pictures of my sister's wedding. She said she wanted to take the pictures to show her agent. So I thought, okay, why not? I didn't think anything would happen. She called me a couple of days later saying her agent wanted me to call him and get the kids in for an interview. I went, "Oh, okay." I asked the kids if they wanted to do it, and they all said yes. We didn't really know what to do other than go in. I fixed them all up, like we were going to Sunday School, I don't know. I'd never been on an interview myself. Going up into the Hollywood hills to see a big agent was a bit intimidating.
CBP: Things did happen as a result of that appointment, and you became a stage mom. Having lived around that environment, you had to guard your children. You sounded like an incredible guard.
Barbara: I think I did what most parents would do, looking out for your kids' best interests and their welfare. If anything interfered with my values or how I would raise my children, compromising those, I would basically step in. The kids would have a dressing room, and they would always have to hang their clothes up and keep it clean. I remember one day the wardrobe woman came in and said, "That's my job." And I said, "No, it's not your job. Your job is to bring in the clothes, but my children are capable of cleaning them up."
CBP: That's one of the incredible examples of how you did train your children to be normal. You shared so many stories, week by week and year by year, I couldn't put it down. You also had an opportunity to enjoy the ride, and made sure that all of your children were equal even though they had different roles in life.
CBP: At a point in time there was a change in your faith for you and your whole family.
Barbara: You get caught up in the business, and my life was changing and I was changing as a person. Seeing a lot of worldly opportunities and temptations and all that stuff. My husband and I started growing apart. I had become more confident, I wasn't quite the quiet -- I'm still quiet and didn't make a lot of decisions -- but I was learning more as I got out in the world, about business. Our marriage was starting to take a turn. I didn't get a lot of strokes from my husband; he has a dry sense of humor, so some of the comments were very hurtful. He was sort of supportive of the kids being in the business, but yet he didn't really look at it as something they could make a living at. He was willing to allow us to do it, but there wasn't much encouragement there.
My husband and I separated for a while and it was around that time that Kirk was interested in another girl. Her father had invited Kirk to church. Kirk started asking him some questions, and he started sharing the gospel message with him. It was then that Kirk had a conversation with God, and realized that if he died that day, and if what this man had said to him was true, that he would be headed for heaven, he would be headed for hell. There may be a God, and all these questions he had, this man had tried to answer for him. But there were a few he couldn't answer, and he told Kirk, "You need to take that up with the Lord yourself." So, he pulled over to the side of the road and prayed, "God if you're real, show me who you are." So it was the turning point in his life when he came to accept Christ.
CBP: With a change like that, you can't hide it. Was it a problem on the set?
Barbara: Yes. Kirk was like the boy in the bubble. He was the jokester before, and now he was really living his life to please the Lord. He had to now pull back a little bit, as far as the things he would do or say, or with some of the scripts that were written he didn't feel that they were things that he would want to do anymore. He was being called names and all the negative things. The cast started looking at him as a Jesus Freak now, now he's turned to Jesus. They had a little problem, but they never really asked him, or was interested in hearing what he had to say. It was a change and everybody saw it.
CBP: You do a beautiful job in the book, describing what that was like. I think many people will find comfort in his example of approaching people, which is another area that is helpful to people. What about the rest of your family?
Barbara: Yes, well Kirk started inviting us to church. The girls started going to church. Robert started going to church. And then I soon reunited with my husband, and we all started going to church. My girls came to know Christ, and accepted Him as their Lord and Savior. They were all baptized. My husband hadn't made a commitment that he would go to church at that time. I rededicated myself at that time.
CBP: You mention Ray Comfort, and how his message really affected your life. His message isn't one of, "Come to church. Find joy and love." He's really talking about the church has gotten off faith. How did that message affect you guys?
Barbara: I always felt there was something missing in my faith, and I didn't understand. I think for me, the message "Hell's Best Kept Secret" helped me understand the depth of sin. You hear that you're not supposed to lie, or steal, or kill somebody. And we all look pretty good according to man's standards. But when we realize that we're all going to be judged on the day that we die, and give an account of our life, and judged by His standards of righteousness not our standards of happiness, it really helped me to understand. Like committing adultery. I would, not quite shun people, but look at them if they had affairs on their spouses and think, wow, how could they do that? Then I realized after I came to know this message, in the Bible Jesus said, "If you so much as look at another person to lust after him, you've committed adultery in your heart."
CBP: You discuss the Ten Commandments in your book. Are they different for you today than they were before?
CBP: Good people versus believers. Is there a difference? Because you knew you were a good person.
Barbara: Oh, yeah. Again, we all look good to rapists and murderers, but I was able to understand God's standards. To be able to look at my life now and live in obedience. I know have the template now, God's Laws, which He says are the schoolmaster which leads us to Christ. So I don't have to listen to words of my husband, I now know God's words and how to live in obedience.
CBP: God has given you a sense of confidence, beyond your confidence as a businesswoman, starting your own agency, with what your family's doing, what you're doing, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Africa...can you share with us what you're doing now?
Barbara. Sure. Kirk has had a camp for critically ill children since he was about sixteen years old, and that camp continues today. He invites families to a camp, and they have a wonderful week. They just finished their camp for this year. The memories and the bond that they all have together, and they meet each other again the following year, as many as they can. It's fabulous.
I just got back from Africa, which was my fifth trip back. I work with the Children's Hunger Fund, which is an organization that's been rated by Forbes list as the most cost-effective children's organization, 99.6%. I just go back, because there's such joy in those children over there. They have absolutely nothing, they're starving, which is not a disease, they just need something to eat. If I give them a roll, and other kids come, they break off a piece and they hand it to the other one.
CBP: I really look forward to what you're doing with this. You're an incredible mom, and I appreciated your journey.