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The Coffeys: A Staff Infection

The Las Cruces church to which the Ewings fled that August had risen sharply in all district standings—membership, attendance, giving—under the leadership of Bill and Ruth Coffey.

One cloud, however, was their teenage son Darin, who had been charting his own course ever since junior high. His choice of friends, his music tastes, and his insolence were but the tip of the iceberg; a school principal finally confronted Bill and Ruth with Darin's smoking, and there were hints of drugs as well.

When the boy turned sixteen—the week after police had picked him up in a friend's car that contained marijuana— Bill had decided something had to change. His reprimands had gotten nowhere, he felt; maybe if Darin sensed how close he was to adulthood, he would be more responsible. He announced a hands-off approach. Ruth Coffey, on the other hand, viewed this as capitulation. She and her husband talked often about their differing strategies but always seemed to end in stalemate.

One person who tended to see ...

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