Life with a “Quiverfull” Family – the story behind the story

July 24, 2009

Rick Wilking is a Reuters contract photojournalist based in Denver, Colorado who has been shooting for Reuters for almost 25 years based in Europe, Washington, D.C. and now in Colorado. Rick recently developed the idea of spending time documenting the lives of a Christian “Quiverfull” family who have 15 children due to their belief that all family planning is best left in the hands of God. Rick produced the following piece of multimedia video from his time spent with the Jeub family in Colorado and tells us about the experience below. -  Jim Bourg

I am convinced that the easiest part of my job is taking pictures. Coming up with story ideas, getting access and then producing the final results are MUCH tougher! That was very true with this story. I read about Christian Quiverfull-minded folks who closely follow and live by Christian scripture and biblical verses and decided to try to find one of these families to document. I begged my way into a Quiverfull forum on the web and was met there with much skepticism about letting me in. One family in Kansas said maybe and another back east said I could come by. But neither were enthused and I knew the travel budget was too tight for a trip that distant and long.

Then I found the Jeub family, only a 90 minute drive away from my home in Colorado. They too were tentative at first but let me in after seeing stories I had done recently in their area. My work documenting the headquarters of the “Focus on the Family” organization, portraying troops returning from Iraq at a nearby military base and covering “The Purity Ball”, a Christian father-daughter event all convinced them of my fairness and the integrity of my photojournalism. They said they prayed on it hard and were led to let me into their home to tell their story through pictures and sound.

Quiverfull, like any other belief system or philosophy, takes different forms. Believers generally view children as a gift from God and avoid all forms of birth control. To many, including the Jeubs, the movement means trusting God entirely to decide your family size by surrendering your life to God.

The Jeubs say that goes for their reproductive life too. “Wendy and I believe God wants us to trust Him in our family planning. The results are his to deal out. We’re more than fine by that. We are amazed (italics theirs) at how incredible the blessings have been…..We have 15 children, but why would we say that #16 wasn’t a blessing? Or #17? Or #18?”

Once I met the Jeubs it was really just about being a fly on the wall witnessing what goes on normally in their lives and their home. Chris told the attendees during a church service held in their home that one of the best things about a photographer is that they are invisible. He then proceeded to introduce me.

Producing the video after the fact took almost as much time as shooting the pictures and video did. I think it is worth it though because the power of the images is just enhanced with motion, music and narration by the people involved. This old dog just decided to learn some new tricks and record audio and embrace video technology in addition to shooting still photos late last year. I’ve been working for Reuters for almost 25 years but this is my first video project.

For photographers the saying used to be that you can’t go wrong with kids or dogs. The Jeubs had recently lost the family dog but kids they had in abundance. Thirteen kids are living at home; six are under the age of 6, there’s a set of twins, a 4 month old baby and a 17-year-old celebrating her birthday. We in the business say this is a “target-rich environment” for making photos. Everywhere you looked there was something happening. The trick was to pick and choose the moments to focus on, the same as with any other story. It’s the little fleeting moments that make the best pictures, every time. Seeing them when others don’t and then capturing them in a creative way is the secret to success as a documentary photographer.

 

Thanks to the Jeub family: Zechariah, Priscilla, Havilah, Joshua, Josiah, Hannah, Keilah, Tabitha, Noah, Micah, Isaiah, Lydia, Cynthia, father Chris and mother Wendy for letting me into their life briefly and ignoring me as much as possible while I was there!

Here’s my favorite still image from the 50 some pictures that went into the video project and the two long days I spent with the Jeub family. The action of three-year-old Havilah seemingly floating around on the trampoline, the light, the way her dress twirled up – all combine to tell a story. If only her sister hadn’t appeared dressed in red in the background of the picture it would have been perfect. I guess you just can’t have it all!

19 comments

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Oh! What a wonderful family! If all are trained to live God’s will, that will fulfill the ultimate goal.

Posted by Christopher | Report as abusive

even christians like us who do not completely share the jeubs’ reproductive reasoning can take heart in seeing committed people putting family before self-indulgence and solipsism. family matters much more in the end than gadgetry, mcmansions, and 1000 channels with nothing to watch.

Posted by jd | Report as abusive

Wow how do they manage 15 children, respect! Love the trampoline picture.

I’m blessed to see this. It is so neat to see all of you I Love hearing all about you. May the Lord God bless all of as you have all of your blessings that He has give to you. May He bless you all your days.

Posted by Grace | Report as abusive

Wow, what a great job you did with this story. We love the Jeub’s and are happy to see such a happy portrayal of the lives they lead. They are a fun family composed of all of these unique personalities and treat their friends with the same warm welcome that they do children.
What’s one more in the room? An opportunity for love and kindness and adventure.

Posted by Debbie | Report as abusive

Though this lifestyle choice is clearly not for everyone, I found this profile to be extremely heartwarming. What a beautiful family. My husband and I are trying for our first baby now–hoping that god sees fit to fill my quiver with at least one! I send many happy blessings to the Jeubs. Valerie, New York City, New York

Posted by valerie | Report as abusive

I enjoyed the story here but have seen this family on TLC’s Children by the Dozen. The mom had two children before she was married with another man. One of those children also had a baby out of wedlock and was shunned by her family for it. Christ teaches forgiveness which seemed to be lacking. Also, if children are blessings, would that not apply to children born out of wedlock?

Posted by Rebecca | Report as abusive

[...] Photographers » Blog Archive » Life with a “Quiverfull” Family … [...]

All children are blessings, in or out of marriage. I think you need to rewatch the TLC show. If you are still not satisfied that Wendy & Chris have shown forgiveness then read their book LOVE IN THE HOUSE, there is a whole section in there about their reconnecting with their oldest & how forgiveness needed & did take place.

I know them & grace abounds in their life.

Posted by Marsha | Report as abusive

Thank you Chris for explaining the word “Quiverfull”! Our quiver is full at 3 Children! Thank Goodness that God does not give each of us more than we can handle! Blessings to your Sweet Family!
The Vaughn’s
Tulsa, Oklahoma

Posted by Shannon Vaughn | Report as abusive

The line is out of line. When did Chris find the time to learn to play the guitar?
I Love you guys.

Posted by David Kumbera | Report as abusive

If you know the Jeubs. You know a wonderful family.
It is not because the Jeub kids are such a delight that makes the family wonderful. There is not one of their children that I would not want as one of my own.
It is not because God has blessed Wendy with a heart of Love that makes their family wonderful. God has given her a unique loving spirit.
It is not because Chris leads his family in Faith that makes the Jeubs so wonderful! Chris does an amazing job leading..
The Jeubs are wonderful family daily because they choose LOVE and avoid putting God into our comfortable and cultural box (knowing that they will pay the price in JUDGMENT from the self righteous for doing so).

Lead on Chris. Praise God we don’t know what the road looks like right around the corner. May God continue to grant you conviction to follow his will and the faith to endure difficulties ahead.

Posted by jim | Report as abusive

[...] Photographers » Blog Archive » Life with a “Quiverfull” Family … [...]

[...] Photographers » Blog Archive » Life with a “Quiverfull” Family … [...]

[...] Photographers » Blog Archive » Life with a “Quiverfull” Family … [...]

[...] Photographers » Blog Archive » Life with a “Quiverfull” Family … [...]

[...] Photographers » Blog Archive » Life with a “Quiverfull” Family … [...]

Really nice job on your first slideshow. I have to admit I’ve watched the family on TLC before and couldn’t understand why they would choose to have such a large family, but your slideshow presented their beliefs in a new light and realize what a great thing they’re doing. Great job on the story!

Posted by Amy | Report as abusive

Beautiful! You really captured the essence of what it means to have a quiverfull family! I hope you win some awards with this story! If you are ever interested in doing another Quiverful family, my family will be featured as well as the Jueb’s in an upcoming CBS produced documentary on WE network this fall. I have other story ideas as well. You can contact me at rachelmscott99@aol.com

Posted by rachel scott | Report as abusive

Thanks for an excellent article! I know the Jeubs very well. They are just as genuine in real life as the image you see on the news. The house is full of love and joy. All the children are loved, welcomed, and accepted, including any “black sheep”.

The Jeubs are the “real deal”, kinda like “Cheaper By the Dozen” (the old version from the 30s), only there’s more of ‘em!

Posted by Ron Stauffer | Report as abusive

Oh, great photos and article. THANK YOU for such a beautiful job, and thank you to the Jeubs!

Posted by Holly | Report as abusive

If you can’t feed them don’t breed them.

A wise lady whose husband survived 12 bullets in a store robbery told me God does not make “cookie cutter Christians”, meaning each Christian has to follow the individual path God has laid out for them….It is a personal relationship and we do not always follow closely, sometimes not at all. The problem is that sometimes we think that what God wants in our life is what He wants for every other Christian, then we mistakenly try to put those ways of living on others as being the only way. There was only one Moses who led the Israelites out of Egypt and witnessed the one and only parting of the Red Sea, , one Noah who rode out the flood with all the animals on the one and only ark, one Abraham who by faith believed God’s promise to make him a nation, one David who faced a giant with only one little stone, and one Mary who was visited by the Holy Spirit to become pregnant with Jesus. None of them attended any Gothard seminars or heard Billy Graham speak and quiverfull was their only way of life because there was no birth-control. Nor were there cars nor electric lights back then but we use them now without feeling sinful. And God has made only one YOU and one ME…we are an incredible distinct personality found lost and wandering that He will paint and frame into a masterpiece!

Posted by esbee | Report as abusive

These folks seem like nice people. I got to thinking though, what if each of their children had fifteen children and each of their children had fifteen children and so on. How many people would this produce in fifteen generations? The answer is 6,568,408,354,130,850,000. Maybe that is not what God had in mind. In fact it only takes ten generations at this rate to exceed the current population of the earth. Do the math.

Posted by boyphilosopher | Report as abusive

I think that parrents who chose to honnor gods wishes and love children are wonderful what could ever be wrong with loveing children and wanting as many as you were chosen to have I think that people who chose the quiverfull way of life should be praised for acc. The honnor bestoed upon they my a higher power than them selfs. May all the familys who have chosen this path always be rewarded in all the best possible ways

Posted by imystrious1 | Report as abusive