Monthly Archives: February 2013

Reiko Souma’s Story

Reiko was born deaf.  At the age of fifteen, on May 28, 2004, she prayed to God to restore her hearing and, as a result of her faith, God answered her prayer.  However, at the age of nine, she began attending an Independent Fundamental Baptist Church.  By the age of fifteen, when she regained her hearing, she was a teenage girl who was lost in the Independent Fundamental Baptist Cult and its abusive teachings and rules.  The “rules” affected every area of Reiko’s life at church and at home.   In my book, Religion’s Cell: Doctrines of the Church that Lead to Bondage and Abuse, I talk about the effects the teachings and rules of the IFB have on the children.  This is why I feel Reiko’s story needs to be heard.  Here’s Reiko’s story:

 Extreme Loneliness

“What is one thing I wish I could change about my life? → Not being so lonely. Hasn’t anyone ever stopped and thought about the real reason why I’m always sitting at my laptop? It’s because I have nothing else to do aside from typing away or playing the piano. The world outside of my isolated world is in a different galaxy from mine, and it seems as if everyone has decided to make me unapproachable. I understand that I’m not as good-looking or attractive as the rest of the world is, but that’s absolutely no excuse to leave me out in the cold like a stray cat. My family and the church people don’t know how much they’ve hurt me, and I’m through with holding back on it. Do I need counseling? NO. I’m just telling how I feel, and what I want to change about my life. Loneliness. No one knows what it’s like to spend almost your entire childhood without the ability to communicate with everyone else the same way, to always be shunned to your bedroom, to not have any true friends with the exception of the God who created you. At least I know that He listens to me and sees the tears that I’m letting go of right now. Far more than anybody else ever will. To understand what I’m feeling right now, one would have to have been through the same exact experience as me.

 

Some of the Rules:

  • No hanging out with certain people because you can’t even hear the words that are coming out of their mouths, and your lip-reading isn’t good enough anymore.
  • No going to certain places just because you don’t have a sense of direction.
  • No going to that Bible Study across the street because you’ve got your church that you go to on Sunday mornings.
  • No staying up later than usual because you’ve got school in the morning, yet your brother can stay up as late as he wants.
  • No bedroom with a real door. You have no right to privacy, but your brother can have a door with a lock because he’s a boy, and he needs his privacy.
  • No extra privileges because you’re doing a writing assignment for something that you’ve never even done wrong. That means you’re handcuffed to your room the entire summer.

 

…No doing this. No doing that. No meeting new people because we don’t know what they’re really like. No going anywhere, even if you’re with somebody. Why don’t you just say that I’m not allowed to have a life? It’s bad enough, I never really had one as it was. Like Jesus, I was rejected by so many people. Like Jesus, I’m still being rejected by so many people.”

Reiko’s story is one of knowing the pain of loneliness and isolation.  It was common in this cult to isolate the children from each other for fear of “influence.”  It was also common to isolate the entire family from those outside the church.  Religious Rules always lead to isolation and abuse.  What Reiko experienced as a deaf child and a hearing teenager is emotional abuse.  But her story does not end there. . .

“During my time in the Independent Fundamental Baptist cult, they took advantage of me by filling my mind with all of their opinions, attitudes and strange doctrines.  They had a way of inserting opinion into the message in such a way that it came across as being truth!  They were masters at twisting scripture to make it say what they wanted in order to enforce their many “rules.”  My personal Bible-reading would often contradict what I was being told and  it wasn’t long before I had problems with differentiating the truth from error when it came to doctrine.  I eventually found myself interpreting scripture based on what I was TOLD instead of what I was reading.  Because of this, it became very difficult for me to digest the messages being preached. The doctrines they taught have hindered my spiritual growth by causing confusion in my mind.  This confusion makes it difficult to function beyond their isolated world of fundamentalism and treat those outside the cult with the grace and respect and love they deserve.  When I finally found my voice and courage to speak out,  I found myself questioning everything that was preached!  I openly asked the preacher questions that put him in the position publicly to provide an answer.  As a result, I was shunned, gossiped about and slandered.  I learned quickly and the hard way, that NO ONE was allowed to question the preacher.

The abuse wasn’t just in the fundamentalism. My Atheist father (who has disowned me about five years ago) specialized in psychological abuse. My mother, a Pentecostal, was and is still an enabler of abusive behavior. While she didn’t turn a blind eye to my being bullied in public school, she did turn a blind eye to my father abusing one of my brothers and me.

The IFB has completely destroyed all traces of any relationship that my brother and I once had with each other. What I had thought to be “God’s Will” instead turned out to be the IFB manipulating to single out the strong-willed from the so-called “weak-minded” (which I strongly disagree with passionately) and removing the “weak-minded” from their congregation through psychological manipulation or just shunning them. Gossip and slander are what destroyed my brother’s positive outlook on life, changed the way he views and treats women, and ultimately led him to disown me. With my brother no longer in the church due to what I’d been told was him “refusing to follow the rules of the church,” I was the only one in my family who was in the IFB. I was alone, and I forcefully pushed away all feelings of feeling trapped. But I couldn’t leave. Why?

My mother has had a long-standing sympathy and support for the IFB, in spite of her being a Pentecost and despising the same group of people she agrees with. That is, I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere on Sundays and Thursday nights except for church. During the week, it was school and home to do homework. I’m surprised that I was allowed to own a television and video games (which I still own and play on my free time), what with my immediate family being the way they were. Punishments for the stupidest things included spankings from my mother, writing assignments with Bible verses from my father, and my bedroom cleaned out of everything except for my clothes, my furniture, my lamp, and my Bible. Other punishments involved having to watch every boot camp show on those talk shows like Oprah, Maury, Jerry Springer, Sally Jessy Raphael, etc., with my father while my mother worked during the day. My only source of freedom was at night, when I would climb out the window just to escape from every reminder of the IFB and my parents’ abuse.

My temporary freedom from the IFB didn’t come in the best way possible. We had to move, and I had been kicked out at thirteen for the first time in my life by my father. Having nowhere to go, I had to stay with a family friend who received multiple visits from the IFB and Mormon churches (soul-winning for the IFB, food deliveries for the Mormons). My aunt didn’t make me go to church unless my mother called and told her that I had to go. Unfortunately, my mind had already been so heavily indoctrinated with that of the IFB church that I felt I couldn’t avoid going to church. I made myself go just because I still had it in my mind that the church was a safe haven from all of those who bullied me everywhere else. Thankfully, my “vacation” from the IFB finally came when I was thrown out of my aunt’s house at the age of fourteen for “arguing too much” (which I felt then was me standing up for myself).

Still considered to be homeless, I ended up having to stay with one of my uncles. He’s now retired from the Pentecostal ministry after being a pastor for several years (due to health), but the apartment was already overcrowded. It was either sleep in crowded quarters, or I sleep on the streets and keep my stuff in storage. Not wanting anything to do with church or God at the time, I sucked it up and switched between sleeping inside and sleeping on the streets. It was a low point in my life for the several months that I was away from my hometown, but then a (temporary) house was bought in my hometown. Sadly, my moving back to town got me sucked right back into the same IFB church that had manipulated with my brother’s life and reprogrammed my mind. If only I knew then what I’d have been getting into…

…I was kept under very close supervision upon my return and expected to “shine” brighter than everyone else. It wasn’t long after my being sucked back in that I started to hear for the first time in my life, solely when I prayed for my hearing whilst on a road trip. I was in Baltimore and enjoying two days out of school when my ears opened with a loud POP before I could even finish praying. A doctor’s visit immediately followed upon my telling my family, and why not? I’ve wanted to hear all my life, and now I was able to hear. No more did I have to rely on placing my hand over a keyboard speaker just to differentiate each note that I played with a finger while reading the notes. I could now start playing the piano without what I only call a limitation. Of course, the IFB would have none of this. They welcomed my ability to play the piano, but believed that my being deaf was a hoax. Looking back, I can only laugh now. But I digress.

From 2004 until December of 2010, my mind has pretty much all of the memories blocked out. The snippets that I can remember, however, aren’t pretty. One in particular, which I’m finally starting to open up to my therapist about, was literally the time that I almost died from making myself sick. In short, it was the last time of my being homeless and having to stay with an IFB family…it only lasted for all of two weeks before it was decided that my mother HAD to make room for me at the place where I live now. This memory still haunts me to this day, but the lesser memories of having to sneak food just to avoid passing out and seeing the pastor shirtless…those aren’t so haunting. In the fuzzy areas of my mind, I remember being introduced to several pastors all over the region. The Chricton brothers, one of which is currently at Crown College and the other having the audacity to step into the church I currently attend to “visit,” are just two of them. Evangelists such as Dan Souza, Wendell Calder, the CLA, and the newly-built New England Baptist College/Central Baptist Church, are a few others.

Before you finish reading, I wish to insert some encouraging news here. I hate leaving anything on a negative note, so I want you to know that I’m looking back and seeing how far I’ve come from where I started. I’m amazed that, in the eleven years of abuse that I’ve been through, I’ve made more progress in healing in only a third of that time. My life has had a more positive outlook on it since leaving and, in spite of the darkest moments that I’ve experienced, I believe that there is hope. Not just for me, but for each victim of the IFB’s abuse.”

Reiko’s story about questioning leadership and the results of doing so, is common in an abusive church.  Many have found themselves on the receiving end of not just shunning, gossip and slander, but public humiliation.  Again, this is abuse. It is emotional abuse and spiritual abuse.

The abuse she suffered at the hands of her parents just adds to the trauma she has already had to deal with. This heaps abuse upon abuse. For a child, this is too much to bare.

Wheeler’s Story of Abuse

My wife and I first started going to church after we had been married about 7 years. We were drifting apart and I was headed to the bars and she was headed to church. When I realized we were having trouble, I remembered that others had shared with me that there where some answers to life’s problems in the church. So, I suggested that we should go to church together. But I wanted to go to a church that I was somewhat familiar with, that I felt had some hard facts. She was going to the Evangelical Free church at the time, but I had a friend in this other Church called Calvary Baptist Church, an Independent Fundamental Baptist Church. So, she agreed and we started going. Shortly thereafter, God saved my soul. After 2 yrs there, I started going to the Pastor’s daily verse by verse Bible study. I went to that for 4 yrs. You see, the first book I ever learned to read was the Bible. I had graduated with a 2.92 grade point and could not understand a word I read. The Bible was the first book I ever had a desire to know what it said. I wanted to walk with God and live my life for Him. I believed the Bible was literally God’s guide book for life.

After 7 yrs there, I had come to the place where God was teaching me some things and I started to see that the leadership was not allowing people outside their immediate family to serve in any positions that were of any consequence. Also, they where deliberately preaching new people out of the church. So, I went to the Pastor and talked to him about this as I was concerned with these things. He told me he was growing too and to give him time and he would try growing. But almost immediately, we started getting these messages to beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing. As I knew what this was about, I looked to the Lord and felt God was calling my family and me to leave this church and go to a IFB church across town. This church had a Bible institute, Bus ministry and plenty of opportunities to serve. This church was started from some of the members of the other church I had went to and a Pastor from Hyles Anderson College. Not really knowing what that meant at the time, I was excited to go somewhere it appeared God was moving. So, I jumped in with both feet and hit the ground running. Before long, I was working in Children’s Church, then took a Sunday School Class for 3rd & 4th grade boys, then Children’s Church for 1st & 2nd boys & girls then I started working on a bus route with my family. Keep in mind this was all at the same time. My family and I became the Church Custodians where we were spending about 70 hrs a week in all serving God. We were seeing 100’s of people come to church! My family had become singing Evangelists going out to different churches and I was filling pulpits for other churches. At this point, we were sold out lock stock and barrel.

At some point, I started realizing that I could not continue all I was doing and not be compensated. I was very limited physically as to what I could do but, my mind was still strong enough to lead and read and I could preach. So, I went to the preacher and told him I could not continue down this road without some financial help. We were spending 70 man hours a week just cleaning the church. We were doing it for 35 hrs a week at $5.00 an hr. We thought that was enough of a ministry let alone the 35 hrs of voluntary work to get the job done. Please, remember this was on top of all the other ministry work with worship services, bus ministry, children’s church, Sunday school, Thursday visitation, Saturday bus calling another 15 hrs of service. Finally, in addition to all this I was taking 6 credit hrs a week in their Bible institute. Upon asking the preacher for more of a financial compensation, our relationship started to change. I started perceiving that I wasn’t being cooperated with any longer. I went to the preacher and asked him if there was anything standing between me and the full time ministry. By the way, I had ask him this about every 6 months to get the same answer for 2 yrs. Of course he said no, but his spirit was just different this time. I tried to put the good light on it and just move on. In the mean time, I discovered that child sexual abuse was going on and I went to the pastor about it with no results. As I was a children’s church preacher, God lead me to preach about children doing things with other children when they spend the night at each others houses they should not be doing. I said, “and some of you know what I’m talking about.”

Needless to say, I got called in on the carpet over it. Then, I found out it was 2 of his children that were involved. Well, when he started telling me what I could and couldn’t preach in children’s church, I informed him I was not his puppet and to get someone else. When I first realized I had to go was after I started trying the spirits of the pastoral staff. Putting them to the test to see if they were really for me or against me. As I found out,  they weren’t.  I started to collapse into a deep clinical depression. Keep in mind that our whole lives were wrapped up in this church and serving God through it. At this point, I started questioning God as to what I was doing and, if in fact I was following his will. I asked God,  “How could you lead me out here on this branch and cut it off?”  He said to me,  “I’m glad you are finally listening and seeking me.” I thought, “What? If I have not been following you and serving you all this time then what have I been doing?” I started wondering, “Do I even know you if You didn’t lead me here?”  That small still voice said, “Ya, I know you, but you have been leading yourself.”

By now, I was having anxiety attacks, but I thought I was having a heart attack. I went to the doctor and he asked me what I was so upset about. He told me it was just anxiety and told him I know who to go to about this, God.

Well, I was driving down the road one day and heard an ad that was telling of 7 causes for clinical depression. Now at this time, I was experiencing 5 of the 7 causes at the same time and they were saying any one could cause clinical depression. God melted my heart right there. I was only getting 2 hrs of sleep a day and I was now spending 22 hrs a day in bed. I felt like I was dieing! So, back to the doctor with a different attitude. At this point, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. I was totally wiped out! My mind was racing. I couldn’t stop thinking about it all. My face was starting to twitch, my eyes lids, forehead, my cheeks. If I wasn’t eating, I was gorging off an on. I was in deep physical pain taking pain pills like crazy. So, I started on the antidepressant and anxiety meds and then threw myself at the mercy of the Lord and committed myself to God and God alone from his Word to show me what to do. I told God I was going into the basement of my home and I wasn’t coming out until he showed me.

Well, I am now in the basement, I start reading in Genesis 1:1 and I didn’t get to chap 40 before God, in that small still voice spoke to me from the Word. The story tells of Jacob going to a far country to his family to take a wife. While there in the house of Laban he found the wife he had prayed and asked God to show him. Laban had promise Rachael to Jacob for 7 yrs of service. After the 7 yrs, the ceremony was over Jacob found he had been tricked and was married to Leah, Rachael’s sister. So Jacob agreed to work 7 more yrs for Rachael because of the deception. If you don’t know the story you should read it. Jacob had been deceived and beguiled several more times, but each time God blessed Jacob and Laban started getting upset. Jacob started wondering what was going on and looked to the Lord and God told him that Laban’s heart was no longer toward him; to go back to his home country. Right there God spoke to me again in the small still voice and told me thate pastor at the church I was attending, his heart was no longer toward me. That he was being deceptive with me and I was to go back to the church my family had first attended. The problem with that was, we were supposed to be sent out of the church we were in as Evangelists at the camp meeting we were having that Spring. Hello, problem! So, to prove the Pastor, I went to him and told him that if he didn’t use us in the camp meeting like he said he was going to do, that God was calling us to leave the church. So, I waited, he didn’t, and I informed my family what God had done and we were going back to Calvary! This was in early May. My eldest son still had to graduate, so we committed to continue until the end of the school year. In the mean time, we found out the pastoral staff and school was telling ours,as well as, other people’s children they didn’t have to listen to their parents; that they, the pastors, were their authorities to obey them. When we found out, we confronted the associate pastor with a formal letter of complaint and demanded he correct this at once. Well, My eldest son was pulled out of classes and verbally abused by the Associate Pastor for what he thought was his discussing this matter with his parents and he hadn’t.

So, now we elevated this matter to the Senior Pastor and demanded the Associate Pastor apologize for his behavior. After a month of demanding this, he finally gave in and required the Associate Pastor to apologize, and he did. So, school lets out, we go back to our first church. The Pastor there had agreed to support our call into Evangelism, but didn’t. Here we were and we had started our children in the school for the new school year. Then, the school teacher/dictator decided my 7 grade child had peach fuzz on his lip that must be shaven the next day or, not to come to school. Well, we were a little taken back by this and I sent him to school and told him if this teacher had a problem to call me. Well, all the children came home after school with a note that they were all expelled. So, I wrote a note to the Pastor saying, “If this situation could not be resolved, we would be forced to leave the church.” We left and started going to a Evangelical Free Church for a while. But, to be frank, I was not very patient, I saw some doctrinal issues I felt I couldn’t live with and I dropped out of church. The family followed shortly thereafter and we floundered until we lost our home.

We were living in the basement of our parents house, homeless. At this point, I had lost all will to even try anymore. I was so bad mentally, I couldn’t work. I was in bed 22 hrs a day sleeping only 2 hrs of that. My mind was racing and I couldn’t stop thinking about all the stuff that had happened and I got mad at God. I told Him He promised that His seed would not be found begging bread and yet here we were. I said, “It’s time for you to provide our needs!”

As I waited on God, considering suicide, we got a phone call. My wife’s brother called to ask if we would consider going to help care for her mother that had dementia. Now, keep in mind he had no idea the state we were in and what our needs were, and we didn’t tell him. We simply agreed to go check it out and see if we thought it was something we could do. We went, checked it out, and agreed to go for room and board and $800.00 a month. Which was all we needed to meet our needs. We moved from Michigan to Illinois and we cared for her mother and her husband that was bed ridden for a year until it became more then we could handle and we had to go back to Michigan to help a son of ours. So, we took her back to Michigan to care for her there for 2 more years until she passed away. The point of this is to say that God used this to provide our needs financially, as well as, to give me a purpose to live. It gave me something to think about besides me. He proved Himself to me in how He provided for us. So, I have just not been able to say, I give up on God and I’m not going to trust you. That’s the broad stroke with more to come; like the revelation of what it is to walk with God, which, we were now and oh, how God has brought us to were we are.

Conclusion of our Testimony!

We left a family run Church, Calvary Baptist Church, that didn’t let any men serve to Grace Baptist Church (with a Hyles Anderson Graduate as Pastor) where they would work you to death if you would let them. We left Calvary Baptist again over lack of submission to the School teacher over peach fuzz.. We left Evangelical Free over doctrinal issues. We tried to start a Church. I knew of a very compassionate man that had just left the Church he was in. So we ask him if he wanted to help us. We had talked to him about the vision of the Church and what we would like to see. We discussed how we would like to see a Church that could help Spiritually hurting Christians as well as reach out to the lost. We wanted a church that was mutually led. We didn’t want a Church where the Pastor was the final authority, but the Leader of our Spiritual matters. We didn’t want a Church where we WIN THEM, WET THEM, WORK THEM, and WASTE THEM!  We thought we had an agreement and started the Church.

Now this was the period of time I had come to the end of myself. I was mad at God, because I felt like we had sacrificed our lives going on 15 years. We had given ourselves into the poor house and here we were homeless; living in the basement of my parent’s home; not knowing where our next pay check was coming from. We got the call to go to Illinois to take care of Mom. This person had no idea the state we where in, but God did, and I had just got finished praying to God a little mad, that He promised His seed would not be seen begging bread and yet here we are.

This is where God started to really start teaching me to walk with Him. We spent a year there with no Church. We had to care for mom 24/7, so there wasn’t time or relief enough for Church. So, I communicated online with the Pastor of the Church we had help start. But when I reminded him of why we called him to that Church for he quit e-mailing me. Now, I am totally without Pastoral leadership. I was for the first time in my Spiritual life totally dependent on God. The problem here, is we were taught that you can’t survive outside the Church without the fellowship of God’s people and not going to Church. So, this was a scary time for us, but God had other plans. I was still struggling with my own health issues and God started opening doors to health professionals that could help me with my issues. I could go into it, but there really is no point other than to say, God help me and he did what I had been trying to sort out for 10 years.

I look back at that time and see now how God had sent us to Crystal Lake Illinois, not only to care for mom, but I met some of these health professionals and learned some things about my condition that I would never have found out in Gaylord, Michigan. Those that understand the effects of long term exposure to chronic stress, know what it does to the adrenal glands and how the exposure to that stress affects your muscles.

Anyway, Not only did God send us there to help Mom and provide us with a home and income, but also I had to file for social security disability and the cases where back logged in Mi. As a result,  my case got transferred to Illinois by accident and was settled there within 6 months. So, God had provided us the income we needed when we had to go back to Michigan.

At this point we had to go back to Michigan. God had proved to me how He can take care of me, if I would put all my trust in Him. So we went back, went back to the Church we helped start. God then provided a home. My daughter got married and they gave us our first grandchild and, shortly thereafter, another grandchild. So, what does this have to do with it? Well God gave me some things besides myself and our problems to think about. This is where I started some real healing psychologically, and physically. Having all our needs met and people I could love and care about again, I started focusing on Church again. I started going to the Adult care center to play music and sing for them. I would play for my Mom and the grand kids. I started getting some purpose to my life again. So, we went back to the Church and the preacher there decided to leave and the Church ended up closing. Since we had already experienced life without being in Church, it wasn’t as hard on me, so I began home-Churching. So, here we are. Now we have to move to Wyoming and God has given me the vision for this site www.facebook.com/pages/Church-Survivors/351959144822796 to reach out to hurting Christians– to try and point people to a personal walk with Jesus. You really don’t have to be dependent on a Church or a Pastor. In fact, we tend to end up worshiping the Church and it’s Pastor, rather than Jesus. If this message makes you mad, I would say you should check who or what you are worshiping!

Cathy’s Story – Kidnapping, Rape, Abuse and Cover-up – Part 2

girl2Cathy’s Story of Kidnapping, Rape, Abuse and Cover-up~Part II

Posted on June 14, 2011 by chucklestravels

This is the continues from Part 1 of Cathy’s Story.

I twice attended Bob Jones University (BJU), a fundamentalist Christian college in South Carolina. I went for the first time in the 1980′s. After leaving BJU the first time, I went to a community college and received my nursing degree.  For reasons I won’t go into here, I moved to South Carolina. I wanted to get my Bachelors of Science in Nursing. Unfortunately, many of my credits from BJU would not transfer to other colleges. However, if I went back to BJU as  a student, I was promised those credits would allow me to obtain my BSN relatively quickly.  However, I did not realize how intrusive BJU was in its student’s lives, even those  living off of the Greenville campus! During that time, I became severely depressed and experienced extreme PTSD symptoms associated with the depression. I did not understand what was happening to me. But my most severe emotional problems were magnified when I went to Jim Berg for counseling while still a student at BJU.

In Jim Berg’s view, as I soon found out, people who had problems such as depression and PTSD were “un-spiritual” (his word, not mine). In the IFB world, depression is a sin. Taking medication for depression only covered sin. I plummeted into a even deeper depression. In June of 1996, during my last counseling appointment with Berg, he told me,

“I can’t help you, no one can help you, not even God can help you,”

because I was not making fast enough progress and still “deep in the sin of depression.”

I will not begin to deny that I was having some serious issues.  Unfortunately, being discouraged from taking medications for these issues did not help. I am by no means proud of this, but I went home from this appointment and overdosed on medication. I realize that it was clearly a bad choice, and that was wrong. I was not thinking clearly, I was angry and in deep emotional pain. Of course, I was admitted to the hospital.

While I was in the hospital, I received a letter from Jim Berg stating,

“I hate to add more to your concerns, but this all comes from the consequences of your own actions, as a result you will not be allowed to continue as a student at BJU. I pray that God will break you of your sin of self-sufficiency and stubbornness and make you a usable vessel for Him.”

Fortunately, I received in the hospital the medical care and kind of counseling I needed from the beginning.  To add insult to injury, I was chastised by the Independent Fundamental Baptist Church affiliated with BJU (the same church Jim Berg attended at the time) because I was receiving counseling from a psychiatrist and licensed therapist.  In the view of the IFB church, secular therapy was wrong, and therefore sinful.  I was mortified to realize that Berg betrayed my confidential talks with him by “sharing” my situation with the pastoral staff, family members, and others in this church and at BJU as well.  In my opinion, Jim Berg made himself out to be “a great caring, godly, humble fellow” who tried at the best of his God-given ability to “lovingly” guide me to “trust God.” This betrayal of my confidence began a painful and difficult process of leaving the church and my circle of friends and family. When  I finally decided to leave my IBF Church, I was especially afraid to leave because of intimidation, pressure, and threats of Divine Judgment. I was harassed by well-meaning church and family members. I was also pursued by not so well-meaning church leaders. Eventually, as a former member, I was publicly chastised and humiliated before the church.  Unless it was to talk to me about the “errors of my ways,” members were discouraged from any association with me.  It seemed that all my friends and most of my support system went up as it were a poof of smoke when they were needed the most.

girl3

For a long time,  I actually felt that I left God Himself when I left the church. It was one of the most depressing times in my life. Few of my former church friends associated with me other than to tell me I was in sin. I felt further isolation and abuse and was fearful of the world. A well known Christian leader questioned me personally, and to others that were still in the church, about my salvation. One tactic that was extremely difficult for me to deal with was the “shepherding” philosophy. Other IFB churches may refer to this as discipleship groups.  As practiced in many IFB churches, this philosophy requires every member to be personally accountable to another “more experienced” or more “spiritual” person. To this person, one must “be transparent”, revealing all personal thoughts, feelings, and future plans. I now understand that this personal information is not used to help the member, but to control the member.

A few years after leaving the IFB church that I had attended, I again became involved in a  Shepherding Group that, at first, seemed harmless. I still did not understand that a person must be very careful about churches that insist members be accountable to some leader for spiritual and personal growth, especially if the group leader begins to demand transparency and accountability of the member regarding personal and or spiritual issues and personal decisions. The most upsetting thing that happened as a result of my departure from that group, took place when my former shepherding group leader, his wife, and several others members of my former church became involved in my current group. This particular group was disbanded by the leaders almost a year before this time due to lack of interest and attendance of group members. Furthermore, two people in this meeting were never involved with me the whole time I was in the church.

One of my then- current church pastors asked me to meet him on a Sunday afternoon. He claimed he wanted to find out how the church could be of assistance to me because he had heard of my then recent surgery and beginning treatments for Clear Cell Chondrosarcoma a rare bone cancer. I had just returned to Greenville after being in another state for over two months for surgery and treatment.  I was still very weak and sick. When I went to the church that afternoon, I found my former Shepherding group leader and his wife there waiting for me. Soon the small conference room was filled with 8 other people. One of the pastoral staff was there, but quickly added he did not know me, “which is probably a good thing.” Only two others were ever directly involved with me. The others were people I did not know personally. I knew they were members of the church. None of these people, other than the Shepherding Group Leader and his wife, ever went to my Shepherding Group. I, in no way expected to experience this very painful “intervention”, or confrontation , by the leadership, which I now refer to as a “surprise party” or “gang-up.” I was lured to this meeting under false pretenses. I have heard from other former members that sometimes such meetings are in the home of an elder or other leader and sometimes in the home of the “problem member” himself. My “intervention” consisted of a hostile and accusatory “interrogation session” that lasted for 3 hours. The group’s objective was to persuade me to confess of the “error of my ways” and of my “need to submit myself to the discipline of the church.” They went on to question the reality of my medical condition. I was told to recant my “slanderous” charges against a “spiritual leader”, obviously referring to Jim Berg. I learned from previous encounters that if I became outwardly hostile during such a ‘process’ things would become worse.  I did, however, refuse to acknowledge any wrongdoing on my part. I showed copies of my oncologist surgical report as well as the actual XRAY film which clearly showed the tumor that was recently removed.

Even after all of the evidence I provided, a man who sat directly across from me and who had glared at me the whole time finally said, “Tell me about your salvation experience.” I finally lost it a little and replied, “No matter what I say, no one here will believe that I am saved. You worry about your salvation. Let God and me worry about mine. You are not the Holy Spirit in my life!”

After that outburst, the pastoral staff member said, “Cathy, you go across the hall with the women and we (the pastor staff member, my ex-shepherding group leader and the man whom I did not know) will talk about what we are going to do to help you or how we are going to deal with you. If I had not been recovering from major cancer surgery, I would have certainly handled this differently.  Most likely my response would have been to leave right then and there. I was hurt and bewildered by what the assistant pastor said. However, I did go across the hall with the women. The Shepherding Group leader’s wife then asked me about a family member who was also recently diagnosed with cancer. I was exhausted, but angered by then. I said something to the effect of, “Why don’t you call and ask him yourself?” They talked at me, not to me, for a few minutes. The Shepherding Group leader’s wife closed by telling me, “We all love you, lady.” I did not make any friends when I said, “I can tell how much you love me by all the lies you have told and the knife that is sticking out of my back!” Then the ladies went around the room and prayed for me to “repent” and asked God to “convict me of my bitterness.”

I did not stay for the whole prayer session. I just got up and left the room. When I went out into the hallway, I saw through a small window in the door the men sitting and talking around a conference table. At this point, I was tearful and angry. I knew, at this point, there was nothing to lose. I opened the door and asked, “Are you all having a good gossip fest? Why is it if you were talking about me, I could not stay and defend myself?” The assistant pastor said, “You need to submit yourself to the discipline of the church.” I asked, “For what?” He said he would get in contact in a few days and waved his hand as if to dismiss me. I told him not to bother. As expected, I never heard from them but instead, soon found that my name had been removed from the membership rolls.

© 2011 Catherine Harris

Cathy’s Story of Kidnapping, Rape, Abuse and Cover-up – Part 1

girlPosted on June 11, 2011 by chucklestravels

When I was just three years old, I was kidnapped by a very disturbed woman by the name of Cleo Smith.  I was so young, it is still difficult for me to remember all the events. However, I do have memory of Cleo putting me in her car.  At one point, I remember crying for “mama.”  This infuriated Cleo.  I remember she screamed at me, and told me to shut up.  I remember her car was a green 1966 Cadillac.  At one point, I remember telling Cleo that I needed to go to the bathroom.  That is when she hit me in the face and told me to shut up.  The problem was, I really did have to go to the bathroom, and due to terror, lost control of my bladder.  The next thing I remember was the car being on the side of the road and Cleo cursing at me, screaming, “You are a worthless damn kid!”  The next thing I remember, was being marched to the back of her car, Cleo opened the trunk, picked me up, and threw me in.  Those memories are so engraved in my mind, that I have nightmares about the actual kidnapping even all these years later. I went missing from a local grocery store while my biological mother shopped. She had just given birth to twin daughters she had three very small children with her as she shopped for groceries. I disappeared while she shopped — we would not be reunited for almost 30 years.

I lived with Cleo until I was 12 years old (When the police became involved in my life, although not because of my kidnapping).  Cleo owned many rental properties in Philadelphia, near Temple University.  Ironically, my biological parents leased a home from Cleo and subsequently had some legal dispute with her.    Cleo took me to a 110-acre farm she owned about 25 miles outside of the city.  Cleo owned this home under an alias; she also used an alias for me, Salina. Cleo had no legal documents for me that showed guardianship or an adoption. In fact, there were no records found of anyone born or adopted in the US by the name by which Cleo gave me.  Unfortunately, Cleo died before the investigation of my legal status was completed.

In 1967, the farm was in a very rural area of Pennsylvania.  There were no Amber Alerts, no CNN  or up-to-the minute news broadcasts.  Most people got their news from the local newspaper, a small number of TV stations (with rabbit ears), the radio, or by word of mouth . At the time, most people would not believe a woman would abduct an older child, but only babies. Cleo was never a suspect in the original investigation of my disappearance. Even if she had been, I am quite sure she hid her tracks by taking me to the farm .

It was at that time, the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (now known as the IFB) Church became a part of my life. An IFB Pastor would eventually adopt me after the police became involved. He kept telling me many times throughout the years that Cleo had come with me  to the church he was the Pastor of . He said she claimed that she had found me abandoned in a rental property in Philadelphia. He says that he did tell her she should have called the police instead of just keeping me. She told him she never had, or did have, any intention to do so. This Pastor and his wife did not officially adopt me until only a few months before my 18th birthday. It seems they wanted to receive as much foster care benefits from the state as possible.  My “room” was a bed pushed into the corner of their basement. I asked my adopted father many times over the years why he did not call the authorities. I never received a satisfactory answer to my question.

Cleo was a close follower and financial supporter of Dr. Carl McIntire, who was a fiery fundamentalist leader at that time.  McIntire was a contemporary of Dr. Bob Jones, Jr, and was granted a honorary doctorate from Bob Jones University

I had been horribly abused by Cleo and her lover and farm hand, Lou. As as a result of the ensuing investigation at this time, I learned  that Cleo was not my mother. I heard for the first time that I may have been abducted because, with Cleo’s various interviews with the police,  she continued to change her story as to how I came to live with her. The nightmares that I had for as far back as I remember, were not just scary, they were true. I was enrolled in the Christian school associated with my IFB church for most of my life as a student. I did go to two other other IFB schools for a short time. Cleo was able to enroll me by telling these schools she had lost my birth certificate and would order another one from the state. I attended each of these schools for only one year, as Cleo could not provide my birth certificate to enroll the next year. When I was 14 Cleo died while the police investigation was on-going,  taking her secrets with her to the grave.

I was glad when Cleo died. But I never received any professional counseling.  At the time, I was so angry to find out that my life was a lie, from where I came from to what my real name was, that I was not interested in learning any more details. I still believed that my biological parents abandoned me, as Cleo and others told me. I decided I just wanted to get on with my life. I had symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) back then, but of course, did not recognize the symptoms, nor did anyone else as those things were rarely discussed publicly in those days. I did not know what was happening.  When my adoptive father who was a Pastor, and the Youth Pastor, found out about the nightmares and flashbacks about the abduction, and the years of sexual abuse I suffered at the hands of Cleo’s lover, Lou, I, was constantly told not to dwell on it.  When the nightmares persisted, the Youth Pastor, who graduated from Bob Jones, told me that I was “just bitter.”  He repeatedly drew connections between the nightmares plaguing me and rebellion.  Brother Dave then would quote:

“Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. “  I Samuel 13:23

In his mind, and the mind of others, the nightmares, flashbacks, fearfulness and crying spells were because of my refusal to “put the things which are behind.”  I was yelled at and told to “stop having sour grapes.”  If I was not smiling, or looked downcast, Brother Dave would yell at me that I was a witch because in his view, the only reason I was still having problems was because I was in rebellion and refused to give it all over to the Lord.  It did not take me long to stop talking about my past whatsoever.  I worked so hard to “forget those things which are behind” as I was told. I never mentioned it again. The nightmares and flashbacks lasted for many years . I sincerely wanted to be a good Christian.  Completely believed what I was taught; that the IFB were the only one’s who were living Godly lives.  I believed that members of other Churches, and certainly mainline denominations’ salvation were in question.  If perhaps they were able to slip under the fence and find the way to get saved, they weren’t living right.  As a result, I put considerable effort into forgiving and forgetting the abuse, torture by Cleo, and rapes.

Tera Winker’s Story

My name is Tera Winker.  I am a survivor of the Independent Fundamental Baptist cult.  It has taken me a very long time to have the courage to tell my story of abuse.  My story is not an isolated story for this cult.  There are many children that bare the scars of their abuse; but, they have been silenced like I was silenced.  My hope is that others who have been abused in this cult will read my story and find courage; courage to speak out against their abusers; courage to free themselves from the bondage and abuse.

 I will begin my story by talking about my Stepdad.  He was a longtime student of Hyles Anderson College.  Eventually, he graduated with much praise and admiration from the leaders at the school and church.  He was known as a good, godly Christian who won many souls to Christ and brought many to church.  But, I knew the truth!

My Stepdad started molesting me when I was 12.  It wasn’t long after this that my mother started getting on to me about my Bible reading.  She said my Stepdad was unhappy that I had not been reading the Bible like I should and felt I needed to be punished.  It was at this point that I told her what was going on – my Stepdad was molesting me.  When she confronted him about it, He said I was a liar. However, my mom put all the “red flags” that she saw together, and believed what I said as truth.  My Stepdad threatened me and told me that if I told anyone outside of our family, that my mother would go to jail with him and my siblings and I would be split up in foster care and would end up in a worse situation than my current one. I believed him and felt like I was in my own prison.

Once I told my mother the truth about him, the abuse then changed to physical, emotional and verbal.  He would constantly grope me and I would beg him to stop, but he would not.  I told him to do “that” to his wife and leave me alone.  He said, “I wish I had married you instead of your mother.” I was so grossed out!  (I was only 8 when he married my mom and the night before their wedding I cried and begged her not to marry him.  She did not listen, and the abuse towards her started on their honeymoon and never stopped.)

One Sunday morning, I decided to stand in my pastor, Jack Hyles, counseling line.  I told my pastor that “My Stepdad was touching me wrong.” (I was so ashamed of the details of my abuse, so that is all I could tell him at that time).  He said,  “The next time your Stepdad tries anything, get in his face and tell him he is wrong and immediately tell your mother so she can step in and stop the abuse”.  I left his office feeling empowered with this new plan. I felt that I had the support of my pastor.  (Deep down, I knew I would be punished severely for standing up to my abuser, but I did not care anymore.  I wanted him to know that he was wrong and that my pastor knew what was going on.)

A few days later, I was in our kitchen working on my history fair project and he started putting his hands all over me.  I begged him to stop and he would not.  I then told him what he was doing was wrong and that I was now going to tell my mother what he was doing.  He jumped up from the kitchen table, ran down the hall and told my mother that I had “just talked back to him” and “had a bad attitude”.  He then told her that she would be spanking me with his belt while he watched.  I was horrified that she would not let me explain, only his words mattered.  So the punishment began.  He said, “Bend over.”  I said “No, I did not do anything wrong, you did.”  He then hit me across my face with as much force as he could muster (he was a military man with great strength and knew how to administer great violence).  I saw stars and almost blacked out.  He did this more than 30 times, telling me to “bend over” and my telling him “no” as he continued to administer severe blows to my face.  My mother finally stopped the beating; however, my face was no longer recognizable.  After this, I was told to stay home for four days from school to give my face time to heal.  My Stepdad then told my mother to go to the store and purchase some concealer make-up in order to cover up the bruising to my face and my black eye.  Many people at school asked what happened. I told them I fell on my face and hit the corner of our hallway (that is the story I was told to tell).  I lived in fear that if I told anyone the truth, my Mom would go to jail and we would be split up and put into foster care.

My best friend’s father took a picture of my face and tried to call the police, but I begged him not to due to what my Stepdad told me. I did not want to be the reason my family was broken up.  My abuse continued for many years and maybe I will share more at a later time, but for now this is all I can share.

Many of the leaders at the church and schools knew about my abuse.  I felt helpless and alone.  I did open up to my pastor, Jack Hyles, and told him more of what was going on, but he told me, “It sounds like he was just fondling you, so let’s try to get you moved to Bob Jones academy.” Instead of helping to stop the abuse, he was trying to get rid of ME; to send ME away.  I did not want to be moved away from my friends and family!  Why couldn’t the abuser move away?

My mother is still married to my abuser and, I have recently taken steps to pull away and not be a part of their lives.

Simone’s Story of Abuse

Simone’s Story of Abuse At New Bethany Home For Girls, Arcadia, La.

NB pic

This story is also posted on Chuckles Travel’s Blog: This story may not be used or copied in any manner without the express permission of its Author.

Simone’s Story of Abuse at New Bethany Home for Girls, Arcadia, La

It was the summer of 1981, I was thirteen years old and had spent most of my life in orphanages, foster care, and had been shuffled around since the day I was born. Going to New Bethany was only one of my many experiences as a child. Actually, I believe that it was at New Bethany that I realized that I was thrown away. I was a child, and apparently the only thing I had ever really done wrong in my life, was being born. All of the adults in my life, who were supposed to love me, protect me, and care for me, tossed me aside like a piece of damaged merchandise. These are only a few of my memories during my stay at the New Bethany home. I was there from 1981-1984.

Survival should not be a childhood memory

I remember pulling up to the gate at The New Bethany home for girls like it was yesterday. There was a nine foot chain linked fence, topped with barbed wire, and the gate had a lock and chain on it. My heart was pounding, it looked like a prison. I wasn’t a bad child, just an unwanted one. As we pulled into the gate, I kept trying to tell myself that this place couldn’t possibly be as bad as some of the other places I’d been. Could it? When I entered the front door I was shocked at the way the people looked at me, the way that they were dressed, the look in their eyes, and the things they started saying to me. Immediately one of the house mothers started telling me that I needed to get out of my sinful clothes, (I was wearing a pair of jeans, and a t-shirt) wash the makeup off of my eyes (because I looked like a whore) and get ready to be inspected, and take a shower. I turned and went for the front door. That was my very first mistake, as well as my very first beating at The New Bethany Home for girls. (I had only been there for a total of maybe fifteen minutes.) All at once, I was taken to the ground by several women, some of them weighing at least 200 pounds. I was screaming for them to get off of me, telling them that I couldn’t breathe, and that I was not going to stay there. That is when I felt the first blow of the paddle. I was shocked to say the least, I figured they would hit me a few times and then it would end. I don’t remember how many times I was hit, I just know that the pain of being hit, while being held down and not being able to defend myself, was when I realized that this was going to be my ‘home’, until I turned 18. After about 2 hours of being held down and told that I was this horrible sinner, and that I needed God in my life, they finally got off of me. I was bruised, brokenhearted and, was instantly plotting on finding out the quickest way to get the hell out of this place. Next, I was taken to the bathroom, with two women and one girl and told to strip. I was thirteen years old, had already lived a life of hell, in trying to protect myself, and had at least acquired some modesty. I was embarrassed, I slowly removed my clothing, with my audience standing there in front of me looking as if they were ready, and willing to attack me again, if I didn’t do exactly what they told me to do. I got everything off except my bra and panties; surely I could keep them on? WRONG! I had to remove them, so they could spray me for crabs (which I had never even heard of) and lice. Then I was told I had three minutes to get in the shower, wash my hair, scrub my filthy body, and get out. ‘We don’t waste water here at New Bethany’, one of the women told me.

After my shower, I was assigned a ‘watcher’. She was the only person I was allowed to speak to, look at, or ask any type of question about the ‘rules’. She was the only person I was allowed to trust. Many girls were only on watch for a month or so. Usually, the extreme brainwashing got to them. They were children, locked behind a fence, with the constant threat of being severely punished. For some, it was easier to just give in, and go with the flow. At New Bethany, you were expected to conform immediately, out of fear many did just that. By conforming, I mean that you as a child were expected to believe everything that you were told, get on your knees and beg God for forgiveness of your sins, and worship the owner and founder of New Bethany, Mack Ford. He was after all ‘the closest thing to God that we would ever meet’. We, as young children were whores,sinners and we should be happy that ‘someone wanted us’. He preached that from his pulpit. And if he wasn’t preaching it, one of his many other staff members, who were so-called preachers, were sure to remind us, daily. I am not sure how long I had been at the home, nor how many times I had been beaten, before a whole ‘new’ form of abuse started. Some of it I remember as clearly as if just happened yesterday, some of it is only fragments and pieces. All of it, as a child, was horrifying. It is called rape.

Every day before leaving the main dorms, we would all have to line up and have our uniforms checked. We had to prove that we had on a bra, camisole and a slip. Your skirt had to be below your knees and your blouse had better only show two fingers worth of skin, from your collar bone down. If your uniform was deemed inappropriate you had to go change, and you got licks because they assumed that you were trying to be like a harlot. I had passed the uniform check that morning, so what happened to me next, was to say the least, confusing at first, then after the assault, terrifying. Upon arriving across the road for school, we were lined up again and had breakfast. After breakfast, we lined up once more to head upstairs to the schoolroom. One of the teachers would check us as we walked by her; it always seemed to me that I disgusted her. I was getting ready to find out just how badly her disgust was for me. She stopped me in the line and confronted me, saying that my skirt was too tight. She said I was to go up to the ‘office’ immediately. (The office was another room, above the school room.) I walked up those stairs slowly, thinking to myself how my skirt can be too tight? It was an ‘A’ shaped skirt, it wasn’t tight at all. Not even in the waist. I knew at this time that going upstairs to the ‘office’ meant that you were going to get beaten, it happened to me frequently. It happened to me so frequently that I didn’t even cry anymore. Maybe if I had shown some type of emotion or submission to these people, what was about to happen to me would have never taken place. When I got up the stairs to the ‘office’, I was met there by the principle. He gave some of the hardest licks, I was scared, but I didn’t show it. He told me to bend over the desk and to lift my skirt, I did as I was told and was prepared for the beating to begin. “No” he said. “Your slip too.” I turned and looked at him. I can’t explain to you the look in his eyes, and what I saw in them. I know now as an adult that it was pure evil. I turned back around and lifted my slip; he yanked my panties down and jammed himself inside of me; telling me, as he was raping me that I needed God, that I was a whore, and that he was going to help me find the salvation that I needed. When he was done with his “punishment”, I was sent back out to the woman who had sent me upstairs and beaten by her. She knew what he had done and she was angry with me. She was beating me, because he raped me? I had tempted him with my tight skirt. It was my fault, wasn’t it? I cannot say with all certainty that I was ever molested or raped by anyone else at the school. However, (I know) for some strange reason, that Mack Ford has never been circumcised. I have remembered that because faint, quick thoughts of his uncircumcised penis seem to flash through my memory at times when I am sleeping; sometimes even when I am awake. I see him coming at me with his pants undone. This type of punishment was frequent for me. I hated that little ‘office’ above the school room. I hated that no matter how hard I tried, my uniform was always wrong. I hated that I couldn’t find this ‘God’, that he said I needed so badly. Shortly after this, I had received a severe beating from the house-mother. After my beating was over, I was walking down the hallway called ‘White hall’. I was headed back to my room and I was a mess. I leaned up against the wall, and broke down. I slid to the floor and just started crying uncontrollably. I felt someone touch me, I am pretty sure I jumped. But, it was a different type of touch; one that I had never felt before. Someone had their arms wrapped around me, and it wasn’t hurting me. I was being hugged? I WAS BEING HUGGED! I heard a whisper in my ear, that I can still hear to this day….”Stay strong”…..The hug wasn’t long-lasting, as the punishment for showing affection at New Bethany was severe. But that hug, and those words have stayed in my mind my whole life — ‘Stay strong’

NB pic2

Born to Run

I was only at The New Bethany Home for girls and boys for a very short time, before I attempted to ‘run’ the first time. All of the doors and windows had locks and alarms on them, so if you were going to try to get away, you had better make sure you were ready to make a run for your life. I waited until late at night, after the ‘floor walkers’ had made their rounds. The ‘walkers’ would have to stay up all night, and check on each and every girl, making sure that everyone was in their beds. The second I could tell that they had gone down the next hallway, I flung the window open and made my escape. The alarms were screaming, lights were flicking on everywhere. I headed towards the fence, and realized that if I tried to climb it, I would be instantly caught. So, being thirteen and very scared I headed for an old abandoned bus. I was a tiny little thing at thirteen. I think I may have been about five foot, five inches, and maybe weighed in at one-hundred pounds soaking wet. When I got on that old abandoned bus, I instantly curled myself into the tiniest ball and hid underneath one of the seats. I could hear the staff yelling and screaming, I could hear the dogs barking and I was scared half to death. I saw the light from a flashlight shining into the bus, I was trembling, I was sure to be found, taken inside and beaten half to death. However, the light came and went. They didn’t see me. I was safe. The only problem I had to face now was that I was still inside the gates,and I had to figure out a way to make it over that fence. How was I going to do that now? Everyone knew I was the one missing. I stayed in that bus all night, they never found me. By the time the morning came, I was numb from the cold, scared to death of being found, and had not one clue as to how I was going to make it out of that bus and over the fence. I guess I finally gave up the thought of actually making it. I got out from under that seat, and went to the front of the bus and just sat on the step. The staff member that found me immediately took me inside with a grin on their face. It was a grin of sadistic pleasure. I was like a prize. And they were proud to have ‘found’ me. The beating that took place after I was turned over to the house-mother was just like any other beating. I would lose count after about the fourteenth lick; and that was at times only a third of the way into the beating. I attempted running every chance I got. It didn’t matter to me that I would be beaten every time. I had to get away. I couldn’t handle the abuse any longer. I was being abused in every way shape and form. Taking a chance was worth being beat. I just kept telling myself that one day, I would make it into town and somebody would save me. I learned that I couldn’t have been more wrong. The last time I ran, I was actually with another girl from the home. We had a chance and we just took off. We ran so hard and so fast that neither one of us could barely breathe. We did it, we were gone, and apparently nobody knew, until we were so far ahead of them, there was no way they could catch up with us. We ran and ran, it seemed like it was miles. It was five-mile to Arcadia, it seemed like five hundred. When we finally made it, we went into a bathroom at a gas station. Both of us were bloody from all of the briars and bushes, we were covered in dirt and sweat. But we made it! WE MADE IT! What happened next, made me realize once again that I had not one person in this whole entire world that cared about me or wanted me. We actually got to talk to the police. I was covered in bruises, from the middle of my back, all the way down to the bottom of my shins. Some of my bruises were so bad that they had scabs on them. The police officer listened to us, as we frantically told of the things that were happening to us at The New Bethany Home for girls. Then he said something that I will never forget, He said, “Well kids let’s give your parents a call”. I didn’t have parents. He told me that he had to take me back to the home. There was nothing I could do; there was nothing that he could do. The beating I received after being taken back to the home is one that I have never forgotten. I remember the house mother’s evil grin, as the police officer handed me over to her. I was taken into her room, laid across the bed and beaten for what seemed like hours. I could hear her labored breathing with every lick, I could smell her sweat. I think at one point during the beating I must have passed out. I remember her hitting me so hard that it felt like I would break in half. I couldn’t sit down for weeks, I could hardly use the restroom, and I wasn’t allowed to speak. I never shed one tear during all of this, now as I write about it, the tears won’t stop. I never ran from the New Bethany Home for girls again. I was there, and there was nothing, and no one, that was going to change that.

Am I Dead?

It wasn’t until I was at The New Bethany Home for girls for a while, that I found out I was deathly allergic to bee stings. They had us work in the fields, on a regular basis picking corn, peas, black-eyed peas, purple hull peas and digging up potatoes. It was one of the things that really didn’t bother me. At least if I was working in the fields, I didn’t have to go upstairs to the ‘office’. I was working away, picking peas, I believe when all of a sudden I felt the sting. It hurt, but I didn’t really complain. It was only a bee after all. About four of five minutes later, my vision became blurry, I was shaking horribly,and I couldn’t breathe right. My watcher asked me what was wrong; I turned to her and tried to say something. The only thing I remember her saying is “Oh my gosh!, what is wrong? Your eyes are almost swollen shut!” I remember vaguely, the hustle and bustle of the girls, and the staff. At some point someone gave me some type of shot. I think?

Then I woke up, on the sofa in Martha dorm. The girls were all talking at once, I wasn’t understanding the things that they were saying. My head hurt, my eyes were still swollen almost completely shut. I remember asking one of the girls that was standing over me, “Am I dead?” She smiled and said, “No, but we thought you were.” Apparently, I had been on that couch for a few days, drugged with who knows what. I know that I didn’t go to the doctor. At New Bethany you could be almost dead, and you still wouldn’t receive medical attention. I was made to get up off of the couch, take my three-minute shower, and head off to church. Mack Ford preached that night. He preached about how ‘God’ had given me a chance to live, they had prayed the ‘Devil’ out of me, and wouldn’t I love to accept Jesus as my personal savior? My head was spinning, I couldn’t believe that I had almost died, and this man was telling me it was because ‘God’ had given me the chance to live, so that I could conform to Mack Fords beliefs? They had ‘prayed’ the ‘Devil’ out of me? I was stung by a bee. Not possessed by the “Devil”. I looked at Mack Ford, and said as bravely as I could and said ‘No sir’. He came running at me from his pulpit, screaming and yelling that I was going to burn in hell. God had given me the chance to live; Mack Ford had made sure of it! He had after all, prayed the ‘Devil’ out of me. He then took me by the arm and began dragging me outside. He took off his belt and began whipping me with it, all the time telling me I was an ungrateful and worthless whore. He beat me for a while, and then he drug me back into the church. I guess because I didn’t scream out, or shed a tear, he decided that I was truly of the ‘Devil’. He had the house mother take me back to the dorm, and administer another beating. The only thing running through my head was the statement that I had made earlier that day, to the concerned girl who stood over me, “Am I dead.”

Churches still send Mack Ford money.

Prior to going to the New Bethany Home for girls, the only religion I had ever been exposed to was the Catholic religion. I remember the priest speaking in a very calm voice. I remember standing, getting on my knees, sitting and the little bells. “Peace be with you.” ‘Ting-a-ling’ “And also with you” and again, ‘Ting-a-ling.’ I never really understood what the priest was talking about, but I do know that I was never scared of him. The religious teachings at The New Bethany home for girls, was to say the least, more of a ‘cult’ than it was any type of religion. Mack Ford was the leader, plain and simple. I believe he made up his own rules. Sure, he claimed to be ‘the closest thing to God’ that we would ever meet. But in all reality, he was the most evil man that many of the girls of the home, would ever lay their eyes on. He had created his own empire. Churches were donating him thousands of dollars, people were giving him their land, and parents were paying him thousands of dollars to ‘fix’ their wayward teens. Mack Ford would travel all over the country with a bus full of girls going from church to church, claiming that he ran his home on donations only. That the Lord saw it fit for him to help these poor children. He would coach the girls on their testimonies, at times making sure to have the girl with the saddest testimony standup before the church, and tell of how she was a drug addicted prostitute, prior to coming to the home, how she had no family to take care of her, and how thankful she was to Mack Ford for taking her in and leading her to the Lord. Then he would have the girls sing their little hearts out. Many of the girls were very talented, they could sing like angels. The church members would break down, thinking that it was the Lords will to give as much money as possible. Mack Ford was raking in the dough, and people had no idea what was really going on behind the fences of The New Bethany home for girls. Mack Ford also had two other ‘groups’ of girls, sent with different pastors, one who was the administrator/principle of the home, and another who had come to the home and preached a few times. These were smaller groups than what Mack Ford took with him. But, they were still doing the same thing. Going from church to church, telling of how the home had saved them from a life of drug addicted prostitution, and how thankful they were to Mack Ford, for leading them to the Lord. What really seemed to get to the members of these churches was how talented these girls were. Like I said, they could sing like angels, literally. Mack Ford had it all figured out. And still, not one of these churches knew what was really going on behind the fences of the New Bethany home for girls. Behind those fences children were being systematically brainwashed, children were being beaten, children were being raped, children were being sexually abused, children were being denied love, children were referred to as whores, Children had their privacy taken, children had their self-esteem smashed, children had no emotional support, children had no choice, children were getting no education, children were being brutalized, children were turned against one another, children were lied to, children worked in the fields so they could eat, children were hungry, children were cold, children were frightened, children were told that no one wanted them, children were cut off from the outside world, and children were told that no one(except Mack Ford) loved them. Mack Ford is not God. He tried to make us all believe that he was. I guess the only thing that he will live to regret is not taking the time to realize that one day, that we would all grow up. We are not children anymore, and we remember everything. He still lives on the property that was once the New Bethany Home for girls and boys. He is sitting on a fortune that was earned by the children he terrorized for decades. I believe he has close to 300 acres, with five huge buildings on the land that was donated to him. By innocent people who had no idea, what was going on behind the fences of the New Bethany home for boys and girls. And yes, churches STILL send Mack Ford money!

The Sickening Antics Of Nora Carter (Shepard)

Nora Carter is the monster that for the entire time I was there, brutalized, terrorized and just about beat me half to death on several occasions. She was the ‘house-mother’. Nora Carter was aware of the sexual abuse that was going on at the New Bethany home during the 80′s. She did nothing to stop it. She did nothing to protect us. We were children and her impression was that it was ‘our’ fault. We were whores without God in our lives. She did nothing for us in the 1980′s and apparently, as I’ve been told, she did nothing for the girls in the 90′s either. One of the girls, who had graduated and became staff, actually taped herself being assaulted by Mack Ford. She turned the tape over to Nora Carter, and all hell broke loose. The tape was turned over to Thelma Ford (Mack’s wife) and he was supposedly asked to leave. I’ve also been told that Robbie (Mack’s daughter) and her husband Timothy Johnson came to the home and removed the girl who had become staff, and had recorded Mack’s abuse. Parents were called, girls went home and statements were taken by Nora, by other girls/children who had also suffered Mack Ford’s sickening sexual abuse. Yet STILL she didn’t contact any type of law enforcement? This was her golden opportunity to finally do what was right. She didn’t.

Instead, Nora Carter married the gardener Tom Shepherd, and went out to make sure that no one would talk about what had happened behind the fences at the New Bethany Home for girls.

Nora and Tom followed behind the group of girls that had gone home. They even had some of the girls from the New Bethany Home with them. They ended up in Washington State, trying to be ‘supportive’ of some of the girls who had been abused by Mack Ford. It is my opinion and the opinion of many others that she was actually doing her best to make sure that no one spoke out about what she had failed to report to the authorities. Nora and Tom got an apartment, reportedly paid for by the parents in this support group. They tried to start another home, and Tom tried to start a church. That failed, so they headed to Milan, Tennessee. What I have been able to confirm, in conversation with Douglass Powell, Pastor of Immanuel Missionary Baptist Church, is that Tom and Nora went on to Milan,Tennessee to a church by the name of Immanuel Missionary Baptist Church. The Pastor of this church, Douglas Powell, and his wife, had a Christian day school. It remained open for about twenty years. They had a firm belief in the division between church and state, but always allowed the inspectors to come in and inspect the school, if they asked to do so. It was after all the LAW, and they had nothing to hide.

Tom and Nora arrived in Milan TN, in a blue van with four children (reportedly from New Bethany) from Washington State, they immediately opened a children’s ‘home’ called ‘Faith Ranch’. This ‘home’ was open and running for two years. Until one day the state came and wanted to inspect the ‘home’. Nora and Tom refused. Doug Powell did everything he could to explain to them that it was the law. He had meetings, offered to step in and represent the ‘home’ and deal with the inspectors himself, by allowing them to come in and inspect. Nora and Tom still refused, and declined his offers of help. After much debate, as to doing things legally, Doug Powell asked Nora and Tom to leave the property. I was also able to confirm in conversation that it was then that Nora and Tom moved to Campbellsburg, IN. Tom’s longtime friend, and Pastor John Lewis (Old Paths Baptist Church) invited them to come there. They stayed with church members, with 6 children in tow, until they could find a place to open another ’Faith Ranch’. In 1996, they found some property owned by Eric Wheeler, and yet another ‘Faith Ranch’ was opened. The agreement was that the Shepherds would fix the place up, in lieu of paying rent, for the use of the property. In August 1997, Tom Shepherd died leaving Nora Carter alone and in charge of the home, and the children. In September 1997 Nora (Carter) Shepherd receive $50,000.00 in life insurance proceeds from Toms death.

In March 1998, Nora Claims to have purchased (with Tom’s life insurance money) a portion of a fifty-two acre parcel of land, from an individual named Alma O’Connor. In all actuality, the pastor of Old Paths Baptist Church John Lewis, paid for almost all of it, through donations from church members. (As well as money from his own pocket.) In the summer of 1998 construction began on the building that would become ‘Faith Ranch’, and by winter the 3400 square foot three story building was completed enough that Nora and the children could stay in it. John Lewis, pastor of Old Paths Baptist Church and Nora had agreed that the top story would be used for the church. When the building was completed, Nora quit the church, claimed that the ‘home’ was hers, and even went as far as going with another church member and putting it in the name of ‘Old Paths Baptist Church INC’. A lawsuit ensued; with Nora claiming to be the ‘victim’ of ‘John Lewis’. She was attempting to sell the property on the open market for $65,000.00. John Lewis was horrified, to say the least. He refers to Nora (Carter) Shepherd as the ‘Biggest thorn in his side’ as well as doing the worst ‘demonic satanic attack’ on his church. He is devastated. His church members are devastated. They tried to help this ‘Godly’ woman, and were extremely hurt in the process. The property was eventually split between Nora (Carter) Shepherd and Old Paths Baptist Church. They now have a road between the two properties. Nora (Carter) Shepherd now is the proud owner of a 3400 square foot, three story home, located in Campbellsburg, Indiana on 20-25 acres. She is also the proud owner of a brand new Cadillac as well as a Suburban. Although now, it has been reportedly put into her ‘daughters’ name. This girl that Nora claims as her daughter is actually only one of the children from Nora’s home. Since leaving New Bethany, she had three (possibly four) different homes opened. Nora Carter (Shepherd) has never been held accountable for the abuse that she covered up, she concealed abuse victims, and for this you would think that something could be done? She is still living in Indiana, to this day. Not caring one bit about the children that she abused for decades, or about the children that she didn’t help, knowing that they had been physically and sexually terrorized .

In August 2010, five of us went back to that horrible dark place, trying to find some type of closure. This is for my sisters, for the survivors, and for those that we have lost.

A year ago today, we stood up to our fears

A monster lives behind the fence

Decades filled with tears

Secrets dark and dismal Hidden deep inside

Scars and fear deeply embedded

It’s from him we wished to hide

A year ago today, we saw a different man A

coward hidden behind his fence

We spoiled his master plan

Our paths have joined us together

From him we hide no more

Through all the torrential weather

It’s one another we adore

A year ago today, we walked right past that man

An old man crumbling behind his fence

We finally took our stand

Our intention was for healing

But it has become so much more

He will never again look into our eyes and refer to us as whores

A year ago today, I held my sisters hands

Life has a new meaning

Since we took our stand

Nothing will stop us now

From speaking out the truth

It’s the monster who should be punished, from us he stole our youth

Now, in my life, I am doing everything that I can to help expose these types of places. I am now a coordinator for an organization called “HEAL.” (http://www.heal-online.org). As a child I had no voice. It was taken from me during my stay at the New Bethany home for girls. I intend on doing my best to be the voice of as many children as I possibly can. Children who are still suffering in places like New Bethany. Survival should not be a childhood memory.

nb pic3

The New Bethany Book is now available for everyone to read! Click here to read the stories of abuse from those who were sent to this home. — The-real-book-of-new-bethany – Download FREE!

Samantha’s Story

 Sometimes it is very difficult for someone who has been abused to step forward and express to others what they have gone through.  It takes great courage to speak out about abuse.  Many stay silent about their abuse most of their lives out of fear; especially, if the abuser is associated with a religious organization where family still attends, or, is a member of their family.

The following story is about a young lady who had to deal with sexual, emotional and physical abuse from a family member.  After the courts stepped in and gave her an escape from this abuse, she was then abused a second time by people in a place where she should have been protected from it; a place that most regard as a safe haven not only for themselves, but for their children.  Emotional abuse can be traumatic for any person; but to have it happen a second time is unfathomable.  Sadly, those who have been abused can become easy targets for further abuse.  This is what happened to Samantha.

Samantha’s Story

 My Mom and Dad only stayed together until I was about a year old. It wasn’t long after the divorce, that my Dad died by drowning. I was about 3 ½ years old at the time.  For a while, it was just my Mom and me. We lived off and on with my grandparents and her younger brother so they could care for me while my Mom worked.

When I was five years old, my Mom started dating again. It was at this point that I was then placed with a babysitter while Mom worked. Eventually, my Mom married the man she had been dating.  At first, I was happy.  In my five year old mind, I was excited about having a “Daddy” that would love me.  However, it wasn’t long after my Mom married that things began to change.  My new Daddy began taking control of everything in my life.

He implemented stringent rules for me that created emotional turmoil in my little girl mind.  It was hard to cope with the fact that he controlled every aspect of my life including my friends.  It wasn’t long before I was not allowed to go play with my friends after school.  I was confined to my home. As a little girl, this was traumatic for me.  I felt alone and isolated and, in my mind, I truly did not understand why I was being treated this way.  I didn’t understand why I could not have any friends.

I can’t remember at what age my Stepdad started coming into my room.  At first, he would just touch me and tell me things to make me “feel good” about what he was doing to me.  His “touching” soon caused me to get infection after infection.  My mom and doctor thought it was because I wasn’t cleaning myself well enough. So, it wasn’t long before I had no privacy at all.  Every time I went to the bathroom, my Mom would “check” me to make sure I was cleaning myself properly.  Today, I still have trouble sorting this out in my mind.

When full on sexual abuse was going on, my Stepdad was also physically abusing me. He was verbally abusive to both me and mom but, for some strange reason, my Mom has a different take on my childhood and disagrees with me over what I say about it.  Not having the support of my Mom regarding the abuse was another trauma that I had to deal with.  As a young child, my isolation and abuse put me in a desperate frame of mind to escape it.  The sexual abuse went on for years until, at the age of 16, after a year in my own room downstairs, I ran away. Finally, I was free of my abuser!  My friends hatched a plan and snuck me into a friend’s house after school. It was a failed attempt, though, and 2 weeks later, I was sent back home. At first my Mom and Stepdad overindulged me; and then, it went back to the same thing.  I didn’t know what to do and I didn’t know where to go.  As a teenager, it is just very difficult to mentally handle a situation of this magnitude with no help from an adult.  The pain and hurt, at times becomes insurmountable because you are not believed by the one who is supposed to love you and protect you.

One day, an adult friend I finally confided in about my abuse, decided to take action to help me escape. He took me to one of his friend’s house afterschool one day and dropped me off. He left and returned with a policeman.  He turned my Stepdad in. I was taken into an emergency custody and after a night of endless questions, I was taken to a group home/shelter. A few months later, I was permanently removed from my home by the courts. My Mom and my Stepdad fought the allegations I made against my Stepdad (I made none against my Mom), but did not fight the removal. They did not care what happened to me. It was during this battle, that my Grandparents immediately started the process to be able to gain custody of me.

Today, my mom is still with my abuser. While I am plagued with flashbacks and have severe PSTD, they supposedly live a happy life.  Even today, I find it difficult to understand how my Mom could allow all this to happen to me; how she can deny that it happened to me.  As a child suffering abuse for many years at the hand of my Stepdad, I cannot reconcile this fact in my mind.  But the abuse did not stop here.  As a young teenage girl, now free of the sexual and physical and emotional abuse of my Stepdad, I never dreamed that years later, as an adult, I would be abused in a place that most regard as a “safe” haven.  Never could I have imagined that I would see other children abused emotionally and physically by those their parents entrusted them to.  The emotional trauma and flashbacks this resulted in caused me to get physically ill many times.

At Christmas time, a few years back, I visited a church with my niece.  The people seemed friendly and inviting.  They seemed to genuinely care about me.  This was just what I needed as a result of my past.  I fell in love with the church and, as it happened, conveniently lived right across the street from the Associate Pastor. It seemed perfect and convenient.

Then, after a while, I began to notice that all the ladies wore skirts or dresses.  The Pastor did not push me to wear them, but I felt odd.  The feeling of guilt this laid upon me was triggering.  It made me feel as though I wasn’t right with God because I was wearing pants.  Once again, I was taken to a place in my mind of feeling hurt and confused.

A few months later, I was asked to volunteer in the church-run daycare because one of the workers was going out of town. I loved children and, I needed a part-time job, so I applied for a position to work in the daycare. After I was hired, I was immediately told that I had to wear skirts or dresses all the time now that I was working for the church.  Suddenly, there was a list of countless rules that I had to now adhere to in order to keep my job.  But these weren’t normal rules and standards you would find in the workplace.  They were rules that controlled how I dressed all the way down to my skirt length and collar height on my blouse!  Suddenly, these rules became the determination of my “godliness.” It wasn’t long before going to church, working the daycare and, attending all the church activities consumed all my days and nights! What I thought would be a part-time job, turned into a mandatory full-time job that I really did not have any choice about.  If I did not do as they asked, it meant my allegiance to God was in question.  If my allegiance to God was not total, then I was not ‘fit’ to hold the job in their daycare because I was not “right with God.”  As a college student, this placed a huge burden on me emotionally and physically.  It didn’t help matters any that the people in the church frowned upon me being in college!  They somehow had the notion that women do not need a college education because they aren’t supposed to have jobs in the real world!  They kept asking me what I was going to use my degree for; since a college degree for a women, wasn’t worth anything.  Needless to say, I felt the peer pressure to conform to their ideas and doctrinal standards.  This pressure led to a breakdown in my health and well-being.

I was exhausted, and my life and body showed it. Due to a brain injury I suffered at work in 2001, I suffer from epilepsy.  I have to see a doctor and therapist weekly.  Stress can trigger more seizures and, this is exactly what was happening to me!  I started to get really sick, often spending nights in the ER and going to work or church in the morning because I was told I was not allowed to miss work or church.  I was being forced to attend every function the church had as well as take care of the children until late hours.  It was during all this, that I began to take notice of the tactics being used to punish the children.  Some of these children were just toddlers!  I witnessed 18 month old babies being physically held against the wall until they cried!  They were not released until they stopped crying.  The very Pastor that I trusted showed me how to do this so I could use the same tactic on the small children!  I faked it as best I could while he was in the room and then grabbed and cuddled the child afterward.  I would cry and cry each night after getting home. Seeing these precious children treated so badly was hard for me to deal with.  The older children were put in “all fours” time out.  This meant they had to stretch out with their hands on the floor in front of them until they cried; and then, they had to immediately stop crying.  Often, I would hear the other workers say that if they could spank the children, they would. I once walked past the office door of the Pastor and he was yelling at a child to repeat to him (he was on all fours), “I will obey God” and “I will obey my teachers.”  I wanted to go in… but I was afraid I’d make it worse for the child. It was after this incident that I decided that I would never send another child to the Pastor’s office again!  That week, due to the physical and emotional load, I ended up in the hospital a few days.

In my mind, I could not reconcile “church people” treating children this way.  But what could I do?  Truly, they were not being bad kids.  They were just being normal children.  I was so troubled by it that I spent many nights in anguish over what I was seeing.  If I spoke out about it, I feared retaliation from the Pastor and church people.  Why should I be put in a position to be “afraid” to speak out about abuse?  WHY was I so afraid of these people?

All of the sudden, life at the church was dreaded. Because of my seizures, I was not allowed to drive a car. Because of this, it made me dependent on others to get to and from work and my weekly doctor and therapy appointments.  From work, I was taken by church people to my appointments (as they wanted me back at work afterward). Because of this, they started taking more than a third of my paycheck for gas to and from these appointments. Several times, I was called into the Pastors office and lectured over how they had “saved” me and I needed to pay even more for the gas of bringing me to and from my appointments and church. I explained that if he would let me have the days off for my appointments that I would not need their help.  The pressure this placed on me was more than I could bear. Financially, I could not handle less pay.  It was bad enough not being able to drive; how could I meet my financial obligations on less pay?

Finally, my doctor told me that I needed to quit my job because of the affect it was having on me emotionally and physically.  All of a sudden, I was afraid again.  I knew that if I put my notice in that I would be treated badly.  I just “knew” that I would be hurt by these people.  This fear made me decide that I needed to move away from the church and its people so that I would not be harassed by them.  I found a place to live in a city and hour away and began to make my plans to move.  Living across the street from the Associate Pastor, scared me to death now that I was feeling the pressure to conform even more.  They watched and monitored everything I did; everything I said!

I was going to schedule to meet with the Pastor and give my notice, BUT, out of the blue, the Pastor’s wife left him. I was devastated.  It also meant that he could no longer be Pastor by their standards. I was in shock and even more confused than ever. I realized that this meant that he could not be Pastor anymore.  Their “rules” would not allow for it. It was at this point that I realized that my life would be thrown into even more chaos. I had planned on giving my notice to him and quitting the daycare upon advice of my Doctor (Because of the onset of too many seizures and sickness due to the stress).  He was gone two days later and the Youth Pastor became the “temp” Pastor while they looked for a new one. I immediately contacted the Pastor’s wife to find out why she left him (we were friends on Facebook).  I could not just leave a huge question mark in my mind nor, believe what others would tell me the reason was for her leaving.  I wanted to know directly from the source.

Well, I had no choice now. I had to give my notice to the new temporary Pastor. I had to go talk to him and tell him I was moving and give him my two week’s notice. My doctors were insistent that I needed to step down from work (at this job).

At first, he understood, or so it seemed. He almost immediately said “So, do I understand you would also not be going to church here?” I said, “Yes, because I had no transportation since I was not allowed to drive.” He said the city I was moving to had an Independent Fundamental Baptist church and offered to set me up, and the church people would all help me move. Now here’s where it got hairy. He said, “I’ll talk to them. Come see me before church tomorrow.” I said, “Sir, no way will it be an IFB church!”  No sooner had I said the words and the fears began to mount in my mind.  After a short, “What are you thinking?” lecture, He cautioned me to reconsider and pray about it. He said, “We’ll talk more tomorrow.”  The whole conversation left me afraid.  I could not sleep well as I anguished all night over the backlash I was going to receive for leaving the church.

The next morning, I came into work and the 8:00 worker was already there. She took my class and I was called into the office. Sitting there was the Associate Pastor’s daughter, his wife, and the Pastor. I was floored and said, “What’s up?” I was trying to get my class ready for the teacher taking over for me while I left for my appointment. He said, “Sit down. It has come to my attention that you are talking with the former Pastor’s wife.  Why is that?”  I simply told him that I want to show my concern (Really, I wanted to know why she left her husband). He said, “That is not permitted and you need to cut communication with her. She is being church disciplined, and members aren’t allowed to talk to her.” I said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know. May I go now?” He said, “Do you already have a ride to your appointment because we can’t take you and really need you to work today.”  I told him I did and reminded him that I couldn’t skip appointments. He said okay but then the Pastor’s wife went into a tirade accusing me of numerous things! I was then told that, since I was unmarried and divorced, I was no longer allowed to be around the teen girls because I was a bad influence. I told them that my ex-husband was abusive. He said, “The reason doesn’t matter, AND, as you are going to your doctor today, you need to understand that sometimes people outside the church do not understand the things we do here. So DO NOT, under any circumstances, talk to your doctor, your family or anyone else about this meeting, church or daycare business. If I find out, and I will, if you are still talking to the Former Pastor’s wife or, you tell your doctor what happened here, I will make your last two weeks here difficult for you! Basically, I will become like Dr. Jekyll/ Mr. Hyde on you, do you understand?”  This is coming from a man who is over 6 ft tall and very big. He also threatened to fire me before my notice was up.  The panic and fear that this instilled in me left me terrified of being physically hurt.

I left the office and tearfully got my babies ready to go. Somehow, I knew I would not be back. I whispered to them that I loved them and I left to a waiting car and never went back. When I sat down in front of my Doctor, I broke down into tears and I told him everything that had happened. I told him about the abuses I witnessed toward the children in the Daycare. I told him about being threatened by the Pastor. I told him how they monitored and watched everything I did; that they were controlling my life.  I laid bare all my fears and emotional trauma that I was carrying as a result of that place. At the end of the session, after spilling everything, he sat on the edge of his chair and told me that he had to report this to Child Protective Services, and encouraged me to also report it.  As I left this appointment, the panic set in fast that I had to get far away from that church as quickly as possible.  I was afraid; deathly afraid of what they would do to me.

About a month later, I moved to my new city and have never gone back.  That whole thirty days as I waited to move, I was terrified. I had to watch my back and hide in my home as best I could; especially since I still lived across the street from the Associate Pastor! Those first few days home, I didn’t know what to do with myself.  I slept a lot, actually ate, and threw away several skirts. I have only worn a skirt twice since July of 2011. I constantly blame myself for the children I couldn’t save from that horrible place.

A few months later, I got word that the “Pastor” stepped down after becoming sexually involved with one of the 17 year old girls. It was called an “affair” though she did not consent, and this was her youth pastor. She was kicked out of her home for refusing to stand up in front of the church and apologize for the affair.  This type of public humiliation is common.  The blame is always placed on the woman or the girl in every situation where there is a sexual relationship or abuse taking place.

Recently, I found out the church has a new Pastor and he let go all of the former people that were working at the daycare and hired new people. Have things changed for those kids? One can only hope and pray.  For now, I am free of the mental and emotional and spiritual bondage that they put me under.  My health has improved and for the first time in a very long time, I am starting to shed the fear that kept me always looking behind me; always hiding.  I am not free of the PTSD that this has caused me.  I still suffer daily.  However, with the help of my doctors and therapists, I hope to be totally free of the affects my past has on me and the effects that this abusive church has had on me.

The “Gauntlet” – By Samuel Bain

From the Author: This story of abuse is perpetrated by the same abusers that are mentioned in my previous post titled, Sam’s Story. That these men are still working with children is shocking to say the least. I sincerely hope that this story is spread far and wide and that the right authorities get their hands on it!

“The Gauntlet”
by Samuel Bain on Wednesday, September 5, 2012 at 5:24pm

So I was asked by a friend of mine several months back to transcribe this account from his diary…I haven’t taken the time to do so until now. It is a brutal insight to the lasting effects trauma like this causes even in a secondary way. (I have not censored it and please don’t be judgmental of his choice of words. I believe he is working out some of these issues via his writing.)

G. writes: – “I write this now with the hope that they stay. No matter how hard I try, I can never forget. No matter how hard I wish, it never changes. Some things always stay with you, no matter the passage of time, or distance from the source.

Part 1: They all smell the same. Every gymnasium that I have ever set foot in, smells of wax, sweat, and I am pretty sure, fear. To this day that smell triggers images of violence, so vivid, it’s as if I was there reliving them again.

I step into a gym at a church in North Carolina. There are two rows of guys lined up in the middle of the gym. In my mind’s eye I see myself standing in a line facing the opposite line of my peers and classmates. I see myself take off my belt and hold it limply in my hand. My face is yellow with fear, and my forehead slick with perspiration. In this night mare of a memory, I am about to partake in my first “gauntlet”.

I remember standing there thinking, “this really can’t be happening, I’m going to wake up any second now!” Unfortunately, I’m not dreaming and cannot awake from this living night mare. My classmate and friend, Seth Grant, was going to get the living hell beat out of him.

Seth, at the time was a small blonde seventh grader who had pissed off the almighty Steve Damron, who was our youth pastor at the time. What was his crime? You may ask… He had been horsing around with a couple of his classmates, as kids his age are prone to do. In the process he ended up knocking a girl’s hat off her head. I know what you are thinking, Seth committed a heinous crime, and he got off easy, having to run a gauntlet of fifty guys, ready to beat him with their belts. I know he got off easy this time, but those were easier times.

So, Steve Damron, Don Whitecar, and Eric Ramos, the three youth pastors started their speech. They told us that Seth needed punished for being immature, and that he needed a wake up call and so on and so forth. By the end of their righteous speeches, we were so worked up, that we couldn’t wait to punish this wicked sinner. They made us believe that we would be helping him be a better person and Christian by doing this. It was as if he had violated some horrible law of God and needed to be corrected. So he was made to run between the two lines of fifty guys. Many of us had been incited into such a rage, that we flipped our belts over and beat him with the buckles. Seth managed to make it down and back, and to this day, I don’t know how he did it. At the time he weighed no more than 130 pounds soaking wet, and he was only wearing pants and t-shirt. The fifty of us were composed of guys from seventh through twelfth grades. The largest of us weighed in at around 230 pounds, and we each got at least two chances to swing at him as he went by. I was mid way down the line, and I could see Seth running towards me, as fast as he could, while absorbing blow after blow, without mercy. By the time that he reached where I stood, he had slowed down considerably. I swung my belt high over my head and then down across my body, with every ounce of strength, that I had in me. As soon as my belt connected with his body, I knew this was a moment in my life that I would never forget. On his way back again through the gauntlet, I swung half heartedly, with little effort. I was afraid of what might happen to me, If I did not at least put on the appearance of following the direction of beating the poor boy senseless. When Seth finally reached the end of the gauntlet a second time, he collapsed on the floor and curled into the fetal position, shaking and sobbing.

As I stood there staring at the quivering mass crying on the floor, I hated! I hated myself, and I hated the F***ing Fundamental Baptist pastors who had incited a mob of teens whom they were responsible for, into beating this kid senseless. He laid on the floor for hours shivering, and shaking, and sobbing. To this day when I walk into a gym that image is the first thing that races into my mind.

Years later I remembered talking with a former classmate about the whole thing. He recalled being sorry that he was wearing sweatpants that night and wasn’t able to participate in the mob beat down. Now he can’t believe that thought would have ever crossed his mind, but such was the power of persuasion and fear that these Pastors held over us.

I was fifteen years old when this all happened, and I was twenty before I ever told any one about it. To tell you the God honest truth, I didn’t really remember it until then. I’m pretty sure that memory had been subconsciously blocked out with scores of others. Seth was my classmate. We sat in the same classes in our small school. We played on the same basketball court, and soccer fields. I talked and joked with him every day for many years. Why would I have turned towards violence on someone that I considered a friend? They knew we were young and impressionable, and coupled our fear with our respect for our religion. We questioned nothing and allowed ourselves to become tools in their hands.

Incited To Violence Against Children – Samuel Bain

From the Author:

As a blogger that focuses on abuse within the Independent Fundamental Baptist Church system, it is becoming increasingly difficult for me, as a Mother, to control the array of emotions that I feel when I read stories such as this. I find it difficult to understand how the adults that were on this trip, outside of the Youth Leaders, could not “notice” the abuse on the faces of the victims. Didn’t they care about the boys that were beaten? Didn’t anyone, including Samuel’s Dad, feel concern about these boys enough to make some phone calls to parents stateside? Didn’t they care enough to pull these Youth Leaders aside and reprimand them for their abuse? Why weren’t these abusers turned in to authorities once they arrived back in the U.S.? Why wouldn’t the parents of these children, fifteen years later, wish for the abusers to be prosecuted? Abusers are protected in this sect and many of them use their positions as a cloak to mask their evil attitudes and behaviors. The tactics used against the three boys that were punished, and the group as a whole, stem from an attitude of control, power and very poor character. It is time for the abusers to be exposed for what they are – destructive and evil and in need of prosecution by secular authorities. This type of abuse would lead to prosecution and jail time for the abusers had the story been told to authorities. It saddens me that church leaders can get away with this and continue to serve “in the church” where they have access and ability to abuse other children.

The story of Tommy is not a dramatization. It is a true story that actually happened and that many were involved in. – Samuel Bain

Tommy, a few days after being beaten by the youth group. These young boys who did this were incited to violence by their Youth Pastors! (This picture is the property of one of the boys in the group who has given Samuel permission to use it.)

INCITED TO VIOLENCE AND ABUSE AGAINST CHILDREN
Samuel Bain’s account of what happened:

It’s been 15 years ago that this story of abuse took place. For many of us, it is an event that we want to forget. This event changed many of us in various ways. It left an indelible mark on the psyche of each individual that participated in the abuse and, an undying anger toward those who incited this small group of boys to do such a heinous crime.

The year was 1997, and I was only 13 or 14 at the time this took place. The leadership involved were the Youth Pastors: Jeff Voegtlin (The Pastor’s son), Don Whitecar (the Pastor’s Son-in-law), Steve Damron, and the Junior High Youth Pastor, Eric Ramos. The setting was Mexico where the youth group had traveled with church leadership for a summer mission trip. One must bear in mind that as children, we were under the guardianship of these church leaders. They were supposed to be our protectors while in Mexico. These were the very adults that we should have been able to trust to make sure that we were not hurt in any way, and if we were, would ensure that proper medical attention was received.

I remember that this was the first major mission trip that the youth group took after Jeff Voegtlin and Don Whitecar took over the youth group. I also remember that these youth leaders were very arrogant men with big “chips” on their shoulders. They always gave the impression to us young boys that they had something to prove. They seemed to derive some sense of satisfaction at delivering the most severe punishments for the smallest “infractions”. Many of these “infractions” were simply made up by these youth leaders in order to make sure that they maintained all the power and control in every way over the boys in the youth group. You couldn’t even go to the bathroom without permission! However, one would never know they were in “trouble” until the punishment was dished out. And to deny the “infraction” meant you were calling the Youth Leader a liar; this meant further and more severe punishment. So, really, for a young boy to stand up for himself and what was right meant being treated with malicious intent from the leadership, and, it also meant punishment from the other boys in the group that were incited against the poor boy that dared to speak up.

Sometimes, the punishment would be so severe for the “infraction” supposedly committed, that the other boys lived in constant fear of it happening to them. The Youth Leaders knew this and would use this fear of being punished to incite this anger in many of the boys toward those who were guilty of these minor “infractions” in order to have the punishment dished out by the group instead of them having to do it themselves. They used their positions as a cloak of righteousness to mask their evil ways.

Others that attended this mission trip also included my Dad, who was the bus driver, and R.L. Grant and Dean Leslie.

The mission group was comprised of a bunch of 7th Grade boys. We are talking about an age group of kids that certainly made their share of stupid mistakes, but many of them were hardly worth mentioning. However, Steve Damron felt it necessary to come down hard with an iron fist for every single infraction, no matter how insignificant and small.

Darcel McCoy, one of the boys, did something stupid and silly in the shower but, was accused by Steve Damron of deliberately trying to urinate on someone’s toothbrush! Darcel did not urinate on anyone’s toothbrush. A boy named Caleb and a boy named Tommy (pictured above), were spotted on the opposite side of the road without permission. They had stopped to buy a coke or something. They did not do anything offensive or “sinful”. The next day, none of the boys were allowed to eat lunch or have anything to drink! (We were in Mexico in the heat of the Summer in 100+ degree temperatures in the shade.) All of us boys had no idea why we were not allowed to eat or drink. We spent the day knocking on doors and inviting people out to see a film at a mission church that we were there to help. It was nothing more than brick walls with a tin roof but as it got later, people began to show up at the church and the girls were allowed to sit down with them. All of us boys were sent upstairs under the tin roof in a room with no windows or ventilation. We sat up there and waited and waited for about 2-3 hours. We were hungry and thirsty, and by this time, pretty angry at how we were being treated. After the service finished, we got on the bus to head back to the compound that we were staying at and were told that no one was allowed to talk. We were wondering if they were going to feed us or at least tell us what was going on, however, when we arrived back at the gym where we slept, we were told to change and go to bed. Once again, no talking was allowed. It was at this point that many of us figured out that something was wrong and we all were being punished. We knew we would not be getting a good night’s sleep any time soon!

About thirty minutes after lights were out, the gym doors flew open and garbage cans went flying like an opening scene from Full Metal Jacket. In enters Carl Bain and the other youth leaders in all their glory yelling at us to square the deck away. Of course, most of the kids had no idea what that meant and just stood there. Finally, Carl got it across that he wanted the boys to clear out an area in the middle of the floor and form a circle. Once that was done, Carl and the other leaders then began to berate everyone in the gym. They told us, “You guys don’t take this serious! You wanna play games? Fine. We are going to play some games!” They called Darcel, Caleb and Tommy into the center of the circle and sat them down in chairs next to a fan and fed them steak fajitas and sandwiches and made sure they were nice and comfortable. Then, he made the rest of us boys do PT jumping jacks, sit-ups, push-ups, bends and thrusts (ask someone who has been in the military what bends and thrusts are), and leg lifts while Steve Damron ran around the room stepping on each person’s stomach saying that if they were doing it right, they wouldn’t be able to feel him. All the while, we were told that we were being punished because of the three boys in the middle. This went on for about an hour and a half with no break. Finally, we were told to stand up. They pulled Darcel into the middle of the group and told us what he had done; rather, what they “thought” he had done, and began to force him to drink liquid. It started out with bottles of Arizona tea and then, 2 liters of coke and gallons of water. I literally watched his stomach swell up from the liquid he was trying to ingest. And as if this wasn’t enough, Jeff Voegtlin – and I am quoting him and dare him to dispute it – said, “Only a “Nigger” would do something like what you did butch! (Darcel is an African American, by the way.)” Then, they forced him to drink more water until he literally exploded and vomited and urinated all over himself and all over the floor. Then, they made him clean it up and we went back to doing more PT while they sat him back down with the other two boys.

The air conditioning in the gym had been shut off to make the gym very uncomfortable for us. It was part of the “punishment”. After about 45 minutes more of PT, they once again clarified they were punishing the whole group of boys due to the sins of the three boys that were set aside in the middle of the group. They also told all of us that when they left the room they trusted that we would take care of the problems (the three boys). As soon as they stepped out of the gym and shut the doors behind them, the whole group of boys jumped the three boys in the middle of the group. There were about 60-70 of us! Caleb was lucky because he was a bit stocky and no one wanted to mess with him. However, Darcel and Tommy got the brunt of the beating. I watched Tommy’s brother, Andy, beat the crap out of him; hitting him with his class ring and bouncing his head off the cement. All the while, he yelled that Tommy had sent some poor Mexicans to hell because of his playing around and not being serious. The next day, Tommy could not open his eyes because they were swollen shut. I honestly believe that he had one, if not several, concussions. Both he and Darcel would have been admitted to any emergency room here in the states, but those Jerks didn’t even have the thought to get them any medical attention! (Had they died or had they been paralyzed, this story would have taken a much different turn.) We were then told to go to sleep and not talk about any of this to the girls that next day.

Darcel McCoy’s Side of the Story:

I was one of the boys in the middle of the group that the Youth leaders wanted punished. I remember that what “they said” I did was not the truth of what happened. I did not do anything sinful or wrong. I remember the doors in the shower were broken and I couldn’t get out. I was 13 years old and had to pee! So, I went in the shower. Since I told them “I couldn’t hold it”, I was forced to drink gallons of water and coke and tea until I had to pee. The result was that they made me urinate on myself. Again, this is after puking several times all over myself because of all the liquids being forced down. (tea, coke, dirty water)

Here is the video of the 20/20 Story where Darcel speaks of this abuse – CNN – Ungodly Discipline (Fairhaven Baptist) Chesterton Indiana – YouTube

Michael’s Side of the Story:

I would like to add some details if I may to Samuel’s Story. Samuel has stated things accurately. I remember this day like it was yesterday. Many of the facts of this event came to my attention years after the incident. But, I do remember the following:
It was early in the day when the group of boys were sent out to invite people to church. Word started to spread around that the “staff” was upset and people were going to be in trouble. So, some people do what survival instincts prompt them to do; which was to save their own skin and tell on others. So, Don Whitecar stood up and said if anyone had any information about people breaking the rules, they needed to come forward and speak up or everyone would be punished. They compiled a list of about 25 people that had “done wrong”. Since they were experts at making mountains out of mole hills, they said it was a widespread problem and needed to be dealt with. This is when Sam’s story comes into play. We also had gone to Mexico with a missions group that was not affiliated with our group and took their buses and people into Chihuahua. So, they put us down to bed until the other group of boys that came with us and the “Bearing Precious Seeds” people went to bed, leaving us alone in the gym. As Samuel stated, the three boys were placed in the middle of our group. While the Youth Leaders made them eat, they pulled out the list and called each boy’s name one by one telling them to step into the middle of the circle where Jeff Voegtlin was standing with a paddle. They were saying he was the executioner and would be administering swats. After your name had been called out, they read the charges against you and decided on how many swats you were to receive. They even had an algorithm to compute swats for some. For example, they would tell us to take the number of charges, multiply it times 3 and divide by two. If it was an odd number that you divided by, then they would ask what butt cheek you wanted half the swat on. Some were told to go butt naked for their swats. After this was done, they focused on Darcel and made the kid, “whose tooth brush was allegedly peed on”, get his toothbrush for Darcel to brush his teeth with. At the same time, they told all the seniors to get their nice clothes and put them at the feed of Darcel so that he would wet himself and the senior’s clothes so they would be upset. Now, I want to point out that Fairhaven’s Church Staff had always been very good at prompting others to do their physical abuse for them. When Darcel drank so much that he peed himself and the senior’s clothes, they got in his face, calling him names and shouting at him. They then walked out telling everyone they hoped the problem would be solved when they go back. It was not Andy who beat up Tom, but I will not say who it was. People need to understand that we had so much animosity, hatred and emotions stuck inside of us for so long, that when the opportunity for an outlet came, it came out with a vengeance. We would take our frustrations about “staff” out on others. After the beating, they made Darcel clean the bathrooms with the toothbrush and was not allowed to pee or sleep that night.

This story of abuse took place about 15 years ago. Yet, there are many of the boys that were in the “group” that are finally willing to tell their accounts of this event in recent years. Many of us were afraid to tell our parents out of “fear”. We all were told by the Youth Leaders to not tell a single soul about what took place. After all, our parents had signed a “Consent Form” that allowed these youth leaders to be “responsible” for us. The staff learned not too long ago Caleb Stockman had a similar picture of Tommy after he had been beaten. They came to Caleb and requested he destroy the evidence in front of them.

My father was and is the Head of the Deacon Board at Fairhaven Baptist Church. I have already been threatened by leadership there that if I tell this story and get it out in the news, that all ties will be officially severed. This is a common tactic among many of my friends. It’s called “shunning” and is used against those who do not do what leadership wants them to do. It is also used on those who speak out against the abuse they see or experience. And, it is used against those who disagree with the church or Dr. Voegtlin. Many have had their parents pressured into “disowning” them and forbidding their other children from speaking to them. I want to make it clear that I do not hate the church as much as I hate the 40+ years of abuse and the ruined lives, broken families, and broken relationships it has produced.
– Samuel Bain

Rose Belle’s Story

My name is Rose Belle and I am a cult survivor. I never would have dreamed that I could ever be a part of something as abusive as a religious cult. What’s even worse? I never would have dreamed that I would raise my daughters in such an abusive environment. I spent 28 years in the Independent Fundamental Baptist Cult. Exiting was the most difficult experience of my life, but, it opened my eyes wide to the reality of what I was really involved in. Much of what I was taught to believe was done using deception. The preachers in this cult would twist the scriptures to suit their opinions and man-made rules. Many of these ‘rules’ were invented to give men power and control over women in every possible way; to suppress them, to manipulate them, to prevent them from thinking for themselves. Oh, how I wish I would have been able to see the truth sooner! Now, I’ve been left feeling dumb and weak-minded because I allowed men, for 28 years, to have all the power over my life. I feel betrayed. I feel angry. I am the by-product of years of indoctrination that leaves one feeling like they are the refuse of the earth; useless, and of no value.

The man I was married to for 25 years loved being in the Independent Baptist Church (cult)! Being a cruel and proud man, it gave him the authority to treat me anyway he wanted and I was not allowed to leave him. The church told me that I had to stay in order to be right with God. My children had to endure the abuse also. If I dared to stand up for myself or against the abuse, I was told that God would hurt my children! Well, that’s what the church would tell me. Let me say that when I use the word ‘church,’ I use it generically. It really means, the pastor, my husband, the church leadership, the flock. . . those that have the influence to make my life miserable through their words and actions such as gossip, slander, shunning and the like.

My husband was so influenced by the indoctrination of the cult that he hurt my relationship with my Mom and Dad and brothers for 25 years. The church told me THEY (the church) were my family. They told me that my real family would be a bad influence on me and my children. Whenever we would drive the 45 minutes to go to their house, it entailed a huge battle between my husband and me. He usually made sure I was in tears by the time we would arrive to see them. Often, he would threaten to turn around and go back home before we would get to their house. My husband did not want to be bothered by them. He didn’t want them influencing ME to see the truth. After a while, making the trip just did not seem worth the pain and agony that was involved in fighting my husband. Not only this, my husband kept me so busy raising my three daughters, cleaning house, paying bills, taking care of the yard, doing all the grocery shopping and everything else that needed done, that I just did not have the energy to fight him anymore. On top of all this, we attended church three to four days a week! He made sure I had no time for myself, or anyone else.

I have heard it preached countless times over the years that people who leave the church are the most miserable people in the world. Often, they would preach about the awful things God does to those who leave the church. They scare you into believing that God will take your children or some family member whom you love dearly. These fear tactics keep you isolated to the cult and its members; and, even after you exit, you are left with the belief that God is going to bring evil upon you! Well, I have been out of the Independent Baptist Church for 10 years now and I have never had such PEACE in my entire life. All of that misery that we were told would happen, never happened. Instead, God has blessed beyond measure. I believed the church, but God proved the church was lying to me. If the church will lie in one area, surely it will lie in other areas too. If the church will lie in other areas, what else is the church capable of doing? Well, let me mention one of the things it is capable of doing: Hiding Evil.

I want to mention the cover ups that went on in my IFB church in a small town in West Virginia.

1. One of our pastors left and moved to Florida. After they moved his 15 year old son hung himself.
2. The secretary to one of our pastors left her husband because he was having sex with their 10 year old daughter. She was not a foster child, she was his biological daughter.
3. A couple who went to our church started a boys home and ended up having to shut it down because the wife had sex with one of the troubled boys.
4. One of our deacon’s wives, who was a teacher in our church school (where my daughters went to school), had a sexual relationship with one of the 15 year old boys who went to the school. He was the assistant pastor’s son.

This was all covered up. The police were never called about #2,3,4. I don’t know what happened on the #1 situation.

Covering up abuse seems to be rampant in the cult I came out of. Many victims of this abuse are silenced through intimidation and fear tactics. The IFB (Independent Fundamental Baptist) men are arrogant and self-centered. This is only my opinion, but I am sure that others that have exited will echo this same opinion. I think this cult attracts the type of man who is arrogant and wants to control and have power over people. They think they are all powerful and above the law.

We were told by a pastor that my daughter (who has ended up mentally ill) has demons in her and that is her problem. My ex-husband said that if she would go soul winning with him that it would cure all her mental illnesses. If you have a problem with depression then you need to get right with God. Instead of getting my children the REAL help they needed, we were told that it all boiled down to “getting right with God.” Thus, my children suffered greatly. The abuse they endured drove them to the mental illnesses they now struggle with. Dealing with the abuses they suffered at the hands of the church (remember that I use this term generically) was too much for them to deal with.

This has been a hard 28 years. We have been out of the cult for 10 years now. Me, and two of my daughters, live together now with two of my grandchildren. Sometimes we talk about all we have been through but most of the time we can’t bear to think about it. We wake up each day happy to be free at last. We live each day in peace.

Rose Belle