Grief and Other Hideous Effects

Every morning I go to the French doors at the back of my house and I look upon the wide expanse of desert that surrounds me. I look down at the patio, and I don’t see Ella so my gaze runs out to the East, where my mom and I set a cat trap with salmon. I lost my cat two weeks ago, and although I know her likely destiny was prey to a California desert predator, I keep looking for her to show up.

Grief does funny things to people. It’s an emotion that I didn’t clearly recognize I was going through the years after leaving the cult I was involved in. Some people said they thought I felt rejected and that was why I became depressed. Of course there was rejection upon leaving.  Upon disagreeing with the senior pastor, he cut me off from communication (like he’d done to so many others in his past). Why?  He became disappointed in me because I was unwilling to come back to Louisiana and I was unwilling to live my life according to his rules. Fragments of conversation trickle down the chain of command there in Louisiana, where eavesdroppers at household conversations and bystanders at after-church discussions mix truth with lies with assumptions about why people leave the church. Eventually, the game of telephone dilutes any truth of why anyone left and people are left to their own assumptions mixed with he-said, she-said which is never generous to the person who leaves the “place of blessing” or “out of the anointing” or “House of God.” Negative assumptions breed rejection, and what I felt was rejection from people I’d grown close to for much of the history of my young adult life.

More powerfully than rejection, though, was the grief I experienced from an amalgamation of losing my friends, people I considered close (like family), and discarding and deconstructing the teachings I now disagreed with.

During a journey of grieving and depression, I allowed myself to be expressive, angry, searching and honest.

I began to grieve and mourn the loss of people I’d considered friends for many years of my life, and I began to grieve the loss of what I thought was my “faith” and what turned out to be a need for people’s approval. As I began to intersect the faith I’d been taught in the cult with the faith I’d felt in my heart was right my entire life, I began to see a great chasm that needed to be reconciled. So, I set out to find my own truth—the things I believed about love, people, dreams—without placing pressure on myself to meet someone else’s approval.

I felt that to become a blank slate was something that would help me ascertain what my own beliefs were, as opposed to what I was taught in the cult.

I deconstructed the idea of Christianity completely.

I took it all apart, piece-by-piece and was left with a sort of artists table with a clean canvas and materials to construct with. I had paints of all colors and tones, magazine cut-outs, fragments of books I’d read, pictures I’d seen, people I’d known, and experiences I’d had. With a clean slate in front of me, I took my old materials and examined them. I turned them to the right and the left and looked at them from the back, and the front with a critical eye. I read from experts in the field of religion, feminism, humanitarianism, literature. I compared them with human beings in history and the present time who were models of exceptional citizenship, who treated people fairly and respectfully.

Many of my old materials needed to be discarded. They came from a long line of historical violence, a present day close-minded manner and an anti-intellectual path that I no longer wanted to walk on.

As I felt more liberated, I acted more liberated.

The years of grief were mixed with years of feeling buoyant, vibrant.

There were years I’d sit at a writing desk and feel like a dried out old pen, because I was worried what the people from my past would think. How would they judge me? What gossip sessions would occur because of what I was about to write? What prayers of concern would go up to God from them on behalf of my soul, because I was now changed from the Lisa they knew? I had no voice to speak—only fear, yet I had words that were jamming up in my head and twisting like pretzels to get out. When I would begin to write, the nightmares would come. The mornings I’d wake up with fear that they were real. I was back there. The women were coming for me—ensuring I didn’t escape.

Grief isn’t something you navigate out of like short river boat ride. Grief is complex and misunderstood: the outer shell of humans experiencing it often not showing signs and other times causing people to fall apart, lose their ability to reason and calculate and concentrate.

Grief can also be like a painting:

grey,

black and hazy,

with a few strokes

of white

and blue

lighting up

the picture.

“Grief, when it comes, is nothing we expect it to

be…Grief is different.

Grief has no difference.

Grief comes in waves, paroxysms, sudden

apprehensions that weaken the knees

and blind the eyes and obliterate the dailiness of life.”

Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

Speaking up? Get ready to get rebuked!

I came across this blog, Provender, and wanted to share the following article I saw there. I loved reading many of the articles on this website, but this particular one stuck out to me.

As I’ve been blogging, the old guilt from my dictator-pastors has been creeping in, and I’ve been wondering if speaking up has been the right thing to do.

Despite numerous “Thank you” emails and text messages I’ve received, a part of me felt exposed and vulnerable and I was mistaking that for being wrong.

What I realized was that I’d been in a cult for seven years, and I’d been taught that speaking out against your “spiritual authority” was wrong, rebellious, and Satanic.

I now know that that is wrong. Even the United States of America has given us Freedom of Speech–the First Amendment right.

What is that First Amendment? According to http://topics.law.cornell.edu/constitution/billofrights,

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Now, think about this: If Congress shall not abridge the freedom of speech, the right of the people to peaceably assemble, or to petition the government for a redress of grievances, then why can’t a church member (or several) petition a pastor regarding their grievances?

The answer: Abusive pastors sway their congregations not to speak up against their teachings. They may even say they are open to criticism, but will rebuke, fire, or humiliate their patrons if they speak up.

Years ago, I worked for a senior pastor of a large church. I’ve already mentioned names, but this time it’s MY story, not his. As I came to work for this pastor, I sat down with his wife and him, and we talked about my former position as executive assistant, discipleship leader, conference planner and nanny for the pastor I worked for. I told him I was getting paid $100 a month and this senior pastor was shocked. He and his wife looked at each other and said, “We had no idea they were paying you that little!”

To which I wondered, How could you move our entire staff out here and not question the director of this group how much we were making?! Sounds like a lie to me…

I simply answered them that he was in fact paying me so little and that I survived by my parents paying off my credit card bills every month, and sending me checks and cash for spending money. Thankfully, my parents were business owners and their business was doing really well. Unfortunately, my parents didn’t know the type of the spiritual abuse I was putting up with, nor did they know the employment laws that the church I was working for was violating. Otherwise, my parents wouldn’t have let me stay out there. It was their financial contributions, which they gave “unto the Lord,” that kept me out there.

These senior pastors acted like the heroes and acted appalled at the way my director/mentor had treated me for years. He offered me $500 a month plus room and board. I graciously accepted. I’m sure I cried. He said that he could see that I was burnt out and exhausted and needed a break from ministry while I was rejuvenated. He made a promise to me that the year I worked for him would be refreshing and relaxing, and part-time.

It didn’t happen that way.

I ended up being on-call around the clock, every day of the week. I was called a live-in nanny, without the live-in part (just with the hours). I loved the children I worked with–and in fact, I still do. I have the best memories of reading them bedtime stories and going frog hunting with them in the Hundred Acre woods. They were the best children I’ve ever been a nanny to, and despite not being paid minimum wage (well under, in fact) and despite the fact that their parents were breaking the Federal Minimum Wage Law, I sure did love them dearly.

One afternoon, I decided that enough was enough, though. When I first got hired, the pastor said, “If you ever disagree with anything we do, please come talk to us. We’re more than open.”

I remembered that moment. I asked them for a meeting.

I was very humble, self-less, and sweet that day, as ever other, but I asked them for a raise. I told them that I needed to earn more than $500 a month for the over 60 hours a week I was working, and that I’d even get a job Mondays or a night job, if they let me take some hours off at night.

Not only did they refuse to pay me more, they refused my right to work a second job, and the worst part is…they called me UNGRATEFUL.

That hurt worse than anything. It came from the pastors wife, whom I’d had (up until that moment) nothing but respect and love for. She told me I was selfish and ungrateful and couldn’t believe I was asking them for that.

The pastor went on to say that my $500 a month was actually $1,000 a month, because of the room and board he included. I knew that wasn’t true. First of all, the barn I lived in could never be rented out for that amount of money and the food they fed us was donated from Albertson’s day-old meat and other local donations. Not to mention, it was incredibly unhealthy and inedible.

Later, though, I learned what would be the real clincher: the Federal Labor Laws deny the employer the  right to add “room and board” into their wages. It is illegal!

The sad part is, though, that I was innocent enough to believe my pastors at one time. I thought that they were being honest when they said if I had a problem with something they did or taught, I could approach them.

Spiritually abusive pastors do not allow you to speak up–or when they do..watch out: You’re about to get yelled out, rebuked, or humiliated.

http://pureprovender.blogspot.com/2009/04/helpful-sources-on-spiritual-abuse.html

Various sources on spiritual abuse warn about the Can’t Talk rule (or the Don’t Talk rule) in abusive groups. In spiritually manipulative churches, pastors don’t usually come right out and tell you not to talk about concerns in the church. They are much more subtle.

They might hint at “the enemy” who incites people to gossip, or they may denounce weak Christians who whisper. They might blast the motives of anyone who brings a legitimate issue to the leadership, condemning them as self-centered, divisive or lazy.

They might emphasize grumbling and complaining as among the gravest of sins. They might compare those who raise issues to scoffers in Moses’ time, implying that if you dare mention a weakness of the church you are like the ungrateful Israelites that the good Moses ( read: church leader) had to put up with.

They might tell you to “get in line,” “submit to authority,” “don’t cause trouble,” shaming someone who brings honest questions and deflecting scrutiny. Some might tell you that you are not in harmony with “the mission” of the church, which often is just a high-sounding way of saying that the leader’s views are beyond question and accountability is not the business of a mere layperson.

By whatever means available, abusive pastors will shut down discussion and prevent accountability for suspect practices. The unspoken “don’t talk” rule makes this easy. Anyone who dares raise an issue to the light of day will be shut down, preached against, shunned, mistreated or shamed, either by open means or subtle means.

Perhaps some have left the church, and you have suspicions about why. Maybe the pastor has preached something that doesn’t line up with scripture. Maybe someone has been kicked out of church or removed from a ministry. Perhaps these uncomfortable practices have been increasing. Maybe the finances are not open to public view; or business meetings are closed or nonexistent. Perhaps teachers or musicians have complained about mistreatment and you are not sure who to believe.

Those living under a Can’t Talk or Don’t Talk rule know not to ask questions. They have been manipulated into remaining silent, even though their active conscience urges them to speak up. The reluctance to speak up is often disguised as virtue. You’re not a grumbler. You’re not a trouble maker. It’s someone else’s place to ask questions, not yours. You’re just a humble nobody. So the pastor or leader remains accountable to no one. He can do what he likes without opposition, no matter how questionable, unorthodox, ungodly — or in some cases, illegal.

If this describes the mechanism in place at your church, make sure to do a little research into spiritual abuse and see if other signs might not also be present in your group. The Can’t Talk rule is an unspoken rule meant to stifle and hide anything that challenges the control of a leader or that has the potential to put a leader in a bad light. It is often the tip of the iceburg.

How to get your life story stolen by a production company

My life story is all over the internet now, thanks to my bright idea of blogging. It’s created a thriving community of readers and friends and paved the way for me to begin to work toward social changes that are near to my heart, but it’s clear to me now how easily ideas can be stolen from you and how predatory producers will come in and steal your life story without batting an eye.

This is a long story about why I think a New York production company, stole my life story and sent it to the a major TV network for a scripted TV show named eerily close to my own blog name.

In an attempt to condense it, I’m going to summarize a hell of a lot of conversations. And then I’ve written THIS post for those of you who want some advice on how to avoid getting your story/intellectual property/research stolen from a production company/TV network. You should also read this post by Toni at Fashion Cloud if you’re considering working with a big brand to hear her story.

Here’s the rundown between me and the company and why I think they stole my life story:

Early 2012 I was in touch with a production company who was recruiting for a documentary for TV about cults. Well, my blog is named My Cult Life and I have a pretty fantastic story, so of course I was interested. I actually had been working with some cult survivors who wanted to be on TV, so I wanted to suggest some of my reader’s stories to the company in an effort to get more visibility to the damage cults can do.

Fast forward a few weeks and the casting director perks up when I talk to him about the work I did exposing Mercy Ministries, which operates like a cult (although that term may not best describe them, they do some very scary stuff like exorcise demons out of anorexics and the mentally ill). This person got excited when they heard that I was a blogger turned investigative journalist and wanted to hear more.

For several more weeks, we discussed the details of how I investigate cults and high-demand groups, and bits of my own cult story but I insisted I wouldn’t follow through without a contract stating I would get credited for all the expert consulting work and research I was doing; not to mention writing and developing an entire show. I got a verbal promise from them and I had an entire paper trail stating my ideas were my property and not to be shared without my consent. I left a very hefty paper trail.

All of a sudden (*eye roll*) things start moving quickly. They already had a network committed but the network wanted to hear more about my story, not the other people they had interviewed. I started wondering what the hell was going on. Why would I be the star of a TV show? I’m not famous; although I would make a great “Dog the Bounty Hunter”. Ha! Why weren’t they asking to interview the several other people I had suggested, some of whom had very compelling stories. Those people didn’t even get a phone call back. It made no sense.

So the casting director interviews me extensively via Skype and that was sent to the ‘executives’ at the network. They loved it. Now they wanted to film what they called a presentation, which the network was supposed to use to decide whether they would purchase the show–at least that’s what production company told me. Had I listened to the couple of lawyers I spoke to early on in all of this, I would’ve backed off then. I was star struck, unfortunately. All the lawyers I talked to said you should never go on camera for a production company without a written agreement or at least a signed consent form, and they suggested this production company sounded very shady and dishonest.

Enter the Head of Casting & Talent for the production company who was supposed to send me the contracts and review legal with me. I still didn’t have a contract at this point and now I was getting switched to a new person in the company. I expressed that I wouldn’t move forward without a contract and payment for my work for the presentation/pilot. After all, up to this point, I’d worked for months giving them ideas, information and research. I started emailing lawyers (having never had the need for one, I jumped in headfirst to all this) and finally found one.

My lawyer and the Head of Casting discussed the situation and my lawyer started handling all communication between her and me. She kept calling me and emailing me, but I let my lawyer handle it.

I got a contract in hand the day we filmed. It was shitty. It was 16 pages of shit. I got it partially reviewed by two high-profile lawyers in LA and they said that was one of the worst contracts they’d ever seen. I had no idea. I’m not an actress or a celebrity. I’m a writer and an English major. Negotiations were never my strong suit. At some point someone pointed out the shitiness of the contract by one of the paragraphs that said if I were to die while filming, they weren’t going to be held liable. Um, death? By reality TV show?

I rejected the first contract and they sent a second. It was also shitty. Again, I got it reviewed by two lawyers, plus my own. We decided to make it work and build on it from where they had it.

Weeks of negotiations started and then the production company’s lawyer stepped in. My lawyer, the Head of Casting, and their lawyer went back and forth for days. We ended up with a much better version of the shitty contract but still a piece of crap.

I was getting ready to sign. Although the pay was low, the network wanted to secure me for six years so I was sure I could renegotiate after the second year. My dad’s friends had recently wrapped the first season of Bering Sea Gold and I knew quite a bit about the money/negotiations and how they had been able to renegotiate.

The casting director and Head of Casting told me their production company had a huge role in creating Lauren Conrad’s career, as well as Snooki. They were both extremely famous and their brands were huge. Of course I was flattered that they thought (and told me) I would be the next big brand.

I was incredibly naïve. Looking back, I can remember certain moments when I caught the both in lies. I often confronted them on this, and I thought I was relatively safe because of the paper trail I’d left, the video footage I had at home, and the trail between my lawyer and theirs with the contract.

But what happened later threw me for a loop and I’m still not sure how this all happened to me.

After weeks of negotiations, I was happy enough with the contract and the opportunity to sign. The day I was going to accept their offer, my lawyer called and told me the deal was off. Apparently and all of a sudden, he was told that the network backed out because it was too dangerous. This didn’t make sense to me, since we’d planned this for months and they knew months prior that certain plans would be risky. Why back out now? Filming was supposed to start in mere days.

I knew I’d been taken for a ride and my story had been stolen right then and there. I was devastated, but I was in denial that people would be this shitty, especially after I’d shared my deepest, most painful life experiences with them. Talk about having your vulnerabilities exploited.

I had worked day and night for over two years building my brand and my platform because my childhood dream of being an author required you develop an online presence to be more appealing to publishers. After two years, my platform building was where I wanted it to be (Platform being audience, readership, and maintaining a social media presence). A TV show would only help to get publishers interested, and would help sell books. Most writers don’t have the luxury to sell books that way, and I felt fortunate to be able to do so.

I should’ve known it was all a scam. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

 

***

Earlier in the year, I had a Google alert pop up for a new TV show named eerily similar to my own blog name. I got sick to my stomach. There wasn’t much information out there on the show…just that it’d been greenlit. I knew nothing about scripted TV or how the industry worked but I confronted the person I’d dealt with the next day. He blew me off with an air of confidence: “No, that’s a scripted show. This is a docu-series. They’re entirely different.”

I got aggressive and demanded to know if he was sending my footage to them for research. Again, he assured me I had nothing to worry about.

Judging from the head writer’s Tweets and the timing of my work and filming, the “executives” who loved me and my ideas could very well have been the writers from show. When I recall certain conversations about the network—like really interrogating the casting staff about the network’s lack of reality TV shows on the air and the inconsistencies that popped up constantly—there’s just so much evidence that this happened. Or the day the writer Tweeted about some exciting new story lines falling into place with my own videos arriving at the network—it’s just all very suspicious.

Now, of course, I could be entirely wrong. Maybe I really was going to be the next Snooki or Lauren Conrad as they said said. But seriously? Probably not.

About a month after the network backed out, I read the synopsis of this TV show, Cult.

cult synopsis

 Skye, one of the main characters, is a researcher and blogger (ahem, that’s what I do, ironically enough) and the other lead, Jeff, is an investigative journalist (I spent twelve hours talking on film about my investigative journalism, oddly enough). Oh and the line, “cat-and-mouse game between charismatic cult leader[s]” was verbatim what I said on my video interview. Wow. Isn’t that coincidental?

You hear that this happens all the time. I know now that it does. I feel a lot of guilt for not seeing this coming; for getting caught up in the dream of having my own TV show. I feel duped and robbed.

Mostly I feel angry. I feel angry and naive.

My life story is all over the internet now, thanks to my bright idea of blogging. It’s created a thriving community of readers and friends and paved the way for me to begin to work toward social changes that are near to my heart, but it’s clear to me now how easily ideas can be stolen from you and how predatory producers will come in and steal your life story without batting an eye.

I’ve definitely learned some significant lessons about ideas and intellectual property and I’ve posted some detailed advice (and the contracts presented to me) here.

If you have any questions or are going through something similar, please feel free to email me at info [at] mycultlife [dot] com.

 

Why Mercy Ministries?

I’ve written almost exclusively about Master’s Commission and Our Savior’s Church here at My Cult Life for almost two years. I rarely mention other groups, with the exception of Teen Mania Ministries, because the amount of abusive groups out there is vast.

Awhile ago, I came into contact with a Mercy Ministries insider. I’ll call her Anne. Anne and I became friends and she shared her Mercy Ministries experience with me. Little did I know, that I would find a kindred spirit in Anne and eventually feel compelled to help her get help with her story.

I’m a writer and I’m an experienced researcher. It didn’t take long to channel my experience as a whistleblower to help Anne on her story. Several weeks after she and I spoke, I found another Mercy Ministries insider who was from Australia (before Mercy’s big scandal, shut-down and legal action taken against them). Weeks after my first article came out about Mercy, a father of a Mercy Ministries girl sent me an email. This father ended up connecting me with a handful of other survivors who wanted to tell their stories.

Now the list of Mercy Ministries survivors is growing larger.

The girls’ personal stories are heart-breaking and awful.

I can’t disclose some of the stories yet, because I’m working on a larger project involving them but I’ve asked some of the girls to share their stories and experiences. They’ve also graciously allowed me to re-post some of their blog posts and personal stories that have been published on the web before.

I share their stories here and welcome the Mercy Ministries Survivors. Please make them feel at home and let’s help them get the justice they deserve.

Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid

In 1978, Jim Jones’ group of over 900 people, The People’s Temple, committed group suicide by drinking a grape drink laced with cyanide and a number of sedatives, including liquid Valium, Penegram and chloral hydrate.

What does Jim Jones have to do with My Cult Life? Eerily enough,

“Jones kept his commission so busy they were often in a state of exhaustion.

Jones exercised the powers of suggestion, persuasion and manipulation to create a kind of alternative social universe amongst his followers. By 1975 the Chaikins and others were conditioned to accept without question public punishment and humiliation at group meetings…Jones’ dismissed the nuclear family as “noxious” and did everything possible to undermine traditional family ties. There could be only one “Dad” for everyone. (Quoted from Rick Ross’ site: http://www.rickross.com/reference/jonestown/jonestown61.html)

“What Jones did was try to break all ties that were not to him,” said former believer Vernon Gosney. “Transfer all that loyalty, all that bonding to him. And so families were broken apart. Relationships were divided…Jones deftly justified his actions to his followers by saying that what he did to them was actually for their own benefit, or the benefit of making the church a stronger, tighter-knit organization.” http://www.rickross.com/reference/jonestown/jonestown63.html

Everything above is similar to my experience in Master’s Commission and working at Our Savior’s Church in Lafayette, LA.

I’ve spent time lining out these specific moments and traits of my leaders, but more than anything, we were kept in a constant state of exhaustion, and all ties with the outside world and family were cut off or highly discouraged. We were to accept things without question or risk the shame of humiliation in front of everyone, or the embarrassment that went along with getting kicked out of the group and no one speaking to us for fear that they’d get kicked out too.

Current Update: MCIN Letter Resolution (Part 2)

During a recent post, http://www.mycultlife.com/2010/07/21/mcin-update/, I stated what Lloyd Zeigler had told me. During this update, I stated that Lloyd made the following rules in 2008 based on my letters and had all the MC Directors sign that this would be new MCIN rules:

  • MC groups must pay staff members the state minimum wage.
  • MC Students can not be discouraged from calling their parents or or coerced from discussing things that happen at Master’s Commission.

Now, I’m directing the following questions to the MCIN and to Lloyd Zeigler:

  1. How are these changes being made?
  2. Who is communicating these changes to the MC Directors?
  3. How often and how are they enforced?

Lloyd told me in a phone call that he had just gotten off the phone with about 80 MC Directors telling them that they were not to prevent students from seeing their parents. Unfortunately, Lloyd didn’t speak to these directors about paying their staff minimum wage, or anything about providing benefits for them.

While it’s great that he’s making strides to try to communicate one thing to the MC Directors, the issue he addressed with him didn’t address a whole lot of what I asked to be addressed.

After much research and discussions with Lloyd and other directors, I can sadly report that I have not found ONE single MC group who has been paying their staff members and support staff members minimum wage. Not even Lloyd’s own Master’s Commission group pays their staff members minimum wage (before OR after he moved from Phoenix, Arizona). He has a handful of staff who DO get paid, but the large majority of staff (at least 40 or more people) are unpaid.

Now, I’ve been known to be very gullible and naive, but all this apparently proves it.

Recently, Lloyd and I talked and I addressed the issue of unpaid staff members on his team. He defended them as “interns” and stated that Washington D.C. has interns, a zoologist friend of his did an unpaid internship years ago, and doctors go through unpaid internships. I argued with him that most internships today are PAID and that the Department of Labor is doing an investigation on Internships nationwide. You can read more here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/22/fair-unpaid-internships-u_n_547543.html

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/04/17/obama-administration-considers-cracking-unpaid-internships/

I wrote a letter to the MCIN and to Lloyd over TWO years ago. The bottom line is I haven’t had a resolution since then. I contacted Lloyd about 2 months ago–with the start of this blog–and he promised me that he would take care of this situation. My question is: Why should I have to RECONTACT someone and hound them for getting an issue solved? Isn’t it THE JOB of the MCIN to do this?

Now, nearly 2 months later, the situation is unresolved and the only thing I want from the MCIN and Lloyd Zeigler is for them to DO THEIR JOB. In a recent conversation, Lloyd Zeigler complained that he doesn’t get paid a salary for work for the MCIN. However, he founded the MCIN and he took over Master’s Commission shortly after it’s inception, and has ran it for the past 25 years. He also made it a point to state that he had to be concerned with how other pastors viewed him and he honestly seemed more concerned for his reputation amongst other pastors than he was his reputation to the students and staff who’ve looked up to him and admired him for years.

That’s sad!

To quote the MCIN website: “Master’s Commission International Network (MCIN) is the accountability and glue that holds these programs together.  MCIN isn’t limited to any one  denomination, but works with many churches.”

Now if this statement is true, then why has it been TWO YEARS and nothing has been done to address these issues?

I’m not sure about you, dear readers, but I’m getting sick of the lip service I’ve received from the MCIN and Lloyd personally. I’m tired of waiting. Sadly, over 16 students sent in letters to Lloyd Zeigler regarding the spiritual abuse they faced under Nathan Davies and Master’s Commission of Austin, and nothing has been done.

If it takes a class-action lawsuit, then that’s what it takes but there must be something done about the abuse being done to young people.

If you have been abused by Master’s Commission, please email me at mycultlife@gmail.com to share your story. If you would like to send a story to share on my blog, please email the same address.

The following is a repost of the letter that has yet to be resolved: http://www.mycultlife.com/2010/07/06/letters-to-nowhere-lloyd/

This week, I’ve posted actual letters I’ve written to the pastors I worked for. The next letter in the succession is what I sent to the co-founder of the MCIN, or Master’s Commission International Network, Lloyd Zeigler. I sent this letter to Lloyd because each Master’s Commission group is under the MCIN umbrella and has to agree to follow a set of guidelines.

I urged Lloyd (and Eric Hunsberger, who heads up the Administrative side of the MCIN) to  make note of what happened to me because I was speaking on behalf of several other students and staff members from Austin and Louisiana. I felt that was a responsible thing for me to do.

Lloyd and his wife called me as soon as they received my letter and talked to me for two hours. They apologized on behalf of Master’s Commission and said they weren’t aware of any of this until my letter came. Lloyd also told me if I felt I should pursue a lawsuit, I would have their support. I knew I’d have enough of a case to win a lawsuit, but my family has never been the type to pursue lawsuits. I also don’t think Lloyd realized that he’d be implicated in that same lawsuit, if I pursued one, because the Master’s Commissions in Austin and Louisiana were tied to his network of ministries and he might ultimately be responsible.

Lloyd said he’d be sending my letter to his lawyer to see if there were some things from it they could add into the MCIN guidelines to protect students and staff members from this type of thing happening, but he and his wife moved to Dallas, Texas to start a new church after that phone call and that was never done (to my knowledge).  He also said that because Nathan Davies was the Vice President of the MCIN he’d have to stand by him and support him, and I’d have to understand that. I didn’t and don’t understand that, actually. I think my letter and my demeanor on the phone must have been too mild to really convey the type of damage that was done to me and many others by this ministry for him to take Nathan’s side. Otherwise, Lloyd wouldn’t stand by and let young people get abused. At the end of the phone call, Lloyd told me to give his cell phone number to any of the people I was writing on behalf of, if they wanted to call him, he’d apologize to them and talk to them, too. I’d like to believe he really meant this, but I’m not sure because I gave his number to one of my good friends and she said he never answered her phone call or returned her voice mail.

Although I’m disappointed that this issue was completely discarded after my conversation with Lloyd and Tim, at least they had the integrity to call me and talk to me. For that, I am extremely thankful. However, the fact that young men and women are still getting spiritually abused and that my letter fell to people who just gave me lip service and ignored the rest of my pleas, is cause for me to need to talk about my experience.

The following is the letter I sent to Lloyd and Eric in 2008:

Dear Lloyd Zeigler and Eric Hunsberger,

This letter may come as a surprise as I’ve been out of Master’s Commission Industries in Lafayette, LA for three years; however, the issues I’m addressing in this letter are relevant to the future of the MCIN.

After spending a year in Phoenix in 1998-99, I feel I developed a respect for both of you (Lloyd and Eric) and that respect has carried on into my years as a staff member in Texas and Louisiana (under Nathan Davies and Tim Wilson).

My writings here are not of an offended, immature Christian, but of a burden I feel from God to speak my heart on what has happened to me because I know I’m not the only person I’m speaking for. There are many silent staff members (former and current), and students (former and current) who have felt deep, intense pain and betrayal after leaving Master’s Commission. And more importantly, there are issues of manipulation and ostracizing that need to be heard and dealt with for the safety of the MCIN and the students and staff.

My suggestions and claims below are based on my own personal experience as a staff member and student of Master’s Commission of Austin (Director, Nathan Davies) and Master’s Commission Industries (Director, Tim Wilson in Lafayette, LA), under Pastor Daniel Jones. I seek dialogue to be opened up between the offending parties (Nathan, Wilson, and Jones) and the groups which govern or oversee them (MCIN). My wish is that change would come and MCIN would take responsibility for the changes that need to take place.

While I will not go so far as to say that all Master’s Commissions are cults, I will say based on my experience (and experiences of my peers), Master’s Commission Industries falls into the category of what experts call a destructive group or a cult. The reason I use these terms are based on studies that have been done on cults. The following are traits that Master’s Commission Industries has:

  • A Totalitarian worldview: A group that approves of unethical behavior while claiming goodness and promotes the goals of the group over the individual.
  • Exploitation: There is pressure to give money, to spend a great deal of money on special projects. Exploitation can be financial, physical, or psychological.
  • Alienation: Separation from family, friends, and society, a change in values and substitution of the group as the new “family”.
  • Exclusivity: Secretiveness or vagueness by followers regarding activities and beliefs; recruiting and fund-raising with hidden objectives and without full disclosure; use of “front groups”.

Additionally, some of the following are issues I have personally felt in my experiences in MC Industries (both under Nathan Davies and Tim Wilson):

  • removing people from their normal surroundings and friends, often with weekend “trips” and “retreats”
  • sleep and sensory deprivation
  • development of a deep emotional debt
  • public confessionals
  • low-risk relationships (unconditional acceptance)
  • fear of punishment or damnation for even thinking about leaving the new “family”
  • viewing all of the outside world as evil or satanic so that any desire to return to it is also evil.

Other things the group leaders imposed:

  • leaders who claim divinity or special relationships with God and insist on being the sole judge of a member’s actions or faith
  • demands for total control over members’ daily lives (one of the hardest to recognize once involved)
  • isolation and exclusion from the surrounding community
  • demands for control of members’ finances
  • absolutist views toward difficult life problems and spiritual questions
  • special (exclusive) promises of salvation or keys to spiritual understanding (i.e.: “It is only through adherence to our beliefs and our rules that you can be saved”).

During my time as a student or staff member, I made effort to resolve and voice my complaints while working for the above mentioned parties. However, when I brought up certain issues, I was both rebuked and harassed, or dismissed as unimportant. Equally as important as the psychological effects, are the the financial issues.

I was paid $100 a month for well over 60 hours of work, which is less than $0.40 an hour (40 CENTS). Only one year was my pay increased to $500 a month (and that was when I worked as a nanny for senior pastor, Daniel Jones), which is around $2.00 an hour.

I am speaking up about these issues because there are many more staff members and students who are willing to give their heart to these ministries and may walk away harmed spiritually, financially, and mentally.

I am requesting that the Master’s Commission International Network and the Assemblies of God (or appropriate governing boards) investigate these issues and particularly Master’s Commission Industries. I ask that you, MCIN, take an aggressive stance toward these issues. Upon investigation, I would like to offer that they establish guidelines to benefit the future employees/students.

For the future of the MCIN, I would like to suggest the following for the safety and wellness of the students:

  • Safe “complaint” system established that a student can go to without retributions in order to bring to the attention of the MCIN any matter of harassment, mental harm, destructive teaching, or all manners of an unhealthy group or cult-like teachings.
  • Guidelines established involving limitations on how much a director can dictate of a student’s “self-discipline.” Including, but not limited to dating, entertainment, music, clothing, etc.
  • Establish clearly that the Director or Staff Member is NOT the voice of God for the said students and staff members and in no way should exercise such grossly misguided authority.
  • Protection of the student from authoritarianism of a Director’s or Staff members by revoking a group’s affiliation with the MCIN, if deemed necessary.
  • Guidelines and hours set to protect the student from over-work, long term exhaustion or fatigue, or physical ailments due to over-work for no (or very little) monetary payment. Following the laws that the Department of Labor establishes, according to www.dol.gov
  • A board of directors for each Master’s Commission that should include parents of students or staff members. Also, a safe “complaint” system established in which a student or staff member’s parent(s), guardian or friend can go to without retributions in order to bring to the attention of the MCIN any matter of harassment, mental harm, destructive teaching, or all manners of an unhealthy group or cult-like teachings.
  • Regularly monitoring of activities, and teachings to prevent further development of patterns of cult-like teachings, destructive and harmful teachings and practices.
  • Encourage students to engage in open relationships with their parents, family and friends and not to exclude or hide anything from them. To develop an “Open Campus” policy and Parent’s Board for parents to question policies, procedures, pay scale, work load and work schedules.

For the future of the MCIN, I would like to suggest the following for the safety and wellness of the staff members:

  • Set, enforced guidelines regarding pay scale for staff members relevant to actual work done that would be in the secular environment in the specific metropolitan area. Additionally, following the Department of Labor laws on employment and minimum wage.
  • Provide some type of minimum paid sick days and funeral leave standard to secular work place.
  • Provide access or information to health benefits or coverage, and adjust pay to appropriate for health care. (Note: Health care and health benefits do not mean the state run insurance!)
  • Provide paid vacation for full-time staff members, relevant to secular workplace.
  • Provide mileage compensation for job related driving.
  • Allow for staff members to date at their discretion, under advisement of the pastor only if the said staff member requests the advisement of a pastor. Take away the “No Dating” policy for students or staff members who are beyond their First Year. No dictating, scare tactics, or harassment of the staff member’s choices of dating.

Perhaps the greatest issue not covered is the issue of a person who leaves Master’s Commission (most groups included in this) is often ostracized. To ostracize is to: 1. exclude, by general consent, from society, friendship, conversation, privileges, etc. Ostracizing is what some modern churches do, but it’s wrong. If you don’t follow their tenants, you get excommunicated. After serving MC for several years, I followed the voice of God to go home. This voice of God that I heard was contrary to the voice of the pastors. What’s ironic here is that I followed the voice of God, but was shunned from their ‘bubble’ and my reputation was ruined within that ‘bubble’ for not obeying the pastor.

I have carbon copied a number of persons for this letter. Please know that I care deeply about the future of Master’s Commission, my former employers and their children; however, I would be doing a great injustice to the ministry itself, it’s pastors, and related friends and benefactors had I failed to bring these wrongs to your attention.

I speak also on behalf of many alumni and former staff members who did not wish to risk personal retributions or emotional trauma from resurfacing these issues. They now have a voice and I hope forgiveness and open dialogue can one day enter all of our hearts. As Pulma Gobodo-Madikizela says, “For in the end, we are a society of people and not ideas, a fragile web of interdependent humans, not of stances.”

Thank you,

L.

Cc: Nathan Davies, Tim Wilson, Daniel Jones

Resource: ACUI International Conference presentation “Desperately Seeking Community: The Appeal of Cult Leadership”, Mindy Griffith, University of Arizona. March 6, 2000, New York, NY.

Additional information on Cults obtained from Purdue University Counseling Center and
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Counseling Center.

 

Labor Laws may be obtained at the Department of Labor website: www.dol.gov

 

No More Excuses by Daniel Venie

My name is Daniel Venie, and it was MY cult life, too.

I’ve been a christian for thirteen years here in Wasilla, AK. During those years I’ve done just about everything a good christian should do. I’ve done missionary work in China and went through two years of ministry school training, as well as becoming heavily involved in my local church. Through that ministry school I received a License to Preach with the Assemblies of God denomination, although I decided last year to let my credentials lapse so I am no longer affiliated with the A/G. I’ve also worked extensively at a church where I live. For about six years I served as the Assistant Youth Pastor at that church. From there my wife and I had a desire to be more involved in worship so I added that to my repertoire. After a few years of serving in both ministries my wife and I decided to pursue worship ministry as our sole focus and served as my church’s main worship leaders for the last two or three years we were there.

Currently I still live in Wasilla with my wife and two kids. We stopped attending church and have not been in well over a year now. I enjoy being a husband and father and most importantly, having a life. I also play video games instead of reading my bible. I have a deep love for people and enjoy seeing others set free to live life as God intended it.

***

So I’ve been reading and commenting on a few of the posts on this website for the last
several weeks. I, like many others, have found it to be very eye opening to the spiritual
abuse that takes place in these Master’s Commission programs which have become a
staple program for most healthy and “cutting edge” churches to have.

It’s opened my eyes up to the reality and severity of the problem as well as it’s depth.

It goes well beyond the borders of MC programs and takes place in churches across the nation. While I attended a
young adult ministry training program, which was modeled after an MC program but not
affiliated, I didn’t experience much spiritual abuse until after I had graduated and moved
into full time ministry at my church. I’ll save the telling of that personal story for another
article so for now, this will have to suffice. One of the things that surprised me when I
first found this blog was how easily I could relate to what Lisa had experienced, along
with many others who have commented and testified of their own experiences of being
spiritually abused. For me it has really blown the door wide open on all the shit that my
wife and I experienced and caused me to face a lot of hard and difficult truths. So I have
decided that I can no longer sit idly by and continue to ignore or make excuses for those
who manipulate and abuse others for their own gain.

I left my church over a year ago now and haven’t been attending anywhere since then.
After leaving I’ve had many talks and meetings with people that I was close with. These
weren’t strangers or casual acquaintances but people that I have known for years and done
lots of ministry along side of. People I trusted my own children with and vice versa.
Usually these meetings would be about how much they miss us and how badly they want
us to come back; and they would say it in the most sincere and genuine way possible. I
then would explain to them why I could never come back and be apart of the church
again, the main reason being because of how much the pastors controlled peoples lives.

What is sad to me is how often these people agreed with what I shared in regards to the
spiritual abuse we experienced. As I’m talking they will nod their heads as if they really
understood and knew what I was talking about. They would even share stories of how
they too have been hurt and abused by the church.

Without fail they then will take an about face and begin to make excuses for those doing the abusing.

WHAT!!!??!!!

To go from agreeing with me to excusing the spiritual abuse doesn’t even compute in my mind!
The excuses I have heard range from: “Their intentions are not to hurt you Daniel or even
to control you,” or “They don’t realize how their actions are affecting people,” or “They
just don’t know any better.” I can’t think of a more offensive response to my pain. First of
all, by excusing the pastor’s behavior they are instantly disqualifying what I experienced,
things they supposedly understood and even agreed with. Second of all, if these people
were really my friends, why are they not standing up for me? And most importantly they
are sticking their heads in the sand and ignoring what their own heart is telling them
about their current situation!
I’ve often asked myself if I was justified in how upset and angry I am at what my wife
and I experienced at our church.

What if they really didn’t know any better?

What if it all was some big mistake or misunderstanding on their part?

Shouldn’t I give them the benefit of doubt?

Shouldn’t I too excuse their behavior?

The answer that I have come to is no. For years while I was involved in ministry I made excuses.

I ignored my own heart and feelings and hoped for the best. I’d tell myself over and over that they just don’t know
any better or that this is how it is and I have to accept it. The truth is that it isn’t how it’s
supposed to be, it isn’t okay, and most importantly it is not something you can excuse away.
Whether someones intentions are to NOT hurt and control people is besides the point. If a
person accidentally kills another person they are still held responsible.
It’s called
involuntary manslaughter and doesn’t change the fact that someones life was destroyed.

The truth is that there are thousands of people every day that are being torn to pieces by

spiritual abuse. It is a HUGE problem in churches and Masters Commission programs

around the nation. I can no longer pretend that nothing bad happened to me. It’s got to

stop and for me, it stops right here. I will never excuse away spiritual abuse, or cover it

up, or be silenced for fear of speaking against the supposed men of God. My own heart

compels me to speak up, and that I can no longer ignore.

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Thinking of going to Master’s Commission? Think Again!

Awhile back, I had a potential MC student ask me about any advice I could give to her, as she was considering going to Master’s Commission 3D, now Experience 3D http://www.leadin3d.com/, at Our Savior’s Church www.oursaviorschurch.com, Lafayette, LA under the pastor Daniel Jones and director Greg Thompson. I wrote the following to her. If you’re considering going to ANY Master’s Commission or “discipleship school” please read what follows below FIRST.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to highlight conversations I’ve had with Lloyd Zeigler, the founder of the MCIN, Master’s Commission International Network and founder of Relevant Church in Dallas, TX.

I’m also going to talk about their financial situation and details on how they spend their money.

Finally, I’m going to update you on how my letters to the MCIN and Lloyd have been handled and the details there.

It was during my senior year in high school that I decided to give up my academic scholarships and attend Master’s Commission instead of college. I regret that decision now. I didn’t start my college years until I was 25 years old, because I wasn’t allowed to go to college while I was in Master’s Commission. I also wasn’t allowed to date while I was in the program, so I didn’t have the normal young experience of falling in love, choosing a partner, getting married, etc. I wasn’t able to listen to secular music, or watch regular tv programs or watch normal movies. Essentially, all of my decisions were made for me. That’s not how God wants us to live. He wants us to live able to read the Bible and make decisions on our own. Will we sometimes need the advice of our parents? Yes! I ask my parents advice a lot! But, my parents’ advice is different from the advice I got from pastors that directed my Master’s Commission group. My parents’ advice is to tell me their experiences and then let me make up my mind. The pastors told me what to do, time and time again. That’s no kind of place you want to be–nor do your parents want you to be there.

I don’t recommend the program or any Master’s Commission for many reasons, but the following are more specific and you can find where I’m pulling this information on the top portion of my website under Helpline: Cults and Cults: Signs of an Unhealthy Group is another good one to read:

“Some of the intensive indoctrination techniques they employ (and consequently things to look out for) include
* removing people from their normal surroundings and friends, often with weekend “trips” and “retreats”
* sleep and sensory deprivation
* development of a deep emotional debt
* public confessionals
* low-risk relationships (unconditional acceptance)
* fear of punishment or damnation for even thinking about leaving the new “family”
* viewing all of the outside world as evil or satanic so that any desire to return to it is also evil.

Other things to be on the lookout for are:
* leaders who claim divinity or special relationships with God and insist on being the sole judge of a member’s actions or faith
* demands for total control over members’ daily lives (one of the hardest to recognize once involved)
* isolation and exclusion from the surrounding community
* demands for control of members’ finances
* absolutist views toward difficult life problems and spiritual questions
* special (exclusive) promises of salvation or keys to spiritual understanding (i.e.: “It is only through adherence to our beliefs and our rules that you can be saved”).”

I’d also recommend sending your parents those two articles to read, or you can ask them to read my website. If you want, have them email me.

Finally, I realize that when I was 17 deciding on whether to go to MC or college, the deciding factor for me was that I wanted a closer relationship with God. I wish I could say that I got that, but I didn’t. What I got were people manipulating my thoughts of what God was, and placing themselves in the position of authority in my life. No human being should do that. “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Since you’re asking (and since I didn’t seek you out), I’d also like to say, please talk over with your parents some of your concerns. Or if you can’t talk to your parents, please find someone you trust outside of the church to talk to. Make an informed decision, not one based on emotion, or obligation. EDUCATE YOURSELF, and don’t be afraid to read secular information. The only obligation you have is to yourself–making yourself a better person. I personally feel I’ve become a better person through my college education. I highly recommend attending a secular university and studying and working hard. I also recommend staying away from any church or ministry group that has the characteristics of a cult or an unhealthy group, and those 2 resources I recommended above can fill you in more on what that means.

To specify more, I’m going to go through and talk about each one of the above mentioned traits a bit more:

* Removing people from their normal surroundings and friends, often with weekend “trips” and “retreats”
–On several occasions, we’d have meetings or events that would happen in MC and we’d be told that our parents “probably wouldn’t understand, so it’s best we don’t tell them.” This fits in with removing people from their normal surroundings and friends. If you consider where the church dorms are, and the amount of time you’ll be spending away from your friends and family, this is just a common sense thing. You WILL be removed from your friends and won’t see them.

* Sleep and sensory deprivation
–During my third or fourth year in MC, I developed migraines due to sleep deprivation. My doctor told me that I needed to sleep more, and I told him I didn’t have a choice due to the work and time obligations Master’s Commission put on us. I was prescribed medication for it, but it often didn’t work because it had to be taken at the onset of a headache and we were working so much I didn’t keep my medication on me. I’d sometimes have to leave a project in tears because my migraines hurt so badly.

I lived in a dorm with several other girls and there was no peace and quiet for me to rest and get better. Also, during Hurricane Katrina, the tuition-paying students at Our Savior’s Church under Daniel Jones were asked to work 15 hour days and were reprimanded if they didn’t work hard enough. Talk about sleep deprivation! Also, that’s illegal. Many other Master’s Commission groups drove to Louisiana to help work, as well. They are breaking all kinds of labor laws by enslaving minors to work for the church like that while they got government grants. In addition, staff members at nearly ALL Master’s Commissions are treated as “interns” and not paid! How do you like the idea of signing up to be a life-long intern?

* Development of a deep emotional debt–this occurred any time the pastors gave us something or helped us out; whether it was one-on-one counseling or a very tiny paycheck.

* Public confessionals–we were repeatedly asked to go before the entire MC group and confess some sin were struggling with. We were also made to do private confessionals, too.

* Low-risk relationships (unconditional acceptance)–it’s very easy to enter into this group and gain acceptance but it’s very difficult to leave. if you do leave, you lose all your friends.

* Fear of punishment or damnation for even thinking about leaving the new “family”–this is actually true. you will get punished if you leave the “family.” and they DO call you a “son” or “daughter in the house” and “family.”

* Viewing all of the outside world as evil or satanic so that any desire to return to it is also evil–anyone or anything who disagrees with their theology or dictatorship can be seen as satanic. We were often told that if we questioned them we were rebellious and being rebellious was from Satan. So we were basically being satanic if we rebelled against them.

If you have anymore questions or would like me to send an inquiry to a particular Master’s Commission group (while keeping your name private, of course), feel free to email me at mycultlife@gmail.com.
Good luck in your decision!
Lisa

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Bubble Boys and Girls: There’s LIFE Outside!

One day, many years ago (five or six, to be exact), I was driving from a small, bayou filled town named Broussard, Louisiana that just contained our church, an Albertson’s and a pizza place to Lafayatte, a slightly larger city. I remember turning the corner of one street, the clouds hazy over my car looking like it might rain, thinking, I really hate living here. I hate the weather. I hate this city. Nothing is appealing to me here…But I feel like I can’t leave.

There were many times I didn’t feel fulfilled at my cult life. I felt my dreams were stripped of me, while I was forced to do a job that would get someone higher up their dreams. It was a sad place to be for someone who dreamed a lot–like me.

There are some readers who are still in that ministry group, or in that church, who read this and want out. I know how you feel. I felt that once. At that point driving, I thought of leaving, but I wondered, What options do I have? What would I do with my life? What ARE my dreams?

I’d never given myself full liberty to think about MY own dreams and ambitions, while I was “serving my pastor.” I didn’t think about my options in life, either. I just assumed I’d wasted seven years of my life in ministry and if I left now, I’d leave everything I’d built my life around.

One afternoon, I told my sister I wanted to leave and how the pastor had told me he COULD send me to India to do missionary work (which was at the time, my dream) but he wouldn’t. He didn’t think I could handle it.

My sister said, “You know, Lisa, there are so many groups you could work overseas with. It doesn’t have to be them. The Catholics have missionaries, the Seventh-Day Adventist groups, etc.” She went on to list various groups who did missionary work similar to what I’d wanted to do.

It gave me hope. If someone was going to stop what I thought was God’s will and MY dream for my life, to abuse me for their own, then I could do something about it.

I also started thinking about college. I’d been thinking about college for years prior, and had asked to go, but the answer was always, NO!

In high school, I’d always gotten good grades and been very academic, so I knew I wanted to go to college. I finally started looking into it during my last few months in Louisiana. I even filled out an application to University of Louisiana, Lafayette. I was going to stay and work for the pastor, but he said he didn’t think I could work for him AND go to school at the same time. It’d be a lot for me to handle.

Instead, I ended up moving home to attend a California State University close to my parents. Within weeks, I was accepted to the school and to the Helen Hawke Honor’s Program based on my high school GPA and SAT scores.

Over the next few years, I finally decided that creative writing was something I’d always wanted to do–since I was a little girl. I said good-bye to the dream of becoming a “missionary” but didn’t say good-bye to my humanitarian nature. Instead, the more I learned in college, the more dedicated I became to humanitarian crises and awareness of how to help. Mine was not a religious calling, I found. It never was.

My writing developed over the years. For years, I knew I was a writer, but felt people would judge me and I just felt mute. I couldn’t show anyone anything and worse yet, I couldn’t even type things out for fear someone would read them and judge me. I cried in class when anyone would criticize my work.

Then, I moved cities and took some writing classes. I was published and had to read to around 300 people. I made friends with a great writing community of wonderfully creative, smart people whom I miss. I was surrounded by writing professors who believed in me.

I’ve also taken up painting, drawing and photography. My writing is often realistic and unapologetic but my paintings are lively and show life as eternal springtime.

The point of my post? There is LIFE and DREAMS and AMBITIONS in this great, big world out here. Come out and play! It might just be the best decision you’ve ever made.

It was MY CULT LIFE, too.

I received this email last week and since I had this person’s permission to post it, I thought it would be a good time to share it. I have changed a few minor details to protect the identity of this person, because no one deserves to be harassed the way I’ve been harassed for speaking up. Please read on:

Dear Lisa,

Just wanted to drop a quick note and let you know I’ve been following your blog. Thank you for speaking out, I feel the exact same way but I never understood the importance of confronting it until I recently read everything you’ve been posting. 

I spent years at MCID (now Master’s Commission 3D), and it took me a year or two to realize what had actually happened: that I had been in a cult.

God bless you, L! I’m sure you’ll be hearing more from me.

I couldn’t believe it, and I didn’t believe it for a while. I’ve spent the last several years being content to say to myself, “Well I know that a lot of things that took place were wrong, but I’m just going to hold on to the good things that God did in me and forgive and forget the rest.” Boy, a lot of good that has done for the naive ones that have followed our footsteps, eh?

I don’t think I’ve ever spoken with another one of my former peers who has not regarded our time at MCID with contempt.

Thank you for sharing, I’m reading and pursuing my own path of healing and desire for justice. I don’t want this to continue to happen, and I pray that the Lord will move on their hearts as they read and hear about those who have been hurt and scarred under their leadership.

Signed,

“It was My Cult Life, Too”

Dear “It was My Cult Life, Too:” What a beautiful letter! Thank you (you and I know who you are). I hope you know that you are a valuable, wonderful human being and are not responsible for what happened at that place. You are a child of God. Keep your head up and keep smiling. I wish you the very best life has to offer.