Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"My Journey Out of Oz"- Freedom From A Spiritually Abusive Church

My friend, Windblown1, has agreed to let me share her story of God’s amazing grace as he set her free after spending almost 30 years in a spiritually abusive church. Here’s her story in her own words.


Six years ago, May 2004:
I had made my decision to leave, through MUCH turmoil and fear.
I was alone in the house, trying to get my mind to focus on the practical issues of my decision.
In an overwhelming rush of emotion, an explosion of pent up anger, frustration, fear and disillusionment burst forth from me and I began to SCREAM, SCREAM, SCREEEEEEEEEEEEAM--on and on for a very long time. If someone had been in the house at the time, they would have taken me to the emergency room for treatment.
But I was alone~~~~
I fell to the floor by my bed and from deep in my spirit I began to say, “The Lord is my Shepherd,
I shall not want, He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He restores my soul.”
Peace began to come~~
When I got up from the floor, I was ready to take the step that would lead me to life “outside the walls.”
I call it “My Journey Out of OZ” because after I was out, and the curtain began to be pulled back, I was to realize that the “Power” that I so feared and submitted to, was only in my mind. A false illusion taught and nurtured by a system that thrives on power, manipulation and control.
But at that time, I only saw the works of one person, our pastor.
It would be a long time before I would realize that the whole system was rotten.
The journey began some 31 years ago.
A farm wife with 3 children who loved to garden, can food, and take care of her home.
A woman who married right out of high school.
A woman who had a DEEP hunger for God in her soul.
A woman searching for the missing piece to herself, for wholeness.
I had gotten involved in New Age, filled myself with the teachings in my search for Truth. I was not raised in a Christian home, but in those days I think we all thought we were Christians because we were Americans.
One day my friend, who was on this spiritual quest with me, told me she had met someone who taught Bible studies and this woman was willing to teach us.
We were so excited, finally we were going to find Truth!
We started the Bible study with 4 ladies in a kitchen. The woman teaching us was an excellent teacher and filled with the power of God. I never had known anyone who knew the Bible like she did and taught with such authority. ( I question this now, but then, to a “babe” in Christ, so hungry, like a baby bird, I hung on her every word.) Plus, she would pray for us and there was such “power” that we were just astonished!
People began to hear about what was happening, such excitement. Before long we outgrew the home Bible studies and started meeting in a church.
The Bible study group grew larger than the congregation of the church where we were meeting.
Our teacher said that God told her to start a church--- so we started meeting in a home on Sunday mornings. Over 80 people gathered together as a charismatic church. Very quickly we outgrew the home and rented a building.
When we outgrew the rented building, we were finally able to buy a building, which everyone worked together to remodel and make into our home church.
Eventually we grew to around 450 people (in a very small community) had a Bible school, a pre-school through high school academic school, plus a daycare.
We believed we were the exemplary model of a New Testament church!
About eight years after the church began, my husband of 28 years, who was opposed to my involvement with the group, divorced me to marry another woman.
We had three children, one of them a son, who was married and the other two lived with me at home. My daughter was about 22 and my other son was a young teenager.
I had never held a job outside our home, having married directly out of high school.
Life as I had known it was over.
I began to do the only thing I knew how to do, which was clean houses. The pastor hired me to clean the church and I struggled to find myself in this new life that I had been thrown into.
The thing that helped me the most at this scary, but in some ways, exhilarating time of my life, was the Lord and being a part of such a strong and supportive church family. I felt surrounded, loved and cushioned from the problems of adjustment that I faced.
The pastor began to take an interest in me and began to ask me to go with her on trips and gave me a job as secretary of the academic school. I had no former experience, was allowed to learn “on the job.”
God was truly taking care of me.
Little did I know that I was a “prime” candidate for the message that was in the charismatic/Pentecostal. Prophetic words were a part of our lives~~we believed God still speaks today and we “lived” for the “word of the Lord” to flow through people to us~~especially the “prophets” who spoke to our church on a regular basis.
Our pastor was a prophetess, everyone hung on her every word and believed she truly heard from God for her “flock.” Of course we were encouraged to “hear” for ourselves, but all revelations and directions we might receive from the Lord had to be given to her to be “judged” before acted upon.
Many time she would say, “I don’t witness to that” and that would settle it. There was a fear that if we went against her council, we were in great danger of being “out of God’s will.”
It was in this climate that I began to build my new life. It was filled with hope and destiny. God had brought one chapter of my life to fruition to begin a life that was to equip me to fulfill my “DESTINY.”
I was told through a prophetic word from the pastor that I had fulfilled my role as “mother” and God wanted to take me to the next stage of my “DESTINY.”
She said I was not to “abandon” my children, but my focus was to be what God wanted to do in my life NOW.
Not too long after this was spoken, she had a “dream” and she saw a puzzle (the puzzle was her) and there was a hole and God put a piece in that hole and it was me.
Because of that “vision”, the prophetic words and because I agreed with it, I moved into her house, leaving my young teenage son with my daughter.
Destiny was calling me~~~~~
She said that I was to be her “intercessor” and traveling companion/personal assistant. (In reality I was more like a servant, doing any and all jobs that needed to be done around the ministry. I never knew what I would be doing from day to day, which kept me in a state of vulnerability, because if I didn’t “do” something I should have “known” to do, I was chastised by a tongue lashing or by being totally ignored and dismissed.)
In later years, I did become more of an assistant/traveling companion to her, and she trusted me.
This was “heady” stuff for me---I believed I was her “Elisha” and when I had been trained, drained and perfected, I would “receive” the “double portion” of her anointing.
This is where the story gets bizarre and very difficult to write. The reason is that there are so many layers of circumstance, and some VERY weird “spiritual” factors that made up my life for the next 15 years.
My daughter has chronicled many of the things that we experienced in great detail.
She joined the church about two years after I did. She was in her early 20’s and never been exposed to any kind of spiritual training. She felt the drawing of the Lord, though, and gave her heart to Him. She did and still does love Him with all her heart.
The pastor took an immediate interest in her and made her the church administrator. My daughter experienced some troubling situations almost from the beginning, which included control and belittling, and she quit in less than a week. We all experienced an almost suffocating heaviness and anxiety, so my daughter, fearing she had stepped out of God’s will went back.
She was there about thirteen years and became the pastor’s “right hand” man, the assistant pastor, being groomed to become pastor when the pastor left to fulfill her “apostolic” call. (Of course, she could never release any authority to anyone. All people on staff had LOTS of responsibility without any authority. Everything had to go through her. Even when she was traveling out of state or out of the country, the phone and email were ALWAYS the first things that were set up or gained access to.
In about her eleventh year my daughter met a man that the pastor approved of and they got married. Thus began a war of loyalty for my daughter between the pastor and her husband. Crisis after crisis. Crazy, bizarre situations that were impossible for my daughter to deal with. She had been taught “total” obedience to pastor, now her husband saw the control and was not putting up with it. Long story short, he took my daughter and they left town and never came back.
For over seven years I did not speak to my daughter or see her. She had two miscarriages, and I did not call or send her a card. I said to the pastor, “ I would like to send L. some yellow roses to let her know that I am thinking of her” and she said, “Do it and you are “OUT OF HERE.”
I didn’t do it!
Fear is a strong motivator, the need for security and a place of ministry, proved to be even stronger than my love for my daughter.
Of course, I had been told that she was “the enemy” married to the son of “satan.” I grieved that she had “broken covenant” and was now an “infidel” to us.
The years after my daughter left were in many ways “the best of times and the worst of times.” In some ways for me, because I had proven my loyalty to her, we became more like friends and sisters at times. She confided in me all her anxiety with “spiritual warfare,” trying to “grow” the church and keep people in their “places.”
We all had a “spiritual place” that we had to occupy or she would know “by the spirit” and we would be railed upon for sometimes hours at a time or “put outside the camp” until we became cleansed and were back in our “place.”
One of the greatest fears was not being in our “place.” Of course, one could never know what that meant, only SHE could discern it. It was usually better to stay close to her, then you could monitor her moods and “spiritual” insights. When I was allowed to visit my younger son or other family members, I would always be sent out of the house to get” that spirit” off of me and get back into my place before I could be in her good graces again. I couldn’t even bring gifts that my son gave me into the house because of the “family” spirit attached to them. Many times I threw his gifts away or carried them around in the trunk of my car.
Because of that “curse,” my daughter and I had to get rid of everything from our past. Furniture, jewelry, anything and everything from my mother and life. I even threw away diamond rings because of the “warfare” that surrounded them.
When my daughter went on her honeymoon, after 3 days all hell broke loose because “she (my daughter) should have “known” by the “spirit” that she was needed at the church. When she did return, she was not spoken to and the ushers sat her in a pew with the other members, like she wasn’t even recognized. CRAZY, CRAZY stuff. All designed to manipulate people into submission.
I ran away three times in the beginning, and the last time, I thought the “heavy hand “ of God was on me so strong that I couldn’t breathe for a week. I thought I had “left” God’s perfect will and that life for me was over.
At the end of the week, after my lying on the floor and repenting and confessing my rebellion to God, she said God had opened the “place” back up, so I could come back.
This is just a thumbnail sketch of some of the things we experienced in the name of God, under the mantle of the charismatic/Pentecostal “covering.”
She was our ”apostle.” She was exalted by prophets and apostles that we were in fellowship with. She was given an honorary doctorate. So she became Dr. not just pastor/ apostle.
One prophetess told us that we were to honor her by bringing gifts to the altar, because the prophetess heard the Lord say that our pastor was going to marry.
So for a couple of weeks, people came with lavish, beautifully wrapped gifts of lingerie, perfumes, clothing and jewelry and put them on the altar.
Of course, she has never married, and still nobody wants to question the prophetic abuse that is so prevalent in the apostolic/prophetic camp.
I believe it is no better than spiritual “witchcraft” and fortunetelling.
We had prophets come and have us line up and declare our loyalty and allegiance to her. I am talking of over 400 people~~ good, honest, God believing people.
After the church imploded, many of these same leaders said they knew there was control but knew it wouldn’t do any good to confront it.
So for almost 30 years, I lived and breathed these teachings and ways.
Towards the end, I was beginning to be separated by being sent to Poland for several months at a time. etc. She seemed to know that things were shifting with me because she got very insecure and the last 3 years with her were “hell on earth.”
Things began to unravel at the church. The leadership actually started talking (something that is absolutely forbidden--”touch not mine anointed”)
And we all began to whisper, the “emperor has no clothes!”
Truth began to replace the lies, speaking our hearts began to replace the silence that protected the corruption.
A shaking began to take place that ended up removing almost all the leadership and most of the people. All that remained was the money given in good faith to build our “new, bigger and better building” for our Regional ministry. Plus, all the land and buildings owned by the church, purchased by a loyal, trusting congregation.
The people who are still there, have all that remains. They just went through the 2nd split recently and I believe there are only about 25 people left to carry out the “amazing destiny” that was prophesied over the place. But some diehards still think that if you have enough “faith” you cannot fail.
But the foundation is rotten and it is only a matter of time until it all disappears back into the earth (man) from which it was formed.

Back to where I began this history of my journey.
I am ready to walk out the door. I even had a “vision” of a door opened for me to walk through.
I read these words in a devotional the night before I was to leave:
“So go forth today in great faith, My child. There are rivers which you must cross. As you dip your foot in the waters that would hinder you from obeying my will, behold, the waters will part and you shall cross over on dry ground to safety, to new land, to new experiences.
Begin to move NOW! And you shall rejoice at the great and might victory which shall surely be thine.”
I wrote in my journal:
“Today I step through a new door. The chapter is finished, the book has been completed.
Today, a fresh page, a new beginning.
Volume two of the “Saga of the Servant of the Most High God.”
I stepped out of the door, locked it behind me. I left in a borrowed car, with only my clothes and books. No home, no family, no future (that I could see.)
But as I stepped out, it was as if I was lifted by “eagles wings” and taken forth into my new life.
I felt as if I had been “flung” into the air and the very Hand of God caught me and has never let go of me.
I have abundance in all things. My relationship with my daughter and family has been restored. My daughter opened her home and arms to me and treats me with such honor and love. God is healing us all~~ Little by little.
I have much more to write about the process of the renewing of my mind from the “religion” and much more to say about His “Amazing Grace.”
I will probably spend the rest of my years digesting and dissecting all that happened in our lives.
But for now, all I can say is ~~Thank You~~ To My Faithful God!!

Written in my journal May 15, 2004:
“Let the rejoicing begin~~
The birds are singing,
The leaves of the trees are waving,
The brooks are bubbling.
The whole earth is filled with the Glory,
Filling the atmosphere with praise.
To the Creator,
To the One who is over all~~
Oh, how I worship You,
Your majesty!!
Open my eyes to see more of You,
May my life be a mirror of Your Life.

June 16, 2004
The prison doors have been flung open~~WIDE
Run, Run to the place of refuge
Provided by the Lord.
Feel the wind in your face
The warmth of the sun on your head.
The weight of the shackles are gone
The restrictions of the freedom of my feet are released.
The most beautiful word
Jesus set us free!
I will run and not be weary
I will leap and rejoice!
Like the calves let out of their stalls
This is the hour that the Sun of Righteousness arises
With healing in his wings
Because I fear His name~~~



lionwoman said...

Wow, once again I am reminded of how much worse it can get than what we ever went through. And many of my own religious experiences have been stressful and hurtful enough. I am glad now Carol, that you are free and sharing your story!

windblown 1 said...

Thanks lionwoman!! It is an amazing story of God's care and grace.
Corrie Ten Boonm's sister Betsy told her, as she was dying, tell them, Corrie, "There is no pit too deep that Jesus is not deeper still."
Not that anyting in my life compares to that, but no matter what we face, He carries us through.
My favorite saying now is, "Even the valley's are higher ground!"

Aida said...

Lionwoman, you are so right. My experience with spiritual abuse was fun and games compared to Carol’s. I am so glad that she’s allowed me to share her story. I believe it’s been liberating for her and I know many will be encouraged and blessed. BTW, Windblown 1 and Carol are the same person.

Carol (Windblown 1), that's a great quote by Betsy Ten Boom and so very true.

Set Free said...

Wow! Even though this story seems much more extreme than my situation, I can still see many similarities. The control is real in these types of churches and unless you have experienced it, it's hard to understand. It is scary to me that I allowed a person to have that much control over me, BUT NEVER again! I am so glad you and your daughter are free!

windblown 1 said...

Thank you so much, Set Free. I am in a hurry right now but will write more later. I checked out you blog and want to read it when I have more time.
For me, it is time to speak up, there are many in similar situations and need to be educated and alerted.

windblown 1 said...

Set Free,
Love what you said, "NEVER AGAIN"
That's certainly our battle cry!!!
@Aida, Just wanted to thank you for all your encourgment! I never would have written this story without it. I know you will be a "safe" place for many like me to land!!!

Aida said...

Windblown, I so appreciate you letting me share your story. I know many will be encouraged as they work through the process of spiritual abuse recovery. Thank you for your kind words. That is my hope too.