How are you connected?

August 6, 2011

Shiny happy people

January 27, 2010


8 main symptoms of groupthink:

1. Illusion of Invulnerability: Members ignore obvious danger, take extreme risk, and are overly optimistic.

2. Collective Rationalization: Members discredit and explain away warning contrary to group thinking.

3. Illusion of Morality: Members believe their decisions are morally correct, ignoring the ethical consequences of their decisions.

4. Excessive Stereotyping:The group constructs negative sterotypes of rivals outside the group.

5. Pressure for Conformity: Members pressure any in the group who express arguments against the group’s stereotypes, illusions, or commitments, viewing such opposition as disloyalty.

6. Self-Censorship: Members withhold their dissenting views and counter-arguments.

7. Illusion of Unanimity: Members perceive falsely that everyone agrees with the group’s decision; silence is seen as consent.

8. Mindguards: Some members appoint themselves to the role of protecting the group from adverse information that might threaten group complacency.


In my time within YWAM and a spiritually abusive church, I encountered all of these put forth by Irving Janis in  Decision making: A psychological analysis of conflict, choice, and commitment.

Any thoughts?

Whether you are leaving YWAM because of a painful experience and seeking a place of refuge on the ‘outside’, or leaving to join the world again, it is a painful transition.

Many of my friends who have left YWAM over the years found the journey back into regular society harder than expected, fraught with false starts and unfinished plans. The sheer culture shock can be overwhelming to the point that many, including myself, find it difficult to find a place in the world sans YWAM.

Discipleship Training school (DTS) is often called a “honeymoon with God” and that YWAMers who complete the DTS are “ruined for the ordinary”. Being ruined for the so-called ordinary can truly ruin what one can and cannot accomplish outside of YWAM. –Over the years, I have kept in contact with my YWAM friends and have been able to see how their YWAM experience affected how they viewed the world and how they made their way into non-communal life. My closest friends in YWAM were so negatively affected by their time in the organization that to this day- nearly 10 years after DTS- they do not know who they are or what they are ‘meant’ to do. College was not attended, plans were not followed through, floundering around was the mainstay. I found this to be true for myself as well.

My time in YWAM permanently burned an image in my mind of who I should be; I was told that the only reason for being was to know God and to make Him known. If I were not involved in missions, my life was worthless, because being a missionary –especially a destitute one- was a holy calling. Leaving YWAM was the most painful emotional time in my life. Although my time in YWAM was filled with tremendous spiritual abuse, I was utterly lost, no direction, no idea of what to do next.

Most YWAM bases have a debriefing at the end of DTS for those going back to their lives, and I went through this debriefing after my DTS as well. When I returned home, I found that I had changes, whereas my friends, church and pastor had remained the same. It was difficult for my friends to adjust to the ‘new’ me and I was on such a spiritual high after DTS, I had problems relating to them. I thought, “Why aren’t they winning souls? Reaching out to the lost?” Remember, my whole reason for being was to be a missionary, so I could not understand why everyone else didn’t drop everything to go.

I did what many after DTS do. I applied to yet another YWAM school, because that was what I was encouraged to do. I applied for a School of Frontier Missions (SOFM) and I was accepted, however, the financial support never came through. People promised money for my career as a destitute, un-college educated missionary, but they never came through. I was absolutely devastated. What was I to do? All my self-worth was in missions.

Eventually I found a job, but I floundered for years, not knowing what to do with my time in YWAM. I worked off and on with short term YWAM projects, but always felt that something was lacking. I attempted college, but failed at that. All I could think of was going back to YWAM – being a missionary.

My friends from YWAM had a similar path over the last 9 years. I’ve talked to many others who served with YWAM who felt lost as well. What does one do after YWAM?

Thankfully, after my latest brush with YWAM, I was able to make a clean break and remove the doctrine I learned in DTS from my mind. Finally, I can separate myself from what I learned in YWAM and find myself, reconnect with family and friends and belong in the ‘real’ world. It took time and a lot of painful growth, relearning of who I am and what I am truly meant to do.

It’s taken me a long time to bring myself to write about my latest experience with YWAM. As I mentioned in earlier posts, I was basically raised in YWAM, as I had been involved with YWAM since from the age of eleven.

I also was raised in a very spiritually abusive church, where the pastor was the authority on all things spiritual and theological questioning was discouraged. My transition from spiritually-abusive-church to spiritually-abusive-ministry was very smooth, in fact, in the first 10 years or so of YWAM involvement, I saw YWAM as ‘saving’ me from an abusive church.

In the January of 1999, at the age of 18, I headed to Hong Kong to attend a Discipleship Training School with YWAM. Immediately, I felt much more accepted than I had at my home church; my fellow DTS students and I bonded quickly and formed long-lasting friendships.

The first week of DTS was about “breaking down strongholds” and we had a session of “repentance” with all YWAM staff and DTS students present. We were told to list all of the big sins in our lives, no matter how personal. To be honest, I had no ‘big’ sins to confess, so the leaders prodded my insecurity to find the hidden sins I harbored. They finally decided that I was guilty of the sin of pride because I had insecurity issues with my physical appearance. (What teenage girl doesn’t?) A male leader went on to tell me that I was not pretty, but God thought I was….gee, that helped my self-esteem.

Within a few weeks, it became apparent that the leaders of my DTS were hyper-vigilant against sexual sins of every kind. It was a very bizarre situation, they were practically gnostic in their beliefs on marriage and sex. The base directors constantly told us not to ‘be distracted’ from our calling by entering into marriage; according to them, marriage was evil and unholy.

Another issue was a prevalent teaching throughout YWAM on spiritual warfare. There was a teaching that satan was everywhere and had his hands in everything not deemed holy; any bad occurance was due to satan attacking the saints. Or there was another popular thought that there was ‘sin in the camp’ if some bad times came upon the base. At times, it seemed like there was a medieval witch hunt searching for the one who brought demonic attacks.

By the end of the DTS, the base directors approached me about joining their staff, but I declined. They warned me again about being distracted from a calling. I left my DTS with mixed feelings. God had worked in my life, but the ywam leaders had a strange brand of theology. -I second-guessed myself, believing that maybe I just misunderstood their teachings. I could not truly bring myself to believe that ywam was flawed. I felt maybe I just needed to study more.

Fast-forward to 2007.

My husband (DH) was laid off from his job, my mother committed suicide, and my family felt we needed to get out of our hometown to re-evaluate our lives. My husband had been wanting to attend a DTS, and the timing seemed perfect. In January of 2007, our family, including our 2 young children, traveled to Hong Kong for him to attend the DTS.

I was expecting to be welcomed back to the base with open arms, but I found a very cold and callous reception. I was treated very badly by one leader in particular who had been a leader during my DTS. Eventually it became clear as to why I was being treated badly. -Marriage was not holy and I was a ‘sinner’ for being distracted from my call.

My husband is highly educated (MBA) and an intellectual and he had an especially hard time during the DTS.

The lecture phase of my husband’s DTS went fairly smoothly, except when he voiced concern over teachings that were in direct contradiction to the Bible. My husband was tactful, be he was quickly marked a “trouble-maker” and was chastised by the DTS leader. In fact, the leader was perfectly ok with incorrect theology being taught. From then on, it was downhill for our family, including my two children, ages 2 & 5. Our family was shunned and gossip was rampant. We were unliked because we wanted the base to teach sound doctrine.

The time came for outreach and it was decided that our family would only travel with the team for 2 weeks, then we were to go to another city on our own. Simply, the leadership didn’t want us near the younger team members because we believed in questioning troublesome theology.

We flew to a large southwestern city in China where we were met by our missionary sponsor. For his security, I will call him “Mark”. I knew Mark from my DTS, as he and his wife were leaders at the Hong Kong base. My husband and I felt that we would have a productive and positive experience during our outreach, but unfortunately, that was not the case.

Mark thought of himself as a bold evangelist living in China, and he thought nothing of teaching Christianity in his college English classes. My husband was mortified when Mark told the students that he was the same as Mark. Spouting religion is a good way of a one-way ticket out of China, so we felt Mark was very foolish. The only “ministry” DH took part in was grading and teaching for Mark’s English class, along with the occasional visit to a Bible study.

Unfortunately, DH felt at one time comfortable in sharing with Mark some issues he had with his DTS lecture phase, such as the screwy theology and the gossip. This came back to haunt us later.

DH and our family arrived back in Hong Kong at the conclusion of our outreach and found that the mood was even more hostile towards us. Our DTS ended with a ‘love feast’ in which we report back, give testimonies, awards are given, etc. Our family was segregated to the back of the room & none of the fellow DTSers or staff would even talk to us. I tried not to be too sensitive, but it was a very humiliating experience.

After the ‘love feast’, it was time for the debriefing with the base directors and the DTS leader. DH thought everything would go well because he had learned and grown and had improved himself during the time in Asia. Wham! The female base director screamed at DH and told him he had no value, and no personal character. She continued on a hateful tirade for 30 mins. and would not allow DH to even defend himself. It takes a lot for DH to cry and this woman had reduced him to hysterics. As it turned out, Mark had told all that DH had told him in confidence to the base directors.

Basically, we were “evil” because we believed in questioning the leadership who acted inappropriately. The base leaders said we were in rebellion because we did not obey their every command and did not revere them.

After the completion of the DTS, we asked if we could stay for a week or two while we searched for an apartment in Hong Kong. We paid the rent and fees completely and DH was required to do heavy, physical labor at the base during the day. DH had a gout attack and asked to do less physical work, but he was not allowed any break from the physical work. He worked on in terrible pain and eventually the leaders came to him saying that they did not want him near the base anymore because he was too “negative”. We were also told we had just a few days to vacate the apartment we were renting from the base. We had no where to go. It was Hong Kong’s 10 year anniversary of the return to China, so all hotels were full. In effect, we were going to be homeless and on the streets of Hong Kong with our children.

Thankfully, we had met two other couples who had also left the YWAM base (under similar circumstances) and these wonderful people were able to help us find a translator to find us an apartment. We found an apartment in the very same village that the YWAM base was in & the landlady allowed us to move in right away, 3 days for free, so that we would not be homeless. During the negotiations with our translator and our new landlady, the landlady asked if we were “with the other foreigners” – meaning the YWAM base. We came to find that the YWAM base had a very bad reputation in the village.

The people of Hong Kong, particularly in the rural New Territories where we lived, speak Cantonese; however, the base leadership would never be bothered to learn any Cantonese. They always would speak in Mandarin to the villagers. There was absolutely no outreach to the village the base inhabited. The base is locked away behind a big, black gate and the villagers do not trust those who work with YWAM there.

Our landlady would not have rented to us if we had been with YWAM…we see now how well God took care of us when the situation was “impossible”. Despite the base leaders’ best efforts to discredit and harm us, the Lord gave us a home and a good reputation in the village.

Life after suicide

January 4, 2008

Suicide. The word is full of shame and mystery. Unfortunately, suicide will touch nearly everyone in one way or another, whether it be a family member, a friend, or even an acquaintance. Suicide is a sad fact in this life.

How does one recover from the suicide of a loved one? That has been my main quest over the last year.

My mother had a long history of mental illness long before I was even born. My mom told me of her history, and although I am not a psychiatrist, after a great deal of research, I truly believe my mom had schizoaffective disorder.

When I was 15, my mom began to act strangely, talking to herself, coming into my room at night and hovering over me while talking to unseen people. She constantly mumbled on and on about my dad wanting to murder me and that he was demon-possessed. I didn’t quite know what to think and my dad was concerned, but didn’t think it was “that bad”. During the weekend, I sat at the kitchen table trying to finish an important essay for school and the entire time my mom paced and mumbled. I could hardly concentrate to finish. My mom disappeared for a few minutes, then reappeared, frantic, and told me I had to go to the church (a block away) so that I would be safe. I refused. “What’s going on?” I asked. I heard my dad on the phone, calling 911. My mom had taken an overdose of Tylenol PM, then directly went and told my dad what she had done.

I headed out the door as the police arrived. My whole life turned on its head.

My mom was hospitalized for about a month and I stayed with family friends during this time. When my mom came home, I knew she was not “cured”. The psychiatrist that treated my mother had a meeting with me and my dad and told us my mom was simply depressed. The doctor told us that we were the cause of her depression, so we should ‘shape up’.

My mom and I reversed roles when she came home. I had to look after her, make sure she took her meds, cook for the family, and my mom became my ‘child’. I resented this situation deeply.

One night after her return, I asked her pointed questions about her past, and she opened up and told me her psychological history.

She married young, had a child, but then her husband had an affair and left her. As a single mother, she couldn’t cope and attempted suicide. She was sent to the state mental hospital, where she had shock therapy. She emerged from the hospital to find her child in the custody of her ex-husband. She had several suicidal attempts after this, followed by numerous hospitalizations.

Around 1970, she found herself pregnant and unmarried. She went to the El Paso Salvation Army unwed mothers home and gave birth to a baby boy she named David. He was put up for adoption, and then my mom again attempted suicide and was hospitalized again.

In 1976, my mom met my dad, retired Air Force, and they were married within a few months. In 1980, I was born. My mom was 41 and my dad was 46.


After my mom’s attempted suicide when I was 15, I tried my best to live a normal life. I married, had children and I was happy and for the first time in many years, I felt that I had a normal life.

In 2006, my husband and I moved in with my parents so that we could sell our home and pay off debt. In the the summer of ’06, my mom began to act strangely, talking to herself, seeing things no one else could see, etc. I convinced her to see a doctor, but the doctor was a complete moron. -He gave her a bunch of anti-depressants and muscle relaxants and sent her home. I tried to get her to go to a better doctor, but by this time she was very paranoid and convinced I was trying to kill her. She quit eating and drinking and sleeping. No doctor would help. The counseling center in our town refused to get involved.

My mom began making crank calls to 911 and police showed up about 5 times in a 3 day period. One day, my mom flew out of the house and I ran after her to make sure she wasn’t going to hurt herself. She told me she was going to the police station in her car. I tried to stop her, but I have two young children to look after. My children come first and I didn’t want to scare them. I let my mom go, but I prayed and hoped she was ok.

About an hour later, I received a frantic call from my mom’s friend saying that my mom had shown up at her door delirious and incoherent. My mom managed to tell her friend that she was “going to the hospital”. Once I got off the phone with my mom’s friend, I called 911 and told them my mom was suicidal and a danger to herself and others. The policeman came to my door to take my statement and description of my mom and her car. The officer told me that could not take my mom into protective custody against her will, even if she was acting in a bizarre manner. The police looked for my mom, but didn’t find her. My mom eventually came back home later that evening.

I felt that my hands were tied. The doctors refused to help, the mental ‘professionals’ wouldn’t ‘interfere’ and the police wouldn’t even take my mom into protective custody. What is there left to do?

A couple days after this incident, my husband and I were awoken around 5 am by our children screaming. My husband ran to their room and found my mom in there. My mom then went and got on the phone. -Calling 911. When the police arrived, they told us that my mom had called to report us for “torturing” our children. The police plainly saw that the kids were fine, but my mom was not. I begged the policeman to take my mom into protective custody, because obviously, she was a danger to herself and others. The policeman refused and said we should just put locks on our doors to protect our kids from my mom. I was at the end of my strength. Those that were supposed to be available to help didn’t care.

The next day, I had my dad call my mom’s doctor and the counseling center. Again, they refused to help. Around 2pm, I put my youngest child down for a nap and got my oldest up from her nap. Around 2:20pm, I heard a loud bang. I ran to check on my kids. My oldest daughter was in the den, my dad was sitting and the kitchen table reading. I asked, “What was that?” We were all in shock. We knew.

I ran and entered the hall to the bedrooms and I was met by the smell of gunpowder. I cautiously turned the corner and found my mom in my dad’s room, laying on the floor. I could see she had shot herself right underneath the sternum. My dad was behind me, and my little 4 year old was right behind him. I pushed my daughter back so she couldn’t see her Nana laying there.

I frantically called 911, my mom was still alive, so my dad applied pressure to the wound and checked her pulse and breathing. I ran and scooped up my 18-month-old who had been sleeping just in the next room and took my kids outside.

That day is a bit of a blur now. My mom was taken to the ER and my pastor and his wife let us go to the church and let our kids play while we waited for word on my mom. Within 45 minutes, the lead detective called me and said. “There are things we need to discuss.” I knew what that meant. I knew my mom was dead.

I arrived back at my dad’s house and the lead detective told me that my dad was not handling things well, so I had to take care of all the arrangements. I was used to being the responsible one, but I didn’t think I could make it through this one.

To this day, I don’t quite know how I made it though to the memorial service. I had to for my kids’ sake. My oldest daughter, who was only 4, was devastated by my mom’s suicide. For months, my daughter would cry in her sleep, and she would ask me why Nana “hit herself in the stomach with a gun”. All I could tell her was that her Nana was sick, but now she’s with God and she’s happy.

My husband and I moved to Hong Kong 5 months after my mom’s death. Moving physically has helped me move on emotionally and deal with my mom’s death. Above all, the Lord has brought me through this and carried me because I know I wouldn’t be here now if the Lord hadn’t rescued me.

“Lord, I seek refuge in You;
let me never be disgraced.
Save me by Your righteousness.

Listen closely to me; rescue me quickly.
Be a rock of refuge for me,
a mountain fortress to save me.
For You are my rock and my fortress;
You lead and guide me
because of Your name.”

Ps. 31:1-3

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