Oh, you’re just negative…

December 10, 2017

Have you ever been told, “you’re just being negative” by someone in regards to your experiences in church or religious organizations? It seems that people in general want to sweep under the rug problems and concerns of those who have been abused or maligned in religious circles. Most people do not want to think about unpleasant things.

So what do you do when you’re treated this way? What do you do when people you thought you could trust discount or do not believe your experiences? This is a crossroad, a path for diverging from your current trajectory. You have to make a very difficult and possibly life-changing decision. Either stay and continue dismissive abuse or leave and start a new, scary path.

I am completely over my time in YWAM and the horrid and traumatizing time spent with them. It took a while and I had to remove people from my life, which was heartbreaking and disorienting, but now I’m free!

butterflies

I’m free!

Now the subject of church and religious people (the ones who do not demonstrate Christ), I admit a sore spot. It’s a half-way healed wound that keeps getting ripped open pretty regularly.

Let me explain: long story short, I lost everything, everyone and went from being well-off financially to being one step from homelessness. My entire family died within a six month span in 2015 and I was left without a support system. Widowed and orphaned.

I reached out to my church friends (had been reaching out and supporting them through their own trials for many years before my own losses). I was met with no empathy, compassion or familial support. My church friends and I had grown up together. We were a family of sorts, a chosen family, but they all decided I was an apostate for leaving the church that abused me, but also had abused them as well.

They felt that allegiance to a cult of personality was more important than real people. Again, shunned.

So again I ask: “where do I go from here”?

Here is my advice to myself and to you, dear reader if you are in a similar situation.

  1. Pray. Depending on your own spiritual path: pray, meditate, listen to encouraging music, write out your thoughts and ask for guidance on your life.
  2. Re-evaluate your needs, wants and must-haves. What do you need right now? Will simplifying your life help you?
  3. Reach out to others who can understand the pain of rejection and spiritual abuse. There are a lot of groups online for survivors of spiritual manipulation.
  4. Establish boundaries in your relationships. Protect your heart and mind from further unhealthy interference. This can be especially painful if you are co-dependent.
  5. Move. Maybe a change of scenery and opportunities to meet new people would be positive. I personally found that leaving the town I was raised in helped me move past a lot of hurt. There’s a big world out there and it can be like starting a whole new life by moving your home-base.
  6. Retreat. If moving is not financially or otherwise feasible, go on a retreat. It could be up to the mountains, the beach, take a walk around your neighborhood- time alone can be helpful when seeking enlightenment (especially for introverts).

In closing, I will leave you with this thought. Being a truth-seeker and truth-speaker is powerful. Disrupting powerful abusers (spiritual or otherwise) can cause a domino-effect. You may be ostracized for speaking out, but your voice can cause change. Your insistence on revealing truth might just help someone else who otherwise would have remained silent in their own abusive situation.

Speak in love and seek truth always,

Jen

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Long time, no post.
This blog has taken on a life of its own, facilitating a necessary  outlet for those who are or have been in YWAM, as well as their family members.

I would love to hear stories from former YWAMers:

How did you leave?

Were you kicked out?

 

Open discussion is welcome. Let the healing begin.

A time for everything

August 5, 2011

I’m back…again.

There’s a time and a season for everything and for the last year and a half, I left this blog in order to attend to family concerns. I would check the blog occasionally, finding that it had taken on a life of its own without any maintenance. I discovered the posts and comments were cathartic to many, many individuals; a site for connection and reassurance.

It had become something I had wished had existed for me when I first realized the damage done to me by spiritual leaders…yet I could not find a site for former YWAMers like me.

I’m so happy that my venture into sharing my experiences with YWAM were able to foster hope, communication, and discussion and ultimately healing to so many. I pray it continues.

Be blessed,

Jen

Shiny happy people

January 27, 2010

Groupthink

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?

Shunned

June 23, 2009

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Have you ever been shunned?

In my earlier posts, I related some of the spiritual abuse my family and I received in YWAM and I would like to use some other incidents in YWAM on the subject of shunning. (If you have not read my previous posts, I suggest you read them here and here to catch up.)

Within a few weeks of my husband’s DTS, it became apparent that the base leaders considered us ‘troublemakers’ because we questioned unbiblical teachings. My husband was counseled to be more “teachable” and to not voice his opinions and for the most part, he tried to respect the leaders of the base by keeping quiet.

After our outreach was completed, the love feast was over, and the screaming from the female base leader subsided, my husband and I decided that we wanted to remain in Hong Kong and make a home for our family there. My husband is very well educated and had job leads from a V.P. of a major US company in Hong Kong, so he decided it was time to go to a tailor and have a suit made for future interviews. All this time we were still living at the base and my husband worked every day, all day doing hard physical labor so that we could stay at the base for just a short while after his DTS. (This was on top of the astronomical fees we were paying to stay there)

On a Saturday, his day off, we made our way to a tailor for my husband to be fitted for a business suit. A few days later, my husband was to pick up his suit after his work duties were finished. When the base leaders found out that my husband planned on getting a job in Hong Kong, they flew off the handle and forbid him to do so. They said they heard from G-d and that it wasn’t His will “thus saith the L-rd”. Just a few days later, we were told to vacate the apartment we had been paying for and my husband had been slaving for with only 2 days to get out.

We were terrified, yet we knew G-d would take care of us and our two small children. We asked a YWAM staff member who was a native Hong Konger if she would translate for us when we enquired about an apartment one evening. We made sure our meeting with a local landlady would not infringe on our YWAMer friend’s ‘duties’, and it was to take place on her own free time.

Our meeting time came and went and there was no sign of our Cantonese-speaking YWAM friend. We then went to the base to find here and we were met by the male base leader. He stopped us from going further into the base and he said that he would not allow our translator friend to help us because she did not ask the leadership’s permission! We both defended her and said she was helping us as a friend on her own personal time, but he would not listen. He said that he did not want us living in the same village as them because we “would give them a bad name”. The base leader looked at us with a wild, paranoid look in his eyes and threw us out of the base. The YWAM leadership told their staff to shun us, because we were ‘evil’.

We cried, we were freaked out by the encounter with the base leader who not only treated us badly, but caused our Chinese YWAMer friend to lose face. We DID find a translator, and the very next day, met with the local landlady. The local landlady asked if we were with the YWAM base, because she did not want to have anything to do with the YWAMers in the village. She thought they were strange, rude and not to be trusted because of her own dealings with YWAM in the village.

On the verge of homelessness (we were kicked out on the eve of the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the PRC, with no hotel rooms available), our non-Christian local landlady showed us great kindness. She allowed us to spend the night in our newly acquired apartment even though we were not to begin renting for 2 days, in fact, she did not charge us for the 2 extra days. We quickly moved from the YWAM apartment to our new home-sweet-home. When our landlady saw we had no furniture, she immediately carried up a table with four chairs, and 3 bed mattresses. We were overwhelmed by the kindness of a stranger, when we had been treated so cruelly by a YWAM.

godsend Our “godsend” apartment after being mistreated by YWAM.

I would be very interested to hear from other YWAMers about what they think of the base leadership shunning us. Also, I’d like to hear what people think of the huge control the base leaders have over staff members. I have heard many stories from other YWAMers being micromanaged by their leadership in many bases around the world.


I feel that it is time for me to ask for input from others who have been abused in YWAM and survived. There are so many people coming to my blog because they are walking wounded from their time with YWAM.

If you have come out the other side from YWAM mistreatment, would you be brave enought to tell your story to help another?

If you do not want your name or base printed, that is perfectly fine. I understand firsthand that there can be a great out-lash at those who speak up. You will find this a safe medium to tell your story.

If so, please send your story to:

chasing.truth@yahoo.com

I pray that those who have been abused can find hope through this blog.

Jen

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.

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