This is a story of a little girl who grew up too fast. Of brainwash, thievery, abuse, and evil people. I wish I would use another word. They don’t deserve to be called people.
You see, for 17 years, my family and I were in a cult. Why? It did not appear that way at first. It was masked as a church. My Mom started attending when I was seven years old. I did not realize it was a cult until two years AFTER I got out (27 years old). They still had control of my mind.
Spring 1990- I am seven years old, my brother five. Carnation, Wa. Our Mom started attending a tiny church in our small town.
My parents worked very hard. Mom and Dad took care of my brother and I in “shifts”. Dad would work during the day, then when he came home then Mom would go to work at night. She would work all night. In the morning, she would wake us up and drive us to school, because my brother would get sick on the bus. Also, the neighbor kids would throw rocks at us if we waited at the bus stop. That was scary. I knew Mom must have been tired, but she never complained. She loved us so much. She just didn’t seem happy, until she started going to church. Mom had made new friends who also had young children. One day Mom came home and said she had been “saved”. I was not sure what this meant, but she looked happy and peaceful. It was then she decided that we would attend church as a family.
Church was not foreign to me. When I stayed the night at my friend’s house on the weekend, I would go to her church. Now we could take turns going to each others’ churches. Somehow, having a church gave me social status. Even though I kind of liked staying home on the weekends with Dad while Mom was gone. We would watch cartoons and I would draw.
We started going to church. At first, Dad would stay home by himself. I really wanted to stay home with Dad. I loved to be able to sit on his lap and watch cartoons while he “read” (fell asleep while reading) the paper. Or sit at his feet and draw while he napped. But I also loved going to church with Mom. I would lean against her, listen to her heart and her steady breath while the pastor spoke. Most of the time I couldn’t sit with Mom though. I would go to Sunday School with the other kids. That was okay, the pastor would yell a lot in the adult church and that scared me.
Yelling. I was not familiar or comfortable with yelling. At first (before I became numb) I would look around the room. Some people were nodding, others crying, still more looking guilty. He always seemed to be yelling AT the people, in a mean way. Wanting something from them but I didn’t know what. In the end, I never knew. There was always an “invitation” after the sermon. Meaning that the church members were invited to come up and speak about what they had just heard. It was more like an invitation to be publicly humiliated. But if you didn’t speak, and they thought you should, that was even worse. If you had to be called up by them, or called back to their office after the invitation was finished, then you would be in trouble for weeks. Most of the time after the invitation, people would mill about and chatter nervously. If the pastors didn’t call anyone back to the office, then everyone would be relieved and go home. If the pastors did call someone back, then it was a relief (if it wasn’t you), but you should leave quickly unless you wanted to hear muffled yelling and sometimes thumping. Like things being thrown or people getting hurt. When I heard this at first, I looked to the adults for a reaction, they would look nervous then shuffle us kids away so we couldn’t hear.
I say “pastors”. You should be aware the church leadership was two men and their wives. The fat pastor (we will call him M), had been married before, but then got a divorce from her and remarried another woman when he thought his wife was going to die. First wife didn’t die. Awkward. Also, his second wife had at one point been married to an elder in the church. She had two kids, and the M pastor had a daughter and stepdaughter from the first marriage. So together they had five. The tall pastor (we will call him W) was married to a tiny woman. They had nine kids. He was the scarier of the two pastors. These two families have been intertwined. What appeared to be arranged marriages, and a lot of family secrets. A lot of things I wish I didn’t know. I wonder if my parents knew that by putting us in this church, we were being handed over to and “raised” by criminals.
4 thoughts on “Why? 1990”
No, we absolutely did not know
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I know you didn’t. Please stay tuned for my reflection post this evening.
❤ Much love to you ❤
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Thank you for this, Erica.
I lost my youngest son to what is called a ‘Cult Family.’ Probably much like how this church started out. Before I could properly react, it was over. His memories were gone and he was separated from not only his mother but his brother, his grandparents…. all blood family were removed from his life.
He is still gone.
These are not stories to be told in an hour or a day. The subtleties are much too vast and intricate. And the damage these people do leaves dark reverberations throughout the lives they touched. And that is before Society has its way, with judgment for something they can’t possibly understand.
On the question of “did they know?”… I can tell you, as a parent, it is the most difficult of questions. Because we love our children like Mothers and Fathers do. The weight of the responsibility we bear can be overwhelming on a good day. So, how do we take ourselves to task for falling asleep? For being led? For being brainwashed? Because ‘knowing’ becomes an elusive thing. Reality is bent. Strength is discouraged and bears a price, when exercised. So, responsibility becomes a very subjective thing.
I have scars covering my body from my sense of guilt, for having led my children down that path.
None of us will ever be the same.
And no one wants to talk about it.
Please keep writing. I believe there is a healing in it.
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