I am 14 years old. These last few months have been rough. Our family home has been broken into, I have had babies ripped from my arms by their estranged father, my best friend left the church, and we have had Mom and Dad pull us out of school because they heard CPS was going to visit. Mom and Dad were afraid we would be taken away from them. The pastors have told everyone that we are not to watch the news. They tell us don’t answer the phone, and don’t talk to anyone. I don’t know to whom we would talk since we aren’t allowed to talk to family or friends outside of the church. I feel very uneasy with all the new restrictions.
Mom, along with all the other ladies at the church, has started selling cosmetics. One of the pastor’s wives is their director. The ladies meet once a week at the church. I was not happy when I found out that we would be spending a fourth evening a week at the church (two for Insitute and one for evening service). We already spent all day at the church for school also. At least there was never any yelling at the cosmetics meetings. I am to watch Brother and Sister during, but we are to stay inside. No playing on the lawn in case someone (CPS or ? not sure) would come and snatch us. Since the break-in at the church, I am noticing how sensitive I am to banging noises. It reminds me of the doors of the church being smashed just before the boys were taken from my arms. I am exhausted, and I don’t know how to deal with my irrational fear. I do not talk to anyone about it, I figure that I will eventually stop being scared. I don’t want to show my fear, for Brother and Sister will be scared. Them being scared is one of the worst things I can imagine.
August 15th, 1997; it is as if the walls are falling down around us; we are finally allowed to watch the news. The whole church is gathered in the sanctuary. Kids are sitting on the floor while the adults stand. We are watching on the big screen. In the past we have gathered around this screen to watch baseball, football, boxing, or movies. The pastors would open up the snack room for us to buy snacks during those events. There were no snacks today, and everyone was silent. We had all heard that our pastors and their wives were arrested this morning, but we did not know why. We were relying on the news to tell us the details. We did know that Pastor M’s stepdaughter had recently left the church. I had not thought anything of it since people left all the time. She had recently been struck upside the head with a two by four during a service. I will never forget how she had spun around so fast that her shirt became undone. The kids were not in attendance during this service. I had been in the nursery putting babies to sleep; there was a window into the sanctuary where I saw it all but heard nothing. Just the muffled sound of inaudible yelling. People usually leave after an incident like that. It was silent in today’s sanctuary, and somehow, peaceful. Local newswoman appears in front of the courthouse “Two pastors and their wives were arrested today on charges of child molestation and assault. Their bail is set at…” I didn’t quite hear the numbers. I am in shock at the charges. Up until now, I had not realized that anything happening was out of the ordinary or illegal. The adults all started talking about how they were going to come up with the money for bail. I heard a lot of “refinance” and “second mortgage” talk. I became afraid of losing our home. Most of all, things were becoming more blurry, confusing. I had already felt somewhat detached with reality since the break in, but was feeling even more so now with the arrests. This was our first confrontation with “the world”. The associate pastor was using this to promote their cause that the outside world was evil. “The world”, according to church leadership, only wanted to take children away from parents, and pastors away from churches. As a child, I believed them, and I was scared.
The church members gathered the money in two days and got everyone out of jail. The coming months would bring many lawyers, CPS interviews with pastor kids, and sentencing for Pastor M. They decided that the majority of the charges were against him, so he took a plea deal; six months in jail. As soon as he got out I got in trouble for not writing to him. Pastor M made a friend in jail, and this man was allowed to stay on our property for a few weeks while looking for a place to stay. I had never been so scared in my life as during that time. I thought that my parents had finally lost their last marble letting this man, fresh out of jail, on our property to live with us kids. Thankfully, it didn’t take him long to find a place to move.
I had to sit through a mediation with the former associate pastor who had broken into the church and taken his children from my arms. His wife had left the church shortly after to reunite their family. I sat across the table from him in a dark room, or maybe it wasn’t dark but I just remember it that way. He sat straight across from me. All I can remember is him staring at me while I was asked questions by the mediator. I was very nervous, for I did not want to rip his family apart. I answered that I believed he truly loved his children, and would not harm them, and that he hadn’t shown harm me. I should have told the truth. He loved his children, and would harm anyone who stood in his way. He used to yell at me at school, and I would get in trouble with him over little things. He and his wife took our home and made us live in a trailer on our own property. He told me to hit his children if they touched any door. He was Dad’s business consultant and we watched as he drove it into the ground, shirked responsibility, and now we are more poor than ever. Yet, he hugged me after wards. We stood and watched as he and his wife drove away, and I never saw them or their boys again.
Reality, world, upside down, it’s all the same.