I always thought that people who ended up in religious cults were mindless to begin with, or they would not be sucked into the organization. I found from experience that this is not the case.
Life is not always “fixed” by a prayer, spiritual formula or a pat answer. One can know the Lord, but after a horrific experience in a cult, be forever emotionally & spiritually scarred. I do not know why God allowed me to get involved with Youth With A Mission (YWAM)
The message of what life is like under a theocratic dictatorship needs to be shouted to the world, so it might save others who have a heart after God from getting involved with such a group. People who go into YWAM wanting to serve the Lord soon find that they must be puppets in what they say & do in what the leadership wants to hear in order to survive! If one questions a policy or action, rather than discussing it as adults, you are met with "Are you questioning MY authority?" or "GOD has placed ME in this leadership position". One also hears comments such as “God wanted me to tell you…”.
When the Lord finally freed me from the clutches of this "Christian CULT" I felt emotionally & spiritually dead. After being away from YWAM for a few months, I realized that even though I was in my 30s, I was never allowed to be an adult! I even felt the need to "protect" the true reality of YWAM when I first left, afraid to even whisper that "I had been involved in a manipulating cult". God, in his mercy has healed me a lot since then, but I still retain the emotional & spiritual scars & do not trust those in a position of "spiritual authority".
One time, I volunteered to lead a prayer time and felt we should pray for
Families are “worshipped”, as are those who have gone to third world countries long term in YWAM. It’s ironic that the families do less on the base than a person who is single. Most of the wives were "mothers" & did nothing to contribute to the group, yet were the first to take whatever might be donated to the base. Singles were chastised for not willingly offering to baby-sit the children of the families! What if God calls you as a single to serve Him in a first-world country? Is that not just as "spiritual"? Students were made to feel guilty if they wanted to leave YWAM after they finished their course to go to university, being told “there was no higher call than to go to the mission field”. Ironically, I heard complaints from those who were long-term in places like
God gives us in life the gifts he intends for us to use and our “mission field” may be at a secular job. He has not called all to go serve Him in
There was an ugly power struggle within the leadership while I was there that sent away a godly family, when the focus should have been on how to glorify Jesus, not a man or group of leaders. The YWAM base is like a family. The leaders are the head of that family. When the head of that family is dysfunctional, the entire family becomes dysfunctional. One quickly learns not to feel, see or discuss the dysfunction one sees daily.
I was involved in an evangelistic crusade in
I was good friends with the secretary of the base leader. She told me how disgusted she was to type up his Christmas newsletter, making his family sound so poor and asking for financial support. She saw how much money would come in through individuals, as well as organizations & groups he would speak at throughout the world. I have been away from YWAM for 12 years now, yet at least three times a week, I continue to have emotionally suffocating dreams that I am back in the YWAM HNL cult. Many, many times, I continue to forgive those who wronged me & others, but must live with the emotional & spiritual scars that were forced upon me while raping me & others of their individuality and self-esteem.
After leaving this cult, I ran across the base leader’s wife at a grocery store. I had just gotten out of hospital with pneumonia & looked & felt very weak. She asked how I was doing & I told her. She replied, “Oh, you poor thing, having to go get groceries by yourself & not have anyone to help you”. Then she simply walked away… One hears a lot of good teaching and words coming from the mouths of those at YWAM HNL. The message of their lives is a different message. I was told by a trusted priest that “I will probably always have these re-occurring nightmares due to the impact my time at YWAM HNL had had on me”. I was also told by a counselor that on a stress scale of 1-10, 10 being the most severe, my time under YWAM HNL was a 12!
I know of several, who like me left YWAM irreparably hurt & wounded, but who left God behind as well. One young woman, after having been to the same retreat in
I walked past the base the other day as part of my healing & again, prayed forgiveness for those who were far from a reflection of Christ during my time there.
Another horrid example is when a dear woman of God in her mid-60's who'd gone long term to
I think a lot of people who have been involved in a cult try to ignore that inner voice that tells them something is awry. They also fear bringing it to light for fear of having been made a fool of, being ostracized by the group or even letting God down.
The only time the Base Leader got in contact with me after having served 12 years on the base, was to inform me that Loren Cunningham (YWAM’s founder) would be speaking at a Friday night service & "wanted to make sure there was a full house" (I have never gone back to a single meeting since I left, though I live about 2 miles from there now). After having served at the base for 12 years, I was not given so much as a doughnut hole in honour of my years of service.
People in authoritative positions at YWAM HNL will pray for you, and often as they "talk to God", they are really saying the things they want YOU to hear in order to manipulate and control you. I once had a base elder say to me, "It is your responsibility to obey us, who have been placed in authority over you-even if you feel what we ask is wrong. We will be held accountable to God for that".
The most important thing is to know what and why you believe as you do. Know what the Bible says, so when false doctrine and attitudes come forth, they will be recognized as not from God.
Many who read this blog who have had anything to do with YWAM will probably jump to the conclusion that I am clinging to a bunch of anger, bitter & unforgiveness. It is just that though one can forgive, one still bears the scars of years of spiritual abuse. Just like one who is scarred from a severe burn, the pain may be gone, but the scar remains.