Saturday, March 17, 2007

Streams in the Desert

"See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland." Isaiah 43:19

Jesus has made a way through the rock, which would otherwise be impossible. This rock formation was just outside the lodge where I stayed at Glen Eyrie.

Glen Eyrie

In my last post, the focus was on my 12 years at the YWAM Honolulu cult. This post will be about how I got out of it & the healing that took place to give me the strength to do it. I will also share the catalyst that provoked change and a new beginning. People do not realize the hold a cult can have on you. In the midst of my being involved at YWAM Honolulu, for so many years I had no voice & my self-esteem had been compromised down to nothing. I felt thoroughly brainwashed & did not feel I could actually survive outside the boundaries of the cult. I wondered what was wrong with me, even though that still, small voice spoke to me that it was the leadership at the YWAM Honolulu base which was dysfunctional and broken.

During my years in the Cult, I often experienced chronic fatigue. For usually a week or more, my body felt tired, achy & weak & I would run a low fever. I now realize that this was a physical manifestation of the inward effects of the cult as I felt impotent to change my situation. Since I left, there have been fewer & fewer episodes of chronic fatigue, for which I praise God.

I have kept a daily journal since January 1, 1970. Because of this, I can go back and re-read my entries for every day that I was in YWAM Honolulu the twelve years I was there. This post is not just coming from twelve year old memories, but from a lot of those entries.

I had prayed for years and years for God to provide a way out for me from YWAM Honolulu, yet those prayers seemed to fall on deaf ears. I questioned God’s love in having me put up with so much abuse for so many years. Years can often go by while you are crying out to God, but when He decides to move showers of blessing will finally fall on the parched ground to produce fruit & freedom.

I was told by the base “Council” (Abusers) that I must attend a retreat in Colorado Springs called Rapha (which in Hebrew means Healing). It is now called “Healing for the Nations” and is based in Georgia. They would pay the $1,000. plus for me to go, though I paid for my plane ticket. Before I left, I was told that “When you get there, you need to sign something saying that they can share anything you say or goes on while you are there since we are paying for it”. It was then I knew I would need to keep my mouth shut- but I had had over a decade worth of practice of doing just that!

I had no idea what to expect, I did not want to go at all, but like many things in YWAM, I had no choice or voice. At that time no one from the Honolulu base had been there. I decided to spend three days in Arizona on the way to Colorado Springs, as I had been there as a child & remembered how impressed I was with the desert. I wanted to drive to the Saguaro National Park near Tucson. People seem to love or hate the desert. I find the desolate expanse to be one of beauty and awe. I took the above photo of the cacti.

When I arrived at the Colorado Springs airport, it was cold & snowing. It was a long ride to Glen Eyrie where the Rapha retreat would take place. As I entered the grounds, I could sense it was a special place. There were beautiful rock formations & wild animals, such as rabbits, deer, big horned sheep and eagles on the grounds. It was like they sensed it was a place of safety.

One of the first things I shared with one of the ladies on staff was what I was told before I left, “that I must give permission for them to share all I say & do while at the retreat”. She assured me that they would NEVER divulge anything that happened there with me or anyone else. I asked what they would do if they called & asked how I was doing. She said, “We'd say something like, He’s working so hard and doing so well”.

There were about 20 there from various backgrounds from the around the world, all hurting & broken for various reasons. The lack of joy was evident on everyone’s face at the beginning of our week. It did not take long to realize I was in a safe place & was for the FIRST time in my life saw the body of Christ act in a way that was a reflection of the Saviour. There was no condemnation, no manipulation, no guilt trips, but instead, a true servant’s heart that I had never seen in YWAM leadership, as well as unconditional love.

One time I got to a gathering early & started to help set up the chairs with one of the founders of Rapha. He told me, “Don’t do that! That is what we are here for- to serve you”. One of the other staff heard me say I liked red licorice & Dr. Pepper. The next day, she brought me both. So much of the teaching there was what YWAM had drifted so far from. That was the preaching of the cross of Christ & its significance, as well as servanthood and unconditional love.

After my first night at Rapha, I woke up to a fresh blanket of snow. I was beginning to feel a small seed of hope. As I walked amongst the fresh-fallen snow & natural red dirt of the area, seeing the contrast, I felt the Lord remind me "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow." Isaiah. 1:18. I now knew that God had brought me to this place.

Later that day, I shared with one of those on staff what I was going through under my years of oppression at YWAM Honolulu & he assured me thatYWAM was a sick environment for me, and that the leadership is dysfunctional. I had thought that the leadership would automatically stand up with the leadership at YWAM Honolulu when instead, they stood up for what was right! We also had an excellent teaching on “Shame” and how shame is not of God, as it does not draw us to Himself but makes us feel unworthy of his love & forgiveness. YWAM often shames people to think & act how they want you to. Christ is the difference between Hope and Hopelessness.

We had name tags to wear, but I had lost mine in the wind. I decided to go for a hike by myself on the beautiful grounds. As I searched for my name tag in the long grass & gullies, I was reminded that Jesus looks for His lost sheep.

I then came upon a gate with wooden posts but no door. It reminded me as I was walking through the Gate, I was coming home in finding myself & my relationship with the Lord that had been so lost in those years at YWAM Honolulu.

There was a sign that there was a canyon lookout 1/3 mile from where I was. As I walked up hill, I got so tired and out of breath. I was reminded that it is okay to stop & rest along the way on our journey of life. I was thirsty & there was a bank of fresh, white snow to quench my thirst. I kept walking, sometimes on a slippery path, but when I reached the destination, there was a beautiful vista of the canyon. And yes, I found my name tag at the beginning of the hike.

Another day in a Rapha session, I read the verse Ecclesiastes 4:1 “Again, I observed all the oppression that takes place under the sun. I saw the tears of the oppressed, with no one to comfort them. The oppressors have great power, and their victims are helpless. (NLT)” I openly wept, as I was reminded there was no comforter at the YWAM Honolulu base, only oppression. As Christians, we need others to walk beside us to help lift up & encourage us. At YWAM we learned quickly that our needs do not matter. We were told “we could not use the base cars for personal use- even to go to the doctor”!

The week at Rapha flew so fast. At the beginning of the week, it was cold & snowy. At the end of the week, it was spring-like and 60f. At the beginning, the faces of the attendees were sad & without joy. By the end of the week, there was a song in our hearts & the radiant joy of the Lord on our faces. How I wanted to stay & not allow that joy to be crushed.

I brought some cards of my watercolors that had been published with me to the retreat in case I met anyone I wanted to give some to. When I showed them to one of the leaders, she, who had a degree in art and psychology, told me “I needed to be doing my art full time, as it is a gift God has given me”. I was also encouraged to leave YWAM Honolulu and live in a safe environment where it was possible to have boundaries.

When I arrived at Rapha, my “cup” only had the stains of where the joy of the Living Water had been in my life. By the time I left, my cup overflowed with joy. I actually looked forward to sharing all I learned with those back at the YWAM base and was deluded in thinking they would hear what I had to say, repent and act upon it.

A few months after I returned from the retreat (still praying for the way of escape), we had a speaker come through named Denny Gunderson who was a kind & knowledgeable man of God. His message was on The Arts and how overlooked they are in Youth With A Mission. It was as if he were speaking to me alone. He then asked people who felt called to the various arts to stand for prayer, when he got to the Visual Arts, I could take it no more. My heart grieved & I quickly left & walked through the University of Hawai’i campus to cry out to the Lord & weep. I grieved because of the lack of support I had gotten all those years at YWAM with my art & almost felt ashamed when I painted, as if it were not spiritual.

That summer, the most abusive of the base elders was in charge while the rest were off island for various reasons. He used this time to further intimidate & bully the “flock”. Once he got in my face & said, “I suppose my name is “MUD” up there at the single male staff house”. All I could do is remain silent, as I had no advocate.

When the base leader returned several weeks later, I went to him and another council member & shared all the abuse examples that had happened during their absence. The next day, I would confront the abuser with the other two council members. One of the other council member’s wives who had also experienced the abuse from the main council member encouraged me & others to go forward & expose his abuse but cowardly said “she would say nothing because she felt she could do more good that way”.

August 15, 1995 I confronted the Abuser with several other council members. I was able to look him in the face the entire time, and for the first time, he sat there speechless. I reminded him of the time he remarked that “his name was probably mud at the house where I lived”. I then asked him, “Why would your name be “Mud” if you were treating people in a kind, loving, and Christ-like way”? He said nothing. The next few days, a few more people who had been abused by this man & his wife came forth to expose them. Rather than discipline them, it was not long thereafter where the Abuser was made Base Director!

The Lord, in His mercy got me out of there before then. I had mentioned to a friend that if he heard of a place to rent, to let me know. It was not longer than a week or two that he told me about a place close by, still in Manoa valley where there was a room for rent.

When I told my new, Christian roommates about my experience at YWAM Honolulu, one remarked, “You are like a Phoenix, rising from the ashes”. I am still learning how to use my wings.

“Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, I’m free at last”.


wildbarte said...

I hear you, Phoenix, and feel your pain. I also rejoice in your on-going liberation and healing. I have also known abusive 'Christians' and cult-like Christian organizations. If Loren Cunningham is unaware of what is happening at YWAM HNL (and one wonders about the integrity of an organizations 'head' if the 'body' is so sick), then he should be informed. Have you sent him any correspondence regarding your experience? Some signatures, or other endorsement, by those others who suffered similarly would help add weight to your claims as well. Hang in there brother, you are finding the real Christ who, as history has shown time and time again, doesn't necessarily inhabit the 'praises', or endorse the 'service', of those professing a saving relationship with Him. Remember the Pharisees and how they stifled God's people with rules and dogma? They're still with us, and probably always will be.

Anonymous said...

i am glad you are finding healing. I just pray that you would be completely restored from all that has happened in your life. Be blessed man.

Anonymous said...

Hi, very interesting post, greetings from Greece!

Anonymous said...

Hi there

Thanks for writing this blog, loved reading it