Trouble in Paradise
A Heavy Burden
Waking Up to Reality
The Beginning of the End
My Life After the Assembly
It has been a little over four years since I left the Assembly. I never thought the day would come that I could live for one day without the regimentation of the Assembly, let alone a whole year. It has been one learning experience after another. I have fallen down many times, but God has picked me up, as He promises to in His Word.
I can remember clearly the night I made the choice to leave the Assembly. It was a chilly Tuesday night in January, the night of the weekly Assembly prayer meeting. I came home from work, ate a little dinner, then went to Cal Poly in order to use the internet computers. I felt a twinge of guilt about purposely skipping one of "God’s appointments", but I simply did not want to go. In fact, I was not planning to go back to any more of these "appointments".
Earlier that day, I took a long lunch break from my job as a preschool teacher to go meet with the assistant pastor at a local Christian church. I wanted to talk to someone outside of the Assembly to express my concerns about the gathering I had been fellowshipping with for almost nine years. In my thinking, some things just didn’t add up anymore, and I could no longer blindly support the leading brothers as I had been doing for many years.
As a result of my talk with the assistant pastor, I knew I had to leave the group. As I sat on the bus going back to work, I looked at the church bulletin I had been given. Immediately, my mind went back to all the times in the preaching where we were heard that it was not right to have preprinted bulletins, how the Assembly worship was led of the Spirit, and that we did not need any preprinted bulletins. I stuffed those feelings back down in my mind and focused on preparing afternoon activities for the eight preschoolers who were awaiting my return. Needless to say, I was distracted for the rest of the afternoon.
That evening, as I rode on the city bus to Kennedy Library, I listened to a local Christian music station. A song by the Newsboys, called "Joy", played. The song talked about how the Lord gives us unspeakable joy, how we were freed from the bonds of working for God. That song became the anthem of my life for the year 2001 as joy began to break through the bleakness of the previous nine years.
I had come to the Central Coast in the summer of 1992. I had just graduated high school in the Bay Area, and I was accepted immediately to Cal Poly, located in the beautiful city of San Luis Obispo. Cal Poly was my first choice of schools, and I was excited about going. I was 18 at the time, and I was, for the first time in my life, free from my mother’s authoritarianism.
During my summer at Cal Poly, I began to think about the existence of a God. As a young teen, I spent a couple years going to a Pentecostal church that my aunt attended, but it didn’t feel quite right to me. Things got further complicated when I witnessed the pastor pouring alcohol into his cup of soda during the lunch hour. He stood near his car, and didn't notice I was standing there watching him!
I never told my aunt about what I had witnessed. I was shocked and confused. How could this "Man of God" be sneaking alcohol into his cup, then stand up later and preach about the gospel? That act alone turned me away from God. At 13, I was no longer interested in going to church, and moved on with my life, pursuing the normal the activities of a teenager: doing homework, spending time with friends, talking on the phone. But my interest in God resurfaced when I went away to college.
When I arrived at Cal Poly, I saw signs and banners advertising different campus religious groups. I decided to get involved in one of these groups, at least to go to a Bible study. But one thing was for sure, it had to be Christian. So, as I walked to my classes, I kept an eye out for a poster that specifically stated that it was a Christian Bible study.
I was on my way to my psychology class, when it caught my eye. It was a plain poster--nothing fancy by the world’s standards--but it stated exactly what I was looking for. It simply said: Christian Bible Study. I was sold! I wanted to go that summer, but my class schedule prevented it. So, I made a mental note to check it out when the fall quarter began.
The Saturday before the fall quarter began was designated as Club Day. Campus clubs set up book tables and booths to inform the students of what they were all about and what they were doing that year. I went alone, my dorm roommate having not yet arrived in town. As I was on my way back to my dorm, I saw the poster. This time, it was attached to a table. A young man stood beside the table, handing out leaflets and talking to passers-by. I went over and browsed the table. The young man asked me if I were a Christian. I told him that no, I was not, but I wanted to check out the Bible study on campus. He began to tell me about God’s love for me, about Jesus Christ dying on the cross…all those things I had heard over and over again as a young child. I smiled in order to be polite, but kept on browsing the book table, plenteous with tracts. He attempted to talk to me again about Jesus, and again, I smiled in order to be polite. As I turned to leave, I told him I would be at the Bible study that coming Thursday. He seemed happy.
The Thursday of the first quarter was hectic. Because the campus is so spread out, one could have a class on one end of the campus, and the next class, starting ten minutes later, could be on the other end of campus. I felt like I had been up and down the hilly campus for most of the morning. I was tired. I decided to skip the Bible study that week and opted to just go back to my dorm and take a nap. As I was on my way back to my dorm, Jim ran up to me, Bible in hand. "You’re coming to the Bible study, right?" He asked. "Uh…yeah…sure," I said. So, I decided to stay tired an hour more and go to the Bible study instead. Though I was unaware of it at the time, this was to be my first encounter with spiritual darkness.
We studied the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark that afternoon. I felt as if I heard the gospel for the first time in my life. There was a lot of talk about being born-again. Well, I knew I wasn’t born-again, and I felt no shame in telling others so. Later, when I became born-again and joined the group, I was told by many of the Assembly members that the fact that I wasn’t a Christian didn’t seem to bother me. I was not surprised one bit. I was always a bit of a rebel when I was growing up, always going against the status quo. So, what did it matter to me what others thought about me? As my involvement in the group progressed, this key aspect of my personality all but disappeared, as this story will show.
I began coming out to the Bible study every week. I even prepared a "chapter summary," an inductive method of studying the Bible where the reader asks himself three questions: A) What does the chapter say? B) What does the chapter mean to me? and C) What am I going to do about it (that is, what am I going to do about what the chapter means to me). As an unbeliever, I was told that God did not hear me, so to do a chapter summary was quite odd! But again, being rebellious in nature, I did one anyway, just because I wanted to.
To make a long story short, I attended a series of evangelistic meetings hosted by this group (which by the way, did not officially take any other name than "Christian" but which was commonly referred to as the Assembly by members). I prayed to receive the Lord and I was excited to finally be a part of God’s family. But I was unsure how to go about living out my newfound faith. A girl named Suzie, who was a part of the Bible study group, and her older roommate, Mary Jean, took it upon themselves to disciple me in the Christian faith.
Up until this time, I was going to the Bible study on campus, and going to the worship meeting on Sunday mornings. A lot of my free time was spent studying, hanging out with the people on the floor in the dorms, and spending time with the people from the Bible study group. Pretty soon, I was studying a lot less and spending less and less time with my floor buddies, and spending more time with the Bible study group. I was invited to dinners, basketball games, trips up the coast, even a college-age Christian retreat. Everyone was very nice to me, and took a serious interest in my spiritual life. Having moved to San Luis Obispo knowing no one else, they became my surrogate family.
About four months after my conversion experience, I heard in the Sunday morning announcements that there was going to be a baptism soon. I wanted to be baptized, so I talked to the leading brothers about it, and I was "signed up"! I gave a short testimony at the baptism, and then I took the plunge!
I went back to my dorm room to change, then returned for the afternoon meeting that began at 3:00pm. I was dressed in jeans and large hoop earrings. The very fact that the earrings matched was a major breakthrough for me, since I usually wore them unmatched! I sat in the front, in the middle section, in the middle seat. I was so excited because I finally felt like a part of the group, for real now. I put on my own newly made head covering (which all the Christian women wore), and settled in to hear a message from God. But what I heard seemed to be directly related to the way I chose to dress that afternoon.
I cannot remember which passage was mentioned, but the brother talked about our presence before the Lord. "Would we go see the President of the United States wearing a pair of jeans? No, of course not. We would get dressed up in our very best. This is how it should be with the Lord. We don’t give God the honor and glory He deserves. We need to repent of our attitude in His holy presence." I felt like all eyes were on me. I felt like such a fool, and instead of getting upset, I decided right then and there to never come to a Sunday meeting in jeans, only dresses and skirts. At the end of the meeting, a leading brother came to me and said, "Now that you are baptized, you are a different person. Some things must change." I said "Amen," and felt like this man’s words were confirmation of what God was telling me to do.
The first time I felt something was terribly wrong with this group was in the fall of 1993. One of the young ladies who had discipled me, "left fellowship" (I. e. left the Assembly). I had not seen it coming. She seemed to doing well in her Christian life. As the days and weeks progressed, I saw less and less of her at the meetings, then she just stopped coming. When I asked why she left, all I was told was that she was struggling in her walk with the Lord and was discouraged. "Wow", I thought. "If someone godly like her can fall away from God, what’s keeping me from doing the same thing?" I began to ponder these ideas in my thinking for quite some time. Then, the first wave of "dissenters" came.
One by one, people were leaving. Another single sister left, as well as a single mother and her children. A single man, who had been in the fellowship almost since the beginning of the group’s history, left without a trace. Two people had been excommunicated. I was becoming more and more confused. But the ministry helped to "straighten me out" in my thinking. I heard that when people leave the Assembly, they are leaving the covering of God. And when one abandons that covering, all sorts of evil things can happen, because the enemy is lurking outside of that covering, waiting for Christians to devour. The way I understood it, the Assembly was never at fault. If one has a problem with the gathering, repentance was needed to get your life right with God once again.
So, I concluded that these people all had struggles in their Christian lives, and, instead of yielding their lives over to the Lord, they chose to take the "easy way out" and go to a "worldly church." The worldly church consisted of the church on the corner, with a building and a name (oh, the shock of it all!), a worship team, and paid pastors, "hirelings". The easiest way to avoid those churches was to stay under the covering of "fellowship" with the Assembly members. Because I was so young in my Christian life, I certainly did not want to get involved in those kinds of groups. And so, even though a small voice in the back of my mind told me that something was wrong, I continued to be a member.
I ignored that small voice and continued on. As the years went by, I was trying unsuccessfully to get the education that I had originally gone to San Luis Obispo to get. But the demands of the group kept me from doing so. A typical week consisted of the following:
Sundays: "All day for the Lord": two meetings (one in the morning, and one in the afternoon), and an outreach at the lunch hour, followed by some sort of fellowship
Mondays: 30-minute prayer time, and babysitting for the families of the leading brothers
Tuesdays: evening prayer meeting
Wednesdays: evening Bible study
Thursdays: evening outreach, immediately followed by a meeting for members of the Cal Poly outreach effort
Fridays: all-nights of prayer once a month, or couple’s meetings, for which the single sisters were expected to babysit
Saturdays: tape meeting, then doing all one’s weekly chores. The evenings were spent "getting your heart right for worship" and getting a good night’s rest, because Sundays were busy.
In addition to this schedule, I was working a full-time job. When I could, took a class or two at the local junior college, attempting to get an education, so as to not bring shame to my mother. I was also involved in the Assembly children’s Bible club, for which I prepared Bible lessons to teach the children, as well as organized kids parties. At one point, I was in charge of taping the weekly meetings and special speaker times. (Incidentally, I did not receive any sort of compensation from the Lord’s treasury for the purchasing of cassettes. Thankfully, a single brother saw my need and agreed to supply me with cassettes.)
I had no friends outside of the Assembly. My life revolved around this ministry, and I was becoming more and more loyal to the leading brothers. I even began to be an "Assembly informant". If an Assembly member seemed to be shrinking back in their involvement, or was involved in something that I thought was "ungodly", I would report my observations to the leaders. The leaders in turn would thank me and go and talk to the offenders.
I had lived in two sisters' training homes, and was kicked out of both due to my "bad attitude". Actually, I chose to leave the first home because, as a Cal Poly student, I couldn't afford to pay so much for rent and other expenses. In the second home, I was just too tired to attend a "mandatory" Thursday night outreach, after working all day, cooking dinner and doing clean up. (I was forced to go anyway.) At those points in time, it never dawned on me that maybe this group was a little off base. I blamed myself because the leading brothers blamed me, and I willed myself to do better and to be better, for Jesus’ sake.
By 1999, my body was worn out, and I was at the point of exhaustion. I was now living on my own, going to school full-time and working full-time, in addition to all the Assembly meetings and outreaches. Several things happened all at once, that initially caused me to evaluate my involvement in the Assembly.
After graduating from Cuesta Community College in May of 1999, I decided to re-apply to Cal Poly. I was readmitted as a transfer student. In hindsight, I wish I had just stopped at the community college level, but I felt a need to make my mom proud. So back to school I went.
I also became a member of the Cal Poly Outreach Team. I was attending all of the Cal Poly Outreach meetings on campus, as well as the community meetings. There was a brother who led the campus effort, a young man who had come into fellowship a couple of years after I did. He was arrogant and very devoted to his role as a leader. Because women are taught to let the men lead in the gathering, I never thought to object the way he treated others, or how he put down other Christian campus groups. I felt that my role was to keep quiet and let God deal with the situation.
Early in the school year, we had a meeting at the house of a leading brother. At the meeting, we were told about an all-campus Christian gathering happening the following night, a Friday night. I was really excited about the prospect of going and meeting other Christians. When I mentioned the possibility to the campus leader, he stated that we were not planning to attend.
My hearts sank. "Why not?" I asked. "How come our group is always alienating ourselves from the other Christian groups? Why can’t we fellowship Christ with them?" I was told that, because the Assembly was having a night of prayer that particular night, we were to do that instead. "But this event on campus only comes once a year," I said, getting visibly irritated at this point. "How about we go to the campus event, then afterwards attend the prayer meeting?"
At this point, I got a "tongue-lashing", not only by the campus leader, but by many other members of the outreach group as well. I was told that I was unwilling to yield, and that I needed to stop arguing in order to get my way, because it just wasn’t going to happen! At the end of this barrage of verbal attacks, I was told that as a group, we were not going, but if I was going to be stubborn about it, that I could "do whatever I wanted to do" and go to the campus event! In hindsight, I should have just gone to the campus event, but because my loyalty was still tied up in the group, I went to the prayer meeting with the others.
During a couple’s retreat, the wife of an Assembly member left. This woman was a good friend of mine, and I was devastated to find out she had left. Immediately, the prayers offered for her at the prayer meetings were, "Lord, I pray that Sister X repent of her sins, that You would set a hedge about her and keep her from going her own way". We prayed for her husband, that he would be strengthened in his faith and that he would have the strength to win his wife back. It was assumed by many that this woman was in sin. Hmm….Something didn’t set right with me for weeks. Prior to her leaving, in another Assembly in another part of the country, a wife of a member left, and we prayed for her in almost the same way. Why were the wives leaving?
A month or so later, there was a couple’s meeting. I was babysitting for some of the families. When the couple came home, the husband sat down to talk to me and the other sister who was babysitting with me. He asked me a question. "If a wife is being abused by her husband, is it okay for her to leave him?" I said, "Yes", because her life could be in danger. Having lived through the abuse of my mother by my father, I knew it was better for the woman to get to a safe place.
He told me that I was wrong, that it had been taught that night by G. Geftakys' oldest son, David, that it was sinful for the woman to leave, even if her husband was abusing her. "Separation is sinful", he told us, "so you’d better get it clear now, before you get married." My twisted way of thinking told me, Wow, I’d better think twice about getting married then, especially if I may get beatings from my husband. There is no way I could leave him. Never once did I question the leadership on his seemingly skewed viewpoint of marriage.
By time, I was extremely confused and thought seriously of leaving. I could not point out exactly why I wanted to leave, but my conscience was telling me that something was terribly wrong. Because I could not point out why I wanted to leave, when I confided in others how I was feeling, I was told that I was "falling away from the Lord", that my "vision was dimming". I was strongly discouraged from leaving by the leading brothers, because I was "avoiding the cross in my life". It seemed that in their eyes, to have a desire to leave the Assembly meant that you wanted to leave God also.
That simply was not the case. So I stayed, and threw myself into service for the Assembly. Pretty soon, I was blindly supporting the leading brothers and their decisions, no matter what they were doing. In my mind, they could do no wrong. And, as I was taught in the ministry, if there was something wrong with what the leadership was doing or teaching, I needed to meekly do as I was instructed to do by them, and let God take care of these men. It was also taught that women are easily deceived, and that it is better for the women, especially the single women, to talk to the leadership about any and all aspects of our lives, to get their approval or disapproval. Little by little, I was being blinded from the abuse that was going on, right in front of my very eyes.
As my conscious bothered me more and more, I began to stuff my feelings, reasoning that I just needed to repent and trust God more. Although I had successfully been brainwashed, my body began to reveal the stress I had been undergoing for almost eight years.
I was being plagued with panic attacks on a daily basis. At one point, I woke up in the middle of the night feeling as though I couldn’t breathe. My heart raced, and I was gulping air. I managed to call 911, and an ambulance came to my rescue at 3:00 in the morning. I was hooked up to a heart machine. The paramedic technicians told me my heart was fine, that I had experienced a panic attack. I was told to follow up with my regular doctor as soon as possible.
Every doctor I went to told me the same thing: my health was fine. My blood tests came out okay. My heart was functioning properly. Even my cholesterol was fine! One of the doctors suggested that I go to counseling. As an Assembly believer, it was taught that "worldly counselors and therapists" would only turn me away from Christ, and that the Lord is the Great Counselor, to whom I go to for help. So, I shrugged off his suggestions and carried on in the Assembly.
The panic attacks continued. Then, I began to think about taking my life. The thoughts were real and strong. I would walk to the edge of a steep mountain and will myself to jump. But I knew suicide was considered sinful by God, and I certainly wasn’t going to willingly sin. So, I would go back home, get on my knees, and ask God for His divine help. Though I didn’t know it at the time, help was on the way!
I got fed up with the SLO leading brothers. I felt that they were against me somehow, because every time I wanted to do something that they didn't feel was "God's will", my plans were thwarted. My battle was primarily waged with RS. He was involved in every little aspect of my life--what I wore, the brothers I spent time with, my homework, my participation at the meetings. I felt like a fish out of water--I couldn't breathe. I needed to escape. The only way I knew how was to transfer schools and be involved with another Assembly. Imagine my surprise when the leading brothers gave me the "thumbs-up"! I was finally getting away!
In 2000, I moved to Fullerton, California, to go the California State University, Fullerton. Of course, I remained involved in the Assembly. I was asked to move into Tim and Ginger Geftakys' home. Their home was considered a "training home": a home where young women were discipled and trained to be "sent out in the Work". Did I really want to live with T and G? No, not really. But their home was deemed to be "godly", and, keeping up with my need to look godly, I bit the bullet and moved in. What a mistake that was!
The first week or so of living there was okay. The head steward, a young lady who was a couple of years younger than me, was very moody, and very depressed. She also had a rigid way of thinking. For example, I forgot to put away a pile of clothes that were on my bedroom floor. The head steward decided that I would receive a ten-minute consequence for each article of clothing! I told G about this, and she said told the both of us, "We are all adults in this house. There is no need to have consequences. If something isn't done according to the standards of my home, then it just needs to be corrected". It felt as if a weight was lifted from my shoulders. Maybe this training home would be different from the ones in San Luis Obispo. Wrong!
Another incident involved the air conditioning. Because there were only five of us living in the mammoth house, the energy bill was bound to be very expensive for each of us. Despite this, the air conditioning was left on practically all day, every day. One day, I decided enough was enough! I went downstairs and turned it off.
HS (the head steward) appeared out of nowhere and pointed at the dial, saying that I was not to touch the dial ever again! I pointed right back at her and told her that she was not to point her finger in my face ever again! I went upstairs, and she followed me. When we reached our shared bedroom, she said that I need to repent. I told her that she'd better get out of my face before I slapped it! She got the hint and left the room. She blabbed to Tim about the fight, and he insisted that we make things right between us. I apologized with my lips, but in my heart I did not mean it. I had nothing to apologize for. After that incident, I stopped talking to her unless it was absolutely necessary. That caused a lot of stress between us.
The biggest point of conflict in the home was the obvious favoritism of Tim and Ginger's youngest daughter over the HS and me. She was previously attending another Assembly, then moved back in with her parents following her engagement to a young Assembly man. She was a college student, just like the HS and myself. DG was allowed to have her own room, and I was forced to share a room with the HS. DG was allowed to miss meetings in order to study, but I was not allowed to do the same.
DG's only stewardship was doing the grocery shopping, while the HS and I had to share split almost all the housework between the two of us! I was required to cook dinner two or three times per week, and DG was only required to cook once. DG didn't work, because she didn't have to pay bills. And yet here I was, having to work part-time while going to college, because I had to pay bills. Tim and Ginger made her life so easy, while simultaneously my life was made difficult. I resented DG, and she knew it.
I remember one Thursday evening, after the prayer meeting, that DG brought home with her a few school friends. They made a fire in the living room fireplace and were up for several hours, laughing and generally making a lot of noise. I didn't get any sleep that night, and I had to leave the house by 7:00 the next morning.
The next morning, right after devotions, Ginger informed me that the ashes needed to be cleaned out of the fireplace! And I was the one who needed to do it! So DG and her friends make a mess, and I'm the one who has to clean up after them? Who was I, Cinderella?? I cleaned up the ashes and was late for work that morning.
Tim and and Ginger'ss oldest daughter EE was a different story. She was actually a nice person. She came over to the home a lot, and at first I resented it. But in time I learned to like her. We never became friends, but we weren't enemies either. She seemed to exude a lot of confidence in herself that was not conceit. It was actually refreshing. She never made my role at home difficult by using dishes and leaving them in the sink, or bringing friends over who left messes.
My only escape from this oppressive environment came on Sunday afternoons. I was involved in the convalescent home outreach with a group of "saints". We would have lunch together, then we'd outreach to the different homes in the Fullerton/La Habra area. We quickly became good friends. Although I hated going to the Sunday meetings, the outreach time was my only fun for the week.
I became best friends with a young woman in the convalescent home group, and we began to spend a lot of time together--sitting in the meetings together, talking, going out to eat, to take walks, etc. Tim deemed this as an "exclusive friendship", and warned me to not spend so much time with her. But I didn’t listen to him. She was a dear friend who allowed me to vent my frustrations about the home, the Assembly, anything. No one else ever gave me a listening ear like she did. I finally found someone I could be "real" with.
It got to the point where I could no longer stay in that type of situation. I began to resent living in the Geftakys home, and my attitude soured. I stopped talking to anyone in the home unless absolutely necessary. Tim and Ginger would not tolerate such behavior, and gave me an ultimatum: change my attitude or leave the home. I tried to yield my attitude to the Lord, but I couldn’t. Instead of things getting better, they got progressively worse!
Fed up, Tim told me that I had to leave, and gave me a short amount of time to do so. I asked him, "What if I can’t find another place to live before the deadline?" He answered, "Then I guess you’ll just have to go to a homeless shelter. Either way, you’re not staying here past the deadline."
What was I going to do? I was living in Orange County, not knowing anyone but the Assembly members. I made the decision to return to my home Assembly in San Luis Obispo. I stayed with a single sister (who reluctantly allowed me to stay with her for a couple of weeks, but no more), then I returned, with a heavy heart, to SLO.
In SLO, I stayed with yet another single sister until I could find my own place. It was embarrassing being back. People wondered why I had come back after only having been in Fullerton for seven months. I made up excuses, trying to keep up my image of godliness while knowing all along that I left because I could no longer put up with the ministry. I stayed with this single sister, and secretly plotted my "escape" from the Assembly. I felt that as long as I was living under her roof, I was obligated to the ministry.
Once I got my own apartment, I began to look for another place to fellowship. I spent time talking to my downstairs neighbor, who was going to a Baptist church in town. He was a joyful young guy, and very helpful to me. My next-door neighbor was a believer who went to a nondenominational church nearby. I also spent time talking to him about the church he was attending.
I began to notice how these believers were serious, joyful people and yet they were involved in those "fundamentally dead, compromised mainstream churches" I had been hearing about in the Assembly. I wanted some their joy, even just a teensy ounce of it! Inside, I was dead, barren, destitute, and afraid of taking such a big step. The joy I had when I first got saved was gone. I didn’t know what it was to be happy any more.
For a couple weeks after moving out on my own, I continued attending the Assembly meetings, but deep inside I knew I would be leaving the group soon. It was just a matter of time. But all the teaching about the "covering of God" scared me. I didn’t want to leave the covering. But in a still, small voice, God told me that He was that Covering, and that I was leaving the Assembly, not Him! He was never, ever going to leave me or forsake me because I chose to get out of an unhealthy church, to find greener pastures!
The last meeting I went to was a Sunday. I was actually contemplating not going, but a leading brother’s wife called me and asked if I wanted a ride (surprise surprise!). I said yes, and got dressed to go. When I got to the meeting, for some strange reason, I sat in the front row. It was obvious to everyone around me that I did not want to be there anymore, and my heart whispered me to that this indeed was to be my last meeting. I put on my head covering and joined in with the others to worship the Lord.
After the meeting, I waited around impatiently for my ride to go home. I was bombarded by two of the leading brother’s wives, who asked me to serve in several different outreaches, all at once! I was overwhelmed to think of doing so much. I was tired, and I wasn’t planning to come back, but I didn’t tell them then that. I just smiled weakly, and as soon as the opportunity presented itself, I ducked out of their conversation. Finally, my ride was ready to go, and I left.
I wound up coming back for the afternoon meeting out of fear. I even went to the fellowship afterwards, where the men watched the Super Bowl, and the women served in the kitchen. It was then that I decided to make the appointment to speak with the assistant pastor at a local community church.
After talking with the pastor I took the bus to the local library, where I checked some of my email, then sent an email to Jeff Lehmkukh, one of the leading brothers. I told him that I could no longer be a part of the Assembly, and that I was going to fellowship elsewhere. I pointed to the send icon with my mouse, and hesitantly clicked on it. I was so afraid of making such a bold move that my heart began to race.
It has been well over four years since I left the confines of the group. I have never regretted my decision to get out. My life has changed drastically for the better. The biggest changes in me were inner changes. I am regaining my self-confidence, and my spirit of individuality is resurfacing. My mother is overjoyed to have her "little girl" once again. And I am glad to have the old me back again, too! It has been such a long, long time.
But old habits die hard. I still struggle with the concept of making my mom proud. I've made so many stupid choices because of that determination. Actually, that's how I wound up in New York! But that's another story, for another time.
The writing of this essay served as therapy for me. To get my story down on paper brought up a lot of bad memories, and at some points, I cried when I thought of what was done to me in the name of God. Some things that were done to me, I do not feel comfortable putting down in writing. Those were things that were too painful. But the main ideas have been recorded.
By God’s grace, I have healed from my Assembly experience. The terrible nightmares that I suffered following my departure, have ceased, and the depression is starting to let up a bit. It is possible to leave the Assembly and still have a full life. My only regrets are that I spent nearly a decade in that group--most of my 20’s. But God constantly reminds me He will restore all those "wasted years". And really, they weren't wasted. I learned so much about myself, things I would not have learned had I not gone to that first campus Bible study.