I came into contact with the Fullerton Assembly in the winter of '80-'81 in the 8th grade. There was a classmate at my junior high who got me started going. He would bring his Bible to school. I was quite enamored by this guy and not only started going to meetings but started bringing my Bible to school as well. The kids called us the Bible boys and we were quite a spectacle. I had gone from literally being one of the worst kids in my entire school to being a Bible boy!
Well, at that time I don't believe there was another Assembly in Southern California. They were all still considered outreaches so all the "saints" drove down every Sunday for meetings. Like some of the other testimonies, I have read the beginning was great. So many people went out to me and I was so busy soaking up everything that was taught that my life 24\7 was all about the Assembly.
That spring there was a outreach started for us teenagers called the "High School Outreach". Those were some good times in Fullerton, let me tell you. The Assistance League was packed literally out to the back patio on Sundays. The atmosphere was fresh and exciting. The young brothers would get up 2-3 at one time to share at Sunday mornings, and they were really on fire for what they believed (considerably different from the environment of the Sunday afternoon meeting when I went to visit here a couple of years ago right after the 9-11 attacks).
Well, that summer I stayed at a Brothers House, which was when I began to see what the behind the scenes stuff was really like and what was being taught during the meetings and it was a life of works! I went to the Summer School and anyone who has ever been to one of those knows what that is like: M-F 9-11 AM lecture, about 30 minutes a day required reading (yes, there was a person designated that everyone at the summer school had to report to tell whether or not they had done the reading), and if you didn't keep up with the reading or missed classes you would be kicked out. I worked 4 hours a day to pay for my room and board, and went to all of the required meetings--from pre-prayer to the putting up of the chairs.
I felt like I was in boot camp. I'll never forget a young man who moved in at the same time that I did. I went into his room to find him passed out on the floor. He had fallen to sleep while trying to read his Summer School work on his knees. But there were good times still. Tim Geftakys was the original leader of the High School Outreach and he was a lot of fun. At first we would go camping to the beach and just about everything. In fact for about 6-9 months I became a sidekick to Tim. I went everywhere with him--to college ministries etc.
I learned a lot, but what I slowly learned most was a doctrine of works and a system of personal control. If you didn't follow this system you became worse than a nothing in the Assembly, you became an outcast, a pariah. And if you're a previously mixed up teenager, who comes from a background of everything from drugs to abuse, it will absolutely destroy you.
Not only was I not able to fit my life into the works mold, but I began to stumble morally. On the first couple of occasions, Tim would call me to the side, and he had a way of making you feel so guilty, partly deserved, partly not. Even after confession and repentance on my part it wasn't good enough for the Leading Brothers, who would not allow me to take the Lord's Supper, and made me sit in the back of the room as an example so others would see and fear their reproach.
This sort of thing is hard for anyone, but for a teenager whose entire identity was wrapped up in the Assembly it was devastating. I began a cycle of falling into sin, then confessing to the leadership, which was a necessary part of repentance. They needed to know everything.
This went on and on. I didn't belong in the world because they saw me as some kind of screwed up Bible boy, and certainly didn't fit in with the "royal overcomers", the uncompromising true testimony bearers of Fullerton, and clearly was somehow defective. I would never be like George, whose every word I believed, especially when he made his loud emphatic boasts such as, "I've never left my Jesus," "If my Betty died, I would never marry again," "When I walked into this room today I could see the prayers streaked on the walls." Such a great man of God, such great followers, and I was such a loser.
I know what the young man meant in his testimony on this website [the Bulletin Board], when he said he felt like his insides were scraping trying to be what he was taught he needed to be. I believe I know what Tom Vessey must have felt like when he killed himself, because I had serious thoughts in those 5-6 years of killing myself. I went back and forth like that, and actually did feel like I had died.
Life certainly had lost all pleasure, and I was as miserable as a human can possibly be. In fact the Assembly pushed this already fragile teenager into a succession of nervous breakdowns. My mom had come into fellowship in Fullerton a few months after I did, and stayed for about 6 years, so even though I wasn't around a lot of the time, they knew what was going on with me and vice versa.
In the summer when I turned 22 I moved to Texas, and have stayed. I was a big time partyer who was really just trying to get through each day with his sanity. From time to time I would try to get right with the Lord, but had become so calloused from going back and forth, and seeming so hopeless to ever live like I thought I was supposed to, that it never really lasted long.
Finally, after having been married for about 2 years, having children at home, and on the path of ruining my marriage because of my alcohol and drug use, I decided that although it seemed hopeless, I had to try before I ruined my life. God was my only hope. That was about 4 1\2 years ago.
At first, the Bible was so hard to read, listening to other preachers who seemed so much less than the guys I had seen in Fullerton was so difficult. But I persevered somehow, don't ask me how. Any other time--and I reckon there were literally thousands--I would have fallen away. But I've kept going to Bible churches, have led my oldest child to the Lord, am incrementally seeing my marriage healed, and am even participating in a men's Bible study with five other men who I don't feel in spiritual competition with. None of us is in authority over the other, but there is genuine respect among us.
Until this website came about, there was a lingering shadow in my mind, "Lord will I ever be in fellowship in a place so great as Fullerton again? Was it as great as I thought it was? Is George the greatest man of God in modern times ever?..." So that's why I went to Fullerton after the 9-11attacks. I wanted to come to terms with these things. I flew to California, and went to the new Assembly meeting place to meet a friend, who was waiting for me outside because I had called him to let him know I'd be visiting.
Things had changed a lot since my teenage years. Not just because of the differences in me, but there wasn't the glowing young college atmosphere, or anything like that. No electricity, no Steve Irons yelling at the top of his lungs with his self righteous fervor. I think he was giving George competition for zealously intimidating the flock. In fact, I don't think anyone else ever came close.
By the way, I forgive Steve, and yes, George and the others for their spiritual abuse of me. But I want to say that from what I read of Steve's repentance on this website, it was weak, and did not truly own up to the depth of his participation in the leadership there. Anyhow, as far as that goes, back then I would have given anything to be just like Steve, George or Tim. I was a boy without a man in the home and was an easy victim.
Anyway, back to where I was after visiting the Fullerton Assembly. It didn't seem like that big of a deal anymore, but George wasn't there, and I really didn't have a chance to go to as many meetings as I would have liked. (A quick aside to this is that although I met my friend and he did ask me to sit by him, when we had a burger together afterward, I had the clear sense that I was being watched by him. You may think that sounds paranoid, but if you have ever spent much time there, you know that that is a real thing that they do to people who've left and come back).
But when in January a past Assembly friend woke me out of bed with a phone call telling me that George had been excommunicated and that some Leading Brothers had stepped down, I was so stunned, I sat up from the time he called at about 10pm Texas time until about 1am just trying to come to terms with this thing. Then when I got on the website and started reading, over the following week I went from "I can't believe this about all this," to "I can't believe I was ever so blind."
Well, I hope this has done more than to serve getting some of these things off my chest. Thank you very much for starting this website. I know Steve and Margaret have taken over the main site, but it has helped me more than I even realized I needed help, and has helped me get in touch with some old friends.
God Bless, Kevin W.
April, 2003, Steve Irons: "Dear Kevin, Yes, I did a lot of "yelling" (exhorting) in the assembly, trying to get people to be "committed" and "involved". I have admitted on the bulletin board and to others that I was George's number one "enabler". And for that I am ashamed and sorry. For years, I did not want to talk to anyone realizing that I was just as much at fault as others in the group.
Please do forgive me for helping to create such a legalistic and controlling system. As hard as it is for me to do so, I need to reach out to those I have injured. I know that words cannot undo the damage that has been done. But maybe just the fact that I tried might help.
When George was being called to repentance, Margaret and I realized we needed to continue with the geftakysassembly.com web site, in the hope that we could in some small way make amends."
April, 2003, Mark Campbell: " Kevin, thank you so much for sharing your very moving story with us. I know that many of us reading it understand exactly what you were going through and it breaks our hearts. For those who say the website and BB do not accomplish any positive work, I think Kevin's story is exhibit "A" in the testimony that it does. It also is a warning to those who insist that the Assembly teaching and practices are actually good, and that only GG is bad. If defenders of the Assembly false holiness teaching are not moved by Biblical instruction, please hear what this poor man has said! Kevin, I hope you don't mind me taking the occasion of your testimony as an opportunity for instruction. Your story says more than 20 pages worth of doctrinal argumentation could, as the picture it paints points out the errors of Assembly ways so vividly. I hope that you can also find help here in dealing with the issue of recovery from your Assembly past. Thank you again for sharing your story. I'm sure it has been a great help to others in understanding how abuse works in the Assembly."