Tuscola Assembly History, Tuscola Outreaches, and Our Account of Assembly Life in the Midwest
"The following account is the beginning history of the Tuscola Assembly from Jim’s and my experience. As Margaret Irons said in her narrative of the Assembly history beginning in Fullerton, there are a lot of other people who have experiences to contribute that would make a further complete and accurate account. I have found that our lives have been so intermingled with those of others that it is almost impossible to separate a lot of the details into just "our account." I hope others will come forth to relay their account, as I think it will bring a deeper healing to see the bigger picture and to know that others were deeply hurt as well."
The Reasons I Am Writing This Account
Our Background and How We Were Saved
A Maze of Friends and Family
Jan Boyer's Account to Me
How Our Lives Changed
First Baptism At Lake Sarah
The Tuscola Assembly is "Raised Up"
The Blessing of Godly Ministry
Seeds For Saint Louis
George's Attitude About Jim
Seeds For Springfield Outreach
Rules, Rules and More Rules
Beginning Account of St. Louis From Diane Anderson
Champaign Outreach Beginnings
Champaign Assembly Begins Breaking Bread
Outreach in Anchor
Outreach in Oakland
Outreach in Galesburg
Promise For Stephen
Returning For War
The Comfort of Friends
Workers Sent From California
Being in the Work
Mark Miller's Move to Springfield
Moving into the House of Promise
The Beginning of the End - But Not Yet
The Origin of Consequences
Prisoners in the House of Promise
Another Episode With Stephen
The Need For Identity as a Family
Mike and Sheryl Zach
Kurt and Andra G.
Bob, Karen, Jenny and Brian Tucker
David and Judy Geftakys
Life (?) Continues in the House of Promise
Our Son, Scott
Steve and Margaret Irons
The "This Ministry" Chart
Scott's Story Continues
A Chance to Distance Ourselves Paul and Debbie H.
Another Step Closer!
The Bottom Line
The Struggle of Our Last Year
Not Distance But Disassociation
My Last Confrontation With George
Not Distance, Nor Disassociation, But Severing
One More Round
The Real World
Grace Is Enough
Coming "Full Circle"
The Bitter and the Sweet
Another Case of Abuse
Reporting of Abuse Is Not Optional For Christians
Exposing the Darkness Must Continue
The abuse we each suffered may be somewhat different in the details, but we need to know we were not isolated victims. We need to identify with those who have suffered and are suffering now, to rejoice with others to whom deliverance has come, to know healing can take place, and to acknowledge our individual accountability in being willing to participate in the Geftakys ministry whether for a year or 30 years.
I write this account as a tribute first and foremost to my own children. I have a need for them to understand why so many things were the way they were, unintended by us, but yet with our consent. Each of us must take responsibility for staying in this ministry for however long it was for each of us. George and Betty will give account to God, but so will we. Not only were we hurt, but also we hurt others.
Secondly, I write this for Fred & Jan Boyer. Fred went to be with the Lord July 30, 1997. Fred was a wonderful example of a Christian man, and always regretted George coming to Tuscola. He believed God would someday expose George for the kind of man he was, and He has.
Thirdly, I write this for all of the Assembly kids who have been wounded by the ministry throughout the years because of their parents' association with the ministry. Learn from our mistakes and keep yourselves in a Bible believing church, but always let God be the one who leads you.
(This section shows the contrast between how we were raised compared to how we ended up raising our children.)
Unlike Fullerton and some of the other Assemblies, we were not college students. We were married with families and careers. We all came from mixed "religious" backgrounds, some were saved and some were not saved prior to our encounter with George Geftakys, and we were of mixed ages. Many of us were already established friends or family.
In order to relay how George’s abuse affected Jim and me, I am including a somewhat detailed account of our personal situation and how we came to know Jesus Christ. I was born in Springfield, IL, started first grade in Chatham, IL, but we moved to Tuscola within six weeks of my starting first grade. I was raised in a Christian home. My parents were both Christians, but it was a typical middle class "nominal Christian home." By that I mean we didn’t talk about being "born again," or about having a daily walk with the Lord, but we did talk about being saved. I was raised in a Christian church and we went to all of the meetings and activities church life offered. My father was a deacon for many years. I had attendance pins and camp awards etc. down to my knees!!
My parents were strict—no dancing ever, or dating until 16. (Actually they let me start dating when I was 15 ˝, but I ended up marrying the only guy I ever really dated, Jim M..) My parents had good Christian values and morals and were very loving parents. They were very family-oriented and we spent lots of time with our relatives on both sides of our family. We had lots of holiday get-togethers and big family dinners. We were allowed to go to movies, skating, play in sports, have friends to our house for sleep-overs and lots of normal activities.
We had a lot of freedom living in a small community of about 3,500 people. In the 1950-60’s it was safe to ride your bike around town, go to the local swimming pool, walk downtown and shop at the Five and Dime, go with other kids to the movie theatre, or just play outside with the neighborhood children without supervision, just letting our parents know where we were going. I walked to school. We didn’t lock our doors except maybe at night when we went to bed and we left our keys in our cars. It was pretty ideal in lots of ways. My father was a laborer for Panhandle Pipeline Company and my mother was the manager of the bakery department at Eisner grocery store in town. I have an older sister, Mary K. and a younger brother, Jim R. who are both Christians.
I remember that at the age of 7 I talked to my Sunday school teacher, Mrs. Norman Y., about what it meant to be saved. She told me the 5 steps of Christian church teaching of believing, repenting, confessing, being baptized and leading a Christian life. I went forward in church one Sunday morning shortly after that and I made the statement, "Yes, I believe Jesus is the Son of God and I accept Him as my personal Savior." I was baptized that morning in keeping with Christian church tradition. Baptism was the big thing with them. I believe that God took note of that desire in my heart at age 7, but I also do not believe that I was truly "born again or saved" until later.
Jim’s family attended the Methodist church in Tuscola but none of his family was saved at that time. He was born and raised in Tuscola and active in high school activities. He was always an excellent student and avid sports fan, but unable to participate in sports in any significant way due to a congenital back condition , for which he had surgery at age 19. His sisters were all older with lots of friends. His twin sister, Judy, was a cheerleader, so their house was the local hangout for the sports teams and cheerleaders and other friends! Everyone called Jim’s mother, Virginia, "Mom," and relished her renowned chocolate cake. Bob B. & Dale K. were two of those young men who eventually married two of his sisters. I was five years younger than Jim and so was not a part of Jim’s circle of high school friends, though I knew who he was. Jim’s father was involved in politics, and not home most of the time. His parents were divorced in 1963.
However, he had godly maternal grandparents who were a very strong influence on Jim and his sisters while they were growing up. His grandparents were poor and lived in the country in Indiana, where they raised chickens, milked cows by hand, went to town to sell their eggs and buy ice cream cones, went 'coon hunting with their grandpa, slept on a feather bed on the porch, swam in creeks under covered bridges and other ideal kinds of activities that were just part of their relationship with their grandparents.
Their grandmother was the one who shared the Lord with them at different times. They spent a lot of time with them in the summers between school years. Virginia would take them by herself to Florida, Indiana and Michigan on vacations for 2-6 weeks at a time. (After we were married and had our sons, on the occasions when we were with Jim’s family, there were always lots of stories told around the table, mainly by Jim and his brother in-law Bob B., about their high school days or stories about staying with Jim’s grandparents or vacation incidents. Scott loved to hear these stories as did all of the nieces and nephews.
For Scott, that was the kind of things he would like to have done, but was never permitted to do because of our life in the Assembly--NOT sinful things, but high school activity, friendship and normal family type fun.
Now I know that is how a healthy family develops memories and passes on family relationships, etc. It provides a continuity of family.
It doesn’t have to be nor should it be always "spiritual" conversation when you are eating together. (George and Betty were sorely lacking in understanding how to develop family relationships.)
Jim’s paternal grandparents were on the other end of the scale. They were prominent citizens, farmed lots of land in Douglas County and were good business people. They were very strongly connected, but in a clannish kind of way.
Jim knew Jan Boyer from school, but she had moved to California and married Fed Boyer, whom we met later. (More about the Boyer’s later). I met Gerald and Marilynn M. and their one-year-old son, Kevin, when I was sixteen. They had just moved to Tuscola and opened their chiropractic office. I hurt my back on the trampoline at school and my mother took me to see the "new Chiropractor" in town. Gerald and Marilynn were leasing their office from Jim’s uncle. Jim’s sister, Barbara K. and her husband, Dale had become friends with Gerald and Marilynn, so Jim met them through his family. They came to our wedding in 1964, and we became lifelong friends.
My parents had a very strong work ethic and they passed that on to me. I started babysitting when I was twelve, then got a work permit the spring I when I turned fourteen. I met Jim in a local diner called the "Poplar Café" where I was working as a waitress in Tuscola. Although he was born and raised in Tuscola, I didn’t know him personally because he was twenty, going to Eastern Illinois University and working at the local gas company in the summer reading meters. He used to come into the diner on his break and order chocolate milk, a donut and the Decatur Herald newspaper (sports section). He had a wonderful smile and beautiful blue eyes. I turned fifteen that summer and that’s all I really saw of him, but I knew I liked him.
That fall I changed jobs and starting working at Dunn’s Drugstore. Jim lived at home that semester and drove to school in Charleston, IL, so he started coming in and just sitting at the counter and chatting with me and sometimes he would wait until closing and take me home. When I was about fifteen and a half, my parents agreed to let me see him occasionally, like bringing me home, going to see his family, out to eat or take a drive through the park.
Dating Jim was an issue with my parents because he was five years older than me and it caused quite a flare-up in my relationship with my parents. (That was the only time I really had a problem with my parents—until George came into our lives.) They highly objected because he was so much older than I was. However, we made it through my Jr. and Sr. year and Jim and I were married after I graduated from Tuscola High School in 1964. I was eighteen and he was twenty-three and just graduated with a business degree from Eastern Illinois University. By then my parents thought the world of Jim and have always treated him like a son.
After we were married, we moved to Decatur, IL where Jim was an accountant in the insurance department, of Illinois Power Company, but was not really satisfied with his job. Gerald talked to Jim about chiropractic. Jim decided to become a chiropractor and attend Logan College of Chiropractic in St. Louis where Gerald had graduated. (Jim originally set out to be an attorney because that is what his father wanted him to be, but he dropped out of law school at the University of Illinois within six weeks as he knew that was not what he wanted to do. Because he had such a broad base of classes, he settled for a business degree in order to graduate so we could get married.)
At the same time, Gerald’s brother and sister-in-law, Richard and Joan M., moved to St. Louis and also attended Logan and we became friends. Richard and Joan already had 4 children. A year later, Bob B. and his wife, Judy (Jim’s twin sister), also began attending Logan. They had two children, Dawn and Robert Eric. This is where we met Bob and Linda M., who had a son, Rob. It was also where Jim first met Bob W., who graduated a year before Jim. While living in St. Louis, I worked at Multiplex Corporation, where I met Brenda H., and we also became lifelong friends.
When Jim graduated and passed his state board exams, we moved to Springfield, IL and eventually went into practice with Bob and Carolyn W. who had two sons, Mark and Tim.
I began working at Horace Mann Insurance Company as an Executive Secretary to a VP. It was during this period that I became unhappy with my life. I began to go out drinking after work with others from work. To make a not-so-interesting story short, I think I was on the verge of becoming an alcoholic, as I was really into drinking. I started asking myself questions like, "Why am I here?" "Isn’t there more to life than just growing up, getting married, having children and working?" Surely there is more to life than this. I was looking into Scientology, having my horoscope charted and other weird things that were prevalent at that time.
I decided that since I was so unhappy, it must be Jim’s fault. After all, he was my husband and isn’t a husband supposed to make his wife happy? This is where God really started working in my life to bring me to Himself. In the midst of this confusion and unhappiness in my life, Gerald and Marilynn M. came to Christ. So did Jim’s sister, Barbara K. Gerald and Marilynn had always been very social and real party people, and we joined right in with them. When they got saved they threw away all of their liquor and quit partying! Whoaaa—radical!
Jim’s sister started writing to us and quoting scriptures. I quit reading her letters because I didn’t want to hear all of that. After all, I had gone to church all of my life and none of that ever worked for me. I was saved, wasn’t I? What else did I need? Certainly not the religious "I’m holier than thou" attitude that I felt I was getting from them. Bob and Linda M. were also friends from Logan who had moved to Tuscola and they were part of our party circle. We commiserated frequently about the loss of our party friends, Gerald and Marilynn.
I finally asked Jim for a divorce. He was absolutely devastated. He actually got saved because of that. He went out to Lake Springfield and cried out to God and told him he couldn’t go on—didn’t want to go on unless God did something. Jim experienced a deep sense of peace and somehow knew things would be okay. Well, God heard his cry and continued to work. We were pretty much in limbo until Spring of 1971.
One weekend we went to Tuscola to Jim’s sister Barb’s house. She said she had to go to a meeting at a the home of friends, Fred and Jan Boyer, because they were planning a visit from a friend from California. She asked us to come with her, so we did. Unbeknownst to us, it was actually a prayer meeting. They talked about this guy George Geftakys coming to Tuscola for some meetings and then they actually got down on their knees and prayed!!! Barb had tricked us and I wasn’t happy about it. However, that was my first encounter with Fred and Jan Boyer, which turned out to be a blessing. Fred and Jan also had two children, Mike and Carolyn.Back to top
"George came with Marguerite Harrison to Tuscola the first week of July 1970. We had never met him before. But we respected C. J. B. Harrison, who had gone to be with the Lord in 1968, and his widow felt that George Geftakys was continuing C. J. B's ministry, so we were ready to hear what George had to say.
They were coming from or going to a conference back east that included speakers from Honor Oak. T. Austin-Sparks from Honor Oak was the brother that led the Harrison's to a ‘deeper walk’ with the Lord, who were part of Honor Oak before they came to Westmoreland Chapel around 1956 (?). An Inter-Varsity member at USC, Dave Roberts, introduced us to the Harrison’s and Westmoreland Chapel. Dave's parents and brother attended the Chapel. We later attended there for about three and a half years, until we moved to Tuscola when my mother became ill. [Jan Boyer was raised in Tuscola, IL.]
When George and Marguerite came, we were able to gather a group of people on short notice, and George spoke to them at the Youth Center. Many were saved at that time, for which we can praise the Lord. He also spoke to youth at the Methodist Church at a lock-in, but I can't remember the details.
I know Gerald and Marilynn came over to our house and talked to George. The first thing that I noticed about George that caused me to question was his intense dislike for charismatics, and his interest in seeing if people were into ‘satanic things.’ However, by and large the ministry was good, and Marguerite seemed able to keep him ‘in line.’ This was also when Gerald and Marilynn M. were saved, as was Jim’s sister and brother-in-law, Barb and Dale Kerns. Actually, Barb believes she was saved as a young girl, but renewed her commitment to Christ at this meeting. Also at this Youth Center meeting were Mike & Brenda H. from Oakland, who were already saved. This was July 1970.
When they left, we had a weekly Bible study meeting in our home. From the beginning, my husband Fred Boyer, had questions about George, especially his relationship with other men and women of God. When he wanted to return in the fall, Fred had great reservations. However, most of us were caught up in the excitement of this movement and he did return. George preached again, and the Spirit used him as more people were saved.
I read the account by Steve and Margaret Irons--I had never heard all the details of how they became involved with George. They were a precious couple when they were at the Chapel. We met them when we returned to LA for a visit in 1966. What Margaret says about the teaching at Westmoreland and Brother Sparks’ influence is true. The simple difference between the Chapel and George is that Mr. Harrison's ministry was not a ‘one man ministry.’ Checks and balances! Checks and balances!"
Gerald and Marilynn asked us to come over and stay with them for the weekend, and hear George speak at Boyer’s. That was March 24, 1971. I have NO IDEA WHY we agreed, but we did. We went to Boyer’s, and it was a very informal meeting. People were just sitting around their living room and George was sitting on the stairs. He spoke on Luke 11, "Keys to the Kingdom." I don’t remember what he said, accept that he talked about I John 2:15-17.
"Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. AND THE WORLD IS PASSING, AWAY, AND ALSO ITS LUSTS; BUT THE ONE WHO DOES THE WILL OF GOD ABIDES FOREVER."
I realized then that I did not have "eternal life" and was not going to "abide forever." Of course everyone knows you are going to die eventually, but when you are young you feel immortal! Death was not something I really thought about. But here I thought about how you CAN have eternal life. I had always "been taught" to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, a real man in history who lived and died for our sins, was buried and rose from the dead and will someday return. I knew that with my mind, just like I knew George Washington was a real man who lived and was part of history. The "world is passing away." So how do you get eternal life? To be born again means that God reveals Himself to you by Divine revelation. Now I was seeing that Jesus REALLY WAS the Son of God and that I could have a personal relationship with Him. It was enlightenment.
I kind of walked around in a daze the rest of the evening until we went back to Mathias’s. I remember that we sat and talked to Gerald for a few minutes and he prayed for us. Then I went upstairs and in the bedroom where we were staying, I got on my knees and I asked Jesus to come into my heart. I cried and confessed my sins before Him. I know not everyone has an "experience" when they are saved, but I did. I immediately felt like I had been sitting in a dark room, but I didn’t know it was dark. All of a sudden, I felt myself crumbing inside and I was filled with light. I was ecstatic with the joy of knowing I truly was "born again." God had revealed His Son to me and I had said, "Yes, Jesus is the living Son of the living God and I do receive Him now as my personal Lord and Savior!" (Matthew 16:13-17).
"Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He began asking His disciples, saying, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is? And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ And Simon Peter answered and said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven." John 17:3 "And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou has sent."
I knew I would have eternal life because I had the eternal Son revealed to me by God. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was a forgiven woman. My sins were washed away.
I experienced true forgiveness from God and it was so very sweet, but at the same time very humbling. I felt deep contrition in my soul for what I knew my sins were and I was sorrowful, but I also experienced the joy. I’ve come to understand that repentance and forgiveness are not a quick apology and "business as usual." My life was never the same. I changed immediately. Our marriage changed immediately. I quit my drinking and partying and I told everyone about Jesus. Most people looked at me as though I was crazy and the people at work said they hoped this didn’t last because I used to be such fun! Well, it did last. Thank God.
Because my marriage was the main issue in my life when I was saved, God began to speak to me clearly about marriage and my relationship with Jim. I knew right away that Jim WAS NOT the reason I was unhappy. It was because I was not right with God. Once I established a relationship with Jesus Christ and started reading the Bible and praying, I realized that divorce was not the answer.
I also knew I had a desire to be loved--to feel "cherished." Jim has always loved me, but only God has made me feel "cherished." It is that special relationship we each have with God and only He can fill the longing in our hearts that we are searching for. Even though our marriage changed right away, I was still young and had my own self-centered ways and would get distressed with Jim, but over the years God has so met me, because I look to Him. Because Jim is a Christian, he looks to God, and we can live together! I don’t know how anyone survives marriage without Jesus Christ as the center of their marriage. God saved my marriage and I was in it for the long haul! Divorce was never going to be an option for me. Of course, that also takes the cross working in your life—something I knew nothing about but would learn very quickly. God has been faithful.
I don’t believe God wants divorce just because we can’t see eye to eye on things or don’t get along because of self-centered interests, or selfish desires. But I have no problem with divorce for people who are in abusive situations like sexual abuse, immorality, physical abuse or alcoholism, and especially when there are children. There is nothing in these situations that displays a Biblical marriage or family that is blessed by God or is healthy for a marriage partner. And certainly not an example of what God wants or who He is lived out before children. I don’t read any place in the Word of God that divorce is the unforgivable sin.
When I was born again, a whole different world opened up to me. I found that I had purpose, fulfillment and value. Jim realized why he had changed and that he had made a commitment to God there at the Lake and what that now meant. He knew he was "saved."
We immediately began driving to Tuscola from Rochester, outside of Springfield, to attend Boyer’s Bible Study and tape meeting. George starting coming to Tuscola on a regular basis and his ministry was like nothing you hear in a church. (That should have told us something!) However, we trusted him to tell us the truth. Jim knew that I had changed and that our marriage was going to be okay.
Here I was a young mother and wife whose whole world had been changed by the Gospel that I had heard from this man. I knew nothing about the Word (accept for my childhood teachings), nothing about how to have a daily walk with God that was personal, nothing about prayer and certainly nothing about church government. But here was a man who was highly educated and seemed to have a phenomenal ability to teach the Bible—why shouldn’t I have trusted him?
George returned that July and we had a baptism at Lake Sarah, where the Boyer’s had a summer lake home. Nineteen people were baptized. Jan Boyer has provided a list of names she had kept: Carolyn B., Gerald, Marilynn & Kevin Mathias, Dick, Joan, Karen, Chris and Mike M., Dave & Doris B., Bob & Linda Middleton, Barb K. and her son Jimmy, Jim and I, Mark K. (a boy visiting from Cincinnati) and Kathy McC. Many baptisms would follow and be a real blessing to many because there was a period of much salvation.Back to top
Neither Jan Boyer, Marilynn M. nor I have an exact date when we began breaking bread, but we all agree it was in 1971. Jan and I believe it was at the time of this baptism. If anyone knows anything different, please let me know. [Editor's note: We believe it was the summer of 1971, six months after the Fullerton Assembly officially began meeting for worship at Hillcrest Park Recreation Center.]
Gerald and Marilynn Mathias, eager to serve the Lord, generously committed the use of their home to use for us to meet together to break bread on a weekly basis. They later named it, "The House of Promise," in keeping with Assembly communal houses on the west coast that had similar names. Our meetings were small, informal and without a bunch of rules. We just simply sang worship songs together, broke bread, prayed and had a time of ministry from the brothers. Head coverings were a part of the meeting from the beginning. The testimony in Fullerton had begun in February of that year. In retrospect I know George was subtlety suggesting we do this and planting the seeds all along. I do remember a group of us sitting around talking about it and asking him how we start something like that and asking, "Why can’t we begin?"
It wasn’t long before there was a need for "leading brothers" and Fred Boyer, Jim M., Dave B. and Gerald Mathias were selected by George. Dave B. and his wife, Doris, were friends of Boyer’s, had 2 children, were farmers and were a very dear couple with gentle spirits. Richard and Joan M. and Bob and Linda Middleton soon were saved and became part of the Assembly along with Barb K..
Soon it was "noised around town" about this man called George and that Gerald and Marilynn Mathias were starting a church in their home, as they had left the Methodist church, along with Boyer’s. Cecil Smith., who was the pastor at the First Christian Church in Tuscola heard what was going on. One Sunday night Cecil suggested that those that wanted to hear this man talk (George) should go and show them that others in the community loved the Lord.
Cecil soon realized that he was not really "saved." He asked the Lord into his life. Now, here was another "preacher" who was validating George’s ministry and from my home church. Wasn’t that further proof that mainstream churches were dead?! After all, Cecil was a pastor and not even saved!
Cecil & Nancy Smith, Denny and Sandy Fredericks, Art and Annie Farlow, Rick and Truceena R., Rick’s father and mother also, Jim and Donna M., Dick and Noemi D. all left the Christian church (all had families already except Reeves) and came to the Assembly. We thought we were "right on!"
Jim’s sister, Judy and her husband, Bob B., lived in Kentucky at the time, but Barb K. had gone to visit them in December of 1970 and shared the Lord with them. They prayed to receive Christ and would later move back to Tuscola and become part of the Assembly. They spent a lot of time with Boyers who were really encouraging them in their walk with the Lord.
During the first couple of years, we were extremely blessed to have some very Godly men and women visit our fellowship. All of these people were friends of Fred and Jan Boyer’s. Men and women like Raymond and Joyce Golsworthy (I still have some of their precious letters), Dan Smith (who stayed in our home and also ministered in the Springfield Assembly once it started), Bakht Singh from India (who eventually would be the one who prayed over our new baby, Stephen, who had been diagnosed with a brain tumor—more later), Floyd (can’t recall his last name) and also another brother from Indianapolis.
We listened to tapes that Jan and Fred had of ministry given by T. Austin Sparks, Mr. Harrison, George and others. And of course we had, Fred and Jan Boyer. They didn’t have rules and were a very gracious couple. They were well versed in the Bible and when a correction would be needed, you never left feeling "corrected," your character was never attacked and they did it in such a gentle way that you knew they loved you. (What a contrast that was to be with George).
In 1972 I was pregnant with Stephen and during my pregnancy I had developed the flu. Jim had fallen and injured his ribs while carrying Scott who was then almost 4 1/2. Gerald and Marilynn came to our house during a snow storm (we lived 72 miles away) and took Jim, myself and Scott to Tuscola and cared for us for a week while we recovered. We never even thought about them coming, but they knew we were having a problem and they wanted to help. They were very generous and always looking for ways to serve.
During my last few weeks of my pregnancy when I was unable to travel to Tuscola, Boyer’s called us every week and did a chapter summary over the phone with us to keep us in the loop and current with the Bible study group. They were gifted "encouragers" and a wonderful example of servants of God.
This was not because we HAD to, but because we wanted to. The first few years we were all like sponges soaking up all we could of this new spiritual life. The Word of God was truly like bread and drink to us. Those were the kinds of things that started happening—we were learning how to serve one another and care for each other. People began commenting on our love for each other.
Stephen was born on March 23, 1972 and I knew the minute I held him that there was something wrong with him. "Mother’s instinct." He vomited constantly and cried all of the time. At first we thought maybe he was just going to be one of those colicky babies and I tried everything, but nothing seemed to help.
We started taking him to doctors in St. Louis and Springfield but couldn’t seem to find a reason for his problems. We continued to drive to Tuscola for Bible study, worship and any and every other meeting that was held because Jim was a leading brother and couldn’t miss. Not only that, we really wanted to be there.
During my short stay in the hospital, patients of Jim’s in Springfield, Larry and Diane A., invited Jim to their house for dinner. Jim shared the Lord with them and Larry received Christ. Diane had been saved when she was 11 at the Baptist church where she was raised. That night she renewed her commitment to Christ. In the fall of 1972 Larry, Diane and their infant son, Paxton, moved to St. Louis where Larry started school at Logan College of Chiropractic. Shortly thereafter, we moved to Illiopolis to be a little closer to Tuscola but still be able for Jim to drive to Springfield everyday to work.
In the beginning I believe it was a work of God, but in our naiveté and George’s twisted sense of spirituality and manipulation, the brother’s were not able to see what was taking place. George began to criticize the speakers and said unkind things about Dan Smith—called him a "pork chop preacher" because he got paid when he went someplace to preach, unlike George who "didn’t take a salary." Their testimonies and ministry were always filled with such love of Jesus, always directing us to Christ and spoken in genuine humility.
George on the other hand was very dramatic, "charismatic" in his personality, boasted of his education and his "special calling" from God to a "heavenly vision." By now we knew we were part of that vision. He stirred things up, made it sound exciting, something new and fresh, because according to George, the mainstream churches by and large were dead, they had no real teaching and no vision for what God was doing in our generation.
Fred saw what George was doing, that he had no use for other servants of God, that George wanted control and that his teaching had flaws etc. Fred began to confront George and quickly became a threat to him. In 1973 Fred Boyer and Dave B.—who stood with Fred because he knew Fred and believed he was spiritual mature and grounded in the word--were both "excommunicated" from the Assembly. Unfortunately, Jim and Gerald stood with George. Fred and Jan Boyer and Dave and Doris B. were a loss that profoundly affected the Assembly. George was now in control.
George put a stop to "guest" speakers except for Bakht Singh who came for a couple more years and also spoke in the Chicago Assembly and in Fullerton, but that eventually stopped also. We did question George about this, but he in his way talked us into believing it was best, because these people just didn’t have the vision we had and it wasn’t just George’s preaching. After all, we now had brothers who were bringing a word from God, too.
George always said there was nothing in Tuscola until he came, but he was wrong. Actually there was a wave of spiritual awakening that swept the country from about 1969-1972 and George just got in on that wave.
The Boyers and others were already working. Mike and Brenda H.,, though a young newly wed couple, had a desire to see God work in their community as well. And there were others that we just weren’t aware of at that time.
With Fred and Dave out of the picture, leadership needed to be filled. Cecil S. and Denny F. were asked to join the leading brothers. Gerald became an elder and had been in "the Work" from the beginning. Jim became an elder, but was not in the Work until 4 years later, which we couldn’t understand at the time.
George always thought Jim, though a nice guy, was a passive, weak man. It was Jim’s nature to be passive and not confrontational, but weak—he was not. Jim always struggled with his place of leadership, not because he was weak, but because he was a very low-key personality who always looked for the good in people. He to this day accepts people as they are and welcomes them into his space, and is not judgmental. Jim was one of the kindest men I had ever met. He had integrity and a great sense of humor. All of these characteristics made him an excellent example to the Lord’s people. As a doctor, and having had back surgery himself, he understood pain and what it means to have physical limitations. (Something George could never understand.)
George, on the other hand, was looking for men who were outgoing, "strong" in the sense that they could be aggressive, confrontational, analyze people, carry out orders and be sold out for George (unquestionable loyalty). The stress of trying to function on a level like George wanted would almost ruin Jim’s health (more later.) It was George’s standard, not God’s, but it took a while to separate the two.Back to top
Betty’s "contribution" to the ministry did not begin for a while. When she first came with George, she would attend the meetings, but she did finishing work on baby blankets that she made for the different sisters for gifts when their babies were born. She would pull fringe and do hand work during the meetings. She gave me one when Stephen was born.
Then she quit doing all of that and started taking notes at the meetings. On the whole, almost everyone who came to meetings took notes, because George really emphasized that we take notes and mark up our Bibles. Someone made the comment to Betty that they were surprised she would still be taking notes on her husband’s ministry after all the years of listening to him preach, but she said there was always something that could be learned.
She then started meeting with sisters and doing counseling, which led to Sisters’ Meetings, and then Couples Meetings where she would speak. Then her counseling just kind of took on a life of its own. She seemed to be involved in everything and with everyone.
Of course, when George was in Europe she did not go, so all questions were directed to her—as well as the tithes and offering. In later years when she was "sick," even though she couldn’t attend very many meetings, she was always available to counsel and speak at special meetings. Her physical limitations as well as her son David’s seemed to be acceptable reasons for not being in meetings, but they always seemed able to do anything else they wanted.
We had shared our testimony with Bob and Carolyn Wenneborg. Bob had been saved at a Leighton Ford crusade but Carolyn was Catholic. We began having a Bible study together in our home and made a point of not discussing "churches" but rather studying what the Bible had to say. We believed it would speak for itself. It did! Bob and Carolyn, along with their two sons, Mark & Tim, also began making that 72 mile drive to Tuscola. They drove to Tuscola for 3 years to worship, attend special events and also had a Bible study in their home.
People began to be saved in Springfield and drove to Tuscola with Bob and Carolyn. Finally, an Assembly began in Springfield. However, not without George showing his authoritarian side. Bob went to a leading brothers meeting to ask about the possibility of an Assembly starting in Springfield since they had been driving to meetings for 3 years and there was a group of people in Springfield. George jumped all over him, telling him he was seeking a place and wanted an Assembly in his time, not willing to wait on the Lord and that he was not a humble man. George really blasted Bob.
Everything had to be George’s idea and it had to be on his time, otherwise you were not humble or you were seeking a place! Bob did wait, and it wasn’t long before an Assembly began. Some of the original saints that met together were Jim H. (who eventually married Coreen from Chicago); Ing Ling Chen (now serving the Lord with his wife, Karen, in Beijing), Mike O. who married Vicki A. from the Champaign Assembly, Tim & Arlene S., Joy and Eric S., Beth S. (Rogers). Soon Connie R., Bill B. who married Dawn from Chicago, Ben and Beth B. and others.
Early on we got rid of our television, but later kept one in a closet—except at the House of Promise. George didn’t believe in having televisions because he said they had the filth of the world dumped into your living room. Of course he never considered that everyone had to make that choice for themselves. It was part of his ministry and if you were a Leading Brother and or Worker—for sure there was no television. He also thought all holidays were pagan and should not be celebrated, so Assembly activities were planned on holidays. This was to discourage people from spending time with relatives.
Of course our extended families had TV and Jim would watch sports when he could squeeze in some time. When we did allow our children to go visit theirs cousins, there was always television, Nintendo and all kinds of toys and activities. They loved it—so we had to be careful and not let them go too often because they would become "worldly." Betty was against Barbie dolls and GI Joes; only dolls that were soft and resembled a real baby were encouraged.
The "rules" were coming into the Assembly. It did not happen overnight. It was ongoing and subtle until one day we were so burdened down with performance and rules that we could barely function as people with a thought of their own. You didn’t even want to think about all of that because there was no time, and there didn’t seem to be any way to resolve these problems.Back to top
"Along with walking with the Lord, Jim encouraged us to go to Logan Chiropractic College in St. Louis. Larry began classes in the fall of 1972. The summer prior we stayed with Jim and Brinda and also went to Tuscola during that time. Seeing the Assembly in Tuscola, we knew that St. Louis was a good place for outreach also.
We spent time with Bob and Judy B. in Creve Couer. They were the best people and we couldn’t have got going in St. Louis without them. At Logan, Larry became friends with Ken Teater. Before Ken was saved, they were close friends and to me they acted like brothers. We visited Chicago with Ken and stayed at his parent’s home. I don’t recall if he was saved at that time, but we had some time to get to know each other before our friendship took on "fellowship." It only seemed natural for Ken to live with us, so we found an old house in St. Charles, Missouri and did major cosmetic work on that house, but we turned it into a gem.
That was about the time Jerry Robinson joined with Ken and Larry to start having a Bible study. Before long we met Gary and Joyce L. and Cheryl K.. They were so into the Lord and singing songs of praise, and they too needed a ministry and feeding of their faith. Paul and Debbie Martin came and immediately we had a wonderful nucleus of believers. We were worthy then of a visit from the Assembly leaders from California.
I don’t remember when George came the first time, but we were then given the ‘admonition’ that, "St. Charles is not where you should be, but by a major campus because all great works happen on campuses where the minds are eager and opened to the truth".
So we, (Ken, Jerry, Larry, our son Paxton and I) found a fabulous house in Bel Nor next to UMSL. We did the witnessing, Bible studies, tape ministry, worship, "stewardships," praying, and walking with the enlightened! Our daughter, Hannah, was born February 11, 1976 in that house. Dan Notti and Ken were even at her birth.
It was sometime in here that Larry had major asthma problems and was in the hospital for a week. I remember our "new family" making me feel as if it was "his weakness" that caused these health problems and that they were due to his emotions.
On one very private occasion I was allowed a talk with Brother George. I’ll never forget him telling me that, "Your husband will never be a leading brother as he has too many problems to ever overcome." I was devastated. We had finally found the truth, and how to walk in that truth, but we would never be more?! (God must have been limited in his ability to change lives, because He was working in only a few chosen ones.) I had always been willing to believe God could do anything but now things were different.
Just recently, Larry told me that Brother George (probably that same visit) told him that I was the one not suited for the work and because of that Larry would never be a Leading Brother. After not wanting to hurt my husband with something Brother George said of him, I kept that secret for about 27 years only to find that Larry had not wanted to hurt me with what Brother George had said about me. George undermined us as a couple by not being honest with either of us.
Shortly after this visit from ‘the authority’ we decided to move into our own home without brothers. Larry has his own story and I don’t remember the facts, only that there was a disagreement with Dan Notti, Ken, Jerry, and Larry. Larry questioned something with Dan, and in private Ken and Jerry agreed with Larry, but with the "new man," Dan, they would not stand with Larry. Larry would always ask, "Why?" but apparently a true man of faith doesn’t ask "why."
We continued to go to the meetings and all that we still believed was ‘right.’ Larry continued to have poor health and found the meetings more than he wanted to participate in. I continued going to Bible studies, prayer meetings, worship and witnessing with (by now) three children without Larry most of the time.
I just kept remembering that "the leader" must be right about my husband. It often upset me that David Geftakys was without reproach in his absence of all the Assembly functions because of his frail diabetes, but Larry’s breathing inabilities were ‘emotional’ and not excused. Needless to say, bitterness began to grow.
We were spared many years of hurt by leaving the Assembly. But we had to move to San Diego, CA to feel free. We moved in March of 1983. We actually had the ‘blessing of the brothers’ on our move. In San Diego Larry’s asthma improved immediately. Of course no church we ever visited was ‘right’ or knew truth ‘according to George.’ I must say I have never wanted to ‘play church’ since."
Gerald had patients from Champaign named Dave, Tonda, Frank and Matthew P.. Gerald shared the gospel with Tonda and she was saved in the fall of '71. Then Gerald also led Dave to Christ in April 1972. The Bible study began in their home in 1973 when they moved to Champaign. Jeannie Z., Jim H., and Paul H. were some of the first to be involved. Then Marsha J. with her children, Mark, Mindy and Mia V., Chubby and Linda T. and daughters, Cindy and Kellie, Jan S., Nancy G., Sondra Quinlin (Jamison), Vicki A., Verne Carty, Nancy S., Matt W., with others to follow.
Dave and Tonda’s son, Matt, was severely handicapped. I feel it is necessary to state that because Gerald led Dave and Tonda P. to the Lord, a Bible study in Champaign started in their home—resulting in an eventual Assembly in Champaign. However, Dave and Tonda were highly criticized by the Geftakys’s as well as others, because they missed meetings because of Matt. It was a very difficult situation for them and they loved Matthew and were determined to care for him. George and Betty thought they should put him in a home someplace so that they could be free to serve the Lord. Of course, they did not do this, they kept him and lovingly cared for him and suffered a lot of abuse from George and Betty because of it.
Matthew was a very sweet natured boy and Jim and I believed they WERE serving the Lord just by taking such exemplary care of Matt. Dave witnessed to people on the bus he took to the U of I every day where he worked and lots of people were saved! He prayed and believed God for the best and was a wonderful example. Tonda had a thankless unending type of care that she gave to Matt and rarely complained about how hard it was – she loved him and believed he was from God.
They would come to Tuscola for meetings, but the work involved in getting Matt there was pretty overwhelming. One of the brothers in Tuscola commented that "he took up too much room." They eventually stopped coming to meetings in Tuscola. Because George didn’t feel Tonda was "faithful" to meetings, they eventually moved the Bible study out of their home. That was the kind of attitude Geftakys had regarding the disabled. They just were not able to promote George’s ministry.
Dave and Tonda had never had a vacation since Matt was born because of the kind of care that was required for him. He was at least 12 and had to be lifted certain ways, fed, bathed, monitored for his health problems, diapers changed and medications given. There was never any help extended to them—not that they ever expected it. However, Debbie H. and Mary S. volunteered to learn how to take care of him so that Dave, Tonda and Frank could go on their first vacation from caring for Matt. They went to Sarasota, Florida with Jim, our sons and myself and had a wonderful vacation.
According to several people I contacted, as well as what Jim and I could recall, the Assembly did not begin until 1986. Paul and Debbie H. replaced Kurt and Andra G.. Paul had to have surgery on his leg and so they called George to request someone to help out while he recuperated. Paul’s integrity and independence had gotten him in trouble with George the year before. Now was George’s chance to show the Midwest "how it was done." He sent Bill and Kristy Bradbury from Fullerton to head up the work and take over from Paul and Debbie H.. In the opinion of most of the people in Champaign, the Bradbury’s were too young, untested and not ready for that kind of assignment, other than the fact that they were unquestionably loyal to Fullerton.
George initially designated Tom Lessares, Bill Dey and Bill Bradbury to be the leading brothers in Champaign. Sometime later Paul H. and Steve Mbuvi, from Kenya (who passed away in 2001) were added. When Bill and Kristy were recalled to California, Wayne and Pat M. were sent from Omaha around 1989.
Paul states, "Debbie and I left in the summer of 2000 to work with my parents in the Philippines. George had reluctantly let us go before then, but had ridiculed my involvement with my parents as ‘Paul going to hunt frogs and lizards in the Philippines.’ Actually we were doing Bible distribution, evangelism and preaching. We sent in our letter of resignation after I left for the Philippines that summer. I was criticized for leaving on such short notice, but I didn't want to encounter the same criticism that we received the first time we left in 1985. (More on that story later.) I was also concerned about things that I was seeing about George and the ministry."
(Paul’s parents have lived in the Philippines for most of their lives while working with the Wycliffe Bible Translators. They have translated two New Testaments into Filipino languages and are now working on two Old Testaments.)
Another family that came from the Champaign outreach was Walt and Gladys G., with grown children, Sharon and Daniel. I believe Daniel had MD, and eventually passed away due to an accident in a swimming pool. A Bible study was started in their farm home in rural Anchor, IL.. Jim was involved in bringing ministry in all of these outreaches, as were most of the leading brothers at one time or another. He used to take Scott with him to Anchor just to have some time with Scott alone, but it was a long drive from Tuscola and Scott was in school, so he didn’t go very often. Walt and Gladys were a dear, down to earth type of couple who just simply loved Jesus. Walt became ill with cancer and went to be with the Lord on June 17, 1986—Jim preached his funeral. It was another loss for us.
Denny and Sandy F. had invited Mike and Brenda H. to meetings. They were all from Oakland and had gone to school together and been friends all of these years. It took two years of inviting them before they finally went to a wiener roast held in the country where Nancy & Cecil were living at that time. Then they came to Tuscola to hear George’s tapes on "Life Abounding." In May of 1973 they left their Baptist church and began fellowshipping in the Assembly. A Bible study began in Oakland in their home. They had a son named Andy, and Elisha would be born later. Danny and Janie C., Grace and Gary T. and their daughter were the first to join in the Bible study in Oakland. Later John and Greta H. and the Chris and Mary Miller family would become a part of the Oakland group, as well as others.
Denny F. taught at the Tuscola High School and had a student teacher working with him by the name of Howard Magnuson. Denny shared the Lord with Howard and he was saved and started coming out to meetings. Eventually he married Jeannie and they moved to Howard’s family farm in Altona, near Galesburg, IL and were both in the work. Jeannie was very sick with cancer and almost died. She was on the Gerson diet for years and ended up having surgery and the cancer was removed. They had a son, Samuel, after we left fellowship.
Howard and Jeannie used to stay at the House of Promise a lot with us, but they really didn’t "live" with Assembly standards like we did. They had their farm, which George always planned to be a place of escape should the Tribulation come and the Workers need a place to hide.
I remember Jim and I going to their farm where they had raised chickens and they didn’t know how to kill and dress them, so Jim and I went and stayed with them and showed them how to do it. Jim knew from his experience with his grandparents in Indiana. Whenever his grandma wanted to fry chicken, they just went out and killed it and dressed it and cooked it! (I won’t go into the details.) We had work days at the farm also.Back to top
When I think of what I put our poor little Stephen through, I want to cry. He was sick for 3 years before we found out what was wrong with him. We took him to several doctors but they couldn’t find out the reason why he vomited all of the time, was so small, and cried all of the time. I was afraid he was going to die at home and I would never know what was wrong with him. One day I was in tears and crying out to the Lord and reading the word. I sensed He speaking to me out of Psalm 41:1-3
"How blessed is he who considers the helpless; the Lord will deliver him in a day of trouble, The Lord will protect him, and keep him alive, and he shall be called blessed upon the earth; and do not give him over to the desire of his enemies. The Lord will sustain him upon his sickbed; In his illness, Thou dost turn his bed."
Stephen continued to be sick and looking anorexic. I immediately knew the Lord was giving me that promise for Stephen. This was a promise that took time to be fulfilled, but God was faithful.
We moved back to Tuscola where Jim went into practice with Gerald. We believed that since we were driving over to Tuscola and basically our life was there, that we should move back and be more available for the Assembly. Jim believed the Lord gave him a promise about our moving back to Tuscola. Numbers 32:6b "…Shall your brothers go to war while you yourselves sit here?" Little did we know that the war would be with George.
Stephen was 18 months old so this would have been in the fall of 1973. Stephen weighed 18 lbs when he was 2 years old. I have a picture of him sitting in a shoe box barely indenting the sides. He always had such a hard time getting to sleep at night. Betty said I needed to put him in the bedroom at night with the light out and not go in and let him up and just let him cry himself to sleep. According to her, Stephen’s will needed to be broken. He would just scream and break out in a sweat and throw up and I would have to clean him up and try to get him to sleep as quickly as I could. I clearly remember a time Betty made me feed him oatmeal that he had spit up on the table because she said he was just being rebellious, and on and on. We couldn’t miss meetings so we hauled him everyplace and he threw up on me in worship, the car, wherever.
Stephen continued to be sick and we were beside ourselves with what could be wrong with him. Gay Mau (Walker) and Karen K. were nurses in the Chicago Assembly, which was well under way by this time, and they were "Workers." They said that Stephen’s problems were psychological and caused by the fact that Jim and I were having problems in our marriage. I knew that was not the case and was actually absurd, but being the "wise, single sisters, nurses and Worker’s" they thought they knew everything. I am not adding these details because I am angry with these people, but to show how a thread of real "arrogance & superiority" was showing in Workers. Jim and I were learning how to have a good marriage after having had problems, but that was not what was happening here. There was no autonomy in the Assembly, or really within the families as it was directed by George and Betty.
Actually Jim was the one who finally diagnosed him. Stephen was so sick and laying on the floor holding on to the shag carpet screaming when Jim left for work one morning. We were at our wits end because I knew there was something wrong with him but no one had been able to determine the problem. Jim went to the office and was sitting at his desk crying out to the Lord and he turned around and found in his bookcase a book on "Childhood Diseases." He opened the book and it fell open to a section on intracranial pressure. Stephen had all the classic symptoms. God had shown Jim what was wrong with Stephen.
Jim called our pediatrician who didn’t really accept that was the problem because he said if he had a brain tumor, "he would be pushing up daises by now," but he did schedule us with a neurologist. The neurologist wanted us to take him to Chicago to Loyola because the new CT scan was only available there as it was so new. After 3 days of trying to get the scan, Jim finally called our doctor and said please prescribe something to knock Stephen out so they can get this test. The problem was that when Stephen laid on his back he got really dizzy. The doctors thought I was just making that up because how could a 2 year old know the term "dizzy". I explained that when Stephen said he was going "round and round" I had called it dizzy and he knew the term. They got the test and they found a brain tumor about the size of a walnut. They wanted to operate.
They called in a neurosurgeon, Dr. Belber, one of the top ranked neurosurgeons in the nation. The night before Stephen’s surgery they had to shave his head and he cried and cried until his big brother, Scott, told him he looked like "Kojak" (TV star back then!) Stephen was okay with that. It was 10 days before his third birthday.
Denny and Sandy F. were there in the hospital with us during the lengthy surgery. When Dr. Belber came out of surgery, he told us that the tumor was inoperable, but they did get enough for a biopsy. The tumor was in the brainstem itself and had mushroomed up into his brain and they were afraid they would damage his brain if they tried to remove any of it. We asked him how long Stephen would have to live and he told us 6 months to a year. He was diagnosed as having malignant astrocytoma grade 2 which meant it was slow growing. That is why it was so difficult to diagnose. [Stephen lived thirty five more years after this diagnosis. He died in December, 2010, of complications from another inoperable cancer on the brain stem.]
We stood in Burnham City Hospital in Champaign, IL in the comfort of Denny and Sandy’s arms and everyone wept, except me. I just couldn’t cry at that point. It was too much of a shock and I just couldn’t believe it somehow. I felt so guilty and so sorrowful for how I had taken care of this precious gift God had given me.
But in the Assembly you can’t go by your "mother heart!" No—you might be too subjective and not discipline your children. Discipline was not the problem with Stephen. He needed to be cared for—gently, lovingly and medically—not harshly.
Being left by himself in a dark room while he was feeling sick, dizzy and scared must have been terrible for him. He was so small and afraid. He couldn’t eat—it wasn’t his fault he couldn’t keep his food down and I had made him eat that spit up oatmeal because Betty said so!!! Why didn’t I leave then???
I was in the intensive care unit one day, as they let me help with Stephen, and I was adjusting the shunt that had been put into the top of his head to alleviate the brain fluid pressure. Stephen was awake and wanted me to "hold him," but I couldn’t because of all of the tubes, monitors and other medical devices that allowed only for me to touch him, or hold his hand. My heart was aching for all that Stephen had gone through and thinking about the possibility of his dying. I wanted to hold him in my arms and tell him everything was going to be alright. How could we ever bare that kind of loss?
Jeannie Zay (later Luc-T) came in to see us. Jeannie was a young single sister fellowshipping in the Champaign Assembly. I was by myself with Stephen and when she came in, she just put her arms around me and hugged me and I started crying. I cried with her because she had recently lost her mother and I somehow knew she knew something of what I was going through with the prospect of losing Stephen. She wasn’t a Worker, just a precious, genuine sister without an "agenda" whom God sent to comfort me when I needed someone to understand. And so there were moments of wonderful comfort from the saints, which I will never forget.
Later I shared the promise in Psalm 41 with Gay and Karen and they just looked at me incredulously and said, "You don’t really believe God is going to heal him, do you?" I said I didn’t really know all that it meant, but I knew he wasn’t going to die at home without my knowing what was wrong with him—God was going to keep him, protect and keep him alive until I at least knew what his problem was—and God had shown us. He could do whatever he wanted.
Stephen celebrated his third birthday at the hospital. Nancy S. made him a cake and Jim, Scott and I spent his birthday with those who came to see him. Eventually we took Stephen home, really expecting him to die within a few months, but he didn’t. We already knew we were not going to put him through any kind of chemo, but the Dr. suggested the new laser accelerated treatments since there was really nothing else that could be done. We agreed and I took Stephen every weekday for a month for treatments.
Bakht Singh came to Tuscola and we asked him if he would pray for Stephen. He asked for Jim and me and Gerald (since Jim & Gerald were elders) to bring Stephen upstairs at the House of Promise and he anointed him with oil and prayed for him. He told Jim we needed to pray and ask God for his best, in this case healing, and then whatever God did not to question it.
It was not a long wordy prayer filled with flowery words, it was a simple direct request for healing. God heard his prayer. It was not yet over but God would be God and we accepted what would be his will for Stephen (more to come). Of course George was not part of this and he didn’t really believe in anointing with oil, but we felt very comfortable with Bahkt Singh and believed he was sent to Tuscola to pray for Stephen.Back to top
Mark and Diane Miller came to Tuscola as Workers from Fullerton and Benjamin was born while living with us. They lived with Jim, myself, Scott and our baby Stephen in a very small 2-bedroom house. Mark was always "cocky" – a lot like George. They criticized little things like the posters we allowed Scott to hang in his room and the fact that we let him read comic books. Mark criticized Jim for reading the newspaper everyday. We managed for a year and then they moved into the House of Promise.
It was during this time that our son, Scott, who was 8 at the time, was saying his prayers before bed. He was praying with Jim and just out of the blue asked Jesus to come into his heart. This was another very special memory for us. There is nothing so sweet on earth as knowing your children are saved and will be with you throughout all eternity.
However, these kinds of "special events" also kept us in the Assembly. Somehow we had a warped sense of God’s blessing and that it was somehow connected to faithfulness in this ministry. That was always how George would relay it. So even though we were seeing things we didn’t like, we felt it was just part of the cross in our life.
A favorite saying of Betty’s was "It is good to have your will crossed by that of your neighbor." I had plenty of natural "will crossing" in my life just in everyday events and relationships – I really didn’t need for them to set up scenarios where I would be under their thumb in order to learn about the cross.
We invited a woman we had known when we first lived in Springfield by the name of Thelma H. to come visit us and hear George. She had always been very concerned about Stephen. She was quite disturbed by the meetings and although she was not saved, (at least I don’t recall that she was) she said George was a dangerous man who "mesmerized" us with the Word and that he could even be Antichrist. Of course we didn’t listen. How could we not see and she could? That ended our relationship with her.
My good friend that I had met while living in St. Louis, Brenda H., moved to Tuscola in 1976, a couple of years after being saved, and brought her daughter Tami. She also began fellowshipping with us. I keep mentioning names, because there were so many lives that we influenced.
Gerald began to seriously question George’s authority as things got "tighter." Several things happened but their story is different than ours and I hope they are willing to share it from their perspective. Gerald became another threat to George and he was asked to step down as an elder and put out of the Work. We were not in the Work at this point and so only what George wanted the leading brothers to know was told. According to George, Gerald had been unfaithful to the ministry. He and Marilynn were to be disciplined, not to partake of the Lord’s supper for a period of time, made to sit in the back of the room and of course we were to shun them. George said they needed time to repent.
Gerald could not bring ministry or be involved in any outreaches etc. (This is when he began to have lots of time to spend with his oldest son, Kevin and the Lord used that time to bond them into real friends. This was also a period of time when George and Betty would play Marilynn against Gerald.) I really don’t know why they stayed, but they did.
It was all control with George. Once he found out anything about you, he used it against you. If you questioned him, his ministry or spoke about the ministry in a negative way, he turned it to make it seem you were the one with the problems, which is what happened with Gerald.
There was usually an element of truth in the situation, but George exploited it and you always left being "the bad guy." We have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory and we all have weaknesses because we are fallen humans. Instead of dealing with our problems in a loving, kind, forgiving way, George was harsh and used it to control you to toe the mark—his mark! This is how he trained the Leading Brothers and Workers. He was relentless and unchangeable. He had no one to be accountable to even though he always said he was accountable to the brothers in Fullerton. We knew he wasn’t.
Mark Miller was now to be his "strong" Worker. Actually, the Workers from California were sent to the outreaches to insure things were kept under George’s thumb. They were the "untainted ones"— the "loyal ones". We were beginning to question more and more but he was going to maintain control.
When we were first in the Work, it didn’t take long for George to put us in our place. He would openly exhort me about how I talked too much (he didn’t like the questions I asked and the conflict I stirred). I really wasn’t divisive; I was just trying to maintain sanity in my life. Once when we were visiting in California he told me I was going to destroy my "husband’s ministry."
The Worker’s meetings were similar to Leading Brother’s meetings and you were sworn to secrecy. George’s true character came out in those meetings but he always used those meetings to drive home a point and it was always because someone did something he didn’t like. I learned to be quiet and became very selective about who I talked to. I wasn’t supposed to discuss my problems or issues with anyone else. I was instructed to talk only to George or Betty. What does that tell you? I was specifically told not to discuss anything with Gerald and Marilynn M. because they were weak and it might cause them to stumble again.
I did meet with sisters and counsel with them, but I had to be very careful what I said as everything was discussed with Betty. That was their way of keeping in the loop of what was going on, and it also kept me accountable to them.
And so the outreaches continued--Springfield, St. Louis, Champaign, Oakland, Anchor and Galesburg. We were trapped—how could we ever get out of this pit that we had allowed ourselves to be put into? We had brought our friends and family into this with us and we didn’t know what to do.
Eventually Mark and Diane were sent to Springfield to labor there. Bob W. always questioned George and so he needed someone there in Springfield to represent "the Work." Bob was reading in the Word one day and sensed the Lord speaking to him about being the "master of his own house." That got Bob to thinking about his situation and led to their leaving. The end came for them in 1979 when Bob and Carolyn "left fellowship" but had to literally reclaim their own home.
The Assembly meetings were moved to a store front and continued. The Springfield story is another account that can only be told by those who lived it. Bob and Carolyn called us, but I was in the hospital having some surgery and we were not able to do anything. We did not see them again until 1988 when we left fellowship in Tuscola. Jan and Fred Boyer and Bob and Carolyn W. were the first people we wanted to tell. We didn’t know how we would be received, but we knew we owed them an apology for so many things. To our blessing—they were so very forgiving and very pleased to see us. God restored those relationships.Back to top
We moved into the House of Promise and lived there for 9 years. When we moved in there, my parents were upset. My father said it was unnatural for us to give up our home and live with other families—communal living is how he saw it. He told me George was a "Pope." We did mention this to George (not that he was a Pope, but about moving into the House of Promise) and he was quite adamant about the fact that I was no longer my "daddy’s little girl—I was Jim’s wife" and Jim needed to set my Dad straight.
See how he "turned things." The issue was not that I was doing what my father wanted, the issue was our questioning George’s right to dictate to us how to live our lives, where to live etc, but George turned it back on me and my relationship with my father. Certainly my father had more of a right to discuss this with me than George, but we didn’t see the twist at that time. Jim did go to my dad and tell him that I was no longer his little girl, but his wife, and I would do what Jim decided. We spent little time with my family because they would come to a meeting or special event on occasion for us, but we didn’t have much time to spend with them. George did not want anyone else to influence us or get us to thinking for ourselves because it would affect his control of us.
Of course, Assembly meetings could never be cancelled for any reason. It was "anathema!" They were the Lord's appointments! We learned that the hard way also. One winter in the late 70’s we had a really hard Midwestern winter. It was a blizzard, temperatures below zero with wind chill 75 degrees below zero. Interstates were closed, people were stranded and a few even died, pipes were frozen and cars stalled and schools were closed. Since we had saints traveling from Champaign, Oakland, Sullivan and other places, the brothers cancelled the meetings. George ALWAYS heard from "someone" everything that went on. He was "livid." Meetings were never to be cancelled for ANY reason regardless on how few were able to attend. Actually, we had a wonderful time in front of the fireplace, playing games, drinking hot chocolate and enjoying our "time off."
All of the brothers held full-time jobs and had families, but they were expected to be at every meeting, prepared to bring ministry 2-3 times a week (even if they didn’t have the opportunity to give it), counsel anyone in need, go to brothers meetings, prayer meetings, planning sessions, pre-prayer before all meetings and all the other functions in the Assembly. Even doorkeepers had to be early at meetings, sitting up chairs, cleaning up, etc. When you work all day, have people over to eat before meetings, go to meetings during the week, have Workers’ meetings or work days on Saturdays and all day Sunday for the Lord ------- you don’t have time to keep your house up or do things with your family. It was like having two full time jobs. No wonder everyone was exhausted all of the time.
That was really the beginning of the end for us. Once we got moved George made it plain that this was not our home—we were representing "the Work" and would train others according to the guidelines for brothers and sisters houses. We lived with Gerald and Marilynn, Kevin, Brad and Marilynn’s mother, Jesse A.. There were also single brothers at times that lived with us, Jim H., Bob B. (son), Ron McD. (from Omaha), to name a few. Jim was "head of the house" and Marilynn was made "head steward."
This was totally unacceptable to me because I had basically lost any say in how my home should be run. Gerald had no say as far as being "head of the house"—he owned the house and it was his home. How bizarre. I felt this was an intrusion upon our marriage as Marilynn was now passing out consequences etc. to my children and others who lived in the house, and conferring with Jim about how things should be in our "home." However, we all understood that we couldn’t REALLY trust Jim or Marilynn—everything was run by Betty and George. If Marilynn didn’t like a decision Jim made, she would call Betty and then Jim would be talked to etc. They had the final say about everything.
The origin of Betty’s "consequences" were born during this time! Betty always had a book we should be studying, but only the books she chose. Books like Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Spiritual Perfection by Fenelon, Handbook of Happiness by Solomon and others, which were excellent books, but always taught from her interpretation. Betty had come across a book called Reality Therapy by William Glasser. It was basically a behavior modification manual. Nothing spiritual or even Christian, but she took from it a method of dealing with issues that would help change one’s behavior, attitude and performance. It became "consequences" for our choices, actions etc.
Again, this was an issue that was twisted. Of course the Bible speaks of consequences for our behavior, but not in the way Betty used it. For one thing, it wasn’t usually facing the "natural consequence" of your choice. It was an imposed punishment. Dr. James Dobson also spoke of using consequences as a means of "training your children," but never in the way Betty devised. I believe in doing things with excellence—because I tend to be a perfectionist—which I got from my mother.
But this was beyond excellence. The standard was set by George and Betty and really had nothing to do with "Christianity." but everything to do with Betty and George’s personal preferences, tastes, values, and control, etc. Life in a brother or sisters training house became rigid, totally inflexible, legalistic and cold—just like life in the Assembly. It is the Spirit that gives life—legalism, the letter of the law, kills life.
We were like prisoners in the House of Promise. Someone had to be there 24 hours a day to answer the phone because the House of Promise was the center of the Work in the Midwest. We weren’t allowed to take more than 2 weeks vacation and they really preferred 1 week. A couple times Jim and I took 3 weeks and we certainly heard about that! At times Betty even told us which bedrooms we should sleep in, how to conduct our dinner table conversation, the requirement of all in the house having a morning devotion time together, how to set up stewardships, cleaning and what to do on a family night.
Not only that, if you were single, you had to go to the Leading Brothers and get permission on who you could spend time with (since dating was strictly forbidden). Who you could marry, what kind of job you should have or if there could be a job change—certainly never a relocation unless it would benefit the Work in some way. Whether you could go to school—married women were not encouraged to go to college unless it meant some kind of opening for an outreach. All of these choices were not ours to make—they were made by George and Betty and it was their way of controlling us. Why did we let him?
When Stephen was 9, he began having severe pain in his tailbone area. He again had cancer in his low back. He had a laminectomy and they were able to remove 90% of the tumor, but were unable to get part of it that had wrapped around some nerves. They were afraid it would cause him to have problems with his foot and with walking.
Gerald Mathias had a patient who had been to Mexico for treatment of his cancer and I contacted him. Jim was not able to leave his practice or the responsibilities in the Assembly because we didn’t really know how long I would have to be in Mexico, but I decided to take Stephen by myself and go to the Contreras Cancer Clinic in Tijuana. Stephen received intravenous laetrile treatments and special enzymes from Germany which were illegal at the time in the USA.
The experience was wonderful. Dr. Contreras was a Christian and the clinic was loaded with Christians from all over the world. Dr. Contreras had worship on Sunday where he played the guitar and we sang worship hymns. He spoke very simply but it was the sincerity and simplicity that was so refreshing. I shared the Lord with everyone. I had no agenda. I wasn’t trying to "reach out" to get someone to come to our Bible study and get involved in "the ministry." I was able to share just because I had a burden for salvation and healing for these people.
I was there for 2 weeks. Because the enzymes were not available in the USA, I put them in my boots in a plastic bag and smuggled them over the border. I left them at my sister-in-laws house until we were ready to return to Tuscola. God had given me a wonderful promise for my trip, because I was a little afraid of going by myself. The promise was Psalm 4:8 "In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For Thou alone, O Lord, dost make me to dwell in safety." He kept us abundantly safe. I returned a year later to the clinic for a checkup for Stephen. There was no sign of cancer in either his head or his spine. Space does not permit me to recount the wonderful letters we received from people we met there.Back to top
Back to the House of Promise. I wanted to have times and outing with just our family—Jim, me, Scott and Stephen. I saw we were losing our identity as a family unit and were being meshed into this training house family.
I loved Gerald and Marilynn's family, but I felt there must be a preserving of the primary family unit. Betty railed on me because I didn’t want to include their children in some of our activities. She said I was being selfish and I needed to include Brad. Kevin graduated from high school and moved to Champaign to live in the brothers’ house and go to college. (He later married Judy K. from Champaign outreach).
But Brad was a big issue. Not because I didn’t love Brad—but because I just wanted some family identification!!! I have always been an avid reader and after I was saved I began reading all kinds of Christian books, which I think was my way of "checking out" what other people really believed and taught because I was not content with Assembly life. I remember reading books by both Frances and Edith Schaeffer and there were similarities, but also some big differences.
I wanted a "real family life" where you made significant memories and spent real time with your children and passed on the continuity of "family." I had been raised that way and now I was living in a nightmare I couldn’t get away from.
A special blessing did happen while we lived at the HOP. I was sharing the "Wordless Bible" with Stephen and some other children outside on the steps and Stephen prayed and asked Jesus into his heart. Now both of my sons were saved.
I pause here to say that all of this time I questioned things and was always in trouble with George. I remember Jeri Green (Grant) and I talking about some things we had questions about and George brought that friendship to a halt very quickly!! She married Roger Grant and told me Roger didn’t want her to spend time with me any longer.
I also found that Mike and Cheryl Zach were deeply loyal to George. They could not be trusted with anything that you didn’t want reported to George. I learned that the hard way. I tried talking to Cheryl about my children and was feeling her out about some questions I had in the work. It was only a few days when I heard from Betty. Mike was outwardly personable, but he was also cunning.
Kurt and Andra G. were sent to be Worker’s in Champaign and we developed a very close relationship with them. We had to sneak around to get together a lot, but we really clicked. Once Kurt and Andra came to the Midwest they didn’t want to return to Fullerton. Even though it was Assembly life here—it was not as bad as Assembly life with George and Betty in town. I think they conformed more to us in the Assembly than we did to them and so George sent them back to Fullerton. I cried like I had lost my best friend when they left, because I had.
Their marriage and testimony were destroyed by George and the ministry. Yes, they like all of us had weakness, but he used it against Kurt, exposed him and belittled him. He didn’t forgive Kurt, try to help him or rebuke him gently—he was only harsh and arrogant. Andra would call me and be in tears over what all was going on. Eventually they left the Assembly, sought some counseling but ended up divorced. I am sure everyone believed everything George told them about Kurt and Andra, some of which was probably true, but a lot of it was exploited. We knew, but what could we do? How could we get out—that was a constant plea in our heart, but we didn’t know the answer.
Eventually Marilynn’s mother, Jesse, who was diabetic had to have her legs amputated. She required a lot of care. All of our bedrooms were on the second and third floors or the lower basement level. Jesse had to be carried up and down the stairs etc.
George and Betty wanted Marilynn to put her in a nursing home so Gerald and Marilynn could give themselves to the work!! Jesse went to be with the Lord in a nursing home and Marilynn has always deeply regretted that. Another example of how George and Betty had no concept of true family. They showed no genuine concerned for the disabled or elderly, only people who could promote their ministry.
Gerald and Marilynn moved to their clinic, which they had remodeled to facilitate a living area. Bob and Karen Tucker and their two children, Brian and Jenny moved into the House of Promise with us. Although the Tucker family was relatively compliant in all we requested of them, I felt bad for them having to live under the standards we promoted. I am sure they felt like everything had to be "our way," but what they did not realize at first was that it wasn’t "our way." It was George and Betty’s way or the highway! Bob and Karen wanted to serve the Lord, so they complied and to my knowledge are still in the Assembly in Charleston at the time of this writing. Their son Brian Tucker is webmaster for the Assembly bulletin board.Back to top
David and Judy also lived at the House of Promise off and on when they were in the Midwest. Judy came to me one day and told me about how David would beat her. She told me how he would hit her on the chest, stomach, back—places that would not be obvious. She also told me about how David was always very controlling of her time and finances—which we could see, but he was always spending money on his cars and whatever he wanted to do. Judy told me about his smoking, drinking and taking those long drives that I could never figure out where he went in the middle of IL and be gone for hours, but was always too tired to go to meetings. I then went to Jim and relayed to him what Judy had told me.
We were very concerned about her because even though Judy and I were not close (you couldn’t really have close friendships in the Assembly) I knew that if she actually came to me and told me about her relationship with David that she was in need of some help. Jim and I talked to her together and Jim told her that she must go to George or he would have to. Judy seemed uneasy about telling George, but decided it would be better coming from her. I think she was afraid of what David might do to her, and certainly she didn’t know what George might do.
George was there at the House of Promise shortly after that and she arranged to have some time with him in the afternoon. Unbeknownst to George, I was sitting on the steps that went to the second floor landing at the House of Promise so I could hear what she told George and see how he responded.
Judy told George that David was beating her, but it was obvious George didn’t want to hear it and he kept questioning her and asking her what she meant. She told him that David had been hitting her and how he was doing it etc. Ultimately his response to her was that "IF David did that, you must have deserved it!" That really took the wind out of her sails as it did mine. Nothing was ever done about David’s abuse to her.
I don’t believe anyone really saw David hitting her during that time, but I believed her. For one thing, Judy would not have come to me, nor would she have been willing to go to George had it not really been true. Judy never had any money and very little necessities unless Betty and George would take her out shopping—then it was usually expensive things that Judy didn’t even particularly like. She would have much rather had the money and use it to buy twice as many things. I cannot put a definite year on this, but it was sometime between 1977 and 1980 because it was before their son, David, was born. George has lied all of these years in denying that he knew anything about David’s abuse to Judy.
I do know that Brenda H. was witness to David sitting on Judy and hitting her just after she delivered her son, David, while living in St. Louis. Brenda had gone to St. Louis to help Judy with Rachel and she happened to see through a windowed door. Ken T. had also witnessed that and stepped into the room, but David told him to leave. It was very unsettling for Brenda. (Brenda followed up on this later with Betty at a Workers seminar. But that is part of their story to tell.) Nothing was done about David’s abuse to Judy even though Judy came to the dinner table (at David’s "request") with a black eye.
Twenty-five years ago domestic violence was not "open" like it is today. There were few shelters at that time and the laws were just beginning to change etc. It isn’t that the brothers here didn’t want to help Judy or that they wanted David to continue to abuse Judy (all of the brothers did not know). It was not something Judy told many people about at that time. But if Judy wasn’t willing to do anything and George and Betty knew and didn’t do anything—what could they do? I do believe the brothers in Fullerton had a responsibility to David. He was George and Betty’s son and he was sent to the Midwest as a Worker. He should have been accountable to them. No one can ever make right what happened to Judy. It was WRONG and it was pure lawless abuse.
The problem was that we trusted George and Betty to do something about it—just like Judy trusted Betty’s advice and counsel. We were taught that we "handle our problems within"—we don’t go to outside courts and counselors. We were so "spun in their web of deceit, twisted doctrine and fear" that no one could break through to George and Betty and it never entered anyone’s mind to call the police. I don’t think that is what Judy wanted, she just wanted David to quit beating her! George and Betty had created a power structure and surrounded themselves with young, trusting people who wanted to believe George was a true servant of God, and so we just prayed and waited, believing God would "somehow" take care of it.
David was never subject to the brothers in Tuscola. He was sent there by George as a Worker—answerable to George (at least we thought that was how it was suppose to be. He never appeared to be answerable to anyone) and really just to spy on the brothers! George didn’t really know what to do with David. He was always Betty’s project. I think he sent David to the Midwest because David liked it here—away from Fullerton and it got David out of George’s hair!! George knew David would be loyal to him and Betty and he also knew the brothers here would not "handle David." David was a way in which George maintained control of the Assembly. The Workers he sent to each Assembly were part of his loyal hierarchy and that was a big way in which they maintained control.
Actually, I wanted to be Judy’s friend. I admired so much about her. Not only was she tall and "model" material, but she was much more than just a beautiful young woman. She had strength, yet she was vulnerable, she had such a gift with children—they all loved her truly, she was obviously intelligent, a hard Worker and always made things "fun." She was artistic and loved working on the banners. She had a wonderful smile and I think she always wanted to just have a "real" family life with her own home, children and a husband who cherished her.
Before we moved into the House of Promise, I remember one time when I was quite sick with the flu. One morning she just appeared at my house and took care of me. She did my laundry, straightened my house and watched my children. She just enjoyed being in a home. But, I couldn’t be her friend because of the structure in the Assembly and the distrust. After all, she was David’s wife and George and Betty’s daughter-in-law. She could only be trusted so far. That’s just how it was.
You couldn’t really have close friends or special friends because it opened doors for conversations where you "really opened up" to a person. That might bring questions about the leadership or about the ministry.
Brenda H. was my sounding board. I knew she had her own questions about the ministry and she would not go "running to George and Betty." We kept each other sane. You can only "stuff" so long before something happens!
Living in the House of Promise was like having a hotel and restaurant for the Work. We had 6 bedrooms and 2 ˝ baths. It was a lovely large home and the saints in this area always came to help clean it on "work days," which I very much appreciated. It had 66 windows so that in itself was a major project. Other than Assembly work days which were usually 2 times a year, whoever lived in the house maintained it. There were a few weeks here and there between people living there that I actually hired someone to help me clean. We had Workers from all over the world stay here.
Tuscola Assembly at the House of Promise 1982
Not only did we hold worship at the HOP, but also Bible Study, prayer meetings (usually monthly prayer meetings were held at Art and Annie F.'s home), Workers’ meetings every other week and then we drove to Chicago every other week for the Workers’ meeting held there, brothers’ meetings, tape ministry, meetings with George and Betty, couples meetings, children’s meetings, showers, sister’s meetings etc. It was the central house for meetings and fellowships. We did have some special meetings in other homes on occasion, but usually everything was at the HOP.
I certainly did not mind cooking and cleaning for God’s people, but it got to be way too much for me. Actually, since I seemed to have a problem keeping my comments to myself, rather than talk, I learned to serve. But, I had no time for family life, I worked part-time off and on in my husband’s business, doing payroll, keeping books and also working at the office when needed—I was "allowed" to do that because I was working for my husband, not some other kind of outside job. At least as long as it didn’t interfere with my responsibilities to the work.
As Leading Brothers and Worker’s we were required to attend all functions. We were like a herd of sheep (Brenda H’s term) moving together everywhere. We were not able to allow some of us to participate in some things, and others participate in other things-- as far as meetings were concerned. There were lots of days when I started my day at 4:00 a.m. in order to have my quiet time, get my stewardships done, children taken care or off to school, then be involved in all of the other activities required of me. I knew I couldn’t continue this forever but if you imply that you need rest—you were ‘carnal’ and irresponsible, etc. To be sick was the only acceptable way to miss a meeting.
One time Betty, and I think it was Barb B.—her then traveling slave (oops – companion in training) came to stay for 6 weeks or whatever it was then. Of course Betty required special food which I was sure to see she had available (although I did not have to prepare it - her companion did that). I was so tired and mentally exhausted from the constant turmoil I was in, trying to put on the proper attitude and performance but inside so angry and trying to figure out how to get out of this that I just started crying. I needed to be in the bathroom at a certain time in order to get done everything I needed to do, and when I went downstairs—Betty was already in there. Jim had not gone to work yet that morning and crying was not something I did in front of anyone—even Jim, so he knew I was majorly upset. I was just shaking and crying and couldn’t really explain why, but he told Betty I needed to spend the day in bed. She really didn’t say much to me later but I knew it was not acceptable behavior.
Another time I was carrying laundry from the basement to the 3rd floor where our bedroom was located at that time, and I felt a sharp pain in my chest and down my left arm. I thought I was having a heart attack, but knew it was "only" stress! I lived liked that most of the years in the HOP. At one point, I remember taking a calendar for the year and showing Betty how ridiculous our schedule was.
The calendar was packed full of Assembly functions. No time for our family, certainly no time for relatives or personal interests etc. No time for school activities or community events. I asked her how the Holy Spirit could possibly "lead us" when all of our time was already scheduled on the calendar and no where to make decisions of our own.
I don’t remember what she said, but I do know that she didn’t have an answer that satisfied me. She made a statement to George later that all of our issues were "rubbish!"
Scott was a precious little boy. He was always so easy to be with and never gave me any problems. He was quite smart—above normal I.Q. and as early as fourth grade his teachers told me he had a "gift" for writing. He was never challenged at school and was definitely an underachiever. He loved sports because that was one thing he and Jim could do together—go to sporting events.
However, in the Assembly leading brothers and Workers did not allow their children to participate in sports or very few if any school activities because they would have to miss meetings, parents would be distracted etc. from the work. There was a double standard because other kids were allowed to be involved in sports and certain kinds of school activities and not much was ever said, but with us nothing was allowed.
Scott never gave me any problems until he turned 14. Then all of a sudden I had this precious little boy who turned into a rebellious teenager. We began being even more strict with Scott. I started using consequences with him. For instance, I had a list of "performance based things" I wanted him to do. He needed to sing in worship and take notes. If not he would get consequences for each thing he didn’t do. I had discussed this with Betty and these were her suggestions. George said that the way to spend time with your kids was to take them witnessing with you. That is well and good, but what about just time one on one with them developing a relationship and helping them find and develop their talents and goals in life? Children were definitely to be seen and not heard and if they were heard—squelched. Scott so wanted to be involved in school activities but that was NEVER to be.
One summer we were at a Worker’s Conference and when we came back we found out that he had volunteered to be the football team manager. Just a way to be part of the team since playing was definitely out of the question. George had a major fit and said he couldn’t be there because the language and atmosphere were ungodly. We made him drop it and it crushed him. He was on the Student Council but was voted out because he could never do the things he needed in light of participation. He was president of the speech/debate club and helped with all the activities of setting up a chaperoned school dance and we wouldn’t allow him to attend even without a date. It didn’t matter what he wanted to do, we didn’t have time and it wasn’t allowed.
[See Scott M.'s article on Being an Assembly Kid.]Back to top
Child training in the Assembly was not healthy. Everyone knows about mat training and how many hours your children have to stay quiet on mats and the hours at home used to train them to do that. Children were not to be held. They needed to learn to be quiet and sleep or play on the mat and not to distract the mother from taking notes and being involved in the meeting. Everything was about discipline, not about nurturing. I remember one of the saints in Springfield was not allowed to sit by her grandchild in worship because she wouldn’t know how to discipline him. Now that I have grandchildren I would never allow anyone to tell me that. Yes, everywhere any of the saints went, our children were noticed. But not for "misbehaving." It was for such wonderful behavior! The methods of discipline worked for small children, but they too learned to perform and to say the "right things." Most of them just wanted "out."
It was the understood mentality that other people could discipline your children. We were taught that if someone said something about your child or disciplined in some way and you felt "ruffled" about it, it was your flesh because to touch your child was to touch you. So instead of going to the parent and saying your child did this or is doing this or whatever, they would just discipline them on the spot. If a child is running and might get hurt or something along those lines, of course you should tell the child to stop and sit down or whatever, but as with everything else it was carried to extreme, and as such was just another area of control. Scott was about 12 or 13 and David Geftakys was talking to him about something. David didn’t like his response and slapped him. No one did or said anything although people saw him do it. I don’t actually remember seeing David slap him, but I do remember that it happened. That is the day Jim should have slugged David, however, as unfortunate as it was, nothing happened.
We did a terrible disservice to our children by putting on a front of "joy" and "unity." Our children never knew what was going on or how unhappy we were. Yes, we questioned and had doubts, but we continued until it was no longer bearable. Therefore, we consented. We didn’t understand it all ourselves. We kept thinking we had to try harder, put off that old man, bear the cross, whatever, but it was often just a front. It was a front with the saints and it was a front with our children.
I think there is a part of us our children don’t really know, because we lost the opportunity to teach them true spirituality, to talk about the Bible, to make decisions about things we could all pray over together and see how the Lord would meet us, apart from "the ministry" overshadowing everything. We lost the spontaneity of just deciding to go out to eat or to a school ball game. Everything was planned. We couldn’t be late, or something couldn’t be done later without consequences, and so we couldn’t give the time to our children they needed. Other people depended on us to cook for them, do stewardships etc., but our own children couldn’t depend on us to be there for them.
We didn’t "show" a lot of emotion as far as feeling "down" or discouraged, depressed, or that we were "struggling" with something. We couldn’t ever say we disagreed with something brought in ministry and then talk about it openly with our kids because you just couldn’t verbalize questions like that. So we didn’t teach our children that it IS OKAY to question and discuss issues and have different opinions. We don’t all have to be of the same opinion and use the same language. Even in a husband and wife relationship—you don’t always agree and it is OKAY!!! But in the Assembly you always had to have a "unified front." We couldn’t say, "This is what we think God wants for our family" because we couldn’t decide apart from the ministry what we really did want for our family. We were always taught to be "open," but we were far from open.
Scott went to summer school 2 summers in a row. He stayed with Charlie and Sheryl M. and then Steve and Margaret Irons. He also spent time with George. No one liked Scott out there. He was probably rebellious in their eyes, but now I know he was refusing to perform for them—and really, why should he? Godliness comes from the overflow of the heart, not performance. Scott had no reason to want to be in the Assembly or the Work. He already had made up his mind that he was leaving as soon as he graduated from high school. Now I understand that. According to Scott, the Mathers were good to him and did not overly pressure him.
Steve and Margaret Irons were another story. Scott was very sick with the flu for 3 days (which I don’t think they believed) and did not ask him how he was, did he need anything or bring him anything to eat. He had a weekend trip planned to San Diego where Jim’s older sister, Bev, lived. When he arrived there he was very weak and quite sick and Bev and her husband spent the weekend taking care of him. George saw Scott was intelligent and suggested he read a lot of books on philosophy etc. but really didn’t like Scott’s attitude. He wouldn’t suck up to George. George started to say some things to Scott about Jim but Scott stared at him with steely eyes (that said, "I wouldn’t go there!") and George did not finish what he was saying. We had not stood up for our children because it was that "flesh" thing again and not looking at your children realistically etc. However, Scott stood up to George with regard to Jim.
We attended 14 annual Worker’s Conferences in a row in Colorado during the 18 years we were in the Assembly. They were all horrendous. It was a prime time to whip Workers’ into shape. George had all of his little hierarchy around him and it made him stronger! Every Workers conference the brothers from Tuscola were raked over the coals. There was no pleasing George. The brothers were always considered carnal, worldly, unwise and operating not on godliness but on personality. George could just never get us quite where he wanted us, though God knows he tried. We dreaded going every year and always said we weren’t going back, but we did. Everyone felt the same way and someone was always on the hotspot.
Betty loved it because everyone was "required" to eat the food they cooked which was always health food. I have nothing against health food, in fact we have eaten a lot of it over the years, but it was the idea that you had to eat it whether you liked, could tolerate it or whatever. You were not suppose to skip the meals and go into town and eat. The Worker’s from California were probably used to it, but that was not what us Midwesterners normally ate. Some of it was okay, but a lot of it was pretty unseasoned and tasteless.
Husband and wives were split up and bunked in all women cabins or all men cabins. Couples staying together was not an option. We were always on "pins and needles" never knowing when it was going to be your turn to have an encounter with George and/or Betty or some other "senior" Worker. Everything was always so "secretive." George would tell others about you, but you were never allowed to discuss situations with each other or question George and Betty.
The summer Scott stayed with the Irons family, we went out to Colorado in August for the Worker’s Conference and that conference was even worse. Since Scott had stayed with Irons, George let Steve and Margaret talk to us about Scott’s shortcomings. They told us what bad parents we were. Steve said to Jim in a very derogatory voice, emphasizing each word and I quote, "And you call yourself an elder—you should be ashamed!!" And all because we bought him tennis shoes that bore a designer name; he wore a T-shirt with Illinois on it [we remember it as a T-shirt for the rock band, Journey--terrible, terrible, terrible! - Margaret I.], we fixed his favorite foods when he came home from summer school, we had taken a family vacation in Florida just prior to sending Scott out for summer school.
Ashamed? I don’t think so! In this ministry, other people’s convictions and values were frequently forced on you, which was what happened here. This had nothing to do with Christianity. Scott was not necessarily being rebellious, he just had a mind of his own and wasn’t taken in with the control of the group—at least he could see what was going on even if we couldn’t. Steve and Margaret were on the other end of that stick a few years later when their son was attacked by George.
I believe it was that same Workers’ conference that George handed out this intricately detailed chart of the ministry, the Assemblies and the work and how they were related to each other. The amazing thing was that it was becoming so apparent to us that George was way off. George and his ministry, "the Work" had become the central theme—not Jesus Christ and God’s Word.
We came home from the Worker’s Conference in 1984 and found a can of beer in the refrigerator. Scott had a party while we were gone, but everything was nicely in place, except for the overlooked can of beer I found in our vegetable drawer in the refrigerator. Talk about traumatic. George and Betty went berserk. Scott had somehow defiled the HOP and was going to have to move out. How was this going to look for Jim being an elder and Worker!!!
Scott had planned to go to EIU and room with Frank P.. So we found them a nice but reasonable apartment and paid Scott’s tuition for that semester and left him on his own. He had no money and had to find a job to pay his rent and living expenses. It was very difficult to do this because Scott had not worked much and for him to start college without any support from us was going to be difficult to say the least. Scott left school and wanted nothing to do with the Assembly and not really much with us. That was handled completely wrong. Need I say more?Back to top
Tucker’s moved to Charleston to be involved in the Work there. Jim and I saw this as our opportunity to begin distancing ourselves from George and Betty. We were determined to move out of the House of Promise and live by ourselves again. We had quite a time convincing George that we were moving out. However, Mathias’s were at odds with George over the house and they wanted to sell it so it worked to our advantage. George, of course, wanted the house kept in the work, or at the least he wanted the money. They started having the meetings at Gerald’s clinic and we looked for a place to live. We started packing right away because we weren’t staying there any longer than necessary and if something changed with the house we weren’t staying no matter what.
Paul and Debbie H. moved in with us that summer while we were looking for a house. We had a great time with Paul and Debbie. They were like-minded with us regarding the work and the ministry and so we lived easily together. We didn’t have all of those stringent rules in place and we enjoyed living with them. However, one day Paul and Debbie left—left town, left the Assembly, left the work. No one, including us, knew where they were.
Finally they called. We wanted to confront George about so many things and we thought if Paul and Debbie would come back to the Assembly we could do it together. We talked and talked to them as did Mike and Brenda H.,, and they finally did return. However, there was no confronting George together, and that was the last contact we had with Paul and Debbie until recently. According to Paul, he confronted George about some things going on in the Work and told him that they did not want to be involved in the Work anymore. George persuaded Paul to take a leave of absence and then removed him from leadership. George would not even talk to Paul until he wrote a letter of repentance for "unwise decisions" on their part. The letter that Paul submitted was rewritten to suit George’s approval.
We moved into our own house and we loved it! We were never going to get in that situation ever again. It was the first step in the beginning of gaining our freedom. There were so many problems brewing in the Assembly. A whole group of our teen age "children" had graduated from high school and was going to school at EIU. That was one of the reasons the Tucker’s moved to Charleston, to help with brother's and sister's houses. However, Gerald and Marilynn had been restored to the work a few years previous to this and they were working with the teen ministry. Marilynn did a great job with a mime group etc.
However, now that these teens were college age and George wanted outreaches at EIU, he wanted the ministry given to Mark S. and Pat S. The brothers were opposed to this because it meant that the parents would have no input with these young people, they would be directed by the Workers. Mark S. had been out to Fullerton and the west coast and was being trained for the Work. Already the brothers were being bombarded with decisions that Jim felt they had no business making. It was who could see who, who should live with whom, setting up their budgets, making sisters apartments, etc. Jim felt the parents should be working these things out with their sons and daughters.
We knew we had blown it with Scott and didn’t want to interfere with these parents’ relationships with their children. The problem was that most all of these young people had fathers that were Leading Brothers and Workers and George would not have the control he wanted unless these young people fell under direction form the Workers and not their parents. Not only that, most of these young people did not want to be in brothers' and sisters' apartments. This began our last year in the Assembly.
Jim Hayman came to Tuscola and had meetings in Tuscola, Charleston and wherever else. I talked to him about several issues, one being the fact that we as Workers were required to give George a color-coded schedule of our time—24/7. I had been doing it for years but always felt it was out of line. I wanted to quit doing it. I told him my own husband didn’t require a 24 hour schedule of my time, so why should George? We were also required to write letters and visit people every week and then write a "Worker’s report" that everyone handed into George. These things were not optional—it was required. He didn’t really have any answers for these things other than George was head of the Work and we were accountable to him. About the time Paul and Debbie H. left, Tim Geftakys told me I was divisive and trying to destroy the ministry.
Near the end of our time there we had a Worker’s meeting in Chicago and Betty was really setting the pace. George talked about sisters not wearing bathing suits, not wearing shorts, not wearing nail polish, not wearing high heels, sling back shoes, not wearing pierced earrings. More rules and the lists were really growing.
The bottom line was that the Brothers and Workers would discuss all of these problems but were powerless to do anything. Jim and I were constantly telling everyone (Leading Brothers) that it was not right to spend all this time in meetings praying and making decisions only to turn around and call George and Betty and get the final okay.
In truth, there was a ceiling on all ministry given, all plans made, all decisions made, even on personal devotions, because no matter what you thought God was telling you or how you thought he might be leading you or what promises God gave you—they stopped with George and Betty. If it did not line up with their theology, teaching, preferences and decisions, it wasn’t from God.
We were not in "unity," we were in "conformity." We did not have unconditional love; we had love conditioned on being in "this ministry." We did not have "joy," we had "performance." We did not have "freedom or liberty." We had legalism and inflexibility. We were not being led by the Holy Spirit or being taught by Him, we were being taught by a man.
The Assembly was supposed to be a community within a community. A place where all of our needs could be met apart from "the world." It didn’t work. "This Ministry" wasn’t big enough—George and Betty weren’t big enough. It was going to require God Himself.Back to top
In the winter of 1987 I got a really bad flu/pneumonia and was in bed for 3 weeks. I was so worn down I just couldn’t do this any more.
We had just had a tape seminar on "The Itinerant Ministry." We saw clearly what needed to be done and we were ready. We needed to disassociate ourselves from George and the Work as much as possible—not just "distance ourselves." Jim discussed this with the Brothers and they were in agreement. Jim agreed to draft a letter for all of the Brothers to sign. Jim addressed the issues and was very candid and specific on what they agreed. I have a copy of that letter and have reproduced the exact contents of the letter below.
TO THE ELDERS & LEADING BROTHERS IN THE ASSEMBLY AT FULLERTON:
Dear fellow laborers in the work of Christ.
We have just finished here in Tuscola the tape seminar on "The Itinerant Ministry" and were all greatly exercised by it. Once again the Lord spoke to us about the "heavenly vision" which involves the raising up of local Assemblies of God’s people knowing Christ as the head of His church and the Holy Spirit as the vicar working through the local leadership to express and give testimony to the mind of Christ.
In view of what we see as the clear direction of God with regard to each Assembly being locally autonomous, we are very much burdened in light of certain practices of this ministry and have been for sometime. We have been taught since the beginning of our involvement with this ministry that one of the uniqueness of the local Christian testimony is that it is not answerable to or controlled by a synod or central ruling organization or Federation of churches, but again, is an autonomous organism.
However, we fear that what is being practiced is contradictory. The contradiction that we see is that there is much control and pressure exerted on the leadership and its decisions through such methods as Workers’ meetings, Workers’ seminars, itinerant brethren, and even on occasion such actions as public comments and innuendos pointing out where we have deviated from spiritual direction and accepted standards of "the work."
We believe that such actions and pressures seriously stifle the leading of the Holy Spirit in the local testimony as we become more worried about pleasing men and following a set pattern than we are about following what we believe we have been shown by the Lord. Time and again in the Workers’ meeting as we discuss corporate or individual issues the questions arise, "What would Brother George think about this?" or "What do they do in Fullerton?" Knowing our Brother George and what he teaches, we know that he has never intended for us to approach spiritual decisions in this way, but somehow we have evolved to this frame of reference and we feel such a method of determining spiritual decisions seriously strangles what God might want to do in a local testimony.
As each individual testimony is unique in its expression and faces unique situations in its own locality, we believe that there must be much leeway in the functioning of that testimony and that this functioning must be determined locally with freedom for the Holy Spirit to direct through the elders and leading brothers of that Assembly. In order to ensure that this New Testament pattern is followed, we would make the following proposals:
We would like to be represented in the Workers’ meetings by one or more couples who have a burden to attend these bimonthly meetings. These Workers would keep the local leadership advised as to current situations and plans of "the work." The local leadership could then decide what contributions we could make with regard to these plans or what ideas we might implement locally to further the work in Tuscola and surrounding communities. This arrangement would also enable us to transmit local prayer burdens to the Workers’ meetings and we could in turn be informed as to the prayer burdens of "the work" and the other local Assemblies for our ANOP.
We believe that decisions, such as when Brother George and other itinerant brethren visit Tuscola, should be arrived at through prayer and that such visits should be by invitation. We value highly the visionary ministry which our brethren bring and we would hope that they would continue to be available to make such a contribution as their schedules and ours would allow and as the Lord would lead. We also desire to make whatever contribution we can make with regard to co-hosting the Midwest Seminar in the Spring.
In Psalm 48:8 we read, "As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God: God will establish it for ever. Selah." The desire of our hearts is that the glorious vision that has been transmitted to us over the years, that of Christ being the head over the local Assembly, with the Holy Spirit directing through the local leadership, would be brought to a greater reality in this place.
We pray that you will receive this letter in the spirit in which it is intended. We do not seek to be divisive or rebellious, but we do believe that the Lord desires a greater degree of local autonomy in this ministry, and we believe that such autonomy can only give a greater diversity and richer expression of the fullness of Christ. The apostle Paul said, "Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand." (II Cor. 1:24). We also pray that you would say, as the apostle Paul, "And now brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified." (Acts 20:32) We desire to continue with you in the heavenly calling.
In His name,
In the end, none of the leading brothers would sign or send this letter. The leading brothers at that time were Mike H., Denny F. and Cecil Smith, and of course, my husband, Jim M..
This left us with a decision to either continue without anything changing or leaving the Work ourselves. Jim and I determined that if Christianity (as we knew it) was supposed to be a "piece of heaven on earth" then we didn’t want any part of heaven. If we were going to "lose our inheritance and entrance into the kingdom" because we forfeited the best, then so be it, but we could not go on. We knew we could NEVER please George and Betty. Therefore we would never be good enough or be able to do enough to satisfy God, so why live that way any longer? If we went to hell, it surely couldn’t be worse than how we were living. (It would be worse, but that’s how we felt at the time!)
However, we don’t just get "plucked out" of our problems. We had to take action. Leaving the Assembly was the hardest, most stressful and frightening thing we have ever gone through in our entire lives. But we HAD to leave. We were "dying" and becoming like robots without a will or a life—and really not even an honest relationship with Jesus because no matter what we thought the Holy Spirit was saying to us or the brothers, George had the final say.
We had unintentionally brought great sorrow to many of our friends and family and we really didn’t want to leave the Assembly. We loved the friends we had there and we believed at the time that worship was great! We just wanted to separate ourselves from George and Betty’s influence and decision making. We had lost all the joy we ever had and had no further desire to bring anyone else into this ministry. We decided that day to leave the work. We had to quit "hoping" things would work out. It was time to take action. I have a copy of the letter Jim wrote which I have reproduced below in its entirety.
Dear Brother George,
It has been some time now since we finished here in Tuscola the tape seminar on "The Itinerant Ministry" and though blessed by this seminar, I find that I have been burdened and exercised by the vision that was transmitted during this time. Once again the Lord so spoke to me about "the heavenly vision" which involves the raising up of local Assemblies of God’s people knowing Christ as the head of each Assembly, with the Holy Spirit as the vicar working through the local leadership to express and give testimony to the mind of Christ.
From the beginning of our involvement with this ministry, we have been taught that the local Assembly is to be autonomous, not answerable to any synod, central ruling organization, or federation of churches and I agree completely with this teaching. It appears to me that in the scriptures there is only one "organized" body that God recognizes – the local Assembly which is "organized" by the Holy Spirit.
In view of this vision, the first area of my concern I with regard to "Workers’ meetings". First off, how are these meetings any different from a "confederation" of churches: Secondly, I fail to find in the scriptures a basis for such meetings and I question their purpose and the direction which I fear they are taking.
It appears to me that in this ministry there is much control and pressure exerted on the local leadership and its’ decisions through such vehicles as "Workers’ meetings," "Workers’ seminars," and "itinerant Brethren" representing "the Work." We have found over the years that when there is a deviation from the "accepted’ standard we are quick to hear about it, both publicly and privately.
As an example, I would mention all the public and private pressure we have felt as we determined for Tuscola that a Saturday morning tape ministry was not as profitable as having tape seminars three times a year, with inferences even being made at the Worker’s seminar that Tuscola does not have tape ministry! Comments were also made in light of our decision that we (the leadership) had no right to deprive the saints of tape ministry because we were weak and tired etc.
I believe that such actions and pressures seriously stifle the leading of the Holy Spirit in the local testimony and seriously undermine the decisions for the local leadership, causing us to become more worried about pleasing men and following a set pattern than we are about following what we believe we have been shown by the Lord.
Time and again in "Workers’ meetings" as we have discussed corporate or individual issues, the questions arise, "What would Brother George think about this?" or "What do they do in Fullerton?" I know there is a place for godly counsel from mature servants of the Lord, but I fear when such counsel is considered as official directive. I believe that such a frame of reference seriously strangles the ability of the local leadership to make spiritual decisions before the Lord.
My second area of concern in light of an Assembly being locally autonomous is that there appears to be a movement towards bypassing the Leading Brothers in Tuscola with regard to decisions and direction for Assembly outreaches, particularly with regard to Charleston and Eastern Illinois University. It would seem to me that decisions and direction concerning brothers’ and sisters’ houses or the campus ministry in Charleston should come from Tuscola and not from Workers in Champaign and Fullerton. I think this is a very serious matter of concern with regard to a differentiation between local autonomy or confederation.
My final area of concern is also with regard to "Workers’ meetings" but involves the matter of personal choices for my home and family as a "Worker." I have heard you say over the years, "Because you are in the Work, I can demand things of you that I can’t demand of the people in the Assembly." I want you to know that I don’t agree with that statement. I read in God’s word, "that the head of every man is Christ" (I Cor. 11:3). It does not say that the head of every man is "the Work," or "this ministry" or Brother George. The apostle Paul said, "Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand." (II Cor. 1:24)
I read nowhere in the Word of God that any man has authority over another man’s life, particularly in the area of setting standards for his home and family. Ro 14:4 says, "Who are thou that judgest another man’s servant? To his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: For God is able to make him stand." I believe that such matters as what I allow or don’t allow in my home is a matter of personal choice and conscience before the Lord and having to make rules on things like TV's and VCR’s perhaps reveals a terrible weakness in "this ministry."
From my own personal standpoint, I must experience the joy and liberty of making choices before the Lord both as an individual and as an elder in this local testimony, being firmly convicted and convinced by the Spirit of God for these decisions, answerable to Him and not determined by another man’s standard or what is "acceptable" in a ministry or as "a Worker."
I want you to know that Brinda and I have no burden to continue in the Workers’ meetings. We feel that my first obligation is to function as an elder in a locally autonomous Assembly, seeking the mind of the Lord for local decisions, free from the fear and pressures of not measuring up to the accepted standards of "this ministry" and "the Work."
We have heard you say over the years, "If you don’t have a burden to be in the Work, then do us all a favor and leave. We won’t think the less of you." We hope that you mean this as we continue to value your prayer and support. We hope you will say, as the apostle Paul,"…I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified." (Acts 20:32) Desiring to continue with you in the heavenly calling.
In His Name,
Brother Jim M.
When Jim sent our letter to George we did not hear a word from him for 3 weeks. Total silence, no phone call –nada! If you have ever gone for 3 weeks without hearing from him, it only meant one thing. He was in Europe. Other than that there was a problem. Then Jim got a letter—form letter basically. I have typed it below in its entirety.:
Dear brother in Christ, Jim:
"Brethren, the time is short" (I Co. 7:29).
I have received your resignation and accept it. Please know that I am praying for you and am available if you wish to reach me or talk about whatever is upon your heart.
I trust the enclosed statement will be of help to you. Remember the only way to pursue the heavenly calling is the way of self-denial, selfless service and sacrificial love (Luke 9:23-24).
Give my love and greetings to your family and to all the brethren.
There is joy in serving Jesus.
In the bonds of His eternal love,
II Cor. 13:11
Enclosed was a 4 page document titled "A Statement For Workers’ Prayer Meetings." I am sure he spent those 3 weeks writing his defense. It was basically his defense of why there were Worker’s meetings and why he and the Worker’s had the "rights" they had from his perspective. I still have a copy if anyone is interested in reading it, but feel it is not relevant to use the space here since it is just more twisted scriptures.
Then he started "marshalling his forces" together in all of the Assemblies. Jim got very sick with his kidney and was hospitalized. At first they thought it was cancer, but moved him to Springfield and found out it was an abscess on his kidney that had burst and left infection all over his kidney. It was an unusual problem and they really didn’t know what caused it, but said it could be attributed to stress. He was in the hospital for 2 weeks with painkillers and an antibiotic. They told him he needed bed rest and NO stress. He was off work for 3 months.
We knew George was getting ready to crucify him when he came for the Spring Journey (like the gang banging Tom Maddux speaks of), so Jim went to Florida and stayed with Bob and Judy B. for a month. He was not physically able to go through what George would have done and said. Not only that, there was no reason for him to because we already knew how George would try to malign his character (although there wasn’t anything to malign!!!) and twist it to look like Jim was somehow at fault, rebellious, divisive and weak. He foiled George’s plan! Jim did not allow George to control the situation.
During the time Jim was sick and in the hospital, neither George nor Betty called, sent a card or in anyway tried to communicate with Jim or me. When I saw them in Tuscola at an Assembly meeting in May for the Spring journey, they were so pretentious. They said they never received a call from me about Jim and they just didn’t know until someone mentioned it to them. I told Betty I knew they had been told and that "a shepherd doesn’t wait for a call."
I asked George to come to our house because I wanted to talk to him. He came and brought Christy B., a Worker from Champaign sent from Fullerton. Anyway I asked George why everyone was not speaking to us etc. and he said he didn’t know – that he didn’t have any control over that. I told him that the saints and the Workers took their cue from him and I wanted to know what we did to make them act that way to us. Especially since he had always said if someone left the work he wouldn’t think the less of them.
Right!! He was very intense and said he wasn’t going to discuss it with me. That he would only discuss it with the brothers and they needed to know that if they thought it was going to be "business as usual" they were wrong! He left and I never saw him again—yaaay!!! Anyway they had their Workers meeting in Champaign rather than Tuscola and all of the Workers from the Midwest came. Gerald and Mike went, and told us about how George distorted everything and justified his rights!
During the 3 months that Jim was not able to work, Bob M. stepped in and took care of Jim’s practice without any compensation. Had Bob not done that, I don’t know what would have happened to us, as we had no savings. For that we are forever grateful to Bob and the sacrifices he made for us those 3 months.
Financial planning had not been on George’s teaching agenda. We gave to the work and tried to be generous with local needs. We were always led to believe that the Lord was coming and we needed to store up heavenly treasure. Over the years George would not accept personal checks from the Assembly, all of the money had to be in cash and Jim would go get a money order and send it to George. There was no accounting even from the local Assembly of how much money was sent to George each week, but it was considerable. To my knowledge, none of the money was used locally for assistance to any of the saints who might have had a need.
Jim returned home and had a Brother’s meeting at our house where there was contention regarding Gerald, Mark S. and Pat Schout. Jim said if they removed Gerald from the ministry at EIU he was stepping down as an elder. His blood pressure went up and he got light headed and ended the meeting. Jim said he could not do this any more. Even though we had left the work and Jim was still "technically" an elder (he was never asked to step down), Jim realized that nothing had changed. The brothers had just been through another "pounding" by George and Jim could not agree with them. He knew he was fighting a losing battle. The stress was ruining his health.
We wrote a letter to the Assembly that night and sent it to Cecil. I kept a copy of the letter and it is reproduced below in its entirety:
Beloved Family of God in Tuscola,
After much prayer and searching of God’s word for His will in our lives, we believe the Lord is leading us in a new direction in our service and walk with Him. Because of this, we feel at this time the Lord would have us leave the Assembly. We continue to love you all and cherish your prayers on our behalf. We want to thank each of you for co-laboring with us in love over the years, and we are grateful to God for the enrichment and encouragement you have brought to our lives. Because the ground of our fellowship is based upon our new birth in Christ (I Cor. 1:9) and not in any particular ministry, we want you to know our home remains open and available for you. We trust the Lord for getting his best in your lives and ours and believe His promise that "..He who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Christ Jesus." (Phil 1:6) "And now, brethren, (we) commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified." Acts 20:32
Our love in Christ,
Jim and Brinda M.
June 6, 1988
That was the end, and what a blessed end!!! Really, so much at the end is a big blur because it was so terrible and stressful.
We hurt our families, our community, friends and relatives and certainly disguised to others what it meant to be a Christian for which we were truly sorry. I grieve over what I did to my children more than anything—and so I must trust God to change what I cannot.Back to top
A week after we left, Gerald and Marilynn M. also left fellowship, then Denny and Sandy Fredericks. left about 4 weeks later, as did Richard and Joan M.. Then Bob and Linda Middleton., and not long after, Brenda Houk. Mike Houk believed he could make a difference, and so he and Brenda stayed for 2 more years, but after a lot of conflict with George, they too left, with everyone else from Oakland and began breaking bread on their own in Oakland. Cecil Smith stayed with his wife Nancy until January 2003 when they too disassociated themselves from George and now fellowship in a local church in Tuscola.
After we left, the Assembly in Tuscola gradually faded out of the picture, for reasons I do not know since we were not there and the saints did not ever contact us once we left. For some reason, it was moved to Charleston a few years ago.
At the time that we left fellowship, Mark S. asked us to have lunch with him. He asked us why we had left the Work and the Assembly. We did not feel we could get into the details with him because of Cecil. There was already way too much interference and splitting of families over this ministry. We felt Cecil could tell him whatever he wanted him to know. We told him when he was older he would understand. That day came and he called us a few weeks ago to apologize to us, and has since emailed us to say that he and his wife, Linda and the family had left the Assembly in Charleston. Now he understands.
I found when we left the Assembly that I was unable to talk to people about normal everyday things. I had so programmed myself to connect everything with the Work and the ministry that I didn’t know what to talk about. I didn’t want to talk about our life in the Assembly, but it had been the biggest part of my life. I was 24 when I got saved and I was 42 when I left. Jim was 29 and left at 47. I still feel isolated and at a distance from people. I don’t want to get involved and I am content to be with my family. I am happy to share the gospel when I feel it is the right time, but I don’t go door-to-door or stand on park benches to talk about a ministry. So many years were "lost" and yet I believe God will restore!
Jim found two books right after we left that really helped to clear our thinking and give us understanding of God’s true grace. They were Grace Plus Nothing, by Jeff Harkin; and Transforming Grace, by Jerry Bridges.
In 1989 I found a book called Another Gospel, by Ruth A. Tucker. Though it did not have anything specific about the Geftakys ministry, it was very helpful in seeing that much of George’s ministry was "cultish." Then in 1992, I found Churches That Abuse by Ronald M. Enroth, which has a chapter on George’s ministry beginning on page 209. That was over 10 years ago. Last summer I found Twisted Scriptures by Mary Alice Chrnalogar. All of these books gave us greater understanding of what the ministry was.
My story began in Springfield. When Jim and I moved back to Tuscola the Lord gave me a promise that I would return to Springfield. Jeremiah 29:9-15,
"For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them, declares the Lord. For thus says the Lord, When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you, And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for me with all your heart, and I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile."
At the time the Lord gave me that promise, I did not yet understand that George was the false prophet.
We had opportunity to return to Springfield before, but nothing seemed like the right time until 2 years ago. Jim had sold his practice and retired from chiropractic and we had moved to Sarasota, Florida where Jim had family and where we used to always vacation with our sons.
In November of 2000, Bob and Carolyn W. invited us to vacation with them Orlando. We knew he had been fighting cancer for about 5 years. Bob wanted Jim to return to Springfield and go into practice with him. Bob could see that he would need help with his patients and also wanted us to be there for Carolyn when the time came for him to be with the Lord. Bob’s son, Tim, was in practice with him, but had a practice of his own.
We prayed about it and believed that was what God wanted for us. We did struggle with that decision, however, because it meant leaving our son, Scott, and our only two precious grandchildren Austin and Hannah. But we knew it didn’t have to be forever and so we agreed to return to Springfield.
We have been here two years and Bob is at his home under hospice care. He only has a few weeks before he goes to be with the Lord. To my astonishment, Brent’s website was being used by God to expose George’s ministry. I had been aware of the Rick Ross site, but the GeftakysAssembly.com web site was new to me. As great as that website was, what really became the catalyst to expose George and Betty was Judy and Rachel’s willingness to reveal hidden sin. We could never really make people understand about the ministry by just talking about theology, mind control, authoritarianism, elitism or any of those other "isms", but open sin, now that is another story.
Brent had already started clearly stating the truth; the errors and flaws in the ministry and exposing the true nature of George and Betty, but because of the "mindset" of the ministry, and the dullness of understanding, most people still in "the ministry" didn’t want to believe it. Blatant sin is more difficult to deny. Everyone understands about lying, domestic violence and immorality. God greatly enabled Brent to add the fuel to the ungodliness of the ministry, and gave courage to Judy and Rachel to "strike the match."
So, yes, George was a false prophet, but now after thirty three years, the circle is complete. The Lord has brought us back to Springfield and after all of these years, the ministry is being exposed. God had goodness in mind for us, to give us a future and a hope. I don’t know what all that means, but I do know that God is good. I trust Him to make all of this work for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Not our purpose, not George’s, but His. I trust Him with my children, my grandchildren and all those of us who were abused in this ministry.
This is a bittersweet story. You’ve heard a lot about the bitter even though there is much more that could be told. The sweet is this. For whatever reason, God used George to bring me salvation and save my marriage. He taught me how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, how to walk with the Lord every day, the importance of reading my Bible and praying.
The best part of all is that God saved my sons, Scott and Stephen, and lots of friends and relatives. We now have friends that we genuinely love because we have been bonded through our experience in the Geftakys ministry. Friends like Denny and Sandy F., Mike and Brenda H., Larry and Diane A., Bob and Carolyn W., Jan Boyer, Gerald and Marilynn M., Dave and Tonda P., Bob and Linda M., Bob and Judy B., Barbara K., Brenda H.. Please forgive me if I overlooked anyone, but you all know who you are.
I learned so much from the saints we labored with. We had some wonderful times of fellowship, potlucks, projects, music groups, plays, mimes, ball games, baptisms, couples meetings that were actually fun, wiener roast/hayrides (which I still miss). Jim and I would never have chosen this path had we known the suffering that would be involved, but now—now we wouldn’t trade our sons’ salvation for anything we’ve gone through.
Jim believes that one of the greatest reasons we fell into such deception is because all of the brothers were new or inexperienced Christians. I Timothy 3:6 says of an overseer, "Not a new convert, lest he become conceited (pride) and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil." All of the leading brothers were young and inexperienced in spiritual things. George knew what he was doing—he was going to form and train them to be used by him.
Anyone who had any spiritual insight or came to that place of seeing truth became a threat to George and was excommunicated. Fred Boyer was not a novice and tried to stand for truth, but was quickly gotten rid of. Even though someone like Steve Irons who had strong Christian upbringing and training in the Word was not mature enough to handle someone like George. When the saints grew in grace and knowledge of the Word themselves, George would not let them become "mature." He wanted everyone to remain children. He could control children, but he couldn’t control brothers or sisters that grew up! Thank heavens we have a "heavenly Father" who wants us to have child-like faith, but he wants us to grow up in Christ.Back to top
I very much admire Judy Geftaky’s courage in leaving David, the Geftakys family and "the ministry." I can’t imagine going through all that she did for as many years as she did. Unfortunately, our minds and emotions are so filled with twisted and heretical teachings, disloyalty, untrue "friendships," distorted love and forgiveness based on performance, all of which has become part of who we are. Not only what was done to us, but also what we have done to others over these years. Abuse sounds too simplistic a word to use for all that so many people have gone through.
Tuscola had a situation with a family where there was sexual abuse from a stepfather. The brothers counseled with him and did all the things George suggested, however, the problem continued. It was decided that the man needed professional counseling and George agreed to let someone "from the outside" counsel this person. The counselor chosen was a Christian Counselor, but that did not seem to solve the problem either. Finally, the brothers spoke to him very strongly and told him that if it ever happened again, he would go to jail. Jim told the couple that they had to go to the court house and report the abuse. Jim followed up and confirmed that they had reported it.
As Christians, we have a biblical charge to obey the laws of the land as long as they do not violate God’s laws, or our conscience. Because of the increasing evils of our society and culture, we must obey the scripture when it instructs us to do what is honorable in the sight of God and men. We did not do what the law allows us to do, nor did we do what was honorable in the sight of God and men, we violated our conscience—no one reported these abuses. Jesus, Himself, as well as Paul and others were subject to the governing authorities of their day. The only time Peter and the apostles said they "must obey God rather than man" was when they were being told not to teach "in His name." (See Acts 5)
Reporting George to the authorities was actually done years ago by past members as well as by relatives of Assembly members. From what I understand, Dennis P. was instrumental in the account of the Assembly in Ron Enroth’s book, Churches That Abuse. I remember when we were told that Dennis and Linda had left fellowship. We were told that he had returned to his former lifestyle and a few incidents were reported. We now know that that Dennis was probably one of the first to challenge the ministry for what it really was.
Further, Denny and Sandy F's fathers both had George Geftakys, Gerald M. and Jim M. investigated by the FBI early in the Tuscola ministry. Unfortunately at that time, there were no laws that appeared to have been violated. But David’s abuse and the sexual abuse should have been reported to the police. (Note of interest--Denny and Sandy F. were never asked by George to be part of the Workers’ meetings, even though Denny was a Leading Brother. Sandy told Betty about the problem with their parents. According to Sandy, Betty told her that the Lord instructed us to respect our parents, but not necessarily see them.)
Holiness and a relationship with Christ are not outward—it is inward and PERSONAL. It shows outwardly, but not because of our attendance at meetings or living in a brother’s house or covering another’s abusive life style. It is much more a mystery than that. It is an issue of the heart, individual hearts that simply trust in Jesus.
Judy and Rachel Geftakys have been instrumental in penetrating the grotesqueness, secrecy and deep hypocrisy of the ministry. However, the exposure cannot stop now or it will only be reconstructed and no genuine repentance will come forth. It is important for us – the victims, to have healing. The sins of the ministry must continue to be exposed. It isn’t enough to just say they have repented and not disclose anything further, because that is THEIR WAY OF CONTROLLING the situation and us all over again.
They want things to "cool off" and then they can start again because they just don’t get it! The ministry should not be "re-patterned" but destroyed. All of those people need to be exposed so that the heinousness, the depth of their wickedness (which it is), their satanic oppression of God’s children, their own self-centered pride and greed, their self-protection of their little hierarchy, their ecclesiocracy (which is a perverted form of spiritual theocracy) all need to be openly seen.
If it is not, then true deep repentance that comes from really seeing the sin, the humility that is needed and the coming to an end of what they are will not happen. If they have truly repented, they should be immobilized with sorrow, humility and contrition and NOT wanting to teach another word!!! Are they repentant like that? Not from what I’ve heard.
The people that have been hurt need to see the sins of these leaders, hear it and be able to know that the things said about them, the maligning of character, the understanding of what happened to them in order for there to be a healing. (However, this does not mean that we ourselves remain "sinless." Each of us has our own areas of weakness and responsibility to repent in the areas where we too have failed.) There should be no "Assemblies" and no ministry even remotely affiliated with any of these people except where these leaders take a low place in a mainstream church where they can unlearn the twisted theology they have been teaching.
When we left the Assembly I had read several books on church history and one of them was Miller’s Church History. I kept a copy of the last page of that book and reminded myself of it often. It has become my "philosophy," so to speak.
Such alas! Is the condition of what man and the world call the church at the close of our history "The falling away" ha commenced; "the strong delusion" may have set in; the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. The Christian, in these last and closing days, is only safe in keeping the Lord Himself constantly before him, and daily looking for His return. He must not trust or follow entirely any community of Christians: there are none of on heart and one mind in the Lord.
But this need not prevent him from breaking bread with those who are gathered to His name. We only mean that his Christianity must be intensely personal, intensely individual. He must maintain a holy walk with the Lord, and uninterrupted communion with Himself, in separation from the swelling tide of evil, which is rising on every side. When the darkness thickens, and troubles arise, the soul’s only refuge is in the secret of His presence.
Nations may be quarrelling, the cry of war may be coming from all quarters, calamities of the most overwhelming character may be happening daily in our midst, the professing church may be passing through several stages of departure, as "the way of Cain…the error of Balaam…the gainsaying of Core;" but the soul’s hiding-place from the strife of nations and the divisions of Christendom is the unchanging and unchangeable love of the ever-blessed and all-adorable Lord.
We must leave the reader to apply the principles of Philadelphia and Laodicea to the professing church of the present day, according to his spiritual judgment. The Philadelphian period has not passed away, but we must be on our guard against the spirit of Laodiceanism, which is spreading rapidly among all classes of professing Christians.
May the good Lord keep both reader and writer near Himself until we see His face, hear His voice, and be forever in the full enjoyment of His love and His glory. Amen"
Eight weeks after leaving the Assembly in Tuscola, we began attending a Southern Baptist Church in Tuscola. It became a place of healing for us. When we moved to Florida fellowshipped at the Calvary Chapel for a year, then later became members of the Sarasota Baptist Church in Sarasota, Florida. We go to learn, to listen to their teaching and see how they do things and we don’t offer much at all. We had been wrong and now we are relearning--still, after being out for almost 15 years. It is sort of like being raised in an abusive dysfunctional home and when you grow up you have counseling for the rest of your life. We now attend Cherry Hills Baptist Church and really love it!