Rachel is the eldest daughter of David and Judy Geftakys. She was born and raised in the Assembly, and is an eye-witness to Judy's journals that make up much of this account, as well as being physically present in many of the events. As you read this, please appreciate the courage it took to write this personal account in November, 2002. Brent T. wrote the original introduction when it was first posted.
Rachel's account paints a stark picture of the dysfuntion of the Assembly system. It was a sort of biosphere, a self-contained system - the values, perspectives, considerations, motivations, and actions were organically unrelated to the real world in many ways. It was like Seahaven in the movie, The Truman Show, with George Geftakys running the show from behind the scenes to keep people trapped. Rachel includes a segment with her story called The 3HO Dysfunctional Family - How I Figured It Out, which shows how the personal account of a former member of the "Happy, Healthy and Holy Organization" opened her eyes to why things were as they were in the Assembly. In contrast to the callousness of the abusive group, the upper-most concern in a real-world view of domestic violence is the safety of the woman and children.
Before reading this account, please read some brief excerpts from The Domestic Violence Sourcebook. They put Rachel's and Judy's situation in perspective and show why Judy did not more clearly disclose the violence. More information on domestic violence can be found in the Abuse in Christian Families section of this site.
1971-1983 Judy and David
1984-1993 Judy and David
1994-1997 Rachel and David
1997-2000 Judy and David
Betty Teaches on Families, and We Finally Leave
Conclusion, Epilogue and List of Witnesses
I have thought long, hard and often about growing up in and living in the Assembly. I have talked to many people who have left that group and the same question always comes up, "Why? Why would people who claim to love God and be his servants and to love the people of God, do what the leadership has done? How can a person who claims the above allow what they have allowed? Why the lies, the secrecy, the abuse? Why did people I thought were close friends, people who had become like my family, abandon me? Why will no one speak to me if the reasons I left were not because of my sin?" For a long time, this was a real quandary for me. Then, gradually, I had a paradigm shift in my thinking, which made the motivations and reasons crystal clear.
The best way to describe my paradigm shift can be seen in a book given to me, oddly enough, by Betty Geftakys, my grandmother. In Seven Habits of Highly Effective People the reader is asked to describe what he or she sees in a sketch. Most people describe a gnarled old woman with a shawl on her head and a jutting chin. Then the author describes how to look at it differently and you can see how it is really a young, beautiful, elegant woman. After you see the beautiful woman, you are able to see both by concentrating on what you want to see. That in a small way is a paradigm shift. You are looking at the same thing but are able to see it a different way because your perspective on it is different. The path to my "shift" began with finding patterns.
I guess before I get into that I should give you the brief version of my story. This is by no means exhaustive. Some details I will leave out for the sake of brevity and some I will leave out for the sake of the dignity of the victims of the story. Everything I say is true, and can be verified. However, I have changed none of the names because I believe responsibility needs to be placed on the actual people involved. The following is from a letter I wrote soon after we left the ministry I was raised in, the Assembly.
Before I start, I want to make something clear. Much of this account is a record of events that physically involved only David and Judy Geftakys. The physical events and abuse recorded here are only the tip of the iceberg. I have read about many cases of abuse where both parties, in fits of rage, beat each other. This was not the case with David and Judy Geftakys. The reason David could repeatedly act this way, and the reason it continued until Judy left, was because of how women were viewed in the Assembly. This view was espoused mainly by my father David and my grandmother Betty, but also by the leadership of the various "Assemblies" in their ministry.
I have heard it said that in order to do these sorts of things to another person you must take away that person's humanity. When you view another person as less human than yourself, you are able to bypass the mental block that prevents you from harming that person. This was the case with David and Judy Geftakys.
Although this narrative does not always record Betty's involvement, Betty always was involved. Judy's journal records in detail each time her life became unbearable, either from physical abuse or the behavior and attitudes that allowed the abuse. Those journals record the advice, counsel and directions for behavior that Betty gave. I have thought about copying Judy's journals, but since I did not do so for this account, I will be unable to quote exactly what Betty would do or say each time, although what I say here is a totally accurate paraphrase. Should I ever be called on to give exact quotes, I will have to physically copy Judy's journals.
Judy has told me that usually Betty would talk to her about how Judy's "sharp tongue" was the cause the violence. Betty would talk about how Judy was not working hard enough or doing things right. Betty usually advises about things that she herself has never done. She does not have any first-hand experience in the practice of her counsel. She counsels couples on not using birth control and she herself only had three children. It would seem that she used some sort of birth control. She counsels parents on mat training, yet she never mat-trained a single child and never had her own children on mats for 3 to 4 hour meetings. She counsels about staying home as a mother, yet she put my father in kindergarten at age 4 and went back to work.
On top of all of this she makes a person's outward behavior the key measuring stick, which is how she communicates her heavy burden onto others. She judges you on your child's performance, your wife's performance, your house's cleanliness or organization. She will see you once and base her judgment on the kind of person you are from that single encounter. Her judgment is unquestioned by the leadership. Worse, if she has a negative first impression of you, this will cause them to interact with you or respect you based on her assessment of you. This does not take into account what your life is like. She does not take into account the circumstances surrounding what she saw or anything else, let alone the fact that she is judging based on a brief, one-time encounter.
I have heard her say that if you look down at your child, even if they are as young as 6 months, and they are not either paying attention to the preaching or sleeping then you are in sin and need to repent!
She has the loyalty of many of the men in leadership in all the Assemblies. This is especially true of the men in leadership in San Luis Obispo. When she comes here, she has brothers, sisters, couples, husbands, and wives' meetings, which she leads. A Leading Brother, usually Jeff Lehmkuhl or Roberto Sanchez, is there but they simply stand up and introduce Betty and she runs the rest. What she says is followed absolutely. She "suggests" something and it is immediately implemented.
A perfect example of this is the song "Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing". It can be sung in two ways: The first is a basic melody; the second is sung in two parts with the women and men singing separate melodies. She came to town, and in a meeting talked about how we should sing all together in unity, with no separate parts. This was to demonstrate that we are in unity before Christ. She got this from a book by Schaeffer, I think. She explained that the author came from a very musical family and knew what music was all about and yet suggested this "unified singing". Because she read it, and someone she approved of said it, we should follow the suggestion. Next thing you know, we can't sing the two-part version any longer. When someone would ask for it in the worship they would just start the single melody version with no comment. If she is followed so closely on something as trivial as this, you can imagine what it is like with bigger issues.
Comments from Readers
December 10, 2002, Mark Campbell: I don't think that any rational person can deny, after reading Rachel's story, that the Assembly is abusive in nature and that those in charge are clearly evil. There may be some present member of the Assembly who believes that they are not part of the abuse, but remain there to be a "balance" to the aggressive abuser in the midst. This "balancer" is an enabler and shares in part with the crime of the abuser.
March 18, 2004, Gordon: I want the Geftakys's to truly repent - I mean a tearfully, heartfelt repentance. I want the children of the Geftakys to grow up healed, and living normal lives. I want Judy G to realize what a remarkable woman she is for all she endured.
November 11, 2006, Hannah Hales, New Zealand: Wow - what an appalling testimony to man's selfishness and deception! There is NOTHING Christ-like in the actions of those supposed "Christians" who condone physical, sexual, mental, emotional and spiritual abuse.
My sincere heartfelt cry of, "Forgive them 'cuz they know not what they do," is tempered by the words of Psalm 64.7-8 , "But God will shoot an unexpected arrow at them; and suddenly shall they be wounded. And they will be made to stumble, their own tongues turning against them; all who gaze upon them will shake their heads and flee away."
To Rachel, her mother, Judy, and all other women caught up in any cult-like system: I too know the game you had to play, believing it to be 'God's will' for you, and I pray that you all will be fully, completely, absolutely totally delivered from the lies perpetrated against you. Father God cannot and does not condone these actions by men and women, done in secret and covered up by other people who are tied into the deception. His heart breaks every time one of His precious children suffers under this type of tyranny.
Press into Him alone, without man's interpretation, under the sole guidance of Holy Spirit, to be brought out to walk in the Inner Court with Him in all His majesty and splendour, as the precious daughters He created and delights in because you are altogether lovely in His sight, the apple of His eye, Song of Songs 4.7, "O my love, how beautiful you are!"
Blessings to all, and may He make His face to shine upon you as you continue to press into Him and discover your true worth in His eyes.
Ed.: Hannah is the daughter of the Exclusive Brethren leader in New Zealand and a survivor herself. Here is the intro to her book, Shackles Broken, Bound by Love
October 7, 2008, Benjamin Miller: "My name is Benjamin Miller. I am sure you all know me well as the rebellious son of Mark Miller. I myself was in full knowledge of the mentally and psychologically abusive tactics of the Geftakys Assembly and its leading families. As soon as I was old enough to support myself I left the Assembly for the obvious reasons, it being a CULT.
In our home I was taught to be an intelligent, responsible, loving, adult. Ironically, most members of the Assemby were and are a bunch of limp wristed, low self-esteem having, easily manipulated, yet loving and caring people. I can also testify with a clear conscience that my father and mother were never physically abusive towards my sister and me. We were punished by spanking up until the age of 12 years old, none of which I would call abuse.
My eyes were opened to the possibility of this with the testimony of Judy and Rachel. It burdens my heart to think my father and other Leading Brothers had knowledge of this and were not able to end their suffering any sooner. However, any woman or child in a physically abusive home needs to call the authorities and have the abuser put in prison. Are you this blind? This is not a matter for any church to handle, this is beyond theoretical or biblical differences. I'm sorry, but my father and Dan Notti do not have the power to arrest evil people like David Geftakys, especially when their own family members back him up. Where is Tim Geftakys? I hate that guy, talk about a manipulator. Sorry you couldn't have a son, Tim, but I pose no threat to the future of your Assembly. I don't want it.
In conclusion, my father Mark as well as Dan were just as deceived and manipulated as everyone else, and the blame for this falls only on the abusers. Did I mention the fact my father, although being an elder and a Worker, was never a full time Worker supported by the ministry? Wow, I wonder how much money he's tithed over the last 30 years to these creeps.
Well, thanks for letting me share from the heart. Everyone is welcome to contact me DIESECT@GMAIL.COM and I hope this wasn't too cold or heartless a letter.
Benjamin Mark Miller
December 7, 2008, Kelly Sheppard: It has been years since I was involved with this Christian ministry and did not really want to read this article years ago when I first heard it was posted. I was intimately involved with the Geftakys's. Judy and Rachel were friends of mine from various meetings and retreats. Judy is an intelligent, beautiful person with an inspiring and sparkling personality. I was horrified to read what she suffered. The reason I read the article now is that I am studying the cycle of violence in preparation to be a nurse, and her story came to my remembrance. David's behavior followed the definition of an abuser to the "T". What is even more grievous is that there are still people blindly following this man's teaching (not God's, mind you). I find that part very sad indeed.