Growing up in the Geftakys Assembly
How It Was Growing Up
Stories from second-generation Assembly adults:Assembly kids had some good times together--outings, some of the outreaches, pranks and getting in trouble together. But most of you have written with anguish about the struggles, the limitations on your life, the crushing anxiety. There is fallout in adult life from this kind of childhood. See below for information that might be of help to you.
Elizabeth (Geftakys') 2014 memoir Girl at the End of the World. touches a little on some good times.
Scott McC. posted a poignant description on the Assembly bulletin board of what it was like to be an Assembly kid in Tuscola.
Jason Farlow grew up in the Tuscola Assembly in the '70s and 80's. He tells the story of what it was like as a child, and how it has affected him as an adult. Jason describes how he developed a double life to deal with impossible Assembly standards.
An anonymous "Assembly kid" wrote a very angry essay in the form of a fictionalized dream. She says, "Let me open it up and listen in and scoop out the dark."
Nate-Dogg had this to say on the Assemblyboard, "We were exhorted to literally repeat the Selfers Prayer every time we felt self getting on the throne, and this was at 12 years of age! I dont know if AKs have a full idea of how much this teaching has damaged and straightjacketed them-- I am only beginning to come to some understanding."
Anonymous from Tuscola recounts a childhood of incest in the Tuscola Assembly. It was known to the leadership but ineffectively dealt with.
Kevin W. says, "I was a boy without a man in the home and was an easy victim."
Mary W., at age 17, wrote a moving poem about her deliverance from the Assembly in Omaha.
Anonymous AK who grew up in a Midwest Assembly recounts how she began questioning and thinking critically about the Assembly when she was in high school.
Paths, a poem by an anonymous 2nd gen adult about the difficulty of making decisions.
Rachel (Geftakys) wrote a detailed account of her horrific escape.
Even before the official beginning of the Geftakys Assembly in 1971, when George was conducting Bible studies here and there, he wanted everyone present to be focused on what he had to say. He didn't want mothers off in another room putting children to sleep. He insisted they learn to sleep in the meetings. I had to teach my eighteen-month-old to sleep on the floor during George's Bible study. He was smart, and he was tired by evening, so with some spanking he eventually learned to sleep there.
By the time the Assembly began meeting for worship at Hillcrest Park in 1971, there were more babies and children, and it was a more difficult situation. We mom's began hanging out in the ladies room with our little ones. This was not acceptable to George--he wanted us all in the meeting, paying attention.
Betty began using James Dobson's book, Dare to Discipline, to teach us that children are rebellious. Toddlers, "Terrible Twos", have to learn proper limits to their self-will. But Betty distorted Dobson's teaching in several ways into something he never intended. She ignored the normal stages of child development and applied her teaching on obedience to three-month-old infants. In doing this she was teaching, not obedience of will, but conditioned response.
The second way she twisted Dobson was to equate childish disobedience with the sin of self-will, which was to be put to death. This aspect produced the ever-harsher trajectory of punitive child training in the Assembly.
With the introduction of Richard and Virginia Fugate's What the Bible Says about Child Training in the 1980's, the Ezzo's program "Growing Kids God's Way" in the 1980's, and the Pearl's Train up a Child in the 1990's, methods were implemented that amounted to child abuse.
In the Assembly, the basis for this approach was articulated by George and Betty in very spiritual-sounding terms, in
Assembly Instruction on Child Training
Around 1989 Ginger disseminated a Child Training Pamphlet, in which she smoothed over the Assembly practices to make them sound perfectly reasonable and loving. She avoided any mention of specific disciplinary methods - repeated hard spankings, pinching the trapezius nerve, shutting in a dark closet, etc.
Assembly Child Training in Action
Second-generation adults tell their own stories of growing up in the Geftakys Assemblies.
Critiques of These Child Rearing Practices
"When Child Discipline Becomes Abuse" article in Christianity Today. ***This is just the preview
Obedience - achieving first time obedience required a lot of spanking from infancy.
In the mid-1990s the CDC conducted a major investigation into the long-term consequences of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE), using a 10-point questionnaire. Tragically, several of the points are applicable to Assembly practices. ACEs are linked to chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance misuse in adulthood. ACEs can also negatively impact education and job opportunities. You can read our comments about the ACEs study here, and take the quizz yourself here.
Growing up you experienced a high level of anxiety most of the time. Now as an adult you may have constant low-level background anxiety, and not know why. And then sometimes you run into something that seems perfectly ordinary to most folks, but it suddenly sets you off. How do you understand what is going on with yourself? Coping With Triggers addresses an issue that comes up for many Assembly 2nd Gens.
Cognitive distortions are errors in thinking. This brief article lists ten types of cognitive distortions that are firmly embedded in the thought reform process. The good news is that, "Like any habit, these patterns of thinking can be broken and discarded through awareness and practice."
Healthy communication was not modeled in the Assembly. Everyone was more or less forced into three unhealthy roles - victim, perpetrator or rescuer. Dr. Ron Burks who counselled Steve and me at Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center, used a model from psychology to describe what goes wrong with personal interactions in a cult and how to make changes. "A Guide to Healthy Communication," is a partial summary of Dr. Burks' material.
Another factor is the lingering effects of intensive thought control. Before you freak out at that term, take a look at what it means. K. Gordon Neufeld spent ten years in the Unification Church. He offers an excellent explanation of mind control that discards the image of "mindless robots" and incorporates instead the very helpful concept of "mental roadblocks". Here is the introduction to Neufeld's book.
In "Stairway to Heaven" Dr. Bruce Perry describes treating the children traumatized by the Waco disaster. One striking fact he brings out is that children in traumatic circumstances have a resting heart rate elevated above the normal 70-90 beats per minute. Cornerstone Academy science classes in 1987 and 1990 demonstrated that students there had resting heart rates over 100 bpm.
Born or Raised in High-Demand Groups: Developmental Considerations points out a complicating factors for those who grew up in aberrant groups: they have no “pre-cult identity” to go back to. This in-depth article is well-worth reading.