My Name is Brenda Lewis. My maiden name was Smith. Last Spring, I finally got the nerve to make a permanent break from “the truth.’ I was raised that your testimony was how you had found the “truth.” Now I am seeing that it is so much more. My great grandmother had professed in Nebraska, her children did not, but her grandchildren did – which is where I came in.
My mother was never happy with all the religions she was raised with and then she met my father. My father had not been raised this way, but his father had been, so when he dated my mother, and since she was “searching,” they ended up in gospel meeting in Oregon. As a result, I was raised in this religion. My dad rarely went to meeting but my mom always took my two older brothers and me.
We were born in the San Diego area but in 1973, my dad had a job transfer to Georgia. Still my dad rarely went to meetings – – he believed, but he had a problem with smoking and getting up on Sunday morning. Our meeting in Georgia was a forty-five minute drive away. In 1976, we had a potluck at our house on Saturday. That night, I went home with some of the friends. The next morning at meeting, I was sitting there with these friends and my family did not arrive. I actually became physically ill. I knew something was wrong. I was only ten at the time, but I had to get up and leave the meeting, I felt so ill.
My oldest brother, David, had been killed in an accident on the way to that meeting. And to top it off, my other brother, Allan, was driving. Even though the accident was not his fault (the other driver had fallen asleep), Allan blamed himself and his lack of experience for “the accident.” I say that in apostrophes because this has been a huge thing in my life that made me the way I am.
I had been having constant nightmares about going to hell. I professed not long after the accident at the age of ten. After the accident, my brother, Allen, started drinking and doing other forms of escaping. He ended up married as a teenager with two beautiful daughters but he never recuperated from the pain he felt in not living up to the standards we were raised with. He died in 1993, at the age of 33, as a result of an aneurysm that was drug induced.
My story goes on. I was more of the perfectionist child. I wanted so hard to please my parents and help their grief. About the time I was thirteen, I became bulimic. Now, by saying this, I don’t want to feel I am blaming, but eating disorders are a disease of those who feel their lives are out of control. Typically, I was the perfect professing teenager. I mostly dated only professing boys and I married at 18 to another boy raised in this religion, Kelvin Lewis, a nephew of Worker, William Lewis. I felt that I had done everything right and life was good. We had two beautiful boys and life just seemed wonderful.
Then in 1991, my father passed away unexpectedly at the age of 56. He “professed” through the workers just before he died. I was so moved. At this point, I never felt so close to the Lord. About a year later, my husband decided he was no longer going to meetings. He also was not sure whether he wanted me. I was a few weeks pregnant at that time. I remember telling him he had ruined my life. Here I was, 26, with two kids and pregnant. My biggest concern was because of the way I was raised, I could never marry again. We ended up working out our marital differences but my faith in God was never the same.
It was about that time that my brother, Allen, died and my faith really took a turn. In the spring of 1994, we moved near the Atlanta, GA area. I still went to meetings with my mom, but after that, my heart was never in it. For several years, I went to meetings only because of the heartbreak it would bring to my mother if I were to leave. Looking back, I know that for years, I had questioned the friends being the only ones saved. I knew far too many people who were Christians more than anyone at meeting. Also, I had wished my whole life this “truth” we were raised in would help those who were in need.
Those last few years going to meeting when my heart was not in it, were terrible. None of us can get back what we have lost. Time and years were wasted in mind control and guilt over perfectly normal and enjoyable things in everyday life. For example, I regret never being allowed to have a wedding shower or a baby shower. I plan NEVER to go back to those feelings of guilt and loss because of never being allowed to participate in anything as a child. My children will never feel the way I felt as a child.
Another thing I don’t like is knowing that all these people you love and have grown up with your whole life, think you are “sick” and pray for you to get better so you can be saved. Finally, through others who had broken away, I was able to make that final break. I had others I knew send me copies of The Secret Sect, and The Church Without a Name. Those books helped me a lot. The book I enjoyed the most is called Reflections. I deeply enjoyed reading the testimonies of others and how they had dealt with their changes.
For years, I had felt that I had to decide between serving Jesus by going to meeting – – or deciding I did not believe at all. I am SO happy that I finally know the truth about this way I was raised and that I can be the person I want to be without the fear of going to hell. I still feel I want to feel spiritual in my life. I want to give that to my children.
I am proud to say that my husband and I remained married through all of this for fifteen-plus years. I know this is not the scenario for a lot, but I firmly believe God knows all of our experiences and what we can handle.
I want to say to all the professing people out there that have been brainwashed their whole life who feel they can never ESCAPE it – -THEY CAN!!!!!!! I always felt I had to choose between God (which really meant professing) and Hell. I never realized until recently how foolish this is. I don’t have all the answers, but I know if we love God with all our hearts, God will show us what we need to know and what we need to do.
My mother still goes to meeting and I think she always will. I never thought I would be able to be free from this way. But for those of you on the borderline, I can tell you – – it is possible. I would love to be an encouragement to any still in bondage who feel there is no way out. Please seek encouragement somewhere!! It really helps.
February 1, 2000