Hargreaves, Sharon (Ex-worker)

I am an ex-worker, having spent 28 years in the ‘work’, fourteen of which were in the Philippine Islands. I was raised by an aunt and uncle from ten months old and from a small child, I was taken to the small Sunday morning meeting with my “Mom.”

My Mom and Grandmother had been Plymouth Brethren in England and had good grounding in the Word, although Brethren were also quite ‘legalistic’ in many areas. Don’t polish your shoes on Sunday, etc.

An aunt had met Robert Darling in Carbon, Alberta in 1910 but made no choice to follow the workers’ way then. Later that aunt and uncle moved to the Okanagan area of B.C., where two sister workers from Washington State preached several missions. In 1927 after Grandfather’s death, my Grandmother visited the Okanagan where Charlie Wilson and Tom Roberts were preaching.

For Grandmother, I feel these were the first preachers that remotely resembled the Plymouth Brethren. Charlie Wilson did preach, I believe, more authentic doctrine in some areas and certainly believed and understood the Trinity.

I remember one time at Salmon Arm preps where Charlie Wilson and Andrew Drummond got in a shouting match argument on the subject. Charlie would not ‘let go’ of his correct understanding of the Trinity and Andrew was just as adamant of his version. We young workers witnessed this but it kind of went right over our heads, and we did not grasp the theological importance of it all.

By 1928 Grandmother was back up ‘North’ where Jack Carroll sent workers to this northern part…Albert Lynn and Wesley Houston…[I do remember meeting these two men when I was a child.] Mom often made some comments about their harshness.

One bad memory my family often rehearsed with a lasting anger and hurt…was how the workers came one Christmas and decided to have ‘special meeting’ on Christmas day…Grandma was obligated to attend the meeting and the rest of the family, who had always been together on Christmas at Grandmothers were very angry over the fact she chose the meeting over the normal Christmas family gathering.

When this event was ‘thrown in my face,’ I would try to reason that Grandmother chose God as more important than family. However, I have come to understand since that it was not God she chose over family. She was simply ‘fitting in’ to the workers’ warped antagonism over Christmas. [I have heard many stories how early workers did this sort of thing, and in fact, in my early childhood there were a few times they had special meetings on Christmas Day.] That caused huge hurt in families in our little hometown.

Back to my early years. My “Dad” never followed the workers’ way. He seemed to see through it in that first mission. He roughly ‘tolerated’ the brother workers’ visits maybe twice a year, and had little use for the sister workers’ visits either, who sat by the woodstove and knit all day while my Mom waited on them.

The teaching of the workers came via osmosis to me….through meetings, conventions, and the ‘one way’ thing gradually took hold of my mind and my underlying questions of how could it be possible that I, among all the other not very good kids around, could have had the good fortune of knowing the ONLY WAY and they didn’t…and I sure couldn’t explain it to my school friends either…I couldn’t explain anything I believed to anyone actually.

Because of our ‘divided home’ and ‘remoteness’ from the beaten track, our home was not much burdened by the workers as others who had an ‘open home.’ So I didn’t really clue into what the reality of the workers’ lives were until after I was sucked into the work!!

The osmosis factor increased in my teen years, especially as sister workers began their ‘love bombing.’ Writing me letters and telling of such as Garth Cook ‘going in the work’ – Dan Douglas – Ken Sutherland…etc…and ‘mentioning’ there was opening for a sister also. That scared me for one year and then the ‘call’ seemed genuine and, of course, we were taught that giving one’s life in the work was the greatest of all ways to live. I guess the sincerity I felt to do the best thing possible with my life gradually overcame all sense of reasonable alternatives. I was gripped by a fear to do anything else in fact.

The other side of that ‘choice’ to go in the ‘work’ was, of course, denying the normal relationships that should have taken place. There were lots of heartache in ‘choosing’ the work.

I went in the work in 1961. When I look back over each year, every one of them had enough horror to engage nightmares for a lifetime, not the least of which was my very first year! Workers spend a LOT OF TIME discussing things that don’t make sense and look forward to preps to get out from under a bad year and hope for a better one next year, which usually fell short of expectations.

As long as your mind is shut down with no other input everything falls under the category of ‘well the people aren’t perfect – but ‘the way’ is perfect! It is nauseous to realize how we filtered all the errors through that blind spot and self-righteously pushed on.

One of the poisons of the workers’ way is their teaching against all the churches–the so called paid preachers, etc. Along with the manner of isolated and controlled life of the workers, it is near impossible to get any other input to open your mind. This stymies people when they do leave the ‘way’ from going to church, etc. and reaching out and learning the Bible from good pastors.

A book wouldn’t suffice for the intervening years, but in 1989 I was in my home area when my “Mom” needed care–which I was determined to be around to help with. [I was overseas when my birth father died, when I should have been there to help him [a story in itself].

The following summer after Mom’s passing April 1989 (she was 97), Mr. Paul Sharp showed his true self. He told me I was ‘not fitting into my older companions’ — the best brick that ever hit me, I can assure you. After twisting incredibly to try and fit in the idiotics of ‘older companions,’ and particularly the one I had just had in 1989, it was the beginning of my lasting choice to leave in January of 1990. When I demanded from Paul to identify exactly how I wasn’t ‘fitting in,’ the answers were so shocking that it was the great wake-up call I needed. So I have a lot to thank Paul Sharp for in one way…ha!

Finding work at age 50 was another book of stories…but God was faithful…

After eventually coming back North to my home area, several events began to unfold. The then professing husband of a younger couple I met with on Sundays had found the TTT website. I ended up getting his ‘binder’ of information to read. Thanks again to you, Cherie, for all your research!!!

I was STUNNED to find the incredible number of life stories of others, and what struck me was I could totally identify with every one of them. It was validating, in that I was not simply one needle in a haystack with my bad experiences…there were literally hundreds of others.

After hearing of the excommunications in Alberta a friend of mine from the same meeting in which we grew up, who personally knew some of the friends involved, was very keen to visit these people to hear their side of the events.  I wholeheartedly agreed and we made our unforgettable trip to Calgary. Speaking to them in person and getting the whole picture was indeed a great turning point in our lives.

Many have read much of that and listened to The Tape of Jim Knipe. I had known Jim so well and watched the change in him from a fine young man in high school to a puppet in the hands of Willis Propp’s wicked employ. As Willis himself preached more than once in Alberta….”this way works because of the descending order of submission’. That is what keeps the workers’ system working. Whatever you say, don’t use your mind and don’t ask questions, just submit and say, ‘Yes, Uncle.’ And certainly don’t read your Bible and see if what they are telling you is Scriptural.

My later experience has been finding a true understanding of the Bible…finding a church family…and getting my body, soul and spirit in sync and harmony and rejoicing in True Salvation.

I went thru the times of anger etc. but life is a journey, a learning process, and many have suffered incredible losses, hardships, wars, and turmoil such as I have never known, so I find I have a lot to be thankful for.

There were many good days and good friendships also over the years. Some are still intact, but the most of them were part and parcel of being part of the system, and when I left the meetings forever, most of those ‘friendships’ disappeared; and yes, the ‘shunning’ that goes with leaving certainly is experienced to some degree by most, as far as I have learned from others.

The workers elevate their ‘ministry’ to supreme importance and the friends idolize the workers putting them on a pedestal; the ‘fall’ from which designates one to a place of disdain in some cases.

For those I preached a flawed gospel to, I entrust to God who knows the heart. God thankfully does not see as we do. I do feel that once a person is knowledgeable about our past beliefs, we are responsible to choose differently than when our knowledge was twisted and limited.

In appreciation for True Liberty and having received Real Life in Christ…


Sharon Hargreaves

NOTE:  Sharon passed away on September 23, 2014, from cancer.

Other writings by Sharon:

Presentation to Sunday School

Why I decided to cut my hair