B. W.

My Experiences

For the sole purpose of establishing my “intimate” knowledge of being raised in the 2×2 way and practices that were common and normal and varied experiences from North, South, East and West in the USA and news of other countries, I will try to briefly outline my family genealogy. I certainly hope that no one thinks I am bragging (a complaint I have about being in the 2×2’s was how many people talked about their superior worker and saint family to push themselves into even higher status). I purposefully leave out names, because “name dropping” is not my intent and draws away attention from the “bare facts.” Those who are familiar with any of the people will know by the facts who they are.

I came from a family, that I suppose most would say was of the superior or elite. I was in the second generation, born and raised 4th generation of professing. My father has two sisters in the work in foreign fields of South America and Korea. My father’s parents were both in the work before they left for “health reasons.”

My grandmother, being literally “coerced” to be in the work due to her mother’s expectations (her words, not mine! And she said that was expected of her), suffered a nervous breakdown in less than two years. She was extremely understanding after that, of making sure to NEVER, EVER place expectations on her children of going in the work, because she knew it just wouldn’t work that way if you aren’t “called.” Interesting how then, her own two daughters ended up going in the work, and her three sons did not, but yet are professing.

My paternal grandfather’s twin brother was also in the work in the Baltimore area, Ohio, etc., and had to leave for issues surrounding the black stockings and he left the meetings, never to return.

My grandfather had a few cousins who were in the work, too, in the early days and labored for years in the Baltimore area where the “beginnings of the gospel” coming to that community caused lots of heated commotion and one cousin then went on to have the first convention grounds there. From my youth, I have heard many stories about those days.

My paternal grandmother had two brothers in the work in South America and on the west coast. The younger one was more outspoken and ended up dying of cancer. Some say it was due to the tremendous amount of stress surrounding his less than conventional ideas at the time. He was quite adamant about teaching his “timeline of truth.” I remember being quite convinced that there was no doubt as to the “beginnings” being firmly rooted in Jesus. He had a flip chart that he would use to describe about eternity past and eternity future and how all other “false churches had sprung up from the “truth.” We would be gathered together as a group of family or friends from meetings and it was quite a no-no to get to be able to hear him speak about all that we had to be thankful for, at least that is what we “felt” or heard about these experiences. I remember at the time, feeling so “warm and fuzzy” inside and it all seemed so clear to me. We were definitely being directed in our thinking from a very young age. And the “chalk talks” as they were sometimes called, were done fairly regularly lest we forget.

I remember this Great Uncle worker as being progressive more so than the norm at that time (1970-1980s), but he definitely had a way with words and was a moving speaker. Moving on, my mother has an uncle that was in the work in South America. He stayed there until his dying day. Now, I know that the work there in South America has moved slowly. Some of their major contacts being through a quite wealthy family who owns a furniture factory and I believe in the not so distant past, the owner was killed in a private airplane accident. The wealthy friends always seem to give the workers more credibility. My father’s sister, who is in the work in South America as well, told this experience that I still just shake my head over at the cruelty of it.

There was a couple there that was married and it was a terrible marriage with many problems. I do not know if they were professing or not at the time. Well, they both split up and went on to be with other people. However, somehow, they both got in contact with the meetings and professed and it was decided that they were to split up their respective “spouses” and go back to each other!!! Even though there were children produced in the second relationship!!!!! Now, how in the world the workers decided that this is what they HAD to do in order to be saved!??? How do you explain to your children that you had to break up with their daddy or mommy in order to go back to their previous “spouse?” And also, to a relationship that was terrible to begin with??!!! I was so shocked when I heard this, it just made me angry! There were no children in the first relationship. It is hard enough to raise a family if you get divorced and remarried and you choose to do that. But I can’t imagine going back to a relationship with children that you did not produce in that relationship and it was a terrible relationship then, solely for the reason that because they were not BOTH professing, this is the right thing to do because they were your first spouse??!!! It just made me sick!!!

It was then, that I SERIOUSLY started wondering about the wisdom of the workers. Prior to that, I guess I sort of went along with whatever explanation was given about all things working out for good in God’s will. Possibly, this mind awakening had a lot to do with terrible marital struggles that were going on for me at the time and I thought, “Oh, my goodness, if that was me, how would I handle it?” Being forced to go back to a man that was an abuser in order to be able to take part in meetings and meet their approval??

Then last but surely not least, I have a sister that started in the work in Georgia and is currently in the work in Russia and prior to that, Korea. Now, I’ve heard much discussion come up about whether the workers having Bible studies is a new awakening to be open to other churches, beliefs, etc. I not only think not!! I know not!! When workers have Bible studies with others, it is an attempt to “open doors” that otherwise might be closed. I have heard this told by my worker relatives MANY times so this is not just my imagination or own personal conclusions.

For instance, when workers go to new countries, where they are not as free to preach, they will offer English lessons, in hopes that some there may ask questions and open the door to spreading the gospel. It has been quite effective in some countries and it is often the way of “choice” for those restricted countrymen learning about the gospel in a private English tutoring lesson because they are so anxious to practice their English in any way they can and also to learn about Christianity, since otherwise, they are prohibited from doing so in any kind of public forum. The workers will “labor” long and hard for their won souls in these countries so “closed” to any kind of obvious missionary work being allowed to happen.

I remember Garrett Hughes (sorry, I did drop a name here) talking often about his tremendous success at having Bible Studies with young college students and couples who were searching for answers and how they had a HUGE success with perhaps, 20 people professing after those “missions” in the Denver, Colorado area. Now, the thing that was always really puzzling to me is this. Whenever I asked the workers for Bible studies, they were always too busy going away soon, or would contact me later to set up a time. The Bible studies NEVER happened. I even remember one year, going to “preps” two weeks before convention at Demorest, Georgia, and asking my worker sister to take time to study the book of Romans for half an hour with me each day I was there. We started this, but alas, her companion told her that she didn’t have enough time to take and do that with me. If we can’t take time to study the Bible, then what are we at preparations for convention for??

Another incident—keep in mind that I had just turned 18 years old—that happened at that convention preparations that really made me feel shame. No, I won’t call it shame because I was not guilty of the sin they tried to impress upon me. One morning, I was painting the rock foundation of one of the sleeping dorms and we ran out of paint. I inquired from two brother workers working nearby on the dining shed as to more paint. I was informed that some of the workers were in town getting some more and that they should be back soon. So I began visiting with these two brother workers who were up on ladders painting. We were visiting together about spiritual things!! Imagine that!!! They asked me my testimony since I was just down visiting my sister…after I asked them about theirs!!!

So here I was, standing on the ground in the general vicinity visiting while they were up there on high ladder painting. I noticed the head worker, Erling Umdall (sorry, did it again) strolling by and he briefly chatted with me and continued on his way, and a short while later, all of a sudden, I was “hustled” away from the area by my sister’s companion. I thought it seemed rather strange at the time, as she really didn’t have anything for me to do. However, over the next couple of days, I noticed a marked increase in cool behavior and overt attention to what I was doing from my sister’s companion. I finally couldn’t take it any longer and I asked my sister what was wrong. She said she didn’t know, but she would try and find out. She came back to me the next day, obviously distressed and beside herself about how to break the “NEWS” to me.

She told me that her companion had informed her that I was FLIRTING with the brother workers and that I should not ever be talking to them. She also informed me that those particular workers both had reputations for having women problems (heart problems with staying in the work) and that my talking (her companion said “flirting”) with them was making it difficult for them. Now, how in the world did they decide, based on a conversation, that neither one of those workers heard whereby we were discussing nothing but spiritual things, that I was flirting with them??? I was soooo aghast!!

I had at that point in time, spent five years at preps in my own home state, going to preps and never was told I could not talk to brother workers, especially when we were probably having the most rewarding spiritual discussion I had ever known. My sister said she knew and she was so sorry about what happened and that she knew that I was not flirting with them, but that I just needed to be careful because these brother workers did not understand that I would never dream of doing something like that. Nevertheless, I cried many, many tears about that situation. To think that what I felt at the time, was such a beautiful sharing of experiences and spiritual conversation, and to have it be turned into something by the head worker and an elder sister worker into something so crass and degrading and to think that is what they based their whole opinion and attitude towards me on having a totally innocent, entirely public conversation with two brother workers. I was not keeping them from their work and I thought I was being spiritually fed, which was the thing I looked the most forward to at preps. However, it seemed that often they were just too busy doing their own things to give any thought to spiritual readiness. Anyway, that really hurt and it was a long time before I could even think of having a conversation with ANY brother worker because of the accusations that stemmed from that one occurrence.

In addition, that year at convention I came upon my first occurrence of the workers getting involved in “affairs of the heart,” too. There were not many young people my age at convention, but there was a man a number of years my senior that was there. Now, his parents were professing, and his father was the one who introduced me to his son, and he was “shaky” at professing, I imagine you would say, but he was friendly and interested in me. Now, I really didn’t give this man much more encouragement than friendly conversations, and we had several nice spiritual conversations, and later for Christmas, yes Christmas, he sent me a large print Bible. Once again, the workers decided that I was entirely too friendly with him, and the evening that he was leaving after convention and I stepped out of the dining shed to say goodbye to him (they were having an informal meeting with a worker speaking about his time in Hong Kong) this one elderly worker comes hurrying outside to tell me that I better come back inside NOW!

WOW, talk about making something out of nothing! Well, just the thought of that bothered me so bad that a few days later when I got back home, I decided to write that brother worker a letter asking him why he was so distressed at me stepping outside to say goodbye to someone without disturbing the “meeting?” He wrote back and apologized and said that he overreacted. I guess he thought I was going to go off and make out in his car or something???? Then, he proceeded to give me advice about how I should conduct any courtship! Up to that point, I hadn’t even thought about anything beyond friends. I guess I was really naive. But I suppose the workers didn’t know that you can be just friends with someone! So talk about putting an awkward strain on our friendship. Here we were literally being accused of going to make out in his vehicle. So this made a triple whammy for my experiences in Georgia. I felt like I had struck out in regards to my “coming of age” trip. Reality really hit me hard! Well, this is probably long enough to describe my experiences.

By B.W. (2004  )