Aloha, I’m Chris (almost 60 years old) and this is my first contribution. I’m not sure where to begin, but will try to get to the nugget of what’s developed. The past few weeks have been an intense, stressful time for me. Gradually over the past 2 years, my heart and soul have been speaking and leading me out of meeting, but my mind had resisted. I’ve never begged and prayed harder in my life! “Please Lord, don’t let me be deceived or deceive anyone else!” Before obeying the nudging of the Holy Spirit to leave the meeting denomination, my mind had been held captive to the belief that to fellowship anywhere else had to be a spirit of deception. My reasoning was God lead me into the meeting fellowship, so I struggled to stay, but He also eventually led me out.
Some events recently released my mind from the last part of my struggle and out of captivity. God gave me a way of escape and led me out. The glory goes only to God. Now that I’m on the other side and the fog is lifting I’d like to share and thank all of you who have been an unseen support. Currently, there is joy, having a united heart, mind and soul, all in the proper alignment.
I started attending meetings in 1972, a year after marrying Stan. (He posted his exit letter a few weeks ago). How I came in contact with the fellowship is another part of my story that I won’t put into this posting. In 1978, Stan joined the Air Force and we left the Pacific NW. The next 20 years, we and our 2 sons lived in several different places in the USA and Europe. Workers, friends and being aware of the system, were a minor part of my life or consciousness, but still a stronghold. I would feel guilty when I made excuses to miss meetings.
I did notice the differences in what was or was not acceptable though as we moved to different locations. The desire to know about God and over time know a personal relationship was the focus. I went to meetings when able, but never got deeply attached to anyone who tried to control me.
That began to change in 2001, when we moved to Hawaii and Stan professed. It was great the first 5 years, but then the spiritual earthquakes began. Stan noticed before I did. I was sure he was overreacting, had a bad spirit all the usual responses, so I “tried” to settle in more securely and influence Stan, that maybe he just wasn’t spiritually mature.
We live on the windward side of the Big Island, not far from an active volcano. We are familiar with natural earthquakes, but the spiritual earthquakes that began a few years ago were unexpected. Even though I didn’t have allot of intense system input, the subtle messages, “this is God’s true way, the true servants and how special we were to be called, etc.” deeply penetrated my mind. It had been wonderful to feel special. How special it was to be a light to the darkness, because (“we are God’s peculiar special and chosen people”) Human nature, at least mine, loves to feel special. We want to stay special, so we put up with things that are weird. Until I was able to see it clearly, I believed it. Now I recognize it is “PRIDE.”
It clearly became evident that most had an outward humble appearance, and spoke of a lowly way, with an ego of great lofty, Arrogance. I was embarrassed to introduce any person to the workers and I was rapidly losing trust and respect for them. Then my trust in others and even myself was lost. Were they consciously trying to deceive us? Were they unaware and under a spirit of deception? Or was it all in my head? I could only trust ONE voice and that was God’s, but would I recognize even that? There were more questions than answers.
Normally 4 workers are sent each year to Hawaii, (2 women/2 men) from the California staff after conventions end. They travel between Kaua’i, O’ahu, Maui and Hawaii, (the Big Island, where we live). Workers come to our island a couple times a year and stay 6 to 8 weeks before going to another island. We live on the east side of the island, where even fewer visitors come. I mention this because Stan and I started to become aware that when the workers came to supposedly be such a help, it started to feel like Hell! We had been learning and studying the Bible on our own and finding some treasures. We were excited and attempted to share and have fellowship with the workers, but it was met with silence. When they did say something it was implied that we were ignorant or lacking in understanding of “Truth” and probably reading out of a wrong Bible translation. I’m sure, from their perspective, we were the isolated, ignorant, pagans that needed their help. Always the message, “Get to the meetings!” But the meetings were feeling more dead to me.
In love for God, we were to make the effort and sacrifice to drive 2 hrs.,(one way) to a Sun. PM, 1 hr. gospel meeting and home again, after we had already been in a Sun AM meeting. With Sun. AM meeting and a GM it was 6 hours of driving for 2 hrs. of stale bread crumbs.
Over time I started to feel and notice their definition of “truth, love, gospel, obedience, sacrifice, submission, fellowship, etc.” were different than what I was independently learning about. Awareness that only specific thoughts or scripture were being brought out, to keep a listener in their line of thinking was becoming more obvious to us.
All of this was happening without knowing there were any of you out there. It was truly God doing things in HIS TRUE WAY in me, (us). Drawing or actually calling us out of a faith system into a Faith without the religious ritual-based foundation and was putting it all on Jesus. Jesus and his words became real and my Savior. I love that part of this story!
Later when we became aware of what many of you have shared, it only endorsed what we had felt! I’m grateful because otherwise, I might have been more confused than I already was. I was concerned that having been so willingly influenced by the meeting system, I might just as easily be influenced by yet another man-influenced system? As I said at this point I was afraid to trust any line of thought that might not be God’s thoughts. And yet I did not want to be without some fellowship. So I prayed for help!
Stan and I quit making the effort to get to those PM gospel meetings. We had also become the taxi for 4 women. If we didn’t go, it impacted them. At first, there was the guilt issue to deal with, but actually, they didn’t seem to mind not going either. If we didn’t go that was their excuse to not be there. I also noticed my consciousness of things God brought to my attention and needed changing were not the ones the workers seemed to focus on. How is it that in their presence guilt was there, but gone when they left?
They had a power over me that God should have! The bread from our quiet at-home time was feeding us. We were trying to share it in our little meeting. That went along well until the noise got louder over time about how thankful ones were when God’s true servants who came to Hawaii in 1950. The meeting message has become more about the ministry gospel and Jesus was somewhere in the mix. I would try to respond in testimony, to get the focus back on Jesus and what He said. It felt like every meeting was wrestling alligators.
Three weeks ago, it was called to my attention I was developing a contentious spirit that wasn’t bringing unity to the meeting. I admit I was feeling increasingly like Peter with a sword trying to defend Jesus. The line had been drawn and a still voice just released me from this battle for true “Truth” as it said. “You can’t do this part of my work, go aside and rest, I’ve got it.” I was able to accept that leaving would accomplish more than if I stayed. Stan was leading our small Wed. eve Bible study. He noticed some apparent manipulated scripture references in a recent study that brought out a point that wasn’t balanced. He was done then. It took me a bit longer. I thought I should stay and help others get out. They didn’t seem to see what was so clear to us.
We are done swimming an upstream current, to keep our peace. Others will come to wherever God leads them in His own way and time. We felt by staying, it was only enabling something that God wants to do a greater work in. Have you also noticed other denominations are experiencing the same concerns and many are leaving their previous faith systems? I believe something BIG is happening. That makes me excited!
We prayed, “What now?” Online, I became aware of a little local group that had some of their message available. I cried when I heard what they were sharing. It was bread for my starving soul. So we went to see. There is balanced instruction and interaction of scripture with praise and respect, focusing on Jesus. For the 2nd Sun. since leaving, we’ve felt God’s Spirit gathering us with believers whose focus is: fully let God’s Spirit have your heart, mind and soul and become as He guides an individual church to those around us in our lives. We love having Bread again and more than enough to share. Maybe we’ll be led on from here, but for now, it’s so sweet! Our faith is out of the small box that held it captive! Yahoo!
By Chris (Brown) S.
June 7, 2010
PS: My husband had asked our last worker if the meeting/worker way didn’t have cult-like characteristics. The answer was, “Oh, course not! A cult is easy to get into and very difficult to get away from. This (meeting) way is difficult to find but anyone could easily leave.” Well, I disagree, to get the system out of your head is very difficult until God takes it out and gives something new.