Sprenger, Vanessa

My Journey to Christ ~

“Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol him, all peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 117:1-2 ESV)

First off, I thank God for blessing me with this journey in life. For every experience both good and bad. It has brought me to where I am now. I trust his perfect plan!

I can boldly say that I now know that God has worked my whole life and in every way to pull me from the clutches of fear and control and enter into true freedom in Christ. I was born into the 2×2’s as 4th generation. My parents married very young and were definitely considered “liberal” within the cult. I grew up living in two different worlds. I was able to live a fairly normal childhood and have lots of happy memories. I am so thankful to my parents for this. On the other side of things, it was very confusing for me as a child to be allowed to do certain things or look a certain way that went against the rules of the cult.

I remember a heavy emphasis on my looks, especially to do with “vanity”. I remember I had painted my nails with some friends in grade 3 during lunch break at school. The whole other half of the day I had attempted to scrape it all off by the time I got home. I couldn’t possibly keep this secret from my mother. So after a couple hours and almost throwing up from the guilt, I finally told my mother. I can’t really remember how she responded but she could clearly see just how awful I was made to feel over painting my nails. That pressure on a child to be different from their peers really affected me negatively.

I remember being very critical and self-righteous to my friends. There was a child in my class that was a Jehovah’s Witness and I felt terrible for this boy. I remember his mother often coming to the classroom hovering over him and speaking very coldly to the teacher a lot to make sure he was not partaking in what their religion considered wrong and worldly. Later on in life, I realized that my life and his had differences but also a lot of similarities!

I do remember at a very young age feeling a genuine love for God. At the age of 5, I told my parents that I wanted to profess. But when it came time to actually stand up at convention I didn’t for some reason. A worker told me afterward that I should probably wait another year till I could read better anyways. I felt heartbroken. So the next year I finally made my choice at age 6 and I felt so good about that.

Being a very shy child, not even really realizing what I was getting myself into, I immediately became a slave to the system. I had to give a testimony/prayer 2 times a week. This was a huge burden for me and I felt constantly frustrated and embarrassed. My mind would go blank in meetings because I was so afraid of what people thought of me and I would have to sit down and try again after someone else had taken their turn. Now I can see why I struggled with debilitating anxiety for most of my life. This was a huge contributing factor.

My parents divorced when I was 12 years old and that’s when things really started to spiral out of control. I think of the absolute turmoil and grief that my family went through. Meetings only made it worse for me. It felt like a lot of harsh judgment put on us as a family. Workers got involved and meddled, making life a living hell at times. One worker used me for information about my parents. I felt so alone and depressed. My father stopped going to meetings in his mid 30’s. My mother kept going even in her troubles. She had the purest of intentions in her heart and genuinely felt “The Way” was the only way for salvation for us kids and herself because it was all she had ever known. She tried very hard to give us a normal life considering the circumstances.

The workers always tried to arrange for people to come pick us up for meetings if she wasn’t able to get there because of her shift work at the hospital. I hated getting picked up and dropped off by people because I was on their schedule, had to make small talk and had so much anxiety in general. I remember my hurt and anger almost destroying my love for God altogether. But that burning flame of love for him dimmed for a time. It was still there even in the chaos. God was working. I couldn’t see it yet.

As I grew older many changes and influences came my way and I got very angry and confused with meetings and my life in general. I felt so unhappy and unfulfilled. I turned to many things to numb the pain of my existence. From age 17 to 24 I struggled the most with substance abuse. Many ex-2×2’s can relate to the frustration of never living up to the expectation to be the perfect example of Jesus. I stopped going to meetings entirely for many years. I re-professed two more times (2014 and 2018) before leaving for good. In that time I had so many experiences that were slowly but surely showing me God’s true heart. Like the fact that he never left my side even when I stopped going to meetings. That’s a false belief that we are taught. Even at my very worst, I remember feeling Jesus right there with me in the room. My panic went away in a moment of utter despair. It was beautiful.

A lot of judgment and pitying came upon my family at the hands of a nasty rumour circulating about a family member of mine. It was cruel and evil. It never really went away. I always wanted to stand up for this person but never got a chance to. I now know and trust that this is in God’s hands and it doesn’t affect me any longer because those people hold no power over me! Oh, the freedom in that! All the things that the Workers and the “Friends” said and did hold absolutely ZERO power over me anymore. God has helped me so much in the forgiveness department. I used to feel incredibly resentful. I admit sometimes the temptation to feel resentful creeps in if I’m talking about a certain situation. I am an imperfect person with a human nature and It’s a process. But I know that forgiveness is a beautiful thing- it’s so freeing.

Life really changed drastically when I met my now husband back in 2015. Due to him not being able to extend his working holiday visa from Poland, he had to go back home and we were separated by countries for many long months deciding what to do. We finally decided that I would move to Scotland to be with him before making any major decisions regarding marriage. I met a lot of wonderful relatives that went to meetings over there. Knowing I would disappoint some family and people within meetings, I made the choice to marry my soulmate. We married in Edinburgh, Scotland June 2, 2018. Even though I didn’t completely understand the extent of what God was doing, I knew he had brought him into my life for so many reasons I now know! He is such a blessing in my life and has always been a loving support to see me through all I have faced. 

Fast forward to early 2020 when the pandemic hit, everything felt so strange and scary. Before Covid, I would go to meetings fairly often but would get so sick with anxiety that I wouldn’t show up half the time. The elder of that meeting was very kind but I think he worried about my salvation. I didn’t feel like I could possibly share that part of myself with him because I was afraid of what he and the others within the meeting would think of me. So when my son came along in April 2020 my anxiety was at an all-time high. The pandemic only made it worse. I was happy nonetheless that I didn’t have to make the effort to go to meetings with a newborn.

Between the frustration, anger and anxiety that I felt, something kept me from being able to pray. My mind was completely out of sorts, and I could not concentrate. I didn’t understand if I had been so fortunate to be born into “The One True Way” then why did I feel so unhappy and unfruitful in my life. I felt POWERLESS. 

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7 ESV

One day in February 2021 it felt like I was going to die from how I was feeling- I felt so lonely and it was absolutely debilitating. I remember the day so vividly. I felt moved to cry out to God “Please clear my mind!” and in an instant, my mind cleared. What just happened? This isn’t the God I was taught about! He doesn’t care that much about my feelings and desperation?! But, oh yes, he does! I was in complete shock and I remember just crying and crying and repenting to God for everything and asking it all in Jesus’ Name. In that moment I felt light as a feather—like everything that had blocked me from my connection with God had been rebuked and completely separated from my being. I felt truly free from that moment on, and it was mind-blowing, to say the least! This is a deeply personal experience, but I feel as though God has moved me to share this for a reason.

After that experience with God, I KNEW something was wrong with how I was brought up. This God I cried out to HEALED me and has continued to do so until this present day. I finally worked up the courage to do some research about the origins of meetings not really knowing what I would find. I do remember probably over 10 years prior to being out of meetings and wanting to search the internet to see if anything would come up about the 2x2s. But as soon as Wikipedia came up, I immediately shut it off as this searing guilt of being told to never search anything about meetings came over me. So the day I did some research without that guilt- I knew it still took a lot of courage because I had to be prepared for whatever was going to come up and I HAD to confront it.

Beginning of Summer 2021 I found a Reddit conversation thread of ex-2x2s who had turned completely from God and I felt so sad about that. Through one of the threads, someone had mentioned the Telling The Truth website and that was instrumental in teaching me everything to do with the secretive cult I grew up in. Finally, the truth of it all was confronted. It felt like a sucker punch to my gut to find out about William Irvine and the fact his existence had been totally covered up. It made me feel physically sick that I had been deceived and controlled with fear. But I also felt this amazing power from God to help me get through that dark time. I read everything I possibly could. The personal testimonies and scripture references helped me so much. The layers of deception and blindness were being taken off bit by bit! God was able to do so much work in my heart at that time! 

Mid-June 2021 I felt ready to join a church. So one morning I prayed for God to guide me with that. I met some wonderful God-loving ladies at the nearby playground with my son that very morning! The rest is history as they say because I now attend the same church that they do. I was baptized on August 15, 2021, by New Song Community Church (Baptist denomination). I continue to grow in my relationship with God and rest in his True Gospel of Grace. God has healed so much trauma/hurt in my life and has totally transformed how I think and feel!! Praise God! “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV

I trust that he will continue to do so, and I look forward to whatever is next! No fear and no condemnation. I am on this journey with him and him alone. No system to tell me what to think or how to look anymore. No “Pharisees” judging me anymore. It’s done. Total freedom in Christ! Jesus is free for ALL.

I feel as though there are many more experiences and thoughts I could add but I just want people to know that God will never stop working in your life no matter the situation or circumstance. He is unlimited in what he is able to do! “Untruth” limits God so much! Even in the messiness of life, he’s there to help us get through it and help us learn from our experiences. God is FOR US. He doesn’t want to control us! He wants us to trust the Holy Spirit so nothing is burdensome. It ultimately brings us into an even more intimate relationship with God. He brings true and everlasting PEACE. I am hopeful and praying for all those still within the cult and other cults!—this is about our SOULS. Let us go straight to the source for clarity about things. Prayer is mighty. God is faithful!

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6 ESV)

With Love,

Vanessa Sprenger, 2022
British Columbia, Canada