Ale, Karen (Boyd)

Leaving the Work and Finding the Rock

I grew up I Manitoba, Canada, hearing about God. I can’t say I felt God’s love, or enjoyed the meetings I attended, but listened attentively in every meeting from a small age. I was told it was the “Truth”, and that our people were the only ones going to heaven.  I made my choice at 8 years of age. I was baptized at 15. 

I knew I wanted to go to heaven for all eternity. I knew that was the place where God wiped away all tears.  It was this part on earth that always troubled me.  So many tears on this side. With each step I took, I hoped to experience the love and peace of God, but it eluded me.

I never felt like I belonged; neither in my family where I was stubborn and loud, nor in school where I was the only one who wore dresses and braids, nor in my workplace, where I was insecure and an easy target for bullies. 

I offered for the work hoping that more dedication and doing more for Him would bring peace, and that I would feel a sense of belonging among those who were sacrificing all their earthly dreams and giving the ultimate service to God.  I could not do more. Therefore, God would surely bless me with an outpouring of peace. But it didn’t happen that way. 

I was 21 when I entered the work in June 1990, the same time as my best friend and roommate. She is still in the work. Jack Price accepted our offers without so much as asking us about our calling or our knowledge of the Bible or the doctrine. If he had, he would have discovered how clueless I was. He said our hair was becoming.

I started in the work at convention preparations. I could instantly feel that there was no harmony or love amongst the staff. In fact, the result was one sister being removed from the work.  She was the only one who showed kindness to me during those awful weeks, and she was removed as the responsible sister said she influenced me against her. This was completely untrue. The responsible sister would continually interrogate me:  “Why are you laughing? Why are you crying?”  She was so insecure. 

Then I started out trying to preach the gospel. Actually, despite having listened intently since I was small, I had no idea what we were supposed to tell about!  I really didn’t know what the gospel was!  I would pray and read just a little longer than my co-worker, just to make sure I was not doing less.  I was sure my co-worker was in direct contact with God, yet as I pleaded on my knees, I felt so weak and worthless.  When they told me that I had said something wrong in a visit or a meeting, I was crushed and prayed even harder. 

Maybe I needed to do more.  I offered to go to another country.  Yes, Pakistan seemed to be the hardest place I could imagine, so that would be the biggest sacrifice possible. The door opened for a sister worker to go there, and I was ready.  In January 1994, when I was 24 years old, I travelled for the first time outside North America and landed in Pakistan. I expected to struggle to adjust to the food, the culture, the dirt and the heat. However, I faced trials which made these pale in comparison. 

Living in batches was about turns: to cook and clean, to wash clothes by hand, and many other things I had never been good at. Plus, the whole concept of turn by turn felt very rigid and killed the sense of service I had enjoyed with my older companions in Canada. It seemed I needed a lot of correction for saying or doing the wrong thing. 

It was in Pakistan that I discovered I loved languages and became almost fluent within six months. Unfortunately, my language teacher was one of the first ones to abuse me. Having experienced child sexual abuse, I found it difficult to protect myself. I asked my older companion for help. She told the brothers. I was the one who was blamed. Further, they left me in the same situation, studying with him, and the same thing was repeated. I was severely shamed for allowing it to repeat.

I was sent to a remote field where the friends had no electricity or plumbing.  The workers may have expected this to be a punishment for me, but I loved it out there. We slept out under the stars, beside the water buffalo munching sugar cane from their steel troughs, with coyotes howling nearby.  Maybe this shows more of the irony of removing a worker who could cope with situations that others would find quite tough—just because they assumed I “looked at men”. 

Sometimes I was accused of being a bad example to younger workers, or not being inspired by God when I spoke in meeting.  I would weep for days, and my companions would confirm that this was God correcting me.  Women mostly stay indoors in Pakistan, and if they do go out, are well covered up.  As a young foreigner with less covering, men were sexually aggressive at times, and I was confused how to handle it. 

When I sought advice from my co-workers, I was condemned for noticing it and for not knowing how to behave. I knew I had done nothing wrong, yet I could not dare to imagine they were wrong. On top of their punishment, I reproved myself.  Now just for clarification, I must add that they were not horrible people who were always mean.  It’s just that they believed in a God whose love is conditional, and they saw me as someone who needed some “work” done on! I’m sure I gave them their share of grief! 

On my second home visit, and 12 days before my flight back to Pakistan I was at my second last convention.  I got a message to call Pakistan urgently.  My heart was pounding as I made the call.  And for a good reason.  The older brothers informed me that they had decided that Pakistan was not the place for me. I was devastated!!  At each convention I had been sharing about Pakistan as a visiting worker.  I had no other thought in my mind, than to return there.  Aside from the harshness of companionship, I loved my place.  I loved the friends. No clear reason was given to me.

I visited with the older brother at the convention where I was and asked him how this could be?  He advised me to just obey and God would bless me.  But I didn’t obey them!  I had a ticket, and surely it was more important to obey God than men.  Surely, I could convince them that we should follow the teaching of the Bible and that those who were not happy with my behavior could present it to my face. 

When I arrived back in Pakistan, the two older brothers met my flight. I was indignant that this decision made no sense at all!  I demanded answers. I knew I had done nothing that warranted removing me from my place. The older brothers had little to say.  Gradually, I was just made aware that several sisters did not want me in the country.  About six months later in 2002, I was asked to move to Nepal, and I accepted it as a “fresh start”.

But it was not. The older brother in Nepal referred to me as a “reject” worker. The two sisters I joined continued their meeting schedule, leaving me alone in the batch, except for Sunday fellowship. It seemed so strange. Looking back, I realize they had been warned. The older sister had been kind to me on a previous home visit. Now she strictly informed me that the sister younger than me would take responsibility and would be the senior sister when she left Nepal. I was fine with this, as I had no desire for power, but I couldn’t understand why she said it in such a punishing way.  I still had not figured out how vindictive workers could be.  I was still forcing myself to believe that this was the perfect ministry.

The main emotion I experienced during my 13 years in the work was confusion. All my life I heard that the best thing one could do with their life was go in the work, and that there was a need for workers. Why was it so hard to give one’s life?  Why was it constant turmoil?  I enjoyed wonderful times with our friends and contacts. I loved them and was happy to give my life if I could be any encouragement to them, but I was getting dragged down lower and lower. 

I prayed desperately to God: “I do not know if I was ever called to the work, but I have done my best. I have never had peace in the work. Please, show me Your way. Please open a way. Please give me peace. I do not have strength to continue, nor do I have the courage to return home, where ex-workers are gossiped about, where people will pressure me to try to regain my health. I cannot imagine returning to real life with a job. I am so lost and so disconnected to the real world. Please, open a way, and help me to know it is from You.”

And God did. Nepal does not easily give visas to foreigners, so I could see that staying in Nepal was an option. I felt I was trapped. I could see no way, except death, which was my dream in this confusing life.  Suddenly, I was informed by a contact about the International Red Cross in Nepal needing an interpreter!  Yes, language!!  Something I was good at.  Something that made sense to me.

I applied for the job the next day and was hired to fill a job which provided advance salary and free housing, that began in two weeks. It was also a two-hour flight away from meetings. I knew it was from God!  Around December 2004, I informed the older brothers, in Nepal, India, Pakistan and Manitoba that I was leaving the work. I received a scathing letter from Pakistan. Yes, the brother who arranged my exit from the country was so disappointed.  I received no other responses. 

During the months that followed, workers from all over the world wrote to me.  I had left the work in an unacceptable manner, having not returned home to rest and recover my health.  Almost all the letters expressed disappointment in me.  But I had the reassurance from God, so I started ripping up the letters without reading them.  Some of the workers who I had esteemed most highly were the cruelest. 

But God was with me in a way I had never experienced before. I was totally lost among my worldly colleagues at my new job, but God was with me. I seemed to have an ability to learn my work that was beyond my natural abilities. I felt God was helping me learn the ropes. Although I was one very strange person among colleagues, having never heard of TV shows, movies or world news, I quickly became good at my job and earned some respect and confidence.  And I was not confused! 

In January 2008, I married a Pentecostal man. For this, also, I begged God’s guidance. We would pray together. I had always believed that the faith I grew up in was God’s only “truth” and that the path to salvation was restricted to the members of that faith, but I could not deny that this man had a sincere relationship with God. 

I informed the workers who were truly devastated with my decision.  I could not take part in meeting for about a year, yet I continued to attend.  My husband always encouraged me to attend and welcomed the workers if they were willing to visit us.  We started to have convention and special meeting in our home.  We also had a weekly gospel meeting. 

Several of my husband’s family enjoyed attending these. Finally, my husband was willing to make his choice, (though he was convinced that his commitment to God began in the Pentecostal church).  Before he ever started taking part, the workers visited us to inform us that they could not continue meeting in our home, as we had a TV.  My husband and his family were shocked and disappointed, but my husband refused to accept their “logic” of getting rid of the TV when the internet was already a thing. I refused to attend meetings for one year, as I didn’t see the point in going to a meeting when my husband was not welcome.

Although I started attending meetings again when a senior brother apologized for what had happened, my husband was clear that the system was corrupt in its entirety. He welcomed workers and the meetings in our home again, but chose to leave it at that. 

By this time his cousin and her husband had also been blocked from making their choice. Apparently in Pakistan, you have to get permission ahead of time, and they did not follow the protocol. Overall, it appeared that workers did not want my choices to have good consequences, such as having several in my family profess after the messy exit I had made from the work, and my decision to marry an outsider without their permission. 

The Covid lockdown was the perfect time for reflecting on my life without the input of meetings. Each meeting I missed was a relief! I realized that if any family wanted to know about God, I could not think of inviting them to the meetings I had known all my life.  It has now been two years since I left meetings in 2020. I am learning how to enjoy life. 

I had heard about William Irvine since I was a child. I still believed it was the scriptural way for the ministry and fellowship to work—the closest thing to the Bible days. As time goes on, it feels just like a religion and a poorly thought out one at best. The 2×2 ministry has been found to be morally decrepit, financially deceitful, and overall lacking of the love of God, due to its strong focus on outward appearance and compliance to the organization and hierarchy. 

One scripture that troubled me all my life was the parable about building on the rock.  I understood it to mean that people would accept the word of God, as interpreted by our preachers.  I believed that I was accepting that, yet I was like the house on the sand.  I was unstable.  I relied almost completely on the approval of others.  Without the workers’ approval, I fell apart.  I mostly considered that I was unworthy of love: God’s love, my colleague’s love, and of course self-love was a sin.

A large percentage of the ministry experiences depression similar to what I experienced.  I am so thankful that God heard my prayer and led me out of such a hurtful, harmful belief system. I have realized that the rock is the love of God, which is unchanging and unconditional.  I have finally experienced it and stability is a reality.  I realize that He loves me unconditionally, and that I can love myself that way, too.  I am so thankful to now experience freedom instead of shame and confusion.  

Karen (Boyd) Ale
June 14, 2023