My husband, David (who is a pastor), told me a story yesterday about a man at an elder/deacon board meeting at a church a few years back. The meeting was an effort to unite the congregation and staff and create a mission statement and vision for the church. At one point, during an endless talk about every minute detail, one of the elders spoke up and questioned, “Why don’t we allow the pastors to create a vision for the church? I mean, let’s trust them with this!” Right then, a very angry board member slammed his fist down onto the table and said, “THEN WHO WILL WIN?! No, we are NOT taking away the leadership from the LAY PEOPLE!!!” The man went on and on for a bit and then there was an awkward silence. The rest of the people at the meeting were slayed. This angry man revealed his heart right then and there. No one wanted to take anything away from anyone. But, to this man, this was not about Church. This was not a unified church effort to him . . . this was a war. And he wanted to win.
George Simon speaks of disturbed characters as “fighters”. Not warriors in the sense that they are fighting for some sort of common good or for their survival. Abusers see all of life as a fight — a fight to win, a fight to get their way and a fight against normal expectations of society:
. . . the disturbed character is making excuses (rationalizing), blaming others (scape-goating), it is absolutely essential to remember that he is primarily fighting. When you confront a disordered character about a harmful behavior, he is fully aware of the pro-social principle at stake. He’s likely heard the principle espoused several times and from several sources. (George K. Simon Ph.D.. Character Disturbance: the phenomenon of our age Kindle Locations 1735-1737).
Abusers, high conflict personalities and disturbed characters all put people into two categories: those above them and those beneath them. Nothing is mutual. It is part of why they love the patriarchy movement so much! And, for the seasoned abuser, every person in their path is a chance to dominate. It is a struggle for the upper-hand . . . one-upmanship . . . they want to win.
So . . . whenever a person gives themselves away with such language, you know you are dealing with a personality that wants to destroy. The truth is, these abusive personalities know and understand what they are doing and they generally (listen to this!) do not want to change. It is much easier to just continue to aggress against the universe. It is the way of the Enemy! It puts self in the driver’s seat. It is the age-old problem.
The answer to the problem of controlling people is always freedom in Christ. We always have freedom in Christ. Unfortunately, abusers do not see this, understand this nor want this. And, because they are shackled, they want to shackle others. The only thing we can do is to try to keep the shackles from mere man off of ourselves. Press on, as freemen who are also bondservants to only one — the Christ who died for us.
After reporting so many disappointing responses to domestic abuse by church denominations, we are glad to announce that the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod is taking a proactive stance to help victims and survivors of domestic abuse.
According to Deaconess Kim Schave of the LCMS:
Our church body has recently convened a task force to deal with this issue and is in the process of developing materials and a training program for our church at large. We hope to bring greater awareness to the issue as well as offer hope and healing to those who have suffered at the hands of an abuser. It is our belief that the Gospel must be proclaimed with great clarity in these instances with no additional burden being placed on a person already afflicted with unimaginable pain.
A Cry For Justice can recommend the LCMS as a sound denomination for abuse victim/survivors, but at this time not all pastors in that denomination are instructed concerning domestic abuse. Because the church-wide program is not planned to be fully in effect until December 2014, the LCMS has offered their assistance in a church placement program during the interim.
Let me explain what I mean by a ‘church placement program’. Any survivor of abuse who is interested in attending a LCMS church may contact me at email@example.com and I will refer them to the LCMS office that will assist them in locating a church. Additionally, the pastor will receive instruction and materials to ensure that the abuse victim will receive comfort and not the guilt that so many of us have endured in our former churches. I personally am now a member of the LCMS and can testify that the Gospel centered environment has restored the joy of being a Christian back into my life.
The LCMS is represented in all 50 states. There are over 6000 congregations and 2.3 million members in the U.S. Despite the large church body, we cannot recall a single abuse victim coming to this blog for assistance with church abuse issues. Should you be out of the United States, please contact me concerning LCMS ‘sister churches’ that may be in your area. The LCMS website has information about the denomination’s doctrines, history, missions, etc. I wrote a post previously concerning their abuse resources.
Thank you to Rev. Bart Day, Rev. John Fale, and Deaconess Kim Schave from the Office of National Mission for working with us to make the referral program available to readers of A Cry for Justice.
For purposes and advantages that only web trekkies understand, we have purchased our own web domain. You should see in your address bar that INSTEAD of cryingoutforjustice.wordpress.com (which is a bit of a mouthful), you have simply cryingoutforjustice.com Readers don’t need to take any action on their end.
Owning one’s own domain should make one feel like royalty. I don’t feel it yet. Waiting for it…..
Joh 14:1-3 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
When I was teaching an ESL class a couple of years ago, one of the Spanish-speaking students asked me about the English word “house” and how it was different from our word “home.” I thought for a moment and told her that “home” es mas sentimental — is more sentimental. She told me that the same is true of the Spanish words casa (house) and hogar (home). A house is not necessarily a home, as is evident when we speak in ways like “home sweet home” or “boy, it was so good to be home” or “this place feels like home to me.” Home, in other words, is a place where we are loved and where we can feel that love. Home is a feeling, more than a place you might say.
Abusers then, necessarily destroy home. A house, which should be a home, becomes anything but. It is a place of suffering, a place of attack, a place that is anything but safe. No one is at ease in such a house. Everyone (except the abuser) is on guard against the next raging session. There is no rest in such a place. And that is tragic because our houses are meant to be homes. Families, husbands, wives, children, are meant to be blessed with a place called home. Home is a place we can run TO, not FROM, when troubles assail us.
Abuse victims begin their journey home when they leave such a place. Over time, hopefully, their new house or apartment – even if it is not nearly as luxurious as their old house – can become their home, their refuge. Why? Because the abuser is not there! They are no longer sleeping with the enemy. This surely is one chief reason that abuse victims and their children are able to begin healing once they are out of that old place. This seems like common sense, but it appears that often that “sense” is not at all common in the family court system. So many “experts” today still cling to the notion that children are better off having a relationship with both mother and father, even if one parent is a terrorist! Many of you can testify to the fact that your children just start to recover, and about that time they have to go back for a court-ordered visitation with the abuser. To a great degree they return having to start recovery all over again.
One of the greatest truths about heaven, about the New Heavens and the New Earth, is that it will be perfectly and finally our Home. Thirty years ago I resigned my career in the police department and our family headed out to the West-Central mountains of Montana to pastor our first church. Though this proved to be an extremely trying eight years (people who move to remote areas often get low marks in “plays well with others”), when it came to the mountain valley itself in which we lived, I was “home” very quickly. I loved that place. Deer, elk, moose, fish, firewood, snowmobiles, horses, mountain lakes, snow. It has been very, very difficult for me to get over Montana, and in fact I really never have. If I could somehow transport our present church congregation to that valley, it would be a bit of heaven on earth.
As I write this, I am sitting in our church building here in Tillamook. We have been here going on now, 21 years. We have a small but wonderful band of believers in Christ Reformation Church now, but this unity has not come without many battles. Over these past two decades, and to a degree in the first decade of our ministry, the Lord has allowed many classic abusers to work their deeds upon us. This place, this building, has been the scene of many battles and discouragement, especially in the years before we truly came to understand the mentality and tactics of abuse (of evil). As a result, it has not been a “home.” Many times it has been more of a place where we have felt like we were unwelcome guests.
Those feelings do not depart quickly, even when we have separated from the abusers. I am hoping that someday this building will have a different “feel” to it — that it will become a home. I suspect that it will as memories of abuse are replaced with those of kindness, loyalty, and Christlike love.
I hope the same for all of you. I hope that you can find a place free of abuse, where you feel that you have come home. This much I can be certain of. Every single one of Christ’s people will without fail come safely home. The Lord knows us intimately. He knows the kind of home we need, and He is building it for us right now. One of the things we are going to experience on the Day He comes for us is that we will see our custom-made mansion and we will gasp and say, “I’m home. I am finally home. THIS is my Father’s house, and it is mine too.”
1Tim 1:15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
Christ is our righteousness. I am justified fully and completely before God by faith alone in Christ alone. I am righteous because Christ’s righteousness has been credited to me, and my sins credited to Him and fully paid for at the cross. Justice has been served, and God remains just. This is the good news of the gospel. If anyone is still thinking that it is by their performance that they will be accepted by God, then they are still approaching God by the Law, and the only result of the Law is condemnation, death, and hell. Christ justifies the UN-godly. Christ came into this world to save SINNERS. God’s love is such that it is not a matter of US loving Him first, but of HIM loving us while we were still sinners. If you would be just before God and be forgiven your sins, then you must cease all efforts from trying to make yourself “holy” enough so that God is somehow put into your debt and owes you that forgiveness. It won’t work.
And then we might mention a word here to anyone who might think that they are so miserable of a sinner that God would never forgive and accept them. Hear Christ’s own words, then read those of the Apostle Paul (above) once again:
Mar 2:15-17 And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
God’s free bounty glorify;
True belief and true repentance,
Every grace that brings you nigh.
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all.
Not of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requires
Is to feel your need of Him.
We are grateful and honored to have permission to publish Bekah Mason’s post (originally published on www.giveherwings.com). Bekah and Kat are two women who were more than happy to dedicate a few days to aid in the rescue of “Overcoming” (alias) and her daughter from an oppressive family. Overcoming had left an abusive marriage 3 years before but then found herself in another abusive situation with an dictatorial, cult-like church that, in no way, represents God’s people. As we, on the sidelines, “watched” how the story unfolded . . . how God used these incredible women to show His love to Overcoming . . . we wept, laughed, prayed . . . and, oh! What a privilege! Thank you, Bekah and Kat and all those who helped. And, thank you, Bekah for writing it all down. It is a great encouragement to all of us to hear and know about a victory. During the month of March, Give Her Wings is striving to help Overcoming and her daughter get back on their feet. We (at GHW) would like to be able to raise enough money to pay one or two months rent for an apartment to help them launch. If you are interested in taking part in our raffle or giving donations, please visit the website at http://www.giveherwings.com. Also, feel free to share this with anyone you know who may have a heart for helping “spiritual widows and orphans”. We had full permission from Barb & Jeff to post this. Meg
Here is the story of the miraculous rescue:
Ministry runs in the blood of my family. My grandfather, my uncle, and my father were or are involved in full time ministry. I’ve worked in church and counseling environments and currently teach in a local Christian school. In three generations of full time ministry, we’ve seen a lot of pain, a lot of heartache, a lot of failure and disappoint, horror and sheer disbelief.
Ministry often centers around helping the hurting, the broken, the forgotten. Give Her Wings is a ministry created to provide “gifts and money for mothers who have left abusive situations. Oftentimes, when a woman leaves an abusive marriage, she narrowly escapes with little more than her children and the clothes on her back. Give Her Wings desires to do all they can to help specific mothers who are living in very poor conditions presently.” Through monthly fundraisers, GHW gives love, support, and financial assistance to mothers who often feel alone, hopeless, forgotten.
But every once in a while, God places His children in a situation in which we get to physically step in and become the hands and feet of Jesus. We get to be a part of the rescue process, literally snatching someone from the flames of oppression and abuse. This is the situation in which I was blessed to find myself in the last couple of weeks.
This journey began nearly a month ago when Megan contacted me about a woman who lived within driving distance of me who had contacted her about her current living situation. Hoping to provide some support and encouragement, we exchanged emails, offered prayed, let her talk and process her experiences and current situation, and through the course of our conversations, I told Megan that I would just drive down and meet with her in person. Sometimes, people just need to know that they are seen and heard, and as invaluable as technology is to this ministry, you just can’t really provide that via social media.
So I hopped in the car with a fellow women’s ministry team member from my church, and we met “Overcoming” for dinner. We left broken hearted and convinced that this was a unique situation into which God had dropped Give Her Wings to be of special assistance to a woman and her daughter who had no where to go and no one to turn to for help.
From the stories we had heard, we had no idea what to expect. The family they had been staying with are members of a cult-like church, a group which emphasizes extreme patriarchy and teaches that men are not just the providers and protectors for their families, but are the priests (spiritual authority) and kings (total authority) of their homes and everyone living in them. This includes guests, and “Overcoming” and her daughter were increasingly expected to submit to his direction over their lives. Their movements were limited and monitored, they were expected to conform their lives to the habits and schedules of the family. They were told that they needed to submit their wills and their entire lives to the instruction and leading of the “Patriarch.” It appears the family hoped they would help with the house work and care of the family’s six children, and when it became apparent they would not, their connection to the internet was removed and a meeting with the church elders was demanded. At this point, “Overcoming” and her daughter left the home with a few belongings and headed to a hotel and we began planning to get down there to help them leave the house in which they were trapped. After long nights of prayer, longer days of phone calls, logistics, volunteer gathering, and number crunching, nearly a dozen people in 6 states had put together a plan.
This past Saturday, GHW ministry team member Kat, my friend Angela, and myself met at a local Starbucks and headed south, having no idea what we would encounter when we got there. Kat and I had never met, Kat and Angela had never met “Overcoming,” and the two men who were meeting us to load the moving truck were friends of a friend of another ministry team member. None of us had met the other team member or the two men. The miracle of technology brought together people united through the common bond of the Holy Spirit to do a work otherwise impossible to achieve.
Before long, we received a message from Kelley that said there was a problem with the moving truck. The one we had rented had been double booked, was I comfortable driving a 26’ truck instead? I called the rental company and told them that was fine, and we continued on our way.
When we arrived in the Home Depot parking lot, this greeted us:
I had seriously underestimated what 26’ looked like. And it’s diesel. I’d never driven a diesel. It had a power lift loading ramp. None of us had used one. But we laughed, prayed, and pulled out of the parking lot.
When we met “Overcoming” at the local grocery store, her daughter and our two “heavy lifters,” John and Brandon met us, too.
We did introductions, hugged, prayed, and headed to the house to begin gathering their belongings.
As soon as we arrived, “Patriarch” cooly took over. Without even a greeting or introduction, he asked us to turn the moving truck around by backing it down their curving driveway and backing it back up the driveway. When we struggled to do so, he did it himself. After opening the garage and showing John where the rest of the furniture was in the house, he left us to get to work.
Empty boxes were divided between “Patriarch’s” family and those belonging to “Overcoming.” When we ran out of boxes, we began using garbage bags. When time and space drew short, we asked “Overcoming” and her daughter to make the impossible decision of what was essential and what could stay here and potentially be replaced. His older daughters closely followed us, second guessing what belonged to whom and running back and forth into the house to report what we were doing.
When “Patriarch” came out to check progress, he asked questions of the entire group, I would answer, and he would direct his answers to John. It became quickly obvious that he was unwilling to converse with a woman, so we complied and John spoke with him from that point.
“Patriarch” did help John and Brandon move the largest and heaviest furniture downstairs, which was much appreciated. After that he was polite when he interacted with us, but kept his distance.
We quickly realized that there was much more to move than we had originally anticipated; our “wrong” moving truck was exactly what God knew we needed to accomplish the task He set before us that day.
As we sorted, packed, and loaded, the work became more oppressive. Trips inside the home revealed a cluttered, depressed building, full of children, but devoid of laughter, play, or joy. As the older girls followed us around, they asked piercingly honest questions of a child: “Are you glad you’re leaving? We’re glad you’re leaving because now we get our room back.” While “Overcoming” and her daughter had been sharing a bed in one room, four of the children had been sharing another room upstairs.
Around lunch time, “Patriarch” and his daughters offered us pizza and drinks to take a break from our work. Angela and Kat had an opportunity to talk with the wife. Please pray for her and their children, as their spirits seem crushed by the oppression in which they live.
At the same time, three teenage boys and two younger boys showed up at the house. We thought they were friends of “Overcoming” who had come to help, because they were very friendly and began carrying boxes without even being asked. When “Overcoming” came outside, however, they said hello and she asked them if they had talked to “Patriarch” yet. They went inside and never came back out. The next time I went inside, they were sitting around the kitchen table, Patriarch at the head of the table, sharing some sort of instructional time.
I will not forget the anger I felt flood over me as I watched a man train the manhood out of those boys. They inherently knew they needed to be helping us work, but instead, they repressed that urge and mindlessly obeyed the command of the man in authority over them. When they left about an hour later, they passed by the truck, heads dropped and silent.
While they were having their study time, I took a break from packing the truck and looked into the window of the kitchen. My mind flooded with memories of a friend who had escaped across an ocean to save her family from abuse and oppression. I thought about those young men, and “Patriarch’s” young children and wife. I thought about how unimaginable it was that Kat and I had just had to ask “Overcoming” to go through her belongings and decide what she was willing to leave behind.
I was done at that moment. And at that same moment, one of the young girls who had been wandering back and forth, chatting with us and helping as she could, came up to the truck and said, “This is for you.” I looked down and saw this:
Rev. 2:17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’ Whispers of mercy and reminders that He is here.
In the pain, oppression, anger. He was there. He is there still, with those kids. With their mother. With “Patriarch.” He is there, and He brings freedom. And that is my prayer.
My reaction to stress and trauma is to put my head down and get to work. I was feverishly focused on getting the truck safely packed. Two times that I distinctly remember, I stopped working and looked up to see Kat holding “Overcoming” in a tight hug, whispering prayers and words of hope in her ear as she wept under the weight of what was taking place. I was again reminded that God had assembled a random group of total strangers, each uniquely equipped to complete part of the task He had before us.
As the hours passed, we began to be concerned about the emotional toll this was taking on all of us, but especially our sweet mother and daughter. To help them prepare to walk away, we asked them again to seriously consider what they were willing to leave behind, and we moved only the items that were essential or particularly sentimental. We were unsure that a return trip would be possible, and if it were, we were fairly convinced that none of her belongings would be there when she returned.
Once the furniture was loaded, John and Brandon left, and we began praying that God would provide kind people at the storage unit to help us unload the things the men had loaded for us. Between heavy furniture, a freezer and a refrigerator, and an upright piano, we had no idea how were were going to get it into the storage unit.
The trip to the storage unit was light and uneventful. The relief felt by us all was tangible. The weight lifted from “Overcoming” and her daughter was physically seen. In just one week, there was a transformation in their body language, in their communication. There was light and hope in their eyes as we sat around a table at a fast food restaurant and listened to them continue to share.
We thought we were home free, but there were more surprises in store. While we were eating, God answered another prayer. Another family had heard that
“Overcoming” was moving her belongings and called to see if they could help. “YES!” was the answer they had received, and when we arrived at the storage unit, they were waiting for us!
Immediately issues began. As the sun began setting and a 9 pm deadline staring us down, we struggled to open the gate to the storage facility. Once it was opened, we hit a huge wall: the key “Overcoming” had been given on Thursday did not open the door to the climate control unit she had rented. After making multiple phone calls, getting disconnected from one person (we later found out that he had dropped his phone in toilet in the middle of the call!), and being unable to reach anyone else, we began to get desperate. Fatigue and frustration set in. “Overcoming” went to the facility across the street, hoping someone might be there who would rent one of their units to her.
There was no one on duty.
The gentleman who met us there attempted to jimmy the door to the unit open. It wouldn’t budge. We considered taking the door off the hinges, but decided that was a bit extreme. When we had run out of options, someone suggested that find some basic storage units and empty the truck into them until they could reach someone about the rented unit.
At that point, the tangible oppression we had felt only a few hours earlier was replaced by an equally tangible peace and joy that was inexpressible. We hugged “Overcoming” and her daughter, as well as our new friends who had come to save the day at the storage unit.und ourselves lifted out spirits, re-energized us, and we had the truck unloaded in less than an hour.
Kat, Angela and I left while we watched the rest of our little group continue to laugh and fellowship in the parking lot.
Before we even got back to the truck drop off center, I had received a call from “Overcoming,” and I nearly didn’t recognize her voice in the message. She was joyful, laughing, chatting freely. She saw a victory won. She had hope. She’d been given wings and had taken flight.