Another Exit Drama Unfolds…

  This past Monday I was made aware of a young man that had left or was actually put out of Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF). My information came through anonymous sources. Before I tell of the events, let me explain why this post will be different. The events surrounding this exit from WOFF were in many ways not unique. Many others have gone through very similar drama scenes. In light of this and because the events are in many ways still unfolding, I will refrain from using the names of the family members involved. I will mention those who are in the drama-trauma that have been mentioned before on the blog. So, we begin…

   Monday, I received a notice mentioning that a young man had been dropped off at a local hotel in Forest City by his Dad.  He was asking for help and he may be open to my help. I proceeded with caution as I can never be absolutely certain until contact is made with a person who wants to leave. I called the number given and left a message. Soon, I received a call back from this young person. He explained simply that he was out and needed help. He was dropped off with the clothes on his back and had not received his personal effects. I agreed to meet him for dinner and we would talk. As I drove to the area, I had thoughts of helping him at least get his clothes and other basic items. My initial thoughts were to attempt contact with Mark Morris as he had been very helpful in the Morgan Sample exit drama.

   I picked him up from a business where he had been waiting since earlier in the day for help. I learned he had walked from the hotel to the phone service provider and actually purchased his first cell phone. We went to a local restaurant. As we both sat down with our dinner, this young person appeared very cautious and not sure where to start. I encouraged him just to relax and tell me what happened. He began by saying he would review the events over the last year. He would not be able to tell everything, but would give the main events. So, he began to tell a story very similar to ones I had heard before. This young man had been sent to the fourth building at WOFF. There he was sent to live with other men who were giving to the “unclean”. As he spoke of the rules and the punishments, my heart sank. For a brief moment, I had hopes that maybe things had changed. But, in the end, I could see that the behavior modification methods had not changed, but, in fact seemed more intense.

  

   He had two tours in the fourth building- November 2010 to January 2011 and then August 2011 to November 2011. I will not get all the details in order or even be able to remember all that was said. The testimony was not recorded. But, I heard enough to consider the methods of shunning and control as emotionally traumatic and unhealthy. He said the fourth building had been remodeled in to four sections with three bunks in each section. The bunks contained upper and lower beds. He said at times, there were people in air mattresses sleeping on the floor. There could be as many as 28 men and boys as young as sixteen. At the two front entrance doors there entrance ways partitioned off as a foyer or hall. The one shower was located in the rear of the building and that hallway had a door at the back left corner leading out of the building.

  He said he would get corrected for not following the rules. He listed his number of times as being put out of the group and on “discipline” as five over the two tours. I asked him what rules he broke and he specifically mentioned taking too long in the shower. He was in the bathroom a total of five minutes and three minutes was the limit. So, he was corrected. Other violations of rules landed him on “discipline”. Before we discuss what the “discipline” consisted of, let’s review a few more of the rules.

   You had to ask permission or let someone else know you had to “go to the bathroom”. This was so others could watch and make sure you didn’t stay too long and “give to the unclean”. If you did, they could and would knock on the door to warn you of the infraction. Men would be required to sleep with their hands outside their bed sheets. Sleeping past 8:00AM Monday through Friday was not allowed and being up past midnight was not allowed unless you were on a night-time “work project”. He said that lying too long in bed was a reason to be corrected and put on discipline. There was one shower to serve 28 men and/or young teenagers. Also, clothes had to be marked with you name. If they were not and were found lying around or out of place, then they were gathered in to a pile and eventually bagged and put in the yard sale. He mentioned he saw tagged clothes in the bags designated for the yard sale.

   I asked what it meant to be “put on discipline”. After being in WOFF and experiencing at least some level of “church discipline”, I thought I knew what he would say. Some of his remarks shocked me even after being a WOFF member. His experience of being “on church discipline” while being in the fourth building included the following “restraints”. One time he was told to sit outside the back door and read and pray and get a hold of God. While in these times of separation, he would not be allowed to join in the prayer or Bible reading the others participated in. This was the shunning as mentioned here on the blog in previous posts. During the times of “discipline”, he would not be allowed to listen to the church services that were being sent over speakers to the building. He recounted one time of being reprimanded in sharp tones from other men in the room for singing along with the praise service being heard by others in the same building. Why? Because he “on discipline” for his unclean. For this young man, being on “discipline” included long times of being put in a corner and shunned by all. He admitted many times of being at a loss for what to do next and the many hours of separation were filled with anxiety and uneasiness.  

   As he spoke at the restaurant, I encouraged him to stop and eat. He said he had had very little appetite for several days. He mentioned he had not been sleeping regular and who would be surprised at that? After suffering through the living conditions and even more the shunning; is it unexpected that this would disrupt basic sleeping and eating patterns? Is this young man’s experience typical of the fourth building experience? I can’t say since I have only heard from several who have left. Even if the results were not typical, do the methods being employed to rid men and young boys of the “unclean” seem equitable or emotionally healthy?

  After a while, another man who had expressed an interest in hearing the story joined us. He listened with a sympathetic ear and agreed with me that was hard to take in all that was being shared. I encouraged the young man to make a list of what he wanted returned to him. After he did, I attempted to contact the WOFF office. Realizing the seminar services may still be going on, I waited a bit longer. After some more time, I began to send text messages to a few folks in leadership hoping to find a number for Mark Morris. There was no reply, so I called the church office again. A lady answered and I asked for Mark Morris. She asked who I was and I answered John Huddle. Soon, Jane Whaley came to the phone.

   From here, I will admit, I am not able to repeat everything that was said between us. I can say I talked more to her on Monday evening than I had in all the years of being in WOFF. As best as I can remember, she asked what I wanted. I told her I was interested in helping this young man get his clothes and personal items. We had a list and I had hoped to speak to Mark as he had been a help in times past. She then began to impugn the young man’s recitation of how he had acted and what he “had given to”. She claimed the fourth building had been made in to a very nice living area. I told her that this young man had said he was put in a corner for discipline.

   Again, I may not get the order of the conversation correct. Somewhere I mentioned staying with the original purpose of the call was to obtain this man’s belongings. Jane made other statements including her displeasure with a certain document on this blog and explaining some other things she knew, that she thought I needed to know. Eventually, she volunteered to take down the list and see what she could work out. She made no promises for help that evening since the young man’s father was working. She had said that this whole matter was between the mother and the young man. It was none of my business or hers. My desire has been to help and as long as members are being put out or leave WOFF lacking their personal property, I will help, if asked. After Jane took the list, I thanked her for any help she could offer. Near the end of the conversation, I offered her my cell number and she took it. I told her to call me anytime.

    After this conversation, there was at least the assurance of knowing that Jane was aware of the situation and if she had not been made aware of the details beforehand, she had them now. We had hope that she would get to the bottom of the matter and help if she could. Soon after leaving the restaurant, I received a call from Jane. She said that the young man’s brother would bring his clothes and other items to the hotel that evening. I again thanked her and she said you are welcome. A while later, the brother showed up and parked his car. I unloaded the items and mentioned him that this whole situation was very emotional and I was trying to make it less so. Also, after moving the items, I made sure to tell him to pass on to Jane how much we appreciated her kindness.

    The young man had received more than he had asked for. Though the clothes were packed in bags and in much disarray, there were more clothes than he expected and also items of his that were not on the list. This young man asked why that had happened, I told him because Jane wanted to avoid any chance of being accused of keeping his personal items once she was aware of the problem. The only item kept by the family was this man’s computer. There was a disagreement over certain details about the ownership of the computer he used. In light of the other things returned, I told this young man that the dispute was not worth arguing over at this time. He was very grateful to get the items that were returned.

    As excited as he was to receive his personal property back, this elation in no way erases the emotional turmoil and obvious stress which he had experienced while a member of WOFF. Having “stuff” does not replace the family relationships which were torn apart during this drama. Having “stuff” did not ease the fear that came from being told that “the police would be called as he would be living on the street and be picked-up and put in jail!” The strains and emotional rollercoaster experienced during this exit drama were very typical of many exit dramas of the past. Well, actually, there was a lot less extreme drama than has been experienced by others. But, why should there be any drama at all? Why should a member who decides to leave and take another path other than WOFF be subjected to shunning, relationship destruction and the events in this narration? The exit drama is not totally over and there is much healing needed. It is likely, that at least for now, this young man will be estranged from his parents and brothers as well as other WOFF members he has known since childhood. All because of what? You tell me. Is it worth it? In order to keep the rules and live in WOFFness, is it worth all the destroyed lives? As I am able, I will bring exit drama updates.

   Thank you, for taking time to visit and read this blog. Please, consume the information on this site responsibly. The author is not a licensed mental health professional and encourages those that need professional help to seek it. The intent of the material is to inform and be a resource. Be sure to tell every member that you know at WOFF about this blog. There are readers at WOFF. Comments are invited from all readers, including present or former members. Polls are not scientific and no private information is gathered.

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       Please, take time to read the Terms of Use for this personal blog. As mentioned, for posts written by John Huddle, any information about WOFF is from his memories and recollections as perfect as that may be or not be.  Scripture references are Amplified Version unless otherwise noted. (Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation ) This is post number 362.

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3 thoughts on “Another Exit Drama Unfolds…”

  1. oh such memories ……… many years ago when Lauren was 4 years old she too was made to keep her arms on top of the covers and had someone sit by her bed and watch her the entire time she slept! This went on for months.

    Glad to hear the boy was able to leave, thank you to John for being there to help!!

  2. Sheri,

    It is an honor to help. Hoping others need help and there are enough folks to meet the needs…

    John

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