WCNC 36- “The Defenders”- and My Response to WOFF Hostage Videos

(updated 5/6/17 10:32AM)
Friday evening, WCNC Channel 36 out of Charlotte ran a news piece briefly reviewing the controversy surrounding Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF). The segment titled, “The Defenders”. The reporter, Mark Boyle, labeled this piece as “balanced” in that he gave WOFF a platform for their rebuttal to charges being leveled against them. The video recaps the criminal charges against Brooke Covington in the Matthew Fenner case and also includes video of Benjamin Cooper, audio of Jane Whaley, video of my family and one comment from me. The video is just over four minutes ending with the reporter saying they reached out to the leader of the church and she did not offer a comment except to call the allegations “gossip and lies.”.

Some of the material for this piece was gathered a few months back. The audio of Jane during Benjamin’s attempt to tell her that he and his wife were leaving WOFF is one of the most revealing and intense components. My ex-wife, Martha, is shown giving her take on my exit while I am shown calling that period of my life a “train wreck.” For those who have read my book, “Locked in”, you understand the reference.

For a few weeks, I have been pondering my response to the WOFF hostage videos which include my children. The pressures for everyone, not just my family, to rewrite their personal history in order to fit the now narrative is revealing and sad. I get it as I lived there and know that pressure. The comments made by my ex-wife are WOFF-revealing and in fact expose the very dynamics which in other places are denied vehemently. It would be confusing, if it were not so obvious to former members who survived the ever-changing Jane-centered conundrum filled “logic.”

This seems to be the right time to refocus on important issues – Sarah and Michael. Yes, I have concern for all behind the invisible WOFF-walls of fear and intimidation. Several have chosen their personal freedom recently, a trend which I hope continues and increases. The following is my answer to the damage control efforts put out by WOFF.

The Love in My Heart… Answer to my children
(please, continue reading)

Dear Sarah and Michael,
The love I have in my heart for each of you is not dimmed by the recent videos posted by Word of Faith Fellowship. Debating the content here is not my purpose. You know beyond the pressures to rewrite your personal history that I have tried several times to reach out to you since my departure from WOFF. I possess the physical evidence of my attempts to reach you, but will not include here.

Today, I want to tell you how I long for the time when my relationship with both of you is restored. Your freedom from the grip of WOFF is something I watch and wait for every day. It was not my first preference to reveal my private feelings about you in an open letter. However, since WOFF has pressured you to send out videos about me, I decided that I would write this letter in the hope that it would get to you.

In my calendar I carry pictures of you both. Every day I open that calendar in the morning and see your pictures. My heart aches with a deep yearning of which only a parent can know. Every evening as I end my work shift, I open the calendar again to record the day’s events. There in the front are your pictures smiling back at me as a reminder of what I never can forget. You are my children and I love you no matter what you are coached to say or how often your image is used by WOFF in an attempt to discredit me. Beyond the noise of the running debate spawned by life inside WOFF, my heart remains full of love and resolve to be ever ready to help you in any way needed once you choose freedom.

Recently, I visited the duck pond in Spartanburg, SC. Do you remember our trips there? I do. It was so much fun to see the joy on your face as we threw bread to the hungry ducks. Michael’s wide-eyed expression alarm as the duck’s drew close to him makes me laugh to this day. We had some fun times there and even after these many years, it puts a smile on my face.

This past March, I was in Greenville and reminded of good times we shared- especially flying kites! While living in Mauldin, we walked to the end of the block and flew kites in the big open lot. I remember the excitement as one of us would run with the kite and the wind lifted it higher and higher. I told you stories of me flying kites with my Dad. Sarah, remember losing your keys in the field? We went home and you were so upset. The lot was so large and we thought the keys might be lost forever. The next morning, I walked through the field and found them! You were so excited when I showed them to you. Those are memories which I cherish and draw strength from.

I have the family pictures we took during our day trips and vacations. There are days I pull them out and allow the warm memories of family times to flood my heart. Remember when we went fishing at the private pond in Easley? We caught several little fish and rode the paddle boat. Again, the expressions of wonder with the process and prize of learning to fish encourage my heart. We never cooked the fish, but the memories remain.

One trip to Georgia included a stop at the Mayfield Dairy. We all enjoyed the ice cream after the tour of the plant. I still have the picture your Mom took of us standing in front of the Mayfield Ice Cream cart. It was a fun day which I will never forget.

Earlier this year, I helped your Nana empty her attic as she prepares to sell her house. There amidst the boxes of decorations were family pictures and treasures which brought us both a flood of memories. She even had some of my baby clothes! Yes, I understood the process and the pleasures she experienced. I have kept treasures from our time together such as the notes each of you wrote me when I took overnight watch at the church. The strain of life inside WOFF did not totally destroy the warm love and affection we shared. One day, hopefully soon, we will reunite and again share the rich relationship we were meant to live with one another.

Yes, I have your baby pictures! Those are the most exciting of all. Both of you were such cute babies! One day you will want them and all you have to do is ask. Sarah, for you that day is coming soon.

Every time I see a phone call from an 828 area code which I do not recognize, my heart jumps. Is this the call? Is this the call letting me know Sarah and Michael have left the confines of WOFF and are set to begin their life in freedom? The expectancy is constant, the emotion runs deep.

As I close this note, I trust you will be able to read it in private. The promise of the future burns brighter as the days pass and more light comes to your present living situation. My hope of being reunited with you affects decisions I make day in and day out. To some, my decisions don’t seem logical. My only explanation is the deep love and dedication to my children directs my steps at times when all else fades away. These feelings are ones known by parents. I will not give up hope for either of you. You both deserve all the freedoms which others live each day. Know I am here, wanting to help you begin that journey to personal freedom.

I love you very much.

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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. Jane told me and Josh confirmed it.

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 599.

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5 thoughts on “WCNC 36- “The Defenders”- and My Response to WOFF Hostage Videos”

  1. John, please, please, please let your children know that God is everywhere. He will greet them with open arms and they can worship him, serve him and please him outside of that religious prison they are stuck in right now. In truth they will be able to serve him more effectively than they are now because the focus will be truly on God and not so much on the devil and how he is everywhere. It seems to me the devil gets more attention in that place than God does. If only they could get out and actually smell and breath in the freedom of real love and worship of God. Oh the joy!

  2. To Members of WOFF,

    More than years ago, my parents didn’t have the money to send me to Oral Roberts University’s nursing program. I’d attended Christian school for high school, back when it was much cheaper to afford. They settled on paying to send me to a private college with a student body of only women and housing only for women on campus. It was a Catholic school with an excellent reputation, and it was felt that I would be basically cloistered there. I became and RN in two years, then paid for the additional two years myself.

    I earned my very first “C”s ever when I took psych nursing, but every day was hard. I learned something new every day that showed me that “my normal” was not normal to everyone else. The experience left me peer out into the world enough for me to see that I had better alternatives available to me on many levels.

    The man I married went to school in the Bible Belt, and while he finished his graduate work, we attended a church called Word of Faith Center. Jerry Sevelle would visit and names that I know you would recognize. But as I tried to be more involved and as I started claiming different healings, and as I tried to lay hands on the sick, and as I went on long fasts, and as I was basically told that I didn’t get the results I was promised because I either had sin in my life or not enough faith, I began to see that those promises were empty.

    I moved away and started attending another church, and I was relieved by then to find that they still accepted the gifts of the Spirit, but they weren’t so driven by signs and wonders. I felt like I didn’t have to chase after them like I had before — worn out and disillusioned from that quest.

    It turns out that my husband and I joined a church that was actually much more directly controlling than Word of Faith had ever been for me. I was able to miss seeing the child abuse for awhile, and I didn’t want to notice the women who suffered abuse. I started contending with leadership for the way they taught men to disregard their lives like they were domestic servants and with the way they demanded submission and blamed wives for their own beatings. We lasted for a year after that. Friends of mine were beaten. I once took a phone call at the church when a friend of mine called for the pastor. Her husband threw her down the basement steps and locked her there, and I learned weeks later that she was actually calling from the locked basement. It would have been seen as sinful if she’d broken down the door to get out or if she called the police for help.

    I don’t know that I would have had the courage to walk away from that church, and it was at my husband’s urging. We put a date on the calendar, and when the date came, we left. I fell apart when I phoned my assigned elder to thank him but to let him know that I was leaving, and it was then that he pronounced curses of disease and calamity if we left. They said that we belonged to them until they saw fit to release us.

    But know that I did walk away. And I spent the next ten years realizing that much of what I thought that I knew about God’s love was never about God. I was so broken because I had to admit in my heart that I’d actually spent most of my life serving churches and the traditions of men.

    I went into such a depression, and the only person who understood was an “exit counselor” who spent an hour on the phone with me explaining to me what my church was like. The churches I called all told me to go back and repent to my pastor. Repent for what? Thinking it was wrong to beat women and children? That I would not do.

    But I loved Jesus and I knew that like Paul said, nothing works against the truth and can only work for it. I was reminded that the kingdom of God was not eating or drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit. I’d learned as a child that Jesus had an easy yoke and His burden was light. What I experienced in that church did not have anything to do with peace or joy — or righteousness. And I gave myself permission — or really just found in the Word that something was very, very wrong. This wasn’t Jesus.

    John Huddle wrote to me soon after I started blogging. He, too, decided to trust in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit and just couldn’t pretend anymore that the cheap imitation of those things that WOFF offered him were anything but. My process of coming to terms with that was the hardest time of my life. Standing up to go on living despite the curses that my friend and elder pronounced on my husband on me was so terrifying at the time. But I put my faith in God and trusted that all of the experiences that I’d had in the past were meant to happen, and I just couldn’t settle for any more empty promises. I definitely could not wink at the church tolerating domestic abuse.

    Above, someone writes, “Oh, the joy!” It took me a long time to find joy. I had to consider and put my faith to the test in light of what the Bible spoke about as truth and how some of those ideas had been twisted. I found a lot of struggle, especially in the beginning. Some days, I still struggle now. But I have learned that the promise that the truth will set us free was a faithful one.

    I finally caught up to your dad a few years after he wrote to me after he’d left WOFF and his beloved family. His emails broke my heart. I know some of that pain, because I lost my parents when I walked away from the empty promises. My heart aches every day, and I dream about my parents more often than anyone or anything else. So I know what it is like to still deeply love someone who believes that I’ve walked away from God.

    So know that I have walked a similar journey that you might face. Know that I struggled through some parts of school because what was taught to me about living a healthy life was anything but healthy. And I know the million different emotions that I felt when first began to challenge the idea that what I knew as love really fell far short of healthy love.

    I always think that if I could walk away, anyone can– walk away for even just a little while == to spend time with my First Love without having my relationship with God come through an anointed prophet or apostle. But I did, and God met me there.

    God should be able to handle us and should be bigger than us so that He can give us room and time to think through what we believe. Surely, the Ancient of Days who was loving and caring enough to lay down His life for me could meet me where I was and help me find my way to righteousness and peace and joy instead of all of the concern of “eating and drinking” and following rules .

    John Huddle grew weary of being given something less than God’s love for him and wasn’t willing to settle for a bunch of empty promises and a heavy yoke. I did, too. And if God did that for us, why not put Him to the test, too. You will find much love and freedom.. Pray about it.

  3. Cindy,

    Thank you, for opening your heart in hopes of helping many you may never meet. I appreciate the love you show others by sharing the pain of the journey. There is hope!


  4. Kim,

    Freedom has a taste and a smell that is matched by none other! Thank you for the encouragement.


  5. Thank you for sharing your story and the stories of others. I did not know about this WOFF until I read one of your blogs, just by happenstance. It is so sad, so horrible, that there are people in the world conning people into believing abuse, violence and bullying are ok by God. Crazy! I pray that your children will wake up one day very soon and come back to you. And that all the abused children are set free.

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