True Story: My Family Was In A Cult


This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/challenging/amazing things. This is the story of “Jane” and her family’s involvement with The Way International, a Christian cult.

Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I have two brothers, 2 and 4 years younger than me, and a mom and a dad who are still together. When I was a kid my dad owned his own printing business and my mom worked as a nurse. Until I was 8 we lived in Miami, Florida. Even though we live in Kentucky now I’ll probably always say I’m a Florida girl. As far as personality, my dad is gregarious and likes active conversation but values his alone time. My mom is incredibly sweet and has been actively fighting shyness her whole life. She’s always searching for ways to be more sociable.For those of us who don’t know, can you tell us a bit about The Way International?
The Way International started in the mid 1900s by Dr. Victor Paul Weirwille. I grew up with a picture of him displayed prominently in the house. He was a priest or minister for a church and I was taught that he discovered that what he was teaching was incorrect and because the church leaders told him to shut up and not teach what he learned through his own research he left and started his own religious group. From what I understand about Christianity (I’ve never attended church) we were taught basic Christian tenets.

The main differences seem to be that we separated Jesus (Son) and God (Father) and did not view Mary as a deity. We were also taught that Hell did not exist, though a temporary lake of fire would exist for awhile. And of course traditional religion was pure evil and the work of the Devil corrupting, over generations, people who genuinely wanted to learn the truth. That idea? Terrifying to a small child, that the devil could trick you and you would NO idea and think you were doing right. I still struggle with that idea: I think I’m doing right, but really I’m doing evil? How am I supposed to tell the difference? What if I’ve been taken in? What if I think I’m smart but I’m really nothing but a gullible lump of clay?

The official website is here. The Wikipedia page seems accurate and is another good source if you’re curious.

How old were you when your family became involved? How involved was your family?
My parents became involved when they were both in their early to mid 20s. They completed a training and education program called Power for Abundant Living and were WAY Ambassadors, which means they were assigned places to live and their main purpose was to teach people in the community. I don’t know much at all about that time in their lives, but I know that they met while involved in this program.

There was a big emphasis on small community and family. Meetings were held in “believers” homes multiple times a week – the “church” was considered the people, not a building. The idea was to recreate as closely as possible the early church, around the time of Jesus. The meetings were simple: prayer, singing, teaching from the Bible, speaking in tongues, and snacks. My parents were leaders, which meant they hosted meetings in their home. We usually had a Sunday morning meeting and a Wednesday evening meeting, but sometimes we met more often (ie: Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday).

My parents gave a lot of money to TWI. I don’t know how much, but I can tell you that even small children (toddlers) were expected to tithe, or give 10% of what they had at each meeting. My mom recently admitted that when she was in her late twenties TWI convinced her to give them her life savings. We were taught that it was better to be poor; being rich was evil because it meant you weren’t helping others.

There is a headquarters in Ohio, Weirwille’s converted farm, but we never lived there. We used to attend Rock of Ages, a yearly festival, there, and when we moved to Kentucky we tried to go to the Sunday morning meetings every week.

As a child, what were your feelings about the organization?It was just life for me. I wasn’t really aware that it was possible to live any other way. I told friends at school a little about what I learned sometimes, but never tried to minister to or convert anyone. Sometimes I didn’t want to go to the meetings because they were boring.

How did The Way effect your family’s daily life?
It seemed like every part of life was directly linked with the WAY. We prayed before each meal, of course (referring to God as “Father”), and we were constantly memorizing Bible verses, commenting on the wonder that God was or had made, preparing for meetings or cleaning up from them. My parents spent a lot of time doing research, and as I reached adolescence I started doing more of my own reading and research. If somebody broke a rule, for instance speeding on the highway, it was linked to God somehow. If we saw an accident we prayed for the victims. I wasn’t allowed to read Goosebumps books or watch MTV because these things were “devilish.”

When and why did your family break away from The Way?
In 1997, when I was 12, I was just finishing my first time through the Power for Abundant Living class. We were required to speak in tongues in front of everyone, and I was so shy I couldn’t do it. The man hosting the class (which was taught via video by this point) put his face very close to mine and essentially bullied me into speaking in tongues. My parents were standing across the room, visibly uncomfortable with what was happening. I was crying and the man was inches from my face and he was using language of love in the most terrifying, bullying way.

During the same time we were planning a trip to the Grand Canyon. We were not given permission to go, and given how bad things had become my parents decided to go anyway. That’s how we left. We were not allowed to come back to meetings or talk to anyone from The Way again. We were labeled “Mark and Avoid.”

Has the experience effected your relationship with faith as an adult?
I don’t trust religion. I struggle with the idea of faith. As I mentioned above, how am I supposed to know what’s right? If I was involved in something dangerous I thought was good, and organized religion is evil, and determining your own beliefs without guidance is dangerous and evil then what’s good? I realized recently that I’ve become agnostic. I LOVE the idea of God, but I’m not able to trust others or myself when it comes to my beliefs.My family and I no longer discuss faith or God in any capacity, and we haven’t for over a decade. This silence has contributed to my level of discomfort with the topic.

What advice would you give to someone whose family or friends are involved with a similar organization?
First of all, they should find a support group made up of people who are not involved. When we left my parents had to stop contact with most of their friends and acquaintances, and if we had family involved we would not have been allowed to see them anymore.Beyond that, unfortunately I’m not sure what advice I can give. If they are happy with their life it seems wrong to try to change it for them. If it’s dangerous, and you’ve seen the effects, you’ll have to somehow make the one involved see all of that.

It will be hard. It will take time. They will probably think you’re trying to keep them from truth and beauty and salvation and all that. I would seek contact with people who used to be involved but left of their own accord. Since I was a child when I was involved I was shielded from a lot and don’t feel comfortable giving specific advice.

Have any of you ever experienced anything like this? Any questions for “Jane”?

44 Comments

meliasaurus

Aside from taking lots of money it sounds like they believed pretty much what Christians believe. Many Christians even make commitments to poverty. I always believed that Jesus and God were separate but of the same spirit, that's not weird to me. Also christians don't believe Mary is a diety.
If I can offer any advice I think that as far as doing evil things, as long as you aren't doing harm or purposely causing a disadvantage to anyone else I don't think acts are "evil".

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Han

I'm a Christian. Speaking in tongues is a gift and shouldn't be forced – God will give it to you when he knows you are ready.

Mary isn't a deity and from what I understand (and I could be wrong) it's only Catholicism that makes such a big deal about Mary. I have a friend who is Christian but has been taught that adult baptism by submersion is wrong (even though Jesus was baptised by John)

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joyfuljem102

You are right on all three counts, Han. Mary is NOT a deity. She was a human, a woman, a vessel, and a humble servant of Yahweh, the most high God. Period. And as far as praying before meals goes, what's wrong with that? We are told in Scripture to "Give thanks for everything". And isn't it better to be baptized as an adult so you KNOW WHOLEHEARTEDLY what it is you are agreeing and committing to do? Sorry. Your definition of a cult is mild in comparison to what I have experienced in my life.

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Anonymous

I experienced a Christian cult-like church once too. I worked abroad one summer at a remote resort location. It was not at all religious to its patrons but required that all the staff attend mandatory bible meetings, one-to-ones with pastors, and mass three times a week or your contract would be terminated without pay. You were also not allowed to leave the property without permission and we were basically publicly pressured/ridiculed into giving up 10% of our cheques for tithe. A lot of the pastors there were very radical and had doctrines that sound similar to Jane's pastor (ie being rich is evil, your life is worthless without god, you are going to hell if you don't believe, women are below men, etc.). The worst was that I didn't realize until after I signed a 12-week work contract with them what a scary place it was. I spent 11 miserable weeks pretending to enjoy myself before feigning a family emergency and heading back home a few days early. I grew up in a mildly catholic environment and at the time was exploring the idea of religion, but the whole experience really deterred me from it. The thing that scared me the most was how so many intelligent people could be sucked into unthinking obedience for these pastors. I am now agnostic as a result as well.

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Kara

It kind of upsets me when commenters make statements about belief systems they don't know about. For the record, Mary is not considered a deity by any Christian faith – not even by Catholics. Catholics "make a big deal" about Mary because she was Jesus' mother, but so do most "high church" Christian religions. Episcopalians do to some degree, but so do most Orthodox Christian faiths.

It does sound like the cult group that "Jane" and her family were involved with took the basic tenets of Christianity … and then added to and twisted them.

I also am agnostic (after being raised Catholic, converting to a fairly fundamentalist Protestant denomination, and then going back to the Episcopal church, with a few diversions to Wicca and Buddhism along the way) but I do have a form of faith that is my own. I hope that someday Jane can also find some kind of comfort and peace with whatever belief system she develops.

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Angie.

Wow! That was quite the experience. It's interesting reading stories about cults & religious experiences. I am an active member of the LDS church (or Mormons, if that's more familiar). In any church I can see big similarities and differences as well…
But what's most interesting to me is how people can make someone believe they're doing wrong! I think that's my biggest problem with religion (even, sometimes my own.)
(for example: I'm a huge supporter of Gay Rights, but my church doesn't want to support Gay Rights. The LDS church deems that marriage is between man and woman. But I believe that it's wrong to say whether a person may or may not get married to the person they love and share the same rights, it just doesn't seem logical to me. But being a part of my church, I am supposed to believe what my church says. I've basically boiled it down to Jesus loves everyone, and if he can love everyone, I can too. Despite the ideals of my church.)

Thanks for sharing, great story!

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Heather

I am also an active member of the LDS faith. I have never studied too much about other religions but I love hearing about what other's believe. It's interesting to me how similar many religions are to each other.

It is a scary thought that a person could be lead to do evil without even realizing it and then be punished with eternal damnation. But I don't believe that at all. I don't believe that God is as mean and harsh as he is made out to be in the Bible. I think that everyone will get their chance even if they "picked the wrong religion" on Earth. God loves all his children and I think we will primarily be "judged" based on the intents of our heart. Everyone has a different story and experience and reason why they do or don't want religion or God in their life and it's not up to anyone here (on Earth) to determine where we belong after we die. If you're trying (really trying) to be a good person and make the world a better place in whatever way you can, I think you're definitely on the right track.

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Anonymous

This sounds a great deal like being brought up in the Jehovah's Witnesses…

I don't think most people can realise how traumatic it can be to come to terms with something like that.

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AK

Oh Jane, I feel so much empathy for you!

I did not grow up in a cult, but I was raised quite conservatively Protestant. My parents, my father specifically, very strongly imposed their views and beliefs on us kids, to the point that varying from their accepted faith could be considered pathological and evil.

So I feel that I was indoctrinated as a child, and it is SO difficult to break away from that, and to find instead my own geniune belief and trust in faith. Like you, I feel myself to be agnostic at this point, or, rather, not able or willing to accept the version of Christianity (in my case) I was raised with.

Thanks for your honesty, I really hope you find your way!

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auntykaryn

Jane–It sounds like a horrible experience, and I hope you find what you are looking for.

I too am LDS (it seems like a theme, doesn't it???) and I have struggled with a lot of things having to do with what I believed and what my church teaches. It's difficult to find what is "right" for YOU. However, I do know that everyone has the freedom to choose. You sound like you are still harboring negative feelings, and therefore I would suggest that you talk about them and try to resolve them.

Good luck in your journey. 🙂

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Shannon

I am Christian, and I have to say that my religious upbringing has been nothing but love, light, and openness to questions about faith and God. I know there are extremes out there, people and churches who come in the name of God but really just pervert the truth and twist it their way. They confuse, frighten, and even bully. There ARE good churches and pastors out there that are in align with what Christianity really is all about though, who WANT your questions, your doubt, your pain. They want to have an open honest dialogue about religion with you. Please don't dismiss Christianity if you have struggled with it, keep searching for the truth!

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Anonymous

What an interesting interview! Thanks so much for sharing. I love reading about this kind of experience and know a couple of people who grew up in Christian compounds and cults.

For those of you who are surprised by "the similarities between different religions," you should check out the movie Zeitgeist. It really sums up those similarities nicely.

Shannon you said, "Please don't dismiss Christianity if you have struggled with it, keep searching for the truth!" This statement really makes it sound like "Christianity" and "Truth" are synonymous. In dismissing Christianity, one isn't necessarily stopping the search for the truth.

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Anonymous

Jane
It seems that you have had a bad time of it,,,I got involved with TWI in 1978, Went out WOW 1979-1980 Ran fellowships in NJ NV and Orlando, The way started to fall Around 1990 Rev Creg Martin dale, Started to waked out,Along with other leadership,, I was there, The way was a great place to learn and grow,,, But after 1990 they started to seek there own belly's and did not care what GOD wanted, But the wonderful thing is that God always has a place for those who love him,, And Fathers all ways is faithful,, Sorry for those so call men of Gods Abuse of your family and your self, I pray that you heart will be healed xcel_1@netzero.com John

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Anonymous

Thanks. The Way International hurt alot of people,thru false teachings. There is a book out by Kristen Skedgell called "Losing The Way"also A book called The Cult That Snapped by Karl Kahler(your can get it on amazon.com)glad your out. Feel free to joing us at a group on Facebook called "Cult Awareness and Recovery(we have an open and closed page)

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Anonymous

I, too, was involved with The Way for 20 years. I took Power for Abundant Living (PFAL) in 1983. I was a World Over the World (WOW) Ambassador in 1984. I was on Staff at their Headquarters for 5 years from 1996-2001. During my time on Staff is when a major falling happened when Craig Martindale, the President of TWI at that time, was caught with his pants down (figuratively…or literally??) That is when my eyes were opened.

The 80s in The Way were about climbing the social ladder. When did you take The Class? Are you an Advanced Class Grad? When are you going WOW? Are you going in to The Corps? These were all questions which pressured those involved to climb higher and be recognized for your accomplishments in that organization. All of this required you to distance your "earthly" family.

The 90s in The Way were horrible. Craig Martindale was a maniac requiring complete submission to him or be "Marked and Avoided". This put a lot of fear in to the people's hearts. Nobody wanted to be made an example by his rantings. It was supposed to be a privilege to live at Headquarters near the "Man of God". It was a terrible experience, but I don't think I would have left The Way without that experience.

I've been out for 10 years now. It took about that long to get my head straight again. I go to a traditional Christian church now. I am fulfilled and happy in life. I look at my time in The Way as a learning experience. Never again will I allow myself to be controlled by a church.

I hear today they are just a boring church now run by Rosalie Rivenbark (who is rumored to be the lesbian lover of Craig Martindale's ex wife). She was a mean lady. Her actions failed to let the love of God be seen in her.

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Anonymous

Her childhood sounds a lot like mine. My parents were divorced, however, and my father had been sucked in by TWI. Now in our mid-30's, my brother is still involved with TWI and just got accepted to work at headquarters in New Knoxville. My mother and I worry about him. He has been tithing 20% of his money, and because he does that with every penny he earns, my mother stopped sending him money for birthdays and holidays. If she sent him $100, he would give more than $20. He would give sometimes $50 or more. He's so poor and cannot afford to eat sometimes, yet they don't help him. They just expect him to keep on paying them. We want to get him out of there, but he won't leave. We want him to think for himself, but he's so brainwashed that it seems there's no hope.
What upsets me so much about my brother's involvement is the fact that he was hurt by TWI when we were kids. I was too. Our father was told by TWI to leave our home in Ohio and live in Nebraska. This was around 1991. Since he couldn't take us with him (our mother had full custody), he just left without us. He gave us an address, but all the letters were returned marked "return to sender". He came back over a year later, but didn't tell us he was back. We got a call from our grandmother, who told us that he had been back for 4 months and had just been married the day before.
In 2002, I finally learned what had happened in Nebraska and why he didn't contact us. TWI had told him not to contact us because our mother wasn't a believer. Never mind that we were his children. That did not matter to TWI. He had been told to "mark and avoid" his own children!! While in Nebraska, he lived in his car and worked at McDonald's. The only thing food he ate was what his manager would allow him to keep at the end of his shift. He abandoned his only 2 children to live in a car and eat scraps, all because this cult told him to. That has put a strain on my relationship with my father. I avoid him whenever possible, which is even easier now that he lives in Florida and I live in Illinois.
It will be 20 years this year since I was forced to take the first class. I was 12, and I hated it! I was forced to sit there for hours, watching video after video, without being allowed to get up for a drink or get something to eat. I didn't even understand most of it. I was just a kid who wanted to be anywhere but there.
It all backfired on my father though. Because he forced me to read the bible, cover to cover, I began to see the immoral teachings in it. I began to see that most of it made no sense whatsoever. I've always loved history and archaeology, and I knew that none of it could be backed up with historical evidence. Then there were parts of the bible that really struck me. 1 Timothy 2:12 was one of them. I am less than a man? NO! I was 13 and could tell that what this "bible" was teaching was wrong.
After I read it, I reflected on it and came to the conclusion that it's a horrible work of fiction, full of murder, incest, and rape.
I threw my bible in trash and have not looked back. I am now an atheist, and it was mainly TWI that taught me that you don't need religion or the bible to be a good person. I don't hate anyone. I accept people who are gay, straight, Christian, Muslim, Jewish… If I followed the bible's teachings or TWI's teaching, I would be a hateful woman. I live a good life with a wonderful husband, an amazing son, and everything I have ever wanted or needed. TWI wouldn't want me to have any of it. I would have been one of their slaves. I'm just glad I got before they could brainwash me. My only wish now is for my brother to wake up and see that he's being controlled by them. Have you religion, but stay away from TWI!

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Amy

I’m not sure where you are getting your information but history and archaeology bank up the Bible. People continually try to disprove it and historical records and archaeology make that impossible. What you’re readinf is a book that has lost meaning to us because we don’t understand the culture. That’s difficult, but when you understand the culture behind it, it makes sense. God does not endorse the bad things in the Bible just because they are in there. He actually punishes the Jews and others repeatedly for heinous acts detailed in the Bible. Those are there to try to keep people from repeating those mistakes. Can you imagine what this world would be like if everyone followed the Ten Commandments? Oh, many things that are seen in the Bible as demeaning to women are taken out of context. Women are NEVER anything but equal to men, and that’s confjrmed by Christ many times over. Your soul is eternal. Please read “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.” Very scholarly. Very intelligent. Make sure you really understand what you think you understand.
For the record, I was raped as a child in TWI. I was verbally attacked by former members, called a liar n But I know what happened, and so I don’t give biblical information lightly. This comes from 2p years of research. God bless you and may the Truth be known to you.

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Anonymous

I was in the Way for 12 years and did their word over the world ambassador program. The thing is its a cult through and through. Its all about controlling their "believers". Their money, time, bodies, their future, ties to family members etc…and like all cults they have systematic ways in place to do that. They separate you from the world around you, cause you to distrust everyone outside of the group(cult), tell you that you're the only one on the planet that knows the real truth about god. Does this sound somewhat like a cult yet? Turns out the leadership got in real trouble, the president was a sexual predator and actually used so called christian teachings to justify his actions. The courts disagreed. It is now an insignificant smallish group trying to revive itself I hope they fail in that.

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oneperson

I'm another ex-Wayfer that just ran across this blog via a search query on my blog.

I was in The Way for 28 years, 1977 through 2005. There were good times and bad, as in all of life. I endeavor to integrate those 28 years and learn from them.

One of the consequences of toxic (or maybe any?) indoctrination is that the doctrine overrides all else. An individual must conform to the doctrine and deny personal experience. If a personal experience doesn't line up with the doctrine, the doctrine trumps. The result is what I call soul murder or soul suicide. I'm still in the process of discovery and rediscovery of who I am.

All the best to Jane and any folks coming out of toxic groups and/or belief systems.

PS: I have a blog where I share some of my experiences. On the blog;s side bar are links regarding The Way International and other groups and regarding recovery resources.
http://tossandripple.blogspot.com/

Below is a link to my story. (Which is kind of long and divided into 3 parts with a 4th part separate. The 4th part is in regard to physical illness, which in part was a result of suppressing emotion in order to live up to the doctrine.)
http://tossandripple.blogspot.com/2009/04/seeking-life-along-way.html

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Anonymous

personally, i don;t see a whole lot wrong here because in their tennant it states FREELY avail themselves for both service and fellowship. as far as the money goes uh, ask some pretty successful people…warren buffett, donald trump who give to charitable organizations. as far as the "tongues" go nobody is really bullied into anything. people make mistakes in zealously encouraging others who trust their good intentions @ the time. so i would be careful about casting the first stone.

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Anonymous

I agree. Sounds like they were parf a group, decided to leave and did so. I didn't see anything sinister in this story…..

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Andrea

If you recall she was 12 years old when forced by an adult to speak in tongues. That is unacceptable. That is in no way encouragement or zeal. That is abuse!

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Anonymous

So, this cult filed an order of protection and got legal custody of your kid because you wouldn't join?

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The Colonel of Real Estate

They sound like the place to be! I have been an avid searcher if the truth and joined many religions, only to learn they were guessing or giving their own truths. However, I have learned that often times the truth is attacked and called out of name, much like they did to Jesus. Oh, please look up the word cult? You may be surprised, it's not evil.

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Kissy

Your are very right, Colonel of Real Estate. Jesus Christ and his followers were considered a cult in his day. That was why the religious leaders of the day (no longer following God or His Word) had him crucified. He was NOT popular. But still the Son of God who came to be the sacrificial lamb because of the sin of mankind. I learned the Bible through the Way International, and am still with them 40 years later (I was 19 when I first attended a fellowship and took the Power for Abundant Living class and am now almost 60. I have seen the ministry go through many ups and downs and seen many crooked people come and go. Like anything, no group is going to be free of that. What religion can anyone find that did not have some corrupt people. No one is brainwashed in The Way. They do not employ brainwashing tactics. I was never forced to go anywhere or do anything. I believe, like anything, people experience peer pressure, and can. That is always part of wanting to feel a part of a group, no matter what it is: religion, sports, politics, etc. I think many people feel this way. I can find horrific things about Catholicism, for example, that would make your skin crawl that Popes have done and the evils that were done. Does anyone applaud the torture tactics of the Jesuits during the Middle Evil times? Martin Luther left Catholicism when he went on a holy pilgrimage to Rome in his quest to learn how to be closer to God, and it turned him away because they were far from practicing God’s Word. And he began the Protestant revolution. His words were “scripture alone” as the guidebook man was to read to learn about God and being a son of God. Does anyone condemn the Catholic church? I know many Catholics who believe if they skip mass they will go to Purgatory, Limbo or Hell. Is that brainwashing? We each make our choices. I have never coerced anyone to be a part of our fellowships. Never have and still don’t.

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Tom Lehr

Mark and avoid, ridiculed if you didbt attend felliwdhip dogged if you dodnt tithe, expected to male. Corps meeting if you were a grad, martindale andwierwille sex flings,come on dude,

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Tom Strange

Spoken like a good little Wayfer Kissy! If what someone says they experienced doesn’t agree with what you were told to believe by The Way then they are wrong! And you need to tell them they’re wrong! I hope someday that you have some thoughts of your own since pretty much everything you wrote is just repeating VPW’s BS.

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ANONYMOUS

Kissy, Are you kidding. The Way is a brain-washing cult that preys on the weak, steals money from those who can’t afford their phony classes, teaches them to LIE, and I personally know about their sexual promiscuities.

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Anonymous

I went to the Power of Abundance class. I left after 3 classes, because it was to much against everything I was taught. The way is a cult, and they brainwash very good people. It is sad seeing how people are treated in The Way. After I quit people would not talk to me and when they did they tried to pressure me into coming back.

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Anonymous

I was involved with the way for a long time and my experience was very similar to Jane's.

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Wendy

“Jane” it is a good thing that you trusted your instincts and distanced yourself from this group. I was 16 when I took my first PFAL class in 1979. I did so against my family’s urging that it was a cult. But I stuck with The Way for 30 more years. I have logged over 20 classes including their Advanced Class four times. I did their OUtreach progam four times: WOW (Word Over the World) and then Way Disciple. I served at their headquarters for 7 years from 2000 to 2007. At first it was very useful. Being a Biblical Research Ministry they taught me how to Research the Bible, history, and hooked me up with many tools to make my own conclusions about Truth. They also taught the Law of Believing – something that is long lost in the Western Church. This part of it was a good and useful experience and I am thankful for it. It was a happy time in the early years 79 – 81. People loved and helped each other and I did not see any bullying. However, that changed after 1982 as I began to experience abuse, bullying, quilting, manipulation, competitive attitudes, and people who were driven to scratch and scrape any amount of dignity from others as they possibly could because they were so paranoid of getting “Marked and Avoided”. Their Way became rife with FEAR. Yes, Craig Martindale led the Way down this dark path and many Way Corps “leaders” followed in his footsteps. After 1982 – I was belittled, harrassed, screamed at, and told I would lose all of my rewards in heaven for petty stuff like cuting the sandwhiches the wrong way or leaving crumbs on the floor or reading a “devilish” Redbook magazine. I became ill with allergies and chronic exhaustion and I was told that it was because I had a devil spirit. By 1990 I was desperate to gain the stamp of approval of my leadership and so I tried very hard to measure up and volunteered for everything. People were told to sell their houses because debt was wrong. Then Craig put the leadership on a mandatory ban. NO more having babies for nearly 7 years! I was not leadership so I got married and had two children during this time. We were “expected” to use a rod of correction on our children, physically smacking them with a wooden spoon to “get their attention”. Because we were so compliant my husband and I were asked to coordinate a fellowship in our home which we did for 10 years. During that time my son began struggling in the first grade. A teacher suggested we get him tested for a ADD but (as we were expected to do) we never did anything without our leaders approval and he said “Do not listen to that teacher. ADD is just a lazy parents excuse to not discipline their child”. We obeyed and were rewarded! Oh boy! We were asked to serve as staff at their Headquarters. It was an honorable position and so we accepted. After moving our family to Ohio we began our Staff experience. At this same time Craig did get caught with his “pants down”. Several of his victims were coming forward with lawsuits involving sexual abuse and Craig (along with TWI) was being taken to court. TWI quietly fought these court cases for several years and won but it did not fair well for Craig who was booted out. Rosalie Rivenbark did take over and announced that she intended for things to change but a ship does not turn around on a dime. I believe she had good intentions and so we hung in there thinking it would get better. However, the people who endured the brunt of the many years of abuse were still in a state of paranoia. They were told to just sweep it all under the carpet. These people (including myself) needed counseling , healing, but never got to even talk about it and they still suffer silently in a candy-coated environment. This is the reason the numbers have drastically dwindled. The abuse still goes on under the radar. I witnessed this while on staff. We shared homes with other families so we all very much lived in a “fish bowl”. The Way Corps (leadership) were used to dictating peoples lives and many who enjoyed that power did not give up their ausive ways. My son continued to struggle in school. He was bullied by the other Way kids. They punched and body slammed him, threw his bike in the creek and called him names. The Way Corps leadership saw that he did not speak when spoken to and shied away from people. He was forgetful and struggled to adjust to living in a dorm environment but he was never disrespectful or beligerant. And so we were heavily pressed to beat him. “Hit him harder and three or four times” “Keep hitting him! I want to see tears! “Hit him in the head with your knuckles because the spoon does not seem to be working!” These were things that were forced upon us. I secretly cried every day for a whole year and prayed. I gradually began to wake out of the slumber of mindless obedience when I saw my son becoming so depressed and despondant that he cried every day. My heart was broken and I was alone in a sea of people that called themselves ministers. I began to graciously say “No thank you” to the leaders mandates and expressed my desire to take my son to get tested for a learning disorder. This was seen as an act of “not being meek” , but I took my son to the doctor anyway. After seeing three specialists he was diagnosed with Aspbergers and we got the school to comply with an IEP. His life got better after that but our “disobedience” was used against us. Instead of celebrating with us the answers we were finding for our son we were “reproved” and put on watch. It really put us on edge and so we just kept to ourselves and continued to help our son heal in a program called Son-Rise we found for autism. This program taught me love, real love and I embraced it, devoured the things they taught. The more I celebrated my son the more I was scorned by The Way. This was confusing to say the least so I wrote a number of questions down and went into these leaders and simply asked if we could talk. It was a benevolent invitation for them to celebrate with us and find understanding, forgiveness, and healing. For our hearts and the spaces between us to be mended. They refused to see me but said I could send a note in writing which I did. Four days later the police showed up at my door. They had sent the friggin police to inform me that I was never allowed to speak with them about these things ever again! They claimed that this letter was offensive to them and I was “out to get them”. The police agreed they had no evidence to prove it so no charges were made. AFter that they continued to harrass and slander my family. It took me a whole year later to realize that they were not going to stop . My husband was angry with the whole situation that he left us. I thought maybe if I just gave them a little more time they would see how idiotic their actions were and come to their senses but I was wrong. The last straw was when I had given these “leaders” a small basket of homemade goodies for the holidays in an effort to bring peace between us. They outwardly refused the gift and so I asked why this should continue to go on. The next day I got a call at home from a Reverend who screamed at me that I was banned from fellowship. He was extrememly irate and made it clear that I did not deserve to know the reasons why. I admit I cried for a few hours and then called him the next day and asked “You were really harsh with me. Why?” He said”Sometimes harshness is necessary and if I wanted to come back I would be expected to study certain Way Magazine articles and agree to being censored. I made sure he had my contact info and told him to let me know if was ever ready to have a real un-censored, civil conversation to mend the space between us. But he never accepted that invitation and I never went back. My door is still open to them and I simply found a better Way. Love yourself, Love others (including your enemies) but take no shit. I choose to be happy and celebrate my God, myself, my children, my fellow humans, and my life! And to those who read this whole thing, thank you for listening.

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barbara slavinski

Hi Wendy,
I’m sorry to read that you and Daniel-get-down had such a hard experience. I only knew that you were very much in the way and then you were not.

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Wendy

Correction to my above comment: The Way did not “win” the lawsuits, they settled. They paid the women large sums (they refused to say how much but it was way more than 2 million dollars) out of court to not continue with the case against them. The judge ruled against The Way on 4 out of 6 counts. I was personally present working as staff at their headquarters during this time and I distinctly remember an announcement being made that they had “won” the case. This was followed by applause. I am just learning now that was a big fat lie. They had not won, they settled and been indicted. “The suit alleged The Way and its leadership engaged in a “pattern of corrupt activity” as defined by the Ohio Revised Code “including, but not limited to acts of theft, fraud, coercion, assault and rape.” http://www.empirenet.com/~messiah7/tdy_lcmrsgn.htm. Not only that they slandered and demoralized the victims publicly saying they had “spiritual problems”. In the few years following I witnessed the same kind of smear campaigns against others who had asked questions after being treated with severe and unnecessary harshness. When I spoke up (in an effort to try to understand) I was treated with the same kind of character bashing. People who wish to fellowship with this group deserve the truth.

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Patricia Jane Sedgwick

Dear Jane and Wendy

It is a thing of the greatest sadness to see such a man as Craig Martindale run into the ground and nie on forced by The Allens into admitting activities due to his wife’s problems. FBI sent in those bad overseers anyway and MI5. We have them under surveillance by HM Queen Elizabeth 11 of UK. They had an express purpose. To exploit vulnerable people for paedophile claims and used Dtr Wierwille and Craig for scapegoates!!!!! I was involved too. These teachings were accurate by Dtr Wierwille and twisted for evil purposes to confuse you. Because sex came into the equation leaders were doubted. Extreme activities in Isis mvt are not tolerated any the more in The Church than over in Syria, FBI. In business this happens a very lot!! An undermining force enters to cut up a product and start a trade war. In the 1960’s FBI/MI5 has wanted to limit this practice, very much favoured by those devilish spirits referred to often or not in Church. Yes! Satan does not belong to Church. To the world and operates in Mammon. The lust of money!! Gay/Lesbian groups/ouiji cults/ritualistic cults favour their approach this way. A business can look to its need. A tithe is good, always used to be and is healthy. The first fruits of our labour are unto The Lord. Much is saved that way, it is for us. God does not need money. The increase is first in our souls anyway, never money first. Poverty is sad, so are quick rich gains. I get this all the time over here in Taunton, with The National Lottery , also favoured by these cultist run downs. They held me up for years in a section, a misunderstanding by Police HM. Dtr and Craig were involved with me too as a child. NEVER abusively or paedophile – as gaining people wanted, desired and lusted to coerce our beliefs away from Christ’s Church. We are his body – we ought to be happy. You contact help from other church organisations and find them similar links through trinity practice. The respectable may not mean the harm themselves but happiness is greater by LOVE. Please do be careful who you let make money out of you too, because that can happen as well after you leave. The world is stressful to us right now. They want our story for gain as well. Lawyers representing need to learn. Christian Police website can collate but are learning too!! It’s mature to learn too. Arius is over Constantine . We seek each other’s well-being, not compete against. We choose to be brainwashed, clean of doctrines of devils, their price with ours! Their prince against ours. Ours is of Peace. God heal you. He is free!!

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Tony

After being involved with TWI since 1982 I can assure everyone that this wonderful ministry is NOT a cult. I will admit we’ve had our share of embarrassments through the years because people are people and sometimes they are going to do just plain old STUPID things which is one reason why our second President had to step down, others may have embezzled money from companies they worked for and other innapropiat things but let me ask you something; Has a Roman Catholic ever embezzled funds from an employer? How about a Methodist? Has anyone from Scientology ever assaulted anyone? Has anyone from the Hebrew faith ever told a lie? If you TRULY want to know about The Way International I invite you to visit them in New Knoxville Ohio , or read an article in The Way Magazine and / or visit us online at http://www.theway.org and find out what we TRULY believe and MAKE UP YOUR OWN MIND. Who knows, you just might like what you find out. I did back in 1982, I dared to think for myself and received answers to questions I had about the Bible for many years. Some of what I’ve read above are exaggerations to say the least and some are just outright lies. We’ve made our share of mistakes but then again what ministry, church or organization hasn’t? When people decide to leave TWI, It’s almost NEVER due to the doctrine taught because it is always proved through exhaustive research, no, it’s 99.9 percent of the time a personal problem someone or someone’s have with someone else, usually in a leadership position. Personally, I think you’ll like Today’s Way International. This comment was made on 3/16/2017. God bless you.

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Wendy

Tony, with great respect for your beliefs I wholeheartedly celebrate your freedoms to fellowship with whomever you choose. I am glad that you have not experienced abuse like so many others. I will admit that the 30 plus years I spent fellowshipping with The Way was not entirely abusive. Not wanting to write a book on here I only recounted the key experiences that led up to the reasons I left. There were (and still are ) pockets of individuals that choose to uphold love with great compassion for people. God sees people as individuals and so do I. I still have freinds there that are hanging on and keeping quiet about what they see. You and I both know how many have left, many of them leadership and even BODs.

I really do not understand how you can attenuate what a judge ruled to be “a pattern of corrupt activity … theft, fraud, coercion, assault and rape” . These are serious charges. To use the argument that what they have done (and are still doing) is no big deal because other churches do them is absurd. The individuals on here have bared their hearts openly; their experiences are valid and real to them. To label them as having “a personal problem” is insensitive and grossly unkind. Although I do not fault you as I used to carry around the same kind of judgements towards others. I had to learn that I simply do not know enough about anyone to judge them. We DO have the right to say “I find it difficult to beleive” But we DO NOT have the moral right to conclude that they are “lies”. If we were not there. then how can we make such an obtuse assumption?

Sure The Way teaches a lot of doctrine and are deft with the research. Please, I encourage you to consider What God’s Word says about speaking truth or rather “doctrine that is proved through exhaustive research” . If it is not delivered with love then it is just noise (I Cor 13). Speak the truth IN LOVE ( Eph 4:15). That means that it affectuates love (not hurt) in the hearts of the people. Leaders are people, they are going to make mistakes. We all do. God has so much forgiveness for all of us, especially these leaders. Why is it that I have not heard a single apology from any of them in 30 years? They are really missing out on cultivating the real love that is set to happen at these times.

All that being said, You will probably do well there if you just do what your leadership tells you to do, don’t make waves, show up to the meetngs, say what is expected, keep giving your tithe, and keep your mouth shut if you see leadershop mis-treating someone.

May you find peace and all that is good on any path you choose. Grace has led us safe thus far; Let love lead The Way.

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Tom Strange

Tony, TWI used to be about Money and Sex… it’s not like that any more. They’ve changed. Now it’s just about money… they’re more like other denominations/sects in that way.

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Marnetta McIntyre

I took the PFAL class back in 1982, and I learned so much of God’s word from that point forward until recently. TWI has dwindled – I don’t know how many believers are involved at this time. I have had friends to come and go from the ministry over the years, but I have stood here in Mississippi since 1982. At this point in my life, I am really considering other organizations because I have started to listen to my concerns about how TWI takes care of it’s people. I have faithfully tithed to TWI until last year. I don’t see the giving aspect with the ministry, and I have questioned this on many occasions. I don’t see the transparency of the finances as with other ministries. I have never understood the secrecy. I am rooted and grounded in God’s Word, so that’s why I stand with God. It is not because of TWI…Dr. Wierville used to teach that he wanted to bring people to the knowledge of the rightly divided word regardless of where they went to church- he wanted them to have freedom through God. This definitely is what I want for the people I impact daily. My children have grown up in the Way, but my daughter wants more…She deserves that, and I know God has filled that void, but we just need to follow his lead. TWI has positive and negative facts about it. All Way believers are not the same just like in any other organization. You MUST not put your trust in a man…your trust has to be in God. I regret that people have been hurt by Way believers- there is no right in that, and there is no excuse. I only believe that those persons will find healing in the near future.

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Maya Deleon

I was in The Way from 1992-2002 (2nd grade until I graduated from high school). I was sexually abused by a Way believer at age 12. I told my mother and rather than reporting the abuse to the police, she organized a sit down with the abuser and his family. His parents were our fellowship leaders (he was an adult). Apparently, in The Way they like to handle such matters internally with praying and Bible reading. Anyway, by the end of the sit down, I guess they all agreed that I was also to blame for the events that occurred and we would just move forward from there and never speak of it again. That’s when I stopped believing in God. I was forced to be in The Way for 6 more years. I remember as a child hearing a lot of bigoted language from our so called leaders. In elementary school, we were taught by the pres that the most loving thing you can do for a homosexual is stone them to death. Having relatives who are gay/lesbian, that was some really screwed up shiz to hear. I had to pay part of any money I got from birthdays, allowance, first jobs, etc. as abundant sharing. I also was forced to take the foundational and intermediate classes after which I was required to obtain my own subscription the The Way Magazine (despite the fact that my mom, step dad, and sister also had subscriptions). I was forced to lead fellowship and teach on occasion and then reprimanded for clothing I wore or not speaking loud enough or being nervous. I always pretended to speak in tongues and interpret because it’s something I was expected to know how to do. Like, did they teach that in the classes? I wouldn’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention. And yes, we were not allowed to get up to use the bathroom. I remember being told that the bladder is a muscle and can expand. Omg. The whole thing is so ridiculous. My mom tried to set me up the fellowship in my area when I went to college but I was like “yeah, screw that.” I still have a lot of resentment toward the organization. My dad died when I was a high school senior. I hadn’t seen him since I was in the 4th grade because he was possessed by the alcoholic devil spirit and got marked and avoided. My sister and I were not allowed to attend his funeral. I was only a part of it for 10 years, but I will spend the rest of my life recovering from the damage and trauma I experienced during critical years of my childhood and adolescence. Much love to everyone else who made it out alive. My mother and stepfather are still “believers”. My hope is that one day they will get out of it too.

PS. Anyone have a copy of the old video called “Athletes of the Spirit.” Will totally pay money for it. I need the laughs.

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Tom Strange

Good luck to you Maya…
As for AOS… I think there’s bits and pieces out there on Youtube.

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Josh

Hi Jane! I too was involved in twi in Kentucky for all of my childhood life. I’d love to get in touch with you sometime just to talk. Not sure if we ever met. We probably crossed paths, being in twi in KY.

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