I became a member of the ICC, officially, on January 27, 1995. A mistake that I will never get over inflicting on my family. The pain and problems it brought on my life and my marriage will stay with me forever.
The people that I first met and studied with made me feel loved and accepted. Little did I know that this “love and acception” would be conditional. I could only have those 2 things from them if I conformed to their every word. What they did was like holding a piece of candy in front of a child and telling them “you can have this candy if…”.
I had started the studies first in October 1994 and stopped only to start again in late December/early January. When I started back up studying I remember the lady I studied with was so arrogant. In several of my studies I was reduced to tears. In one of my last studies this women (whom I will call PS) told me that I would have to deny that I had ever had a relationship with God. That terrified me because I was raised in such a devout Christian home and had had a very close relationship with God. (By becoming a member of the ICC I thought I was deepening my relationship with God, not starting over). It made me so angry that she would try and get me to say that. That instant I asked that the other women that were involved in the study to leave the room. I was so shocked and shook up by her request that I did not want to look at any of them let alone finish the study. PS went on to tell me (after the ladies left the room) that this church was the only one that studied and followed the bible. She also said that I would meet her request or not be baptized. I was in limbo. I thought how could I deny knowing Jesus but yet according to them I wasn’t saved.
The next day I was having day-surgery. That evening I received a phone call from PS, she was chewing me out over asking that the room be cleared and how she was never going to do that again no matter how the person she was studying with felt. Now mind you I had just had surgery that morning and I was in a lot of pain so I did not say a whole lot to her. I mostly listened.
After hanging up the phone with PS. I cried because I could not believe what had happened. A few days later some of the ladies came to study. They immediately tried to intimidate me about my run in with PS, reminding me of how she had 4 kids and how all that she had done made her an “awesome women”. It was sickening the things they said to try and put me in a bad light. To make things even worse, my husband was supposed to be baptized on the next Sunday. Instead we ended up staying at home because of the rain, it was something that I would regret doing before the day ever ended. That evening at about 9:00pm, PS and her husband KS paid us a visit. The two of them completely controlled the conversation it was not a conversation, but a breaking session. It was all about what a selfish person that I was by holding my husband back from getting baptized, I was prideful and that I did not care about anyone but myself. It was a very bad situation. I sat there numb from the verbal abuse. Instead of running them off, like I should have, I plunged head first into what became a 5 year nightmare.
I was often having run-ins with other people. It seemed as though I was a trouble maker or hard to get along with ,when in reality I wanted them to leave me alone because they were constantly nagging at me. They treated me as if I were a teenager not an adult women with 2 children. Once we were at PS & KS’ house for a Bible Talk and I had not fed my baby, who at the time was 15 months old. The house was full of people and I was sitting in the living room feeding her. At one point a lady came and asked me if PS knew I was feeding her in the living room and I just ignored her. A few seconds later PS comes yelling into where I am and said that she did not want anyone feeding their kids in her living room, which was fine that she did not want anyone to do that, but it was the way she did it. I was so humiliated that I got my kids and left. The thing that is so bad about BTs and church is that you are commanded to be there when they tell you to be there and if the kids are not fed or haven’t had a bath, well too bad, do it later. They come first.
About a month later a new couple was added to our BT or family group. (They will be called PJ (man) & RJ.) They made life even more miserable than it already was.
When you have a family group you usually have to have a couple that will be there to take over whenever you are away, and that was what these 2 people did.
It was Mother’s Day 1995 and it fell on a Sunday. I made the mistake of telling someone, the day before, that I was going to be with my mom and that I would not be a church. BIG MISTAKE!!! That evening, at about 10pm, PS and RJ showed up at my door wanting to know why I was not coming to church. I told them that I wanted to be with my mom and go to church with her. They kept on at me about how wrong I was. I finally told them to mind their own business but they verbally refused. I still had not said “yes” to being at church, so when I got up the next morning the phone began to ring. It turned out that in the night my daughter had become ill and I decided not to go anywhere, but the phone kept ringing and it was RJ every time trying to force me to come. I told her how my daughter was ill, but still she insisted that I come and bring my daughter anyway. I was so frustrated that I went just to get her off my back. It did not work. RJ and her husband came over after church (uninvited) and stayed the whole afternoon. She was still on me about church and how I almost didn’t come. That still wasn’t it another man from church came to put his 2 cents in and ended up staying until bedtime. I was so shocked at that whole day that I don’t remember even getting to call my mom and wish her a happy day.
We always had a service called midweek and after it our family groups would get into a circle. They would almost have you standing on your head but on this particular midweek we were not in a complete circle. Another lady and I were off to the side a bit and she had said something to me at one point and I answered her. Well, PS did not like the fact that we were not listening to her ignorant husband speak so she felt it necessary to reprimand us right in front of everyone. Neither I nor the other lady said a word to her. The next day I received a phone call from RJ expressing to me how that she felt PS was totally right in correcting us and asked me how I felt about what she had said. I told her that it was all about control to PS. She of course did not agree and went on to say that PS was just being like Jesus and that He was hard-core to the disciples that He led. How dare she compare a human to Jesus and say that they had the same authority that Jesus did or does for that matter.
At that point, I began to hate RJ because I felt as if she were trying to score brownie points with PS. I later found this to be true. See, PS and her husband were hired by the church. Which made their heads ten times bigger than they already were, anyway they were asked to move to the other side of town so that they could work more closely with the “bigwigs” so to speak. Now this marks the beginning of a whole new hell on earth for me.
RJ and her husband PJ became our family group/bible talk leaders. During the time they were co-leading the group, they were at everyone’s beck and call but once they became leaders they were virtually never heard from again. The only time you heard from them was if you forgot contribution, they needed a count of how many people you had invited for church or if you had done something that prompted a chewing out of some sort. The ICC paints such a pretty picture of friendships in the church but they are never what they say they should be.
The real hurt came in September 1996. This was the beginning of MANY heartaches to come. Anyway, there was a lady in the church (whom I will call KP) who was going through a very hard time. Her husband had left her and took their vehicle with which they ran their business. Because I had a mini-van she asked me if I would help her out. I was more than happy to do so. I thought this would be a positive way for me to build up faith in other people in the church. BOY WAS I WRONG AGAIN!!! This women must have been a wretch because she had no conscience whatsoever. She paid me no money and at the time I had 3 kids that had to be kept. The person that did keep them was in the church as well, but there were no favors for me. My husband and I had to pay through the nose, and the one time I asked her to give me a little money, it made her mad. The only thing she did was put gas in the car.
During this time I was having marital problems and I was seeing a chiropractor for a back injury. My Doctor and I became very close emotionally. I depended on the times when I could see him, but deep inside I knew what was happening was wrong. One day I told him that what was happening between us could no longer go on and I broke it off. It made me sad to do this because I was so very lonely in my marriage. On the day that this happened I was also helping KP, when I got into the car I began to cry. She immediately asked me what was wrong and after swearing her to secrecy, I told her. A few days later all hell broke loose. She called me on a Sunday morning and told me that I needed to tell the person that discipled me what had happened. It was not enough that I had stopped what I was doing, she wanted me to confess my sin (in the ICC you are forced to confess your sins usually on a weekly basis, if you don’t you are considered rebellious). I did not think that this was necessary nor did I think this was her business to tell me what to do, but she did and it was the beginning of HELL.
I stopped helping her and I refused her calls, but that did not stop her. On a Monday night at around 10:00pm, KP and two other ladies showed up at my door. They wanted to talk about my “sin”. My husband was at home and I had told him a little of what I had done but I in no way felt comfortable talking about this in front of him and I made this abundantly clear. My husband ended up asking them to leave and they did.
Two days later my husband received a phone call from our family group leader (his wife was one of the ones who showed up that night). He invited my husband to dinner under false pretences. He told him he wanted to know how we were doing, but when my husband and he sat down, it was all about me and my “sin”. He told DJ what his perception of the story was and it was not positive. When DJ could he called me and asked me about what he had been told. I sat on the other end of the phone in complete shock. I thought to myself that this was probably the end of my marriage, but when it wasn’t and he forgave me I began to think about what if he had not been forgiving or what if he had of said for me to leave and that would have been the end of my life with him? These questions flooded my mind as I wondered what on earth this man was trying to do. Was he trying to break us up or was he mad because we told his wife to leave that night? I will never know.
The nightmare never really ended. They expected me to forgive and forget all that had happened, but it was near impossible. I never got over that incident.
A few months later my husband’s mother died and it was extremely hard on me. She died on a Sunday morning so of course we had to fly out to be with the family. That morning I called RJ and asked if she could help me or if she could find someone to take care of my kids while we went to the funeral. At first she said yes but then within minutes she called back and said that the family group leader said for me to do it myself. Now mind you my husband’s mother had just died and everything was on my shoulders, like packing and seeing about the children. I did not have time to do it all. I ended up having to call people outside my family group to help. It all worked out but it was terribly painful to have someone blow you off in a moment like that. Anyway, we went to the funeral and got back on Wednesday, which meant that church was the next night. Daniel and I went to our family group leader about his actions a few days before. It was a mess.
For those of you in the Dallas Fortworth church who are reading this can probably figure out who the family group leader was (I will call him MH). He was the most insensitive, arrogant man that I have ever met. While we were meeting with him the worst argument broke out between he and I. He sat there ridiculing and humiliating me like I had never been before. It was awful. He also tried to lie out of the whole ordeal. I could not believe it. At one point the elder (BH) came in on the scene only to make matters worse. I could not understand how that in a few minutes everything he did was forgotten and the focus was now on me. I called him an unsavory name during the conversation because I was so distraught over what was happening. After a few seconds, I apologized so that I could maybe keep peace between my husband and I. But instead of acting with a forgiving heart he (MH) said that he would make sure I was dealt with severely for what I had called him, because he was a leader. I spoke with him later on that night and reluctantly apologized for my actions, because if I hadn’t it would have been bad between my husband and I.
A few months later I was asked to meet with the elder’s wife and MH’s wife. It was a beating session to remember. The elder’s wife (SH) tried to make me tell her that I was repented and I was going to live my life to please them/God. It was very humiliating. Needless to say they did not get what they wanted. SH told me that she, not the Lord God, could not count me as a disciple and that if I wanted to be a disciple that I would have to talk directly with her and no one else. I left the room in shambles knowing that my husband would not leave with me so I therefore would have to eat dirt or live in misery. I, sadly, chose the latter.
About a month went by and a lady in the church called me saying how that she was going to be there for me and help me through what I was going on (I will call her AR). This so-called friendship would have a very sad ending. This lady had not been around long at all at this point but she thought she knew it all. We hung out a couple of times and I let her know where I stood on things. I thought that she was really going to be a source of comfort, but in the same week she started this she also stopped. She told me that she would call me a few days later but she did not, so I called her. Her response was that she had been advised by her elder not to have any contact with me until I changed my life and was rebaptized. Just one of the many examples of how the ICC friendships are conditional.
That was the last straw. I gave up on everything. My life, marriage and the other relationships I had within my family. I am sure whoever is reading this is probably wondering why I did not just leave the whole thing when all the crap started to happen. I have wondered that too, but because my husband was in the church and he believed what they were saying to be true I felt as though I was trapped and I had no choice. But like I said after the last whammy they hit me with I gave up. I started looking for anyway that I could to get away from my husband and the madness of this church. I went to work so I could get enough money together to get out, but all my efforts were useless. My husband would not let me go nor would he let me leave the church. I was stuck again in this no win situation. When I say “leave the church” I mean I could not go anywhere else to church or he would become angry and threaten to leave me. My marriage suffered severely while we were in this mess.
In the beginning of 1998 I had been separated from my husband. During our separation, my husband took care of our children. On one occasion my children were with RJ. When I finally found where they were I told her that I was coming to get them, she told me if I came that she would not let me have them. I came unglued. This is another problem in the ICC, they believe they are above the law. At this point there was no pending divorce or court order saying that my husband had any right to say I could not have contact with my kids. It was a decision they had made.
So here I was, I had no choice but to come back to my husband. He, at their advice, had taken my car, my kids and left me with nothing. I was devastated at the thought of coming back into a life filled with misery. And to make matters worse I was pregnant with my boyfriend’s baby, but that made no difference with my husband. He still wanted me back. (I will not elaborate on my marriage anymore than I have to). I came back and it had to be the darkest time in my life. We were having financial problems so bad that we had to rely on my family a lot. We pressed on with our lives until November 98 when I decided to come back into the church. The only reason I did was so that there might be peace in my marriage. I hate to say that I was being deceitful at that time because I had convinced myself that I was doing the right thing. The right thing as far as my marriage not God. I know that God was disappointed at my going back to that.
Then the last catastrophe happened. There was a women in the church (PH) who was married to a psycho. He was in the church as well. One day they had a major fight so she asked if she could stay at my home. We said yes. When it came time for her to meet with the people in the church I told her that if she went back to him without talking to the elders I would turn her into CPS, but she did not listen. The day after she left my home and went back to him I turned them in. She and her daughter had told me that he had threatened to kill her (PH) and had beat the daughter with a belt. I felt responsible to at least the child to tell someone, because the church is not equipped to handle disturbed people like that guy. About a month later my husband and I got a call from BH (the elder) asking if we might get together and talk. We regretfully said yes. They came over with the two people that discipled us. The people will be called KS and AS. We had been with them for about a year and they seemed like they were very nice people up until this night. This night is what dropped the veil from my husbands eyes. BH and his wife SH came in with the other couple and asked me to answer some questions for them. I had no idea what was about to fall on my ears. They asked me if I had taken PH’s daughter with me to see my ex-boyfriend at a topless bar. I was devastated because it was obvious that they believed PH’s daughter. I could not believe what I had just been asked. I eventually became hysterical and inconsolable. The conversation went on to become a shouting match between SH and I. We finally asked everyone to leave. On his way out, BH stopped to tell me he had no reason not to believe me. Within weeks that would change to him saying that he had no reason to believe me and he had no reason not to believe the little girl. How can he be double minded like that? The bible say that a double minded man is unstable in ALL his ways. Psalms 119:113, Jas.1:8. I do not want to be led by a man like this.
This is the last heartache I endured while associated with the ICC. My husband and I are both away from this and are trying to heal. I pray that all who read this story will be encouraged and will know that no matter how bad things get that there is a way out and a brighter day will follow. May God bless you and keep you. If anyone would like to e-mail me – former or present members – please do not hesitate. My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2000 by Gina Palmer. All rights reserved.