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Andrea’s Story – Precious Scars

From the Author: Andrea’s Story is not an isolated one in religious circles. There are countless numbers of abused children that suffer at the hands of their parents because of religious indoctrination. All this abuse is done “in the name of God” in order to instill extreme fear and to bring about total and unquestionable obedience. Children raised in any fundamentalist sect, will endure the abuses that Andrea endured. They have no choice. They have no voice. Sadly, the scars left behind are ones that affect and damage a person well into the future. The tentacles are binding and, seem to suffocate life and joy from the one affected. To learn more about the hidden abuse of children in organized religion, click HERE.

Andrea’s story is a compelling one. Not only is she telling her story here, she is telling it to the world through her book, “Precious Scars.” Her book is a reflection of the many scars, emotional and physical that religion has given her, sadly, at the hands of those that should have protected her – her parents.

These scars once symbolized pain, sadness and fear for Andrea. Today, they have been granted a more powerful meaning. From their midst burst a phoenix. According to mythology, the phoenix is a beautiful bird with brilliant colors and magical powers. Instead of filling its nest with eggs, it instead uses it to die, burning up in its own heat. After three days, the phoenix rises again from the ashes. Her phoenix symbolizes rebirth, life and hope. Out of the ashes of a dark and painful life came something else, something stronger, purer, better. Out of the ashes, Beauty arose.

Here’s Andrea’s Story about growing up in an Independent Fundamental Baptist home. To read more about Andrea’s story, you may order her book: Precious Scars

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My parents were once normal people. That’s what others tell me, anyway. My mother’s brother, my uncle, says that he and my dad used to hang out together, drinking, relaxing, having fun. My mom got pregnant at just 16, and she and my dad had a shotgun wedding. I came along a few years later, and my dad, with a heavier burden than he had expected, joined the military to take some of the edge off. They were sent to Germany shortly after my birth.

My father was highly educated, and you would think that that would inoculate him against spurious religions. But it didn’t. When they got to Germany, IFB missionaries began to court them. My parents were soon devoted to the church.

Once we got home, they cut ties with their families. It didn’t really happen all at once. They would alienate one person after another. After all, my aunts and uncles were living ungodly, worldly, unsaved lives, and my parents were afraid that their sin would rub off on us.

We were first stationed at a small air base in California. It was there that my mom began to have some serious problems. She was diagnosed with manic depression, which is now called bipolar disorder, at 26. Our lives had changed forever.

My parents refused to acknowledge the diagnosis. They firmly believed that prayer would get them through it, so they prayed. Psychiatric medicine was of Satan. But my mom’s manic episodes were also pretty satanic. My sister and I were screamed at while my mom pounded on us using both hands, whapping us up one side of the head before slapping us on the other. She would put her hands on our shoulders and “shake some sense” into us. She would blister us, her term for a spanking that left welts.

Angela and I spent hours plotting our escape. We were just six and 10, but we were desperate to run away. Unfortunately, we couldn’t figure out how to get off base without being discovered. Then my sister was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Even today, doctors don’t really know what actually causes T1D, but my parents knew: It was God’s punishment for their premarital sex. God punishes unto the seventh generation, they believed, and they never let us forget it.

My parents decided that we needed to be in IFB schools. Before that, we’d gone to the base schools, but an incident between a young boy and myself came to light, and my mother decided that this sin could have been prevented had we been in Christian schools. Clearly, God kept raining down punishments on our heads because my parents weren’t doing right. So we became further isolated, and the bruises became easier to hide or explain away.

When my sister reached puberty, my parents went to a Gothard Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts conference that would tell them how to handle her. I don’t know if it worked, but I do know that life became exponentially harder the older we got. We continued to be slapped, blistered and hurt throughout our teen years, and I hated myself for not being the good Christian that I knew I was supposed to be.

Screaming was the soundtrack of our lives. By the time we reached Illinois, I was suicidal. I tried to talk to my youth pastor — who else did I have? — and he told me that suicide was one of the greatest slaps in the face to God, that I would indeed be punished. Besides, I had so much to live for … but I had nothing to live for, nothing more than more violence, more pain, more fear. I hung my head, and moved on. I would try so hard to be the kind of Christian I was supposed to be, but I always failed. I hated looking so different from the other kids. I hated feeling like I had to worship and praise God even though I was pretty sure He didn’t care at all what happened to me. Maybe most of all, I hated the hypocrisy of the screaming and verbal and sometimes physical abuse that filled the car every Sunday on the way to church and how we all had to snap into insta-smiles the second we got there.

Angela went off to college, and things quieted down a bit. She attended Hyles Anderson College, and my parents were in awe of Jack Hyles. They decided that we needed to become even more spiritual. So away my makeup went, and my skirts and culottes became even longer, even baggier than they’d already been. I felt humiliated every time we walked out of the house, but I dare not express my feelings. I couldn’t express any opinions at all, when it came down to it.

Other girls at my IFB school had cute 80s hairstyles, bright makeup, neon plastic jewelry and on-trend clothes. I wore prairie dresses that my mother made using clearance gingham from Wal-Mart. It was such a small thing, but it hurt to be so very different just like it hurt to know that even though I was 14, I was still getting blistered because I was just that disobedient.

Even until that point, though, I didn’t realize that my family was not normal. I never thought to cry out, to tell someone in authority, that I was being abused because no one called it abuse. It was the rod of correction, discipline, chastening. And every time, I deserved it because I’d forgotten to wash the dishes, or smarted off, or simply been in my mom’s way during one of her manic rages. So I focused on the visible differences. I was sent off to an IFB college as soon as I graduated from high school at barely 17, and I could finally breathe.

IFB colleges have strict rules and oppressive environments, but for the first time in my life, I really was finally free of violence and pain. I studied hard, but I also fell in love. I told myself it was love, anyway. In reality, I mostly saw him as a way of escape, and as we sneaked around to find isolated spots on campus, we fell deeper into a physical relationship.

As my mother later would say, be sure your sin will find you out. I was kicked out post haste when the administration discovered the nature of our relationship. What awaited me at home was far worse. My mother began to scream that she had always known what a whore I was and then began to chant in a voice I still remember to this day that adulteresses should be put to death. She put her hands around my throat and began to shake me as she had so many years before. Her grip around my neck tightened, and I knew I was going to die.

The timing could not have been better. My dad walked into the room right as sparkly darkness began to drift down over my vision, and my mom let go.

I moved out after that. It caused no little scandal since daughters were supposed to live at home until marriage. No decent IFB guy wanted me now, though, since I’d been “defiled,” and I was not about to spend every day in fear of my life.

Living on the outside was something I’d been completely unprepared for, but I relished the freedom. I could come and go as I pleased, I could wear pants and no one was hurting me. They may have seemed like small things, but they were enormously important to me.

Over the next several years, I began to discover who I was and find peace in my relationships with other people. I sought counseling to manage some terrible coping habits that I’d picked up over the years, and I learned that everything that had happened had a name: It was abuse. And it wasn’t my fault. I began a relationship with a young man who never saw me as the horrible, sinful person everyone in my previous life had always told me that I was.

I’m nearly 40 now, married to that wonderful young man, and we have three sons together, and those memories from such a long-ago time are ever-present in my mind. My mother has since died, and my father has disowned me. There’s a terrible peace in that. I wish that we could have had a relationship, but our pasts are too damaged, too fraught with the evil of an abusive family and the religious system that encouraged it, to have been able to move past it.

Wheeler’s Story of Abuse

My wife and I first started going to church after we had been married about 7 years. We were drifting apart and I was headed to the bars and she was headed to church. When I realized we were having trouble, I remembered that others had shared with me that there where some answers to life’s problems in the church. So, I suggested that we should go to church together. But I wanted to go to a church that I was somewhat familiar with, that I felt had some hard facts. She was going to the Evangelical Free church at the time, but I had a friend in this other Church called Calvary Baptist Church, an Independent Fundamental Baptist Church. So, she agreed and we started going. Shortly thereafter, God saved my soul. After 2 yrs there, I started going to the Pastor’s daily verse by verse Bible study. I went to that for 4 yrs. You see, the first book I ever learned to read was the Bible. I had graduated with a 2.92 grade point and could not understand a word I read. The Bible was the first book I ever had a desire to know what it said. I wanted to walk with God and live my life for Him. I believed the Bible was literally God’s guide book for life.

After 7 yrs there, I had come to the place where God was teaching me some things and I started to see that the leadership was not allowing people outside their immediate family to serve in any positions that were of any consequence. Also, they where deliberately preaching new people out of the church. So, I went to the Pastor and talked to him about this as I was concerned with these things. He told me he was growing too and to give him time and he would try growing. But almost immediately, we started getting these messages to beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing. As I knew what this was about, I looked to the Lord and felt God was calling my family and me to leave this church and go to a IFB church across town. This church had a Bible institute, Bus ministry and plenty of opportunities to serve. This church was started from some of the members of the other church I had went to and a Pastor from Hyles Anderson College. Not really knowing what that meant at the time, I was excited to go somewhere it appeared God was moving. So, I jumped in with both feet and hit the ground running. Before long, I was working in Children’s Church, then took a Sunday School Class for 3rd & 4th grade boys, then Children’s Church for 1st & 2nd boys & girls then I started working on a bus route with my family. Keep in mind this was all at the same time. My family and I became the Church Custodians where we were spending about 70 hrs a week in all serving God. We were seeing 100’s of people come to church! My family had become singing Evangelists going out to different churches and I was filling pulpits for other churches. At this point, we were sold out lock stock and barrel.

At some point, I started realizing that I could not continue all I was doing and not be compensated. I was very limited physically as to what I could do but, my mind was still strong enough to lead and read and I could preach. So, I went to the preacher and told him I could not continue down this road without some financial help. We were spending 70 man hours a week just cleaning the church. We were doing it for 35 hrs a week at $5.00 an hr. We thought that was enough of a ministry let alone the 35 hrs of voluntary work to get the job done. Please, remember this was on top of all the other ministry work with worship services, bus ministry, children’s church, Sunday school, Thursday visitation, Saturday bus calling another 15 hrs of service. Finally, in addition to all this I was taking 6 credit hrs a week in their Bible institute. Upon asking the preacher for more of a financial compensation, our relationship started to change. I started perceiving that I wasn’t being cooperated with any longer. I went to the preacher and asked him if there was anything standing between me and the full time ministry. By the way, I had ask him this about every 6 months to get the same answer for 2 yrs. Of course he said no, but his spirit was just different this time. I tried to put the good light on it and just move on. In the mean time, I discovered that child sexual abuse was going on and I went to the pastor about it with no results. As I was a children’s church preacher, God lead me to preach about children doing things with other children when they spend the night at each others houses they should not be doing. I said, “and some of you know what I’m talking about.”

Needless to say, I got called in on the carpet over it. Then, I found out it was 2 of his children that were involved. Well, when he started telling me what I could and couldn’t preach in children’s church, I informed him I was not his puppet and to get someone else. When I first realized I had to go was after I started trying the spirits of the pastoral staff. Putting them to the test to see if they were really for me or against me. As I found out,  they weren’t.  I started to collapse into a deep clinical depression. Keep in mind that our whole lives were wrapped up in this church and serving God through it. At this point, I started questioning God as to what I was doing and, if in fact I was following his will. I asked God,  “How could you lead me out here on this branch and cut it off?”  He said to me,  “I’m glad you are finally listening and seeking me.” I thought, “What? If I have not been following you and serving you all this time then what have I been doing?” I started wondering, “Do I even know you if You didn’t lead me here?”  That small still voice said, “Ya, I know you, but you have been leading yourself.”

By now, I was having anxiety attacks, but I thought I was having a heart attack. I went to the doctor and he asked me what I was so upset about. He told me it was just anxiety and told him I know who to go to about this, God.

Well, I was driving down the road one day and heard an ad that was telling of 7 causes for clinical depression. Now at this time, I was experiencing 5 of the 7 causes at the same time and they were saying any one could cause clinical depression. God melted my heart right there. I was only getting 2 hrs of sleep a day and I was now spending 22 hrs a day in bed. I felt like I was dieing! So, back to the doctor with a different attitude. At this point, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. I was totally wiped out! My mind was racing. I couldn’t stop thinking about it all. My face was starting to twitch, my eyes lids, forehead, my cheeks. If I wasn’t eating, I was gorging off an on. I was in deep physical pain taking pain pills like crazy. So, I started on the antidepressant and anxiety meds and then threw myself at the mercy of the Lord and committed myself to God and God alone from his Word to show me what to do. I told God I was going into the basement of my home and I wasn’t coming out until he showed me.

Well, I am now in the basement, I start reading in Genesis 1:1 and I didn’t get to chap 40 before God, in that small still voice spoke to me from the Word. The story tells of Jacob going to a far country to his family to take a wife. While there in the house of Laban he found the wife he had prayed and asked God to show him. Laban had promise Rachael to Jacob for 7 yrs of service. After the 7 yrs, the ceremony was over Jacob found he had been tricked and was married to Leah, Rachael’s sister. So Jacob agreed to work 7 more yrs for Rachael because of the deception. If you don’t know the story you should read it. Jacob had been deceived and beguiled several more times, but each time God blessed Jacob and Laban started getting upset. Jacob started wondering what was going on and looked to the Lord and God told him that Laban’s heart was no longer toward him; to go back to his home country. Right there God spoke to me again in the small still voice and told me thate pastor at the church I was attending, his heart was no longer toward me. That he was being deceptive with me and I was to go back to the church my family had first attended. The problem with that was, we were supposed to be sent out of the church we were in as Evangelists at the camp meeting we were having that Spring. Hello, problem! So, to prove the Pastor, I went to him and told him that if he didn’t use us in the camp meeting like he said he was going to do, that God was calling us to leave the church. So, I waited, he didn’t, and I informed my family what God had done and we were going back to Calvary! This was in early May. My eldest son still had to graduate, so we committed to continue until the end of the school year. In the mean time, we found out the pastoral staff and school was telling ours,as well as, other people’s children they didn’t have to listen to their parents; that they, the pastors, were their authorities to obey them. When we found out, we confronted the associate pastor with a formal letter of complaint and demanded he correct this at once. Well, My eldest son was pulled out of classes and verbally abused by the Associate Pastor for what he thought was his discussing this matter with his parents and he hadn’t.

So, now we elevated this matter to the Senior Pastor and demanded the Associate Pastor apologize for his behavior. After a month of demanding this, he finally gave in and required the Associate Pastor to apologize, and he did. So, school lets out, we go back to our first church. The Pastor there had agreed to support our call into Evangelism, but didn’t. Here we were and we had started our children in the school for the new school year. Then, the school teacher/dictator decided my 7 grade child had peach fuzz on his lip that must be shaven the next day or, not to come to school. Well, we were a little taken back by this and I sent him to school and told him if this teacher had a problem to call me. Well, all the children came home after school with a note that they were all expelled. So, I wrote a note to the Pastor saying, “If this situation could not be resolved, we would be forced to leave the church.” We left and started going to a Evangelical Free Church for a while. But, to be frank, I was not very patient, I saw some doctrinal issues I felt I couldn’t live with and I dropped out of church. The family followed shortly thereafter and we floundered until we lost our home.

We were living in the basement of our parents house, homeless. At this point, I had lost all will to even try anymore. I was so bad mentally, I couldn’t work. I was in bed 22 hrs a day sleeping only 2 hrs of that. My mind was racing and I couldn’t stop thinking about all the stuff that had happened and I got mad at God. I told Him He promised that His seed would not be found begging bread and yet here we were. I said, “It’s time for you to provide our needs!”

As I waited on God, considering suicide, we got a phone call. My wife’s brother called to ask if we would consider going to help care for her mother that had dementia. Now, keep in mind he had no idea the state we were in and what our needs were, and we didn’t tell him. We simply agreed to go check it out and see if we thought it was something we could do. We went, checked it out, and agreed to go for room and board and $800.00 a month. Which was all we needed to meet our needs. We moved from Michigan to Illinois and we cared for her mother and her husband that was bed ridden for a year until it became more then we could handle and we had to go back to Michigan to help a son of ours. So, we took her back to Michigan to care for her there for 2 more years until she passed away. The point of this is to say that God used this to provide our needs financially, as well as, to give me a purpose to live. It gave me something to think about besides me. He proved Himself to me in how He provided for us. So, I have just not been able to say, I give up on God and I’m not going to trust you. That’s the broad stroke with more to come; like the revelation of what it is to walk with God, which, we were now and oh, how God has brought us to were we are.

Conclusion of our Testimony!

We left a family run Church, Calvary Baptist Church, that didn’t let any men serve to Grace Baptist Church (with a Hyles Anderson Graduate as Pastor) where they would work you to death if you would let them. We left Calvary Baptist again over lack of submission to the School teacher over peach fuzz.. We left Evangelical Free over doctrinal issues. We tried to start a Church. I knew of a very compassionate man that had just left the Church he was in. So we ask him if he wanted to help us. We had talked to him about the vision of the Church and what we would like to see. We discussed how we would like to see a Church that could help Spiritually hurting Christians as well as reach out to the lost. We wanted a church that was mutually led. We didn’t want a Church where the Pastor was the final authority, but the Leader of our Spiritual matters. We didn’t want a Church where we WIN THEM, WET THEM, WORK THEM, and WASTE THEM!  We thought we had an agreement and started the Church.

Now this was the period of time I had come to the end of myself. I was mad at God, because I felt like we had sacrificed our lives going on 15 years. We had given ourselves into the poor house and here we were homeless; living in the basement of my parent’s home; not knowing where our next pay check was coming from. We got the call to go to Illinois to take care of Mom. This person had no idea the state we where in, but God did, and I had just got finished praying to God a little mad, that He promised His seed would not be seen begging bread and yet here we are.

This is where God started to really start teaching me to walk with Him. We spent a year there with no Church. We had to care for mom 24/7, so there wasn’t time or relief enough for Church. So, I communicated online with the Pastor of the Church we had help start. But when I reminded him of why we called him to that Church for he quit e-mailing me. Now, I am totally without Pastoral leadership. I was for the first time in my Spiritual life totally dependent on God. The problem here, is we were taught that you can’t survive outside the Church without the fellowship of God’s people and not going to Church. So, this was a scary time for us, but God had other plans. I was still struggling with my own health issues and God started opening doors to health professionals that could help me with my issues. I could go into it, but there really is no point other than to say, God help me and he did what I had been trying to sort out for 10 years.

I look back at that time and see now how God had sent us to Crystal Lake Illinois, not only to care for mom, but I met some of these health professionals and learned some things about my condition that I would never have found out in Gaylord, Michigan. Those that understand the effects of long term exposure to chronic stress, know what it does to the adrenal glands and how the exposure to that stress affects your muscles.

Anyway, Not only did God send us there to help Mom and provide us with a home and income, but also I had to file for social security disability and the cases where back logged in Mi. As a result,  my case got transferred to Illinois by accident and was settled there within 6 months. So, God had provided us the income we needed when we had to go back to Michigan.

At this point we had to go back to Michigan. God had proved to me how He can take care of me, if I would put all my trust in Him. So we went back, went back to the Church we helped start. God then provided a home. My daughter got married and they gave us our first grandchild and, shortly thereafter, another grandchild. So, what does this have to do with it? Well God gave me some things besides myself and our problems to think about. This is where I started some real healing psychologically, and physically. Having all our needs met and people I could love and care about again, I started focusing on Church again. I started going to the Adult care center to play music and sing for them. I would play for my Mom and the grand kids. I started getting some purpose to my life again. So, we went back to the Church and the preacher there decided to leave and the Church ended up closing. Since we had already experienced life without being in Church, it wasn’t as hard on me, so I began home-Churching. So, here we are. Now we have to move to Wyoming and God has given me the vision for this site www.facebook.com/pages/Church-Survivors/351959144822796 to reach out to hurting Christians– to try and point people to a personal walk with Jesus. You really don’t have to be dependent on a Church or a Pastor. In fact, we tend to end up worshiping the Church and it’s Pastor, rather than Jesus. If this message makes you mad, I would say you should check who or what you are worshiping!