“I can’t talk right now, I’m playing with my wife” was the message I got one night when I tried to talk to the fundamentalist “missionary” on instant messenger about a problem I was having. I thought that was a little gross, but by that time I’d been groomed enough to just think “ok, that was sort of weird but he’s a godly man so I guess it didn’t cross any lines”, even though this man taught that dating was a sin and that a couple needed a chaperone when seeing each other and that it was to be called courting, and the man and woman could not sit within six inches of each other, could not hug, kiss, or even hold hands. He also taught that women were to wear long skirts and if they couldn’t modestly do an activity in a long skirt it wasn’t a ladylike activity. He was against the beach and water parks because, well, bikinis…you know, those men with no self-control might ravish one of those women in bikinis and then the rape would be her fault because she had been tempting him with that bikini.
I moved on up in their ministry and it felt good because I felt trusted and respected and like I finally had value. I remember him saying when I visited that I was their trophy, in fact I have had other fundamentalists say that to me too when I was on the “ex-gay” bandwagon for a while. I was proud of this for quite a while until years later I realized that I didn’t want to be anybody’s trophy, I wanted to be valued for who I was. This man and his wife always had a “Biblical answer” for any problem I was having at the time and as someone who wanted so much to please God, I continued to go to them for counsel. They continued to let me counsel other teens as I was seen as a “mature believer” seeing as I was following their party line on everything.
These people had me convinced that so many things about my Australian culture were wrong and downright evil, and when I visited them in the USA they tried to convince me to stay because their country was so much godlier than mine. They almost had me convinced, but at the end of my time I did return home, more because I didn’t want to break any laws and I had respect for the immigration policies. I left hoping to return some day, not realizing it would be just a little over a year later that I returned for good to live in the USA, but not as a representative of their ministry. In fact this man tried to pair me off with a couple of eligible and a little bit older gentlemen that he thought would be good for me, saying not only would I be able to stay and work more in their ministry (for free, although they did provide everything plus some while I was there which I see now as part of the grooming process) but that I’d have a man in my life and finally be under godly authority.
What hurts the most is that I truly loved and respected and trusted these people and I had no idea they were trying to manipulate me so much. They even told me who I could and could not be friends with, which we will get to in the next post and one of my friends has given me permission to tell the story of what happened between him and I.