C-PTSD, Calvary Gospel Church, Childhood, Compassion, Pastor John Grant, Poverty, Sexual Abuse, Trauma, United Pentecostal Church

The High Price Of Turning A Blind Eye

 

I have often wondered why so many people seem to turn a blind eye when they see something that doesn’t seem right regarding a child. Maybe they did not see anything but they heard a rumor and maybe they thought it was none of their business. As a child abuse survivor, I’m here to tell you that when you make the choice to turn a blind eye you’re abandoning that child. You might feel that it isn’t your concern or that the child’s parents should be the ones deciding what to do. If you only take one thing away from reading my blog I’d like you to take away that you may be the only thing standing between that child and a lifetime of trauma.

In isolated churches where the outside world is not welcome, children have no one to turn to but those inside of their little community. If the community is more interested in protecting its reputation than protecting the life of the child than that child really has no chance. Not only will they deal with the trauma of whatever abuse happens to them but they may deal with the trauma of not being believed or of feeling unworthy of protection. It may take a lot of courage to speak up and you may have to endure criticism but in the end, is it ever wrong to try to protect or save a child?

If any of the adults around me had stopped to think about how odd it was that a 30ish-year-old man was spending so much time with me they might have asked some questions. The heat of that attention may have scared Steve off from abusing me, he may have felt he was being watched. Had one of the women who knew about this come to me just to check in and see if everything was ok maybe that would have given me a chance to open up, or again it may have scared Steve off. I told him pretty much everything about what was going on in my life. The time he was spending with me was so out there in the open for anyone who was paying attention to see. If you were one of the people who went out after church and shared a meal then you knew he was driving me around. If you were part of his group of friends you knew he was taking me on road trips with him. These adults could have saved me from some of my trauma.

When Steve Dahl was abusing me our church averaged around 250-300 depending on the Sunday. Steve played his trumpet in every service. He and his wife sat in the second row. He was popular and well liked. A man like that doesn’t just disappear from a church and nobody notices he is gone. A woman doesn’t have her husband suddenly leave and no one know what is going on. Her sister was suddenly gone too, so there is another person gone. Pastor Grant would have said something to the elders. The women of the church would have had some idea what was going on with Debbie, Steve’s wife, it would have been out there amongst the congregation. That is a lot of adults choosing to turn a blind eye. Choosing to say nothing. As a child, I could feel everyone stepping back from me like I had some disease they might catch. I knew they knew. I felt judged and unworthy of love. No one reached out to me in love, no one checked in on me, this added to my trauma. I am sure they assumed that pastor Grant would take care of it but maybe they should have checked to be sure. If love and compassion were present then I feel that backing away from me wouldn’t have happened. How do you back away from a wounded child? If they really thought I was a seductive child or whatever they are trying to say now, why didn’t that drive them to ask questions? Even if they had chosen to reach out to me at this point they could have saved me some trauma. If love and therapy had been applied here things could have turned out very differently for me.

In all of the intervening years running right up to the present if any of the adults who heard rumors or flat out knew about what happened had come to me and checked in they could have reduced my trauma.

C-PTSD encompasses trauma coming from many different sources over a long period of time. Food insecurity and poverty featured heavily during my childhood. This was no secret. I can remember one day when my mother took me for a school uniform fitting and another woman who was there commented on how I was so thin I looked like I could just blow away in the wind. On another occasion, I worked very hard to be on the honor roll at school and the reward was to go on a field trip out of town to a museum. I was sooo excited! There was only one problem, my shoes developed a sudden hole in the bottom and I was too embarrassed to go. We had no money for another pair of shoes so my mother called Roy and asked if he could help. He asked another student if she could loan me a pair of shoes for the day. I was mortified. I wore the shoes and the young woman who loaned them to me made sure everyone knew what had happened. Then I gave them back. Well, that solved the issue for that one day, but what would have really helped was if someone had offered to buy me some shoes. Maybe Roy who worked in the school and was my youth leader, or maybe this girl’s parents who were elders at the time. Instead they turned a blind eye. There were adults who knew we did not have electricity from time to time. One person, Ida Cox helped my mother. I remember it was such a big deal and made my life so much easier for a time. The other times we had no electricity no one helped. I know people dropped me off to that sad dark house after church. There were never any lights on. I would open the door and this dark heavy oppression would hit me like a wall of despair. Sometimes my mother would be sitting on the porch outside to greet me and other times the house would be silent. I would feel the way to the stairs leading up to my bedroom and then feel for the oil lamp to give me some light. Didn’t these adults wonder why they never saw a light come on? On one occasion a young adult man dropped me off after a service and I invited him in. My mom and stepdad were not there for some reason. I had nothing to offer him but Koolaid and at one point he asked me about the cooler on the floor. I explained to him that we have no power and that is where we kept our food. I even opened it up briefly to show him the contents. He smiled tightly and soon was out the door. I felt embarrassed and immediately wished I had not invited him in. Another blind eye.

I grew up feeling like everyone could see my pain and no one would help me. I grew up feeling unworthy, sometimes hungry, sometimes lonely, always unloved. This is the garden my trauma grew out of. The harvest of my childhood is an adulthood full of unraveling. First you have to figure out what is wrong with you. You can sense early on in adulthood that you are not like most people. Then you start the long journey of trying to heal. You try dozens of things until you land on some that help. Most help a little but there is no magic pill. Mine is a life of lost potential. I was too busy struggling to survive to do what most people do in their young adulthood. I had no one to help me figure out how to go to college. I had no desire to live with either of my parents and so I moved out at age 17 and got my own apartment. I worked hard to survive but there was no time to nurture myself or think about how to fix what was broken. When you think about turning a blind eye think of me and maybe reconsider. Would one adult be able to solve all of my childhood issues? Probably not, but if I could have entered adulthood with one less layer to my trauma it would have made a huge difference to me.

I believe that churches give too much power to pastors. They often feel that the pastor knows about things and is taking care of them. In legalistic churches, they often blame the victim and stand in judgement instead of applying love and compassion. They may gain salvation but they lose their humanity. The people at Calvary Gospel certainly seem to have lost their heart. How can they side with the abuser over and over again? They pray for the abuser and the victim becomes the problem. This may be why some people feel it is better to turn a blind eye. If they side with the wounded it will not be long before they are also wounded. It is selfish self-preservation. If you are in a group that causes you to silent that inner voice that tells you something is off then I advise you to run! Don’t let an organization like Calvary Gospel take away your humanity and care for children, the poor, elderly, and suffering. Don’t turn a blind eye, say something, reach out and offer your help. If you do this you can hold onto your heart and maybe help someone else to heal theirs.

 

 

 

Age 11

 

As I look at the photos above all I can think is that she deserved better from all of the adults in her life.

D

 

 

C-PTSD, Calvary Gospel Church, Childhood, Crime, EMDR, Pastor John Grant, Sexual Abuse, Shame, Survivors, Trauma, United Pentecostal Church

Finding My Freedom

Freedom is a word that keeps coming up in my life. It has been especially present the last three or four years. I keep moving closer and closer to it and with each step, I cast away more of my chains. With the most painful struggles have come the greatest rewards. My whole body has been buzzing with anxiety and it is unrelenting. I have not been sleeping and at times tears well up in my eyes for no real specific reason. I have restarted my EFT routine in hopes of being able to cope better. Why is all of this happening? I believe it is a result of all of the emotions being stirred up due to EMDR. I can feel the EMDR purging the deepest parts of my trauma and with that comes an amazing sense of freedom. I can feel those memories moving from an ever present pain to a distant sadness. That’s progress. EMDR has forced me to look at some things with a clarity that is so raw and bright. It is impossible to continue to lie to myself or not see the evil of others for exactly what it is. Along with this comes some greiving. When you lie to yourself about people and their intentions and you finally see the truth you then have to grieve what you thought your relationship to those people was. For example, I am finally starting to let go of some very deeply held shame and blame. These feelings were so hidden and a part of who I am that I did not realize I still held them. On a logical level, you can know something in your mind but your heart might tell a different story. Once you let go of the lies you’ve been telling yourself the truth can be shocking. My truth is that I was a little girl just trying to make it in a harsh world. I was not to blame in any way for what happened to me or for how I was treated by certain people. All the shame that was heaped on me was not mine to take responsibility for. It might surprise you to know that in the still of the night my inner voice would question, “Did I do something to cause these things to happen to me?” “These people cannot be as bad as I think they are.” Now I know and can say in my most full-throated voice than none of what happened to me was my fault. The magic of this is that I really feel it in my bones for the first time.

Some of the truths I’ve had to face are kind of brutal. There are some things that happened to me during my childhood that are too dark for me to give breath to here. Sometimes abuse happens and on the surface, it doesn’t look like abuse. It might feel off and you might question for decades if it was abuse or if you should just cut that person some slack. Maybe they didn’t know better or maybe they had some mental illness that made them behave a certain way. The part of you that loves them wants to protect them from the things they’ve done. Once you’ve seen them clearly and you allow light to be shone onto the things they’ve done you cannot unsee what is right in front of your eyes. Then you have a choice to make. Love yourself and set yourself free or continue to try to unsee the truth and protect those who hurt you. I’m choosing to love myself but it comes with a cost. The cost is letting go of old beliefs and feeling the pain of the reality of the situation. Right now I feel the pain every day but I know it will lessen over time. The other side of the coin is knowing that I did not, could not cause all of that to happen. I was just a child.

I know that some of you will say, “I still have friends at Calvary Gospel” or “There are still good folks there.” You are free to believe however you wish but from where I stand I do not see how that is possible. Sure years ago when maybe some people really didn’t know what was going on, although I don’t know how they could not see what was right in their faces. The information regarding how many young girls and others were abused has been out and available for a couple of years now. If they still attend they are choosing to support a church that covers up crimes and fosters an abusive environment. I cannot support anyone who turns a blind eye to the truth of what that church is. I cannot lie to myself and say that any of those people are or could be a friend to me. If you know, and they do, that these awful crimes have been committed and you still support Calvary Gospel then you are complicit. These people who still attend CGC are supporting racism, classism, misogyny, child abuse, and the Grants who have been a party to a multitude of sins. Saying this out loud is like breaking the final link in a chain of pain tying me to CGC. There was a time when I felt sorry for the congregation and maybe even wanted to save them in a way from the UPCI. I get the brainwashing and control and how hard it is to break free, but then I wonder how do the Grants still have a church, how are people still attending? Especially after everything with Glen Uselmann being out in the press. I believe that if they are still there it is because they want to be. This may sound harsh and it was my feelings of guilt and shame, which CGC gifted me with, which has caused me to worry about what others might think of my feelings.

I know that we are all on different parts of our journey and I do not expect everyone to agree with me. If you cannot agree with me I hope you can at least rejoice with me in my freedom. I hope that you will also understand that I no longer intend to soft-peddle my opinions about the Grants, my parents, or anyone else who abused me or watched while I was being abused and did nothing. My goal is to heal and that means getting really real.

D

Calvary Gospel Church, Childhood, Compassion, Pastor John Grant, Sexual Abuse, Sin, Survivors, Trauma, United Pentecostal Church

Some Things Never Change

As new things develop and as I work through my personal trauma I have to ask where is the bottom? Where is the bottom when it comes to Calvary Gospel’s crimes against its congregation. I watched their Sunday morning service after they learned of Glen Uselmann’s charges and I was surprised. I shouldn’t be but I find that they never cease to amaze me. As they sink lower and lower I wonder how did they get this way? During their service, there was no mention of healing for the abused but there was mention of healing for Glenn. They did not display humbleness or any sense of self-reflection. What they did display was a sense of being persecuted. Pastor Roy Grant once again did not speak to his congregation. I have watched many regular services now and he has not spoken at any of them. I have to wonder where is his leadership? The speaker mentioned the torture of the saints and those dealing with depression but no mention was made of the trauma survivors. It is important to keep in mind that we survivors are the children of their congregation. They raised us and their lack of compassion towards our pain is nothing short of stunning. They continue to direct all of their love and compassion towards the ones who committed crimes against their children. When they speak out against myself and others they often say that we mischaracterize their views on women. I do not understand how they can say that when their views are so obvious and on full display. As girls, we were made to believe that we were second class citizens in the kingdom of God. Not just second class citizens but walking sin that needed to be covered up, hidden, and we needed to be ever vigilant lest we caused our brother to fall. Whatever they actually believed the message that was delivered was that men bear no responsibility for their actions but little girls should somehow be capable to make or break a man in the lust department. Little girls were told not to bring shame on the church by reporting, not to ruin a grown man’s life, and to take responsibility for the whole situation. Little girls often bore the stain of whatever happened while the men would go on to make their mark in the ministry. If women are truly the weaker vessel then why are they given so much responsibility to carry, especially young girls? It is also important to point out that we are talking about children. Grown men should not be lusting after children. A girl of 11 or 12 is a child. Most of the rest of society can see this why can’t they? They act so put upon, so persecuted, and they seem to have no awareness of their responsibility. As they dig in their heels they risk falling deeper into the pit they have created for themselves.

D

Calvary Gospel Church, Pastor John Grant, Sexual Abuse, Survivors, Trauma, Uncategorized, United Pentecostal Church

Something Good

It is pretty unusual for me to have something good to report and so I am really happy to have some positive news to share with you today! Some of you may remember reading Rebecca’s story here:

https://survivingchurchandchildhood.wordpress.com/2019/03/23/a-second-victim-steps-forward-rebeccas-story/

https://survivingchurchandchildhood.wordpress.com/2019/11/12/beckys-story-continues/

I am happy to report that her abuser is going to get his day in court. You can read about his charges below!

https://wcca.wicourts.gov/caseDetail.html?caseNo=2020CF001760&countyNo=13&index=0&mode=details 

Here is an update reported in The Cap Times this morning:

https://madison.com/ct/news/local/govt-and-politics/charges-filed-in-sexual-assault-case-linked-to-madisons-calvary-gospel-church/article_34569c20-ab50-5d81-862c-d425b1281b54.html#tracking-source=home-top-story

These charges are very serious and I hope that he does some serious jail time. Rebecca is fortunate that her case is still inside the statute of limitations. I am hoping that by shining a light on this case more survivors may come forward. It can be so scary to tell your story and when you go to the police often you have to tell your story over and over. Rebecca is a brave warrior and I am so happy for her!

I would be lying if I said this situation hasn’t caused me some worry. The fact is we just do not know how Calvary Gospel and the Grant family will respond to this. They have never had the light of justice shined in their eyes before. They have never been held responsible for anything. Granted this case is bringing Glen to justice and not John Grant it still has to have them rattled. They may be called into court to testify and who knows what Glen might say about the church and the Grants when he is attempting to cut a deal. In my experience, the Grants will throw people under the bus to save their own skin. I will update you as things continue to unfold.

 

Warrior Women

I will continue to fight alongside Rebecca as long as it takes to bring all of these predators to justice!

D

 

 

BITE Model, Calvary Gospel Church, United Pentecostal Church

Thoughts About CGC and the Bite Model 2

In my previous post, I discussed Steven Hassan’s Bite Model and how I feel it pertains to Calvary Gospel Church. I am still working through the Behavior section.

  • Regulate a person’s physical reality.
  • Dictate where, how, and with whom the member lives and associates or isolates.
  • When, how, and with whom the member has sex.
  • Control types of clothing and hairstyles.
  • Regulate diet – food and drink, hunger, and/or fasting.

Ok, that is a lot to chew on! I lumped these together because to me they all have so much to do with the material world. I think the first point covers most of the others. CGC plays a powerful role in where members reside and even which UPC church you can attend. I have heard stories of folks who have attended CGC being told they cannot move or cannot switch to another local UPC church. The church certainly teaches about who it is ok to associate with. If you are obedient regarding these things you will soon find yourself isolated with only the church as your support system. My mother was even told which jobs she could accept.

Whether you believe in premarital sex or not you cannot argue that the church dictates when, how, and with whom a member has sex. You must be married to have sex, period. If you are a woman and you break this rule you can be sure that you will wear the stain of your transgression for the rest of your life. Anything bad that happens to you may be used to point back to that time you had sex outside of marriage even if that was when you were 15 years old. Men do not wear this stain. Jesus may forgive but the church does not forget and if you are a woman you will be viewed as “fallen” forever.

I have discovered through communicating with other ex-UPC members that CGC is on the strict side concerning holiness standards. Again for men, the clothing and hair standard is not that different from what you might find in the world. They must have short hair and no shorts but that really isn’t a huge burden. Women on the other hand do not blend into the world at all, in fact, they stand out like a sore thumb. Now that I am out of the church I can spot them a mile away. Uncut hair, no pants, no makeup, and mostly no jewelry. For women, their appearance is highly controlled. As a teen, I spent a lot of time worrying about whether my clothing was right. After all that I was still judged for what I wore. I was trying but because my mother didn’t really care and I did not have an adult to guide me through some of the finer points, and boy do those finer points matter. Women within CGC are very cruel to each other regarding dress. It is used as a way to classify women and assign them a rank. How much can you spend on your clothing? Does it fall perfectly within the rules? There is also the complicating issue of depending on your rank you may be able to get away with more than someone lower down. Clothing and hair can be used as a weapon against women and it is one of the uglier parts of the underbelly of CGC. When I was a kid we did not have a lot of money, especially before 1983. My mom would buy me things on clearance and at Goodwill and then I would have to try to make it work within the standards. I always carried safety pins with me and my blouses and skirts were often all pinned up to make them compliant. My hair was fine and frizzy making it hard to recreate the fancy hairstyles synonymous with the UCP. I felt like I never looked right.

This brings us to the 5th point. You can’t drink booze that is common within the UPC. Fasting is encouraged and I did that with ease as a kid because I was well acquainted with hunger. I don’t know that they restrict any other food or drink but they do have a problem with food. This is my opinion and others may disagree with me. I feel CGC has a food problem or more specifically a gluttony problem. Food is like a sport to them. There are so many things you’re not allowed to do but eating is embraced with gusto, maybe too much gusto. Food is often associated with community and sharing food builds closeness. I feel it becomes an issue when all gatherings seem to center on food. That is how it was when I was a kid, it may have changed since then.

In my opinion, CGC hits all of these points, what are your thoughts?

D

BITE Model, Calvary Gospel Church, United Pentecostal Church

My Thoughts About Calvary Gospel Church and The BITE Model

While trying to recover from my childhood and young adult experiences I have listened to many podcasts and read many books. Over and over I have seen and heard Steve Hassan’s BITE model discussed. I have listened to Mr. Hassan talk about his personal experiences within a cult and how he was able to escape. After learning about the BITE model I feel CGC has many features of a cult. I personally feel CGC is a cult but some of you may disagree and that is ok. BITE stands for Behavioral Control, Information Control, Thought Control, and Emotional Control. I would like to take some time on my blog to talk about some of these things and give you my perspective. My hope is that this will spark some respectful conversation and understanding.

Let’s start with a topic that falls under Behavior Control, promotes dependence and obedience. Whew, this is a meaty topic. My opinion is that CGC definitely hits this marker. Let’s talk about dependence, when you become a new member you often really don’t know what you are getting into. Maybe you came to a service because a friend or family member asked you to and the next thing you know you are down at the altar repenting surrounded by people you don’t really know. Carried along by the energy of it all before you know it you are being told you are apart of this new family. This process happens with a heavy dose of love bombing and acceptance. If you stick around you soon learn that all of that love and acceptance are not unconditional. Soon you learn that it isn’t really ok for you to keep your “worldly” friends unless you are doing it in order to bring them into the church. You should probably be careful around unsaved family as well. The devil will use anyone he can to lead you astray. Before you know it all of your friends are part of the church and all of your activities involve the church as well. It is just the safest way to be sure you only expose yourself to Godly influence. This creates dependence. It makes it very hard to leave. If you go you will lose all of those friendships and connections. You may have pushed away other support systems and burned many bridges. The church also breeds fear of the outside world which means if you try to leave you will go with a pretty hefty fear of the unknown world out there.

This brings us to obedience. You are supposed to be obedient to God, your pastor, and if you are a woman to your husband. Children should be obedient to their parents. There may be other people thrown in depending on your situation. You might feel you need to be obedient to your Elder, Sunday School Teacher, or some other teacher. One of the first things you learn is that you shouldn’t question God.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:8-9, KJV

Then you learn that you shouldn’t question your pastor.

“Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.”
1 Chronicles 16:22, KJV

So now I am not saying that these verses are being interpreted correctly, I am saying these are the verses that were used on me when I asked questions. I am sure I am not the only one.

You are expected to be obedient to God and your pastor without questioning them. You are supposed to let your pastor tell you what God means within the pages of the Bible and that gives the pastor so much control over your life. If you do not obey your pastor then you can expect to be shunned and your status within the church will be lowered. Within CGC the pastor dictates how you dress, spend your free time, and how much money you give to the church. Now of course you can choose to not listen but if you do your life will be harder within the church. No the church does not enforce obedience at gunpoint but the emotional pain brought on by questioning and disobedience can be used as a powerful way to keep you in line.

What do you think of all of this? Have you attended a United Pentecostal Church and if so was your experience similar?

D

Calvary Gospel Church, PTSD, Support, Survivors, Trauma, United Pentecostal Church

I Can’t Believe I Have To Say This

I can’t believe I have to say this but…here it goes…I don’t care what anyone thinks about me writing this blog. If you don’t like what I am writing about you can always feel free to scroll on by and just ignore it. I know that there are some out there who have grown up within the same church as I did who did not suffer the same level of trauma. Maybe you are whiter or had better parents, or just got lucky. No one can say why some people end up with PTSD and others do not. It could be that I am a more sensitive person than you, or it could be that I took it all more seriously. That being said, I am who I am and I have PTSD and that means that whether it was 30 or 40 years ago doesn’t really matter to me because my brain reacts like it is happening right now. I can’t just let that go because my mind will not allow it. Don’t think for one minute that I have not spent my whole adult life trying to leave it all behind.

I write for me. I write to give my child self a voice. I write to drag the sins of the past out into the light. I write in hope that others will be less afraid to step forward. I write to create change. I desire that one day those who oppress the young through fear and intimidation will fall and other more compassionate leaders will take their place. I write to give a voice to all those who are too afraid to speak, those who came before and after me for whom the stakes are too high. Yes, a lot of time has passed and it might make some more comfortable if I just shut up about it but I can’t do that. I cannot be quiet as long as other children are at risk. Just because I have made it out doesn’t remove my responsibility to let the world know that there are still others left behind. Who is speaking for the kids of color at CGC right now? Who is speaking for the girls being abused right now? I have zero reasons to believe that because most of the daily work has passed from father to son that everything is magically better. Those adults who knew about my abuse and turned a blind eye are still in leadership roles and I’m not just talking about the Grants. I will continue to speak up about this until CGC has dissolved or the UPCI has stepped in and removed the current leadership. This isn’t just about the distant past, it is about now. If you felt you had to run away from that place then you know something is wrong there. Not everyone can speak up for those kids who are still there, I understand that, all I ask is that you not throw stones at me as I try to.

Calvary Gospel Church, Childhood, Pastor John Grant, racism, Shame, Uncategorized, United Pentecostal Church

More On Racism and Calvary Gospel Church

Growing up half Mexican and attending Calvary Gospel was an odd experience at times. There were people who seemed to view me as white and then there were others who made it clear that they saw me as a person of color. The Grant’s real feelings about things were never spoken of over the pulpit and so when I was confronted with them it always surprised me. An adult once told me that the church did not believe in interracial marriage. When I asked about the people who I knew had interracial children I was told that if you were in an interracial marriage before you were saved it was ok. Hmmm ok, even as a kid that seemed off to me. As a person not seen as white or black I lived in this weird out of place world where I felt I did not fit in anywhere. Plus no one would give me straight answers about where I fit in, everything was communicated in looks and second-hand information.

Darlene Grant pastor Grant’s wife never spoke to me, I mean never, unless she was delivering criticism. If she said something to me regarding the school or the youth choir there was always a sharp edge to it even when there was no need for it. She communicated her dislike with every glance and I was left to wonder what I could have done to deserve her attitude. I suspect it had to do with Steve Dahl but who knows it could have been for a multitude of reasons.

Once or twice a year our church would be visited by a very popular evangelist. His name was Brother Hightower. He was very animated and funny and everyone loved it when he would pass through town with his family. He would pack the house and the altar would be filled with people. These revivals would last for up to two weeks and they had the feel of a festival. Less boring than a normal church service because they were more fun and more high energy. This particular event happened when I was about 13 years old. The Hightowers were in town and they brought their son who was the same age as me. The whole family was very sweet to me. It was clear that they did not view me the same way the Grants seemed to. Their son was kind of sweet on me and he would ask to sit by me and my friends during church. His mother was very strict about behavior during church but she didn’t seem to mind him sitting with us. One day he asked me if he could have my phone number and I said sure. We liked each other but it was strictly a very puppy love situation. He was only in town for a couple of weeks and I imagine it was hard to travel with your parents and not have any friends your age around. Somehow the Grants got wind of him asking for my phone number and I bet you can imagine how that went over.

One night after church Sister Grant sat down next to me. She asked if she could speak to me for a moment. This sent my heart up into my chest because she never came bearing good news. She informed me that I was not to sit next to my new friend anymore and if he called me I shouldn’t talk to him. She also forbid me to explain to him why I was no longer speaking to or sitting with him. Better to just cut it all off, because in her words, “We do not believe the way they do.” I couldn’t tell him why because it might offend them and pastor Grant did not want that to happen. So she laid in my lap rejecting the friendship of this sweet boy and forbid me to explain thus making me feel like a monster. She did not care how this action would make me look to him or his family. She was expecting me to be a mean girl in order to save her and pastor Grant from having the adult conversation they should have had with the Hightowers if that was so important to them. I will take this time to remind you that I was 13.

It felt like what they were saying is, you are too brown to be white, but too light to be black. They would not have wanted me to marry their son, but they also did not want me to be friends with this black boy who was infatuated with me. Can you see how this was all so confusing to me? I also feel that they thought this black family was good enough to come and minister/entertain them and their congregation but they were not good enough to have an honest conversation with or to “mix” with too much. They did not bring this situation to my parents they plopped it into my lap and left me feeling like I had once again done something really wrong. Over time I would see this kind of attitude play out over and over. Church kids (mostly white) don’t really mix with Sunday school bus kids even if those kids had been attending for years. I would befriend these mostly black kids because I worked the bus route and they were my age. By choosing this action I was ensuring even more side-eyes from the adults around me. Eventually, you get to the point where you recognize that no matter what you do they will look at you that way so you just give up.

I know that the church has changed some over the years. I am only speaking regarding my experience. As a side note, before the Hightowers left Sister Hightower pulled aside and told me that if I was ever in their hometown I was welcome in their home anytime. She smiled sweetly to me and I had the feeling she could see what was really going on. That gave me some relief from the shame I was feeling, shame that did not belong to me but to the adults in this twisted situation.

 

Calvary Gospel Church, Childhood, EMDR, United Pentecostal Church

What I Need Calvary Gospel To Know

Today I went to my second EMDR session. I left the session exhausted and completely drained. I cried the entire time and I left feeling so angry. I was not planning to write here today but I need to say this even if I have no hope that Calvary Gospel will hear me. I cannot blame Calvary Gospel for all of the abuse I suffered due to how my parents decided to parent me but the church did not make it any better. Along with that, my mother’s association with them brought so much drama into her life and reinforced all the things her parents passed onto her. By taking me to church there she reinforced her beliefs and thrust me into a very toxic enviroment that would impact me for the rest of my life.

Now unto Calvary Gospel….you might feel that I am unfairly targeting John Grant Sr. but I can assure you that I have given this a lot of thought. Yes, Steve Dahl is the man who sexually abused me and he deserves all the blame for his actions. That being said, John Grant Sr. was the pastor of our church and superintendent of our state and he was in authority over everything in my world. I went to John Grant and told him what Steve was doing to me and he did nothing to help me. He was supposed to be my shepherd but instead, he left me to suffer alone with no support. Sure my parents have their roles to play but to pretend that John Grant wasn’t in power over my life is insane. He was the ultimate decision-maker with regards to the school I attended and the church and all of the ministries I was involved with. He said jump and all of the adults around me said how high. He could have helped me. He was the head of a racist church that neglected the poor and favored the rich. He preyed on his congregation’s fear by preaching about hell and the end times and rarely speaking about grace. This fear keeps people stuck there, afraid to leave even when they see how sick his congregation is. If they leave they often can find no solace anywhere else because they have been told that any church that isn’t UPCI affiliated is doomed. Even within the UPCI, some churches are seen as good or bad.

Why does any of this matter? Well, it matters to me in part because I have C-PTSD. What do I hope to accomplish with this post? I hope to show the very real and long-lasting consequences of attending this church and having John Grant as a pastor. I have great health insurance but it doesn’t cover my EMDR provider so I have to pay out of pocket for her help. I have spent most of my adult life in and out of therapy trying to deal with the aftermath of being raised with Calvary Gospel. I grew up feeling bad about being half Mexican in part due to the church’s racism and feelings about multiracial marriages. That standard came from John Grant. I felt bad about being a woman and I felt bad about being poor. Yes, the teachings of the church about women came from above John Grant but he was the mouthpiece who delivered that message to me. He cultivated an enviroment where I learned that we were poor because my mother must have some sin in her life, and she was sick for the same reasons. Give yourself out of poverty! Clean up your life and your asthma will disappear. Even though I no longer believe any of this the scars of all it all are engraved deep within me. I don’t sleep. That might not seem like a big deal until you realize I’m not talking about sometimes. I mean for most of my adult life I have had severe debilitating insomnia. It has made it hard for me to live a normal life. I have anxiety even when everything is going great in my present life. Because you see it isn’t about the present it is about the past. I’m not choosing to live in the past, you have to understand that when a person has been traumatized their brain isn’t the same as someone who hasn’t experienced trauma. It isn’t something you just put down because ultimately it isn’t within your control to choose to do that. I’m not saying you should use that as an excuse not to work on yourself, I am the queen of self improvement and transformation, I’m just saying that it isn’t as simple as some folks would like you to believe. What John Grant taught and how he ran his church impacted me severely and it still does. My EMDR session today wrecked me for the rest of the day. I am angry that I’m STILL dealing with all of this. I am angry that Calvary Gospel’s doors are still open and I’m angry that I feel powerless to do anything about it.

I think sometimes people who defend John Grant forget that he was a man and I was a little girl. He created an environment where abusers felt they could get away with sexually abusing children. He turned a blind eye to what was reported to him and to what any person who was paying attention could see. To me that is unforgivable not that he would ever ask for forgiveness. In his world, I am nothing but a problem a bitter woman drudging up the past, I wish that was true. The reality is that his past is my everyday and has been ever since I walked into his church around age 8, I will be 50 on Sunday. If you’ve stuck around till the end of this post thank you. i know sometimes it must seem like I’m repeating myself but I have to keep saying it over and over because it’s true and as of now we survivors have seen no justice.

D

 

 

Childhood, EMDR, Rapture, Self Esteem, Sin, Trauma, Uncategorized

Celebrating Life

The last month has been a struggle. It started with me struggling to live with fibromyalgia followed by a pretty bad fall down my basement stairs. In the midst of this, I started EMDR which has brought up some emotional stuff. In case you do not know what EMDR is here is a link https://www.emdr.com/what-is-emdr/ When I went to my first session I really wasn’t sure what to think. I wasn’t able to access much emotion even when talking about the hardest subjects. I tend to dissociate when I talk about my childhood. It is a skill I learned long ago and as dysfunctional as it is I am grateful for it. It has enabled me to survive. The therapist warned me that I might have dreams, even nightmares, and I did for about five days.

All of my dreams were different but the same. In each dream, I was faced with having made a mistake. Someone was angry with me and I was frantically trying to fix it. I was left feeling inadequate, unlovable, and unworthy. These dreams led me to think about my childhood and where all of these feelings come from.

“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Psalms 51:5

From a very young age, I was taught about heaven and hell. I believed that I was disgusting to God because of my sin and that he was only willing to accept me because of Jesus. My religious family saw childhood infractions not as normal childish behavior but as sin. My mother would often remind me that God is always watching and hell would be waiting for me when I didn’t want to clean my room. After all, it was right there in the ten commandments. Honor your father and your mother. By not cleaning my room I was not honoring her and therefore sinning. All sin led to one place.

One thing I am being treated for using EMDR is my insomnia. I have had it my whole life and no amount of sleeping pills seems to fix it. My doctor suggested trying to get to the root causes through EMDR. The echos of my childhood come to me at night when I close my eyes and try to rest. I’m hypervigilant meaning I can’t relax enough to fall asleep and once asleep I awaken easily. I have long since given up my fear of hell and the rapture but because my formative years were spent in fear of these things my hind/lizard brain still thinks there is a threat. This is part of why I have PTSD and all these years later I am held captive by the demons of my childhood.

“For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.” 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3

I was a fearful child. I was afraid of dying and having some unrepented sin, I was scared of God. I was afraid of missing the rapture and being left to fend for myself. I was afraid of my parents. Both of them spanked me with a belt and my mother was emotionally and mentally abusive. I was afraid of my pastor and other adults in the church.

I took the fact that I could not pray us out of poverty and I couldn’t seem to fix my parent’s marriage or my mother’s depression through prayer as rejection. I believed that if I prayed God would hear and answer, I was taught that God was the one person I could count on to meet all my needs. When all I heard was silence I wondered why? I processed it to mean that I was an exception. God would meet people’s needs, I really believed that, just not mine. Was I so broken and bad that God couldn’t hear me? I became obsessive about repenting to be sure I had no sin hanging around when it came time to pray. Maybe it was the amount of time praying that counted? Maybe I just had not prayed enough? One thing was for sure within my calculations a truth emerged, whatever the problem was it was my fault.

My parents used me as a weapon in their war against each other. I tried to love them both equally and I prayed for them both regularly. My mother believed that divorce was a sin but she got one anyway so I worried about her and her relationship with God. I witnessed her wrestle with God for money, money for rent and food, and I listened at the door when she prayed. She would cry and speak in tongues for hours. I felt shut out from her when she retreated to her room and I felt bad for her when I heard her cries from behind the door. She was trying to reach God and apparently it wasn’t working because she kept going back and each night her tears would flow, they were not tears of joy.

Over all of those years I learned to be tough. I learned to shelf my needs in order to care for both of my parents. Neither of them were all that mentally stable and so I managed their sadness and feelings of rejection while feeling rejected myself. I kept my sadness to myself. My parents were not equipped for empathy. Everything was about them and what was going on in their lives, I was merely there, like furniture and furniture doesn’t have needs.

The church did not care about my needs. They cared about keeping me in line and filling me with fear so I would never leave or think for myself. I never found acceptance there, I only found judgement. It seemed to me that I was too poor, too brown and too me to ever be ok in their eyes. The fact that I was sexually assaulted by Steve Dahl only made me more broken and defective in their eyes. I felt beyond repair, at times I still do.

Over time I let go of the beliefs of the church and my family. It was all about survival. Most of the time I am ok, at least on the surface. I am proud of what I have made of my life. If I scratch beneath the surface, which is what EMDR has done, I can see the still open wounds of my childhood. This makes me kind of angry. I have worked so hard to move past all of this and it makes me so angry to be confronted with how it all still hurts and haunts me. My reality is that I still feel unloveable. No matter how much love I receive from family and friends I still feel unloveable. I can never trust that love is real or that it will stick around. I am still very guarded even after all of the work I have done. I still struggle with feeling inadequate no matter how many successes I have. No amount of praise will allow me to feel my work or art is good enough and no amount of success takes away the sting of feeling not good enough. All of this leads to the unshakable feelings of unworthiness that cover me like a gray cloud. No amount of working on my self esteem seems to heal the wounds of being told I was bad from birth, born from a sinful woman, and only saveable through the grace of a God I could not trust.

This brings me to now. This morning I have been thinking about all of this and trying to process before my next therapy session. In the midst of all this, I need to remember to celebrate my life now as it is. I have to remember to love myself and to celebrate all of my successes even if they are not perfect. In many ways I am proud of my life and what I have overcome. I believe I am a good person and worthy of love and acceptance, even if my hindbrain hasn’t gotten the memo. I’m proud of the family I have raised and I have to try to remember to allow myself to be warmed by their love. For now, my struggle continues and for today I’m choosing to celebrate life even with the ghosts lingering in the shadows.

“I was born in a thunderstorm
I grew up overnight
I played alone
I played on my own
I survived
Hey
I wanted everything I never had
Like the love that comes with light
I wore envy and I hated that
But I survived
I had a one-way ticket to a place where all the demons go
Where the wind don’t change
And nothing in the ground can ever grow
No hope, just lies
And you’re taught to cry into your pillow
But I survived
I’m still breathing, I’m still breathing
I’m still breathing, I’m still breathing
I’m alive
I’m alive
I’m alive
I’m alive…”
Sia