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, Depression, Fear, Justice, Sexual Abuse, United Pentecostal Church

The Walking Wounded

I am one of the walking wounded. I have been attempting to write a book. Even though the process of writing can at times make me feel all alone I know that there are so many others like me. I just finished listening to the NPR podcast “Believed.” This podcast covers the story of Larry Nassar and his many victims. Although their story takes place in the world of competitive gymnastics there are so many similarities. Last week was an awful week for me. I battled my demons daily as I continued to write and try to unwind the story of my childhood. ITunes helpfully suggested this podcast to me and I’m so glad I took a chance on it. Now if you are like so many people in my life you might ask why would I put myself through that? Well because listening to other victims tell their story makes me feel less alone and strange in the world. The podcast was hard to listen to. I could relate to many of the women and their experiences. They inspired me to keep going and their journey gave me hope that maybe my story can have a better ending than it has had so far.

My friends and family worry about me. People tell me to take breaks and to take care of myself. They worry that telling this story might hurt me more than it helps me. I’m grateful for everyone in my life who has reached out to check in and give me advice. The thing is I cannot quit. I carried this trauma inside me for decades and now is the time to give it a voice. I cannot sit back and do nothing when I know that young people are continuing to be abused in the church I grew up in and others like it. My abuser is still out there doing god knows what. This isn’t about revenge but about justice. Justice for myself and all of the others like me.

Right now I will speak anywhere I am asked to speak and share my story anywhere I can get a platform. I am afraid because I don’t know if I have the skills to make my book a reality and I know for a fact that I am not a public speaker but the time for fear is over. Fear can be really hard to let go of, especially when you are raised on fear and it is what you know best. When you are told to keep yourself small and to go unnoticed it can be hard to step into the sunshine. So I keep going. I do it for myself and all of the survivors of Calvary Gospel and the UPC organization. Most importantly I do it for her…

Age 11

D

Compassion, Forgiveness, Leadership, Sexual Abuse, Southern Baptist Church, Uncategorized, United Pentecostal Church

What Will It Take?

As I sit at my desk tonight the question that sits at the front of my mind is what will it take? I and many others have lifted up our voices and spoke truth to power and yet they still can’t seem to find their hearts. Since I have told my story not one single person who is still in the church has reached out to me. In many ways, this doesn’t surprise me because once you are out of the church you are nothing to them, on the other hand, I have to believe that somewhere in that congregation there has to be one person with a heart. If only it was as simple as finding someone with a heart. Once you find that, then you have to find someone who isn’t afraid. Sadly many people who still attend and even those who have broken away are still afraid.

Lois Gibson has called Calvary Gospel Church out on her Spiritual Abuse blog over and over and yet no one has responded. She recently realized that they blocked her on Twitter so it is obvious that they know about her blog and they can see that she has heard the stories.

I am sure that they are talking about me and others because that is what they have always done, it is a testament to the hold they have over their congregants that not one person has broken ranks. I believe it would never even occur to them to apologize or seek healing between us and them. In their minds, they are with god and therefore right and we are not and therefore wrong. To be honest I cannot ever remember them apologizing for anything. I have no memory of any minister or person in authority saying they were wrong.

It isn’t just the local church the UPCI has not responded either. My guess is they assume there is not much we can do to them legally so they do not care. It is sad that they feel they bear no responsibility for the young souls they allowed to be wounded. I understand that they cannot be held responsible for the actions of every person within their congregations but they should be held responsible for the things they know about and what they did with that knowledge.

It isn’t just the UPC that is guilty of this behavior. If you follow #churchtoo you will see that the Southern Baptist Church has acted in a similar fashion. It has happened in the Catholic church and in non-denominational churches. I feel that if American Christianity wants to stop losing members it needs to address this behavior across the board. The response from these organizations shouldn’t be to call into question whether or not the wounded person really believed in god or to call upon the survivors to forgive. It shouldn’t be to lash out at people who are struggling to heal themselves demanding that the wounded repent and come back to god. What is needed is a heartfelt apology, and a willingness to look within and see where they made mistakes. Next change needs to happen, there needs to be a willingness to value young women, people of color, and those who don’t have a lot of money to put in the offering plate. They might have to sacrifice some of their sacred cows if those people are causing harm and driving people away. The reform that is needed would be very hard but necessary journey.

If you have any questions about my journey or would like me to talk about something in particular here on the blog please let me know!

Thanks,

Debbie