WINGS Note: This letter addresses poor communications; inappropriate worker relationships; worker abuse; racism; financial uncertainty; male dominated hierarchy; the trauma of leaving the work; child sexual abuse; and more.
To those who need to hear this:
I was a sister worker for approximately five years. There was such joy and love and people were incredibly kind. However, those things cannot negate some of the systemic problems within the ministry that have only been highlighted by the recent news of despicable behavior by some of the brother workers and the resulting cover-ups.
When I left the work, I was absolutely traumatized. It’s not a time I particularly like to think or talk about. However, I want to share it here because I’m not alone in this trauma. I don’t think anyone that leaves the work comes out perfectly fine. We all leave pretty messed up and it’s not because we didn’t pray enough or we lost our calling. It’s because the way the work is set up now is a recipe for burnout and trauma. We get in the car with a companion, a suitcase, and prayers. And sure, that’s enough to sustain for a while. You read and you pray and you copy the routines of your older companion because they seem to know what they are doing. You pour your heart and soul into finding something that feeds your heart in order to share it with others in gospel meetings. And it works. For a time. You love the people you are serving. You feel like you are helping them. Sure there’s this brother worker texting you in a way that you aren’t sure is entirely appropriate. But you’re happy. There truly is so much joy and people are so good to you.
And time goes on. And you experience more of the love of God’s people. And you go on your first special meeting rounds as a worker. You’re surrounded by people who know nothing about you and they are curious about your story. Sometimes that curiosity borders on rude because people just want to know where this brown sister worker came from and don’t really want anything edifying other than the satisfaction of their own curiosity but there are truly some amazing people among the friends and they love you even before they meet you simply because of the God you serve.
You’re so busy now. You’re running around having three gospel meetings a week and bible studies and you’re learning so much. You’ve decided to read through the bible in chronological order and you feel so connected to God when you pray. But you bought a silly fictional book on your kindle app to read in your “downtime” and now you feel so guilty for spending the friend’s money on something so frivolous so you buckle down and try to do even better. You pray harder and give more of yourself to the people in their homes. And you truly love them all and want only the best things for them and when they share hard stuff with you and your companion you listen and learn and try to help. But there’s still this brother worker texting you in a way that you’re sure now is inappropriate but now you feel like you’re the one who encouraged it because every time you’ve told him to stop and he didn’t you still responded and now it’s all your fault so you’re just kind of sick all the time underneath all the happy.
But things are still really good. You’ve experienced convention and preps and special meeting rounds and seen what a miracle it is that it works. Yeah, it’s a little cringey that the sister workers do the laundry and the cooking while the brothers do “manly” tasks like it’s 1950, but it’s so good to be around the other workers.
Your brown skin itches when you stay in a bedroom with a gigantic confederate flag on the wall or when one of the friends says something so racist you want to vomit, but you shake it off and continue moving forward. And more time goes on and you block that inappropriate brother worker on your cell phone and when he starts sending emails you block him there and when he sends you letters you throw them away. You feel so much better now and are reinvigorated. Sure you have a coworker that uses guilt and shame as a tool to try and control you and who you don’t agree with about much of anything but it’s just for a year. And when your companion through ignorance answers friends in ways that can retraumatize people you cringe and try to mitigate the damage but you’re just a kid really and aren’t quite equipped with the correct tools yourself. You can get through it. The friends are amazing in your field and you love them and they care for you and despite everything, you make it through by the grace of God and the friends.
Now you’ve been in the work for two and a half years and you’re sent on another out of state special meeting rounds. It’s an honor and a privilege you’re told. And you land and it’s a whirlwind of meeting new people and traveling and you don’t even have a second to process. And soon you’re riding up with one of the local sisters to stay the night at someone’s home and you’re told that the father of the home no longer lives there because he was caught doing something inappropriate to one of the children in the home. However, that same father is coming over for supper because, apparently, since it’s special meeting time he needs a special meeting visit too. And you can’t say no and scream at how insane that is because you’re young and a sister and this isn’t even your state but you watch him like a hawk all through supper. And quietly look up the local hotline and make a mandated report once he leaves because it’s very clear that neither the local sister or the mother understand what supervised visits means, as they let him go outside to play with the kids when neither of them intended to go out there with him. But you hardly have a minute to process this insanity because you’re going from home to home every night and being told that maybe the fact that I exist as a half black, half white human is God’s way of fixing all this race stuff even though this particular person “never understood the whole interracial marriage thing.”
And on it goes. So much joy and goodness heaped on you that every time you take a breath or feel the need to be just a person and not a worker the guilt nearly cripples you. When at the end of the year your overseer says your companion told him you’re too radical and vocal about anti-racism, too liberal, too young to truly understand the way the world works you tuck your rage and hurt inside, and continue going forward. And looking back now, choke on the hypocrisy of reprimanding a young sister worker for speaking up about racism when brothers are running around covering up whole affairs. And soon, some of the hard stuff friends share with you starts bringing up some of your own hard stuff. And again, you don’t quite have the tools to handle it and your companion doesn’t quite have the tools to handle your crazy but it’s still ok. She’s trying her best to help you and you’re trying your best to be ok. You still feel God’s presence when you pray and you still find something to share for gospel meetings so it’s all ok. But you keep on going because the good so much outweighs the bad. And you go and you go and you try and you try until you just can’t anymore and you’re sitting alone in a hotel room with a bottle of pills ready to take your own life. But through timely intervention, you instead go home and have no money and no education and are totally traumatized and sick and have to figure out where you go from here.
This is just my story. Now I want to get to the point of why I’m sharing this.
First is communication. Communicate with new workers. Communicate with the field. Communicate about what’s going on in other fields and other parts of the country. Don’t communicate with just a select few. Communicate with everyone. Workers go into the work with no guidelines or idea of what they are getting themselves into. They have no idea what is appropriate behavior and what isn’t. A code of conduct would go a long way towards clearing up some of that confusion. Also, communicating about whether there are alleged sex offenders in the field is a must. You made me complicit in endangering children by not telling me there was an alleged offender going to one of the meetings in my field. If workers don’t know about the offenders that have been reported in the past, how can we make decisions about where people go to meetings or who is allowed at gospel meetings? Because you better believe I would not have been quiet about allowing children to attend any sort of gathering where an alleged sex offender would have access to them. Where children are concerned we can’t take any chances and you make all of us complicit in endangering them when you don’t make it known who these offenders are alleged or otherwise. Let’s err on the side of protecting victims rather than protecting sex offenders. Zoom and Microsoft Teams are amazing things and those under investigation can attend meetings that way.
On that note, another thing that workers need to make an effort to do is be in touch with what is actually going on in the world and what the friends are actually dealing with. This is something that’s hard to describe and something I only recognized once I left the work but it’s so important. Workers are insulated. The friends are a buffer between the rest of the world and them. And this doesn’t work for several reasons. First, it gives workers a skewed perspective of what humanity is. The friends are on their best behavior around the workers. In contrast, it makes the people who don’t go to meetings look worse. This makes workers think that the friends are just better people and makes them want to give the friends the benefit of the doubt. In reality, we are all human. Just because a sex offender goes to meetings, doesn’t mean he or she is any less prey to their compulsions then a sex offender that doesn’t go to meetings. Not only does this layer of disconnect from the real world skew their beliefs about human behavior, it also disconnects them from some of the very real issues that the friends face in their day to day lives. It also, somehow makes workers think technology is bad. Making it possible for people to attend meetings via Zoom or Microsoft Teams is not the same as being an evangelical television preacher.
Next, sister workers need to speak up. We need you guys to have a voice and a say in the things that are happening. I understand that it’s hard to see yourselves in any position of authority. And many of you sister workers have said you have no desire to be in any position of authority. But here’s the thing. You may not be able to picture it or have the desire for it, but WE the people you are teaching and loving and helping NEED you to have it. This ridiculous hierarchy among the workers needs to change. The fact that a person is male, does not automatically mean that they should have a meeting and speak for 45 minutes at the end of a special meeting or a convention meeting. By putting a hierarchy on the speaking list, you are automatically telling people, some words are more weighty then others. And that should not be the case since all those words should be coming from God.
Brother workers have their place and the vast majority of them are good men, I’m sure. However, they have shown that they are ok with covering up bad behavior. They have shown that they don’t understand what is and isn’t appropriate behavior. Child sexual abuse is always awful and needs to be dealt with directly by the authorities. I think we are all slowly getting on the same page there though a lot of progress needs to be made. However, when brother workers are having affairs with women in the fellowship, aside from not living what they preach, there is a power imbalance that makes this behavior unacceptable as well. They can lie and coerce and lay the blame on the victim and tell their victims they won’t be believed. And somehow, at the end of it all, they can make their victims believe it was consensual or the victim’s fault for tempting them. We need both brother and sister worker overseers to ensure this kind of thing doesn’t get swept under the rug or treated as simply a slip-up or an opportunity to shuffle workers around. We need sister workers to have input on companion lists so abusive behavior from older to younger sister workers doesn’t get overlooked or allowed to continue. We need to hear from the sisters that things will change and not just from brother workers. Sisters are the voice of the vulnerable and the victimized. They are often easier for victims to approach and yet, they have to turn their concerns over to brothers and have those same brothers shut it down or cover it up. That needs to change. I, for one, am sick to death of hearing meaningless apologies from brothers. I want to hear from our sisters that they aren’t going to tolerate this behavior anymore either.
Since workers are going into people’s homes, they need to give those same people guidelines on how to keep their families safe. We do not know the hearts of people and workers need to do what they can do to protect the most vulnerable among us. Dean and others like him, had access because people inherently trust the workers. So we need to do better in telling them about how to have guests safely in their homes. For instance, have the children sleep upstairs or even in the parent’s room when they have workers in the home.
Lastly, finances. My own experience was fraught with what I could and couldn’t spend money on. Nobody told me what to do with the money that was given to me. It was left to me to decide what to do with it and so I’d give some away to people I thought needed it and then just hang on to it or very rarely buy something frivolous like an audiobook that I’d always feel guilty about doing. There needs to be both guidance for the workers and oversight of those finances.
There is more I could say about secondary trauma and retraumatization of victims. I could talk about how exiting the work is handled or not handled. I could even talk about racism among the friends and workers since it was such a key component of my own story or discuss the unrealistic idea that workers need to be “on-call” 24-7. However, I will let this rest for now and hope that my voice added to the many others calling for change will help make a difference too.
P.S. Feel free to share this. I don’t mind at all.
Well said! Thank you!!
Thank you, Maria, for opening your heart & sharing your experiences with us. I’m thankful you still remember the positives experienced during your time as a minister. I’m horrified at the negatives you experienced & wholeheartedly agree that many changes are in order…. not just the CSA/SA issues on our plate these days. Your suggestions are appreciated. 💗
Thank you for your letter.
My heart goes out to you in many ways, especially for the racism and sexual harassment you experienced.
Racism is horrific. Oh, how I wish we, as humans, were past that point in our collective history, but clearly that is not the case. And for those in Truth to retain and express (or hint at) racist values, well that is deeply hurtful and disappointing.
And as far as sexual harassment goes, those who practice it are exhibiting misogynistic and objectifying behaviors. It creates a hostile work environment, among other problems. The fact that some of the brother workers feel comfortable doing this is reflective of the predatory nature that has been covered up.
I think your letter is very timely. It underscores much of the change that needs to occur going forward.
Not a single mention of Jesus or the Bible. Easy to see why this woman is an EX-worker. Lots of talk like today’s young worldly people about how they have trauma from everything. How about REAL trauma when God casts a soul into hell for all eternity? What about the trauma when the smoke from their torment rises up forever and ever? Having a love for the lost, and understanding that nothing matters but salvation would have changed everything. So sad.
Jwnz, having spent considerable time listening to Maria when she was in our area while in the work as well as having her in our home numerous times, I think you have the wrong impression of what she brought to our meetings. I don’t recall there ever being anything inconsistent with or detracting from the Bible or Jesus. The purpose of a letter like this, I believe, is NOT to preach. It is to highlight that there continue to be issues that need to be addressed in order for the whole Body to become healthier. These issues, if not dealt with, DO detract from preaching about the Bible and Jesus, as the hypocrisy and inconsistency become too thick to see through.
jwnz ..your self righteousness is only exceeded by your arrogance
agree with you merl keddle!
apart from what you correctly state another unpleasant side to jwnz is that they have chosen the anonymous poster name that could have the possibility of readers being confused that the poster is a NZ worker with the initials JW
It is a pretty sick joke! But that is the humour for some people.
I state again:
“an anonymous poster posting as jwnz may be up to mischief in their posting of comments on WINGS FOR TRUTH letters.
This is clarify that jwnz is NOT a New Zealand worker with the initials JW.”
Do you even know who Maria is? My husband and I do! especially after having her in our home many many times. She brought nothing but laughter and joy when she came. I miss her! There has never been a time that I didn’t feel she was a great influence and friend. Others are commenting here that your post here should be removed. However, I feel it is justified to leave your nasty gram here so others can see why there is a serious problem with the church – especially lately! There are ppl i know in this church who don’t think your type of negative dialect even EXISTS towards ex workers. This proves that wrong and the negativity is real. I believe in freedom of speech and I also believe we can’t just delete what we don’t want to hear. What does it solve if your question is deleted? Ignorance will be bliss for others who didn’t have to read your message. However, you may not learn anything about what you said. I ask you to think to yourself…when you write or have said a meaningful message do u always mention of Jesus and/or the Bible? is your comment here on WINGS encouraging? Would Jesus write a comment like that? I am open to discussion and would like to hear your thoughts.
Firstly I repost:
“an anonymous poster posting as jwnz may be up to mischief in their posting of comments on WINGS FOR TRUTH letters.
This is clarify that jwnz is NOT a New Zealand worker with the initials JW.”
I think jwnz is trying to impersonate someone. They probably don’t actually feel like they are writing! So it is probably pointless responding to their posts! 🤷♂️
People play lots of ‘funny little games’ posting anonymously on the internet!
Wow!! So heartless!!!
“an anonymous poster posting as jwnz may be up to mischief in their posting of comments on WINGS FOR TRUTH letters. This is clarify that jwnz is NOT a New Zealand worker with the initials JW.” Secondly: I think jwnz is trying to impersonate someone. They probably don’t actually feel like they are writing! So it is probably pointless responding to their posts! 🤷♂️
People play lots of ‘funny little games’ posting anonymously on the internet!
You are a perpetrator, or in the slightest case, a help to perpetrators. You are blind. Your comments need to be removed from this site, because you are further damaging the hearts of struggling people. I could say many more things, but your toxic behavior is the entire reason this goes on in the church.
JW from NZ, as you requested, here is a mention of Jesus and the bible:
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”
Your religious arrogance and dishonesty is bringing the church down. Please resign and allow workers and friends with integrity to bring the church back into a godly state.
Who is jwnz that you are calling on to resign?
Are you the same person as jwnz or in teamwork with that person?
One thing readers need to be aware. There is a NZ worker with the initials JW.
But the comments of jwnz are NOT the comments of the NZ worker with the initials JW.
They could well be the comments of someone seeking to cause confusion in the mind of readers here though.
Please explain how you know who JWNZ is.
Whoever it is, he/she should resign from the work or the meetings. That person is a toxic individual and very much anti-Jesus. There should be no place for such individuals in a loving fellowship. Do you agree?
Kindly direct your comments about jwnz (whoever they might be) to THEM. Let THEM respond. I have no interest in anonymous posters or commenting on them apart from clarifying who are NOT.😀
Your responses are disingenuous. There is only one way that you would know it is not a NZ worker with initials JW is if you are an NZ worker with the initials JW. You sound one and the same. Just don’t post toxicity please. Thank you.
As you wish Watchman, I’m toxic and disingenuous, call me more if you wish ! Readers know that jwnz is not a NZ worker with the initials JW. This is my only message. Appreciate you giving me opportunity to reiterate this. 😀
an anonymous poster posting as jwnz may be up to mischief in their posting of comments on WINGS FOR TRUTH letters.
This is clarify that jwnz is NOT a New Zealand worker with the initials JW.
Thank you for your heartfelt explanation of your experience. My heart goes out to you.
I was raised in the truth but I no longer attend meetings
Reading the stressors that are placed on workers in general makes me incredibly sad. We were always raised to behave a certain way in front of the workers as if they were spies from God himself, as anything we did was a direct reflection on our faith in the lord or our dedication to him and the ability of our parents to raise us to be compliant with expectations.
This created a lifelong problem for me where I became a people pleaser, always trying to please others at the detriment of my own mental health.
To us , as kids, workers were God’s counterparts on earth and revered almost as though they weren’t an earthly being with human flaws and faults or needs like us as you have so wonderfully explained. Viewing workers as an almost celestial being prevented us from questioning their conduct or even discussing it with others and there may be some predatorial workers who took advantage of their celebrity status and fed their own narcissistic egos.
I truly believe most workers and friends are wholesome people who struggle with flaws and sin, and try to support one another on life’s journey.
Racism is disgusting and I felt stick to my stomach that this happened to you Marie. I hope there is no culture of racism in Australia as I will be even more disappointed. I never saw it here – we were always excited to have preachers from foreign lands preaching the Gospel , and if we were lucky to have them stay in our homes we would hang in every word about their homeland and culture with fascination, awe and respect.
The fact racism even exists among Christians should have people questioning themselves.
I can almost feel the pain of a young worker, so eager to lead others to Jesus , giving up their career, choice to have a family, choice to have a partner and instead leading a nomadic life ( everyone hates living out of a suitcase- imagine it full time 🥲) and bring thrown into a situation with the hope that prayer and faith will see them through.
Guilt is a huge thing in the meetings and the fact you felt guilt about spending money on a simple pleasure like this when half the congregation likely have a Netflix or Audiobook subscription is truly sad as with any occupation there needs to be a work/life balance where you should have downtime to do something you enjoy . Some workers enjoyed painting or knitting before they entered the work , others enjoyed cooking or sporting. Doing these things is good for mental health.
You should not be expected to deny yourself any human pleasure or be guilty about needing it- you are after all only human.
Preachers should be paid a wage, everyone the same wage, where they can buy their own necessities or treats they enjoy. I imagine living on handouts would make someone feel totally helpless and dependent and that you would feel you were being judged as to how you spent money you were given ….which is so wrong.
I think the basic human rights ( they are listed online if anyone would like to look them up ) should be considered, as well as fair work obligations. If preaching the Gospel were treated as an occupation (rather than a volunteer role) within the meetings – as with how it is done in other church organisations , it would improve conditions in which workers serve their congregation .
Also, with all due respect unmarried male or female workers are unqualified to give relationship advice, or parenting advice and this heavy burden should not be placed upon their shoulders. They can offer scriptural content where it exists, however No amount of prayer is going to give workers the 4 years of training and skill it takes to provide this advice. They can’t possibly counsel bereaved partners or teens struggling with body image issues and mental health, or skill them to deal with predators in a congregation when they have not received training themselves in such things.
In example, Counselling is not part of a position description of a school teacher. If a student requires this a Referral is made to appropriate personnel for guidance counselling etc. suitably trained personnel.
I truly hope dear Marie that there is change within the meetings. I would return to fellowship if significant changes were made to many things.
However, sadly the meetings are another organisation which although based on some of Christ’s teachings are overseen by human heirachy and there will always be the need for reviewing of processes but more importantly transparency.
Other church organisations have accountability and are required to account for the monies of the church and how it is spent . I know this as I attended several different churches and was amazed at the lack of secrecy and the involvement of the congregation in how funds were spent.
There should be monetary compensation for victims of abuse and when workers leave the work they should be provided with funding to Re skill themselves to enter the workforce, assistance to purchase a vehicle – if they have sold their possessions and given them to the church when entering the work as I was led to believe.
The organisation is left funds in wills and estates and no one in the general population know the true financial assets of the church – people give money to the church not knowing whether it is even needed or what their contribution was used for.
Please don’t anyone think I am completely bitter or bagging the meetings, because nothing could be further from the truth.
I have a lot of positive memories from my time with the meetings and I love the people who shaped my childhood and my life.
The system is flawed people.
It needs to change.
The congregation need to band together and be involved in the overhaul of the outdated and many unlawful practices.
There should be minutes of worker meetings taken. Elders should be sent updates of the whereabouts of sexual offenders, not to judge Or discriminate against these people who are afflicted with an illness FOR WHICH THEY CANNOT BE REHABILITATED, but to educate and support their congregation and protect the vulnerable.
CSA can be openly prayed for by congregations and allowed to attend meetings, but if the whole congregation know a brother or sister is afflicted in this way they can keep the congregation safe but also allow the person to feel the support and love of the church as they battle their illness.
They can actually help them by not sweeping it under the mat, but by having open discussions about how they can prevent them from being exposed to situations where they might be tempted to act on their desires or fantasies.
We can’t judge these afflicted people or excommunicate them as it is unchristian behaviour but we can ensure children are not alone in a sex offenders presence for any period of time.
Sweeping things under the mat has led to terrible Shame for many good people. My father is an elder. He is a man who would never tolerate the abuse of children and he would do everything in his power to assist someone afflicted with desires towards children to receive fellowship, but ensure children were kept safe.
I felt so sad for so many true elders and true preachers when the 60 minutes episode aired about sexual predators. It shouldn’t have to have gotten to that!!
Heavenly Father, I pray that you will oversee a change in heirachy , processes and people in positions of influence in the meetings. I pray that you will create a yearning in the hearts of the faithful followers of Christ to band together and demand change and transparency within the church.
I understand this may mean the standing down of preachers who are exploiting their position within the church but I pray in their stead you will guide the congregation to choose wise, wholesome, faithful leaders who are filled with the love of Christ and of the congregation.
I pray there will be a change for good in all aspects of the church , financial, promoting Christian values of forgiveness, but also of understanding that the condition of child sex offender cannot be healed, only managed by removing the ability to reach the vulnerable.
I pray that you will cause your congregation to question the way things are being done and with your Guidance a new and more heavenly approach is adopted , where transparency and justness, and Abidance of the earthly laws are upheld.
I pray that you will heal the victims of abuse, that you will heal the workers who have suffered according to the experience Marie has shared
and renew their faith and purpose and bestow upon them a great blessing for their sacrifice in seeking to serve you faithfully. They have been let down not by you, almighty God but by the flaws of human kind and human choices and decisions which were in contrast to your will and your word.
I ask these things believing that you are able to make these things come to pass. I ask these things humbly as a sinner myself, and only through the precious blood of Christ Jesus who sacrificed his life for all sinners like me . For the sake of the many faithful souls who have spent their lives trusting in the leaders and elders of the church, having being raised from a young age to do so, I pray that you will oversee changes which benefit the congregation.
I pray these changes will be evident to those looking for the purpose to their existence, so that the ability to preach the gospel and spread the good word of the hope of an eternal life with Jesus in heaven is able to be shared in a safe and righteous environment.
Thank you for blessing me in my life with being raised to know of a living God and a redeemer.
I am unworthy to ask for the least of your mercies Lord, but I ask these things believing in your almighty power.
In Jesus name.
Yes It is easy to see why this dear soul is an ex preacher.
It is an immense loss to the church that she is no longer a preacher…. and sadly I never actually heard her preach.
From what I read, if we both read the same thing, it is not because she didn’t have a love for the lost or an understanding about the importance of salvation. She wasn’t able to achieve her potential in the environment she was placed in, and she was not supported to do this in a manner which kept her mentally and physically safe.
The loss of a preacher is extremely sad under these circumstances. It is not as if there are hundreds of people offering to undertake the role that she took on.
Your comments seem judgemental toward this dear soul and I am curious as to why you would suggest she didn’t have a love for the lost or an understanding of the importance of salvation.
Having these things DON’T automatically change everything. They don’t change the child sexual abuse, they don’t change the issues of racism and they sure don’t change the things that most people on this site agree need to be changed.
For that to happen, open discussions about what needs to change must be held, and people should be able to share this without it being suggested they didn’t have a love of the lost or an understanding of the importance of salvation.
If this is the kind of support and thanks a preacher is given for the sacrifice of 5 years of their earthly life in preaching the Gospel faithfully despite these fully preventable conditions it saddens me. 🥲
Yes, Maria has not mentioned Jesus or the bible however in 5 years of her time preaching I believe she would have mentioned these things very regularly .
She is not preaching to this forum however , she is addressing man made issues which are in direct conflict with the teachings of Jesus- inequality, sexual inappropriateness etc etc.
I’m sure Maria could cite passages in the bible that refer to these things however then she might be at risk of being told she’s preaching and no longer a preacher, so I guess she can’t really win in that regard.
I’m so thankful to read most of the comments from those in our church supporting Maria. It gives me hope that we can change what needs to be changed.