A new Honor Academy “charter” was established late last year (2009) in Branson West, Missouri, called the Honor Academy of the Ozarks (HOA). Its based in a church there called Living Word Church and it used to be The Internship at LWC. I don’t have much information as to what the routines were like with that internship but what I heard indicated that they were a lot more relaxed than when they became associated with the Honor Academy. In December of 2009 I was involved in a pretty serious car accident that resulted in a totaled MINI Cooper. I had been t-boned in the driver door and I came out of the wreck with no injuries, I knew that it was God who had protected me. At that point I really didn’t have much in life, car was totaled, grades were in the toilet (I was a sophomore in college at this point), my family was being torn apart by my bratty little sister, and the only glimmer of hope I had was God, my loving girlfriend, and a brochure from the Honor Academy of the Ozarks. I had checked out the HA in Texas my junior year in high school, had applied and was accepted but a gut feeling told me to pull out before I went. My parents were disappointed but at the time I felt like I had made a smart move. I called a couple of times to get info on HAO and took the dive to go January 2010. January 2nd, 2010 I broke up with my girlfriend, packed up my car, and headed for the hills. All the while with that gut feeling nagging at me telling me that this was a bad idea. Oh how I should have listened.
At this point I will break down the story into the pieces that led me to ultimately leave.
While I am not the most exercise oriented person I knew that there were limits that I could handle. Our corporate leader did not understand these limits. The first day we had corporate we were woken up at 5am to trudge up a frozen hill (we had received a large amount of snow the day before) and we were promptly told to “warm up.” A warm up is generally stretching and getting the body ready for more arduous work out. Instead we were immediately told to do jumping jacks, butterfly kicks, push ups, the usual fare for a trained marine or soldier. Well since we were “Warriors for Christ” a “small” workout shouldn’t be an issue because God would help us through the whole thing and we would emerge totally refreshed and rested and that pain is just a sign of sin and so on. I kept pushing myself and found my limit and pushed beyond it, trusting in God to keep me going. Well there comes a point where God says “Take a break.” the Honor Academy does not say such things and once I passed my limit, I passed out and took a header into the wall. I woke up to “In the name of Jesus I cast you of this man’s body.” While I was still a little fuzzy from my little trip to la-la land I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, suddenly passing out = possession and not exhaustion?” This routine continued all through Orange Block (aka January). I needed to see a doctor but insurance issues kept me from seeing one. Because I couldn’t produce a doctors note saying that I needed to cut back on the heavy workout, I was expected to keep going even if I couldn’t physically stand up. From other posts I have seen, it seems like if you reach this point you are allowed to stop and rest, we were not allowed to do such a thing.
Another thing that really got to me was the lack of time allotted for sleep. We were expected to be up early for work or corporate depending on the day, we could not do homework during work (understandable), we had classes, then church commitments (usually taking 4 out of 5 weeknights), then we were expected to do our homework and 20 minutes of working out. Due to this strenuous schedule and lack of sleep I quickly became sick only a few weeks after starting. Since I did not want to use up sick days or break days, I pushed myself to go to work and corporate as soon as I felt able. Since I did not get proper recovery time, I fell ill again only a week or so later, then the process was repeated again in February. In total I fell ill 3 times in 2 months, to give you an idea the most I usually get sick in one year is once maybe twice. I knew that the schedule I was running was the culprit. After a particularly heavy snowfall I was informed that I had to do extra training for being sick that week along with another one of my brothers. I had just assumed that we would get up that Saturday morning after the sun had come up and would work out. No, we were told to get up at 5am and shovel the snow from all of the walkways and doorways of the housing units and the church and shovel out some of the parking lot. I am not a doctor but for two young adults who are recovering from illness, shoveling snow in below freezing weather isn’t the best method of recovery. Afterwards the only thanks we got were from each other and it was more a thanks for support and not thanks for doing the job. We could have easily been asked to do this same job after the sun had come up and allowed the temp to rise above freezing, but it was seen as better punishment to do it at 5am. These things alarmed me greatly and it scared me to think what other things I would be forced to do all in the name of having a servants heart.