This is the area that really pushed me to leave. When I arrived I had been asked about ESOAL (having previously indicated that I knew what it was) to which I stated that I would not participate. From that point on I was treated as though I was mentally ill for not wanting to take part in the activities of ESOAL. I was criticized by other interns constantly, being told that I was depriving God of a chance to change my life. Being there alone was life changing, I didn’t need to spend a few days nearly killing myself to come closer to Him. When the Commitment Banquet came up I was pressured into signing the contract. I felt that if I didn’t sign it, I would get reprimanded constantly, even if I did sign it later. Almost everything that was asked of us, was asked with pressure behind it. Constantly being told to submit to the will of your leaders and that God’s will is what the leaders want us to do. Basically it boiled down to they didn’t want to do something so they had us do it. I.e. cleaning up after every single event, setting up every event at the church, and so on. Similar to the HA yes but they made us feel bad if they had to lift a finger to do something. At one of the “pep rallies” we had at a church not far from HAO we were having trouble finding a table to put promotional stuff on. The youth leader went off and pulled out a fold out table for us to use. I had not once been told where said table was but as soon as one of the other interns saw that he was doing work and not me, I was basically yelled at for not doing my job. I responded saying that I had been looking for a table and the next thing I know he is pulling out a table for us. He never told me where to get one, he just got one so I wouldn’t have the trouble of having to go and find one in a building I had never been in. That set the tone that night and I was treated like an outcast by all but 3 of the other interns. 2 of which would leave in the two days following that night and me later the next monday. The constant reprimand led me to look down on myself and one night I had found myself sitting in my bed seriously contemplating suicide. I had not thought of taking my life in 5 or 6 years. I hadnt even considered it when I was going through my trials in December, but to consider it an option because of a group with too much religious power really scared me.
The first “rule” of the Honor Academy is to not lie. A totally understandable rule and as with all rules, I expect the rule makers to abide by those rules as well because they should be a good example. All along I had been told of a previous intern leaving because he had tried to force his view on the other interns. The other two interns were said to have left due to falling to the trappings of the world. I accepted these things because it was all I knew at that point. Well after an in depth discussion with one of the other interns, she informed me that the male in question was actually trying to expose the truth to the other interns. In response he was told to either leave or they would kick him out. He chose to leave. While I don’t know the story on the other two that left, I have a feeling the treatment of the interns had to do with it. After this little revelation I started to keep my ears open for anything that didn’t line up. I didn’t have to wait long. The day the second intern left in late February, the interns were called in for a family meeting and we were informed that the second intern had left because they felt that it was cool to leave because someone else had left the day before. I knew that said intern had left for personal reasons. This small inconsistency can be attributed to lack of knowledge so I let it slide in my mind. What blew me away was that when the pastor of the church was addressing this to us, he told us to tell anyone that asked that the intern had left for personal reasons. While we would be telling the truth, the fundamental fact is that we were told, by the pastor, to lie. This simple fact rang in my head and put the nail in the coffin for me. That Sunday I met with the pastor, my CA, and the male director and told them of my choice to leave and I packed up and headed out the next morning.
I encourage everyone to steer clear of the Honor Academy of the Ozarks.