Summer started for Global Expeditions in June. I was working in operations in GE, and we had to basically make “Immersion” happen for each wave of missionaries. We had to plan the services, the ceremonies to get them fired up to go, and send them off. Once the missionaries arrived, I was working 7am to 2am for the weeks they were on campus (I think it was a total of 6 weeks).
This was when I lost my admiration and respect for the Honor Academy and Teen Mania as a whole. Because I was working so much, I did not get enough rest to do a good job, I missed meals because I was too busy, and the worst; I did not have time for a quiet time. The balance of work was skewed as well. I had friends and core members who worked 2-4 hours each day, and spent the rest of the day hanging out in the summer. If those people had teamed with us to work shifts, we all would have been much more effective and rested. One of my core members would work up until 2am with me some nights (her own choice, because she had finished her work), just because that was the only way she could spend time with me. My manager kept pushing and pushing for me to do things for GE, and because I was a model intern, I could not say no. Another of my core mates emailed Dave Hasz to tell him how much I was working, and that I couldn’t spend time with Jesus because of it, and he responded by telling my manager to relax a little on the work hours. My manager got upset with me about this, basically telling me that the email (which I had nothing to do with) was inappropriately sent and I should carry my cross and endure the summer.
I fail to see why Teen Mania feels justified in this kind of slave labor. I worked so hard for them, and paid to be there. I gave up a year of my life to do this, and did not receive the support (core leaders, other leadership), the training (for the real world), or the spiritual growth (especially during the summer) that I had been promised. I was the model intern, I did the required stuff to the best of my ability and then did extra, I kept my commitment not to communicate with my ex-boyfriend, I did the probation for that earlier in the year (with little to no follow-through on the things I had been assigned, and I did them anyway), and I did my best to get the most out of my internship (extra training, activities, etc.).
After my over-worked summer with Global Expeditions, I came home pretty angry with Teen Mania. During my year at the HA, all of my friends from home had drifted away with their own lives, and so I came home to pretty much no one but my family. My family was getting worse with my parents’ separation, and with the loss of my core from the HA, I felt really alone. I don’t know where I would have been without the constant support and friendship of my ex-boyfriend from before the HA…even still, I sank into a deep depression that took almost a year to pull out of. Part of that was because I had so few friends and lost the support of my core when most of us left (only ONE August from my core stayed at the HA for another year), and it was aggravated by my parents’ drama. I didn’t have a problem with legalism as much, because I had a lot of the summer before I left to “get the HA out of my system.” It seemed hypocritical to me that they would put so much emphasis on morning quiet times and discipline before summer, and then once summer hits, do NOTHING to encourage or support that even if interns desire it. It took me awhile to make friends, simply because everybody at my college (freshmen/sophomores) who were my age seemed silly. It felt like none of them could relate to the pain I was in, or even encourage me in it. After about a year or so, I did eventually meet some great girls who were grounded in their relationships with God, and who I could lovingly support as well as allowing them to encourage and support me.
I graduated from the HA, and went to college, graduated from that, and now I have a grown-up job. I am in a much stronger and more real relationship with Christ than I ever was at the HA. I married my ex-boyfriend that I had not spoken with that year, and we have been very happily married for almost 10 months now. He has shown me more grace and love than I ever deserved, and he is an admirable example of what a wonderful man of God is–and he never went to the HA.
My parents divorced late last year. When it happened, I was glad to just see closure to everything that was so dramatic with them. My mom is struggling to make it by, though, and my dad is engaged to another woman (one of the ones he cheated on my mom with). I am doing my best to be a godly and encouraging example to my younger siblings. My littlest sister is 12 and does everything like me, and everything I did when I was her age (same sports, same youth group events, same types of friends and taste in music and clothes). I just hope she doesn’t want to go to the HA until there are some real changes.
I think there is hope for positive change. I don’t harbor any hard feelings toward anyone at Teen Mania for this experience, and I did learn a lot. I would like to see things change though. There needs to be less emphasis on works and legalism and pushing your body, and more emphasis on providing interns with encouragement and support to lead and to grow in their relationship with Jesus. As far as material things, they need better food (I have never had worse food in my life), and a better balance of work (especially during the summer).