I never went to the Honor Academy. I prayed and God quickly killed the idea in my mind because he already knew I dealt so much with a guilty conscience and HA would only make that worse. (Actually that feeling was finally helped when I read To Kill a Mockingbird and in the story Scout had gotten in trouble for fighting. Atticus said how she was trying, and he knew she was trying. And that was enough. God spoke so much to me in those few sentences.)
Anyway the extent of my experience with Teen Mania was with my Global Expeditions mission trip. That really tainted my idea about TM. But I would first like to say that even though my TM experience was bad, I do not regret that trip. The organization we were working with while on the trip is full of Godly people making a real difference in the world and for the kingdom and I learned so much from them. And I will not disclose too much information, even where I went and what year, because I am still friends with many pro-TMers and do not wish to offend them or burn bridges. I simply want to make sense of my experience.
So things started going bad about two weeks before the trip. The intern who was assigned to me to make sure everything was in order before I got to Teen Mania’s campus in Texas never told me that the trip was debriefing “in country” which meant I would have to find my own flight home. I finally figured out by talking to some of the other people who were going on the trip and my mom freaked. I was upset that this was never told to me. We immediately contacted TM and got someone to help us get my flight. It took a few hours but we got me a flight and all was well.
First day on campus, I begin getting acquainted with everyone and making friends. I learned the rules and did my best to abide by all. They reminded us before bed that we should not be anywhere on campus alone and if you need to go anywhere, let a missions advisor (MA) know. So before bed I was worried about having to go to the bathroom at night, as you know the longhouses don’t have one. So I asked one of the MA’s what to do if I have to go to the bathroom and night and I got the answer “I don’t know, just don’t wake me up.” Thankfully I slept through the night fine without a bathroom break so I was relieved.
The first full day in which we had “training” we found out which drama we would be doing. Now through most of the drama a lot of us were on our knees. Not so bad but seeing as we were doing it under the pavilion where the ground was made mostly of roof shingles, it was hard on the knees. In our first break, one of the Honor Academy interns who was helping us with our drama noticed we were getting weary of being on our knees all the time, so he pulled out his Bible and read us the “discipline your body and make it your slave” scripture. I did my best but it still hurt, and finally I no longer wanted to kneel and did the drama while standing up. I was told I needed to try harder to discipline my body.
We came to a point where they wanted us to practice our testimonies in front of everyone. In mine, I spoke of my parent’s divorce. After that the Project Director’s son said to me, “It’s okay, a lot of good people’s parents get divorced.” Thanks. I never thought their divorce did make me a bad person in first place.
Finally, when it came time to leave campus for DFW it was about 11 at night. We loaded the bus and were off. In the buses there was the rule of girls by girls and boys by boys, seeing as it was a night trip. Now the buses had these seats that faced each other and the bottoms could be pulled out to connect them to make a place for your feet to rest and make a somewhat “bed.” I just so happened to be sitting across from two boys. I suggested we pull the seats out to have a place to rest our feet and make it easier to sleep, seeing as no one had since 7am that morning and we probably wouldn’t until the next night. One of the boys (Prjoect Director’s son) said that that would be inappropriate seeing as it would put boys and girls on the same seat. Never mind the fact that it was like sitting on opposite ends of a twin sized bed with your feet extended. Not sexual at all if you ask me but I didn’t want to argue for fear of getting kicked off the trip and I felt like a skank for even suggesting it. All this was new to me seeing as I had always been in very close organizations in school where boys and girls were always close. We would change on the same bus with the boys and we sat and slept in very close quarters so not much was really sexual to me and I almost never get crushes so that wasn’t a worry at all.
Now I didn’t have this problem, but someone pointed it out to me a few years later that this happened. When a lot of girls are put in close quarters together, a lot of them were having problems with starting their periods when they weren’t supposed to. A lot of girls weren’t expecting it on the trip so some didn’t prepare. When we got to our place we were staying, many girls asked to go to the convenience store across the street to get supplies. They were never allowed to go. Thankfully there was enough from the other girls to hold them but it still was a basic hygienic need that they should have been allowed to attend to.
Our female Team Leader’s (TLs) were very mean. There were two. Mine would always speak to me in a condescending way and would always reprimand me for not being more “involved” in what was going on. She kept an annoyingly close eye on me looking for me to do something wrong. She would stand over me in the morning demanding that I get up and immediately start getting ready. If I didn’t immediately pop up and start getting dressed in the morning I wasn’t being “obedient.” The other TL was rude as well. She was always on her high horse and had little discretion for what she did. She would hold up stuff for people to claim that may have gotten lost from them. In the bathroom she had found a pair of underwear and in front of all she held them up for someone to claim. For about 5 minutes she held them up saying how disgusting it is to leave your underwear lying around and someone needed to step forward and claim them so we could move on with our day. Did I mention there was a massive blood stain in them? No wonder no one stepped forward to claim them, I wouldn’t.
In our drama there is a girl on a chain and there is a guy who’s supposed to be the devil yanking her back every time she tried to walk to “God.” Eventually the girls (one girl on each team and their replacement) all got horribly bruised on their lower abdomen. Instead of telling the guys to go easier on the girl, or changing out who did that part to not make the bruises worse, they simply used the girl who was “less bruised.” The guys were told nothing about going easier. One day the guy on the other team pulled the girl so hard she fell and smacked her head on the ground. She was disorientated for a little while but thankfully the damage wasn’t worse.
A incident with my TL. One morning I (surprisingly) woke up earlier than everyone. I wanted to shower before everyone got up because I hadn’t gotten one the night before. (4 showers among 40 girls, 2 were for 18 and older, most of us didn’t get to shower everyday) I got my stuff and my TL was showering. She saw me come into the bathroom because she had reached out of the shower to grab her shampoo. She promptly told me to go lay back down because it was her shower time and I needed to shower when all the other girls were allowed to. In the last day we had to go around and say nice things to our leaders. I didn’t have one nice thing to say about her and had to make something up. Shocker.
A few days before it was time to go home, my mom checked my flight info. She was freaked out. Even though we sat on the phone as the intern got the plane ticket, the intern managed to screw it up. The flight had the right day, the 28th, but wrong month. Instead of a flight home on June 28th, I had one home on July 28th. One thing you do not tell my mother; there’s a problem with getting your baby home. My mom called Teen Mania and spoke to a girl who understood, worked with my mother and said she got it all fixed and that she would let my PD’s know. A bit over 24 hours later my mom called me again to talk to my PD’s. When she did, they had no idea of the change or that anything had been fixed. Turned out it hadn’t. My mom was livid at this point. After laying into my PD she then called TM back and yelled at them for lying to her. They then were able to get my flight back home and my mom spoke to several high up TM people to find out why this happened and why no one caught this blip before.
Last weird TM thing that happened before I went home was this. On our free day my group (btw, groups always had to have one boy in it. I felt sorry for the boys having to be separated and not getting to do as many boy things because they had to watch over girls all the time) had to go to the bathroom. We stopped for that and afterwards we couldn’t find the boy and one of our girls. My MA freaked. She was cool and wanted to find them before PD’s did so they wouldn’t get BV’d. We found them a few aisles over looking at something, nothing bad and it was completely innocent. It blew my mind that something so accidental could have gotten them BV’d.
I got home fine, my mom called TM several times after that seeing what they were going to do to make sure what happened with my plane ticket wouldn’t happen to anyone else. She wanted to know they changed their policy of checking information before the trip. As many times as she called, no one called back. My mom wanted me to have nothing to do with TM anymore and since then we haven’t.
From the rules I got from TM I felt bad about things a lot. We were told when we get home we should “get rid of all our secular music” because if we didn’t, God would see that we preferred it over him and we wouldn’t get into heaven. When I asked about secular music with positive messages, I was told that unless God was the root of the message, it wasn’t good. I went around feeling bad about a lot of things in life feeling like I needed to “fix” myself. I felt unworthy of ever having a boyfriend because I didn’t feel like I deserved whoever God had for me. Eventually I was able to see that God loved me no matter if I listened to secular music or got mad at someone or even had a bad attitude from time to time. NOTHING can separate us from the love of Christ. I just hope all those hurting from TM’s message can remember that.