I, like so many others, was introduced to Teen Mania at an ATF. I went on my first Global Expeditions Mission Trip the following summer to Russia (’93), I was 13. For the first time I felt like I had a place were I just fit in. In many ways TM became my family. I loved the honor and integrity that I felt was core to TM, I really took those qualities to heart and did my best to live up to that standard.I was drinking the kool-aid and hooked. I went on several more trips (Russia ’94, Albania ’95).
In Albania, Dave Hasz was the PD and he was going to take over being Director of the Honor Academy that August. Needless to say there was a BIG push on joining the HA that summer. I know of at least 5 people who joined the HA after that trip, that was out of maybe 80 missionaries. I decided to graduate 1 year early and begin the internship.
Then while visiting a friend I had met on one of my summer trips, I heard a sermon that changed everything for me. It was OK to question your leaders, when done with respect and an honest desire to learn and grow, so that you fully may understand their intentions/heart/direction, etc. I realize now that this was the beginning of the end of my relationship with TM. Anything that I didn’t understand, or didn’t sound Biblical to me, I questioned. I know now that to TM anything other than complete obedience equaled rebellion.
Summer of ’96, I went to El Salvador. It was the worst trip ever. Instead of going as a regular missionary, I signed up as a nanny, and in interest of space I will give you the short version. When my ‘family’ contacted me regarding being their nanny, after being told whose kid’s I’d be watching, number of kids (2 girls), and ages (5 and 2 1/2 yrs) the only question I remember asking is, “Is everyone potty trained?” I was assured that yes, everyone was potty trained. That phone call lasted about 20 minutes and was my one and only call from my ‘family’, it now seems strange to me, that parents would be ok with leaving their 2 small children with a 17 year old stranger for up to 15 hours a day, while in another country.
Fast forward to Miami. Once I got to Miami and met my family for the month, it was revealed: (1) that the parents (who were TL’s) were on their first trip ever and were best friends with the PDs (Jeremy and Candy). (2) this would be the 1st time either child had EVER spent the night outside of their home. (3) that the 2 1/2 yo was not potty trained. (4) the 2 1/2 yo was born with a heart defect, had 2 previous open heart surgeries to try to correct the issues and as a result had life threatening asthma, which was controlled by a nebulizer. (5) Due to the health issues, discipline and structure was very lax, basically the kids got what ever the kids wanted.
When I brought up that I had concerns about bring in a 3rd world country with a child that has serious medical issues, where: 1) I didn’t speak the language and 2) had the medical training of applying a snoopy band-aid and a hug. Not to mention that neither kid had ever even spent the night with grandma or grandpa, don’t you think foreign country is a big step? The reply to my concerns was ‘psshh, it’ll be fine, plus you know the kid only has asthma attacks when she throws a tantrum (HELLO! Have you heard of the terrible two’s!). Plus if the 2 year old has an attack, the 5 year old knows how to use the nebulizer. The between the line statement was ‘Hey, if a 5 year old can handle this why can’t you?’
Things did not go fine, I was cooped up in a hotel room for 10-16 hours a day with 2 kids that were pissed to not be at home, and viewed me as the reason that they were not at home with their parents. The kids were boredd because there was nothing for them to do other than the few coloring books I had brought (their parents didn’t think to bring toys or games). I felt to ask 2 little kids to give up everything that was normal for them for 5 weeks (lets face it, a lifetime for a child) was insane. They didn’t have their bed, toys, food they were used to, and as icing on the cake mom and dad aren’t around, and you’re being told you can’t see them. I couldn’t really blame them for being pissed.
To top all this off, the youngest one’s health was always an issue. The nebulizer they brought for her asthma didn’t have the right voltage converter, so it was basically useless. The result, any normal temper tantrum could go from being frustrating to a serious medical emergency at a moments notice. My entire team could see that I was in a tough spot and when not out preforming dramas most of the team was there to help out while mom and dad where of doing TL things. After about 10 days in country with cranky and bored kids bouncing off the walls going stir crazy, I asked for help from the parents at first, and then the PDs. I needed reinforcements or I’d have a mini mutiny on my hands, not to mention that the hotel was pretty fed up with kids running around screaming. The general response I got was, ‘Just pray and God will help you; this is what you signed up for; you should just know what to do with out asking us (ie. your supposed to be perfect!).’
This was not what I had signed up for and I was kinda pissed that I was lied to regarding their health, not to mention that both children were not properly prepped for this trip. I still got nowhere, so I started calling my parents for advice, who then started calling the PD’s wondering why their normally level-headed 17 year old daughter was calling collect daily, freaking out, and just what the hell was going on!? 3 days before we were to leave the country, I was woken up at 4 am and told to pack my bags and be in the hotel lobby in 20 mins, I was being BV’d for a ‘bad attitude and rebellious spirit.’ I never got to say goodbye to my team (I later found out they were told I left due to a family emergency). I was dropped off at the airport, with no money, handed my passport, a paper ticket to Miami, and told that i should call my parents when I got to Miami. They had no idea I was coming home early.
Once the trip was over, 30-35 families had complained to Teen Mania about the poor leadership on that trip. The common theme was several kids had been confronted and /or punished for ‘bad attitude and rebellious spirit’, when questioning what was going on. The kool-aid was starting to sour.