I attended ATFs in Denver since 1996. The first time I went to ATF it was amazing, the preaching, the music, it was so wonderful. I wondered how someone could ever be that kind of Christian. I grew up in a Southern Baptist background. I went every year waiting until I could attend the HA. It seemed to me like a place a Christian could grow and develop into a respected Christian, where they were mentored and helped with the tough questions of faith. When 2000 came around and I was finally out of school, I went to the HA break out session. I signed up right away. I was unable to go on a mission trip with TMM that summer because the ATF I attended was in May. My GE rep hounded me ruthlessly and when I was unable to come up with the money for my summer trip he told me I should get on a plane and head to TX as an act of faith and God would provide. I didn’t and he told me I was less of a Christian for not having faith, or that I must have un-confessed sin to not have gotten the money in 3 weeks.
Well thinking this was just a fluke and the whole ministry couldn’t be this way I told him I would go on a Christmas missions trip and start the HA in January. I worked all fall full time to save enough money for the mission trip to Mexico and the HA. I did fund raising and saved every penny. I received one phone call from my GE caller, and 2 phone calls from my HA caller. None of which were good experiences.
During this time my family tried to talk me out of the whole thing because it seemed like a crackerjack kinda place that couldn’t organize a picnic much less an entire year and multiple mission trips. I feel I must clarify. During that summer and fall the GE and HA lost my pastor rec 6 times – 2 in GE and 4 in HA. He wouldn’t do another one if TMM had lost the last two. They lost a $500 check (more on that latter). 2 mission trip apps, 4 sets of photos (two of which I found during my time at TMM) lost an entire HA app from the ATF, lost a mailed in app and finally had to do one over the phone. They lost multiple checks (more later) for those times and then they lost another $50 donation check and I NEVER received the GE acceptance packet. I finally received my HA acceptance pack the first week in December, during which time I found out about everything that I needed for the HA.
I called and called and called and called and NEVER heard from my GE or ANY rep on where I was supposed to go when I got to Dallas, for my GE trip and my HA stay. I found out most of my travel arrangements, the 2 weeks before Christmas. It is very hard to fly from Denver or Albuquerque ( I finally found ONE seat on a delta flight from Albuquerque to DFW) I lost my way here, the 18th I think of December that year I did hear from my HA rep on what I needed to do. He told me there were TM people everywhere and all I needed to do was ask ANY information desk in the airport and they would direct me to a TMM personnel. I arrived in Dallas around 10AM CST. I had my 2 bags for HA trip and my GE trip. I wandered around D terminal going to every information desk in the whole terminal, nobody had even heard of TM, HA, GE or anything to do with the ministry. Around 4pm I began to feel hopeless. I went to the nearest pay phone bank, waited my turn and kept calling TMM 800 numbers for over an hour until I got a live person. I have no idea who it was but they told me where to go in B terminal to find the TMM people. At this point I was exhausted from carrying my stuff for 7 hours around DFW. When I arrived at B terminal at the correct gate a Team Leader (who was a GI) chewed me out that if I expected to be at the HA I should have been their much earlier and I had no excuse for being this late.
I kept trying to explain but was given no chance. It was a lesson I learned early and often at GE and TMM. I was expected to be perfect, to have knowledge of everything and not knowing was no excuse. Ignorance and naivety were sins to be punished most severely.
The Team Leader (TL) told me he was left in charge, the girls were to sit on one side of the door, the guys on the other and we were to have quiet times as punishment for being late. We were not to talk or do anything but read our Bibles. I felt like leaving the entire thing and losing all the money, and all the hope I had for my next year at this point. Well it gets worse.
The bus came back at around 7pm. Since I was going to be in the HA, the TL told me to wait at the back of the line and make sure that everyones bags and things got on board. I lost my bags because of that TL, I did not recover them until the next day. Well needless to say I was told to keep my sleeping bag and Bible out. Me, the TL, and 2 other “lucky” missionarys were not able to go on the bus because of not enough seats. I had not eaten since 6am MST that morning. I was not allowed to leave to eat, no food was provided. I had to sit and read my Bible and think about what kind of a horrible Christian I was for being such a bad sinner, (sorry for the sarcasm). When I arrived I had to go directly to bed and had to be chided yet again for being late by the Project Director (PD). I was told I should have paid better attention and eaten at the airport before I came. I was told that I was on thin ice and in danger of being BV’d because I told them I wanted to eat before I went to sleep. I was never given a chance to explain. I went to bed hungry. We were woken up and got on a bus and headed for Mexico.
Once I was on the trip with my TL’s and my MA things went MUCH better. My MA was also going to the HA, his name was Alex. Me and Alex became best friends during our times together at the HA. I avoided the other HA people except Alex, especially the PD and the TL that I met at the airport. The trip went well. It was not exactly what I expected but not bad. Not the best mission trip I had ever been on, nor the worst. The worst was during my year at the HA…