When I arrived at the HA, I was placed in a room with Alex, a life saver at this point. My so called ACA showed up a week late and was promply dismissed. I don’t even remember his name or even his face. During my first week we had corporate exercise. We didn’t have an ACA like every other room, and thus I had to learn several things the hard way as the ACA was supposed to facilitate things during that time. We were assigned a new ACA and he was the reason I almost left the HA. He had no respect of personal property, personal conversations, decency or HA rules. It was shocking to me that a guy like this would not only be allowed in the HA, but would be given a room under his control. I could leave nothing in the room. There are just to many things I could tell you about him that would make this story almost double in length.
Let me stop and say a few things. During this time I tried to talk to my CA and the ACA in the other room, and my advisor Heath Stoner. It never got through. After my first meeting with them, my ACA found out and had me do DOUBLE exercise for being a tattle. It kept getting worse until I wanted to leave because of this man. It came to a head during the “tribal retreat” 2001. Nearly walked out. Luckily (or unluckily) 2 other CAs took me under their wing and helped me through that very hard time. Until summer…
During this time my job was in GE Admission. I heard horror stories about what summers in GE were like. They were nothing compared to what actually happened. We worked on gold forms and registration of missionaries most of the time. Dave Hasz had told us a week before summer started, (during the rules for summer meeting) that those of us in GE would get a day off for every 10 hour over our 30 we were supposed to have worked. Well, we got the same days off as the rest of GE, but I KNOW we worked not only over the legal limit, but well beyond. There were 6-8 off us that worked anywhere from 110-120 hours PER WEEK of the summer. This is still really emotional for me and when I think about it, it makes me want to cry, 9 years later. The staff and other paid personnel were required to leave hours before us. We were exploited. Nobody would listen to reason. We weren’t allowed quiet times, exercise times, or really anything but work. Back then I told Heath how much I was working. I don’t think he believed me. I remember working on gold forms until 2 am, and then waking up and being back at work at 9am. That messed me up so bad.
I realized that TM was not what I thought. We were just cogs in a bigger machine. When we were used up they would replace us. I wasn’t there for training or spiritual growth. I was free, expendable labor. I paid them to kill myself mentally, my health, my spiritual life, everything. I would like to share more but it hurts too much.
I signed up for a mission trip that summer because my sister had signed up. I should have expected it but I still got the classic TM bait and switch. My sister and I went to the same trip, thank the lord. She has a serious heath condition that she cannot eat any meat, or meat byproducts. It will make her sick. Its not a choice, its a real medical condition. She had to get a doctors note and everything to go on the trip. She was accepted to peru-z 2001 and I went too.
This is the worst experience I have ever had, or believe I will ever have on a mission trip, and the major reason I will NEVER go on another Teen Mania missions trip. I believe the PD’s on that trip are not Christians. There was no such thing as love, compassion, or anything except pure brutal hatred and loathing. The 3 Latin american kids on the trip were treated like 3rd rate citizens on this trip. One was given 50 push ups for every time he used Spanish instead of English in front of the PD. He was almost BV’d for using his NATIVE TONGUE, with people that could have understood him. I was almost BV’d for defying their will once. During one night the MA’s were given no money, training or preparation and were asked to take the kids, ON THEIR OWN WITHOUT TRANSLATORS OR TL’s out into the streets with their MAGs and have dinner. I wouldn’t do it. People were punished corporately for stupid things. Not even real infractions. We were to stay in our sleeping bags until 6:29. If you were not in the breakfast area at 6:35 then it was 50 push ups for ever person, every minute that was late. I wanted to kill them. Breakfast had to be done at 6:50. They expected everyone to eat everything in those few min. They were going to BV my sister, doctors note or no until I made a HUGE stink about it with the PDs. There was no getting up or going to the bathroom. There was not one Christian thing I saw them do or say the entire time. When they didnt get upgraded to first class on the way back to TX they chewed out the ticket person using language that, as an intern, would have gotten me sent home. It was some of the most clever use of vulgarity and put downs of south Americans I have ever seen. My sister withdrew her app from the HA because of those PDs.
I told everyone on the trip that they were not a good example of TM. I was wrong. I feel that I have been proven wrong, I now believe thats exactly what TM is – two faced.
After everything that happed in my summer the last thing I wanted was the HA. In fact, I believe the only reason I am still a Christian is James, my second semester Core advisor. Its a long story and this is already too long. He was one of the TRUE, REAL Christians I had met during my time. The legalism that happened was incredible during that second semester of fall 01. It was a decline into legalism that is un-paralleled in my life. The stores if I were to tell you would make your skin crawl.
After the August interns arrived, I was moved into another dept of GE. Considering the rules at the HA, my work environment was horrid. I had to share ONE desk, ONE phone, NO computer with 2 other girls. I didn’t even work most the first month. It was so bad. I dont know what we were supposed to have been doing. After telling Heath Stoner I wanted to leave he pulled some strings and we were transfered back to GE admissions.
When I went through ESOAL, the “facilitators” tried to hit me in the face with paint balls. How is that not evil? I remember each and every name of those CAs and LP’s and CEP’s from that ESOAL. We were not given proper protection (I was asked to do the course back in jeep swallow pond without any protection whatsoever and I refused and did not ring the bell) They tried to hit us in soft areas, several CA’s were joking about it with each other, even after ESOAL back then. I heard (staff member) Sam Kimmel tell a GI that if he had to do that then try and hit us in the back or back of the head. Evil.
How exactly is having someone eat cat food a spiritual experience? It seemed to me at the time to be much more of a “funny” thing than any kind of growing experience. The vindictive attitude of the facilitators during ESOAL was horrid. There was no oversight, no talk of anything Christian. Even the Bible verses were out of context. Making people throw up? The theme song from survivor? What about being buried alive? Thats what baptism is supposed to be (Romans 6). If we’re wanting to have a spiritual lesson then lets have that one. Laughing at peoples pain? Evil. It happened every time I was involved in ESOAL or talked with other participants. That is evil.
If I went home after my first year, I felt like I wasn’t perfect enough for God. The thought of going home suddenly filled me with dread and cold sweat. God felt farther away then ever. I never felt “Christian” enough. I have my CD of the teachings of that year, Ron told us that perfection was possible because Jesus would not have said we should be perfect (Matt 5:45) unless it was attainable here and now. I was told multiple times to fake it till I felt it. That the reason I didn’t feel God was because I didn’t speak in tongues, or ever get “slain in the spirit” (I never have found that in the Bible but thats neither here nor there) or any other ultra charismatic platitude that I wasn’t meeting. I felt if i didn’t stay I wouldn’t be a “real” Christian. That those who had left were never really saved. It was implied multiple times. So, I stayed for a second year as an LP (now called Staff Associate) and worked in GE admissions (again working 100+ hour weeks in the summer).
The Honor Academy was supposed to be a growing time. Instead it tore me down. I questioned my belief in God because of what I experienced.
During my time at the HA I never tried to break the rules. I do not recall a single time I did break even a single rule that I was aware of. I was never “campused” Not even once. I always exercised, went to class properly attired and with all books pens etc needed, always took notes, went to Work on time and properly attired and did my job well, and did ALL my homework. Never lied, cheated, ate during fasting days (even after midnight). Never listened to secular music (even though MANY people did) Sent a weekly email to my church on the progress that was going on at TMM. I called my supporters (both of them) every week. Had a daily quite time, meet with my advisor as often as recommended, etc. etc. ad nauseam.
I will just say that before the Honor Academy, I was a normal well adjusted Christian teenager. After the HA, I was a depressed, self loathing, suicidal, mental supervision required, Every SSRI on the market taking, OCD, therapist seeing person that took years to get over my time at TMM.