At one point, I went to see Jose Cano, the licensed counselor on staff, because I was having a hard time with the HA. I was incredibly homesick and frustrated that I wasn’t feeling close to God like I had at the beginning of the internship and at home. After giving him an overview of my life, which he encouraged me to tell him, he told me that my best friend was gay and my mom had abused me as a child. Both of these are complete lies. As an only daughter of a single mother we were each other’s best friends. We relied on each other, loved each other, and were a healthy picture of what a mother-daughter relationship should be. But Mr. Cano advised me to “look into my past” and be “not be afraid to go places that you haven’t gone before” (he likened my life to a series of suitcases that held other deep, dark secrets that I only needed to open to be free of) and I would be the happy, outgoing woman again. Once again thinking that Teen Mania could never be wrong, I was forced to the logical conclusion that I had to be wrong. After all, he was a professional and knew much more than a teenager like me. But, because he convinced me that my mother was a horrible person and began to chisel away the (healthy and appropriate) trust I felt towards her, I began to push her away for the rest of my time at the HA. He also told me I had problems with men and their authority because I grew up with a single mother. All of this in only one session!
Halfway through the year (after I had seen Mr. Cano and who I couldn’t seem to schedule a follow up appointment with) one of my good friends left the HA. She did not feel comfortable with Ron Luce’s stand on some theological ideas, and made this clear when she left. Because she was so strong about leaving the HA I was encouraged that I could finally leave as well. There had been times I wanted to leave the HA, but (as in the case with Mr. Cano) ended up feeling like it was a problem with me, which only led me to have greater dependence on Teen Mania who seemed to be the answer for all my short comings. I also felt like there was a huge stigma against leaving. You were considered weak or a failure if you decided you couldn’t stay any longer. This is where I feel the most manipulated. David Hasz would say, “You are going to disappoint your supporters if you don’t finish.” He would also threaten us that if we don’t finish the internship we would fail at our marriage, our jobs, our schooling, parenting our future children, basically whatever you did you would be a failure for the rest of your life. He would even say you were disappointing your supporters if you were late to class!
For my ministry placement job, I worked in a call center and I did not enjoy it. There was constant turnover in the staff and the one consistent goal that we had was our quota. If you didn’t get enough applications or commits, it was because you either hadn’t prayed enough or there was some sin in your life that kept you from getting Teen Mania’s rightfully deserved blessing. In this case (even though this was not true) I was made to feel like I was somehow sabotaging Teen Mania and, in a more indirect way, the kingdom of God. Somewhere Teen Mania and God were confused, and I was made to feel that Teen Mania’s will was God’s will, which meant that when I “failed” Teen Mania by not getting enough applications for missions trips I was actually failing God. And because Teen Mania’s quotas were always impossible and out of reach this meant that I was always a failure. These feelings were both said and implied. As I mentioned earlier, David Hasz would out right manipulate us, but lower staff would be subtler. For instance, if you were having a bad day or discouraged because of the impossible responsibilities that Teen Mania gave you, you were supposed to “Take five with Jesus” and that would fix it. Or when you told them your numbers were down, they’d say, “Well you tell me what the problem is.” Then whatever you told them, they would use that information against you! David Hasz never used this form of manipulation against me personally, but supervisors and CAs definitely had the personal connection that this kind of manipulation required. Obviously, they had the information on our accountability cards.
For months and months we didn’t have any soap in the bathroom. We would run out of toilet paper and would go for days without it. If we needed to use the bathroom we had 2 choices: either go to a different dorm or walk up to Mission Control on the other side of campus. Some girls even kept an emergency roll of toilet paper secretly so that they would be taken care of if there was an emergency. We would also go months and months without paper towels. The maintenance in the dorms was terrible; toilets would be clogged with feces for over a week at a time. On top of that, the cleaning chemicals would never be closed – just open bottles – and the stench was horrible. It smelled like we were in a radioactive area. Plus, nobody really ever cleaned the bathroom. There was a constant fear of getting sick. When Mr. Hasz was asked why we did not have these basic necessities we were told that we needed to buy our own soap, and implied that we were stupid because we didn’t think of this ourselves. To this day, I wonder what how large Ron Luce’s off shore accounts are. The fact that were paying $8,000 and were deprived toilet paper and soap is ridiculous.