Monday, November 2, 2015

A New Perspective

I'd like to Introduce you to my friend Beth, she joined Gospel for Asia (GFA) about the same time as we did, she was my respite care giver when I needed a break from parenting. I often think of her, because before she left, she helped me with a project. It was a mirror for my bathroom, so everyday I look in that mirror. I think of the joy I had making it with her. It was such a gift, this fond memory I have of her being intentional about our relationship. I missed her when she left GFA. The following is her story.

Beth Writes:
I have never been asked to guest blog before. 
It sounds so official. 

In reality I am simply one of many voices.
One of many who used to serve at Gospel For Asia. 
One of many who left family, friends, and church to move to Texas.
One of many who believed wholeheartedly in what we were doing.
One of many who bonded with others who did the same things.
Unfortunately, one of many adversely affected by my time there.  

For those of you who don't know, my family did not leave because we disapproved of what we saw. 
We left because I wanted a divorce. 
And they kind of frown on that. 

Sara has been doing a lot of healing blogging. 
Healing to her.
Healing to her family.
Healing to others of us who left the ministry. 
One of her recent blogs highlighted some of what women were told at GFA.
All of her blogs have been important (repeat: healing)
but that one really underscored some of what I felt was so wrong 
at the ministry, and something that deeply affected my marriage.

A couple things we were told:
Wear a head-covering. It will show your devotion to God and submission to your husband.
Wives are often the reason their husbands leave the ministry. 
Don't be too vocal or ask too many questions.
But I am vocal.
I like to converse, discuss, think through.
However, at GFA that was seen as a problem.
My thought processes and intelligence were no longer virtues, but detriments.
Whenever I questioned things,
Or even simply did not agree with opinions,
I was told, in no uncertain terms, how unsubmissive I was.
Eight years of that takes a toll. (But really, it was more than eight years.
It just got worse during those eight years at GFA).

In case I am misunderstood, I must say in no uncertain terms that GFA did not cause my divorce.
We had problems before we ever even got there. 
My ex - for as long as I've known him - has been an all-or-nothing man. 
A lot of law, not so much grace. 
In fact, one friend said about him, "He's the most legalistic person I've ever talked to." 
I only tell you this to let you in on a little of what went wrong. I don't want to speak ill of him. 
When I debated writing this, one man encouraged, "I would love to hear your story, Beth...I think it also helps with healing to know that the problem was not with us." 
Believe me, a lot of the problem was with us.  
But I would be remiss if I didn't say GFA had a lot to do with it, because of their emphasis on submission. 

So I cannot just write a post blasting GFA.
I actually don't have issues with how I was treated while I was there. 
Unlike many - especially those who have left more recently (as I hear things have gotten much worse) 
I didn't experience poor treatment or fear while I was there. 
I was not afraid to ask questions. 
I was not intimidated or pushed aside by KP. I actually felt very close to him. 
I feel like I was granted an audience with him whenever I wanted it. 
Rather, my reason for never asking him, or other leadership, about things I disagreed with or questioned was because I believed I was doing the biblical thing. 
What I was supposed to do. 
I was submitting.
A quality held in such high esteem at GFA
That it is, in fact, what I feel has led to what is happening now
(many staff leaving, board members resigning, losing their ECFA membership, etc.)
It is also what contributed greatly to the downfall of my marriage. 

I know this may be just my personal opinion
Based on my personal experiences, 
But during our time there it seemed as if submission became the highest-held value at GFA. 
It was as if the heartbeat of the ministry that once was the steady count of souls being saved 
Had been replaced with the focus of how well its members were submitting.
And it only served to follow that if they weren't submitting enough, more control needed to be exerted.  
Wouldn't it make sense, then, that some people might start requiring that of their friends, spouses, children as well? That some people, who have difficulty with moderation, might be prone to go "full throttle" in their enforcement of the issue? 

On the surface GFA hedged their teachings with love and mercy, 
but in practice it did not come across that way. 
Wasn't "full throttle" the level GFA required?
All-out for the lost?
The enemy of the best is the good?  
The dreaded, "Maybe you are being led elsewhere..."
That became the tag-phrase consequence for less-than-total submission.

I wonder if things would had turned out differently -
for my marriage and the ministry that has now lost many amazing staff -
if, rather than so much focus on "don't get involved in other things (church most of all),"
There had been more "practice the art of balance." 
Instead of so much "Come to us for permission" 
There had been more "pray about what's' right for you." 
Instead of "Don't question it. We're asking you to do this so it's obviously from the Lord" 
There had been more "Talk this over and do it if you feel led to." 
And, for me especially, instead of so much "wives submit" 
There had been more "Husbands, here's how you love your wives {as Christ loved the church}." 

No one at GFA is responsible for how {I feel} my ex took one of their teachings - 
which is a biblical one - 
and destroyed my sense of worth and value and self with it. 
But I want to give an example for how I do think they are responsible - 
And this is my main reason for writing this.

Sometimes when I ask one of my children or students to say they're sorry for something
They respond with, "But it was an accident!"
Like that makes it OK to not apologize.  
So I give them this example:
No one hits another car on purpose - cars are extremely expensive. And we need them. 
But if I were to run into someone with my car, I would especially {among other things} apologize.
In the same way, people are precious. We need them. 
So when we cause injury, we apologize. And then {hopefully} drive more carefully. 
This is what I feel GFA has not done. Not only have they not apologized, but
They continue to insist that they didn't wreck anyone's car. 
The hurting {and caring} voices of former staff have not prompted them to drive more carefully.
Many people who left have left damaged in some way. 
Left, if you will, with a car that doesn't run as well as it did before they worked at the ministry. 
Not that an apology from leadership would completely repair things, but it would help. 
I personally do not need an apology from them.
Like I said, I didn't have an issue with much while I was there -
I was *simply* affected by it.
But there are certainly some former staff who deserve an apology. 
But more than that, I just want to see GFA leadership change how they "drive", so that future staff that pull out of GFA leave better than when they arrived. 
And I think it is safe to say I am one of many who feel that way. 

So, yes, my hurt was different.
Not completely caused by GFA, yet certainly exacerbated by them.
But that doesn't mean it shouldn't be counted with the others. 
I am still one of many.
One of many saddened by what GFA has become,
One of many who hope someday those still serving there will see,
And those leading there will repent.  

So many hurting, {caring} voices cannot all be wrong.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much, Beth, for sharing your story! You did a good job of parsing out what was already there from what was exacerbated by poor teaching and leadership at GFA. I really liked your car analogy. Well said, Friend!