About me

I'm just a believer that is recovering from my experience at Teen Mania's Honor Academy and I would like to share my journey of healing with you.

June 22, 2010

Kate's Story: Part 1 of 3

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.

22 comments:

Wow, this is stunning on so many levels. Kate, as a parent, I am so sorry that you had to experience that level of pressure. I cannot even imagine the level of irresponsibility those parents displayed in lying to you and leaving you with a nebulizer without a conversion plug. Asthma attacks are a life and death situation--and things could have gone wrong very quickly, as you know. Thank God that did not happen. Also, as a parent, how could they not have thought of bringing toys and favorite things with their kids to make their trip more comfortable? I could go on and on...

Also, as a parent, I can't believe TM would have such irresponsible people leading my child on a mission trip. When I dropped my son at the airport for each trip he took, I did it on faith and a promise that TM had the best leaders possible. Wow. Again, praise God for that my son got home safely each time (as well as all the other kids)--and yes, I know TM says to trust God etc., but they promise that their leaders are rigorously questioned and chosen. (and I'm talking about the PDs here--not you Kate).

And THEN to BV you? WTH? Over the top. I hope your parents filed a protest on that--esp. to be stuck with the return airfare--for no legit reason. That really stinks. Again, I'm sorry you had to go through this.

Kate--

WOW. I am so sorry this happened to you. It makes me squirm just to know that there are 2 MORE parts to this story. . .

This is just so many shades of wrong.

I had a similar experience of being suddenly
thrown out of a YWAM. I didn't break any rues;
I had simply asked a legitamite question. The
trauma and embarassment and shame of being thrown
out is very difficult. It affected my health.
It is done almost in a ritualistic manner.
Years later I found out that such experiences
are common in YWAM and Teen Challenge, not to
mention other such ministries.

Thank you for sharing your story. May God
continue to heal you and reveal His love
for you. We are saved and loved not by anything
we do or don't do, but solely because of the
Finished work of Christ.

Kate - Wow. That is insane! It makes me so angry the way you were treated and then BV'd. So ridiculous. It's so UNGODLY the way they treat people, especially kids.

I agree with Jacqueline, the fact that this is only part one is making me antsy. When I went to England with my family in 2007, my parents were still nervous about my sister and I getting lost in a different country. She was 16 at the time and I was 18. Even though we stayed together the whole time, they still protected me. For those parents to just drop their kids (one of which had a serious medical problem) into your hands in a foreign country at that age is just irresponsible. On top of that, they lied about them being well behaved and potty trained. The lying is typical TM though.

I am sorry you had to go through this.

What team were you on in Russia in 94? I was there that year too.

@ anon 11:50 - I don't remember the team names, but I was there both months... Mostly I remember the 'orange submarine' and the 'yogurt bricks'. :p

It's only part one and I'm already outraged!

My question is a financial one. Did you have to pay to be a nanny in El Salvador? Of course, a normal organization would've paid you, but I could imagine TM charging you thousands of dollars for your services.

I'm sorry you had to go through this. Disorganized mission trips seem to be a recurring theme in these blog posts/stories. If only we'd known before we forked out the money, time, emotion, etc.

@Mikaela, Yes I paid for that trip, and since the parents wanted me there for TL/MA camp I paid extra for that too.

You paid them!? That's such a cult!! Disgraceful!!

Kate, I am pretty much not shocked anymore by what I read on this blog. It amazes me that TM (and other ministries) get away with this BS and then have the audacity to blame us.

I was there both months as well..I'm sure we knew each other. I'm sorry for the experience you had on your next trip. I remember a nanny on the Russia trip and always thought it was interesting that someone would have to pay to be the nanny for the PD's.

I'm curious. Do the PD's also pay for their kids to go on this trip?

So... Did you have any kind of warning that they were going to BV you, or was it just a special surprise?

@ anon 10:02 If you'd like email RA your info, I'm sure we did know each other, maybe we can ketch up.

@ squeak, it was a special surprise. Since this was my 4th trip I knew the TM laws of the land pretty well and I wasn't doing anything bv-able.

When they told me I was going home the convo was 'hey this isn't working out, we're gonna sent you home. pack up.' In my heart I think the PD's and TL's got tired of my questioning everything (ie their authority). Every meeting I had with them I initiated, and I was never given a course of action to follow. I just kinda got a pat on the back and try harder, shove out the door we're busy brush off. It was frustrating.

Well Hello Kate. I understand your frustration while on your trip. But I have a couple of thoughts. The Lord said to be slow to become angry and quick to listen. This whole blog post seems to be nothing but anger. No offense of course. The Lord said we should rejoice in our sufferings because we have been counted worthy of suffering for the name of the Lord.

Every time I face an overwhelming situation I think of what God can do through it. We aren't perfect people but we do have a responsibility to give our all even if it's not enough. That Mission trip was a opportunity. Not to complain because you weren't told properly or that the parents didn't prepare. It was an opportunity to show those kids love no matter what.

1. "Slow to anger" doesn't mean "don't get angry". The Bible also says to be angry and sin not. I don't see sin here. I see processing emotions.

2. I guess, despite her doing her best to complete the task set before her, TM decided that she didn't deserve that opportunity anymore and booted her with no questions asked. Maybe TM should take the opportunity to show their own kids love no matter what. Hmm.

Jesus has shown us many examples of righteous anger. I think that Kate has the right to righteous anger as she was taking care of a small child that could easily have died in her care because of the neglect of her parents. In the USA that kind of thing gets your kids sent to foster care. In fact looking at it from that angle, had Kate realized it at the time, an appropriate response may have been to call Social Services on her return to this country. These children are, after-all, American.

"Kate" - I was also on that trip and I know exactly what children and parents you are talking about and that trip WAS a nightmare....ugh. I can't imagine what it was like to be cooped up in that hotel room all day long but being out with the leadership all day was not any better....ugh.
It must have been horrid considering I have only snippets of memories from the trip, which is not the case with my other TM trips...

Have questions for TM leadership? Join a live conference call this Monday, June 28th from 8p-9:30p CST. David Hasz, Heath Stoner, and others will be taking calls live. If you would like to e-mail in your question send it to: confcall@recoveringalumniresponse.com

More details at recoveringalumniresponse.com

Anon - June 23, 2010 12:04 PM

Your name wouldn't be Dave Hasz per chance, would it? Sounds like a brainwashed response if I ever heard one.

Now that I think about it, I can totally imagine DH making that comment (Anon 12:04). Speaking very clearly and ticking off the points on his fingers. Good call, Anon 12:03, good call.

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