Ever since I saw the Mind of Mania broadcast and found this blog, I’ve considered posting, but never did until now. I suppose it is because I am embarrassed to say I ever had anything to do with Teen Mania or even worse, that I recommended it to others. I was horrified by what I saw on the broadcast and by the stories I read here. I always felt there was something off about the Honor Academy, but really knew what went on there. I will never again participate in anything TM and will try to warn others about getting involved with them.
I first heard about TM from my husband, who was an experienced TL with them. We both felt called to full time missions (before we ever heard about TM) and thought that TM would be a good way to be involved in missions while still in college. My first trip was to El Salvador Z, 1999 as a TL. My second was trip C that was supposed to be church planting in Nepal but was changed to Thailand in 2001. As a Team Leader I had a lot more control over our trip than MA’s or missionaries. I think that kept the trips from being as terrible as some other people have shared.
Even still, I had a few issues with them that I now realized I should have taken more seriously. To me the big issues with Global Expeditions were lack of sleep, over rigidity and emphasis on rule keeping, and not enough experience &/or maturity in leaders. However, the biggest problem that I found with Teen Mania was poor doctrine/Theology. To this day Teen Mania is an example to me of just how bad things can get when your theology is not sound. During training I heard some lectures that I didn’t completely agree with. I heard one on naming and claiming that actually made me pretty mad. Still, I chalked it all up to be an interdenominational group and let it slide. I should have paid more attention. What seems like a small thing, like an unbalance view of works vs. grace, can turn a group from the heart of the gospel, which is love, forgiveness and restoration to being all about rule keeping, image maintaining, and being better than everyone else. Also the belief that if you just have enough faith you will be healed, lead to medical negligence of the part of the leadership. For example, on one trip when my husband was still an MA, he had a fever, bad cough and was delirious. It got so bad that when he would attempt to speak he couldn’t say anything that made any sense. Despite being that sick he was not taken immediately do a doctor. It wasn’t until a change in the Project Directors, weeks later, that he was taken to the doctor and told that he had a bad case of bronchitis and may have had pneumonia previously. This is just one instance where medical issues were sort of dismissed and doctors were not consulted or ever recommended. There is much more than can be said about this, but I think you get the picture.
I have walked away from this experience with a firm conviction that it really is important to hold up all teaching to the light of scripture, to be willing to question all teaching, and the value in studying what you believe and why you believe it. My husband and I seek out the truth and aren’t afraid of where we find it. As a partial reaction to the teaching of Teen Mania and teachings he heard in other contexts, my husband now has PhD in New Testament. He actually wrote a book about wealth from the teachings of Paul and Jesus (let’s just say it is very different from Teen Mania’s teaching on wealth). In our search for truth we never lost our faith, but rather were strengthened in it. It is possible to really study and think and debate what you believe and still be a dedicated Christian. Our Christian walk doesn’t look much like Teen Mania’s idea of the model Christian. Thankfully we never experienced the depth of destruction that many of you faced in the HA and were still able to maintain our love for missions (we are now full time missionaries in Japan). I understand that this is not true for everyone here and I am so very sorry for those of that you had such destructive experiences. Finally, I wanted to give a heartfelt apology. If any of you were on any of my teams, please forgive me if I was too forceful in my convictions, for letting my culture shock influence my speaking, for not standing up for the truth and for any other unintentional (but no less legitimate) hurts I might have inflicted. It was never my intent to harm you in any way. I did care about each of you. I was young and inexperience and to some degree influenced by Teen Mania myself. Still I will take responsibility for my actions and say I really am sorry. If there is anything I can do, if there is something you need to say to me, I am willing to listen and do anything I can to help (whether you were on one of my teams of not). I pray that God will bring healing and hope to all of you.