This is Racquel’s story.
Content warning: forced starvation, religious manipulation.
Somehow I never imagined the inner peace and joy I felt as a 5 year old girl after being filled with the Holy Ghost would disgust and scare me.
I am writing this because I believe my voice should be heard. I hope that by telling my story it will help my healing and others with similar stories as well as prevent more stories like mine from happening.
The music was loud, and the atmosphere was pulsing with energy.
I wanted to show how much I loved God, so I went up to the front of the sanctuary and danced with all my might, letting my tears flow. I had been taught that I should dance before the Lord and not let anyone’s opinion stop me.
Often, I was the first one or the only one at the front of the church.
This was good. It meant I was a leader, and that I was fighting spiritual warfare. It would also show my pastor, who was God’s voice in my life, how my walk with God was and what a good apostolic young person I was.
I remember night after night where this was my mindset.
I was isolated from other members of the youth group because I would refuse to do things that the pastor had commanded us not to, like riding in a car with a guy unless it was approved or unless a married approved chaperone was in the car.
However, there were also the many, many times where I sat or knelt at the altar, weeping and feeling the guilt of my many sins when I simply failed to uphold the standards because I had listened to unchristian music, watched a TV show, or could not stick to a daily prayer life.
For years, I went through a cycle of getting trouble with my best friend, Ashley, for questioning the pastoral authority and why we held to some of our standards, sometimes completely disregarding the rules, and then being told that my best friend and I should not talk or hang out because our personalities did not complement each other.
Meanwhile, I stood by as she was abused in so many ways by both the pastoral authority and her parents. The only thing I could do was be there for her.
In January 2013, my best friend and I had come to the conclusion that we did not and could not agree with the church. However, we were discovered yet again and ripped apart.
This time, the pastor lied to both of us, trying to turn us against each other by saying that the other one had ratted us out.
At the direction and guidance of the pastor, Ashley’s parents were punishing her for not losing weight because it was said that God could not use her unless she lost the weight. Because of her inability to meet their demands, she had begun starving herself.
I texted her one night in compassion and frustration that she should “F*** (written politely as $@##) what they think” to drive home to Ashley that starving herself was not the answer, and that her parents and pastor were wrong.
During one of the long sessions in the pastor’s office after getting caught, I discovered the pastor had hacked into my best friend’s phone and found my text. I was questioned about my lack or respect for authority.
My hands were tied as I seethed in anger not able to tell the pastor the context of the text, lest the abuse she suffered would increase because the pastor was part the abuse.
Back then, Ashley was too scared of losing her parents and being kicked out to do anything other that play along with them. When she was 19 years old, her parents and the pastor stripped every form of communication, transportation and even her ability to go to college from her.
She was not even allowed to be alone in her own home at any time.
In March, the deception worked and the pressure finally broke me to the point that I gave in and did exactly as the church and the pastor wanted me to do. I felt helpless and that the reason for these crazy feelings must be because I was not submitted to them.
I continued to not talk to my best friend and tried to force myself into the mold they had created for me with my approved Christian friends and guilt-ridden prayer life.
I still had all of the same questions.
Why must a man my pastor dictate to me what God wants and God not talk to me directly? Why must I not be allowed to talk to my best friend who was still the most important person in my life? How could so many injustices and abuse be what a loving God wanted?
So when my little sister decided to leave suddenly and move in with a guy I had never met, and I had no idea were she was or if she was safe, when my approved friends failed, I reached out to the one person I knew who would be there: Ashley.
Within two weeks of resuming secret communication, we had both discussed in detail what we saw wrong with the church, and had stated that no matter what we were going to keep communicating, even if it had to be hidden. Almost immediately, she started to date a coworker.
On December 15, 2013, her dad followed her to her boyfriend’s house, and that night he kicked her out.
I received a text: “They know everything can you come and get me.” I immediately drove to her house and picked her up.
After that, we stayed in Eleanor’s apartment. She had also recently escaped an abusive fundamentalist home.
There has been a lot of healing and learning since then and now. Learning to live outside of the box has not been easy, nor do I think it ever will.
I now have the wonderful freedom of choice, and with that comes what I would describe as both the beauty of a rainbow and the burden of the rain cloud.
Making these choices is the scariest and most exhilarating thing that I have ever done. I have learned and accepted more of who I am.
I can only hope that healing will come in time and the scars will become less painful.
Racquel graduated with a bachelor’s in psychology in May 2014. She struggled with undereducation from inadequate homeschooling and private education in her church throughout her college career. Racquel hopes to pursue a graduate degree in counseling, and her job involves assisting troubled teens.
The Underground Railroad: Being an angel with a shotgun
The Underground Railroad: The trouble with freeing people
Why the name Underground Railroad?
The Underground Railroad: Racquel’s story
The Underground Railroad: Defecting from a cult
The Underground Railroad: Ashley’s story
The Underground Railroad: Cynthia Jeub’s story
The Underground Railroad: Options, not ultimatums
The Underground Railroad: Gissel’s story
The Underground Railroad: Homeschool, the perfect hiding place
The Underground Railroad: Self-care during activism
Underground Railroad Stations: How you can help (Cynthia Jeub’s thoughts)
Underground Railroad Conductors: How you can help (Eleanor Skelton’s thoughts)
The Underground Railroad: Surviving and thriving on the outside
9 thoughts on “The UnBoxing Project: Racquel’s story”
Reblogged this on seanaldenfitzgerald and commented:
Eleanor Skelton is a heck of a writer.
You make it sound like all apostolic are like this. No we’re not actually this in case anyone was wondering. for instance I am way bigger and God uses me and I have never been told I couldn’t be used because of my weight, the music director at my church is definitely not skinny and guess what?! God uses her, if you are going to write about your bad experience with a church or organization make sure you have been to other church that believe that because not all of us are terrible people like you make us out to be.
Yes, it’s unfair to generalize a whole group………unless the whole group embodies harmful teachings
The United Pentecostal Church / Apostolic Church as a GROUP might not have weird teachings about weight loss, but it does have many other harmful and controlling doctrines.
1) the doctrine of pastoral authority. The pastor tells you what God’s will is for where you live, who you marry. http://www.upcbaypoint.com/Articles/pastors_duty.html
The UPC itself even has their own online monitoring service. http://www.upci.org/covenant-eyes
If your church’s leadership looks like the government in 1984, you’re doing it wrong.
2.) The UPC teaches you must be baptized and speak in tongues to be saved from eternal torment. However, the UPC also does not believe in “once saved, always saved,” so violating anything the pastor tells you can void your salvation, meaning you must return to church and pray through at the altar as soon as possible to avoid being killed by God in judgment and sent to hell. http://www.eaec.org/cults/unitedpentecostal.htm
Both of these allow for authoritarian control, which often enables manipulation and abuse.
I so agree with you! Nobody makes you do anything you don’t want to do! It’s your choice! You have that relationship with God! Your friends, and family aren’t going to get you to Heaven only you can. As I read this it was very sad because I’m apostolic and proud to be! I believe you need to have that person to be strict on you because if you don’t the World will pull you in and you will become lost. I hope one day that you will come back to the truth! I’m praying for you!
no matter what religion you are there is always a going to be a bad pastor or something you don’t agree with. Never once has my pastor said if you don’t live here you will go to hell. Not listening to a pastor isn’t the thing that will send you to hell, disobeying the bible the Lord’s commandments will. You are correct we believe that you must as Peter I believe put I “die daily” meaning he sinned everyday and therefore everyday he would ask forgiveness, now where some preachers do believe as soon as you sin you should drop on your knees and pray many don’t, but believe you should pray and ask forgiveness in your daily prayer.
When talking to my pastor and the youth pastor of my church about the whole if I sinned then dropped dead would I go to Heaven or Hell subject we believe that it is about the walk you have considering we are all sinners according to Romans.
I’m very sorry about the bad encounter your friend or you have had with the apostolic Pentecostal church but coming to Internet and accusing every church to be the same is where you are wrong.
But about the whole monitoring service very few church actually use that, also there are other churchs who have things like that so calling out one is not okay especially when there are many others at fault.
I am glad that you have a good church, and it’s nice to hear that not all Pentacostal churches are…. disturbed, shall we say. That said, there was nothing in this article that pointed to anything other than this one single church. There was no calling out of the faith specifically, there was nothing. It talked about that pastor, and that church, and that family, and that particular group.
There are many, many churches who have really demeaning and disgusting set ups, but why should all of them have to be called out at once? Their personal experience is here, at this church, and thus, this is their life experience that they write about. Would you rather they write a fantasy about the horrible churches vs the good churches?
I’m really not understanding what your complaint here is, honestly. Nobody is attacking your church, nobody is even attacking your faith. Unfortunately, no matter what your faith, you are going to share space with really crappy people. Rather than get defensive that somebody is calling out a church that follows that faith for being horrible, realize that this is a problem, own that fact that they share the faith, then dismiss them for the disgustingness that they follow and do. Rise up and announce that it’s not okay for people to do this.
Jesus said to help others right? Think about this. This person goes through this horrible situation, which is left intentionally vague because of the crappiness of it, and they try to write about it to get it off their chest, and to try to give a guiding light and sign of hope to others who have been through things like this, and the only thing you can do is defend your faith and church that has absolutely nothing to do with this.
I have start out with the idea that everyone is good and decent, until I’m shown otherwise. As is, I’m going to assume the same for you. Please, take yourself away from this situation, step back and look at it. Realize it’s not an attack on you, your church or your faith. Realize that it’s not a grouping of a faith, and does not claim or show to be in any way, shape or form. Help others. Even if it’s just an encouraging word, or an uplifting passage in a time of darkness, something, anything.
This isn’t about you, and you sound (not am, I can’t claim this, I don’t know you), but you sound self-centered and detached when the central tenant to your message is “not all churches, and don’t write about it.” Of course not all churches, and yes, they should absolutely write about it. The single most important tenet of life, regardless of your belief or lack therein is quite simple: Do no harm.
That’s it. Live, love, help. Do no harm.
Take good care, and have a beautiful day.
I cannot believe some of these comments. The only appropriate response to this story is to be sorry that you suffered abuse at the hands of your church. Current Pentecostals who think they don’t have these problems in their church should acknowledge that there is potential for abuse in the church and be vigilant, and be ready to protect victims rather than be defensive and blame them for their own abuse. You hear these stories again and again and again. Catholics, Evangelicals, Episcopal, more.
I may be non Christian, but I expect better from people who profess to believe in a man who gave the Sermon on the Mount and walked among lepers and prostituted truly without judgement.
I expect better from you.
I hope you find Jesus in your daily life, apart from all of the controlling abuse. Love and Prayers, thank you for the strength to share your story, and I hope you find healing.