the Hope of Survivors

Behind the Mask by Laura E. Holman

I’d been a member of the church for about six months. One night I had a dream about some children who were alone and afraid. In the dream there was one particular little boy, about 7 or 8 years old. He was crying and I tried to comfort him. He said that he was afraid and didn’t want me to leave him. I promised that I would stay with him and do what I could to help. Then lots of other children ran over and I found myself trying to help all of them. I didn’t understand what that dream meant but I had a feeling that God was about to do something concerning children and myself.

The setting of the dream was in the church. I decided to make an appointment with the pastor and tell him, thinking that maybe the Lord would reveal to him what the dream meant. Well, I met with the pastor that Tuesday evening upstairs in his office. The choir was rehearsing downstairs in the sanctuary. I felt very nervous, this was the first time I had ever met with a pastor and I didn’t know what to expect. I knew he was an anointed man of God and I kept thinking about Daniel and other Bible characters as they went before the king. Not that I looked at him as a king, but this just describes how I felt. I had never been close to him before other than he passing by when he walked down the aisle at church after service. I’d said hi to him before, but I said it so low that I know he didn’t hear me. I was so very shy, timid, and afraid to make eye contact with other people. Due to the many abuses I had faced throughout my life, I had very low self-esteem and didn’t think that anything I said or did mattered to anyone.

Anyway, here I am, going to talk with the pastor. I knocked softly on the door several times. Finally I got up enough nerve to knock a little harder, a little too hard, and he opened the door quickly. Scaring me even more. He smiled and welcomed me in apologizing for startling me. We sat and I told him about the dream. I told him that I didn’t understand exactly what it meant. I had remembered reading a Scripture in the Bible that said we are to confess our faults one to another. I thought it meant that once I got saved, I was supposed to tell the pastor about my life before I met Jesus. So, since I was there, I told him about my past and the major things that I had faced. We talked a little more and I began to feel a little more comfortable. He then stood up and I followed realizing this was the end of the meeting. That wasn’t so bad, a piece of cake. What was I so afraid of?

Then he stood in front of me and I was all ready to join hands with him and pray. As I stood with my eyes closed waiting, I felt something on my mouth. I quickly opened my eyes to find him touching my lips with his tongue; he then started trying to put his tongue in my mouth. What on earth was going on? This was the church, he was a man of God, used mightily of God during the services. I’ve seen God heal and save many through his ministry. Why was this happening to me? This is supposed to be different. Why didn’t someone warn me about him? Surely he was doing this to other women, or was he? What now? What am I supposed to do now? Where am I supposed to go? How could this happen in the church?

I had never heard of this before. The church was supposed to be a ‘safe place.’ How could this be? Millions of thoughts flooded my mind. I was afraid to run. Who could I tell? Who would believe me? They’d say I was lying. They’d hate me for starting rumors. Who could I trust? All I knew was that I needed to get away from there as fast as I could. I wanted God to explain this to me. I thought I was safe now. I though all of that ‘nasty stuff’ was in the past. I thought that my life would be different. I thought that the violation of my body was over. What had I done to make this follow me? I was devastated. I wanted to go far away. I never wanted to enter this place again. I wanted to walk away from all that I had learned about the church. I saw that I had been lied to, that this wasn’t a ‘safe place.’ There were so many thoughts flooding my mind. I was crushed. My eyes flooded with tears but I refused to cry. It didn’t faze him, he kissed me and when he stopped I just said “thank you for taking the time to meet with me but I have to leave now.” As I was about to go down the stairs, he called out to me and said that he was going to talk to the brother in charge of the children’s ministry and tell him that I’ll be helping out. I wanted to say No! Don’t you realize what just happened? Can’t you see how you’ve hurt me? Do you really expect me to come back here again? But none of that came out, I only nodded and got out of there, fighting to hold back the tears that tried so desperately to fall. The choir was still rehearsing as I left.

I went straight to my spiritual mom’s (my Christian mother & prayer partner/my mentor) house a couple of blocks away from the church. She opened the door and immediately she knew something was wrong. She asked me if I were all right and at first I said yes then quickly said no but didn’t know what to say. I felt guilty because I didn’t try to stop him. I hated myself for letting this happen to me again. When will it stop? I was so embarrassed. This is not supposed to happen in the church. Christians don’t do things like that, they’re supposed to be different. Jesus didn’t do stuff like that. Feeling my pain, she began to pray for me. She was so special, one of a kind. After she prayed, I felt a release to tell her what had happened. She knew the pastor and fellowshipped there quite often. She listened as I recounted the events of the meeting. I began to cry and she just embraced me and held me close to her heart. It was as if Jesus himself were holding me. I learned that day that no matter what happens to us in life, whether we understand it or not, God will always send help. No matter what people do to us, we are not to turn our backs on God. He’s not the one hurting us. Although it may knock us down or hurt us to the point that we feel we can’t make it any further, we’ve got to remember that we are in this world to please God. Don’t give up! The battle is not ours it’s the Lord’s. And He will fight for us. God always has the final word on every situation.

I purposed in my heart that I didn’t just stumble upon that church by chance but that God had a plan for me there although I didn’t have a clue as to what it was. I remembered the dream about the little children and knew that I had to go back. I’d just stay out of the pastor’s way. It was a fairly large church and I’d been there six months and he didn’t remember seeing me, so I shouldn’t have a problem being invisible there. I’d go and do what I was supposed to do, attend the services and learn all that I could learn.

All went as planned. I assisted with the children and we started a summer camp where we took the children on trips, and taught them about the love of God. We rented Christian movies for them and taught them how to pray. We also tutored those who had been having difficulty with math, reading, etc. I really loved what God was doing in the lives of the children and I felt honored and blessed to be a part of it. Needless to say, due to the lack of finances, my bills were all behind and I had to quit college with an incomplete status. I received an eviction notice and didn’t know what to do. Where will we go? What will we do? I wasn’t so concerned about myself; I was concerned about my son.

My son had just started high school and I had been praying for a long time to leave the city. I didn’t want my son to attend high school here. I didn’t care where we moved to but I just wanted out of the city. There was a rash of killings going on in the streets and schools. Children were shooting and stabbing other children for their sneakers, clothes, and other belongings. I didn’t want my son in that kind of environment. I wanted to feel secure about sending him off to school. I didn’t want to get a call saying that something had happened to my child. They began placing armed police in the schools and that was more than enough motivation for me.

I had been fasting and praying fervently about this situation. I was tired of the city anyway and wanted to live in the south. When I got to the church, the brother that I worked with gave me a phone number and told me to call it. He said that it would bless me. I didn’t recognize the number or the area code. He wouldn’t tell me whom it was I was about to call. I called the number on the paper and didn’t recognize the voice on the other end. I identified myself and the phone was handed to the pastor’s wife. She told me that she and the pastor had been praying that God would send someone to stay with the children while she attended an annual event at the church. This way she wouldn’t have to take them out of school. She said that she had heard good things about me and felt that the Lord placed me on her heart. I listened as she continued. She told me that if I came, I would stay in the guesthouse. I told her that I would help out in anyway that I could. I didn’t tell her about my situation. At the end of the conversation she said she felt confident about me being the one to come down there and that I should pray about it. She said that maybe I would like it there and want to stay. I told her that I had to pray about that but, again, I would be glad to come down so that she could attend the church services. She said she would talk to the pastor and he will be in contact with me concerning all of the details. She told me that he would take care of my travel expenses. Oh no! Not the pastor! I dreaded a conversation with him. He had apologized to me but I didn’t want a repeat performance. I couldn’t handle that.

About a week later after service the pastor said that he wanted to talk to me. He promised me that nothing would happen. Why was I so trusting? What was wrong with me? Well, we met during the daytime and he said that his wife told him that I was coming down to watch the children. There were three of them, the youngest was in elementary school and the other two were about to enter junior high school. I looked forward to getting away for a while although it was only for about a week; I needed all the time away that I could get.

Pastor wanted to speak with me again after the midday prayer on that following Tuesday. He wanted to discuss the plans with me. When I met with him, he told me that he was leaving during the same time to pick up his wife and that one of the brothers and a mother from the church would be going along too. He said that I was welcome to ride with them if I wanted to; the brother would be driving the van. I told him that I would let him know. He gave me the money that he was originally going to give me for my trip and said that the money was mine regardless of what I decided to do. He said they were planning to leave on Friday night after service and if I wanted to go with them, they would pick me up from my apartment. I decided to ride with them since the mother was going too. We left as planned on Friday night and I enjoyed the trip. It took several hours to get there but it was a good getaway. I sat in the back of the van so that I could stretch out if I wanted to get some sleep.

We arrived at the house while it was still dark so I couldn’t see my surroundings. The air was so fresh and clean. We went inside the pastor’s house where we all talked and I got acquainted with his wife. Boy, what a bad feeling I had because of what had transpired before. He didn’t seem to care at all; I was very quiet and pretty uncomfortable. We all sat and everyone talked for a long time. Finally someone suggested we go to the house and freshen up and get some rest. I stayed there with the children as they all headed back for the annual event.

We moved south shortly after my son had begun his first year of high school. We both had to get used to our new environment. It was easier for me because I had spent the 1st few years of my life in the south, although not this far south. But on the other hand, my son was born and raised in the city. Neither of us knew anyone there except the pastor’s family and we were just getting to know them. All in all, things were going well for both of us until I received a call from the pastor at the end of January.

He was coming home on February 5th and told me to meet him. He had told his family that he was coming down on the 6th. He said that he was sending money to me and that I should meet him at a hotel near the airport. He had already reserved his room and said that he was expecting to see me there. I said no and that I wasn’t coming. I reminded him of his promise and his apology. I told him that I wanted to serve the Lord and wasn’t interested in living in sin. I asked him why, I poured out my hurt and all he said was, you’d better be there if you want to keep a roof over your head. You don’t know anyone down here. Where would you live? I’m expecting to see you there on February 5th. I began to cry but my tears didn’t faze him, his mind was made up and the only thing he did was keep stressing that he wanted me to be there. Then he started the guilt trip thing. Trying to make me feel sorry for him. He began telling me things about his relationship at home and blaa… blaa… blaa.

What an awful feeling bubbled up in the pit of my stomach. How could someone be so cold? How could he do this to me? What had I done to deserve this? I knew that it was God’s will for me to be there, but I surely didn’t understand what was happening. I cried and I prayed. I got in the car and drove along a quiet highway. I pulled onto the side of the road and cried until I felt empty. I cried to God with my whole heart. I needed to understand where I had missed it. I didn’t want to do this. I didn’t want to see him. I just wanted to be free to serve God and live for Him. I just wanted to hear God say, well done. What now?

The more I thought about this the more painful it became. This was a man of God, a pastor, leading God’s people along the straight and narrow path. What’s wrong with this picture? I didn’t know what to do. There was no one to tell, I couldn’t tell his wife although I wanted to with all my might. But I knew she wouldn’t believe me. I didn’t know anyone there. I couldn’t talk to the pastor of the church we attended, because I didn’t know him well enough. Besides, he knew them much longer than he’d known me. My word didn’t mean anything, they were just arrows of accusations. I was hurting, I talked to God and it seemed there was no response. I felt as if I were all alone to make this decision on my own. The thoughts of where will we live, who will believe me, I don’t know anyone here, and I’m over 800 miles away from home.

I just thought about my situation and how I could get out of it. I saw no way of getting out of this. The more I stood my ground and purposed in my heart that I wouldn’t give in, the more I pictured us being (stoned) criticized, talked about, kicked out into the streets with no where to go and no money to get back home. I fought and stood my ground. I spent many sleepless nights. I didn’t want to do this. I was not a prostitute. But negative words from my past kept crowding my mind.

Finally, February 5th came and I started my day as usual. I took my son to school and went out to breakfast. As I sat there eating, tears flooded my eyes, thoughts crowded my mind, and I began to weaken. I got in the car and drove to the hotel, crying all the way, not wanting to do this, not wanting to live like this. I knew that if I gave in something awful would happen. I knew that if I did surrender this time, he would have me where he wanted me and I’d end up giving in everytime. I hated what was about to happen. I got to the hotel and asked for him at the desk, hoping they’d say he was not registered. But no such thing; the clerk said that she couldn’t give me his room number. I should have used that as an excuse to leave but she said she’d ring his room for me. I picked up the house phone and he answered on the first ring. I asked the question that still haunts me to this day, “Do you want some company?” He got his wish, told me which room he was in and met me at the door when I got up there. I felt so disgusted with myself. Why hadn’t I been stronger? Why didn’t I stick to my decision? I felt so weak, like such a failure. All of the negative feelings that plagued me throughout my life returned to torment me.

He took me in his arms and began to kiss me. I know he must have felt me pulling back but he just ignored it. He had what he wanted and to him that’s all that mattered. I remember thinking such thoughts of hatred towards him. He began to unbutton my blouse and started touching me. I wanted to vomit, right in his face. I let him do what he wanted with me, as I cried through the whole experience. I hated him so much at that moment. Because of who he was, I hated him more than the others. He knew how wrong it was, he knew where we could both end up. He knew that he was disappointing God. How could he do this? Didn’t he even think about his wife? The church? His ministry? How could he be so ruthless? Well everything was over in a matter of minutes. He kept his shoes and socks on through the whole ordeal. That let me know what he thought of me. I was just a ‘release’ for him.

He said that he wanted me to meet him everytime he came home. He would tell the family that he would be home one day and get here the day before so that he could ‘release himself’ with me. He said that I shouldn’t take it so hard. He left while I was in the shower, I didn’t even know he was gone. He left some money on the dresser, boy, how did that make me feel? I wish I had been stronger. I didn’t want to relive my past. What was I doing? What had I done? Why did I give in? What now? How could I face his family? How could I still live there? So many thoughts flooded my mind. My heart was broken because I had made a decision that had broken my Lord’s heart. I told God that I was sorry and I meant it with all of my heart. I said that I never wanted to do anything that would hurt Him because He didn’t deserve that. I really beat myself up over this.

I got in the car and drove until I was tired. No destination, I just drove aimlessly. I found myself near a lake so I pulled over, parked the car and sat on the hood crying and talking to God through my brokenness. Oh the thoughts and feelings that flooded my soul. Words can’t begin to describe how I felt. I hated myself for making the decision that I did, I hated the pastor for putting me into a position like that, and I didn’t know what to expect next. I only know that I wanted peace with God. I didn’t want to go backwards, I want to go forward in God and be all that He created me to be. I just knew that I’d messed that up.

This went on for 6 years. I tried everything I could to make it stop. I moved out of their house, I started attending another church, but he still came after me. He’d come to my house; he’d visit the church I was attending. Everytime he came around me, he’d always start the guilt trip. He’d say things that he knew would bother me and I’d start to fall for it. Then the next thing you knew, I was right back where I’d started from, still in bondage. I hated what was happening and I knew what I needed to do. I thought about just exposing him and figured that would end it, but one woman from the church tried that and everyone turned against her and said that she was lying. Everyone there began to treat her so badly.

I started to talk to his wife at one point but I didn’t want to hurt her, besides I didn’t think she’d believe me. I thought of many ways to end this; I actually tried by talking to a prayer partner and telling her what was going on but she changed my words, told everyone in the church and of course they all turned against me. I was only looking for help. I didn’t want to hurt anyone I only wanted to be free. I know that prayer changes things. I thought she would join together with me in prayer and I was anxious to see God work this out. But you have to be careful and prayerful about whom you share things with. If a person has never walked the path that you’re walking, they won’t see things through your eyes. I’m sure she did what she thought was best but I didn’t agree.

When I was approached by a group of people from church about the situation, I denied it. I guess you could say I was embarrassed and too ashamed to face what had happened. I remember being in the closing night of a revival. At the end of the service they asked if anyone wanted to say something. I stood up and announced with tears in my eyes that I would never return to church again. I’d made up my mind that this would be the last service I’d ever attend. I expressed that I had disappointed God and didn’t deserve to show my face in the Lord’s house or be around His people. I said goodbye to everyone with tears streaming down my face and sat down waiting for the benediction. No one seemed to care, as I was talking everyone sat talking among themselves and playing with the children. No one paid any attention to what I was saying. After the benediction a man came over to me and said something that pierced my heart. He told me not to ever let anyone or anything cause you to walk away from God. No matter what happens in life, never turn your back on God!

Well those words gave me the enough strength to face this situation head on. I purposed in my heart that I wouldn’t be the ‘victim’ anymore. I was going to be the ‘victor’ and I knew that God would help me. It was in December, about a week before Christmas and I had a new grandson and two children living with me. I didn’t have money to get them anything for Christmas. I felt bad about it. I had been looking for work but found none. I cried and prayed about my finances but didn’t see any change. God was already working behind the scenes but I didn’t realize it. Sometimes when we don’t see things happening when we think they should, we begin to get anxious and think that God has forgotten about us. Well, of course He hadn’t. I was in the house that morning and the children were at school. I heard a car drive into my driveway and when I went to the door, it was the pastor. He wanted to talk to me and I remember thinking, I’m not doing this anymore. Lord, please help me to be strong in this situation and stand my ground. The pastor said that he was just concerned about me because he hadn’t seen me in quite a while. He wanted to know that I was all right. He began to tell me how good I looked and that he needed me. He handed me an envelope and told me to meet him at the usual place and then he left.

I stood there with the envelope in my hands. I was determined that I wasn’t going to do this again. I opened the envelope and there was a lot of money in it. Tears began to roll down my face. As I counted the money I began to think about what I could do with it. I could pay several bills, I could get Christmas gifts for my grandson on his first Christmas, I could buy gifts for the children and get them the clothes they really needed. They could have a good Christmas after all. But then I felt the strength of The Lord rise up within me and I said “No, no more!” I got into my car and went to the church. He was there and just as I was about to tell him that I didn’t want his money and that I wasn’t going to meet him anymore, there was an interruption. He went outside and stayed for a long time. I didn’t want to lose my nerve so I just wrote it on the envelope, left it on the desk and walked out. I drove to the church where I now attended and corporate prayer (midday prayer) was in progress. I began to pray and thank God for giving me the strength to do what I’d wanted and needed to do for so long. At the end of the prayer, the leader asked if anyone wanted to say anything. I told them that God had delivered me out of a tormenting situation that had me bound for six years. She and the others began to pray for me and for my situation. They prayed for my strength to continue to stand in my decision, they prayed for my protection, they prayed everything they could think of for me. I just broke down and cried tears of release, tears of joy, tears of deliverance.

Once I took the stand, with God as my Helper, blessings began to flow in from everywhere. Mind you, I never told anyone else about the situation. But God touched the hearts of people and they gave me money, the children received more toys and clothes than I could fit under the Christmas tree. I never asked anyone for anything. It was after I gave my all to God that the blessings began to flow. As long as I was in sin, it hindered me from receiving God’s best in my life. But once I took a stand for Him and purposed in my heart that come hell or high water, I’m not going back to where I was, that slammed the door in the devil’s face and cancelled the assignment that he had set up against me.

[END OF STORY]

If you are a survivor of pastoral abuse, we would love to hear your story and possibly make it available on this web site for others to read and renew their hope. You can use a pseudonym if you choose and rest assured that all personal information will be kept private and strictly confidential. Please contact us.

Please note: We do not necessarily agree with or endorse all the information contained in the survivor’s stories. We do, however, feel they have some valuable information that could be useful to you in your recovery. It helps to know you’re not alone, that others have shared your pain and have healed, by the grace of God, in their own time and way.

The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart...Psalms 34:18