the Hope of Survivors

No Longer a Voice Crying in the Wilderness by Phenessa

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all.” (Psalms 34:18, 19 NIV)

Hurt, confused, lost and utterly cast down are key emotions among many that I felt when I endured the most heinous, diabolical experience imaginable–clergy sexual abuse. My history of abuse from the tender age of three seemed to pale in comparison to this recent experience. It is rather difficult to recover from sexual abuse in the first place, but when your soul is raped, the wounds and scars are deeper than a bottomless pit.

The pastor that abused me I met four years ago and was seeking counseling for the pains of my past and mentorship in how to operate in ministry. At the beginning, counseling appointments were scheduled and I immediately began to work under his direction in the Christian Education department. He had a pleasant personality, seemed to understand all that I had been through, and always knew the right words to say and when to say them. Initially, I saw him as a father figure. He was twelve years older than me, had a wife of thirteen years, and three children. He was my picture of a family and I had hoped of learning from him about God, ministry, godly relationships and how to deal with life’s trials. I didn’t know until recently that he was using all that I told him in our counseling sessions for his personal gain.

The manifestation of abuse began in the fall of 2002 when after a church service he said he needed to talk to me. We went to his office and he closed the door. He proceeded to tell me that God told him because I have been so abused by men that I do not know how to be treated by a real man and God told him that he was to show me how to be treated, how to experience true ‘godly’ love, and that he was deeply in love with me. My heart began to race and initially I felt strange and uncomfortable. When I expressed my uneasy feelings, he explained that it was normal for me to feel uncomfortable because I was unfamiliar with how love is supposed to feel. The following days he began to visit my house sometimes at night, brought me a rose and some money since he knew I was struggling financially. He told me that I didn’t have to worry about anything because he would take care of me then he grabbed my face and kissed me. That’s how it all started and with each encounter it became more advances until ultimately he told me that he could ease my fear of sex and make it enjoyable for the first time in my life. I had been sexually abused many times and one rape resulted in my having a baby. Those ordeals were often brutal but for some reason, I could always brace myself and take the physical pain. If I didn’t move and allowed my mind to wander to a faraway place, I felt that was the only way I could take control of myself and not go crazy.

As time progressed, the Bishop of the church promoted him to pastor a satellite church in another state. I felt called to move there and expressed my thoughts to him. He confirmed that God told him that I was to move with him and help him build the church. He got someone to buy my home and moved me and my, at the time, two-year-old daughter with him. His mother and I got an apartment together and then he said that I was like an Abraham and I had to cut all ties with my former family and friends. Then he said that God told him that I was his wife and he knew that four years ago when he met me. That God was moving his current wife out of the way because she didn’t have his heart for the vision of the church and was doing everything to stop him from fulfilling his call. He said that I was his Rachel and she is Leah. He began to call me more and told me that he needed prayer and for me to pour into him. I was so empty—I didn’t have anything to pour. After one sexual encounter, I was a nervous wreck and as I headed for the hotel door he stopped me and told me that God wanted me to be free of oppressive spirits. He began to pray, lay hands and sprinkle water on me demanding foul spirits to leave me. I thought I was free, but I still felt so heavy and burdened. I told him that I didn’t want to be with him anymore and tried to leave him and the church several times. He would threaten to commit suicide if I did and there were times that I would hear his gun clicking in the background while we were on the phone. He asked me to marry him several times as well and said that he and I were connected and I would not be able to be who I’m supposed to be in God without him in my life. Then I found out on Sept. 16th that he was lying about going through a divorce and everything else. He said that he would lose the church if he got a divorce now and wanted me to wait for him. He implored that right now I was to be his friend and in God’s timing we could resume our ‘relationship.’ That Jacob waited for fourteen years to marry Rachel and in order to fulfill God’s call on his life; he had to do things this way. I told him that I never wanted to see or talk to him again.

I was so depressed and exhausted. I had very little sleep in the five months we were there. I prayed for God to deliver me, but I took matters into my own hands to stop the pain I was feeling. I took two bottles of pills and woke up three days later in ICU. The nurse said I flat-lined and they revived me but I know that it was God who preserved my life. My mother flew to take care of me and my daughter. He came to visit me and told me that this happened before with another woman; that if we got married he would cheat on me in thirteen years like he did his current wife; and that nothing was wrong with me but I just have bad taste in men. I was on a respirator so I could not talk but strangely I felt torn—I wanted him to leave and I didn’t want him to leave at the same time. When I was released from the hospital and decided to end this mess, he called me and I told him that I never wanted to talk or see him again. He said that I was rejecting him and God’s calling and that I needed to wait for him. I cursed, screamed, rebuked him and hung up. When he called back my mother answered the phone and told him that if he ever called me again, she was going to tell Bishop what happened. To cover himself, he moved his wife and three children two weeks after I was released from the hospital.

The leaders of the church that knew what happened told me that God didn’t let me die because He didn’t want the pastor to be exposed, that the pastor was called and anointed, and no matter what he did to me the Word was going to go forth. I lost my job and I didn’t have any health insurance and had incurred over $36,000 in medical debt. But, God worked to where the hospital wrote off $33,000, I was able to pay the rest down to $1,279 and get on a payment plan. It’s been a struggle for these past months, but I am getting back on my feet. I joined a new church that is ministering to me and I was blessed with a new job.

I was blessed by the ministry, The Hope of Survivors, which educated me on the terrible ordeal that I experienced. Through that ministry, my current professional counselor, and the support of my family and friends, I am recovering through this healing process. I have totally repented of my sins and apologized to those who I have hurt, especially his wife and the Bishop. Although as of yet, he is on sabbatical and the church has not offered any assistance to me, I know that God’s Hand is upon me and I walk in abundant supernatural favor. I have learned valuable lessons to last me a lifetime and I have joy in the midst of my adverse circumstances. And, this joy that I have, the world didn’t give it and the world can’t take it away. The ministry God placed in me is still there. The world will hear my testimony and many will be saved. No longer will I be a voice crying in the wilderness. No longer will I remain silent. I embrace the truth from this lesson about God, myself and putting my trust in fallible man. Now, it is in God I trust and my inner voice is strengthened. God gets all the glory and praise! My weeping endured for many nights, but God’s joy has awakened me and showed me what love is and who I am in Jesus Christ. Thank you, Lord, for being close to my broken heart, saving my crushed spirit, and delivering me from my troubles!

[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