By Kevin Walheim (firstname.lastname@example.org)
INITIAL CONTACT WITH THE ICC
I came in contact with the ICC when I was going to Cal State University of Northridge (hereby annotated CSUN). I was attending summer school during June 1996 when I was approached by 20 people from this group (that I now consider a cult). They persisted in inviting me to their first service in their new building. I was going out of town that weekend and told them I couldnít go. I thought it was very strange to have so many people inviting me to this church. Finally I crossed paths with three other members (two women and a man) who were doing the same recruiting.. One of the ladies pointed at me and I knew it was more of them. They approached me and I thought I would just say the same thing and they would leave. After I told Theo, the one who recruited me into the church that I was going out of town that weekend, he asked me to come next Sunday. He was the first that asked me and caught me off guard. I wasnít too open to going to church, but I was looking for new friends and he was very friendly with me. He seemed like a nice guy so we exchanged phone numbers. I also thought he was doing something right since he was with two very beautiful ladies. I later found out that guys in the church do recruiting with beautiful women on purpose to attract other guys and I did that myself.
The following week I wanted to go out with my high school friends on Friday night. I got tired of hanging out with them at times and was looking for new friends, which made me an easy target for a cult. I called Theo to see if he wanted to hang out on Friday night. He invited me to the Upside Down Club, owned by the church. The club was having a talent show and food that night so I thought it sounded like fun so I went. Theo quickly introduced me to his Bible Talk and the leader of the group. They seemed like nice people and I had a good time that night. Right after the event was over Theo asked me to check out the Sunday service. I told him it was too far and too early for me. I just wanted new friendships and wasnít looking for a church to worship at. He knew I wouldnít drive out there that early so he offered me to spend the night at his house before church. I was impressed that he was very genuine about our friendship so I said yes.
MY FIRST ICC SERVICE
Upon arriving at the building on
STUDYING THE BIBLE (FIRST PRINCIPLES)
After my second service a man
named Albert asked me to study the Bible. I thought it would be a good idea and
that I would learn something about the Bible. Unfortunately the ICC would take
advantage of my lack of Bible knowledge and twist it on me. After doing the Discipleship
study it was easy for me to say that I was not a disciple. They asked me if I
ever made disciples and I told them I never really read the Bible so they
easily got me to admit I was not saved. The guys who studied the Bible with me
told me to change certain things in order to be a disciple so I did that and
thought I was ok. I was excited about becoming a Christian and told my brother
my decision. I thought we would become Christians together. When Albert did the
Darkness study with me, he asked me if I was in the light or darkness. I said
light because I felt I was living a good life and wanted to do what was right.
He kept twisting the Bible on me and eventually manipulated me into saying I
was in darkness. I did the Light study with others I hadnít met, where I confess
my sins to them. I now believe they wanted as many people to know my sins so
they could use these to break my spirit. The leader, Norm, asked me when I
wanted to get baptized and I was in no hurry since I didnít see the need for
it. The next study, ďThe Cross,Ē is used to break your spirit and make you feel
guilty. It worked. After that study, the ICC had full control of my spirit. At
that point, I wanted to do anything to have salvation. I had one more study on
the Church which began to alter my brotherís relationship with me. I thought
again how odd, to have another person I had never met lead my study. He taught
me the ICC was the ď
THE ICC DIVIDES MY FAMILY
After I got baptized, the ICC very much controlled me. They warned me about my family not agreeing with my decision to radically follow Jesus. They showed me scriptures about persecution and other scriptures out of context. I started talking to my brother about his conversion to Christ. I took good notes so I could trap him into seeing that he wasnít a true disciple. My brother, Kenny, and I argued for many years about salvation. I would call him prideful for not listening to my point of view. Eventually we stopped talking to each other on any meaningful level. The same thing happened with my relationship with my mom as well.
On my 21st birthday,
my family wanted to take me to Vegas to celebrate in 1997. Is this not the
American tradition when you turn 21? I had to seek ďadviceĒ or more like
permission to go to Vegas with my family. My ďdisciplerĒ at the time told me I
shouldnít go to Vegas and wait until the holiday. We ended up going to Vegas a
year and 3 months after my birthday because it was Christmas time. That is the
only time they let you be with your family as recruiting is slow at that time.
They know if they donít let you be around your family during Christmas time
they would be exposed for the cult they are much easier. My family hated
planning vacations with me because I had to plan everything around the churchís
schedule. During the summer 2000 our family planned a trip to
ICC HOUSEHOLD LIVING
After I was baptized, I was still living at home during the summer. My parentsí home was 25 miles from the other church members so I would spend the night at my ďdisciplerísĒ household. When the new school year started in fall 1996, I started to learn about the work involved in the ICC. During the first week of school, I was told to be at my leaderís house at Monday morning for a campaign. I told my Bible Talk leader that, living at home, it would be too early to come out at . He told me to spend the night at my ďdisciplersĒ house. I agreed and started spending the night at my ďdisciplersĒ house for the first semester of school. After my first semester, I officially moved into a household. I could have lived at home to save a lot of money, but I moved into a household because I was told ďit was good for me spiritually.Ē I lived with 5 other guys in a 3 bedroom dump for my first ICC household. Every ICC household is a dump because members are dead broke, giving so much to the church. I sacrificed living at home so I could ďseek the kingdom first.Ē I lived next door to drug dealers, my apartment building caught on fire, and I had bomb threats on the apartment building Ė which could have been avoided by living with my parents.
November 1997, we moved out of that dump and into another one. My campus minister, Dewitte Stewart, was my roommate for over 5 years Ė it was a terrible experience. Whatever he wanted to do, he did it since he was a leader. Dewitte started taking in new recruits into our house. At one point, 7 guys were living in our house, a 2 bedroom apartment. That is just stupid! My brother visited a few times and felt sorry for my living in such a mess. We would have breaking sessions (tearing someone apart verbally) in the house where we discipled someone for ďnot being like Jesus.Ē However, no one discipled Dewitte because he was the campus leader. After we moved out of the second household, one of the new recruits that Dewitte allowed to stay in our house stole my new laptop. I knew it was this one guy because he was caught stealing money from another household and left the church right away. I had no say on who can sleep over at my apartment. I never liked having 7 guys over at once, but I had no say.
Dewitte, my other roommate David, and I moved into the next household together. Dewitte chose for us to live with this insane guy named Chris who was trying to become a member of the church. The only reason we moved in was Chris had a nice 2 story townhouse and a big screen television. Dewitte could use this house to serve new recruits. I hated living there. Chris was an impossible landlord and drove me insane. He would turn the AC thermostat down to 40 degrees. I had to open up the windows to warm up the room. I would argue with Chris about the AC and he would get mad. We ended up moving out of that house in November 1999.
Dewitte, David, and I moved into a house. At least this one had no police shootings or anything to that nature. We finally moved into a decent apartment. After a year of living in that apartment Dewitte moved me upstairs into another household with my best friend Anthony to make way for Robert who was a track star and good friend of Kip McKean from what I heard. Kip told the CSUN ministry to take care of him so I got kicked out of my own apartment.
I moved upstairs with my best friend Joe. After I moved into the apartment, the church moved in a new recruit who was a pig Ė he wouldnít clean up anything. Joe and I would talk to the new recruit about cleaning up after he ate and he would just get upset. People would be late with their bills. Joe and I would have to hunt people down to pay the bills on time. Thank goodness I only lived there under a year and I moved back with Dewitte where the bills were paid on time. I graduated in May 2002 from CSUN with Joe. We were both happy to get out of the campus ministry and get our own place together.
HYPOCRISY DECEPTION AND ABUSE
There are two types of people in the ICC. You are either a victor or a victim of the system. You become a victor when you are on top in leadership and get all the favoritism or a victim and get abused. The people who leave the ICC are mostly the victims. I was more of a victim of the system. I would get discipled on the stupidest things. I also saw all the phony love the church provides, especially from the women in the church. Even though the sisters had to go out with me by church rule, I could tell many of them didnít want to. I would ask sisters out on dates and they would say yes or be discipled for not saying no. I had so many bad dates and I was badly treated. I remember one date this sister had more interest in listening to my radio in the car so we never talked. I was on a triple date and when we got to the restaurant to eat, the sister started talking to another brother and just ignored me the whole night. I felt upset and angry that whole night and felt the phony love from the church.
For many years I drove a 2-seater Mazda Miata, which is bad for double dating in the ICC. One time, my double was running very late so I went in my own car to pick my date up. Her parents (also ICC members) got offended I went to pick her up in my car with no double. That Sunday night, I was forced to call up the mother to apologize for picking her up without a double as if that were a sin in the Bible. I did nothing wrong except break a man-made rule. I was rebuked big time and felt very bad for doing nothing wrong according the Bible. How stupid is that.
Valentinesí Day 2002 was a reverse, where the sisters asked the brothers out to encourage them. I was one of the brothers who always took sisters out on dates for encouragement. Deep down something told me I wasnít going to be asked out and I was right. Not only did no one ask me out they didnít even care to see if I was taken care of. I ended up going to a different region to get myself and a few other brothers dates who got no attention like I always do. I started hating dating in the ICC. I felt no love from any of the women in the church.
In the ICC you were either cranking ďfor the LordĒ in recruits or be damned and going to hell. While going to school and having a part time job to pay the bills I spent another 30 hours per week on ICC events. During a typical school day I would go to class, be out recruiting, studying the Bible with people, and find time to study for class as well. My grades suffered while being a part of the ICC. I had no time to study or spend time for myself. If I wasnít at class I was studying the Bible with someone and if I had no one to study the Bible with I was out inviting people to church and other ICC events. I would come to my parentís house just to escape the pressures of the ICC. I would come to my parentís home too tired to do anything. I just took from my parents anyway I could because the ICC took everything from me.
A typical day would be to wake up at to have a campaign where we meet together to get charged up spiritually for the day. From there I would normally go to campus to recruit or go to class. Some days I would go to work then school. After school I would have Bible studies with everyone we were prospecting. Anthony and I have had Bible studies that lasted until . With whatever time I had left was for studying and sleeping. My grades suffered and one class I had to repeat 3 times because I didnít have the time to study.
The ICC is very deceitful in its recruiting tactics. We would invite people to a Bible Talk and tell them it was an open Bible discussion. When in reality it was a time when we would tell the discussion leader all the sins we knew about the person coming to visit and use that to manipulate them into feeling like they were not right with God. I became a master at that and manipulated many people at school. Those who were great at recruiting were great at manipulating people. I became an expert at talking people out of their own grace with God and admitting they were going to hell. I was so cold when talking to people. I just wanted to show everyone that they were going to hell. That was all I cared about. I didnít love anyone. I just wanted my stats to look good to the leadership so I could be praised.
No matter how many people I baptized it was never enough. One of my old Bible Talk leaders was the nastiest guy. He was a leader only because his father was an elder in the church and good friends with the North Region staff. All the preachersí and eldersí kids received a lot of favoritism. So they let him abuse me spiritually. He would degrade me and tell how bad of a disciple I was. He would never have anything nice to say about me. He would make fun of another friend of mine who was losing his hearing and insulted him because he was going deaf. I was so glad when he left my ministry. The funny thing is he never went to CSUN. Many times I thought about leaving the ICC, but I was so indoctrinated into thinking that I would go to hell if I left the group so I stayed.
DEWITTE THE LYING DRUNK MINISTER
I lived with Dewitte for over 5 years. Over those years, he seemed too perfect. He hid from everyone for five years that he was a habitual liar, drunkard, and who knows what else he did. Plenty of people in the ministry including myself suspected something fishy, but our ministry leader, Ron Hammer, wouldnít listen to anyone. I knew this so I just kept quiet, but deep down I knew something wasnít right with Dewitte. Dewitte would always tell me he was out discipling another household that was struggling. He would never say the personís name of his counselee. He would use his ministerial position as a cover to go get drunk. He would always come home around the same time (~6am) after he sobered up. He slept at normal hours and would always avoid my questions when he got home. Something was not right with this picture. One day he made a mistake and told me the name of the household he was going to spend the night at. He mentioned Billy, my discipler at the time, who was a good friend. I was concerned since Billy was very close to me at the time. When Dewitte came home at his usual time I asked him what happened and he told me not to talk to anyone about his stay at Billyís house. I kept questioning him and he told me the same thing. Dewitte started dating Mindy who starting catching him in many lies. It bothered her so much that she went to Ron. Ron starting questioning Dewitte and discovered that Dewitte had lied about many things such as where he grew up, his college GPA, his age, his own motherís death and many others. Finally one day, he had Dewitte stand in front of the ministry and confess his lies. I got so upset because I knew it but couldnít tell anyone. I spoke to Billy that night and he told me Dewitte never spent the night at his house just like I figured. I went out crying in tears that night in frustration and hurt.
GREED FOR MONEY
The ICC is famous for forceful tithing. My ministry was no different. The leaders made us run in the Human Race marathon to raise money for special missions. We had no choice but to participate in that event. I got rebuked plenty of times for forgetting or just not having my weekly contribution. Being a college student was tough enough as it is, but having to also come up with money every week even if you didnít have it was harder. Just to make meet my goal for special missions every year I would give the church my tax refund. My refund was a lot of money and I could have used it many other ways such as paying off my credit card debt. I ended up taking out a student loan just to pay off my credit card debt.
One of the guys I was discipling
left the church and I only wish I left with him. After the fall semester ended,
he went home to
Special mission contribution is another thing that I always hated. I hated the fact that they always passed out pledge cards to see how much your goal was and how much you had saved. Where in the Bible does it talk about announcing how much you will give (except for negatively regarding the Pharisees)? One year for special missions I was close to my goal, but my brakes on my car needed to be fixed. It would cost me $140 to fix them. I didnít care about seeking advice. I just dipped into my missions fund and used that money to fix my brakes. How else am I suppose to fix my brakes or am I suppose to drive with no brakes? I think God would want me to fix my brakes and would understand, but the leaders didnít see it that way. When they found out that I was behind on my goal they asked me why and I was rebuked. They didnít care that my car needed new brakes. They said I should have had more faith in God to provide. They always preached about the need to keep increasing the tithing even though my income didnít increase.
Towards the end of 2002 the leaders told us that we needed to increase out tithe to meet the needs. I just graduated from college and was struggling financially and needed to decrease my tithe if anything. I was pressured to make an increase when in my heart I wanted to decrease so I wouldnít be struggling with my finances, but of course I had to obey or I would be rebuked so I increased my tithe out of compulsion. My finances continued to suffer and by February 2003 I had to borrow $1000 from my mom because I had no money pissing it away to the church.
THE LA CHURCH APOLOGY LETTER
After Dewitte was caught in a lie publicly I lost all trust for the leadership and rightfully so. They couldnít see something that everyone clearly saw and wouldnít even listen to anyone who expressed concerned. They just silenced everyone. Six months later in February of 2003 the head leaders of the LA Church wrote an apology letter for their pride and arrogance and many other sins they committed against the members. One of the areas they said they would work on is listening to the members so I took advantage of that. I personally told Ron about my disgust with what happened with Dewitte. I also told Ron that I was bitter about giving money out of compulsion and was broke from that. I got Ron to give me a check of $1000. My only regret was that I didnít try to get all my money back that I gave away to the church. Joe and I brought a list of complaints that we had about the congregation. We sat down and spoke to Ron about the lack of love and other hypocrisy that we saw. We challenged Ron to preach about what we felt was very wrong, but of course he didnít.
During my last 2 years in the church I was looking for the changes the church was talking about. My heart had left the ICC, but my mind was still controlled by them. I was also scared to leave. I had invested over 6 years in the church by this time and all my friends were still there. I was now in the singles ministry. I was so glad to be out of the campus ministry where you had absolutely no freedom. The singles ministry was more relax and I liked that. There were no more campaigns and I had more freedom to do what I wanted. After the letter came out they did away with stat keeping for evangelism so I stopped. I couldnít invite anyone to this church that I knew was wrong in my heart. How could I in complete honesty invite someone to a church that had issues with lies and a lack of love? With a lack of accountability and my heart out of the church I just pursued what I wanted to in life.
The church lacked direction without the emphasis on stats and accountability. The leaders didnít know what to do and everyone was waiting for the changes to take place. During my last 2 years I felt lost. I didnít want to return to the old system, but nothing positive was happening. People were so used to being told what to do that they couldnít think for themselves. The leaders kept preaching about evangelism, but they couldnít force anyone to do it anymore so growth stopped.
DATING IN THE ICC
During the whole year of 2003 I quit going on dates and wanted to do other things. I was tired of getting used and not appreciated for taking sisters out. I only took sisters out that I wanted and that I liked. If I didnít like the sister and had no interest in her I didnít take her out. I didnít care about having a date every Saturday anymore. I became bitter because all my friends starting getting girlfriends in the church and I never did. Two of the guys I recruited in the church started dating. I got mad because no women in the church had any interest in me.
I started going to many parties in the church in other regions looking for the right woman. In February of 2004 I finally met my future girlfriend in the church at a party. We went out twice in 2 months and we knew that we liked each other by April 2004. I wanted to just ask her to be my girlfriend. I was tired of following the dating rules and thought there is no reason to get someone elseís permission. My girlfriend to be was in another region and they wouldnít let me just ask her to be my girlfriend. Her discipler told her she wasnít ready to start dating yet. The church control still never changed even after the letters came out. She still had to seek permission to date me. I stuck in there and waited to date her. I wanted a girlfriend so badly that I was willing to wait for her to be ready. The ICC denied me any dating relationships and many sisters would not date me because I wasnít a leader. That is stupid.
I waited with great patients and finally in August 2004 I started dating my girlfriend Karen Wade. In a long time I felt happy again because I was dating. Dating is such a big deal in the church. You are considered spiritual if you are dating. I felt bad because I never dated in the ICC. Finally I could experience dating in the ICC. Everyone who dated in the church said it was the best thing. I found out real fast that was the biggest myth.
GOD REVEALS THE TRUTH TO ME
What helped me see the truth was moving out of households and back into my parentís house in December 2003. I went days without being around ICC members so I could start thinking for myself. You canít do that being in a household.
During my last two years in the church I saw more and more of my best friends leaving. I started to question the church myself, but couldnít find the right reason to leave. I kept wondering why so many people were leaving. Finally my best friend Joe started to question the church and he asked me one night in October 2004 why I was tithing and where was it written in the Bible to tithe. He stopped tithing because he couldnít find it in the Bible where disciples had to tithe so I stopped tithing on the spot as well. My mom wrote my tithe checks for tax purposes and when I told her to stop writing the checks she was so happy. She told me she was praying for 6 years for this day to come.
I started being very critical of the church and wanted to read any website that opposed the church, because the church forbids me to read any critical information against it calling it spiritual pornography or spiritual refuse. I read Castles in the Air which is a letter by a former member who compared the church teachings to the Bible and saw that the church was in error in everything. I read other websites (REVEAL/RightCyberup.org) and books that showed that the ICC was wrong as well. That helped open my mind. I start attending church with a critical mindset now. I saw the errors in every sermon preached. I started missing mid-weeks to do what I wanted to. All they did was collect tithe which I didnít give anymore.
The biggest challenge was my relationship with my girlfriend Karen. I didnít know how to tell her what I thought of the church so I didnít. I figured God would reveal to me the right time to tell her. This is when I learned how terrible it was to date in the ICC. Dating in the church was so legalistic. I had to report to Karenís brother Mickey. He had to know who my double was and who was discipling my dating relationship. I had to report to him for everything. Karen also had to get his permission to do anything and it made me feel like I was dating her brother and not Karen. I got real tired of that silliness. I wanted freedom in life and wanted nothing to do with the ICC. I started rebelling in my relationship with Karen. I refused to follow the dating rules. I starting kissing Karen and she asked me if she should seek advice and I said no. I told her the Bible said greet each other with a holy kiss. I stuck up for what I believed in and wouldnít let anyone else tell me what to do anymore.
I started attending house church
The following morning Mickey called me and told me he didnít appreciate me leaving a message for her without his permission. He told me Karen and I couldnít be friends anymore either. He said that we were going in two different directions. He said that Karen has very strong convictions and he didnít want me messing with them. How strong are her convictions if I can mess with them? He is afraid that I might tell her something that would get her to leave the church. He sees me as a threat and marked me. He told Karen that she canít talk to me ever again so I canít tell her the truth about the ICC. To this day I have yet to talk to Karen about my decision to leave the ICC and I know I will never hear from her again.
EPILOGUE: LIFE AFTER THE ICC
It is now June 2005 and I have been out of the ICC for about 6 months now. I have learned a lot about the ICC since I have left. Many of my friends in the church disowned me for making my decision. They wonít return my phone calls and that is fine with me. I know realize that the majority of my friends were by association to the cult and I am fine with that. I only keep in touch with about 5 current members who are my real friends.
Now that I am out of the cult I am trying to regain my life. It has been tough. I struggle with making decisions in my life and trying to regain my thinking skills. I struggle with that and have bitterness towards the ICC for what they have done to me. I feel spiritually raped and lost 8 years of my life to a cult. I am now 28 years old and still living at home with my parents because I am not ready to live on my own having my mind controlled for so many years. Everyday I pray that God will show me how to get my life in order. Life is confusing not being told what to do. I am learning to make daily decisions in my life at the age of 28. It is very frustrating that my brain has the decisions making of an 18 year old. Everyday I am learning to make little decisions at a time. I just need to be patient and I know it will take time to rid myself of my cult life.
I feel free now. My life is not full of meaningless activities anymore. It feels good to go to the mall and not have to prospect people anymore. Now I can go pursue what I enjoy in life. I like the time that I have to myself so I can figure out life. It will take me time, but I will now enjoy my new freedom in life. I love my old friends who are still in the church and pray for them. I hope that my decision to leave will help someone else to make the same decision.
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©2005 by Kevin Walheim. All rights reserved.
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