I don’t know if you want to share this story or not, but I wanted to share it for Steve (not his real name) because he is unable to. I put it as “Share with hosts only”, but you can use your discretion.
Steve grew up in the IFB movement to parents who were saved under Bill Gothard’s ministry. The attended an IFB church for his entire childhood. As a middle schooler, he went to church camp, and when the youth group stayed in a hotel one night, he was put in a room with some of the preacher boys, but no adult. He looked up to these boys. The pastor praised them from the pulpit. He wanted to be like them.
That night, those boys punched him, they threatened him with a knife (a sharp pocket knife I believe), and made him do some sexual things that I will not go into detail about. The next morning, he came down for breakfast and his face was bruised and bloodied. The youth leader said nothing.
When they arrived back at the church, Steve’s parents were livid. They demanded to know what happened. Because they respected their pastor, they sat down with him, the youth leader, and the other boys’ parents. The other adults (not Steve’s parents) decided that the best thing to do was give the boys a stern warning and brush it under the rug. Their excuse was that these were good boys who had a lot of potential and it would be a shame to ruin their lives by taking legal action. The pastor also cautioned Steve’s parents not to leave the church because it would hurt their children’s spiritual development.
So Steve had to sit through 3 services a week with his tormentors sitting across the aisle. They were at every camp, soul winning, and youth event that the church had. About 5 years later, Steve’s family moved out of state and began attending my church. We went to Bible college together and got married.
He had pushed this event as far down in his mind as he could. He did mention it to me once in passing that he had gotten into a fight at camp, but the memories were so repressed that he couldn’t remember it. After several years, PTSD from the event began to build up. Church became a trigger. He had nightmares. He began to vividly relive that moment. After self-medicating, he began to see a psychiatrist, but no matter what he did, he seemed to keep getting worse. He ended up dying in a fatal car accident several years ago. I am not sure what exactly happened, but I often speculate that he took his own life.
It is hard not to be bitter against those boys. It is hard not to be angry at the church for sweeping it under the rug. It is hard to understand brainwashing people to the point that they feel their only option is to stay in a church that allows things like this to happen because it is the only IFB church in town. I understand that people are responsible for their own actions, but I was left a widow with young children because my husband was tormented to the point where he felt he had no other options.
I left the IFB church I was in. They did not recognize my husband’s mental illness, and by that point, I realized that I did not agree with many of their preferences and I felt like a hypocrite on Sundays. I’ve been attending a Southern Baptist church for 4 years now and it has been wonderful. God has been real in my life. He has provided for me and my children and been a Father to us. One of the ways He cared for us was through allowing me to meet a wonderful man to whom I am now married.
Men in the IFB failed Steve. They failed me. God never failed us.