I was an intern with GFA for two months, and then joined school of discipleship, from 2010-2011. I experienced the excessive emphasis on submission to authority and it impacted my life significantly. My house leader accused me of being rebellious and unsubmissive because I was having a difficult time with the amount of control she had over my personal life. I suppose some of that is the nature of the school of discipleship, (although Jesus never exerted such control over His own disciples), things like, meals being controlled, your time being planned almost entirely for you, and especially, the spiritual input and lessons being all chosen for us.
During our “evangelism” times, we started out having some freedom, and I was experiencing some powerful conversations with people as I shared the Gospel with them. But very quickly it turned into more rules. I had to stay with someone from GFA at all times. We had to pass out tracts, etc.
One of the hardest things for me was the spiritual drain I felt because I had very little time to be alone and pray or just process things. I expressed this concern to a few leaders, one of whom was Daniel P. He told me in effect that quiet time isn’t necessary because, like Brother Lawrence, we can practice the presence of God all the time. He also made a side comment about how being a Christian doesn’t have to be so serious, that it’s okay for me to be fun and silly. I want to also make mention of a time when KP openly degraded the staff members who were overweight. I knew that must have been hurtful to some.
In India I saw many things that troubled me. I saw some of the way leadership is deceiving supporters or distorting the truth. The secrecy of the Episcopal system in place there was shocking to me. We were commanded to call the leaders “father”, which I believe is unscriptural so I avoided addressing them altogether. The ring kissing and exaltation of the bishops concerned me deeply, and when I asked KP about why they wear the robes and gold jewelry, he quoted the scripture where Paul tells believers to “follow the traditions you’ve received from us”, which is a misrepresentation of that scripture. We saw icon-like depictions of KP in nearly every stop in India. His title underneath was often prefaced with “H.E. or His Eminence, the Most Reverend”. Of course, we were told not to share any pictures of the leaders in robes or the stuff that supporters wouldn’t like.
When I had come back from India, I kept all my concerns to myself. I did start feeling a heavy burden for the Middle East, and one day I asked David C. what I could do to pursue that calling. He told me I had “questioned things in India” and that I had “never been content since I got there” citing the fact that he saw me sitting outside of a prayer meeting when I had been sick that day, and that usually when people decide they aren’t called to GFA they are encouraged to leave immediately. This was a huge shock since I had intended to stay and just have a little more freedom to look into ministry opportunities.
When I left, the leaders told staff that I was leaving to serve in the Middle East (even though it was really because they told me to leave), which put a lot of pressure on me since I had no idea if that was what I was really going to do. My relationships with most staff were severed because of how things didn’t add up between what I told them and what they heard from leaders.
Stanley (now my husband and also a SOD student at that time) went through a lot more misery than I did as he was asked to leave around the same time. The worst part for him was that leaders were talking with the family who had taken Stanley in as a son, back in his home town, and defamed Stanley to the point that they refused to let him come home. He actually had to come stay with my family because he had nowhere else to stay! He is still trying to rebuild that broken relationship.
These statements are true, but not meant to bring any harm to anyone. I forgive, love, and bless each of the leaders and staff at GFA.