Note: This is 2 in a 3-Part Testimony.
It seemed like things began to heat up, suddenly, all around. The woman from Europe started talking about me to other people and also started speaking against the people who were under my ministry. One woman she told, according to the woman’s account, that she was “going to hell” for being “fat” and eating pork. Then, all of a sudden, I got an inbox from the woman in Europe, that seemed strange to me. It was like she was alluding to a problem that I didn’t know existed, but sounded vaguely like things my apostle had been speaking to me. I didn’t respond much at the time, but it was obvious from posts that people were putting on their pages that there was some sort of undercurrent going on.
About three days later, I got an inbox from the woman in Europe, telling me that she was no longer speaking to me and that I would understand why. I was deleted and blocked by the time I got home, and when someone covered by the ministry found out, she posted a status on her page on my behalf that blew up in our faces, quickly. Her post, which simply tried to address the mess that was going on and clarifying where people should go if they were having a problem with the ministry, became a battleground between my leader and my best friend, who gave me the name and helped with the vision of Sanctuary. Despite requests for the mess to stop, the two of them went at it for well over an hour. The next day, I woke up to find myself deleted and blocked by my friend and more conniving from my leader. She told me that having a friend like that would drag me to hell and that I shouldn’t have friends like that in the first place. I knew at that moment that I couldn’t have a leader who would do that to anyone, particularly someone who wasn’t a Christian. We all know that we are called to be a witness, and that if I covered someone who had behaved like that, I’d be up one side of them and down the other. I was hurt and betrayed by my leader, who was supposed to be there for me and to support me in what I was doing. I was also deeply hurt and felt very betrayed by my friend, who I believed was mature enough to handle any disagreements we might have had and was shocked that he would so easily throw me over because he disagreed with someone I knew. He unblocked me and re-added me, but things were never the same, and somewhere in there, I learned to live with the new “normal,” without my friend. My leader, however, became another story. When I respectfully requested to be released, she did so, confirming that everything she had issued remained intact, but was very angry with me for the fact that she felt the woman in Europe “went on with her life,” but we were all still here, dealing with this mess. She never apologized for her behavior, nor for her negative witness.
Three weeks later, I received an email from the woman in Europe, accusing me of gossiping about her with my now former leader. Even though I tried to defend myself, I gave up by this point in time. She was never going to believe that I was not the instigator of what happened, even in the face of offering to send her the discussions I’d had with my leader. I was not the one who raised concerns and I even defended her at time when this woman was saying things I knew were false. But, alas, I knew that she wasn’t going to listen. I accepted that my now former leader was running around as some sort of double agent, causing problems that didn’t exist between the woman in Europe and me, and who knows who else. I accepted my defeat. I accepted that this was a battle I’d lost, I didn’t know what God had ahead at this point, and all I wanted was my life back. I was sick of the chaos that seemed to encircle me and the way that things were constantly out of control. One of the women who also was involved in the mess, accusing the woman in Europe of damning her to hell, also started attacking me and my leadership in the ministry. While she backed off, quickly initially, I didn’t have the strength to fight her at the time. I was also concerned about our finances, because so many things started to rapidly change. I didn’t know who else was going to leave or what else was going to happen, so I let things lie – and didn’t address her blatant disrespect in the way I should have.
By August, my state of chronic depression and confusion still hadn’t lifted. I had started a new book on evangelism that was flowing well, but otherwise, I seemed to be in constant disarray and conflict. I had to move because my rent kept increasing (a move I didn’t really want to make at that time) and had recently met a local minister who wanted to partner together with both of our ministries to start a local church work here in Raleigh. I knew I wanted to get better for that, but I didn’t know how to get better for it. Casually speaking about it to a minister I had licensed and ordained right before all this came up, he mentioned to me that he thought what might be going on was witchcraft. After praying with him, the problem did seem to lift and get better, although it did not go away completely. It got better enough for me to think clearly and see what I wanted to do, and from there, I started to set my sights on the invitation to join with this other minister and help start this church. I thought that maybe this would be a way to start to introduce the community to Sanctuary and to the greater work that was coming.
The minister who asked me to do it was very charismatic, albeit very young, even younger than I was, which, by many church standards, was young. I met him two days before I was being deleted and blocked by the minister in Europe and hell broke loose with my leader. I’d gone to a pre-ordination ceremony that a friend of mine from New Jersey was officiating at, and since I’d never gotten to meet him in person, I thought it was a great time to do so. The first night I met him, he was already offering to share a building he was considering up in Durham, and the woman he was with was a pastor’s wife for another church, where he would be speaking the next day. Things seemed fine – he was well-liked, people seemed to throw money at him, he was very good at handling people (which I was not and I attributed to many of the issues I’ve had over the years) and he seemed to be a decent speaker – so when I was given the invitation to work on this project, I didn’t think a lot about it. There was nothing that spoke he was anything other than he said he was…except one day, in July, when I hadn’t heard from him for several weeks. It was like he just fell off the planet. There he was, interested in working on stuff…and then there he wasn’t. Out of the clear, blue sky, I said to myself, “I wonder if he’s in jail!” Then I said, “Where in the world did I get that from?” I didn’t think much about it, again, and pushed it aside.
It turns out, that’s exactly where he was. I didn’t find that out until very far after the fact. But that’s exactly where he was. That was God Who put that thought there, I just didn’t realize it.
It was decided I would be the apostle over the church, while the other minister (he claimed to be a Bishop, so that is what I will call him, for clarity’s sake) was not coming under my ministry, but would retain his own leadership. Somewhere in here, we were supposed to be doing this together, and both groups that we had would be accountable to both of us. It sounded really good in theory, but its reality was quite different. For one, I suspected people were getting the idea that he was my leader, when that was never the case. Also, from the people that I had met this man through, it seemed like information circulated like wildfire, albeit incorrectly. I didn’t attribute that to the leader, because I’ve had people do the same for me, but I just had the feeling that this entire arrangement wasn’t going to last long. I resolved to be open-minded, because I was frequently accused of being too “to myself,” and gave it a try to see how things went.
By September, things were off and running with plans for the church. He found a church that was renting out their building for twice per week at the rate of $700 per month. This sounded incredibly high to me for a time-share arrangement on a church, especially given that the church was in one of the worst parts of Raleigh and the building wasn’t much to speak of. I also didn’t trust the woman who was renting out the space. She seemed way too interested in the money and she seemed dishonest to me. I felt like she was always pulling a “con job,” even as far as coming to me without the other minister present and telling me the only reason she wanted to let us use the building was because she liked “my vision.” I didn’t trust her. I tried to talk the other minister out of renting from her, but for whatever reason, he wanted to meet there. So meet there, we did, Saturdays at 12 PM and Tuesdays at 7:30, starting October 2013.
One month into the lease, we were already having problems. The landlord refused to provide us with a copy of the lease and refused to provide us keys to the building, even though they were promised at the lease signing. That meant every single time we were to have a service or a class, we had to wait for an elder of the church to let us in. They would show up late, every week, and cause us to wait, sometimes up to 40 minutes post service time. The people of the other minister’s church in Durham refused to leave Durham and attend the church in Raleigh. People not attending meant that we didn’t have any money, and contriving the rent out of the few people we had turned impossible, quickly. One week the pastor’s daughter came in and threw everyone out of the church during service, telling them they had been there too long and were “over time” (even there were no time restraints on our contract). We were also blamed for damaging equipment that nobody damaged when we were in there. While I don’t question that the other minister I was working with had issues and was shady, we were being blamed for things that we were not guilty of doing. After one particularly negative run-in with her, I knew that there was no way we were going to be able to stay there through the lease, whether we had the money, or not. In the meantime, our most disastrous women’s conference ever took place in Tucson, Arizona. Our host, who volunteered to have us on her own, dropped the ball quite noticeably and that meant we had a huge overhead – between travel, hotel, and venue – that we made nowhere near back. To make matters worse, one of the women who attended the conference attempted to sabotage it and work witchcraft on attendees who were present.
If it wasn’t one thing, it was another.
I went home from Arizona both disgusted and disgruntled, because I was always there for this particular leader, even though I had misgivings about her when we met. I figured that, misgivings or not, I had an opportunity to train and make a difference in her life. She wanted me for her leader, she felt God was in it, and I was willing to see how things went. It didn’t help that the very next week, it was decided that back home, we would not continue to meet at the church where we had been meeting. Not only did he not make good on his promise to supply a full church and tithes, we had another leader fail to follow through on commitment and we were out of money and patience. The landlord was going to continue to treat us as she had been, admit no wrongdoing, and we both agreed to take our chances and stop using the building. She threatened to sue, but nothing came of it. According to what I learned, if we vacated the premise, she had the opportunity to re-rent it and she really couldn’t do much to us from a legal perspective. I don’t even think their “lease” was a legally binding agreement, but I was still very grateful that the matter was not pursued. I knew that if something did come out of it, I would be the one who wound up reaping the harvest, and I was not in a financial position to do so. The ministry and myself were broke at the time, due to all these changes and high expenses. I needed the matter to pass so I could sit back and think about what was next.
I decided that I was not going to move forward with this other minister. I didn’t like how he handled his business and I was suspicious by this time that the whole matter of the church was shady, at best. I did some investigation into him and discovered that he had been arrested and charged on larceny 3 times, and all of those times were within the past 2 years. I graciously stated that I would not be moving forward with them, but I wished them all the best. I took some time, sat down, and thought.
2014 was rapidly moving in, and I desperately didn’t want to have another year like 2013. It’s easy to look over all of these happenings and say “Why didn’t you” or “Why not,” but I know, firsthand, how difficult it is to make decisions when you don’t really know what to do. That was how I spent the entirety of 2013 after I got back from Europe. Everyone I was sure was really for me turned out not to be and that left me not sure who to trust…so you start to work with what you have. You take a chance, whether it’s against your better judgment, or not, and you see where it takes you. I knew, however, that I didn’t want this to continue for another year. This never-ending nonsense was causing me to be not only tired, it was causing me to want to leave ministry. It seemed like everywhere I turned, people were not trustworthy and my attempts at trying to be not so “unto myself,” as I was accused, didn’t work out. I sat back, did some new writing and published some older manuscripts, and waited.