Monday, May 23, 2011

Chapter 18....Losing Our Son?

Chapter 18... Losing Our Son?

To begin a book with chapter 18, why? I begin here because this is a chapter in life. This isn't the beginning nor is it the end. This is a part of a journey we are on, this is not permanent. Today this feels like the most painful chapter but His joy comes in the morning. He knows the plans He has for me, for you, for our son the end He will be glorified, His truth revealed. I believe God will use this for truth, for healing.

Our firstborn child, a wonderful young man that described himself as a follower of Jesus, a song-writer, a student, a runner...How would I describe him? An absolute blessing, a young man with strong faith, a young man with so much God-given talent, so creative, a young man with strong love and devotion to his family. A joy to be around, a great example to his younger siblings, a tremendous blessing to his parents. A big brother to 6, today they miss him greatly. A son to a mother that adored him, a son to a father that was so proud of him. From the outside we looked like such a happy family, on the inside we were...there was no show, we were a family, a good family and we loved and we cared for each other.

So what changed, what happened, what came into our home that caused so much destruction? A church, Matthew 7:15-20, a place I trusted our son would be safe, a place where I believed our son could and would glorify God, a place that should give hope and reflect joy, show love, seek peace, be kind and gentle, practice and teach self-control. This place I sent our child with blessing has become my biggest nightmare to date. As I look at my family today, I feel like saying this “church” destroyed my family but instead I will say that somehow in this nightmare, my heavenly Father will be glorified. I choose to believe that the darkness within those walls will be revealed. I choose to believe that His light will shine and show the evil that lurks there..Ephesians 5:13 But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them... That in my pain, in what I see as loss and destruction, through that our son will be rescued by the Rescuer and will someday use this as a mighty testimony to our Lord and Savior and His saving Grace.

Our sons involvement at the Crossing Church in Elk River, MN started around Easter 2010. He was invited by a friend to come play on the worship team, his friend that I trust and who I know loves my kid. (I still trust him, I still know he loves my kid) Our son came home so excited, they gave our 17 year old son the ability to lead worship through song (his passion in life) he was excited and would share openly his joy of being there. He came home declaring they (the church) saw real leadership in him and believed in his talent. They lavished compliments upon our son. My first meeting with Eric Dykstra was in the hall after a service, I introduced my self as the mom, his response- a smile, a handshake and a “well done, mom” he is a good one, lots of potential, a natural leader, you did a good job. My response? Thank you, I hope he is a great blessing to the Crossing. My feeling for the Crossing? I will say their tactics, their music, their set-up, well, it's not “my thing” but I am not their vision, they are 'designed' as a church for 18-30 year old beer drinking, McDonald's eating, unchurched guys...not 38 year old moms. The leader, Eric Dykstra, a charismatic, dynamic speaker- he engages you the moment he speaks. I don't understand the way they do the things they do but I blindly trust them, I trust it is of God and I support my son.

September 2010, our son tells us the Crossing has offered him a position as a worship pastor to a new campus (not yet opened, still not open) he will be the Worship Pastor at the Anoka/Ramsey Crossing location but first he must quit his band, they will not hire him if he has a band, why? Because Eric says so. In hind sight this should have been a red flag. Our son is hired on PT, which we are promised, will not affect his schooling, it will only be a great opportunity for him to do what he loves, worship. We aren't thrilled with him giving up his band and his dreams but we support him, for now. He became more involved in the church, he is now 18 years old, going to school FT, (set to graduate in May 2011 with a 2 year degree) working at the church PT, working at home PT as a personal care attendant to a younger sibling, our only concern is we fear he may be taking on too much at church while going to school.

January 2011, our son returns to school after winter break to complete his 2 year degree in May- one semester to go. He says this semester will be “easy” as 200 hours will be an internship that he will complete at church, the other courses, no problem. He went back to school for one week. The Monday morning after school began he approached Mark and myself, he had been acting odd in my opinion and now made this statement, “I have something to say, I am going to speak and you are going to listen. You will not interrupt me and when I am done talking then you can talk and I will listen”. Never had he spoken to us in this authoritative manner, I also noted huge letters “TRUST” written on his hand. (something Eric Dykstra does) He began by informing us that he would be dropping out of school, he will be moving out, he will be moving in with Eric and Kelly Dykstra, he will no longer be a pca for his sibling, there is nothing we can say or do, he has made up his mind, he has prayed about it and feels God wants him to do this. Mark and I are shocked, we are not angry, we are shocked and I am sad. Sad that my son wont finish what he promised he would, sad that he would move out, right now. Sad that in a blink of an eye his whole life seems to have changed. I am sad, we are sad, we are not angry....not yet.

As the day progresses I keep asking questions the why, the how, the whats- as the story unfolds I learn that there was a meeting at church/work about stress levels, following the meeting Eric asks the group who has a stress level over 5, raise your hand- our son raises his hand, he is instructed to meet Eric in his office. He explains his stress level, at church 2.FT school 3.PT job at home, now enters Kelly Dykstra, she asks him how much money he makes at home, he tells her and she offers to match that and tells him to quit his job at home, they discuss school (he is going to graduate in 4 months) she counsels him to drop out of school as he wont need that degree- his career is with the Crossing, he informs her that if he quits school he will need to move out, she kindly gives him a new home (with her) So we (mom and dad) learn that our 18 year old son has been counseled by his pastors to quit school, quit PT job at home, move out and into their home. Angry? Yes. This woman is counseling my son in areas that are not her business, what right does she have to tell my son what to do. He was not seeking their counsel, he was asked, by the leaders, if his stress level was over 5 to raise his hand- he did what they instructed him to do and now they were further instructing my 18 year old son what to do with his future.

If this isn't insane enough, enter in NEW 26 year old girlfriend who is also a worship leader at the Crossing. Getting strange vibes from this new relationship of 2 weeks I begin questioning our son as to where this relationship is heading, I learn that within the 2 weeks of dating that she (girlfriend) has gone out with Kelly on a lunch date, during this time there was a conversation that I was told went like this, from Kelly “if you are afraid of falling into sexual sin and know you are right for each other then just get married”, I (mom) have officially lost it! Leadership at the Crossing has instructed my son and now girlfriend of 2 weeks to get married, he is strongly considering it- WHAT IS GOING ON?!

 Meanwhile, an employee is “let go” and staff is instructed to not speak with him or socialize outside of church with him, they are not told why. They do not question why, no one questions Eric Dykstra, it is not allowed- if you question him, you question his authority and this is seen as disobedience.
That night while sitting in my bed , the realization of what was happening and what my son is involved in hits me with great force. Crying from the pit of my stomach, I feel like vomiting- I cry out to Mark, I share my fears with him- I tell him about the lunch date, the marriage thing, the staff member fired and Mark too gets more concerned. We go downstairs and confront our son, we share our fears with him and ask him to get out of that church- I tell him I believe it is a cult and plea with him to leave.

The following day I get a text message from our son stating Eric would like to meet with Mark and I at 6:30pm, if we were willing...yes, we are willing. That evening we did meet with Eric, our meeting began with a mission statement, Eric's mission to “depopulate hell”, that he doesn't care who thinks he is crazy, they are on a mission to save those far from Christ- my thought? We (Mark and I) are on a mission to save our son. During our meeting we shared our concerns over the counsel our son had received by Kelly, also questioned Eric why the church had to monopolize all our sons talents including having to quit his band in order to work there, his response about the band “if he wants to work here he cannot be in a band” that is his rule. Why? Because. His response about Kelly's advice to our son, none. He did ask us at one point “what is it you want?”, I thought the question odd but responded with “I want my son not married for one year”, Eric looked at me, clapped his hands and stated “done!”, he really believes he has that much control over my son? Here Mark and I have been pleading with our son to hear us but with one clap of Eric's hand he believes he can stop this. Eric instructs us to go home, kick our son out- “he needs to become a man”, Eric states no longer can our son live with them (the Dykstra's)but he has another home in mind for him, a home with people that work at the Big Lake Crossing campus. So Eric will meet with our son tomorrow for lunch and tell him to not even discuss marriage for one year and we are to go home and kick our son out so he can become a man and go live with people he doesn't know because Eric said so.
We did not kick our son out, we gave him until May as previously agreed upon, without the Dykstra's instruction. But he has decided to move out now and into the home Eric has found for him. There is no stopping him, he is determined to run, quickly. Within days he packs up and moves out, it was painful and it was ugly. I told him in tears as he left that this was wrong, this was not how it should be, we should be happy for him, we should be excited for what lys ahead but we are scared to death and heartbroken. This very much felt like he was running away but why? And to what?

April 2011, we (Mark and I) are informed that there will be a wedding, Sunday May 22, 2011 at 8pm, our son will marry and again there is nothing we can do about it. Everyone within the Crossing is in full support of them, they are doing what God has clearly told them to do and again there is nothing we can do about it. Our son was here at home, alone, defiantly and defensively sharing his plan of marriage, my reaction was silence. What happened to my son? Where is he? And who is this ass (excuse my language) that now speaks to me so rudely? He did say the Dykstra's were unaware of the marriage plan, that they  would be meeting with them in the morning, I took it upon myself to make sure Eric knew our feelings regarding a way too fast marriage hadn't changed.
Tuesday morning 9am, I called the Crossing to speak with Eric, I didn't get through to Eric but I did get Kelly. I spoke with her for about 20 minutes, sharing our first meeting with Eric and our desire to still see our son wait for the one year we had asked him to wait. Kelly stated “we teach here that if you are no longer living under your parents roof and they are no longer financially responsible for you then you need not obey them.” That being said she shared from some personal experience and stated that during the meeting his parents view would be represented.
Later that day I sent a text to our son asking for an update, were there any changes to their plans or should Mark and I request a meeting with them. Eventually he responded, stating they would like to meet us at Broadway Pizza at 5pm, my response was 8pm would work better but asked if home would be more appropriate to meet, his response-”we want to meet in public” WHAT?! Meet in public?! There was a couple more exchanges, including one from Mark asking him “when did our home become enemy territory?” with no response..I waited quite some time then sent another message stating we (dad and I ) want to meet with you, alone- anywhere. He finally agreed to come home.

That night at 8:30pm he came home, once again defensive- he sat on the couch and once again instructed us, this time we were to speak and he would listen then he would read a letter to us and we would listen. What we heard in bits and pieces was, he did not need to “obey” us (same reasons Kelly gave) that Jesus came to divide, that your enemies would be in your own household, he shared his love for his now fiancee and that God was calling them into marriage, now. Again, everyone within the Crossing was happy and excited for them and why can't we be too. We also learned that it was the instruction of Eric and Kelly that he wanted to meet us in public, something he later stated he regretted following. When our son left that night sadness fell over me and his dad, what happened to our son?Why does the Crossing have so much say over our son? Why are their voices louder than ours?Why are their voices of God and ours is not? Many unanswered questions.

That night before I went to bed I wrote the following fb message to Kelly “May you never know the feeling I have right now. An 18 year old young man, encouraged to drop out of college (months shy of degree) move out quickly and yes, get married- advised, you no longer need to "obey" your parents, this isn't obeying- this is honoring and respecting the wishes of those that know you. And yes, we paid for that ring without knowing. I believe you have partial truth, at least I pray that is the case. Katie “

 I received this response the next morning “Katie, If you need to vent, I'm not available to you. Midnight Facebook messages are rarely Holy Spirit-guided. I'm sure you have plenty of friends to vent to, who will commiserate with you and love you through this. If you would like some counsel on moving forward and seeking a healthy family situation, I'm more than willing to talk with you. I would consider it an honor to share wisdom we've learned over our years of ministry. I am home today with two sick children. My phone number is (please don't give that to anyone else). You are welcome to call me after 9:30. Love,Kelly”. I did not call her and received this message the following day “Hi There, Katie, Before we move forward, I want to give you an opportunity to help clear a few things up. I'm thinking there's a fair amount of "he said/she said" going around. All I know for sure is that we (Pastor Eric and I) need to make sure our side of the street is clean. I'll leave it in your hands. If you would like to establish some common understanding before we move forward, you're welcome to give me a call. It might be helpful. Ya never know 'til ya try. I'll be available this evening (for the most part) and tomorrow between 8:30-12 if you'd like to call me. With prayers for peace,Kelly “....I called with hope for peace.

The conversation started with our son not needing to “obey” us, I stated I agree he doesn't need to obey us but he is to honor and respect us, and that he doesn't need to obey her. Kelly's response “I am his pastor, counselor and employer, he will listen to me” I was shocked and angry, who is she? My son doesn't need a mother, he has one. My son wasn't looking for her counsel, he was in a meeting, asked a question, raised his hand and control took over his life. During our call, Kelly took on a tone of authority, I recognized it as my son speaks to me in the same manner and I wasn't responding to it well, she then began letting me know how amazing I was- I felt like I was being manipulated. She did not deny telling my son to quit school, to quit his job at home, offering him a place to live, she also did not deny telling his fiancee to marry him to avoid sexual sin after dating 2 weeks.

This was an emotional phone call, I was an angry mother dealing with a woman that strongly felt she had the right to advise my son. At one point her tone changed, in a loud authoritative voice she began “In the name of Jesus Christ, I command all spirits of (my ears close off here) and she “binds all spirits of” ears stop again- she was binding and casting demons out! I couldn't believe what I was hearing, it was completely inappropriate, this had nothing to do with satan and I believe I said that or possibly called her satan, not sure. I hung up the phone, wasn't going to listen to anymore of that. I came out of my room, scared, shocked, confused, laughing, near tears, what just happened?

Since this night I have begun investigating and have found so many disturbing things, I believe this church is a son, I believe, has joined a cult.

Warning signs -in part, “If your child has joined a church that now has taken up all his time. That he or she has just informed you that he wants to move out from your home and move in with the members. If he has given up his goals and the aspirations he had to further his education very quickly after joining.He starts to dress differently and loses interest quickly in his oldest friends. Anytime there is a very quick change in personality and lifestyle influenced by the new group they are attending and they cannot explain or share the reasons. These are all warning signs that cult like changes have begun
If one is already faced with their child joining there are some basic guidelines to follow. The first thing one needs to do is avoid pushing one to make a decision to leave. The reason for this is that they are probably being told this will happen from their parents and friend’s, so they look upon this as Satan attacking. so one needs to be as patient and understanding as possible even if they know it is wrong.
Scriptures are often used about leaving your family or Christ came to divide. While these are all true they need to be interpreted right. Groups often bring biblical teaching to an extreme. You can show them other passages like Jesus taking care of his own mother giving her over into hands of John even from the cross (Jn.19) Paul says in Eph.6:2, "Honor your father and mother," which is the first commandment with promise. What is meant is that a family that is non believers is not to have hold over one that believes and influence toward ungodliness. What happens is that cults divide a family that was once together as believers which is certainly not the intent of the passages used in Mk.10:29; Lk.12:53 As Jesus said about his family being there to see him. Luke 8:21"But He answered and said to them, "My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it." He didn’t separate from his blood family, but explained the true meaning of family and their relationship to God. Certainly Mary his mother obeyed God, yet his brothers and sisters were non believers until after the resurrection (James and Jude).
Crossing Church, I answer yes to 1,2,3,5,6,8,9,10,11,12
If you answered "no" to all of the above 12 questions, your church is very healthy. If you answered "yes" to three or more, your church is showing signs of being unhealthy. If you answered "yes" to six or more, your church is very unhealthy. If you answered "yes" to eight or more, your church is more than likely a full-blown authoritarian cult.
Yes to number 1, 2, 3 (2 week fasts) 4,5,6,7,8
Reading a book “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse”
Chapter 5 Identifying the Abusive System
  1. Power posturing, leaders spend a lot of time focused on their authority and reminding others of it, as well
  2. Performance Preoccupation, these systems are preoccupied with the performance of their members. Obedience and submission are two important words often used.
  3. Unspoken rules and the “cant talk rule”
Chapter 9 “Because I'm the Pastor That's Why!”...sounds familiar