Re: The Living Word Fellowship, The Walk, John Robert Stevens
Date: October 10, 2013 06:00AM
Unfortunately due to the permanent loss of previous posts by many including all of mine and at the request of a fellow poster, I am reposting my story to continue to help others who are on the fence about whether to leave this cult known as The Living Word. If you're NOT on the fence and are curious about how such a "wonderful" church could be labeled as a cult, read on.
I was born into "The Walk" in 1976 shortly after my mother, Ann Huisman, joined this church. I grew up going to church at least 3-4 times per week. I didn't have too much of a life outside of church. Even though it was pretty much all I knew about God and religion and didn't have any other reference point, I still remember thinking how odd some things we did as a church were. Like wearing pin badges that year when it was "SHE who must be obeyed!" and participating in an auction to be able to win the privilege of talking to Gary and Marilyn as a church over the speakerphone. Good God, really??? I even bid on my parents' behalf. Barf.
By high school I was naturally becoming more independent and when a family (whose kids I was close with) chose to leave the church, I started to question the church more. I even fought with my parents about my not wanting to go on Sundays anymore because I felt like they were putting G&M on a pedestal.
Fortunately my budding career as a model right after high school graduation took me overseas and was really able to live life on my own. My love for God never stopped though, and to this day still have my faith, just not to the church. At 26 years old, after I had moved to California to take a break from modeling, I took my then-boyfriend-now-husband to a Feast service. He was so enraged by how the worship service was being conducted (the intense focus on the worship leader and making people look at each other while singing to the "Christ" in each other, remember that y'all?) that he up and walked out of the service and wished God would burn the church to the ground. I went after him that day and that was the last time I ever attended a service as a member.
I rededicated my life to Jesus shortly after that (I never really did that before since I was "born" into it and it's not something the church does - altar calls). Even still, I hesitated to call that church a cult. Why? Because as twisted as it is, there were some elements of Godly truth and as you all know, there are some amazing, loving people in that church.
It took the passing of my mother, Ann Huisman, this year in June to fully and completely sever my spiritual and emotional ties to this church. My Dad (technically stepdad since I was 4 years old) also passed on four years ago. Both of my parents had cancer. Why did I feel like I could finally sever myself that way? Shortly after my Mom had passed, I had found out that during her last year in San Diego (where my parents were living and going to church at the time) Bruce and Gilee Larson gave an order to members of the church to stop relating to her. That means she got no rides to the ER when she needed it and she was newly diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer with no support. WHY? Because my mom finally decided to live life more on her terms. That meant she made certain decisions for herself rather than just doing what Bruce and Gilee wanted her to do. They were her Designated Relationships along with a few others, by the way. I'll let the following letter I wrote to Bruce and Gilee speaks for itself:
Bruce and Gilee,
I need to get this off my chest. I hope you will be willing to read this letter in its entirety.
I am deeply hurt and betrayed by both of you for the cruel treatment of my mother during her last year in San Diego. How dare you cut people off from relating to her and being with her when she most needed it? People wouldn't even give her a ride to the ER when she needed it. There is ABSOLUTELY no excuse for it. You really thought that was best for everyone's spiritual welfare? How wrong you were. Even Jesus ate with people who were considered unworthy.
I am utterly floored, appalled by your ugly directives against her, and I don't care how much you disagreed with her choices. Those were her choices, my goodness she was a grown woman. Her decision to leave San Diego was the best thing she ever did for herself and I never saw her so FREE and happy and she grew closer to God like never before because people like you weren't in the way of it anymore.
I've read all the emails between you and her that she saved on her email account. That she would have to ASK you about visiting me and her family and then ask whether she "needs" to make it back down to church on Sunday, in which you reply that yes, she should visit but she should come back down for church if she could? She had to "SUBMIT" moving to Laguna Beach shortly after my Dad passed, in which you and XXXXX told her to hold off on making that decision. How furious I am. THAT is hardly a decision worth thinking twice about. You robbed me of the help from her and closeness I could have gotten with her when my son was born. You robbed her of being near family after losing her husband of over 25 years. Of course she could have just done so, but you didn't support her in that, so unfortunately she stay put. She was MISERABLE. No wonder she got cancer.
It sickens me how the church treats grown adults like little children, that you act like mommy and daddy and make them feel like they can't make any decisions without your approval. This is a cult to the highest degree. Marilyn is not God, yet all of you treat her as so. You guys have been corrupted by the thirst for power and using the name of God to do these things. You may use fancy terms like mentorship, designated relationships, etc. but it is extremely unhealthy and that practice in the church has got to end. My mother felt she couldn't make decisions on her own. That is spiritual abuse, dxxn it. All these years of her being involved destroyed that decision-making ability and then some. I'm embarrassed for my Mom when I read her emails to you, pouring out her soul, looking for validation, approval and direction. That is what the church reduced her to. I'm glad she got out when she did, so she could experience life in freedom, if only for a short while.
I firmly believe that part of her illness is from the stress that you guys inflicted upon her. I don't blame you for her death, but it certainly didn't help that you BETRAYED her. You may say you loved Ann, but that "love" was obviously conditional. I realize this wasn't your intention, but should serve to show you the TOXICITY of the way the church is being operated, especially in San Diego.
I just pray that you guys wake up to the cruelty you're involved with, get out of the church and start living life free from Gary and Marilyn. Trust me, you're deceived. I really do hope you guys see what you're doing. You've got to stop messing with people's lives. I am flabbergasted that you would think that "Alienation of Affection" to a member of a church is something Jesus would actually condone. It is EMOTIONAL and SPIRITUAL abuse.
I haven't heard back from them nor do I expect to. I sent it a couple weeks ago.
Furthermore, as I was going through my mom's things shortly after she passed, I came across a letter that she wrote only a year ago to my Dad (already deceased). It was obviously a letter where she was practicing forgiveness in the spirit. However, there was a heartbreaking paragraph she wrote. I'm sharing this to show just how deeply affected she was by this church. To put this into context, my Dad, during the last month of his life told my Mom not to "blow out" of the church after he died. For the last 10 years of their lives together, my Mom was becoming more and more disconnected from the church but stayed with it because my Dad was very much into it, and as a fellow poster said when I posted this before it got lost on this website, she probably stayed in it to hold the family together. It would have torn us apart if she left. Below she talks about what happened after he died:
"Most people were worried about me, not knowing what I was going to do. I stayed as long as I could. But the more I stayed the more I realized it was not in me anymore. I was done. I should have left sooner. I don't think I could have left without an excuse. In my mind I needed something so I created that cancer. It was what I needed to get out."
Gosh, let that sink in for a moment. That she felt SO incapable of just upping and leaving because she felt like it goes to show how effed up that church is. Controlling, manipulative, unsupportive of others' individual needs/wants.
My mother (and my dad) were both very healthy individuals. I truly believe their greatness was diminished by this church. If there is ANY good that came out of their deaths, it is that I was finally able to see TLW for what it is.