It was early March 1974; I was sitting in my dorm room at Ball State University in Muncie Indiana, crying because my boyfriend was again using drugs. In the dorm room next to mine there was a meeting going on where they were making a lot of noise, singing. When I asked them to keep the noise down, they asked me to join them. I did. It was my introduction to The Way International Biblical Research and Teaching Ministry.
Within a week I was speaking-in-tongues. I attended a Twig Fellowship or just hung out with other "believers" every night. Before the summer ended I had taken the Power For Abundant Living Class three times and completed the Intermediate class as well.
Instead of returning to school, I decided to go out as a Word Over the World (WOW) Ambassador. I was sent to Madison Wisconsin with about thirty-five others. The leader of our group was Bob Vignola, he was on his interim year in The Way Corp; the leadership training program for TWI. My WOW sister Vicky Weinmeister was using this year as her apprenticeship for the 6th Corp. Bob suggested, since I was obviously a leader, that I apply to the Corp so that I could do the same. I did and was accepted.
I started in the 6th Corp in September of 1975. It was an indescribable experience. We were to be out of bed no later than 5:00 am. Generally we were expected to run for at least 2 miles, usually more, plus do calisthenics and work on memorizing bible verses.
Breakfast was at 7:00 am. Usually we listened to Craig (Rev. Martindale) teach during meals. Meals were, to say the least sparse. I had always been thin, however I lost so much weight during that first year that I stopped menstruating. I wasn't the only one. They told us it was because we had become so pure. I later learned that this also happened to women in the concentration camps during World War II. I am 5'8" tall and weighed less than 100 pounds.
After breakfast the Corp was split in half. Half worked during the morning and studied in the afternoon the other half did the opposite. Because we were the first Corp group at Emporia we did a lot of the work that was done to renovate the campus. I have read the amounts they said they spent renovating both Emporia and Rome City. Frankly, I don't believe it. They had slave labor that paid them for the privilege of working.
I still have a scar on my leg that I received clearing the banks of the river (I would have called it a creek) at Camp Gunnison. I cut my leg across my shin with a machete. Instead of taking me to get stitches they closed the 3 inch long cut with several strips of tape and sent me back to work. In all fairness, they did tell me they would take me to get stitches if I could not believe God to heal it on my own.
I managed better at the ranch in Texas. When I was told I had to hitch hike (we always hitch hiked to the other locations so there was no expense for TWI) to the ranch I was terrified. It was the sight of those who had already been and returned that scared me. I am very fair skinned and always burn badly in the sun. I was assigned to kitchen duty. I got up and fixed breakfast for 40 people in the dark, because they all slept in the same area. But, I was thankful. God answered my prayer. I did not have to work for two week in the hot Texas sun.
In retrospect a couple of strange things happened during that year that should have warned me about what was to come. But I was 20 years old and very naive. The first occurred shortly after we got there. Rick Panyard who had talked me into going out WOW and was a 6th Corp "brother" asked me to go for a walk with him one evening. I did and when we were alone in the "back 40" he started kissing me and was actually laying on top of me before I got away and went back to the buildings. I sought Craig out immediately. I told him I did not want to get Rick in any trouble but that since he was married I thought someone should know what Rick was doing. Craig's response was, "If you don't want to, don't do it." He did not say if you want to go ahead, but the implication was there. I didn't want to, so I didn't.
The second incident happened when Dr. Wierwille got his motor coach. The Corp was allowed a tour through the coach. He had a refrigerator magnet inside that was sexually suggestive, I pointed to it and said, "You know, you said at WOW training, don't do it, pack it on ice, and hands off. And in the Christian Family and Sex classes you say don't do it. But you never said it was a sin. His response was to smack me on the butt and say; "You're a real smart cookie aren't you."
During that year I became engaged to a young man who was in the group of College students that were not Corp. His name was Greg Moore. He went into the 7th Corp and so remained at Emporia when I went out on my interim year.
For my interim year I was assigned to State College Pennsylvania with a group of about 10
WOW's. Cathy Oriard was the Roving Regional WOW Coordinator. She decided to be stationed
out of State College. Cathy was an "initiated one". By October so was I. It happened like this . .
Victor Paul Wierwille (I cannot make myself call him Doctor at this point, so I will refer to him as
VP) liked to go hunting with bird dogs. There was a place not far from where I was stationed in
State College that he apparently visited every year. Cathy told us that VP had agreed to come
and teach our Twig while he was in the area. We worked day and night to have enough people to
come to Twig and were literally going door to door in our apartment complex right before he got
there. I suppose I wanted to ensure that we were worthy of his visit. I can still feel the panic.
When he arrived I was surprised to see how many people he had with him in the Motor Coach. Of course there was Cathy, also several of my 6th Corp sisters were there, along with Howard Allen and other area leaders. I do not remember the names of all the young women my age that were there that night, but I remember the number, six.
Twig was strange that night, I led the meeting and VP taught, but we did not have manifestations, as is usually the case. A Limb leader (I think it was Vince Finnegan) started to chastise me for not doing the manifestations, but VP told him to leave me alone. He said I was spiritually in charge of the meeting, and if I felt that they should not have been done then it was God telling me so. I cannot express the relief I felt.
Cathy spearheaded a gift committee of the State College WOW's and picked out the gift she thought VP would most appreciate. It was a silver vessel engraved with "Man of God of the World" for him to drink Drambue out of. Of course we also gave him a bottle of Drambue.
Two days later Cathy came to get me. I followed her to the camp where VP's motor coach was parked. The front of the motor coach was a sitting area and a table, both made into beds. He appeared to like the gifts we brought and poured himself a drink. Cathy, Howard and I also had one. VP then went into the back of the coach. He called me back there. He had undressed and was lying nude, face down on one of the two beds in the rear of the coach. He asked me to give him a back rub. Odd as it sounds, I did not find this at all strange. Back rubs were very common with the Corp and WOW's. While he was laying face down I gave him a rub from head to toe. He rolled over on his back and indicated I should continue, so I gave him a rub again from head to toe, except for his genitals.
When I was done, he looked at me and said, "You are not finished."
I was sitting on the side of the bed. I looked at my hands that were laying palm up in my lap and I started to jabber. That is really the only word for it. I began to talk in a sing song voice about Greg. I told him all I could think of to say about Greg. When I fell silent he smiled at me and said, " That's nice, now go on." And I did.
I cannot tell you everything that happened next; (the reason will become evident). But later, (much later for when this started it was light outside and it had been dark for a long, long time) he told me to get into the other bed. As I was climbing over him he smacked me on my bare bottom and said, "I didn't screw you, but it wouldn't have hurt you if I had."
I got into the other bed and laid there with my eyes wide open, not blinking, but with silent tears running out, until
day light. When it was light, I got dressed and went out to my car. I was in a rage. I spun the tires of my car until I had flung all the gravel, grass and dirt beneath them onto the motor coach and I roared out of there.
That was the first time.
I saw Cathy later that day. I don't remember why I was in her car or where we were going. The conversation I remember. She said in a very enthusiastic voice. "Wasn't Doctors body firm for a man of his age?" In a voice that sounded incredulous I responded, "No." With surprise she asked, "You mean you didn't like it?' Again in the same tone I responded, "NO." Haughtily, she replied, "Well then, you won't get to go again." "Okay," was all I could think of to say.
The next day I saw Cathy again. She informed me that "Doctor" wanted to talk to me. I said, "Okay." She took me back to the area where the motor coach was parked. He took me into the back of the motor coach again and we sat on his bed. He was on the outside and I was on the inside up against a window.
He said he felt like I was upset. (I'm sure God must have given him the revelation on that one.) He said because I was upset that he would do something for me that he never did for anyone. He would allow me to ask him any questions that I wanted to. I asked only two questions.
" What about Dot (VP's wife)?" was the first one. He said that if I were to tell her it would be a bad thing because she would be hurt. But if I didn't she would never know and no one would be hurt. (What about me? He did not even consider what this had done to me and at the time, neither did I.) He told me that she had to have vaginal surgery several years ago and that the doctors made a mistake when she was sown up. Because of this it was painful for her to have sexual intercourse. He said God understood his need and that as a matter of fact even David, a man after God's own heart, had a young woman to warm his bed when he was old.
The second question was, "Why me?" He laughed and said it was because of my smile. I said that was funny because most of the time people told me I didn't smile enough. He said, "You smile with your body." He went on to tell me that Satan had so perverted the world that women only knew how to love with their hearts and that men only knew how to love with their bodies. It was a part of his ministry to teach women to love with their bodies, so that we in turn could teach men to love with both their hearts and bodies. Sex was my ministry to the body of Christ.
I don not know how long we talked. I remember him kissing me. The next thing I remember, it was much later and I was climbing over him again to get into the other bed. There was no disclaimer about what he had or had not done this time.
When I got into the other bed it was already occupied. One of my WOW's was there. I will not say her name. I will tell you she was one of the loveliest women I have ever known, and that she was a virgin. She was not with Cathy and I when we arrived. I do not know how or when she got there that night. All night long I lay with my back to her, my eyes wide open and staring but not able to cry. I listened to her sob the rest of the night. I offered her no comfort. I had nothing to offer. We never discussed what happened. Ever.
I do not know when or how we left, except that David another WOW met us at a McDonalds on the outskirts of the town and he took me home. The incident with VP occurred in October. David comforted me through November and into December. Greg came to see me over Christmas break from the 7th Corp. In February I had an abortion. I do not know who fathered that child.
David "copped out" and left the WOW field when Greg got there. He returned after Greg left, but left again in February when I would not change my mind about the abortion. Greg ended our relationship when I told him about VP. The beautiful, young virgin remained until just after VP did a live teaching of the PFAL class at Ball State. I heard that when she returned home her parents put her into a mental hospital. When I left the ministry a year and a half later, all anyone could tell me was they thought she was still there.
In April of the same year I was getting ready to have my weekly Twig leaders meeting. I was working nights and had just gotten up. I couldn't remember what I had prepared to teach. I was confused and disoriented. I had been confused and disoriented a lot since October. Cathy had told her if I was "like this" again that they were all to come to her apartment. I went there looking for help.
Cathy told me in front of the whole group that I was possessed by devil spirits. I said, "Well one thing is sure, either I am or you are." She wanted to know if I was meek enough to be delivered. She prayed for me and cast out seven devil spirits. She told me that my commanding spirit was a charming spirit, the reason that men had found me so irresistible. She told me a story about my father and my paternal grandmother, she said it was the generational problem that had led me to be open to the devil spirits. I later checked the story out with my mother. It was true.
Cathy told me that they (the devil spirits) would try to come back. I had to guard my mind against them and look for signs that they were back. She warned that if I ever left the ministry without a doubt they would be back. For eighteen years I believed her.
I didn't see VP alone again for a year. The next time I saw him was at a Regional Meeting held during my last year in residence in the Corp. He was standing alone at the end of a long hallway. When I saw him, I ran to him and joyfully called out a greeting. When I stopped in front of him he looked at my nametag and then returned my greeting. I stood and stared in shock for a few seconds, then turned and walked silently away. He didn't even remember my name. I saw the look on his face. He did not care.
I returned to Emporia to oversee the campus while everyone else was gone. It was that weekend that an affair with a married Corp leader started. Not that he was the only one. Nothing really mattered anymore. I became pregnant again and had another abortion. Toward the end of that year Craig chastised the entire 6th Corp for our carelessness. One out of three of the female members of the 6th Corp had abortions while in the Corp program. There were approximately 150 female 6th Corp members.
In my heart I must have known I was ready to leave even though I could not yet give up. I told Ron Hill, who worked in the kitchen at Emporia for his interim year, that if I ever left the ministry I wanted him to promise me that he would kill me. I would rather be dead than be as miserable as what I knew I would be on the outside.
After graduation I was assigned to lead the WOW program in Atlanta, Georgia. I was the only "initiated one" there. I left shortly before VP was to come there for a conference. I knew I would be "handed down" to Howard Allen, as Cathy had been and I would have to bring VP someone new. In my mind I had already picked her out. Loretta, I just could not bring myself to do this thing to Loretta.
I wrote letters to my WOW family, to Patti, my 6th Corp sister who was in Atlanta with me and to VP. I packed my bags threw them out the window and climbed out after them. A friend took me to the airport and I was done with The Way Ministry, or so I thought.
I stayed with my brother and his wife who were both PFAL grads. They were shocked to hear what had been going on in "the ministry". I soon received a call from Howard Allen, who put VP on the phone. VP asked me to meet him in New Orleans, the next conference he was going to. I told him that I had left all my money for the WOW's in Atlanta and did not have enough money to go there. He said that the ministry would reimburse me. I agreed to go, just to get off the phone. He could not understand that they could not reimburse me for spending money I did not have to spend. I just simply did not go.
Later I became involved with one of my coworkers and we went Atlanta to reclaim things I had left behind. The first WOW I saw was terrified of me. He tried to close the door in my face. I quickly got some of my things and left. I did see Loretta. She told me she was going to finish the year and was then leaving the ministry because it was such a joke. I hope she did. I also saw Patti. She was so excited. She was now an "initiated one" and was thrilled by the honor.
Years later, I met the guy who was assigned my duties as WOW coordinator. He was present when VP read my letter. He told me that VP said, "She better have pictures!" I do, pictures that I carry with me always in my heart and mind. When my boyfriend heard something of the incident with VP, the relationship ended.
After another former Way person heard my story he wanted me to go public with it. I gave Channel 6, in Indianapolis, everything I had concerning TWI, even the targets I had kept from target practice. I was set to tape when I got the call from Ron Hill asking me if I remembered his promise. I do not know how they found me or if they knew what I was about to do, but I did not tape the show.
Eventually things settled down and was married for ten years. My husband was not Christian. He refused to listen to anything about TWI or anything spiritual for the most part. Those ten years were as bad as being in TWI because I was so programmed to accept abuse that I continued to do so.
I received counseling after I got divorced and that has made all the difference. I met with John Lynn (who had left The Way) around the same time I started counseling. He discouraged counseling and gave me a book to read called "Toxic Faith". I read it, continued counseling and married a wonderful man.
Years later, John Lynn (an ex-Way leader) asked to hear some details of the incidents with VP. I told him that I could not remember very many details and that I really struggled with that because it is hard to forgive someone for something you do not remember. He responded that he believed the reason I couldn't remember was because I had most likely been drugged. He said he was aware that leaders had been drugging young girls for some time.
I was shocked to the very core of my being. I spent the next twelve hours on my face, weeping, mourning and questioning God. "Father, where were You?" When I settled, He showed me where He had been in my life all this time.
I still mourn the fact that I spent eighteen years after I left "the ministry" believing the lies told to me by The Way International.
MARSHA (last name withheld by request)
Back to "Letters" Menu