My first encounter with the Plain Truth was 1970 when a co-worker in a factory gave me several issues. I was in High School then and 17 years old. I became a member when I was 23.
At times I feel reassured that many of us ex-members of the WCG have recovered both emotionally and psychologically, but then, I also realize the strong—often indelible—residuals we carry for years. That is why I believe this corruptible cult was so dangerous. The leaders of the WCG allowed imprinted memories in our minds that will never go away.
The regrets I carry to this day is the enormous emotional sting that I left on my mother for the years that I refused to even acknowledge her birthdays, not to mention the birthdays of her grandchildren that we kept her from experiencing. The celebration of Christmas and Easter were strictly verboten, all the while we justified our unloving actions to family members under the guise of “following God’s Law.” If anything, we became the epitome of Pharisaical self-righteousness. While my mother and older sister have long since passed away, I still feel the shame of my incorrigible behavior toward them. Now I understand the deep, brokenhearted feelings of those we harmed because of our practices.
In 1990, my wife of 12 years divorced me after an affair with a WCG elder who worked hand-in-glove with the pastor of the local church in Hammond, Indiana. His name was John Ritenbaugh, who left the WCG and founded The Church of the Great God in South Carolina. They were both hard core supporters of HWA. A year later, in 1991, I was falsely accused of child abuse, and then lost contact with my three children for 26 years. I was given an order of restriction, which meant I was not allowed to see my children until they reached legal age. By then, it would be too late—they had been brainwashed by HWA while I had been gaslighted. A few years ago I was able to reconnect with one of my children. As for the other two, they still have nothing to do with me. It’s been 31 years since I last saw them.
In short, I lost everything I owned, including my three children. I wanted desperately to jump in front of that diesel engine that pulled up every day at the train station to take me to work.
The reason I mention all this is because at that time I had just about enough of this group that prided itself in being the “one and only true church of God.”
At the lowest point in my life, preparing to file for bankruptcy, I walked into a Christian bookstore in Indiana, looking for any book that would somehow fix my situation. Instead, what I found was a wall plaque with a poem from an anonymous author. It was called “Footprints In the Sand.” I stood there as the tears rolled down my cheeks. I also purchased several cassette tapes of traditional hymns that I had never heard before. I chose them by their titles, such as “What a Friend We Have In Jesus,” and for the first time in my life I heard beautiful, encouraging, heart-warming songs. I had been praying so hard for God to guide me through this trial. At that moment, I was convinced that He would not forsake me. And He has walked with me ever since.
I lived through every moment of frustration, fear, and doubt while a member of the WCG for 22 years. Though I had considered suicide several times, my Savior was walking beside me, and at times He carried me. Now, having come a long way out of this experience, I can say with reassurance that He was faithful. And while I was running away from women, as a result of what had been done to me, a woman came into my life who would later become the love of my life for 25 years, until she passed away in 2016.
There’s so much more to be said about the WCG and its founder. Frankly, I could write a book on all that I suffered in the WCG, and the heavy burdens I have carried. I never lost faith in God. I just didn’t know how He would work things out.
Instead of following all the rules and regulations that were severely enforced upon us in the WCG, I now have a deep and abiding relationship with Jesus, and I’ve grown so much stronger over the years.
Thank you for hearing me out.
By Trent (former member of WCG)
January 1, 2023
Revised January 25, 2023