Giles, who was a SCOAN disciple from 2005 to 2006, gives this account of daily life in the SCOAN complex:
“The first thing you do when you arrive as a disciple is get shown your bedspace. The males and females are accommodated in two huge separate rooms full of bunk beds. You could fit at least 50 beds in each room. Ablutions would be 6 toilets, 6 showers and a couple of sinks. Your luggage would have to fit in anyway you could – under the beds, in between the beds or like me, along the one side of the mattress and sleep on the other side.
One of the things you would notice in the room was that the lights were always on. White light would be on during the day, and darkened blue lights would come on at night. They never switched them off, even when most people were sleeping. I guess it would contribute to the general tiredness I always felt when I lived there. I used to use the aeroplane blinds for my eyes, and ear plugs when I went to sleep, because when you are sleeping in a room with at least 50 people, there would always be snoring.
TB Joshua preaches that each day should be opened in prayer, so for this reason each day everyone would get up real early – the guys and the girls- and go to another big room where we would gather together, and someone would say a prayer. Then most of us would go back to sleep. I’d wake up at maybe 8am, go downstairs to the “disciple’s dining” – the room designated for foreign disciples to eat and study/hang out, and have breakfast.
At a guess there were maybe 20 other disciples there when I lived there. Many were from the UK and South Africa. I struggled alot to relate to anyone because of what they called “thought control”. TB Joshua taught that you should always be careful of what you think, and that you should always be thinking of the Bible and his message. Fair enough. So if not about church work, most conversations would be about the message, the Bible, various miracles that had happened…that sort of thing. So the usual get-to-know-you questions like where are you from, how did you become a Christian, etc would be answered with “thats not important”, “I do not discuss my past”. A new guy like me suddenly found it pretty difficult to even make small talk, let alone make friends, if it wasnt talking church all the time. Even now, I wouldnt say any of them really knew me – what kind of music I was into, how I behaved around a girl I liked, what subjects I was good at in school, hobbies. And I didnt really know any of them.I knew what they believed, I knew what they would say in some sort of spiritual topic, and the quotable quotes they would say. But, I mean two of the disciples had been engaged for several years, and I never knew, I only just recently found out. Its kinda sad.
Another thing I found strange was their custom of calling each other “brother” and “sister”. For instance Brother Dan, Sister Anne, etc. For a while I had an issue with adjusting to this, but only with the “Sisters”. Females seemed far more fanatical about TB Joshua than the guys, who were generally more chilled out. So I tended to have more confrontations with the girls and insisted on just calling them normally by name, saying that unless I began to feel loved like my real sister does, calling them “sister” just seemed pretty phoney. Looking back, it definitely didnt help matters, but whatever. It all seems petty now, but back I’d say what bugged me most was how pretentious it was. The disciples dont love each other, they love TB Joshua. Making someone call you brother or sister isnt going to work if you dont treat them like it. In the end they’ll resent it, like I did.”
Part two of Gile’s account will be posted shortly.