We recently received the testimony of Beth, a young lady who spent 18 months as a disciple of TB Joshua at SCOAN. Her story is a disturbing and upsetting one, but it’s important that it is heard. We will be publishing it in several installments. Her story shows how TB Joshua takes gifted people who are passionate for God and breaks them down, leaving them with psychological and spiritual wounds that take many years to heal.
Remember, this story is not unique. There are many other ex-disciples who have been through similar experiences. Many have told their stories on this site: Giles, Emma, Gareth, Graham, and Eddie, as well us other people who were closely involved such as Dr Hardaker, “Cautious” and Hattie.
Contributors to this site have been subject to vicious attacks on their character and even blackmail from TB Joshua fanatics, and Beth is aware that she is likely to experience the same treatment. We have had contact with Beth for some time now, but until now she’s not been ready to tell her story. As many ex-disciples are not ready to tell their stories, or prefer to forget the whole experience, this has taken her great courage.
Beth’s story – beginnings
I spent almost 18 months at SCOAN over a period of 2 years. In that time I was diagnosed with malaria on two separate occasions with severe anaemia, that left me hospitalised both times. I became very thin, dropping four dress sizes since the day I arrived. Each time I became ill I was prayed for, sent home and never contacted again.
I’ve never truly recovered my physical strength from this period in my life, but worse than the physical damage has been the long-lasting psychological effect. It’s only now, after a number of years, I feel able to speak about my experiences. I want to share my story in the hope that others will be able to avoid the worst experiences of my life. I also write in the hope that my old friends, who I think about often, that have not yet been able to leave may read this and know there is a life after SCOAN.
I first heard about SCOAN as a teenager. I had become increasingly involved in a “radical” evangelistic Christian community at home, and fasting, all night prayer vigils and a fervent belief in the healing and miraculous power of God were normal for me. Therefore, it did not take much to convince me SCOAN was a work of God.
I visited the church in the first instance to find out about it. I had seen the videos, was impressed and wanted to experience it. TB Joshua was kind to me, called me his daughter and gave me privileges beyond what any other visitor would receive. In short, he wooed me into his church. His attentions mixed with the “miracles” I witnessed on this visit convinced me to return. I accepted the significant amount of cash he gave me at the end of my stay for return flights, believing this was God’s will for me. I returned a year later for good. (Editors note: Hattie describes a very similar experience here)
When I arrived I noticed some strange things. At first I blamed these things on cultural differences and later I was made to believe they were for the greater good. In hindsight I realize they were acts of cruelty and bullying.
The life of a “disciple” was full of fierce competition, often sleepless nights and hard work. We were expected to work all hours of the day running the church, practicing music/editing videos/writing materials/having meetings. Service days involved even longer hours: starting at 6am to process all the sick people who came for healing and often going on into the night. We often fell asleep on the choir stage in full view of the church due to the exhaustion. (Editors note: see Giles’ post for corroboration of this)
Disciple meetings were frequently called in the middle of the night and we were expected to attend. Meetings were used for instruction, but primarily “correction”. With 200+ people in attendance, disciples would have criticisms brought them. Some may have been accurate, but they were often exaggerated, simply untrue or unfair. The purpose of these sessions was alleged to be in order to correct sinful behaviour, but in essence was a form of control. Stories were often unverified, personal or embarrassing, and the accused would often be marginalised afterwards.
There was a process that each disciple went through during their stay. At first the person would be welcomed and most contributions they made would be praised. As the person adjusted to life at SCOAN, they would begin to ask questions. The right to question anything was not granted to disciples, and if you questioned anything to do with the running of the church, or anything that TBJ did, you would be reported.
Following this the most painful stage was breaking a person down. The person would be reported for alleged “sins” repeatedly and publicly over a sustained period of time. Every part of a person’s character was picked apart and criticised. Then, once a person was broken, that person would be built up again to be the type of person SCOAN wanted.
There were many people who disappeared during this process. Some never made it through the character assassination, myself included. I was reported for a period of 6 months, for a number of absurd and false “sins”. I was reported for what I was thinking, feeling, my actions and for being ill. It was public bullying. I was made to feel like a failure over and over again.
One correctional meeting was so personal I could not take it any longer and attempted to leave during the reporting. I left the meeting room and was chased and caught by a large group of disciples. I was dragged back to the meeting. I was forced to explain myself and apologise. I was then chastised for leaving the meeting whilst the “man of God” was trying to correct me and told I was a hopeless case in front of all the other disciples. After this I was left alienated by my other disciples, deeply humiliated by the personal reports and desperate to redeem myself. But the cycle continued.
Disciples came and went during my time, and I don’t know what happened to the majority of those who left. Occasionally a leaver was discussed in the meetings. One I remember was accused of speaking against SCOAN and spreading rumours about TB Joshua. They said he was surely going to end up a criminal. The group took turns in making fun of him and turned on him in such a way it was shocking. (Editors note: Giles and Emma both tell similar stories of these disciple meetings, and you can see one in this video)
It was drilled into us there was no salvation beyond SCOAN. TB Joshua had been baptised in the holy spirit and as such he was speaking on behalf of God. We were made to believe that he was infallible. This instilled in us a fear of ever disobeying him. (Editors note: this teaching has also been reported by ex-disciple Gareth here and here and even current TB Joshua supporter Soe)
Aside from the control through humiliation (this was key to how SCOAN functioned) TB Joshua’s word was final. His permission was needed to buy anything, contact anyone or go anywhere. Contact with my family and friends was totally forbidden without written permission from him. Any desire to make contact was taken to be an indication that you wanted to return to your old life. If he was disobeyed, meals or access to the dormitory were restricted and TBJ had to grant permission for these to be returned. I was once forbidden to return to the ladies dorm one night because I had not stopped a door from slamming, which meant I spent the night on wooden benches in the church at the mercy of the mosquitoes (as I mentioned, during my time at SCOAN, I was hospitalised having contracted malaria on two occasions) (Editors note: In this post Gareth speaks of ‘Addaba’, the state of ostracism and punishment imposed on disciples who ‘misbehave’)
The mental prison I was held in meant that I could not leave or even break the rules if I wanted to be saved.