In the final part of Beth’s story she tells how she has gradually got her life back together after her time at SCOAN nearly destroyed it.
Gradually, my life began to resemble a fairly normal existence. I began to realise there was a lot more to life than what I had been living. I thought back to the wonderful experiences I had had in my life pre-SCOAN and began to focus on trying to experience those again. It was a superficial recovery at first, but it was an important step as I started to let go a little. I chose to go to university and travel, even living abroad and eventually began a profession.
Throughout this period, SCOAN beliefs continued to affect me. I was convinced my “sins” would one day come back and haunt me. I always expected something terrible to happen to me or my family. But I would try and suppress these thoughts and be normal.
However, I could not hide my feelings for long and started being reckless with my life. I started taking risks I wouldn’t normally take, because I felt my wasted life didn’t matter anymore. SCOAN had robbed me of all my self esteem, self respect and of any purpose I had had.
The cracks started to show. I was drinking heavily and could never face my emotions, but could only let them out in drunken rants. I became extremely jealous of how stable my friends and colleagues appeared to be while I was falling apart on the inside.
After a small breakdown, I took a course of counselling at my University. An hour a week of solid crying and no progress made, I resigned myself to having to live with this fear and rejection.
A few years later, out of the blue, I heard of some SCOAN disciples were living nearby. I was convinced they were coming to find me and I would be forced back into SCOAN. I sobbed several times a day, at work, on public transport, at home, and I was scared to go out of my house in case they found me. I began fearing for my life and my mental stability.
At around the same time I heard leaks about how TBJ had sexually abused disciples. This time the breakdown was total. I was living with a psychologist at the time, and she encouraged me to get help. I started seeing a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist. Over the course of some months, she helped me to realise I still had many unhealthy beliefs, and I realised the fears I was living with were making me depressed and anxious. I had been repressing my fears and guilt for being involved for so long. CBT was the hardest thing I have ever done, as to relive my experiences was tough. However, with this help, I have finally faced up to my experiences. I no longer feel afraid.
Since coming to terms with my experiences I’ve spoken with other ex-disciples. In some ways their stories are harsher than mine. They experienced bullying and also physical and/or sexual abuse. One thing I had to realise was just because my abuse wasn’t physical (and I’ll never know why it wasn’t), it hasn’t meant that its effect has not been equally devastating.
It’s easy to excuse things that are wrong as being due to cultural or religious differences or a personality. But deep down there is a truth. I never questioned it when girls were going to TBJ’s room in the middle of the night and not coming back for hours. In fact (and I’m so ashamed of my blindness) I felt jealous of the extra guidance they were receiving. I hope that those still involved will come to see the truth.
Also the guilt has been hard to deal with. I think of people I encouraged to visit SCOAN. Those who went with faith that God would heal them who died as a result of the dangerous advice given at the church. And countless people, unknown to me, who spent their last savings coming from all over Africa and the world to be lied to and taken advantage of. SCOAN continues to cause so much needless suffering. Its victims include the poorest and most vulnerable.
SCOAN is not an innocent or well meaning organisation. In my experience it is one that will use all manner of cunning, corrupt and sacrilegious methods in order to bring people under their influence. I think often of those girls who continue to be abused and have no voice as they are fearful to speak out against what they believe is God. I think of them often and know I was lucky to escape.
And for those of you thinking of visiting, attracted by what seems impossible anywhere else in the world- I urge rationality and caution. Some things are too good to be true. No church is perfect. No one is perfect. Do not abandon your right to question as I did and be influenced to believe anything other than what you know in your heart to be true.
I left SCOAN and felt like I lost my moral compass. I had been told what was right and wrong for so long I lost all perspective. Since then I have not rediscovered my faith in God, but I have found my moral bearings. There is no religion that I know of in which bullying is acceptable. In no moral code is sexual abuse acceptable. Think rationally.