Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Our Courtship Story: Lessons in Life

Continued from Talking to Myself

January-February 2001

Back in Kansas, Chris was as frustrated with the slow pace as I was. Scott* would mail Chris a list of [some very personal] questions and Chris would fire off a lengthy response. And then he would wait.

As far as Chris, living in his parents' basement while working full-time, was concerned, this correspondence with my father had top priority. After all, his future happiness was at stake! Looking back, I realize my courtship was just one of many more immediate responsibilities my dad was juggling, He had ten kids at home: there were diapers to change, bathrooms to clean, cars to maintain, children to educate. He had a business to run, schoolwork to grade, lessons to share at church, three college-age kids to advise. It was the coldest, darkest part of winter in Michigan, his wife's father was dying of brain cancer, and now his grown daughter Andraste* wanted to apply for a job that required black pants as a uniform. Yeah, Scott had a lot on his plate.  

My dad took the job of evaluating the character of a potential son-in-law very seriously, and as swift decisiveness had never been Scott's strong suit, "negotiations", as I called them, dragged on maddeningly. Chris even dialed Scott's number one night and cried into the phone as he made his plea to be permitted to write to me. But on the other side of the planet, I knew nothing of this.

* * * * * *

Just a week into the new year, Bob and Pearl returned to Canada. I said my goodbyes at the SIL guest house and moved in with another Canadian, a petite and girlish grandma whom I will call Catherine*. Catherine's housemates had been called back to the States unexpectedly, so she offered me a room for the rest of my stay in Nasuli.

Posing with my travel buddies near Davao City
I had scarcely settled in before another adventure beckoned: Ted* and a buddy were making a trip south with Tina*, one of the linguist-translators. Would I like to ride along? The pilots could manage without me for a few days, and this was a chance to see much more of the island as well as meet many of the translators I contacted by radio each morning. I didn't have to be asked twice!

The adventure of travel--with its new foods, new vistas, new micro-climates, new bathroom plumbing systems to figure out--made me feel even more alive. We saw the geothermal plant on Mt. Apo and hiked a trail to some of the volcano's famous hot springs. I slept under a mosquito net for the first time, and sat beside a dead body with a grieving family when Tina's translation assistant died during the night.

The change of scenery, while emotionally grueling, was cathartic, too. And when I returned, I was more sure of myself. I changed my work computer's wallpaper to a photo of Chris and began telling people when they asked that he was the guy who wanted to marry me. When they were inevitably confused, I would explain about my dad, and permission, and agreements signed when I was a fifteen. I remember one long conversation about it with my married friends from New Zealand, who promised to pray for Chris and me.

Though I scarcely knew Catherine when I moved into her home, I soon came to value her as the kindest friend and mentor I could have asked for. Simply sharing life with this sunny-faced woman was an unexpected treat for me--watching her plan the menus and grocery lists, drinking hot tea together after lunch, washing the dishes together on Sunday, watching movies on Friday night, working on jigsaw puzzles and eating leftovers.

One weekend as Catherine and I lingered at the table, I confided my resentment. My teenage brother and sister were going to swing dances, yet Chris and I were banned from emailing each other?? In what universe did that make sense? She didn't offer answers, but her sympathy was a balm to my heart.

As the weeks went by, I grew increasingly distracted and it took greater effort to focus on my official tasks. We were working on some hand-drawn health booklets for Tina to share with her village when a page captured my attention. The booklet was offering women the most simplistic information about "natural" birth control, teaching them to identify their most fertile times. Intrigued and curious, I lost little time getting to the Nasuli library for more research.

My sex ed up to that point had been mostly limited to childbirth and menstruation, with a cursory explanation of fertilization. As I paged through old books--likely left behind by former Nasuli residents--on something called "the Billings method", I was amazed at how little I had understood my own body.

Suddenly what I had always thought of as fickle emotional swings made biological sense! So my waxing and waning physical desires were not a function of how "spiritual" I was on a given day, but of a natural and even predictable cyclical chemical sequence. Wow!

Though we'd been careful never to talk about marriage directly, following Gothard's express teaching, I knew from hypothetical situations we'd guardedly discussed that Chris would not sacrifice a wife's health or sanity for any "full quiver" ideal. Still, contraception had always been equated with abortion in my circles, so the notion that I could have some awareness and control of my fertility boosted my optimism. Perhaps there were practical ways to prevent being pregnant for the next fifteen years! Maybe, just maybe, marriage would be less of a self-renunciation than I'd braced myself for.

Stimulated by my new knowledge of my body, I lay in bed and pictured Chris lying beside me, imagined pressing his hand, touching his dark hair.

And I stopped there.

To be continued...


  1. Jeri, in spite of the bad control of Bill Gothard and your dad, you still fared quite well. You are an incredible writer. You are very intelligent. You have an incredible vocabulary. I loved reading your blogs, actually a form of book.

    I feel very sorry for you, for your screwed up love life. I was never in an organizational cult, but my dad ran his own cult at home. I am the oldest of 7. 6 boys and 1 girl, girl is the youngest. Dad made a royal mess of all of us. My self and boy 6 are the worst.

    There was no love in our family. Dad and mom had 7 children but only five grand children from two sons. The rest did not have children. I was and am screwed up, I could not form relationships. I was and am actually afraid of people. I was beaten so bad, I had a difficult time walking a straight line all my life. I have a multitude of functional disorders.

    Dad operated on the idea of "spare the rod and spoil the child" and if some was good, more was better. I became retarded from the extreme abuse and beatings. I am mentally handicapped due to abuse.

    The cult of Bill Gothard resembles the cult of L. Ron Hubbard and the Church of Scientology, but the church of Scientology (COS) is exponentially worse.

    The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

    In principle, the basic principles and intentions of the Character First program are good. Human leaders are flawed.

    The same applies to Hubbard and the COS. Hubbard passed away in 86, and David Miscavige (DM)usurped power and control of the COS. DM is worse in some ways than Hubbard. It is best to stay away from the COS.

    But the subject of scn is basically good also.

    End of part one.

  2. Part two: Though, the same as when evaluating or judging Gothard, Christianity and the principles of the Character First program, you have to separate and evaluate each one on their own merits.

    The same has to be done with Hubbard, the Church of Scientology and the subject matter or philosophy of scientology.

    The subject of scientology contains the most valuable knowledge on earth. But it is severely screwed up. Only a small percentage of it is correct or true. For the most part, the books of scientology are mindblowing.

    That is what all the craziness, all the fanaticism is about. Hubbard got all this special knowledge (or most of it and best quality knowledge)in the 30s when he had a near death experience in the dentist's chair and entered what could well be the kingdom of heaven and found what he described as the answers to every question man has ever asked, or more accurately all the knowledge that was necessary to solve all the problems of man, all the problems of the mind and life.

    It is basically or in large part psychotherapy. All the psychotherapy taught in academia is garbage.

    That special knowledge is spread out through the works of scientology. If you or anyone reading this, is interested in this, there is now freezone scientology which is separated and independent from the COS.

    There are lots of fz sites on line. And a few fz organizations where a person can do or study scientology independent of the COS. There is Ron's org in Europe, there is the DOR centre in Israel, there is the Life Enhancement centre in Idaho.

    What the fz orgs teach is basically the same as what is taught in the COS.

    Scientology means the science of knowledge, wisdom and truth.

    It is the science of enlightenment.

    At least it is supposed to be that. It falls very short.

    What has to be done is someone that is intelligent and competent, and extremely well read in religion and philosophy, and a truth seeker, with a good scientific mind, has to study everything there is in scn and glean all what is good and do it right.

    End of part two.

  3. Thanks for sharing your story. It reminds me a lot of my own experiences. Although my family only joined ATI for a year when I was young the ideology stuck with my parents. I grew up under a lot of the same restrictive, and stunting ideas.
    Your story really encourages me I am not alone in discovering the Emperor has no clothes.

  4. As always, Jerusha, the shared torture and pain of our youth helps me to realize that I was not alone and that the intermittent pangs of memory still haunt me, I can continue to heal and grow. Self love is the BEST love and I will always and forever continue to share that belief. We can heal, renew and flourish. Again, thank you for your gift of selflessly sharing your story so that we may also attempt to find ourselves.