OF BONDAGE - Epilogue
By Wayne Hamburger
In the fall of 1992 Mandel and Wayne found a new church home at a country church a few miles from them. At first, the worship seemed strange after all the years spent in Gospel Assembly. They had attended only a short time when the church scheduled a Thanksgiving dinner for members and guests. As Wayne and Mandel stood in the food line, they looked around to see a sight that they had never seen before. At the very back of the line stood the preacher with his wife. Of all the positive aspects of attendance at that church, this had to be the most impressionable for both Wayne and Mandel. Never in their lives had they seen a minister purposely stand at the back of any line, allowing church members to go ahead of them. At a later date, when the preacher made a visit to their home, they commented about it. The preacher was amazed at the reaction because he believed he was doing what the Bible teaches. He pointed out that a minister is to be a servant to the people and not vice versa.
A lovely Thanksgiving service was conducted at the church and everyone was invited to participate. At the front of the church stood a table with several candles on it. Everyone was invited to come to the front, one at a time, and light a candle in remembrance of a deceased loved one. Wayne was unaccustomed to seeing candles in a church service and hesitated to participate. When he observed the spiritual beauty of the proceedings, he lost his suspiciousness and joined in the endeavor. He lighted candles for his deceased father and Mandel's parents. As the names were conveyed to the pastor, they were spoken by the church deacons standing in a large circle around the walls of the sanctuary. Wayne was moved to tears by the proceedings. It was so appropriate for a Thanksgiving service to honor those who passed on their Christian heritage.
A few weeks later the church scheduled a communion service. Wayne and Mandel had never participated in communion because both Sowders and Jolly had taught about the danger in it. Gospel Assembly doctrine emphasized that only perfect individuals could take communion. This was based on the passage from I Corinthians 11:29, "For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body." Jolly interpreted this to mean that individuals who were not perfect could die from communion. He preached that the church congregation in the latter days would take communion at the direction of Christ himself. Although William Sowders and Thomas Jolly both interpreted the scripture in the same manner, it is apparent that Jolly was afraid to take communion because of his pedophelia.
Wayne and Mandel had visited churches before where communion was offered, but always refrained from taking part. Their new church home offered open communion to everyone. Wayne and Mandel discussed their reservations with the pastor and, after awhile, they decided to participate in the communion service. They approached it in a prayerful, humble, and repenting attitude and it was one of the most exhilarating and moving spiritual experiences of their lives. Finally, the dreadful lie that had been promulgated all those years was proven. They still have some apprehension because of past beliefs, but at last they were able to prove to themselves that taking communion is both biblical and spiritually uplifting.
Wayne and Mandel have participated in many other church activities which included singing in the choir. No formal invitation or trial period was necessary. A member asked them to sing in the choir and they have. There are no punitive rules for dress or behavior. The Bible is preached and members are responsible for their own actions. Salvation is presented as a personal relationship between God and the individual and there are no leaders interfering with that relationship. Serving God and attending church are enjoyable once again. Pleasure and joy are seen as positive factors in members' lives. Suffering is viewed as a part of the total human experience and not punishment from God. Church attendance is at the discretion of the individual and not a mandatory ticket to Heaven.
It would not be accurate to say that the entire past has been laid to rest. Wayne is troubled by the alienation of certain members of his family. Stories of church abuse and other reminders of membership in Gospel Assembly conjure up feelings of disgust and heartbreak. It is easy for one who has been a part of a cult to continue to blame himself for being gullible and susceptible. It does no good to wallow in self pity and regret, since this is a part of the recovery process. Writing accounts of these events has proven to be cathartic and no apologies are made for presenting them as seen through the eyes of one who has experienced it.
King Solomon describes this reflection on life in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether it is good or whether it is evil." In the same book is written in 1:4, "One generation passes away, and another generation comes; but the earth abides forever."
We would all like to believe that we are uniquely different in body, spirit, time and place, but history tells us of our sameness. Paul Johnson summed it up best this way, "The study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance. It is humbling to discover how many of our glib assumptions, which seem to us novel and plausible, have been tested before, not once but many times in innumerable guises; and discovered to be, at great human cost, wholly false."
For further information concerning cult-like groups similar to the one described herein, it can be found in the book," Christianity in Crisis," by Hank Hanegraff, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon, 1993.