My Experience at GAC
It was rather touching to hear from all of your experiences at the hands of Gospel Assembly Church. My experience is almost a carbon copy of a chapter in what you have to say about the mind control we, my wife and I, experienced until one day I just said, “Enough of this and if God condemns me so be it.”
I am from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe in Africa and my Pastor was Alois Rutivi. I understand that he now runs a separate church called Gospel of Peace Church. When Bro. Owundo who used to pastor the church in Nairobi Kenya was killed, our pastor was transferred to Nairobi whilst we got a local pastor called Gatsi.
I was not married and fresh from school when the GAC started in Bulawayo 1985 and I remained in the church for the next 13 years which to be some of the most torturous times of my life. Being young and naïve, the appeal of being a member of the only true church in the city had the best of me and was oblivious of the mind control that was at play. I loved God then and still do, having been born a Lutheran and attended Lutheran schools.
We used to be told and almost coerced to attend church three times in a week, two mid-week evening services and one Sunday morning service plus band practice and church construction on Saturdays. My life was almost a set routine - work in the morning, church in the evening, and sleep. I had no life outside the church and each service was meant giving offering; and 10% of my gross salary every month went to support the church with a promise of having a place in the first resurrection.
I had to seek permission to go and see my parents in the rural areas from the pastor and if the pastor thought I had work to do in the church, it meant forgoing it. We never celebrated Christmas because Christ was not born on that day, instead we attended church on that day and we would be shown how this was not the Day of the Lord.
I could gladly have flowed along had it not been for the aberrant cruelty that started being meted against my person in an almost systematic way over every good deed I would have shown another member of the church. Some of the laws that I saw on your website were not clearly enunciated to us but would be pronounced from the pulpit; and one had to figure out what was being said. Invariably I would receive a lambasting from the pulpit and at times will not know how the pastor got to know what I had done, only to discover that the brothers and sisters whom I would have helped are the ones who tipped the pastor. One time I was labeled a son of inequity and was full of witchcraft. Although it was not said in my face nor was I mentioned by name I knew the message was referring to me. As the church was renting halls, church offices, it was my duty to carry all the instruments to my place in my own car at my own expense. Invariably it meant that I was forced to be at the church a good hour before the church started. But all that was not noticed and was referred as the appointed means to have the work of the man of God to prosper. I did not see this abuse and tended to believe I was just a hand tool in the hand of the Master and would testify to that effect and would receive a very loud amen from the pastor.
Something slowly started to die within me when my dear mother passed away in July of 1994. The church did not lift up a finger to help because she was not born again and also not a member of the only true Church of God. I realized I was all alone in the world and the relatives I had shunned and ignored visiting because of too busy at church were the one who standing with me. The day she died was a Sunday and I had rushed her to hospital early that morning. I left her admitted and rushed to church with a promise that I would see her after church. But when I came back from church, I found that she was now on oxygen, her breath shallow and I realized I had missed an opportunity to hear her last words. There I was all alone with my dying mother and hospital staff colleagues for comfort. I just told myself I had to be strong and see to it that I gave my mother a dignified send away the best way I could. When she finally passed away, I realized how lonely the world could be. I had question only she could answer and I had wasted the chance to hear her voice one last time because I was busy blowing my lungs out on the trumpet to entertain a group of people who never cared to stand with me at the time of my greatest need. I was single, young, and grief stricken.
When the church offered to help, the pastor assigned one unemployed brother in the church to accompany me to my rural home to bury my mother and I just could not accept another burden on my shoulders. The brother needed to have everything from transport to accommodation and food to and from my rural home which is about 300km away. Had they offered a driver to help me drive my car, a station wagon, which I was using to transport the coffin, I would have understood and not an extra passenger who had to squeeze in the small car. I had no option but to drive my very dead mother to lay her to rest in her own native land. My relatives stood afar off because they thought the church which I had been part of and supported vehemently will do the rest.
When I came from the funeral, the message was on me for having refused the shoddy help the church had offered. There he was, the pastor using scripture to lambaste me and not comforting me because of my loss. He was saying that the church was not a burial club, an informal group of people, mostly poor town workers, who make monthly financial contributions to a common fund and members can receive disbursements when they are bereaved. And to think of it I had never asked for help but would have appreciated a genuine offer from my church. Although I was somewhat disillusioned by this, I still remained a fervent follower and listener of Brother Goodwin’s taped message and wanted to preserve my place in the first resurrection; even though I was “sure” I was not going to meet my dearly departed mother when the trump of God will sound and the dead in Christ will rise first and we would be translated in the twinkling of an eye, as the pastor had predicted.
I still paid my tithes and gave of my offerings as a band member but a big dent had been made my heart and I was labeled the “back slidden” at heart. My greatest sorrow came when it was time for me get married. I had everything in place and had taken my leave days at work. The church had pledged to help with the serving of food to be on guests, of which the majority was members of the church and a few of my own relatives, since I had hired a catering expert to do the food preparation. The wedding being on a Saturday; the church catering supervisor approached after church on Thursday evening and told me that the pastor’s wife had instructed her that the church was not going to have anything to do with food issues at the wedding. No reasonable answer was given as to why besides that I had made a mistake to hire an outsider to do the catering and the “saints” not working together with the unsaved. I was distraught, confused and very angry. I wanted the wedding very much and loved my bride so much and would not have anything jeopardize the union. I realized I was not angry with God but with them and I asked myself, was this possible in the only true church.
But what followed was the grace of God and we had the best wedding ever to be conducted in the church. By African standards, a wedding is judged by the amount of food fed to the people. The success of our wedding day celebrations made me to start to think out of the stereotype that I had been put in. It made me to realize that I could reach God without necessarily the help of the “Man Of God”. I reasoned out that if the wedding was a success and the whole church leadership was not supportive, God can still do so with many other things. And I started experimenting with other projects which the “man of God” had told me not embark on and I discovered that I could do it with God but without the pastor. Before long I was independent of him and when I finally left the church in 1999, I was a free man indeed ready to serve God with a free conscience.
Greanious A. Mavondo