Last time I blogged about rules. I've been thinking a lot about that and need to unscramble all the memories and junk racing through my brain. Maybe if I get it out on paper, it will make more sense and I'll be able to learn from it. After all, God does take dysfunctional situations and makes them new, right? I do believe he can redeems all things.
I've spent the last 12 years serving at a ministry called Gospel For Asia. It was always stressed that we should not listen to an evil report especially something said about the ministry or the leaders in it. It would defile us. Listening to negative words or gossip would forever be in our brains and would defile our perception of the very people we serve and have authority over us. Lots of verses about the tongue were used to support this claim. Women were specifically singled out and warned against this. None of us wanted to be labeled a busybody.
I have to point out that I rarely heard anything but positive things about leadership. When a staff person left the ministry, they always left quietly so as not to cause division. This always left questions in my mind about the "why's" but I was never allowed to ask questions. It was an unspoken rule to mind your own business. Besides, there might be an "evil report" wrapped up in the "why's" which would cause me to forever doubt the character of my leaders.
An incident occurred about 5 years into our time there where I was personally accused of not just listening to an evil report but actually participating in it. The words "evil report" were not used but they might as well have been. At the time, I was harshly rebuked, shamed, and put in my place. I struggled for almost a whole year afterwards but was able to forgive and somewhat forget. "Forget" isn't really an appropriate word to describe it but more accurately would be the word "suppress." So I went on suppressing my experience and believed I was somewhat successful in putting it behind me.
What really made me go back and remember all those horrible details from about 6 years prior was when a friend of mine at the ministry was similarly treated and she told me about it. I wanted to defend her and shout from the roof-tops "This is not right!" But I knew from my own experience and the unspoken rules at GFA that you do not question or confront leadership but rather our role was to submit and obey. I would not have another run in with KP if my life depended on it!
My friend had spoken an "evil report" against the President of the organization, K.P. Yohannan. At least that was what she was accused of. She couldn't remember saying anything against him but someone had secretly told on her ( just like in grade school). She didn't know who told and she didn't know what she'd said. Her husband was called into KP's office for a closed meeting and harshly rebuked for not being able to control his wife and a new rule was put in place regarding her, as her punishment, I guess. She was no longer allowed to cut the staff's hair. She cut my hair, that's how we became friends. So embarrassed by this whole mess, she sent out an email to all the staff who had regularly received haircuts and told them she was no longer allowed to cut our hair and she pleaded for the person to come forward who had gotten her in trouble so she could understand what she had said that had gotten her and her husband into so much trouble. I find it ironic that if someone is perceived to be spreading an "evil report" it is squelched in this way when in all actuality KP is the one hearing a report that he perceives as "evil" and not giving anyone the ability to explain what might have been said!
Is this Biblical? Is this the way we are to reconcile differences. Aren't we supposed to go to the brother or sister who sinned against us and confront in love? I mean not only was there no love, there was not a confrontation with the offender! Instead, her husband was blamed and left standing there speechless. What could she have possibly said that couldn't have been reasoned with? Aren't we in America where people are given a fair trial? She was not given a chance to know what she said or explain how her statements might have been misunderstood. Instead the "teachers pet" was believed and trusted. Doesn't this sound like kindergarten?
We learned through situations like this at Gospel for Asia, that we were immature and had so far to go to become like our leader. I personally believe she was used as an example to others not to mess with KP. Through humiliation and rules we were oppressed. We were taught regularly that it was a privilege to work there. That God takes inexperienced people and uses them in great ways. We were just worms whom God had chosen and we were not to forget it. These are half-truths used to make us think lowly of ourselves and submit to those who knew more than us.
My friend's experience reminded me of my own many years prior. I had suppressed that experience because it was really painful to remember it. But, I realized the same had happened to me.
I had been meeting with several ladies for tea and dessert once a month. We were all young moms and our husbands served at GFA. We had many things in common and one of those things, was that all 4 of us desired to have deep relationships with other godly women. This is why we formed this group. We wanted to encourage on another and spur one another on to love and good deeds. Looking back now, I realize that deep relationships were inadvertently discouraged because as women we had a fear of opening our mouths and really getting personal with each other but at this time, we didn't really know this. We were naive. We had many evenings at the restaurant where we laughed, cried and shared our deepest prayer requests. It was a safe group of friends. We were excited to do "life" together.
One night during our regular get together we were wrapping it up when one of the ladies mentioned something she had noticed KP speaking regularly against. She wondered how the rest of us were understanding his "less than positive" teachings on home schooling. She had been struggling with how to interpret his views on this since she was just beginning to home school herself. Another gal mentioned that maybe he didn't know that many of those home schooled kids would probably grow up to serve there and that many of the leaders kids were already doing that. In fact many of the home schooled kids were the ones volunteering at GFA because they weren't chained to going to public school but had the freedom to get their school done at other times and volunteer a fews hours a week. We definitely agreed he didn't seem to approve of our choice in home schooling and I personally felt relieved that I was not the only one who was interpreting his messages this way. It was a short conversation with one of the 4 not saying a whole lot.
This one friend felt very uncomfortable because (and I'm speaking for her right now, assuming what she was thinking and feeling) she felt maybe this was crossing that unspoken rule of judging KP's teachings. We had crossed over into an unknown territory and it made her uncomfortable. Well, she confided in a leader's wife this information and was seeking council about it, not ever dreaming she would get us all into trouble.
One by one our husbands were called into the principles office! The only difference between me and the others was that my husband wanted me to go in with him. He didn't know what went on that night because he wasn't there and surely we could go in and talk with KP, with respect for all involved. He had an "open door" policy that he spoke of often. This would be our first time to use it. Surely we could resolve this in no time, after all, we hadn't done anything wrong. I have an honesty, open discussion policy of my own that almost always works and clears up misunderstandings. I prepared myself to just lay it out there and tell him how we all felt about his teachings on home schooling. I assumed he would be understanding and discuss this with me in a civil manner. You guessed it, I was so wrong.
There was no discussion. I said one sentence and that was the end of my opportunity to discuss anything with KP Yohannan. He was so fuming mad, I couldn't get in a word edgewise. My motives were questioned, my call was questioned and I'll never forget his words to me, "Did I realized how important my husband was in the ministry? Why would I put that in jeopardy?" As If this whole thing might get us kicked out! Really? And then he said," If it were up to him, women wouldn't be allowed to get together and pray because that's just an excuse they use to gossip!" Oh, that's what we need, another rule! Well, we all knew he could not institute that rule. It would never fly, but I got the impression that it's only because he was dealing with Americans. I'm sure if he were in India, he would make that rule. For all I know, it is a rule over there at the headquarters but isn't publicized!
My husband and I said nothing that day. I'm sure everyone in their little cubicles outside his office heard him shouting at us from behind that closed door. I was wounded. I cried every time I thought of it. Quite frankly the only thing defiled was my reputation before KP. I still went to prayer meetings to prove that his words would not hurt me. To prove that I followed Christ and not him. I knew he expected us to leave but we wouldn't hear of it. We never even discussed leaving over it. We gave him the benefit of the doubt and figured he was just having a bad day. We moved on and I learned to suppress my feelings. I learned to forgive even though my offender never asked for forgiveness. In public he spoke to me, smiled at me, and acted as if nothing had happened between us.
I don't think the 4 of us ladies ever met again as a group. Two of the families left shortly after that. The 4 of us never spoke of it. We remained friends but that incident was never spoken of again for years. In fact, we never asked why they left the ministry. I guess we were taught to be afraid of the truth. We were never trusted to be able to discern an evil report from a truthful report.