Thank you, Jeff, for your letter detailing your story. I’m sorry for your experiences. If believers are to show Christ to one another as well as to a lost world, this certainly doesn’t seem like the way to do it. Thank you for being discreet (proper usage of the word) about names so this doesn’t become about personalities, but about the church’s culture.
I want to encourage you to find a church family who will take the time to get to know you, and with whom you can share your struggles freely without fear of retribution.
My name is Jeff Hernandez and Lynn is my middle name. My wife and I are still married. She left the church because it was too hard for her to take the kids and listen to the sermons and classes when they were little she spent a lot of time in the cry room, and nobody would help her. When she did start coming back she wasn’t whole hearted into it because almost every time she came the topic was about me.
I was first baptized in 1983 when I was 17 years old. Mentally I was still a child. Yes, I made a lot of mistakes, but instead of helping me I got a lot of rebukes and was withdrawn from for basically talking too much. A talebearer. It was easier to shut you up with withdrawal than to work with you. Eventually, almost every teacher was either withdrawn from for false teaching and/or fell away. Because of the way people were treating each other, I left after about 3 years of it. I came back in around 1998/9.
I came back strong. I learned a lot and studied a lot. I caught up a lot by listening to tapes of talks and May weeks. I started seeing a lot of what this congregations biggest problem was. Their lack of love for each other. Yes, they were great in greeting people when they got together, but not where it counted when people were in need. There was a great absence in moral support and members would pick and choose who they would give physical support to.
(I am trying to do this without cluttering this up with specific details.)
I was told that a preacher from Portland was sent to us to help with the lack of love situation, but that didn’t work. Him and his wife eventually fell away. A preacher from down south was sent to replace him, but they made the situation worse. He stood by a motto of “don’t ask the church could do for you, but what you could do for the church” whenever I would ask for help because of my infirmity. I saw no love in his wife at all. Even when this preacher’s own son was preaching he mentioned in a sermon that when his wife was out for a due to her pregnancy that nobody even called her.
In this congregation it was taught that those who have the infirmities and miss classes or worship are supposed be the ones to reach out and not to expect the congregation to help, unless I ask for it. Are we not told to support the weak and bear one another’s burdens?
Not too long after I came my spine started deteriorating badly. I had to bring a different chair a the problem was from my tailbone up. I eventually started missing classes and personal work. Then started the constant teaching to push the flesh. I heard that so much that I at times would avoid people to keep from hearing it. When I would call to let somebody know I wasn’t going to able to make it, most of the time it would be met with pushing the flesh to go.
In the late 90′ in order for me to go to work I had to take 2 800 mg of Ibuprofen and a Vicodin. I was seeing so many doctors and would up in the emergency room at least four times. I am now on disability and have a very hard time doing anything.
When the congregation saw that I was making it sporadically then the teachings and classes and sermons start being focused on me. I would be compared to other members in how if they could do it then so could I. I was compared to an elderly woman in another congregation who comes with her oxygen tank. I was compared to another sister who had one compressed disc who came and laid down in the cry room and got the disc decompressed. I have 3 compressed discs, 7 discs that are damaged, sciatica, stenosis, degenerative disc disease, degenerative arthritis, and scoliosis.
I was constantly treated like I didn’t have these problems. I never asked for special treatment nor did I expect it. All I asked for was that my own brethren would show some empathy, keep in contact with me, and share with me what I missed in classes. It turned out pretty bad. It was taught, preached, and even brought out in talks to other congregations that I was self centered, selfish, and stand offish.
There is a lot that happen in the years, but for time and space sake I will keep this from getting long. You can from my other letters things that happen.
In all of this I couldn’t fathom why people would choose to stand at a distance and continually tell you to push yourselves and not lift a hand to be there for a brother/sister. I was not the only one this was done to. An elderly sister we had eventually quit coming because of the constant badgering to push the flesh.
I was threatened with withdrawal if I didn’t quit bring up that the brethren need to do more for each other in situations like this. That preacher now denies even saying it.
It got to the point that I started ignoring the brethren that were always trying to drive it into me that my pushing and going is more important than what I was going through. It got to the point that it was being said that I think I control the corner on pain and that I am only thinking of myself. All I ever wanted is support from my brethren in what I was going through. The two biggest things I ever asked for was that people would call me every once in a while and to share with me what I missed in classes. What I got was people showing up just to tell me repeatedly to push the flesh. I got so tired of it that I was ignoring my phone when certain people called. That was brought out too. I asked if people could just show up and share the scriptures with me and was told that they can’t do that. My wife even heard that one.
The rest of the congregation started following suit in believing that I wasn’t accepting teaching and eventually it was like I was on withdrawal as most people wouldn’t talk to me and my family. At two fellowships my children were on the children’s blanket that they get fed on and all the other children were fed, except my two. I had to get up and make their food. This was even done in front of one of the evangelists.
I couldn’t take this anymore and started reaching outside this congregation. I knew one of the preachers from a CA congregation and told him everything. When he inquired about it our preacher from the south told him that nothing is going on. The preacher from the south’s wife told me that and that the preacher from CA will believe them over me because they have more status than me.
I didn’t stop there. I reached out to the evangelist in CA. He ignored my letter. I emailed a couple more times only to be ignored. Eventually I sent him one stating that this email must not be the right one only to be replied by him that he spoke to a certain preacher here about it and was just going to let them handle it. So, I told him that I would contact the other evangelist and he said go a head. That evangelist was coming to see us anyway and made it a point to talk to us about this. What a mistake that was.
That evangelist held a meeting with the older members and myself. I brought out how I was rebuked basically for following that evangelist’s wife’s counseling, which should be murmuring, and nothing was done to that preacher. The evangelist told me that after reading my letter that it seemed that it was all just about me like it was self centered. I brought out how that because of my spine I had asked if people wouldn’t shake my hand so hard and was said that I was rude about it and this evangelist said that I probably was. After this meeting he took me aside and practically told me too get a job and that I had too much time on my hands like I was a busy body. I’m disabled. That Sunday sermon this evangelist nailed me to the floor comparing me to [Snip]. I even told him that one of the preachers threatened me over a matter, but that got nowhere.
These brethren think they can just show up at people’s homes whenever they feel like it. I had asked that before anybody comes over if they could call first as I was on some heavy medication that made me drowsy and a lot of times I was in such pain that I didn’t want to see anybody. Also, my wife was fallen away and she didn’t like them. It made for an uncomfortable situation. At times we would go out to McDonald’s or somewhere to meet, but couldn’t all the time because in too much pain. Well, they couldn’t accept that. They believed that if they felt like stopping by anytime they want, that you should accept them. A preacher even brought out in a sermon he did on “A Man of God” stating that he that doesn’t follow the teachings is not a man of God. He even included that if I don’t allow people to show up when they feel like it I am not a man of God. I told this to the evangelist and that to make such a remark you are making that a law, but that was ignored.
Kevin, this only scratches the surface of the years of this treatment. I would have to write a book in order to get everything down.
Because of what I was going through I have set into motion a sequence of events that will move us from this state to another.
I have stopped going since because I practiced this:
Matthew 18:16-18 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
I took it to the preacher and was almost withdrawn from at one time. I have talked with many of the preachers and teachers only to be told I am in the wrong for not pushing the flesh and being selfish for looking for support from my brethren. I took it to the outside preacher and two evangelists only to be ignored and have it backfire on me to where now most of the congregation treats me like I am withdrawn from.
I have wrestled with it for quite some time, so that I can’t be happy here. I love the Bible and talking scriptures. I am reminded almost every time we go about what I need to be doing. My wife and kids saw this. Even the children of other Christians saw this and disagreed with how they were treating me and don’t want to join.
I keep asking them what sin did I commit in looking to my brethren in my times of need.