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The Way and the Military


I was in The Way International (TWI) for six of the longest years of my life. It was as if I lived a nightmare for most of that six years. The two years following my departure from Way Twig meetings and fellowshipping with Way believers, was a subsequent hell on earth. It doesn't end with leaving, there is a long process that awaits the cult victim after they remove themself from the group.

I was an educated, well spoken, outgoing Army wife for several years when I discovered The Way International, and yet, I was lured in. Why? How could this be when anyone who know me know me to be strong willed, feisty, and unwilling to take anyone's guff.

One of the most vulnerable segments of society when it comes to cults in particular, is the military. The average civilian doesn't have the resources or the experience to know what it is like for someone in the Armed Services. They are often hundreds, or even thousands of miles from home, stuck in a place they may not like. It is usually the soldier who does well in these situations because they are the professional, kept very, very busy doing what it is they love: serving their country. They are too busy in most cases to miss their family back in their home town.

It is different for the spouse. Often the spouse is left home, alone (because the soldier is often gone on training exercises) and when children are involved, the spouse begins to feel much like a single parent. When the soldier is gone for days, sometimes months, and the spouse is left alone to face the stress of raising the family alone, this can turn into disaster unless one is aware of the dangers of cults. Often, however, they are not aware.

While this article focuses on the military and cults, the same warning could apply to young college students miles from home. Please note this can apply to just about anyone, but the military is a uniquely vulnerable society when it comes to these deceptive organizations.

My husband was a Captain in the Army at the time. We were living in Würzburg, Germany where my husband was stationed when I gave birth to my first child, Amber. She was the first grandchild for both sides of our family. Würzburg was a beautiful city, one of the prettiest I have ever seen to this day. One would think Iwould have loved it there. I didn't, I was homesick, and I was miserable. We lived in a tiny German village, miles from the U.S. Kasern (which is what the Army bases are called in Germany), with no television reception, no radio reception and no VCR tape rentals (they hadn't caught on in America yet, so there were few English speaking video rentals for members of the Armed Forces in Europe at the time).

I had this tremendous, life-changing experience of child-birth in an old Army hospital in the town of Würzburg. My husband was there for the birth, but the morning after I came home with our little Amber from the hospital, he had to go away for a month. There I was, alone, with a new baby, many, many miles from home. Not a single relative was able to visit, not even a college girlfriend. I was alone in a strange land, with what seemed to me, strange customs. I was exhausted as my little baby girl rarely slept, and demanded to be nursed usually every two hours.

This and some other things set the stage for the deception of The Way International. I let myself be tricked into believing lies direct from hell, as they were carefully, and craftily presented with some Biblical truths. Satan made even the lies taught by The Way seem beautiful and right and the purest of pure truths.

When Amber was a bit past her first birthday, I came home to the states to show her off. A family friend introduced me to the Bible (being brought up Roman Catholic, I had never been taught to read the Bible), and to The Way. When I went back to Germany, I was most eager to begin learning with Way people what it is that intrigued me so concerning Biblical knowledge. I went to what The Way calls "Power For Abundant Living" classes (PFAL). Never suspecting for a moment, that these classes were brainwashing sessions. When I finished the 25 + hours of classes taken for several consecutive weekends, I was absolutely-without-a-doubt convinced that the only group that knew the truth about the Bible was The Way International. The only man who was able to show us this truth was Victor Paul Wierwille, the founder.

What is worse, I experienced some supernatural occurrence that convinced me completely that God was showing me that I had found "His" people. I was told by members quite clearly, that if someone didn't take the PFAL classes, they weren't saved. I was told that if a person couldn't speak in tongues, after being taught by PFAL, then they weren't saved, as speaking in tongues was the only "proof" of salvation.

I was told that all the other churches were corrupt, particular scorn was held towards the Catholic church. I was told that God spoke to Wierwille and told him that since the Apostles time, the church had been corrupted, and that the Bible had been as well. It had been mistranslated, and misunderstood. The ministers of today's Protestant churches were fools, teaching other fools corrupted and wrong scripture. Wierwille had been given revelation about the Bible and a large part of that revelation was that Jesus Christ was not God.

The people who took the class with me were primarily Army, and they were from all ranks. This was the early 80's, and talk of cults wasn't common. I trusted that these terrific people were learning like me, from the only source of Biblical truth, The Way.

I had no one to ask, no Internet to cruise to find out about this organization. I accepted what I was taught because it seemed so very logical, and it felt so right. To verify my "feelings," I was able to speak in tongues, all as a result of what I had been taught by either Way members or PFAL. I was on fire for The Way, and I wanted to be like all the very knowledgable "believers" who had gone on to higher and higher Way education.

Cults usually appeal to the pride of a person. You become a member of the "elite," the ONLY ones who know this wonderful stuff, and in order to spread this knowledge, you must lure others into the fold otherwise they are will remain "lost."

Belonging to a group like this, and buying into the lies will literally cause your mind to see things different than reality. The person will firmly totally adhere to the deceptive doctrine they are taught despite glaring examples of the error in the doctrine, or scriptural evidence that clearly shows the doctrine to be wrong. I know, because this is what I did.

The grip that these groups can have on an individual is particularly strong when you place a person far from home, homesick, and lonely. All the elements were there when I stumbled upon The Way, and took my first PFAL class in Fulda, Germany.

In a letter written by the Reverend Richard L. Dowhower, D.D., Pastor of All Saints Lutheran Church in Bowie Maryland, he talks about the danger of such groups like The Way.

"Your attention is requested for consideration of a ministry objective for the troops and civilian employees of Fort Campbell in order that they may be alerted to the abusive practices of high-intensity religious and therapeutic groups who violate certain human rights for their own self-serving purposes.

More specific to the military setting, is the abuse of authority by such groups which undermines the necessary command and discipline. This situation was so present in the reality of the Navy's submarine base at Groton-New London, CT in the late 1970's that the commanding officer invited me to do a one day workshop for the chaplains and officers, even in the face of a threatened multi-million dollar law suit from the group, incidentally, the same one as in Mrs. Van Drie's experience. (It was a bluff, they never filed suit.)

Such an invitation to generic counter cult education was repeated by the Philadelphia Navy Yard. By 1985, as a Subject Matter Expert, I began two days of an annual lectureship on new religious movements to the Advanced Course at the Navy Chaplain's School in Newport, RI. Budget cuts ended the Advanced Course in 1994...

One of the most effective educational elements in counter-cult work is the auto-biographical accounts given in person by ex-members like Mrs.Van Drie..."

Last year, Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer, author of "Cults In Our Midst" and renowned cult expert was asked by the U.S. Government to brief top officials concerning the effect The Way International has on the Navy, and other military branches.

This is not an issue to be ignored. The Way International is truly a religious cult, meeting every criteria for a dangerous, para-military subversive organization. Closer examination of The Way reveals hoarding weapons, tax evasion, and sexual crimes (to name a few problems) as detailed by this web page. Their tactics are love-bombing, and their friendly, spirited attitude. They will lie, most often, not realizing themselves that they are lying, because they themselves are brainwashed, and just parroting what they've been taught.

Do not let the clean cut image fool you as it did me. I liked the conservative values they preached, and the friendly image portrayed by the members. Beneath the exterior is evil, and belonging to this group, submitting to their brainwashing tactics has caused story after story of heartbreaking family destruction to be told about The Way.

I am a living example of what The Way can do. It is only by the grace of our Living Lord Jesus Christ (who is not the same Jesus of The Way), and by His mercy that I survived and that my family was able to remain together.

Carol Van Drie

Editors note: Carol has written a book about her experience with T.W.I. and is waiting for it to be published.

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