The Lord commands His ministers to "Feed the sheep." Psalm 23 says, "He leadeth me by still waters and maketh me lie down in green pastures." And also in Ezekiel 34, God commands the shepherds not to feed the sheep to the beasts of the field.
But let us suppose that there is something wrong with a flock of sheep; there are a number of carcasses mauled by wolves lying about, and one sheep sounds the alarm. The false shepherd, who doesn't want to have to give account for the sheep given to his care, will silence the sheep who is complaining and brand them as a "bad sheep." They might be branded for "lying," being "bitter," or anything that must be said to take the responsibility away from the shepherd.
In this story, the "bad sheep" had the audacity to stand up to a man that had been "called by God" to care for the flock, by leading them into "The Kingdom of Heaven." However, this shepherd, it turns out, was not called by God the Father, but by his own, earthly father. I was under this false shepherd's care for many years.
I remember thinking there were things wrong with this gathering. People were used and discarded, questions were asked and never answered clearly. After asking several questions, I would often walk away being more confused than when I started. There were all kinds of hidden meanings that were not clear, but seemed to carry a lot of weight. There were many people who could not be questioned at all, especially the shepherds. But even seeing all of this would not prepare me for what I was about to discover.
In my mind I had been a good Christian, I went to church every Sunday, read my bible every day, prayed, and frequently attended prayer meetings and bible studies. Although my performance was not up to snuff when compared to the ideal sheep, my heart was in the right place. For several years I had been caring for my very ill mother. I spent all day, every day, feeding, clothing, washing, changing, reading to her and praying for her. God taught me much during this time. This labor made it impossible to keep the busy schedule that a proper single sister was to keep. For instance, I did not do nearly my share of babysitting for the leadership, and I did not attend the Bible study every single week. Sometimes I had to take care of my mother.
None of this was ever taken into account. Very few people in the church ever saw anything in my life as strength. On the contrary, I was often told I was a "strong woman." I knew that this was definitely not a compliment. Strong women were not spiritual and before God could do anything with these sad cases, He had to break them of their spirit of independence. You see, in my church, men were the leaders, and this idea was taken to the extreme.
For example, when I bought my truck for work, I was questioned about how I could afford it and why I needed it. It wasn't good enough that it was for work. I was questioned as to why I couldn't be happy with the old vehicle I had, even though it kept breaking down. It was not a question of an old vehicle that I was spending money on to fix, it was the fact that I had gone out and purchased a more expensive vehicle and how was I paying for all of this? Clearly, my choice to spend my own money, on my own truck was not considered a wise spiritual choice. Amazingly, people in this church really believed that it was their business to analyze and assess my spending habits.
A few months later I also purchased a ranch, the same questions were asked and a few more. How could I pay for all of this and what did I intend to do with it all? Never mind that it was for my occupation of raising and selling animals. I purchased the ranch with my own money, not drug money, or stolen money, wasn't this good enough?
Furthermore, the amount of furniture I owned came into question: Why did I have so much? The fact that I had my own, and then inherited my mother's did not count. No Christian should have so many possessions. Amazingly, I did not think at that time that this wasn't any of their business, for I had been so brainwashed into thinking that these people were my family that I didn't think it odd to answer them. It did bother me that my answers were not good enough to satisfy these people, but I dealt with the pain by telling myself over and over that I was the one with the problem, I was just too blind to see my own faults. I was not able to let my mind ponder that perhaps there was something wrong with the assembly leaders. This would have been painful and embarrassing, as I had been warned before that the church I was involved in was not a healthy place.
Then one day I started asking myself questions. Why isn't there an accounting of the money that gets taken in on Sundays? Where does that money go? Why are there so many secrets? And why are we made to feel rebellious and divisive if we question the leadership? These questions made me uncomfortable, but at this time I put them on a mental shelf, pondering them silently in my heart.
All or this was to change radically one day when my girlfriend Judy Geftakys came over. It was a beautiful day, which began quite normally. My girlfriend was coming up to pick up a small refrigerator that I had in my office. She got lost on the way up, listening to a tape of Italian music and not paying attention to the turnoffs.
She finally arrived, late, tired and depressed. I wanted to find out why she was so depressed, so we sat down at the kitchen table and I plied her with questions. At first she said everything was fine, she was only tired. But it seemed like she was hiding something. Then she said she was just so tired of trying. "Trying what?" I asked, and then she burst into tears and told me of the physical abuse that was going on between her and her husband, David Geftakys.
I was so shocked that I stood in the middle of the kitchen holding a pitcher of water unable to move. I was totally aghast, not even wanting to believe what I was hearing; yet in my heart I knew it was true. Instantly, many puzzling things fell into place and I felt like a light went on in my head.
One of the only thoughts I remember was, "I'm going to kill him!" I then calmed down and tried to think of some Christian thing to say that would encourage her to go home and face the situation. I was frantically searching for some "Assembly" thing to say to her, as I had been taught that in difficult times we should always turn to the Bible. Here was my friend in a deadly situation. Was this the time to stand up for what is right even if it meant exposing the leader of the Assembly? Was this OK? Should I even say anything?
Judy regained her composure and said she was sorry to have "lost it" but she just didn't know what to do anymore to make him happy. She had been trying for years to keep him happy, which in turn kept her safe. She was told by David's own mother, who is basically second in command in the Assembly, that the reason David attacked her and beat her was because it was her fault and she provoked him to violence.
I thought about this all night, I was afraid for her and wavered in my judgement of what is right vs. what the Assembly taught. I finally concluded that I just couldn't leave her in that situation because it was horribly wrong. I called the Women's Shelter and asked them for advice and they gave me several phone numbers to help her. I told them I didn't think she would leave. You see, the couples in this gathering were taught that a woman should never leave her husband for any reason. If someone were to encourage a wife to leave her husband, regardless of circumstances, it would be painted as enticing the wife to commit sin and break her marriage vows.
I fought with my conscience about what I was doing, because it was against what this gathering taught, but I could not silence that little voice, which was my conscience. I called Judy that morning and gave her the phone numbers; at first there was silence on the other end. I was afraid that I had overstepped my boundary and then there was a small, tearful voice on the other end. "How could you give me this information? Everyone else I have ever told, told me to stay with David. They said God gave you this husband for better or worse and obviously you are in a place where the Lord is trying to teach you something."
At this point I lost my head and said that God never intended to put his precious child in a relationship where she needed to be beaten by her minister-missionary-husband in order to teach her a lesson. Parents are allowed to discipline their children, but nowhere in the bible does it say husbands are allowed to beat their wives into submission. She promised to call the shelter and we hung up.
In the mean time the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's had begun making unscheduled stops at the house once or twice per week to check on Judy. This was due to an earlier fight where David had told Judy that if she called the police they would take his side and she would be left out in the cold. To prove his point, David deliberately called 911 but then changed his mind and hung up. What this godly missionary did not know is that the Sheriff, by law, has to investigate all calls. An officer was dispatched to the source of the call, David's house.
When they came to the door, David lied and made up an excuse that he was really trying to call 411 and hit the wrong button. The sheriff asked if anyone else was in the home. Judy was hiding in the hallway trying to listen and see if she would be sold out again. David answered yes and had to bring Judy to the door. The officer asked her if she was OK and he noticed the bruising on her arms. He tried to encourage her to step outside and talk with him but she was unwilling. She had been covering up for her husband for years and was beaten down by living in fear. In Judy's mind she was hoping the abuse would stop since the officer did not immediately take David's side of the story.
Over the next few weeks I sat on pins and needles hoping she was still safe. She had called the shelter and made an appointment to speak with a counselor. I told her to tell her family, the more people who knew the better. I in turn wrote to two people that I could rely on for advice. I didn't know what to do. The men who were in the church were ones that I had trusted in the past. Months earlier I would have put my life in their hands. But now all I could think was that they were deceived.
I knew not to tell anyone until she was out of the situation. Her husband had been trying to buy a gun. Thank God a restraining order, put on him by his own daughter, kept him from buying a gun outright. Things were starting to heat up. I had been counseled by the "outsiders" to write a letter to the leaders once Judy was out of the relationship to explain why I was no longer coming out to the meetings, why I could not be part of this ministry, why I could not stand with men who knew about the abuse and did nothing to stop it.
Once Judy was out of the relationship, I sent a letter out via email, which is enclosed, in its original content:
Dear Kirk, Jeff, Roberto and Ray,
I am writing this to let you know that I will no longer be involved with this gathering based on the fact that you have been covering up wife abuse for 17 years. I have tried to justify your position with scripture but honestly have concluded that wife abuse is sin. I cannot find any scripture that states if your wife does not submit to you the way you want her to you as the husband can beat, hit, bruise, push, strangle or intimidate her. What I do find is this:
1 Tim 3: 1-3 "The word is faithful: if anyone who desires to exercise oversight, he desires a good work. The overseer (or bishop) then must be irreproachable, husband of one wife, sober, discreet, decorous, hospitable, apt to teach; not given to excesses of wine, not a striker, but mild..." So already I see that he who is an elder is not to be a striker. I also see in Galatians 5 that one of the fruits of the spirit is self-control.
In Ephesians 5 it speaks of the relationship between Christ & the church and husband & wife. I have heard it taught in this gathering that the wife submits herself totally to her husband regardless if he is right or wrong, he is the example of Christ. Mark 10: 42-44 says that Christ came to serve. He is the servant leader. He led by being a servant. Back to Ephesians, the woman voluntarily submits herself to her husband, she is not beaten to submit. The bible says in this passage that the husband loves his wife as he loves his own flesh. He isn't mutilating his own body. The husband is not self-inflicting bruises or cuts to his own self, which would be masochistic. So why is it tolerated that he can do so to his wife? Verse 29 says that no man ever hated his own body but nourishes it and cherishes it. Which part of cherishing is hitting? God gave Eve to Adam as a gift not as his own personal punching bag.
The bible says the woman is co-heir, she is not below or above the man, she is equal. She is not personal property to abuse. She is the wife that God gave you, a gift to be treasured. Scripture tells us that the husband is to make his wife radiant. Can she be radiant with a black eye? We have been called out from among the world, if the worldviews wife abuse as wrong and shameful, a dirty secret, how can we as Christians accept it?
This act which has been covered up is sin. You have covered the sin, covered the person who has committed the sin, let the wife bear the sin and basically ignored the whole problem. There was no shepherd who cared. No one who was willing to stand, say something, or get involved, you fed the sheep to the beasts of the field (Ez 34) and this sin has grown and crept into every crevice of this gathering. "A little leaven..."
I will not stand with you on this issue. My father taught me that only a coward hits a woman and I agree. Those of you who have known about this sin for the last 17 years need to repent and make it right with those that you have hurt. Those that left this woman in this predicament for 17 years while others who found out and tried to help were discouraged, shame on you! I will not stand with unrepentive men. You are lucky she wasn't killed. But what will you do on Judgment Day, how will you give an account for your actions? How will you stand before God and justify what you didn't do?
I know that Kirk, Jeff, David, Mark Miller, Dan Notti and Betty Geftakys knew what was going on. I challenge you to repent and make it right. And for the rest of you reading this I challenge you to read your bibles and know what the word of God says.
That letter went out via email Sept 17, 2000 and that very same night I got a phone call from one of the leaders asking me how I could write such lies. He told me I was a "stiff necked," "stubborn," "rebellious," female Marine. How dare I write such a thing and where was I getting my information? At that moment the microwave went off and there was a beeping in the background, this leader accused me of taping the call. The worst he could say to me was about my character flaws. He couldn't entertain that I might be telling the truth. All he could do was condemn me. All he could do was attack me to try and get me off track.
I was to find out later, that another one of the leaders, Jeff, called many people and told them that my e-mail was "defiling and full of lies." He instructed people to delete it immediately and don't read it. Recently, two people who were told this by Jeff had the chance to read the letter, and they both were amazed at what it really said, because it was so different than what they were told. You may notice that I never say who the man is who was beating his wife in the letter. The funny thing is that everyone immediately assumed it was David. I wonder why they thought that?
Over the next few weeks I met with one of the leaders, to give him my side of the story as told to me by Judy. He listened intently, but he never once apologized for any of the names I had been labeled with. He said he questioned four people, but over the years over 200 people had lived with Dave and Judy. None of them had ever said anything about beatings; it "seemed sort of low odds."
But I had learned that if you want the truth you don't go to the people who are in the Assembly. Finally Judy's daughter corroborated my story. I met with Kirk one more time and he said to me "since Rachel came forward, we now know that you were telling the truth." My question was, if she had not come forward, would I still be branded as a liar? I never got a response to that other than to be admonished to not be so defensive. Kirk did apologize to me for anything that I might have felt was wrong, but never for his personal words or the words of the other leading brothers. I am still condemned and the friends I had in the gathering would never again call or email me because I am a "bad, divisive sheep."
I have been told to repent of my actions. I, in turn, ask which actions they are talking about and no one can give me an explanation. I have been called "divisive" and "bitter" and many other names. I have been accused of breaking up the marriage of Dave & Judy. I guess the beatings were not that big of a problem; the real sin was talking about them. This must be why David never admitted to his sin, because admitting it would have been a greater sin than actually beating his wife! After all, if you say it out loud it causes people to wonder if something is wrong, which might result in a bad image for the Assembly.
Since these events, I have called people to return items I borrowed from them and have been surprised by their responses. It seems that many of them think I have moved out of the area. I guess that is one way of dealing with the problem, lead people to believe that the "bad sheep" has moved away, this way no one will be tempted to call and get the other side of the story.
According to the Assembly leaders, the abuse "may never have occurred." I was told that Betty Geftakys told everyone that Judy had a menopausal breakdown and that she made everything up. I suppose the reason I believed Judy's "lies" is because I am bitter and weak and bought into everything Judy said. Women are easily deceived, except for Betty.
Later, the leadership changed their story and admitted that some abuse may have occurred, but that it was mostly overblown and exaggerated. For a short period of time David was "under discipline," which meant that he could not partake of communion. Also, he became officially "not supported by The Work," which means David Geftakys is still being supported by the ministry but the money comes directly from Betty, instead of from The Work, which also comes directly from Betty. Of course, Betty's money comes from the tithes, so when she passes on her personal money, it is no different than if the work supported David.
I understand why people don't think this is strange. In today's culture it is very common for parents to support adult children, even when they are 52 years old, right? I have to laugh when I think about how much Betty teaches on child training and teaching responsibility and then realize that her own 52 year old boy is being supported just like a college freshman. What is not so funny is to remember how many college freshmen either dropped out of school, or prolonged their years of college because David Geftakys routinely made them refuse money from their parents. He believed that this would teach them responsibility and cause them to learn to trust God for their living, not just trusting their parents.
He, of all people, should know. Most college students sponge off mom and dad for 4 or 5 years and then go on in life and end up paying for their own kids someday. David never completed past 2 years of college and is still sponging off of mom and dad, 32 years after community college. No wonder he was so forceful in helping to save his flock from his own mistakes!
The Assembly leaders had to re-label David's status because he was told if Judy ever left him he would be removed from his position of leadership in the gathering. Judy left and he was indeed removed. The leaders tell anyone who might ask that David is not being supported financially from the ministry but they never mention that he receives money from his mother. David has not had a paying job in over 25 years. He is still allowed to partake in the Lord's Supper each Sunday, and apparently he has repented. However, his wife and daughter have not been informed of his repentance, and neither have the dozens of people he has hurt. I always thought in order to repent you must go back to the people you have hurt, acknowledge your sin and ask for forgiveness. Apparently, this does not apply to leaders in the Assembly.
"Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality" 1 Tim 5:20-21
I also apologize to the SLO leadership for a serious error on my part. When I first sent my email explaining why I would no longer be involved I said that SLO leadership had known about the abuse for 17 years, which was not true, they only had known for the last 8 years. This was a mistake that I made, and I want to be an example of owning up to my mistakes. I was wrong to have said this. Due to my mistake, people were led to believe that the SLO leadership ignored and covered up David's violent attacks on his wife for 17 years. The fact is that they only covered it up for 8 years. I regret this mistake, and want to officially set the record straight. Everything else in the e-mail was accurate. Hopefully, the leadership will take note and own up to some of their mistakes as well.
I wish the readers of this to know that this is not an isolated incident between Dave & Judy Geftakys. Within this ministry there are other couples and families who are in abusive relationships with no place to turn. Wives are getting the same advice that Judy received for years. Only with prayer and actual intervention can this stop. Remaining silent will only allow it to continue.