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Carol’s Story: Seeking Life Along The Way — Part Four

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Guest post by Carol. For many years, Carol was a member of The Way.  You can read Carol’s blog here.

1980s Word Over the World and Starting Over

October 1980

I’d been living in northern Connecticut since mid-August right after the 1980 Rock of Ages festival. At the Rock I had been commissioned for my interim year assignment in the 10th Way Corps — a volunteer Word Over the World Ambassador Team Coordinator overseeing two WOW families. I had landed a job working part time for a Way-believer dentist one town over from ours, ten miles away. I didn’t have a car, so I’d often hitchhike to and from work.

It was a clear crisp day in early October, around the time of The Way’s yearly anniversary celebration. My mind was reeling, as it had done other times.  How can I ever fulfill the Way Corps calling? I’m not good enough. I don’t have the believing. I’m a sorry excuse for Way Corps. I can’t live up to “It Is Written.” My WOW team would do better without me. Maybe I shouldn’t even be with The Way. Is this really what I want to be doing?

I felt spiritually small. I short circuited. With my mind racing and fearful (of what I am not sure), I hitchhiked alone from Connecticut to my parent’s home in North Carolina.

In the aftermath I was overcome with shame.

I had broken my word, a despicable act.

I had let down my WOW team.

I had let down The Way Corps.

I had let down my Spiritual Partners.

I had let down God.

I had let down the Ministry.

I had let down myself.

After I arrived in North Carolina I was filled with remorse and confusion. I wrote letters of apology to Dr. Wierwille, the founder and still president of The Way; to L. Craig Martindale, the Corps director who later became the second president of The Way; and to the Connecticut leadership where I had abandoned my post. At some point, I wrote my Spiritual Partners. As far as I remember, I received kind and encouraging responses from everyone I wrote.

Over the following few months, Martindale and I communicated via letters back and forth multiple times. I felt it was my duty to fulfill my Way Corps training and commitment. I wanted to finish what I had begun with the 10th Corps, but every fiber within me did not want to start over. I asked Martindale three different times to please let me begin anew at my interim year. But each time his answer was, “No.” Probably because I dropped my assignment in an AWOL fashion, I was denied the option of picking up where I had left off.

I was required to start the program over. So be it.

Around December, 1980, I moved into a Way Home with two other believers in my hometown, again to move the Word and run Way Classes. That’s what you did in a “Way Home.” For income, I worked selling Encyclopedia Britannica for my mom and worked as a waitress at a pub.

I had to wait about nine months to begin the Corps process anew. During that time, I plummeted into self-destructive behavior with alcohol and secret promiscuity. Though I had been sexually active from an early age, I had never before engaged in promiscuity.

I have no doubt that this self-numbing behavior was a response to my deep shame and self-loathing which I continued to bury, part of which was a result of my broken 1980 Way Corps and WOW commitments, from the abortion I received during my first WOW year in 1978, from the recent broken relationship with the father who was still in Way Corps training in the 11th Corps, and from feeling unable to live up to the “It Is Written” standard of Corps.

Yet throughout those months of illicit activities, I helped run fellowships and classes, possibly as an endeavor to prove my worth to myself.

September 1981

I moved into a different Way Home with five other believers in Cleveland, Ohio, for my apprenticeship year for the 13th Way Corps, embarking upon my second attempt. I had been invited to Cleveland by my 1978-79 WOW Branch Coordinator who had recently graduated from the 8th Way Corps. He was like a brother to me. He would help me succeed with my Corps calling.

Mom hooked me up with Britannica in Cleveland, and I tried selling books for about six weeks. I also tried selling Cutco knives. Then I got jobs through a temporary agency as a deburrer in a steel mill and later as a billing clerk for a wallpaper company. I oversaw the Way bookstore for northern Ohio, carting it around in my Toyota Corolla to various meetings. But that was volunteer work, not paid.

I gave up alcohol (for the most part) and put an end to the undisclosed promiscuity. But still, every fiber in my being continued screaming in rebellion against starting the Corps process over. I interpreted my internal turmoil as temptation to not perform my duty of carrying out my calling. I expressed this in counsel with Way leadership who confirmed that it was my duty to “pay the vows” of my Corps pledge regardless of my internal misgivings. At that time, I believed that to disobey leadership was to disobey God. And I had to obey God.

So, carry on I did.

Then, within one month of that counsel, I became physically ill. At age twenty-two, for the first time in my life, I suffered with asthma and symptoms of an over-responsive immune system gone haywire. I had buried, and continued to bury, what I deemed as inappropriate emotions and thoughts. I now know that that emotional tomb gave rise to physical illness.

The asthma, and other symptoms, worsened through the year culminating in a week-long hospitalization in July, 1982. Yet, I had a successful apprentice year and entered in-residence training with the 13th Way Corps in September, 1982.

But, thirteen months later, I broke my Way Corps commitment.

It was like a horrid deja vu.

October 1983

Deja vu.

Except, I was in the 13th Corps, not the 10th.

Except, it was 1983, not 1980.

Except, I was on staff at Ohio Way Headquarters, instead of being on the field.

Except, I had the added weight of the chronic physical illnesses, which had worsened through the year.

Except, I escaped in my car, instead of hitchhiking.

But all else was reminiscent of my 1980 broken commitment to the 10th Corps.

Again, my mind reeled back and forth, side to side.

Again, I left in early October around the time of The Way’s anniversary celebration.

Again, I abandoned my commitment in my interim year.

Again, I felt spiritually small.

Again, I short circuited.

Again, I left in an AWOL fashion.

I called and left a message at HQ Food Services (my interim year Way Corps assignment) that I would be in late. I never showed. Instead, I left a note on my bunk in the dorm, packed a few items in my old Toyota Corolla, and drove from Ohio to my parent’s home in North Carolina.

Surely this wasn’t real.

It was just a bad dream.

But it wasn’t a bad dream.

I had again failed my calling.

I was physically and emotionally ill and drained.

I was overcome with shame.

My integrity was compromised.

At my core, I felt defective.

I was 24 years old.

In addition to my confusion and anxiety regarding my sold-out Corps commitment, three months prior in July, 1983, my father had been in a head-on automobile collision, leaving him to live his remaining twelve-and-a-half years as a quadriplegic. Though his accident was not the reason I dropped (the second time) from The Way Corps, it was the reason I moved back home – to help care for Dad. While in high school, I had worked as a nursing assistant in a nursing home. I had experience as a caregiver.

When I arrived home, Dad was still in the hospital going through rehab, learning to live life as a quad. Mom and I received training on how to care for Dad. I lived at home until September, 1984, and helped with Dad’s daily care. My brother lived about twenty minutes away and also helped. My sister lived seven hours away and helped when she was able to visit. It was an overwhelming time for the family. (Click here to access some of the blog posts I’ve written about living with quadriplegia.)

I had seen Dad once since his wreck, when I had visited him in the hospital in July. The last time I had seen him with body and limbs intact was around May, 1983. He had come to The Way College of Emporia in Kansas to visit me on a Parent’s Weekend. He stayed on grounds in the Uncle Harry Dorm. He and I went dancing one night at a local pub. During his visit, he signed up for The Way’s Power For Abundant Living Foundational Class. (Mom had taken the Foundational and Intermediate Classes back in 1978. Neither Mom nor Dad regularly attended Way Fellowships.)

Dad’s class was to run in July back in our hometown in North Carolina. He didn’t make it to that class, but did listen to it later at home, on cassette tapes as he lay in bed on his back. I was believing for Dad to be healed; he never was. (Click here to read about my first receiving the news of Dad’s wreck while I was at the Way’s Indiana campus. and Click here to read a poem about my first sight of Dad after his accident.)

Within a month or so of returning home, I got a job as a glazer for a local pottery artist. A few months later, I got a job as a shipping clerk and secretary at a manufacturer of buffing compound.

(Click here to access a transcript of my personal journal from when I was in the 13th Way Corps.)

I did not immediately go to the local Way fellowship when I arrived home in October, 1983. I waited about one month and only went back after meeting a man who was “hungry for the Word.” The only place I knew that had “the truth” was The Way, so I accompanied him to Twig. When I returned to Fellowship, the local Corps leadership welcomed me with open arms and forgiveness. The man I took to Twig ended up in The Way Corps a few years later.

Though I didn’t immediately return to Way Fellowship, I did immediately write Martindale, who was the Corps director and now the second president of the Way. He responded with, what appeared to me, compassion. In hindsight, perhaps his compassionate tone was due to Dad’s quadriplegia. He encouraged me to stay faithful in the Household and to put my Corps training to good use; there were “too few of us for any to stand on the sidelines.”

I heeded his charge within the following month and then stayed faithful to The Way for the following twenty-two years.

But my Corps years were over. And I paid consequences for decades – physically with chronic health issues; and mentally, battling feelings of deep shame and reproach for breaking my commitment and never fulfilling my Way Corps calling.

Meanwhile, as I lived battling my shame, unknown to me and other followers, top Way leaders continued abusing their power engaging in rampant illicit sex with followers. That abuse continued for the next seventeen years.

After leaving The Way in 2005, I learned that in 1983 after I AWOLed from the 13th Corps, one of the Corps Coordinators (not Martindale, who was the director) announced at mealtime to The Way Corps at HQ that I was not worth the cost of a dime for a phone call.

Series Navigation<< Carol’s Story: Seeking Life Along The Way — Part ThreeCarol’s Story: Seeking Life Along The Way — Part Five >>


  1. Avatar
    Becky Wiren

    So much you went through! And I had heard of some of the issues with the Way from my friend. She had a break for different reasons. She still sincerely believes but is not attending any church.

    So hard for you. I hope you’re taking care of yourself.

    • Avatar

      Thanks Becky!

      Yes, taking care as best as I’m able. I receive some injections Monday, and hopefully will be feeling better next week.

      “Hard.” I haven’t really thought of it as hard, but I guess it was.

      Life is hard damn work, ain’t it? It sure doesn’t get easier over time. But I think we get stronger? Or maybe more experienced so we learn how to adjust expectations so as to be able to better maneuver the storms and tsunamis. And out of survival, we learn to find some humor through it all…somehow and somewhere…to be able to laugh so we don’t loose our sanity. That humor can clear the air and help bring some fresh perspective.

      Dad was a great example of that. He would joke and have the nurses in stitches. His attitude was incredible…how he (and Mom) kept living a full life in spite of their circumstances.

      Thanks again…and kudos to your friend in getting out of The Way. I hope she is happier and life is richer for her and her family now. <3

      • Avatar
        Becky Wiren

        Well…here’s cheers to injections! <3

        My friend Maria and I have some things in common, like disabled kids and health stuff. She is pretty conservative, politically and religiously, albeit with odd turns. She's open to visiting the Unitarian-Universalist Church with me, if her health improves enough. (Congestive heart failure.) But she believes all the biblical crap about gays etc etc, although she said my sister-in-law was a believer. (Lesbian and UU.)

        I can listen to her talk about religion more than politics. She's dyslexic so prefers to believe simple things. She was upset about the ACHA but seems to have forgotten that. When I told her that my biggest issue with Trump was his totally UNSTABLE personality, she seemed to think Pence was going to help Trump. There is literally no arguing with that kind of fantasy!

        • Avatar

          Thanks for the cheers! 🙂

          It’s good to read that you and Maria have remained friends. It will be interesting if she is ever able to go to the UUC with you. Sorry to read about her health condition; I hope she’s able to find some improvement.

          I’m not sure if I’d be able to handle the religion or politics better, as far as in conversation. I think if I and my conversee aren’t trying to convince each other, I fair okay. When I or the other person veer into the convincing mode, it really tires me quickly. Probably stuff left over from so many of my Way witnessing daze.

  2. Avatar

    Hi Carol, Thank-you for taking the time and caring to write about your abuse. I’m the son of a fundamentalist evangelical preacher and I just turned 65, what used to be retirement age but is not anymore. I am intrigued by your flip-flopping behavior in your belief, how you came and went pretty much like a clock ticks the hours. I have for a long time been convinced that extreme ‘faith’ is a form of self-harm and that Christians who practice it in its half a billion flavors, are unable to resist hurting themselves over and over again, just as you have done throughout the years of your youth. (Me too!)
    To not be worth the dime used for a phone call (wow, that saying needs updating now!) is in fact a proof of having gained some ground in life! If The Way feels you are worth chasing, then you are probably still in self-harm zone and wanting/needing to further harm yourself in ‘service’.
    When I see missionaries going off to other countries to hurt them with ‘belief’, I feel quite sad that there is no protection for innocent people, especially children who never deserve the barbaric ideas of fundamentalist religions, the Islamic and Christian bullshit that wounds the earth.
    My best wishes to you in your life, Carol. Go easy. Moderation in all things. You are not worth a dime spent by a religious freak who would like to see you in the prison of belief! Well done! I hope you enjoy much peace and joy in being free… I cherish every sunrise coming up over the BC hills. It is a glory and a wonder to be here today and it is a long weekend off work for me so I am giggly with it… Thanks again for your writing.

    • Avatar

      Hey Brian…

      Nice to meet you. 🙂

      As far as not being chased by The Way as indication that I wasn’t in the self-harm zone – I hadn’t thought of it from the that angle, and your kudos gave me a chuckle, in a good way. Thanks for that and for the kudos! Can’t say I was completely out of the zone, but I did at least distance myself.

      One of my mental health therapists said to me, after I was a few years out of The Way and still going through and sometimes getting stuck in the deep shame, that maybe my self-loathing was a response like a cutter but without the physical harm; ie: that it was a type of self-harm. I thought it was some good insight, and it helped me to view it differently. Perhaps more objectively, instead of as part of my character. I simply hadn’t thought of the self-berating as a type of self-harm.

      In a similar way, your angle on extreme faith and self-harm is a new one to me and interesting. I’ll be pondering that a bit.

      Is your story posted anywhere online? I like to read others’ stories, when I can. Like others, my energy is quite limited these days. So I’m not able to spend as much time online like I used to.

      Thanks for the best wishes…and you too!

      Regarding sunsets in BC…my son is landing in Victoria this afternoon, 2:30 Vancouver time. He and friend hit the West Coast Trail Tuesday morning to backpack it. They are seasoned backpackers. They’ve done quite a few trips together. A couple summers ago they backpacked Iceland for 52 days. Had our family and son stayed with The Way, I doubt he’d be able to go on his adventures…or to have the friends he has now.

      Thanks for reading and commenting and for the kind words.

      To many sunsets and sunrises!

      • Avatar

        HI carol, and best wishes to the hikers on their way yesterday. To be making your way along in BCland is a wonderful occupation and I hope your son and his friend have a wild BC time.
        In answer to your query about my ‘story’, it is not really out there except in portions shared on this blog and a few other blogs I have read. It is not nearly as good a ride as your history! I am a middle child of an IFB (Fellowship Baptist) preacher. My mom was the child of an IFB preacher who decided to marry a preacher. It is all very preachy. I was saved early-on of course, motivated by shame and fear, the two-edged sword of Truth! I murdered Jesus but got off the hook by joining the club. I am 65 years old this year and still irked by extremists who blurt about Mo ham head or Jeebus or whomever tickles their toxic fancy. I am especially toxic myself when I get a whiff of children being burned alive by religious idiot parentals who are so damaged themselves that they offer their children to be sacrificed to a God that is, if it was ever anything at all, a vicious psychopath bloodsucker. I remain thankful every day of this life to have been able to realize that God is a figment, a sick relic of our evolution out of the caves of long ago.
        It gives me joy to know that you are free to be, carol. You have worked hard to breathe and you deserve this best-in-the-world BC air!

        • Avatar

          Hey again Brian!

          The hikers had a grand time! Made more memories for a life time.

          Generations of preachers..and IFB ones at that! The eternal hell-fire torment teaching is child abuse, plain and simple. When I was trying out the Baptist doctrine..I think it was a “free will” church, I recall seeing a movie at the Church entitled “The Burning Hell”…I think that was the name of it. Seems a guy in the movie was in a motorcycle accident and went to hell or something? There were children in the congregation watching the movie. I recall thinking, “Should kids be watching this?” Though I can’t recall the details of the content of the movie, I can recall how it made me feel and that it was too violent for young children. I was 17 at the time, and really trying to believe. I didn’t voice my question out loud. I was a recent convert at the time.

          So glad you survived and got out of it and stopped the generational cycle. <3

          Thanks for the kind words…and clean, fresh air!

  3. Avatar


    After leaving The Way in 2005, I learned that in 1983 after I AWOLed from the 13th Corps, one of the Corps Coordinators (not Martindale, who was the director) announced at mealtime to The Way Corps at HQ that I was not worth the cost of a dime for a phone call.

    – Emphasis added by Zoe

    Zoe: A not so subtle way of making sure those who heard him/her would understand that they too are not worth a dime so don’t even think twice of going AWOL yourselves. You are only worthy if you remain.

    • Avatar

      Another new angle for me. I hadn’t thought of that – as myself and the AWOL being used as an example/threat to others. Subtle indeed.

      Thanks for that insight Zoe!

  4. Avatar

    Hi Carol,
    I’ve been following your story and Reading your blog. How do I personally contact you? I really need someone who understands what I’m trying to process in my own story and I don’t think it happenstance that I stumbled across your story. If you could please contact me via my contact information on my blog I would forever appreciate it. I’m sure you’re so busy, but to bounce off what I’m dealing with with you would be so so helpful. Thank you for your bravery to share your Story.

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