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Ron and Patti Williams, Hephzibah House and Schizophrenic Women

hephzibah house

Patti Williams, along with her husband Ron, founded Hephzibah House, an unlicensed Baptist girls group home in Winona Lake, Indiana. Williams died several years ago, but her husband still continues to operate Hephzibah House. Despite being investigated by the state numerous times, Hephzibah House remains in operation. Hephzibah House operates under the authority of Believers Baptist Church in Warsaw, Indiana. (Please read Who’s to Blame For the Tragic Death of IFB Missionary Charles Wesco?)

Believer’s Baptist is pastored by Don Williams, the son of Ron and Patti Williams. Don assumed the pastorate of the church from his father — truly a family-owned and operated institution. Interestingly, Hephzibah House is not mentioned as a “ministry” on the church’s website. Girls at Hephzibah House are housed for a minimum of fifteen months, and during that time attend serviced at Believer’s Baptist three times a week. For the past thirty years, Dave Halyaman has served the assistant director of Hephzibah House and assistant pastor at Believers Baptist.

Three weeks ago, Dr. Phil featured Hephzibah House on his daily TV talk show. What follows are several video clips from the show.

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After Dr. Phil’s exposé, Dave Halyaman publicly voiced his objections to the story. Here’s some of what he said:

When this thing aired, Wednesday morning guess who was at our door. CPS with Winona Lake’s police officer Joe Bumbaugh. I took them personally through every single room, downstairs, they wanted to see the storage area, the girls. Then they wanted to talk to the girls. I put Joe and the lady from CPS in a room and closed the door. They went through every single girl and talked to every single staff the day after it aired. And guess what??No problems whatsoever. The girls could have said anything. They could have said anything, they could have maligned us and bashed us, and all they did was praise us.

Sheriff Dukes has an open invitation anytime he wants, they don’t need a warrant, and same to Winona Lake police. If he [Ron Williams] was an abuser or a pedophile, I would know. I’ve known him for 30 years.

We’re helping parents get their kids back. Satan doesn’t want that. They’re [the accusations made on Dr. Phil] either blatant lies or complete distortions. Some of these very critics were there when I was here, and I counseled them. One of the critics who was on the Dr. Phil show, after she graduated and she left us, she invited all of us — the whole staff, months later — to her graduation party.

Would you want us to not do that [give pelvic exams] ? Would you want your girl to come and spend a year around other kids with STDs? It was done with written permission. It was discontinued because technology is so advanced, you can do blood work and figure out what’s going on. There was no way before. Wisdom says, maybe we should have just not done that.

I don’t hate anyone, because I know their influence is satan. The enemy here is not the critics of Ron Williams and Hephzibah House. I see it as an attack on Christianity.

Please take the time to read the Times Union article about Halyman’s response. Read carefully as he “explains” how Hephzibah House is operated and how the girls are and were treated. You can also read the FAQ for Hephzibah House here.

Years ago, Patti Williams wrote a pamphlet titled Schizophrenic Women. This pamphlet remains popular in some corners of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) world. What follows is an excerpt from the pamphlet:

Spelling and grammar corrected.

We Have A Problem

One of the hottest issues today among women is the pants issue and other areas of clothing. Just the way a woman reacts to the whole subject of pants, modesty and dress reveals to me the seriousness of the situation. There are many problems in the church today and I think women constitute one of the main problems.

A woman who is causing problems in the body of Christ is either not dressed properly or not under submission to her husband. In some cases she is neither dressed in a proper manner nor under her husband. A woman greatly influences and brings out the Godly qualities of her man by her actions and words.

Just as important are the fruits of her marriage: the children. Her dress and character will bear fruit in her children. I work with the Hephzibah House girls on Saturday evenings. As I listen to their questions, handle their problems and study the Word for answers, I see that the Bible holds us responsible as mothers for our part in helping or harming our children.

Mother, we are producing the ungodly generation. They are our fruits. We are the fruits of the last generation and this must stop! Stopping a curse can be accomplished by obeying God’s Word. We must repent of what we have done. Repentance means to turn around, change, be different. You may now be thinking or wondering what she is getting at? The Schizophrenic Woman, what has that to do with me? She must be crazy or something.

My Personal Experience

I am going to use myself as the prime example. Perhaps you will identify or relate to what I have to say.

I grew up in a typical American home. We had pants, shorts, bathing suits, immodest clothing, television, movies, dancing lessons, circuses etc. As a small child I desired to be a beautiful movie star and practiced the role by prancing and dancing all around the house. I have a clear memory that goes back to my preschool years. Even then I wanted to be beautiful. For what reason? Money? Other girls? My pets? Of course not it was for men!

The Inner Desire Of Women

I dressed for men, I desired to be beautiful for men. I wanted them to notice me and I learned how to please them, resulting in the character qualities of the Biblical strange woman in Proverbs. I knew what I was doing, I was not innocent. And I do not think any woman is innocent in this area.

A woman has an inner desire to attract men. Yet I was an ERA type woman to the core. No man would control my life! I would control his! I soon learned that I could control men with my eyes, voice, body movements and dress. This resulted in many personalities. I was a different personality for specific occasions and my dress fit the occasion. As I have worked with women and teens for years I see the same character in each female. I am not so sure any of us are really deceived deep down inside. We know how we are but we hide behind a spiritual mask and a civilized veneer.

I am very sorry to say I won my own husband by my dress and actions. This resulted In many years of heartache for our lives. I was proud and haughty at my catch but filled with doubts and suspicions afterwards. We were not saved until we were in our late twenties. Those early years of our marriage were a nightmare! The Lord has done a marvelous work in our lives. But you Christian mothers, why are you allowing your daughter to be a strange woman, a schizophrenic woman?

A Christian Mother Has A Heavy Responsibility

Perhaps you live a decent Chrlstian life, but why are you allowing your daughter to live like a strange woman? She will suffer all the rest of her life. The Lord will forgive and forget but her body and mind will bear nonerasable scars. Mother, you can avoid this by rearing her properly, or perhaps cleaning up your own life first and then cleaning hers up.

What can you say about my husband? Doesn’t he have some responsibility in all of this? Yes of course he does. But let us look at ourselves Mother. The Lord has shown me the role of the woman in the home. A mother is the primary Influence on her daughter. She will be the person you molded her to be and Dad will glow. Dad will burst his buttons with praise over a pure virgin daughter filled with Godly character if you do it God’s way.

How We Dress Affects How We Live

Dress definitely affects our personality. When I wear my housedresses, I feel like working on floors that need scrubbing, cooking and digging in the garden. I do not mind if I get dirty, which I surely do when I really dig into a project. For church and special occasions or a precious date with my honey, I wear my finest. I want to look special for the Lord and my husband. When I go shopping I try to take real care concerning my looks because it reflects on my husband. I do not want him to be embarrassed at how his wife looks but to be proud of me. I want to be different from the dress of the world. I want to please the Lord not man.

How We Dress Reveals Character

We can be dowdy and stand out in a ridiculous way or we can be sloppy which reveals a sloppy character or be so fancy we appear proud and haughty. The Bible tells us in I Timothy 2:9 that a woman is to dress in a modest way. Our clothes should draw attention to the whole being and not certain areas of our body especially areas that may arouse a man sexually. Some think that women do not really make sense. For example some women have hairdos with no makeup. The combination does not really go together. Or similarly lots of makeup and a bland or unkempt hair style is equally awkward. We ought to balance out what we wear.

I know this will step on toes literally, but these new sandals with three and four inch heels are not simple. They draw a lot of attention to the feet, ankles and leg. Besides being very hard on the back, difficult to walk in, and cold on the feet in the winter when there is snow and ice. We have allowed the world to dictate our styles. However, common sense is laid aside for the sake of style! How ridiculous. I really admire the dress of the Amish and Mennonite women who live relatively close to our mission. They are very beautiful to me and communicate a sense of purity. They wear balanced, simple and modest clothing.

Does it make sense for a Christian woman to cover her body with modest Godly clothing then take these clothes off to go in for mixed swimming? That is an absolute contradiction of standards and another aspect of a feminine schizophrenic personality. If a man’s eyes are filled with lust (Matthew 5:28 Proverbs 27:20), then how can we justify the wearing of swimming apparel in mixed swimming? You may say, “Well I am too old to make any difference. I have huge bulges, varicose veins, fat pockets. etc.” Dear lady, you are then gross in a bathing suit! If you still have retained your figure then you are attractive and you are defrauding men and you will stand in judgement before the Lord for causing a man to stumble (11 Corinthians 5:10). If you do not care then you are In severe rebellion and rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft (I Samuel 15:23).

What Does God Say?

Deuteronomy 22:5 says you are an abomination to God if you wear the clothing of a man. Well you say we are in different times, they wore different clothing and besides they both wore robes. I personally believe obedient saints have always maintained the sharp distinction between the sexes God ordered in this verse whether in New Testament Palestine or In the modern era.

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Our Thinking As Women Is Not Consistent

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I tried something several years ago to see what would happen. The whole ministry was gone and I was alone in the house. So I dug out my pants and wore them for one entire day. I could not believe myself. Soon I felt bold, hard, haughty and unfeminine. I was very unsubmissive and I grew worse as the day progressed. As soon as I took them off I changed my personality inasmuch as I felt softer, meeker, feminine and gentle. I was conscious of how I walked and sat. That same year I tried something else. Those were the days of the ungodly provocative let’s-go-to-bed-look fashions. These fashions included the mini skirt.

I again pulled out one of my mini skirts and my shiny black boots and immediately I felt like a strange woman and I desired to dance and prance. Perhaps you have worn these and did not desire these things. That is wonderful but you were just as guilty because you caused a man to lust or to attempt control over his vision.

I also see this change in children. My daughter Naomi has never worn pants unless under a maxi and that is rare. She is so feminine. The girls call her a Holly Hobbie doll. Heather wore pants until she was five when we got saved. It is hard to imagine now but she was a real tomboy. Naomi is not a tomboy and I think it is because she has been in dresses and feminine styles from her birth. I put a dress on her within two hours after she was born over her stretch sleepers and she has had dresses on ever since. Our daughters are virtuous women because we have obeyed the Lord’s commands.

A woman is not submissive in a pair of pants. She becomes either bold or sloppy perhaps slobby. A woman is either attractive and causing a man to stumble or she is a slob and gross in appearance when she wears men’s clothes. Neither characteristic is a Godly one.

Perhaps you are wondering how you can have freedom of movement in a dress. Then you say women have been bound for thousands of years and they ought to be allowed more freedom. Perhaps we need to be bound up? ERA has definitely won a battle among Christian women. Our ungodly dress has resulted In our unsubmissive, bold, masculine spirits.

Anita Bryant is a prime example of what the Bible condemns. Many times I warned my husband about this woman and could not understand why Godly men across this nation followed her. The role she played was not and is not the role of a woman who is a keeper at home. Titus 2:5 says we are to be keepers at home. How can you be a keeper at home rearing your children loving your children, and your husband and at the same time leading a movement across the nation?

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You Can Dress Feminine

Some say your job requires pants. If you are convicted and truly believe pants are a sin, then you are sinning against God by working at a job that requires you to compromise your convictions. I would suggest that you wear feminine culottes. These are easy to make or to have made. Have them made mid-length then wear long underwear or tights with boots if you are cold. We use a pattern that makes a culotte that looks exactly like a pleated skirt yet has plenty of room for movement. You can have them made for most jobs at which you work. Culottes can be worn for recreation.

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There Are Problems We Must Face

A woman that wears pants is either rebellious or ignorant. Whichever is true, both will give an account to the Lord.

It is interesting to note that as far as I can tell, we have never had a girl or woman come into our program at Hephzibah House that did not wear pants. One of the greatest shocks our girls go through is to have their pants taken away! They do not know how to walk sit or act. We have noticed that after a few weeks their outward appearance changes. They are softer, sweeter and submissive. Yet inwardly they are not changed and would wear pants at the first opportunity. Just getting a girl out of pants changes their personality and they are not even aware of the change.

What effect do pants have on our children? Our children are being molded by our character whether we like it or not. They do an excellent job of imitating our bad qualities. A woman who wears pants or immodest dress will produce a daughter that will have either masculine character or rebellious character or the qualities of a strange woman. That daughter will reveal this in her marriage.

Lesbianism among teenagers is common and routine. Being bisexual is common. Because we are disobeying the Lord a mother who wears pants will produce a daughter that may not have a servant spirit to men or her husband unless she wants something special from him.

The effects of a pants-wearing mother is just as devastating on a boy. He does not know how to treat a woman. His role becomes more confusing with relation to a girl.

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Change Is Difficult But Possible

Ladies it was and is hard for me to change. I had a lot to crucify in my life. It was not easy and I am still running the race striving to be like Jesus. Oh to be like Him! I genuinely desire to be like my precious Saviour. The position we have taken is hated not necessarily by the world as much as it is by fellow Christians. Our position does not win friends and influence people to love us. But the most important position in my life is to obey the Lord in all areas of my life and leave the results to Jesus.

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Look At Our Responsibility

Mothers and single adult women, you are responsible for the molding of young girls and children. I have heard many mothers say they do not wear pants and do not believe in them but you know how it Is! Peer pressure forces us to allow our girls to wear them. No, I do not know how it is! If God tells me pants are sin (and He does) then my children are not wearing them whether they do at Christian Camp Youth Group Church or Christian School. Your children need to obey; you and your husband need to let these groups know where you stand on this issue. If he does not desire to speak out then do not speak out either but pray the Lord protect your child.

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My dear Sister in Christ, look around our daughters are no longer pure. Oh how I pray some will stand for Jesus! I pray that some will stand for His sake and not let the world control our dress and our lives. Do not be a schizophrenic woman but a virtuous woman! Be willing to resist the pressures of the world and disobedient Christians. You will stand alone but then so has every earnest Christian since the first century.

Schizophrenic Women should give you a good idea of how Hephzibah House was operated and how incarcerated girls were treated by the Williamses. That Hephzibah House remains open till this day is nothing short of scandalous. I hope after the Dr. Phil exposé that Indiana officials will finally bring to bear on Hephzibah House the full weight of Indiana law. The Williamses and their lackeys have engaged in criminal behavior for decades. While it is unlikely they will ever be arrested and prosecuted, surely Indiana law enforcement and child protective services can find ways to eradicate the stench coming from Hephzibah House. (Though after reading comments from local law enforcement, it’s evident that any action against Hephzibah House and the Williamses will NOT come from local authorities.)

This story has an eerily similar feel to those told by the girls that were incarcerated at Mack Ford’s New Bethany Home for Girls. For further information on their stories, please read the following posts:

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Who’s to Blame For the Tragic Death of IFB Missionary Charles Wesco?

the charles and stephanie wesco family

Two weeks agoCharles and Stephanie Wesco, ages 44 and 33 respectively, along with their eight children, ages 2 to 13, traveled from Indiana to Cameroon to evangelize the lost. Today, Charles is dead, thanks to a bullet wound to the head after being caught in crossfire between government soldiers and armed separatists. (Stephanie and her oldest daughter were in the car with her husband, but luckily escaped injury.) I can only imagine the heartache Stephanie and her family must be experiencing. That said, in the hope of warding off anyone else needlessly dying for Jesus, there are a few things that need to be said. I realize I will be accused of being insensitive, but after numerous stories in recent years of Evangelical missionaries being killed, kidnapped, and arrested, I think it is time for someone to suggest that maybe, just maybe missionaries need to rethink their “calling.”

The Wescos are Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) missionaries. Stephanie is the daughter of Don Williams, pastor of Believers Baptist Church in Warsaw, Indiana. Don Williams is a graduate of Hyles-Anderson College. He is the son of Ronald Williams, pastor emeritus of Believers Baptist and the founder and director of Hephzibah House — a girls boarding school. Hephzibah House is notorious for its abusive discipline and has been investigated several times by the state of Indiana (see video below). Charles’ brother is Indiana state representative Tim Wesco.

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2015 Wartburg Watch article on Hephzibah House

As IFB missionaries, the Wescos spent two years traveling from church to church (deputation) begging for support. Once they raised sufficient support, they made their way to Cameroon so they could win souls for Christ and establish IFB churches. You can check out their website here. The Wescos believed that God has called them to go to Cameroon to preach the gospel. I have no doubt they were excited once they raised sufficient money to begin their evangelistic work. I suspect they planned to win countless Cameroonians to Christ and establish numerous Fundamentalist Baptist congregations. Yet, two weeks into their endeavor, Charles is dead, Stephanie has lost her husband, and eight children no longer have a father.

Charles is being called a martyr for Christ, a man of faith who was willing to put his life on the line for the Cameroonian people. Others are praying that their God will use his death to bring many Cameroonians to Christ. And then there are those who are trying to make sense of the senseless, trying to understand WHY God would have the Wesco family go through the rigors of deputation and the pain of leaving their family and church behind, only to have Charles gunned down, Stephanie made a widow, and their children left without a father. I suspect people will be told to not dwell on the WHY, and to, instead, trust in the loving, faithful, enduring providential care of God. Their pastors will remind them that God knows what’s best and all they can do is ask for God’s name to be glorified through Bro. Charles’ death. They mustn’t dwell on WHY because that might call God’s purpose and plan into question; it might cause Christians to wonder if there really is a God in Heaven who loves and cares for them; it might cause them to question God; yea it might even cause them to doubt his very existence. Of course, those of us who are former Evangelicals know firsthand about asking WHY and not finding a satisfactory answer. For many of us, realizing that, at the very least, God was indifferent towards us or unconcerned with our loss and pain was our first step towards unbelief. I have no doubt that there will be Christians who will face real crises of faith over Charles Wesco’s senseless death, and perhaps some of them might even question God’s very existence. To that I say, good. Better to learn that trusting God to care for you and keep you out of harm’s way is delusional than to see anyone else get it in their head that God talks to them and wants them to pack up their family and go to a hostile foreign land to evangelize sinners.

The root blame rests, of course, on the person(s) who murdered Charles Wesco. But, culpability also rests with the IFB church movement and its doctrines, Believers Baptist Church, Pastor Don Williams, Pastor Emeritus Ronald Williams, and the Wescos themselves. It is IFB preachers and churches that tell congregants that the entire world is divided into two classes of people: saved and lost; that God has commanded them to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature; that American Fundamentalists are duty-bound, if led by God, to carry the gospel to foreign lands. Cameroon is 70 percent Christian, yet the Wescos thought there was a “need” to take the gospel to Cameroonians. Why? Well, 40 percent of those Christians are Catholic, and in the IFB world, Catholic is just another word for LOST. Thirty percent of Christians are Protestants, and in the IFB world Protestant is also just another word for LOST. In the minds of the leaders and congregants of Believers Baptist and the Wescos, what Cameroon needed was Jesus-loving, sin-hating, King James-Only Independent Fundamentalist Baptist churches.

I realize that my words may come off as those of a heartless atheist, but I hope that my speaking the truth will cause others who are interested in evangelizing the lost in foreign countries to reconsider their ambitions. Granted, my words are no match for God’s, but surely there’s room for reason in the discussion. Surely, there’s a place for common sense. If Charles Wesco wanted to go to Cameroon and put his life on the line so he could expand his cult’s reach, well that’s on him. But, he, as the head of his home, took his wife and eight young children into harm’s way. It could just as easily have been his wife or one or more of his children killed in the crossfire. It is fair for thoughtful people to question whether taking children into the midst of a brewing civil war is reasonable. I know I would never put my wife, children, or grandchildren at risk of being hurt or killed. As a husband, parent, and grandparent, I have a duty to love, care, and protect those I love. My booking a family vacation in Cameroon would be considered by most people to be dangerous, careless, and irresponsible. But for people who are immersed in the teachings of the IFB church movement, if God is leading the way, no risk or danger is too great. And when things take a tragic turn, as in the case of Charles Wesco? Few will question God, Believers Baptist and its pastors, or the parents of the Wescos as to their culpability in Charles’ death. Cameroonian soldiers and insurgents will be blamed, end of story.

Here’s what I know for sure. Remove IFB beliefs from the equation and it is likely that Charles Wesco would be sitting at home tonight with his wife and children. It is IFB beliefs that put Charles in the line of fire, regardless of his sincere intentions. Had it not been for his cult’s beliefs about divine calling, missions, and evangelization, Charles never would have packed up his wife and children and traveled more than 6,000 miles to a country torn by political strife and violence.

I lament the fact that Stephanie Wesco has lost her husband and her children have lost their father. No one should have to go through the pain they are going through. But, perhaps this tragic story will cause other IFB missionaries-in-training or on deputation to ponder whether they are really ready to sacrifice their lives or the lives of their families for Jesus. At the very least, I hope this story will end the practice of sending families to the mission field; that missionary work will be restricted to single men, much as the Mormons do or the Apostle Paul did 2,000 years ago.

I know my words will be misunderstood and I will be pilloried in IFB circles, but I felt it my duty to say what other want to say but won’t.

You can read Charles Wesco’s obituary here.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Teen Group Homes: Dear IFB Pastor, It’s Time for You to Atone for Your Sin

lester roloff
Lester Roloff

In the 1970s, Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher Lester Roloff began what later would be called the IFB teen home industry. In 1958, Roloff started The Lighthouse for Boys, a home  for “delinquent boys to be isolated from drugs and liquor until they were delivered.” Marie, Lester Roloff’s wife had this to say about The Lighthouse:

“the Lighthouse has been a haven for boys no one else wanted- boys who were one step from reform school or the penitentiary. … The boys come in all sizes and shapes, but they have one thing in common regardless of their age- they are old in sorrow, sadness, and hostility. … At first the boys cover their inward hurts with belligerence and a bravado that they do not actually possess. These boys are almost without exception bereft of parental love and guidance. Some are actually homeless while others have rebelled against parental authority and have gotten into serious trouble with the law.”

In 1967, “while preaching at a gospel meeting in the Fort Worth, Texas area,… Roloff became aware of a need for a home for unwed pregnant girls.” A short time later, Roloff started the Rebekah Home for Girls near Corpus Christi, Texas. Marie Roloff described the girls at Rebekah Home this way:

“as we began working with these girls, we realized that many of them were unwanted and consequently unloved. Lester said, ‘No wonder children have become embittered and even criminals at an early age. They’ve never seen love in those who gave them birth. The right kind of love would lock and stop the wheels of divorce, delinquency, murder and war and turn this hell on earth into a haven of peace, rest, and joy for these children.”

Countless IFB churches and pastors supported Roloff in his attempt to bring order, discipline, and righteousness into the lives of rebellious teenagers. When parents were frustrated with their “rebellious” teenager and didn’t know what to do, The Lighthouse for Boys and Rebekah Home for Girls became the go-to places to send their children. Their pastor assured them that Brother Roloff knew how to “fix” their offspring.

What many parents, churches, and pastors didn’t understand, was that Roloff and his staff used violence to beat children into submission. After the homes closed for the last time in 2001, The Texas Monthly reported:

…The Rebekah Home took in fallen girls from “jail houses, broken homes, hippie hives, and dope dives” who were “walking through the wilderness of sin,” he told his radio listeners. Roloff remade these “terminal cases” into Scripture-quoting, gospel-singing believers. Girls who had been saved harmonized along with his Honeybee Quartet at revivals and witnessed to the power of the Lord on his radio show. He showed off his Rebekah girls at every turn, and he was amply rewarded: Each day, packages arrived at Roloff Evangelistic Enterprises laden with checks, cash, jewelry, the family silver—whatever the faithful could provide.

Discipline at the Rebekah Home was rooted in a verse from Proverbs: “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.” The dictum was liberally applied. Local authorities first investigated possible abuse at the Rebekah Home in 1973, when parents who were visiting their daughter reported seeing a girl being whipped. When welfare workers attempted to inspect the home, Roloff refused them entry on the grounds that it would infringe on the separation between church and state. Attorney General John Hill promptly filed suit against Roloff Evangelistic Enterprises, introducing affidavits from sixteen Rebekah girls who said they had been whipped with leather straps, beaten with paddles, handcuffed to drainpipes, and locked in isolation cells—sometimes for such minor infractions as failing to memorize a Bible passage or forgetting to make a bed. Roloff defended these methods as good old-fashioned discipline, solidly supported by Scripture, and denied that any treatment at Rebekah constituted abuse. During an evidentiary hearing, he made his position clear by declaring, “Better a pink bottom than a black soul.” Attorney General Hill bluntly replied that it wasn’t pink bottoms he objected to, but ones that were blue, black, and bloody…

…The Rebekah Home was bent on driving sin from even the wickedest of girls and making them see the light of God. Jo Ann Edwards was brought to the Rebekah Home in 1982, after running away from home at the age of thirteen. “I was an acolyte at my church before I went there, and God was very close to me in my heart,” she said in a phone interview from her home in Victoria, where she is the mother of five children. “But that place turned me against Him for a while and made me very hard. I thought that even He had left me.” As a new girl, she was scrutinized by “helpers,” the saved girls who handed out demerits for misbehavior. Demerits were given for an endless host of wrongdoings: talking about “worldly” things, singing songs other than gospel songs, speaking too loudly, doodling, nail biting, looking at boys in church, failing to snitch on other sinners. Each demerit earned her a lick, which the Rebekah Home’s housemother administered with a wood paddle. The beatings left her black and blue. “I got twenty licks my first time, and I was hit hard—so hard that I couldn’t sit for days,” Jo Ann said. “I begged [the housemother] to stop. When she was done, she hugged me and said, ‘God loves you.’ She told me to go back to the living room and read Scripture and sing ‘Amazing Grace’ with the other girls.”

Only Rebekah girls who had proven their devotion by repeatedly testifying to God’s grace could avoid Bible discipline. Some girls were genuinely troubled teenagers who had gotten mixed up with drugs or prostitution; others had been caught having sex; many were guilty of nothing more than growing up in abusive homes. Tara Cummings, now 31 and a mortgage consultant in Chicago, was sent there by her father, a preacher, whose beatings had left her badly bruised. Even she was not immune to judgment. “I was told that I was a reprobate, that I was beyond help and was going to hell,” she said. She was treated to the full range of the Rebekah Home’s punishments, which were not limited to lickings. “Confinement” meant spending weeks hanging her head without speaking. “Sitting on the wall” required sitting with her back against a wall and without the support of a chair, even as her legs buckled beneath her. But kneeling was what she most dreaded. Kneeling could last for as long as five hours at a time; she might have to kneel while holding a Bible on each outstretched palm or with pencils wedged beneath her knees. Only girls seen as inveterate sinners received the full brunt of the home’s crueler punishments. “You had to be saved,” Tara said. “It didn’t matter if you didn’t feel moved to do that—you did it to survive.”

The worst form of punishment, the lockup, was reserved for girls who had not yet been saved—who had talked of running away or who had proven to be particularly intractable. The lockup was a dorm room devoid of furniture or natural light where girls spent days, or weeks, alone. Taped Roloff sermons were piped into the room, and the near-constant sound of his voice was the girls’ only companionship. Former Rebekah resident Tamra Sipes, now 34 and working in advertising for a newspaper in Oak Harbor, Washington, remembers one girl who was relegated to the lockup for an entire month. “The smell had become so bad from her not being able to shower or bathe that it reeked in the hallway,” she said. “We could do nothing to help her. I remember standing in roll call one day waiting for my name to be called off, and I was directly across from the door. She was singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to herself in such a pitiful voice that I couldn’t help but cry for her.”…

You can read the entire Texas Monthly article here.

Though Roloff died in a plane crash in November 1982, the Roloff homes remained in operation until Wiley Cameron, Roloff’s right hand man, closed them in 2001. When  asked about charges of abuse, Cameron stated:

We feel it’s a Bible mandate, like the Samaritan, to help people in the ditch. If we have to get down in the ditch to help people, sometimes we get a little dirty doing it. Put another way, We get troubled kids and we use unconventional methods. We have never abused one person—all of these years, there has never been one case of child abuse that’s been proved in court. There have been allegations, but some people construe abuse where there was not abuse.

In IFB circles, Lester Roloff was quite popular. He and the traveling singing groups from the Rebekah Home for Girls made uncounted appearances at IFB preacher’s conferences and churches. As a young pastor, I heard them several times. Through his preaching and the singing of the Honey Bees, Rainbow Quartet, and Rebekah Choir, Roloff appealed to pastors to help support his work. Pastors, thrilled that there was a place where troubled church teenagers could get godly, Christian help, made sure Roloff had a steady stream of teenagers to “help.” This stream would later number 500 or more children under the care of  Roloff’s “ministries.”

(The above video is from 1979,  Piney Heights Baptist Church, now Lakeside Baptist, in Clearwater, South Carolina. Bill Reese pastored the church for over 50 years. Please listen carefully to this video. Look at the girls in the singing group. What do you see? Happiness? Joy? Where are their smiles? Listen as Roloff calls his charges terminal cases and dividends paid out to stockholders. Listen, as Roloff and Reese brag about how God is using them in a mighty way)

My wife and I grew up in the IFB church movement, attended Midwestern Baptist College, an IFB institution operated by Tom Malone, and pastored several IFB churches in the 1970s and 1980s. Lester Roloff and the great work he was doing in Texas and his battle against the evil government were topics of frequent discussion. We never heard one person speak negatively about Roloff. While we heard rumors about the charges of abuse, these rumors were dismissed as government attempts to destroy Roloff’s work or the words of jealous men who weren’t as blessed by God as Brother Roloff was.

Influenced by Roloff, many IFB pastors started up group homes to help rebellious teenagers.  New Bethany Home for Girls was one such enterprise. In 1971, Mack Ford opened New Bethany. Following the Roloff blueprint, administrators used physical violence to break the will of rebellious teen age girls who were incarcerated against their will at New Bethany. Girls were also sexually violated, molested, and raped. As with Wiley Cameron in 2001, Ford denied anything untoward happened at New Bethany. He died February 11, 2015, having never been brought to justice.

It’s time for IFB churches and pastors to atone for their sin. It is now known that IFB teen group homes routinely used violence to break the will of those sent to them. In some instances, sexual violence took place and criminal acts were committed by serial predators. IFB churches and pastors provided these homes with a steady supply of children; children whose lives were often scarred forever. Just as the man who drives the get-away car for a robbery crew are accessories to robbery, IFB preachers are culpable in the abuse that took place at The Lighthouse, Rebekah Home for Girls, New Bethany Home for Girls, Hephzibah House, and other similar homes.

Where are the IFB pastors who are willing to admit their culpability? Where are the preachers who are willing to publicly air the dirty laundry of the IFB church movement? Countless boys and girls had their lives ruined by men like Lester Roloff and Mack Ford. Thanks to the internet, the stories of abuse, rape, and violence are readily accessible. When will a noted IFB pastor, one of the big dogs, decide to publicly and completely expose IFB teen group homes for what they are/were: money-making businesses that abused and molested children in the name of God?

Here and there, often under the radar, IFB teen group homes are still in operation. Exempt from state and federal laws, these homes are free to follow Roloff’s plan for making rebellious teenagers submissive. In some cases, these current Roloffs and Fords, use their homes to take sexual advantage of vulnerable boys and girls. Why is there not an IFB pastor willing to stand up and say ENOUGH? Is their hatred of the government blinding them to what went on in these homes and what continues to go on until this day?

Thankfully, I can say that I never had a part in sending a child to one of the IFB teen group homes. It almost happened once, but the parents decided against it. In the 1980s, Ron Williams and a group from Hephzibah House came to the church I pastored in SE Ohio. By then, I was beginning to have my doubts about the IFB church movement, so nothing came of Williams’ visit to our church.

While my hands are relatively clean, I know a number of pastors who promoted and supported men like Lester Roloff, Mack Ford, Jack Patterson, Olen King, and Ron Williams, and others whose names are lost to me. Just the other day I mentioned in a post that the home church of IFB evangelist Don Hardman supports Ron Williams, Hephzibah House and Olen King, Second Chance Ranch.

Uncounted IFB churches and pastors continue to support unlicensed teen group homes that use violence to break “rebellious” of teenagers. Why do they continue to do so? Why do they lend their support do abuse and violence? Perhaps it is time to publicize the name of the churches and pastors who don’t have a problem with using violence to subdue a teenager or don’t have a problem with sexual assault or rape. If you, dear reader , run across information that clearly connects an IFB church or pastor to one of these homes, please let me know.

For further information on IFB teen group homes (please use the contact form to send me any other links that should be added to this list):

Sexual Abuse in the Name of God: New Bethany Home for Girls

Jo Wright, Victimized No More

Rebecca Catalanello, The Long Road: To the Gates of New Bethany and Back

Andy Kopsa, History of Violence: Christian Boarding Schools and the Trial of Jack Patterson

Kathryn Joyce, Horror Stories from Tough-Love Teen Homes

HEAL database for New Bethany Home for Girls

HEAL articles on Fraudulent and Abusive Treatment Centers for Children and Young Adults

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