Tag Archive: Word Over World

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.

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

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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.

1970s Word Over the World

In January, 1978, at the age of eighteen, shortly after dropping out of college, I got 100% involved with The Way. Back in my hometown, I moved into a “Way Home” with two other Way believers to help run Way Classes and “move the Word.” That’s what you did in a “Way Home.” I witnessed to everything that moved, sometimes going door-to-door alone. I landed a job in the laundry department of a local hospital. One of my fellow employees was my first Way recruit.

In February, 1978, I met the president and founder of The Way at a large Way gathering called a Heartbeat Festival at the Omni Hotel in Virginia Beach. I waited, alone, outside a conference room where Dr. Wierwille was meeting with the Word Over the World Ambassadors (WOWs) from the region. About midnight, he walked out of the room. I got up, walked over to him, introduced myself, and said, “I want to go WOW this year!” (WOW was The Way’s main lay outreach program, volunteers serving for one year wherever assigned by The Way.)

The next morning, I sat on the front row in the large meeting of hundreds, if not a couple of thousand, people. At the end of his teaching from the stage, Doctor pointed at me and said, “You’re going WOW. next year; aren’t you honey?” I nodded my head yes, and he said, “Have you signed up yet?” I shook my head no, and he bellowed, “Well come on up here!” He motioned his arm for me to join him on the elevated stage, which I did, and he personally signed me up to go WOW.

As I stood with him on the stage in front of the sea of onlookers, he again enthusiastically bellowed, this time to the whole audience, “Who else wants to go WOW!?!” As people came up to the stage I helped hand out the blue WOW sign-up cards.

Little eighteen-year-old me, on stage with the “man of God of the world,” our “father in the Word,” “Doctor,” as many loyal followers affectionately referred to him. I felt large and small at the same time. Privileged. Awed. Humbled. Knowing that I was doing God’s will for my life. Or so I thought.

It was almost intoxicating, but not in scary or uncontrollable way. I was high on the “love of God.” I thought there was nowhere else on earth where one could experience this unique oneness, unity of purpose, synchronicity, and more. I later came to call it “the chewy, caramel center of God’s heart.” It was almost tangible and was a feeling that would be duplicated at Way functions multiple times in the following decades.

Latter May through July, 1978

Before going WOW in August, I jumped on board with The Way’s statewide summer outreach program, WONC – Word Over North Carolina. I was assigned with three other young ladies to Fayetteville, North Carolina, where Fort Bragg is located. I got a job driving a taxi cab. We witnessed to lots of soldiers and ran one Power For Abundant Living Foundational Class.

Sometime between February and May, I had made the commitment to enter The Way’s leadership program, The Way Corps. WOW was a one-year commitment; Way Corps was a lifetime commitment. My upcoming WOW year would serve as my first year of Corps training known as the apprenticeship year. (Ministry years ran from August to August.)

August, 1978

I was commissioned, with hundreds of others, as a WOW Ambassador at the Way’s yearly festival, the Rock of Ages, held at Headquarters in New Knoxville, Ohio. (The Rock of Ages was discontinued in 1995 after twenty-five years.)

I was sent to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and was designated a WOW Family Coordinator. There were four WOWs in my family, all of us barely adults – myself, another young woman, and two young men. Along with overseeing the WOW family, I oversaw our Twig Fellowship. Our WOW family was assigned with six other WOW families to Milwaukee and made up a WOW Branch, which was overseen by an 8th Way Corps trainee on his interim year assignment.

The Way was structured like a tree known as The Way Tree. The roots of the tree represented the research of God’s Word stemming from Dr. Wierwille and the research department at Headquarters. Research is what “fed the tree.” Later The Way purchased other training locations which were collectively called “root locales.” The Trunk represented a geographical country, such as the Trunk of the USA or the Trunk of Canada. Limbs were states, such as the Limb of New York. Branches were areas within a state and were typically composed of about seven Twigs. Twigs were the household fellowships held in Way believers’ homes. An individual believer was sometimes referred to as a Leaf. The Twig is where believers spent most of their time as far as Way meetings were concerned. A common phrase at that time was, “Life is in the Twig.” In the mid-1990’s, the term “Twig” was replaced with “Household Fellowship.” (Click here to listen to the song, Am A Leaf  by one of the popular Way bands of the 1970’s.)

My WOW family lived in a small, run-down apartment on the East Side near Lake Michigan and the University of Wisconsin. We spent a lot of time witnessing on campus. Through the year, I worked part-time jobs as an office assistant, a bus girl at a restaurant, and an ice cream cart driver selling frozen treats on the East Side.

One of my WOW brothers was my boyfriend. We had met at the end of Summer Outreach in North Carolina and had sat together through the teachings and the WOW commission at the Rock, never imagining that we would be assigned to the same WOW family. We were both stunned when we opened our assignment envelopes. He was kind of pissed because, since he was the man, he thought he should be the Family Coordinator. I was concerned because we both had raging teenage hormones. He was 18. I was 19.

Shortly after opening our assignment envelopes, our WOW Branch gathered so we could all meet each other. At that time, I privately told our Branch Leader that my WOW brother and I couldn’t be together; we were in love. There was no way we could concentrate on our commitment to God if we lived together in the same house. Our Branch Leader took my request up the Way Tree to higher leadership. The verdict came back – we were to stay together. The assignments were inspired by God.

I got pregnant within a couple months and got an abortion. I traveled to Madison, Wisconsin, where our Limb Leaders lived, to get the abortion. My mom paid for it. I stayed in the Limb Home for a few days after the procedure. The Limb Leaders were kind, but to my recollection, we didn’t discuss the abortion. I recall feeling very alone, crying alone, and bleeding a lot. Other than my boyfriend and my Branch Leader back in Milwaukee, no one else in the Branch knew, at least that I was aware of. I returned to my WOW family like nothing had happened and went back to “moving the Word.” At that time in The Way, abortion was pretty much treated like getting a splinter removed.

Within two months after the abortion, my WOW brother was moved to a different WOW family in the Branch. But we continued as lovers, growing more fond of one other as the year went on. (Click here to read a two-part series about the WOW commission and abortion.)

In September, 1979, after the end of my 1978-’79 WOW year, I entered in-residence training with the 10th Way Corps at The Way College of Emporia in Kansas.

The WOW Ambassador and other outreach programs with The Way were on a volunteer basis with participants supporting themselves financially while doing the work of the Ministry; there was no monetary compensation from The Way. Volunteers were expected to continue to tithe from income received through their part-time secular jobs during their full-time volunteer service with The Way. As WOWs, we were to work our secular jobs twenty to thirty hours per week and do the work of the Ministry forty hours per week. (Click here to view pages from the WOW Handbook.)

When I was in Corps training, the program consisted of a first-year apprenticeship, when a trainee served closely with Way Corps, a second year in-residence at Way root locales, a third year as an interim or practicum when the trainee served wherever assigned by The Way, and a fourth year back in-residence at Way root locales. The in-residence years were work/study programs and were financed via funds solicited by the Way Corps trainee. Those who funded the trainee were called “Spiritual Partners” and agreed to a monthly or other non-tax-deductible financial donation. The Way Corps trainee was to pray for and to write to each Spiritual Partner once a month during that in-residence year.

The Way Corps training program was not an outreach program, per se, though outreach and teaching were some of the final goals as part of the “lifetime commitment to Christian service.” A Way Corps trainee could be assigned to an outreach program during the apprentice or interim years or after graduation.

The in-residence years included an outreach exercise called Lightbearers. Trainees would live in the field with Way believers for two weeks and help recruit enough people for the area to be able to run The Way’s Foundational Class.

As an outreach exercise, Corps trainees would sometimes have “witnessing” days in their local root locale communities.

The Corps program also included hitchhiking requirements where trainees were to witness to those who gave them rides and were to “believe God” to arrive at assigned destinations within given time frames. I hitchhiked over four thousand miles while in The Way Corps. On one of my hitchhiking assignments, from Kansas to New Mexico, my partner and I did not arrive at our destination in the allotted time frame. We had missed it by four minutes. We had to turn right around and hitchhike back to Kansas from New Mexico. (Click here to read a transcript from my 13th Way Corps personal journal detailing that excursion.)

Through my Corps years I spent time at three of The Way’s root locales in Kansas, Indiana, and Ohio. I spent a couple of weeks in New Mexico at The Way’s L.E.A.D. Outdoor Academy. L.E.A.D. stood for Leadership, Education, Adventure, Direction and was The Way’s wilderness, rock climbing program, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I did not spend any Corps time at The Way’s root locale in Gunnison, Colorado. (The Way sold its Kansas and Indiana properties in the 1990’s after losing followers en masse. At some point, The Way also sold the L.E.A.D. property in New Mexico. The Way kept its Headquarters in Ohio and The Way Family Ranch in Colorado.)

Though I spent over four years in Way Corps training I never graduated. I left the program, not once, but twice, midstream in the training, both times during my interim years. To break one’s Corps commitment was akin to a Judas’ betrayal.

Yet, for the most part, I loved my in-residence years at the “school of the prophets” and was successful through that part of the training. In-residence, our lives were scheduled for us. We seldom had “free time.” I believed that I was in the center of God’s will and heart. I felt I was in a cocoon where I was learning how to do things right so as to be better able to serve God’s people. I believe that is why most followers went into The Way Corps — to serve.

The proving years (interim/practicum) were my death of confidence. The pressure of overseeing people’s spiritual lives, of receiving revelation from God, and of bearing good spiritual fruit overwhelmed me. Externally I appeared capable and confident. But, internally, I felt an incredible urge to flee. I sought escape from an internal dissonance which was brought on by trying to run in shoes not designed to carry me, but that I believed were my duty to make fit. Or perhaps, I was trying to run from manipulation that I didn’t recognize as such.

Not only did I break my Corps commitment, I did so in an AWOL fashion which only added to the shame of my broken integrity.

I think one reason I chose an AWOL approach was because I felt that if I counseled with leadership and then disobeyed, in my confused perception, that was a more direct act of disobedience than if I just disappeared. Plus, I felt any counsel would try to talk me into staying.

For decades after breaking my Corps commitment, a dark shadow of shame followed me. I would try to understand the whys of my betrayal.  Immaturity? Insecurity? Low self-image? Lack of confidence? Unrelenting standards? Fear of failure or perhaps success? Devil spirits? Character flaws?

It took me until 2016, eleven years after leaving The Way, to realize that by fleeing the Corps I didn’t break my integrity. I was actually endeavoring to keep my integrity by trying to be true to my core, to my self. But I didn’t know how. Still, I wish I hadn’t left in an AWOL fashion.

To me, the Corps was a huge commitment.

And I had broken that commitment twice.

The ensuing shadow-of-shame haunted me for decades.

Yet, all that while as I was treading the waters of life trying to keep my head above my shame, unknown to me and other followers, top Way leaders were abusing their authority, engaging in covert and rampant illicit sex with followers.