"Now I can see through their hoax"

October 2001
By a former member of the Island Pond Community

I met the community some time ago and eventually moved in with them at Island Pond, in Vermont. They told me I was "filled with our Master's spirit" and seemed so full of love. But behind that facade there was a different story.

I worked all the time in the kitchen with my son, who was ten at the time. There was no one there who helped me cook for a household of 37 people. We needed to make sure the dishes were washed, so my son would wash them. I also would get the shop lunches out first and then the household lunches too. Others in the household would stuff their faces and then leave the dishes for my son to wash while I cooked supper.

At times they told me to go for a walk, but when I came back they would drill me about where I went and why I wasn't there to do the cooking. So my son and I rarely went outside. My other minor child was also put to work at a shop, even though he didn't want to. He carried big boxes up stairs, and if this hurt him physically, it was somehow his own fault or mine. I was often brought before everyone, including the children, told how rotten I was and that I needed to repent. Even after I said that I was sorry, they would continue berating me.

My children and I cleaned the group house every Friday to welcome in the Sabbath. But on the Sabbath we were so exhausted that all we could do was sleep.

The abuse and lack of time outside in the sunlight made me very sad. Finally, I was told after months of devotion, that I was stupid, never really one of the "sheep" and not "saved." My thoughts then were--then what have I been doing there? In the beginning I was told the "Master's spirit" was in me. Now I was told that I didn't have our "Master's spirit." I trusted and believed these people, but now I was cut off, which meant people normally had to leave.

There I was with two little boys, barely enough money for a phone call in my pocket and no car. I didn't know anyone outside the group in Vermont. So I dressed my sons really warm, packed the few things we could carry and started walking down the road with my children in a freezing rain. I hoped we would get a ride from someone to Lancaster, New Hampshire, where I planned to call a shelter. If there was no room then I could call the police to find help. The community, seemingly out of fear for themselves and how all this might look, sent out two men who gave us a ride. No one spoke a word. I called the shelter and there was a family room available. We were very lucky.

It was about two weeks before I realized that it was okay to go outside. I actually thought that if we walked down the road God would kill me. Because community people told me this. I was so terrified. Community members would call the shelter asking for me, but the manager would tell them I was not there. I was afraid to see them on the street, that they would somehow try to drag me back.

I ended up working two jobs, home schooling my children at the shelter, while trying to find a place to live. I couldn't even read the bible anymore. People smiled on us though and helped. After three months at the shelter we finally moved into our own home. I had a car and a decent job.

Things were really getting better, but then the community came back to Lancaster. Eventually after some months I communicated with them and was invited to a Friday night meal. I agreed to go, but that night I really didn't want to. I felt like I was held in total bondage. I started feeling dizzy and couldn't breathe. My son opened the window for me. I was scared, but eventually entered the community house. While inside I used cold cloths on my face.

Two days later when I went to work, but was later taken away in an ambulance. My lips were blue and they used an oxygen mask to help me breathe. I thought I was dying, but it was a panic attack. In my mind at the time it seemed to me that all this was happening because I was so bad. I had forsaken our Master and this was my punishment. Later I realized it was really only anxiety and fear about the community. This anxiety became so bad that I couldn't walk down the street, for fear of meeting up with them. It was like a woman running afraid of running into an abusive ex-husband.

My fear was about being manipulated again and not being strong enough to resist. It wasn't until one of them told me that perhaps they had done something wrong, that I started to gradually begin to trust them again.

I talked with them during this past summer and they coaxed me into coming back. I then gave up going to college and my good job, but told them I still had some bills. They said, "You're our sister, you don't need to be working. just give your bills to us and we'll pay them. Your bills are ours now." I went to the man appointed to be my "covering" and he told me to get my bills and he would make sure they were paid. I then began to close down my apartment in preparation for my move back to the community. I was once again so thankful and trusting.

Then in the fall while packing up the apartment I got a call from a creditor asking me why a bill hadn't been paid. I told him that I was told it had been paid a few weeks ago. I went to my "covering" again and he said that my bills had been paid. Someone broke covenant with me first here, by telling a really big lie. Then the bills kept coming in the mail. I went to another brother about it and he pretended not to know anything, but in the same conversation said he had talked about this in a meeting. On and on it went, but despite all this I still trusted them.

First someone would say that I needed to get out of my apartment then someone else would put up road blocks for my move. But I still tried to be obedient. They said that I wasn't communicating with anyone and "full of accusation," which was the reason that I was being discouraged. One person said do this. Another said do that. Someone would tell me, "Why don't you have this done yet?" Another would say, "Why are you doing that?" After a month of this I wondered if they even wanted to move me in. I had given my thirty-day notice and had to do something. I just needed a couple more days, my son peter to help me and we could have everything moved out.

Now a brother told me that I really didn't need any of my things. He told me to just throw them away. But when I mentioned paperwork on bonds and stocks he changed his tune quickly. It was now okay to keep some things. All these changes seemed totally nuts to me.

One day I was in a room all by myself., no one to talk to, no fellowship, but of course the single brothers were upstairs and so was my son. But I was not allowed up there, as it was frowned upon for single sisters and single brothers to get too close. It was like being together was dirty or something. And my "covering" was never there, so I had no one to talk to. I felt isolated just like before at Island Pond.

One morning I broke down again. I went to the leaders in tears and said I didn't even feel worthy of wearing my head covering into the gathering, or being there because I didn't want to hinder our prayers. I didn't really know if I was connected to our Master. I was discouraged and experiencing a severe cyclothymiac disorder. This is a medical condition, which I have. I usually can handle it, but this time it was difficult due to my sense of worthlessness and their constant badgering. But sadly, these people could suggest almost anything and I would do it. A leader told me again, that I was probably never filled with our Master's spirit. So I sought counsel from someone else, but they were unapproachable. Now I was told it would be better for everyone if I left.

I asked my Landlord if my notice could be cancelled and she said that was fine. Then I told a sister in the group and she said I should let the brothers know I was leaving. No one knew until later that night. I went back to my room and a brother was there. He started yelling loudly at me, asking me what I was doing there. And shouting that I wasn't supposed to be there and had forsaken the Master. He said, "You never reached the blood and I knew that all along. You never had our Master's spirit." He claimed that when I was going to be immersed, he had known I was "full of accusation." It was difficult to understand this though. If he had such doubts, why he didn't speak up before. Wouldn't a loving brother do that? Before he had always told me that I did have our Master's spirit.

My last days at the community were very difficult. A leader called and again said, "What are you doing there" when I answered the phone for the house. I just broke down and cried. I said I needed someone to find out if there would be a vehicle available later for me to move my stuff back into my apartment. But everything I said was twisted. They made it sound like I was threatening everyone. A leader came to me screaming and yelling. He told to stop threatening them and said they would help me to move my things. "We don't need you or your things," he said. Then he told me that I was a "covenant breaker." I was terrified at that point, shaking and wondering if I was going to be hit. But I managed to calmly pack my things.

People came in and out, but had no idea what was going on. They were told later that I left in a rage, which was not true. I actually just went back to my apartment and cried, but at least this time I wasn't homeless. They finally brought me my things later that night. I was actually thankful that only elders were allowed to talk to me. And I know why. Heaven forbid that they might hear the truth, start to figure things out in their own minds and think.

They later told my son they were going to have a meeting with me, but they never called. My son was still supposed to work at their cafe. He told me someone in the group was going to "adopt" him. I called and was told to talk to a certain brother, but that brother didn't know anything. He said someone else was waiting for me to call, but then that brother didn't know anything either. Someone was lying. I finally told them that I knew about the proposed adoption and that they should stay away from son and family, or I would get a restraining order. They said fine and that they really didn't want him anyway.

An elder later called me. I confronted him about how they had lied about my bills, caused me to have bad credit, hurt me and that it was not possible to trust them again. I also told him to stay away from my family. NO MORE.

Now I don't have a job and lost my car. My mom sent me money for food. NEVER AGAIN. That old saying comes to mind, "Burn me once, shame on you, but burn me twice--then shame on me."

I know some of the young people who have left the group and their parents. The youth, for the most part, are telling the truth. These people justify their lies. For example, community members from outside Vermont still use the that state's dental program in Island Pond, pretending that they are residents and stealing benefits.

I am not the only one who has suffered in this group. They keep everyone so busy that that you don't have time to think for yourself. But now I can see through their hoax.

Copyright © 2001 Rick Ross.

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