|The Eavesdropper, Eugene de Blaas. source.|
In my last post I told you I would share a bit about my personal encounter with Bill Gothard, the founder of both the Institute in Basic Life Principles and the Advanced Training Institute.
Recently Gothard's name has made headlines since thirty-five women have alleged that he harassed and abused them. Four women have alleged molestation. These testimonies have been published by Recovering Grace, a website "founded and operated by adults who were raised as children in Bill Gothard's Advanced Training Institute."
Upon arrival I received a list of guidelines. Here's one:
Rule #6: Ladies and fellows will have their own designated floors.This should have been my first red flag about Mr. Gothard. His room was located on the young women's floor. Perhaps he reasoned he was there to guard the "ladies"?
Here's another one of the guidelines:
Rule #12 Blue and white is the ministry uniform for all school visits, official meetings, seminars, and ministry opportunities. " . . . For man looketh on the outward appearance but God looks on the heart . . ." I Sam 16:7. Because man looks on the outward appearance we can uphold God's standard of dress by staying as close as possible to blue and white. (No distracting prints, stripes, or different colors.)
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Rule #8: Be punctual for all meals, and remain until announcements are made.
As I neared my door I overheard Mr. Gothard shaming two young women.
I couldn't make out what he was saying at first, but I understood his tone: condescending and reproachful. A duo of young women replied in a higher pitch; they sounded penitent.
I quickly gathered up whatever it was I had come after and left my room. I paused for a moment to lock my door and to eavesdrop.
They were nearing his doorway now, because I could hear the conversation more clearly.
He said they should smile more and wear their hair longer -- in gentle curls. He also said they both were a bit overweight and should focus on losing those extra pounds. "Man looketh on the outward appearance," he said. "Russian dignitaries are observing our every move. We must show that we have the joy of the Lord! We must be energy givers!"
As the door began to open, I moved briskly down the hall toward the dining room, pausing once to look back over my shoulder. I saw the girls emerge from his room in an attitude of repentance. They stood at his doorway for a moment, receiving the last of his reproach with wide, tear-filled eyes. Then they walked away together, wiping their faces.
"Now there is an energy giver!" he called out.
My heart began to pound. No one else was in the hallway. He was talking about me.
"Who is that person walking ahead of me?" Mr. Gothard said.
I turned to him and introduced myself. He extended his hand to shake mine.
"Are you Russian?" he asked.
I thought this was funny. Did I sound Russian?
"No," I smiled, feeling self-conscious suddenly. I was being inspected.
"You radiate such joy!" He said at last.
I felt more relieved than flattered by this compliment. I certainly didn't want to be the recipient of the lecture I had just overheard.
He went on as we walked side-by-side -- "The Russian people are wonderful -- don't you agree?"
"Oh, yes," I nodded. "I've enjoyed spending time in their homes. They are very generous and kind to us."
Our conversation ended as we entered the dining room, where a hundred smiling navy and white clad students awaited his usual mealtime exhortations.
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I'll post more memories of ATI experiences as they come to me. Much has been shoved to the corner of my mind! I was content to think of Mr. Gothard as a kindly grandfather until the collective memory of hundreds of former ATI students brought the reality of the situation to light.
I see now that while I was feeling guilty over the fact that I occasionally listened to soft-rock music on my Walkman, Bill Gothard was scarring young women with his words. While I was feeling dirty for sometimes imagining what it would feel like to one day be touched by my husband, Mr. Gothard was playing footsie with 17 year old girls in his sock feet.
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My heart goes out to all young people who are trapped in oppressive systems such as ATI!
I wanted to write about "courtship vs dating," but I've deleted several drafts and the topic is wearing me out. The truth is I'm scared to death of both! Maybe once all five of my kids leave the nest I'll have an opinion. I imagine I'll have five stories to share that won't look a bit alike. But if you are interested in what it was like to come face to face with a handsome young man after having made a commitment to courtship, I can paint the picture for you sometime! ;-)