In April 2017, during my re-entry, I was pulled from the girls house on the mountain at 10pm and taken to the house of one of the PFM leaders.
When I got there two of the PFM leaders (because I still care about their wellbeing I won’t use their real names -S and J) and Pastor Mike sat me down as I was tired, drained, emotionally exhausted, and completely wrecked as a person from the emotional abused I received from previous months in the “ministry”. They then proceeded to tell me that my best friend, Kenzie, was a druggie, a whore, a liar, a thief, and a manipulator. They all said that she used me. That she never loved me. And then at that point S took my phone and typed out a message to Kenzie, as if in my voice, and told Kenzie that she is not qualified to speak to me and she needs to answer for the things she’s done. (They said and did all of this because Kenzie decided to leave the ministry and they didn’t like it. NONE of what they have accused her of is true.)
They then asked me if it was okay to send the message but told me I wasn’t being a true Jesus follower if I didn’t.
And the whole time I lay there in a heap. Too tired to cry anymore. Too emotionally broken to stand up for myself. Too confused about what was Christ like and what wasn’t. And knowing that without letting it happen I wouldn’t be able to leave that room until I agreed, I nodded.
I will forever regret that nod.
If I could pick anytime in history to go back in time, I would go back to 11:14pm on April 13, 2017 at J’s house. I would bust down the door, pick myself up, and get the hell out of there. And I would tell myself that that is not Jesus. That is not what a loving Jesus would do.
Maybe if I could go back to that moment and rescue myself, I wouldn’t have the trust issues that I have with Jesus now. I wouldn’t carry the shame of letting such horrible and hurtful words be sent to a lady I love dearly. Maybe I wouldn’t fear reading the Bible anymore; worried that I will find a passage that tells me that that night was righteous. Because I refuse to believe it was.
It’s about time.
Our family left 10 years ago and the place was whacked then. I served for six years and was part of the original team that created the first “school of discipleship”. It took 3 years before I really saw how jacked up it was. Once I moved into Sr Leadership, that’s when the true colors were shown. Three hour lectures over the phone, public shaming, fear mongering, and then the treats to keep you in. We got ski passes, international travel, dinners, rafting trips. Smacked around one day and a dozen roses the next…. text book abuser.
And to the guy I told to “run, not walk off the property” as they courted your family to join.
I told you so.
And to the pastor I spoke with months ago that discredited former employees and Don McClure dismissing our claims because you didn’t want to see the truth, shame on you.
As a team member of the original staff who moved from Fort Lauderdale in 2003 to begin this awesome endeavor of developing a radical, out-of-the-box, School of discipleship, I feel the need to comment once again.
There were warning signs even before we moved our family. This issue of control and rage was known by the staff at CC Fort Lauderdale for many years before Potter’s field Ranch was even a thought.
The thrust of my comment here is twofold, ultimately there are sins of the domineering Shepherds and there are sins of the complicit sheep. Throwing mud at Don will do no good. There were many who saw things and did not know how to expose for the various reasons that only one involved can understand. For those of you who are not intimately involved with this ministry I do implore you to tread lightly on judgment. These are very emotionally, mentally, spiritually charged complicated dealings.
In light of the above comment from Sarah, I too must admit that God used the six years in my life to develop me into a person who has learned to bear more weight, fulfill my obligations, and was the bedrock of shaping me into the successful person I am today. There was much fruit through all of these years of ministry, this alone is the testimony that God is the faithful one who uses jackasses all over the world.
For any out there who have used the negative influence of this ministry as a breaking-point in your relationship with your heavenly Father, I am saddened by that and will encourage you to look beyond the brokenness of men. Church history is one long story of God’s faithfulness to use jacked up humans to propagate the good news that God wants to save sinners and will through many means continue to do so.
For those of you seeking to point fingers and need a place to aim your hurt, as a 20-year ministry veteran of five different Christian organizations; other than the key leader himself, the blame ultimately lies on the board members throughout the years. They are the ones who knew the most, saw the most, and heard the direct reports from those on staff. Why they did nothing or why what they did to expose this never took root, only God knows. But I watched several board members turn a blind eye to the verbal abuse and emotional destruction coming from the top. I offer that only as a factual statement with no malice in my heart and no stone-throwing. Several of these men I know personally and care about.
God have mercy on us all, we are only human.
I too witnessed so many horrific things inside this ministry during time on “the board”, an “honor” given to those who have something Michael Rozell needs (usually money). I was one who dared to question the lies, manipulation, abuse, and seemingly illegal activities. I was taken into one of these closed door meetings where Rozell sat knee to knee with me. He screamed, cursed, and spit with rage I had never seen from any human being (while another CC pastor and his wife looked on). He did everything he could to “break my spirit” as planned before the meeting. My family and I immediately planned our escape. We were advised by some scared, but stuck, Sr Leadership to “leave well”. After we left everyone who stayed behind, by choice or manipulation, was forbidden from speaking to us. There are many, many more horrific stories that aren’t even touched on in this article. Find past students, pastors, staff, and board members and you will hear of the true sickness. My hope and prayer is that finally this break from CCA and this article will shine a bright light, prompt investigations into the PFM books, as well as the abuse, and ultimately save the latest group of young adults!
Please feel free to contact me or use this information in any following articles or interactions with news outlets.
My wife and I were PFM Ignite interns from July 2012 to June 2013. For the last two years we have had ongoing conversations about PFM being a cult. This originally started because my wife was taking a class at our interdenominational Christian university that covered identifying cults and understanding how they work. She immediately came home and told me she thought PFM was a cult. Since then we have talked through that subject several times and each time are only more convinced of it being so.
As has been covered here already one typical identifier of a cult leader is to shame or destroy a threat to the organization by any means necessary. Tragically every single story told in the comments by previous staff and interns fits exactly with the way I was treated by Mike Rozell.
About a month into our program I felt that God was telling me to shave off my shoulder length hair because I was idolizing it and was way too concerned with and distracted by my physical appearance (let it be known that I have great hair). When I buzzed my hair off apparently it spooked one of my fellow classmates and she called her parents because she was worried what PFM was doing to/demanding of people. At the time I thought it was weird that she was so concerned with me cutting my hair but now hearing all of these experiences it makes sense that she would have been very worried. When Mike Rozell found out, not that I cut my hair but that she had called her parents and had concerned them about PFM, he called everyone in the program into a room and screamed at me at the top of his lungs for close to three hours. As my fellow students, the entire staff, and pastoral team watched on he broke me. His blistering and aggressive verbal assaults ranged from my stupidity and cluelessness to my spiritual ineptitude to my intentional recklessness and endangerment of the entire organization. After I was finally in tears, balled up in a corner of a couch, wishing with all I could to disappear, his anger abated. He did this because my action had somehow threatened PFM. He later acted like all of this was for my own good because I was a special and chosen person destined to do great things for God. I was also treated in a similar fashion for wearing flowers in my bandana or behind my ear or any time I questioned the efficiency or methodology of our labor assignments because it was “rebellious.”
These experiences weren’t isolated to my action alone. Mike similarly laid into our entire class for forty-five minutes because someone was using the internet while we were in class. How they monitored who was accessing the internet still confounds me. He then punished us by taking away our connection to the outside world except for a few select hours. But the experience that still writhes around inside of me with disgust is from the end of our three months of training. Apparently the interns still weren’t living up to Mike’s unknowable, undefinable, secret standards. This time, when he attempted to break us by screaming at us our nebulous inadequacies, selfishness, and sins, he walked around the room carrying a (loaded?) assault rifle. He held it over his shoulder, waived it in the air, and used it as a tool to feed his power and fear-mongering. I should have known in that moment that something was seriously wrong with Potter’s Field Ministries but as several people have already pointed out it is really hard to speak up or even process how unhealthy a situation is when you are 18 years old and constantly being treated in a way that normalizes and sanctifies Mike’s every word and action.
These are but a very few experiences of those of us who have spent any amount of time working for Potter’s Field. These aren’t even all that I know about but just a select few to support the accusations that are being made here. I hope that my wife will also speak up and share her own stories. I am grateful that all of this is finally coming to light.
“The preferred method of freeing the young people’s souls from such sin was to be brought into a private office and verbally abused for hours until you broke and confessed…employees were often broken then fired and made to beg for forgiveness and their place back in ministry.”
I was one of those people. I was kicked out and never allowed to return. It was devastating at first, now I’m unbelievably grateful.
I’ve been debating writing a comment all day. I both want to and don’t. I’ve been so afraid of trying to not gossip or slander that I’ve kept my mouth shut for the last 3 years since I left this ministry. I probably should have said more and said it sooner. My wife has even rebuked me because when asked about PFM, I struggle to actually be honest about my experience. But i don’t want my voice to be lost in the midst of those coming forward for the sake that my testimony might encourage others to be honest with themselves and what they experienced.
I won’t go too into details and I must preface with a deep, deep longing for all of my brothers and sisters that I served with for 3 years and that they might find some solace or reprieve. I was an intern 6 years back and was on staff for 2 years after. I traveled the world and was given responsibility over people and resources. Accusations were raised against me for things I had supposedly said and done previously. I was called in the early morning and verbally abused over the phone for almost an hour while half asleep and completely caught off guard. I immediately chose to believe these accusations as fact and spent a time completely broken. However, after prayer and council I was able to go back, discuss and conclude that the events that had predicated these accusations were not only false, but a twisted version of what had happened. When I attempted to contact leadership to present my side of the story in order to better understand why I was being accused, I was told that I couldn’t speak to leadership and I just needed to accept the consequences. When I said that I was struggling and that I did not feel heard or cared for by those in authority over me, I was told that I must then be in sin. I felt the Lord lead me to lay myself down and accept the punishments laid out, but to return home and sever ties with the ministry.
A few months later I was home. I never heard from 95% of those still with the ministry afterwards. Those I tried to talk to initially were already set in their minds I had abandoned the ministry due to my sin. Many of those people were some of my closest friends for the 3 years I was with PFM. My story is not just that experience, but that experience best sums up my story. I was in large part spared due to being international for so long, but not entirely.
I honestly don’t really know how to feel. This is all coming out very suddenly and it seems surreal that, as strange as it sounds, what I went through is in some way validated. I firmly believe in the restorative powers of the Lord in all things. I quite honestly don’t know if any of this makes sense but I decided to say it. I’ve tried to write as coherently as I can. Like i said, I feel surreal. None of this seems like it could really have happened or be happening.
In the summer of 2011, our family sold/gave away/packed our belongings, sold one car, and drove the other across the country to Montana for 3 months of ‘training’ before becoming long term missionaries in Central America for PFM.
Red flags appeared early for me:
no plans for language training
(“You’ll pick it up when you get there!”),
repeated urging to sell instead of rent out our home (“It means you’re really all in.”) and
scheduling my husband only for classes to ‘prep for the field’ when clearly we were moving there together for the first time with our two young boys. For some reason, there was a constant emphasis on speed rather than quality of preparation.
I’m thankful for the Holy Spirit (and the stubbornness God gave me to listen to Him over all.) I quickly registered and took Spanish 102 to get some language learning started at our local community college before we left our home. I disagreed repeatedly with selling our home (never heard any talk/planning about what we would do when the time came to re-enter the US.) I am thankful to this day; when we returned after 4 years, we didn’t have jobs or cars or…forks, but man, we had our home. It was empty, but God’s beautiful math had it grow in great value while we were gone. And, it’s funny… so many people in our home church cheered and encouraged us on the way out, while only a very few help us quietly rebuild an existence when we returned.
Uneasy memories include a very strange meeting with Mike, his 2nd in command and my husband and I where I was warned that:
“Central America is a patriarchal society.” (I know.) “And it’s not good to be a ‘strong woman’ there; they wouldn’t like/accept it.” (Ok…uh, have I done something wrong?) “No, no…we just wanted to make sure you know this.” (Walking away with my husband as confused as I was, then saying to him, “If you ask me, it takes a strong woman to pack up her family’s everything, move to a foreign country, and work with orphans. Would you want a weak woman?”)
In the midst of much confusion and being constantly referred to as ‘guinea pigs’ because we became the first of the brand new Ignite classes, there was a visit by Mike and co-pastors/leaders. We were asked how it’s going with the 5 interns they sent us, one week after we arrived, as rains brought flooding and evacuation due to landslides. As we tried to relay the several hurdles and how we were learning to work together through them, Mike began screaming at us in a hotel lobby from midnight to 2 AM. “THIS IS WHAT YOU SIGNED UP FOR! I’LL PUT YOU ON A PLANE BACK TO THE STATES SO FAST YOU WONT BELIEVE IT! HOW DARE YOU BRING UP THESE TRIVIAL THINGS! WE’RE HERE TO KICK IN THE GATES OF HELL!” It was especially unnerving to have three other pastors sit/stand there watching this mantrum with mixed looks of understanding, pity, and acceptance.
The last straw included a phone call about how to best get a children’s program going in the new location we were moved to in Guatemala. I relayed that the local pastor often changed his mind as to how, when, and what the program would be. I was told by Mike’s #2 leader:
“Just pretend like the pastor’s in charge in meetings but, at the end of the day, we’re paying the bills so we know who’s really in charge.”
After staring at the phone incredulously, I said, “You mean, the pastor IS in charge, right?” (This is the model we had been taught repeatedly during our 3 months of ‘training’ for the field, after they let me join the classes.)
He replied, “Right, pretend like he’s in charge.”
I felt nauseous. I was done. I literally don’t know how to do it like this (and refuse to represent the Lord in this way.) We knew it was time to do different things differently. Soon after, my husband began building houses with another local ministry, and I began building boxes full of play equipment for those who work with children.
We returned to the States in the summer of 2015. Trust, that used to flow naturally, has become a challenge in many areas of life now, especially for those in leadership & authority positions. Depression and anxiety has manifested in different ways in different members of our family. Four years after returning to the States, we continue to work through the messy heaviness.
Thank you, Michael. For carefully listening, righteously reporting, and for helping connect all of us who knew ‘SOME THING’S NOT RIGHT HERE’ so we can expose this to the light and begin/continue healing. I hope and pray that all of us can continue to grow in our relationships with the Lord, not because of PFM, but in spite of them.
PS. I want to acknowledge that while our experiences felt betraying and difficult, I am appalled to read all that went on for young interns. I stand with you and am here to help however possible.
Being part of this ministry was both a blessing and a very difficult chapter in my life. I was in this program as an intern in 2016. Yes there were many things the Lord revealed to me about my heart and where it needed more aligning with Jesus’ heart. Friendships were made and I met so many great people.
But I also was a target for accusations against me from a classmate. This occurred early on in training. I was pulled into the office multiple times to talk in the phone/face to face with Mike himself regarding this “occurrence” that didn’t happen. Pastor Mike did not want to hear what I had to say and went on to throw the following verse at me.
Matthew 18:6 King James Version (KJV)
6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea
This went on for 2 weeks. There were also inappropriate questions he would ask me about my past. It made me feel very uncomfortable but he insisted on getting his point across. It was very embarrassing that these accusations were being tossed at me. I could not believe what I was hearing.
There were also times I saw leadership taking too much control and manipulating certain individuals. I was blinded by all the abuse and can see it now looking back.
Though these are hard words to share, it’s the truth and I cannot keep inside what I know needs to be shared.
I was an intern with PFM and enjoyed the friends I made and time spent there. However, yes, it’s a cult. Mike yelled at our class often for hours on end, and he mentioned how often, nights before he would have to give his performances, he would get extreme panic attacks, and he felt it was Satan trying to get him to stop. In the moment, I thought… “maybe that’s God saying you need to just stop and refocus on Him…”. He also told our class he was a prophet. And once when I asked about his daily Bible reading and prayer time, he didn’t have a clear answer. And one of the girls on staff, from his “inner circle,” bragged how Mike told her, “when we go out to eat, don’t think you ever have to worry about money, we are going to nice places” (or something of that nature, please don’t quote me!!! I just remember thinking it was really odd)
But anyways, like I said, I did enjoy my time meeting new friends, but I couldn’t imagine being there long term. God pulled me out of there, thank God!!!
My daughters were the first group to go to their discipleship program in 2003. Rachel and Priscilla were destroyed by this man and Chet Lowe.
Their incredible faith in Christ devastated. On the heels of this a Calvary minister in Sandpoint Idaho took the baton from us their father and married Rachel w/o our consent. Horrible. This devastated our entire family. Neither the Spokane minister nor another Calvary pastor near our home in Heron MT would do a thing… My husband was shipwrecked.
Our family destroyed and several left the faith & threw out the Lord. Divorce ensued and I and 3 of the 5 children walking w Christ. Rachel divorced & away from Christ.
Mist recently Ben Ortiz (son to Ken Ortiz) started his own cult. Since my husband abandoned me after all this, cuz I still love Christ w all my heart soul and mind, I didn’t see what was happening. He started Grace Sandpoint, after Jeff Bradley fiasco and Grace Sandpoint Bible College. We all did slave labor for 9 years. I lived on 4-5 hours of sleep for 5 1/2. Didn’t see he was building his empire so his family could move out there. Out of some 50 students, all wee kicked out cuz the weren’t quite dead enuf for Ben. Rebellious. He stood between the congregation and the alter and God. Sick man. A year and a half ago God just peeled the scales off of my eyes and I saw exactly who he was. You didn’t dare ? him. It was prayer and fasting that got 91 of us out of about 180. He is Still going on just like Rozell. So much destruction to all those kids… I wouldn’t want to be these men on judgement day.
The “ministry” was founded by and is being run by a cruel, manipulative, intelligent, and evil man who is responsible for hundreds of young adults with PTSD, years of therapy, depression, and suicides.
I was a part of it for years so I know better than anyone how easy it is to be brainwashed like this….this isn’t just some article I decided to share without fact checking. I was a part of this firsthand and am still suffering from it’s effects. They prey on vulnerable young people on purpose. I was lucky enough to escape, however, some very dear friends of mine have not been as fortunate. Please be sensitive and do not use phrases like “well why don’t they just leave? It’s not like they’re handcuffed there or anything” and “it must not be that bad then”. Those are ignorant statements and you obviously have been fortunate enough to not have been involved in abusive hostage situations like this.
If I can also speak to one thing and she’s some light regarding Pastor Don McClure:
Every time he visited, Mike made SURE she was with him 100% of the time to ensure all of what he saw and heard was being monitored so he would never know about anything unsavory. It’s very easy to pass off as just plain hospitable. He was only being shown the facades of what Mike wanted him to see so it looked like this amazing program. Made sure no one would accidentally slip up and say something that could show any red flags. Facilitated every activity and conversation, every move was very intentional.
Don McClure is just a man like everyone else, and he was manipulated just as severely as the rest of us. I can attest to the guilt and shame he is suffering from, as he saw me at the coffee shop I was working at and began sobbing, apologizing for being such a fool, asking how God could ever forgive him. He was not only ashamed for being so blind, but for blatantly encouraging and pushing PFM so heavily. He is sickened and heartbroken, so to all who are very quick to judge him, please remember he is a man who loves the Lord and was blindsided like the rest of the world.
Kenzie Thank you for sharing, your courage to speak up and all are in our prayers. I have not heard any judging here. Instead a bunch of caring Christians who have had possibly all some form of connections w PFM whether distant or in your unfortunate situation direct. I respectfully believe this ministry is or was marketed through some form of CC. And I think when people bring that up, it’s just to be on a fact finding basis. One thing is for sure, there should be discussion afterwards about how these “pastors” are qualified, who backs them etc. so, that this never happens again. No judging just caring. Many of us have a daughter and sons who could have gone or have gone to these ministries bc in the past trusted CC their marketing and affiliation w said pastors and ministries. So it is only relevant to ask how, why, when. However, If this triggers you or any others our apologies. I think for now we are thankful for this blog and all of you. And hopes to help as many to get home and the help they need. God bless.
My heart is completely broken as I read this article, read the comments…. think back to my own time in the program. The only thing I can say very clearly is that it’s a very confusing time for me as well as the other interns I know and love. Please be gracious to us as we process all of this.
I did ignite in 2015, part of class 8. There were two instances I can think of very clearly where pastor mike lost his temper with us. The first time was a couple nights into us arriving in Guatemala for our training. He sat the whole group down in the kitchen and started ripping into us, demanding to know who has gossiped already about someone else we just met, and told stories about how gossip made the past classes bad. He demanded to know who had already gossiped… declaring that anyone who has gossiped already would be sent home immediately. They weren’t fit for what we were there for. While we sat there in terror looking around, one of my classmates (who has actually commented here already) raised her hand and admitted to gossip, accepting that meant she was going home. I remember thinking she was brave to be so honest. She never got sent home but the lecture continued.
The second time I remember clearly was in our ReEntry period in Montana. We were downstairs in the church Selah and I could see Mike screaming at two classmates in the corner (one of them being the same girl from the previous story). Both girls were crying. I couldn’t tell you about what, I was so scared I pretended it wasn’t happening. Part of the secrecy and “don’t ask, don’t tell” motto that he had engrained into me already. When he was done with them he got all of us together and screamed about how people go home from the program and don’t sponsor the ministry. He told us they obviously don’t love the children they had all just poured into, and that a lot of them don’t even walk with the Lord anymore. He then demanded that we make a vow to support the ministry when we get home. If we would publicly accept we could have the “Stay Tucked” bracelets he had made for our class. I had supported PFM financially since I was 16… pastor mike spent a lot of time at my church CC Boston. Him and Pastor Randy were good friends. I grabbed my bracelet relieved that I wouldn’t be shamed by not having one. At the time it seemed wrong but what could I do about it…
My experience there was very bad but mostly because my uncle died half way through the program and I had to go home for 3 weeks. I thought I was having an extra hard time because I went right back after (duty calls. Lots of people donated lots of money to send me there, I can’t let them down) and was grieving in a strange place with people I had just met. I assumed everyone else had a better experience than I did.
Pastor Mike really liked me. When he visited us in Kenya it was right after I returned and I was so starving for affection that I sat at his feet on his side of the house and listened to anything the group would talk about. The leadership traveling with him even asked if it was okay I was there and he gladly let me stay. I could be trusted with what I heard.
Up until a couple months ago when I was contacted by fellow interns and told horror stories I would have fought to defend Pastor Mike with everything I have. I considered him my pastor, especially after the awful things I experienced at my own CC when I returned home. Processing this has been very difficult for me.
I know this is a long response and I apologize, but this will be my final story. August 2018 I returned to Montana for a 3 day visit. Many of my friends were there as 2.0’s (graduated interns that return to Montana to live there and serve). I reached out to staff to ask if I could come visit and was met with excitement. I almost didn’t go but at the last minute booked my ticket. I was told I wouldn’t have to get a hotel or bnb, I could stay at one of the houses for free. If I really wanted I could donate something but I didn’t have to. They picked me up from the airport and for the next 3 days I was questioned and looked at with confusion. A very different response than what I got online. I was asked “why are you here?” So many times I lost count and started to really ask myself the same thing. Apparently you’re not allowed to go there to “just visit”. I felt more uncomfortable with every interaction I faced and didn’t see pastor mike until an hour or so before I was headed back to the airport. While staying at one 2.0’s house, I was talking to her when she started really prying about sin in my life. Deep conversations are normal in the program so I didn’t think anything of it at first, but then she asked me point blank if I masturbate, if I use toys, if I’m sexually attracted to women. She continued this until she felt I had given her an honest answer. Feeling guilty, I asked to go to my room to pray privately about the matter and was told I could not. I had to pray and confess my sins publicly and she wasn’t satisfied that I was truly repentant until I started crying. She even told me that if I wasn’t repentant she would have to throw me out like the story in 1 Cor 5 of the man caught sleeping with his fathers wife. They were providing my transportation and housing, so I was mortified. I couldn’t imagine being stranded in Montana. She then called another 2.0 who was a classmate of mine and asked her to drive from the office to her house to be with me while I prayed. After all of that was done, another newer 2.0 came home and she then told her what had just happened with me. I was humiliated, and too ashamed to talk to even my best friend about it who was living there at the time. Apparently I was told it is a talk all of the girls have gotten.
Reading your article Michael the stories of this happening to other people hit me the deepest because up until that happened I was writing off everything else as just normal ministry stuff. The “miscommunication” of living with people from different cultures. Thank you for bringing this to light, because I’ve known about some awful stories for months and have been so afraid for the people I love who are still in ministry there. Those interns have good hearts and they honestly believe this is what God wants. Please, everyone pray for them, this is a very messy confusing time for us.
I have been watching these comments appear while waiting for the words to come about my own story with PFM.
I don’t think they ever will.
I was an intern with Potter’s Field Ministries in the third IGNITE class in 2012, less than a month after graduating high school. In an attempt to process and gather my thoughts, I went back and looked through my social media posts, emails to friends and family, and blogs to see what I had to say about my time there while I was actually in the thick of it. I was shocked and confused to find that I gave no indication of what was really happening.
This is a testimony to how fearful I was of what would happen if I spoke out.
I couldn’t bear to speak the words, “help me,” because I was too ashamed of failure and being ostracized from the only people who understood what I was going through (my fellow interns).
If I had reached out to anyone about what was happening, I would lose this community, I would have to pay back everyone who had helped me get there, and worst of all, I would need to explain why I was back in my hometown when I should be serving God in another country. I was terrified of not making the cut.
I remember thinking, “I just need to keep my head down, lie low, and make it through without drawing too much attention to myself.”
I can corroborate the many accounts given here. I was in that room when the assault rifle was being waved around and looked for the exits to see if I could get out if shots were fired. I heard the vile things that were screamed at interns for hours over trivial things. I was woken up at 3 am by screaming staff members and kept up through the morning to prove a point. I held my friends as they cried over the trauma they were experiencing. I was manipulated by fear into repenting for “sins” I had never committed. I was there. I lived it.
Over the past few years, I have struggled internally through many of the things I experienced during my time with PFM. I am in conflict with my thoughts and my heart over this. I must admit that I was deeply changed (for the better and worse) through my time there. God blessed me with friendships and my now-husband through this, too. It is hard for me to hear these things (though I know they are true) because there are many people I love that were long-involved (and still are) with this ministry and there were true moments of joy and sweet memories I have of my time there. Even though I felt dirty and used, I still desired approval and praise from the same people that tore me down and took advantage of me years after. I still feel hurt, rejected, and full of failure when I think back to that year of my life and how my fellow interns and I were treated.
It wasn’t until I learned about cults in an academic setting, as my husband mentioned earlier, that I realized exactly what I had been a part of. I told myself for years (because it’s the only thing I had heard), that my “disappointing” experience was because the other interns and I were prideful, arrogant, and needed to be changed. I now know that my experience was “disappointing” because I was being spiritually, mentally, and emotionally abused.
The manipulation and abuse does not end when you fly out of Kalispell, MT. It haunted me. Every once in a while, I forget… I am thinking about how good that time was and then I remember… and I find myself shivering from the trauma I experienced out on that ranch. Even years after returning, I experienced anxiety, panic attacks, and deep emotional trauma and attended professional counseling. Some of my friends and family members are learning about much of this story for the first time.
To those who are holding Potter’s Field Ministries accountable, thank you. Thank you for doing what those of us who were affected were not strong enough to do. Thank you for building a platform where we can stand together, speak, and heal. Pray for us as we try to find our peace and process through all of these pains that we have shoved away for so long. Remember that many of us can be dealing with un-dealt with pain and may be realizing the weight of this for the first time. Please pray for not only the victims of the abuse, but those who are guilty of it. Pray for justice and (as hard as it may be), pray for redemption.
And to interns, staff, and others who have been hurt and marred by PFM (especially Ignite Class 3), remember that you are not alone and you are not responsible for the horrible things that have been done to you and the pain you may still feel. We serve a God of grace and love, and the picture of God that was “showed” to you is not accurate. It is okay to be angry about these things, too, but channel your anger into speaking the truth and seeking out justice in love. Encourage others to speak up and come alongside of those also dealing with this hurt.
This has been long overdue. I am moved by the support the victims have received and I am committed to telling my story in honor of those who cannot find their voice. Let’s work together to ensure that those responsible for this abuse are held accountable and that they do not misrepresent our faith or harm anyone ever again.
I was not going to post anything, but after reading the horrors that other ex-interns have experienced, here I go. I have found a safe place.
As an intern who completed Potter’s Field Ministries IGNITE program in the mid-2010s, I just wanted to let everybody know that this article and the stories about the antics of Mike’s anger at PFM is all but true.
Mike has a very strong temper and would lay into our class with shouting and drama every few months when we were in Guatemala and during our re-entry in Whitefish. When somebody did not address him as “Pastor Mike” he would instantly go ballistic and it was a lesson we quickly learned not to do. It was scary and was something I still have never seen.
Although I never was the punching bag of Mike’s abuse first-hand, many friends of mine, including some who have posted stories, have told me things that match what is have written word for word. We were all yelled at by him as a class, mind you.
One odd thing that I remember was Mike literally shouting at us about “how a woman named Hilary Clinton was coming to destroy America though the evils of socialism” and that it was “our duty to stand up against her” when we were in re-entry during a class. It was odd and made me feel very nervous and he seemed to be generally concerned with America being overthrown. Politics aside, the way he addressed it made me think that he could snap violently.
I also remember him brandishing an AR-15 over his shoulder and shouting at us, around that same time during as an event above. This was also during our re-entry in Montana and he had some sort of message to go along with it, but I look back in horror because it was an indication that something was not right in his mind. He really laid into us then. He never pointed the weapon at us, nor do I recall if it appeared to be loaded. I would have fled if he did.
I always figured that he had a God complex. He walked around Potter’s Field like some sort of high-end CEO from the “Wolf of Wall Street.” Looking back now, the staff and interns seemed to idolize Mike. He had some sort of cult of personality around him. Maybe it was all the wealth he had made for himself?
This sadness me, of course. I met some wonderful people there, both in Guatemala and Montana. Ignite was generally a good time for me, but only if I exclude Mike from the equation because he was abusive.
Had I known how close I was to the abuse that Mike was dishing out, I never would have joined up.
If anybody wants to contact me, comment below so I can see.
This Potters place is awful! My daughter went there for three months. One night when all the kids were exhausted (10PM or so) the leaders decided they all have to switch bunk rooms and no one could move their “own” stuff and half of them were blindfolded… We had to go to Guatemala and literally save her. This place gave her POTS. We got her home and took her to the ER and she passed out from low blood pressure.
The following is an excerpt from Pam Rozell’s autobiography: “Stones of Remembrance” as she recounts the abuse she suffered from her husband, Mike Rozell.
“I don’t even know what I said to him – but it sent him flying into a rage. I thought I had just answered a question in the same way I would answer anyone else. Before I knew it, he was standing directly in front of me, screaming and yelling at such levels that any neighbor, or even someone in the parking lot, could hear him. I was trying to placate him by answering him with soft answers, because the Bible says that a gentle answer turns away wrath, but then the vitriol and horrible things he started verbally hurling at me made my own anger start to rise within me, and I wanted to defend myself. Michael would always use the secret things that I shared with him in my heart, my fears, and my family against me as a sword in these rage attacks. It was so hurtful that I thought my inside would explode with pain. How incensed it made me that he didn’t know how to fight fairly. You don’t speak or act toward someone you love the way he did. The fear I felt was consuming every molecule of my body. I never knew where these fights would end up.” -pages 232 & 232
Sadly, I find that many of the personal testimonies of Mike’s anger match very much the narrative seen here. This book tells the story of how God repaired their broken marriage and helped heal Mike of his anger issues. However, based on the numerous accounts and evidence that has recently flooded in, I would say that it’s still a struggle in his life. I was an Ignite Intern in 2016 and a former employee at Mudman. I witnessed firsthand the way that Mike handled himself. It wasn’t healthy. I would often avoid him, especially when he was going off an another intern or staff member. As stated above, there truly was a “don’t ask, don’t tell” mentality that was engrained into all of us.
“Whatever Mike was screaming at that person, they must have done something wrong to deserve it. Yeah, they must have deserved it.” I am ashamed to say, but this is the mindset many of us were manipulated into thinking. If someone left the ministry on bad terms, we were told not to contact them and to question if they ever believed in God in the first place.
Many of the employees and staff members there are people I love dearly. They geniunely care about helping others and have sacrificed much of their lives in order to so. However, I feel that Mike has taken advantage of their hardwork and exploited that. Whether this is intentional or not, I cannot answer. But the evidence is on the table.
I have many personal accounts of the unhealthy leadership of PFM, but I felt this was on my heart first and foremost to share.
God is bigger than any man, and Mike is just a man, no matter how much he is idolized within his circle.
I’ve witnessed and experienced this abuse from Mike AND Pam firsthand. Although it is easy to overlook Pam because of her husband’s “radical” behaviour, she is every bit as responsible as Mike.
Praying for those still involved at PFM as they endure the “punishment” sure to come.
I have local friends and family willing to help those that need to evacuate. Please contact Michael via e-mail and he will give you my contact.
The way Mike and Pam do ministry via PFM has been going on for years and I am encouraged by all of you for your courage and boldness to speak out! Due to the fact that I would not yield to Mike and Pam’s ungodly authority totally I was fired in 2004 by Mike- Has Mike screamed at me in a RV Park we stayed in while on tour till way into the next morning I just stood there and listened to him while the Lord told me Mike was bluffing. I was so mentally physically and spiritual depleted yet I could hear the Spirit in that I am so grateful for the Lord removing me! So to you all that are speaking up know that this an answer to many years of prayer! I know the Lord is faithful and I am deeply sorry any of you had to go through this! Praying for healing for all!!
Thank you Michael for your for being the one to bring all of us together-
I was an intern in 2013, and am grateful I didn’t return. At my home church, it seemed to be standard for former interns to return to be “2.0’s”, as they were called. Objections had been repeatedly raised by the church, because this younger generation, which was hoped to be a boon to the church body upon return, was instead being assimilated into the organization. I had returned home physically and psychologically depleted, and assumed I simply didn’t have the moral fiber or fortitude to be a proper Christian. I am fortunate I had a good, good friend who sent me on my PFM travels with some encouraging, grounding books, and welcomed me as I returned with encouragement, teaching and replanting in the Gospel. I wouldn’t have recovered spiritually without him, and wouldn’t be in the church today.
Harm has been done to those of us who were there. My year was more gentle than subsequent years, it’s true. But what I can say is, you can do no better than to surround yourself in the love of Christ via your brothers and sisters who are committed to the Word and love of God. As we all move forward, I pray we learn the love of God all the more in contrast to the fallen state of where we had been. I pray for my friends and former interns; I also am extremely grateful this has all come to light. Some days, I honestly wondered if it was just me seeing things poorly. I tend to lose perspective now and again.
I was an “intern” in 2007 and became staff in 2008. I was paid $150 for +50 hours of work per week as an intern, and I made $900 per month as a staff member. I was working upwards of 15-hour days including working with students, for which I was not trained or prepared for.
My time at the Ranch is similar to most people as a student. You run laps in the snow, hike mountains, get woken up in the middle of the night to switch dorms, work out until you throw up, berated by staff and/or Pastor Michael. You are reminded that you are insignificant and that Pastor Michael is a true vessel of God. Here’s what I wrote in my journal. This is just one conversation with Mike Rozell while I was still a student.
May 3rd, 2007
“Today Pastor Mike came and told us the visions (our plans for how we would serve God after leaving the Ranch) weren’t big enough… Afterwards, I talked to him and…[sorry, I’m parsing this down for clarity but the parts I’m typing out are word for word] he said, “You guys aren’t a team yet and none of us can figure out why.” He said it then aloud to everyone in the room and left.
“After lunch, he came to ___ and I and brought up the fact that after he had left the room, someone said, “I think we are a group,” and it undermined Pastor Mike. Pastor Mike said God has given PFR to him. He’s seen 8 teams come through–enough to see the difference between those that are unified and those that aren’t. He said we aren’t a team because we all think we still have rights. We think we have the right to say that we believe the authority set above us is wrong. But if it [the leadership structure] goes: God, Pastor Mike, Pastor J and Pastor D, then the rest of the staff, what makes us think we have the right to be the one that’s right?
“God gave Pastor Mike all the rights and his staff does whatever he asks without asking why or telling him what they think he should really do because they all know that they were called to serve there and doing that means having respect for Pastor Mike. He said that we’re wasting near half a million dollars by not being a team because that’s what we’re called here to be, so we’re missing out on the blessings. He said we would be accountable to God for the $13,000 that was paid for us to be here and to use it wisely, fix the problem, and grow. Pastor Mike said that he was crucified by us right here on his own property because of criticism. He asked me if I was all in and I said I was.”
Things got worse when I came on staff. I don’t have the energy to really get into all of it now, but it was pretty traumatic. Pastor Michael would ignore me then get really personal. He asked me to move to El Salvador to work at the orphanage there with another pastor and his family and then told me no. It became a theme, him telling me one thing then taking it back.
When things got really bad, he would lecture me while I sobbed and tell me I had to leave the Ranch, then the next day he would take it back and say God told him I needed to stay. He did this a few times. He let me get treated like an animal in a cage by other staff and board members, all while saying it was because God wanted me to be there.
I am not ready to share my story as it would take away my anonymity, but I am grateful to the survivors who feel comfortable sharing their truth. Thank you for shedding light on Potter’s Field
I wrote this on my personal social media, but I thought I should share it here, too:
I don’t even have adequate words right now, so please bear with me…
I cannot explain what the last few days have felt like since these stories have begun to surface – to know that 8 years later, that I am not alone – that what I went through during my time at the PFM Ignite program in Montana and El Salvador (from 2011-2012) wasn’t my fault, that I didn’t “fail,” that the way I was treated WAS spiritual abuse regardless of the good times mixed in and how much “love” I felt towards them, and that others went through similar experiences as I did and worse. There was kindness sprinkled in with screaming and manipulation and humiliation and insults, and in hindsight everything fits the textbook definition of psychological and emotional abuse. As young adults right out of high school, we took a leap of faith to help serve kids around the world and ended up surrounded by confusion and darkness. We became blinded by it.
The way that we were treated during the Ignite program does NOT align with the heart of God. Not in the slightest.
Read this article. More importantly, read the 100+ comments and stories. They are from people I know personally – fellow interns, friends, former staff members, people I look up to.
I share all of this not out of malice (in fact, I am struggling to even formulate words and muster the bravery to share this), but in order to protect others. Please, please – if you are in any way supporting PFM financially, stop now. If you have friends or family or kids that have been to this program, please reach out to them. Let them know that they are not alone.
I deeply regret that I did not realize all of this sooner. I sincerely apologize to anyone that I directed towards PFM, especially those closest to me. I fully believed that my own experiences were my fault, that it was all growing pains of a new program, that others who went after me would do better than I did and not “fail,” etc. I didn’t begin to realize that there was truly something wrong until a loved one of mine went last year (after I encouraged her to go). ? It will be a journey for me to forgive myself for that (if I ever can), and I know that so many others feel the same way. We were all so, so blinded.
I have many mixed emotions and I am processing… I will most likely share my own experiences later. Reading accounts of others’ experiences has brought me to a state where I am reliving the trauma and I will be seeking counseling to work through it all and process. I am so thankful for tremendous bravery of those who have spoken out. I am confident that there is deeper healing to come.
I served with the Ignite program as an intern in 2015. It was in my final week of re-entry in Montana, after nine months of service in Guatemala, that Mike staged a confrontation against me that greatly damaged me on a psychological and spiritual level. I had served faithfully with his ministry for almost ten months; I had a great reputation amongst the people I served with; and I was a week from returning in honor to my home church that sent me.
Mike called all serving interns into a great room, and proceeded to lecture us for two hours on how we needed to be giving to his ministry when we returned home. I have never been pumped for money so hard in my life. I was already sponsoring three Potters Field Kids prior to my time in Ignite, and my support was set to resume the next month; I was not amongst the population he was raging against. But this lecture was not sitting well with me, as I watched him manipulate people in my class to tears with things that weren’t quite true. Specifically, he was working a teammate of mine about how he got to meet his prayer child (who he “sponsored” on a monthly basis) while he served in Guatemala, and were it not for his sponsorship, this little girl would’ve never had the opportunity to participate in PFK club, where she was fed [one meal each week] and given the Gospel. I struggled with how PFM, and Mike, on that night, were representing this, because I also was “sponsoring” a child in Guatemala, and was really excited to meet him…only to find out once I arrived, that the PFK location he attended had been shut down long ago, and he hadn’t been with the ministry in some time. I found out, once I was working in PFM, that my money those last two years wasn’t just going to “Oscar” in Guatemala, but that it was going to PFM as a whole, being distributed amongst their three ministries: the touring ministry with Mike and Pam, the Ignite program, and finally Potters Field Kids. Let me disclaim that all of this is mentioned in the small print of their sponsorship brochures, and I’m told by them that ministries like World Vision and Compassion International operate in much the same manner. But I just struggled with why we were approaching marketing in this way, when the general impression, at least back then, was that you were supporting X child directly. (In essence, you weren’t given a picture of Mike and Pam’s smiling faces saying, “Send us to the next church,” or of my smiling face, saying, “Sponsor my ten months in Ignite.” You were given a picture of Oscar in Guatemala’s face, where you felt your monthly donation covered the expenses of this impoverished child in a foreign country.) At one point, Mike shouted to us, “Does anyone have a problem with this??” and gave us a long time to respond. I almost raised my hand in that moment, but decided instead to pull him aside privately after his lecture was finished.
In my time in Ignite, I knew Mike to be unpredictable, rash, and extreme as a person, but I had only seen it in the contexts of when he was being over the top fun, when he was super passionate about something important and trying to get his point across in a creative way, or when he was burnt up over an issue of righteous anger. He and I had had several conversations over the last ten months; he had a sort of liking and respect toward me; and I thought we shared a certain rapport. My honest assumption was that, while his lecture over money didn’t sit well with me, there was probably something I wasn’t understanding about ministry and how to run a business, and if I just had an honest conversation with him about it, I would probably understand why he was going about sponsorship as he was.
I walked up to Mike after his lecture was complete and asked to talk to him. From my tone to my phrasing, I approached him with all humility and began to explain what I was struggling with, framing my entire struggle as a question, rather than a point. I wanted to know why Potters Field was presenting their sponsorship in this way. I got about 2-4 sentences in, when his eyes went ablaze, and he seethed at me, “YOU HAVE ACCUSED A PASTOR!” (something he and his assistant would repeatedly quote to me as foul action on my part, twisting the verse from 1 Timothy 5:19). From there, it’s like the room turned upside down. He twisted my words, added to them, and took everything I said wildly out of context. He called his assistant, JoJo, to join, gave her a ten second inaccurate summary of what I had said, and she immediately lit into me, so close to my face I could feel her breath against my cheek: “AFTER EVERYTHING HE’S DONE FOR YOU, AFTER EVERYTHING, YOU WOULD DARE TO…” she trailed on.
I pleaded with him, “Pastor Mike, no, please understand! This is not what I’m saying! I’m not accusing you of anything! I’m asking a QUESTION!” As he would twist my words in different ways, I would beg him to hear me out. I lost concept of time, but he and his assistant were probably raging at me for 1.5-2.5 hours in the corner of that room that night. He let me know, once we were finished, that “Satan had used me to deeply discourage him” in the ministry. I went to bed, terrified of what was going to happen to me. I knew Mike was volatile and rash enough to have someone storm my room that night, kick me out of the house, and send me on a plane the next morning. I was at the end of ten months of volunteer work; I didn’t have the money to pay for another flight. I knew my parents would bail me out, should I contact them, but I was so messed up in the head at that point that to contact them felt like betraying the call I felt God had given me to Ignite, and I only had one week left.
I knew rationally that what happened that night did not add up. I had never had a conversation like this before in my life. 2+2 simply did not equal 4. For the humility and gentleness I approached him with just to have a conversation, I was getting the full wrath of the heaviest rebuke he could manufacture.
The next morning, our class was called to the house that Ignite 2.0 (second year) female interns were living in for an impromptu meeting.Mike came in with his leadership team, and staged a dramatic meeting. He let us know an “accusation” had been levied against him by an intern. He shared he barely slept a wink that night, and he and Pam were “this close” to shutting down their entire ministry on account of this intern. He told us how he had discipleship all wrong, and if he was really going to train us young adults to follow the Lord Jesus, it was going to have to get a LOT more intense. There was a staircase behind him in the living room of this house, and while addressing us, he shouted, “YOU THINK YOU CAN TALK TO ME LIKE THIS,” and he waved his hand at forehead level, “LIKE PASTOR JIM, OR PASTOR STEVE MILLER, OR PASTOR STEVE VENABLE,” and then he climbed the staircase to the top and shouted, “BUT GOD HAS PUT ME IN THIS POSITION!” and waved his hand from himself, downwards at us.
I knew what he had just said was blasphemous, that no position greater than a pastor existed in Biblical church structure, but it was so immensely confusing at the time, because I looked back at Pastor Steve Venable, who was sitting at the bottom of those stairs, nodding his head along to what Mike said. Whatever mistrust I had toward Mike, I did not share toward his pastoral leadership team. I had had the most enriching experience under the shepherding of the gentle and servant-hearted Pastor Jim Randall. I had sat in hours of classes and knew first-hand the depth of theological understanding and study Pastor Steve Venable had. And I was personally pastored by Pastor Steve Miller, who had just joined the ministry that year, at my home church in Chicago since 2010, and I had greatly benefited from his years of investment, support, and spiritual guidance. How all of these godly men stood alongside Mike, I couldn’t wrap my mind around, and for years, it led me to circle back, “They can’t all be wrong. It must be me.”
At the end of Mike’s address to the class, he threw an envelope at me. I didn’t even have to open it. I knew it was every penny I had ever given the ministry in sponsorship. I had earlier that morning determined that, whatever it took, I was going to make things right with the ministry. I didn’t understand what had happened, but I reasoned that since I felt called to this ministry, God called me under the authority of Mike, and I had somehow transgressed that authority. Mike had laughed in my face the night before at how I, a mere intern, would dare to try to talk to him about how to manage his ministry, when fellow pastors don’t even make this attempt; he sneered at me for how full of arrogance I was. I have always known I have a pride problem. It’s something I consistently repent of and ask the Lord to change in me. So I reasoned that even if I don’t understand how I set him off, he’s saying I’m proud; I know I’m proud; and I can at least apologize for that.
I knocked on the door to his office. He saw me and immediately snapped, “I don’t want to see you!” I threw my hands up in the air and said, “I’m here to repent!” He called his assistant, JoJo, in the room, saying he “needed a witness.” I began, “Pastor Mike, I don’t understand everything that has gone on over the last day, but I recognize that I’m called under your authority, and that I’ve offended you deeply, and I want to take ownership of that and apologize to you for it. I know I have a pride problem, so I want to apologize for the arrogance with which I approached you and ask for your forgiveness.” He immediately sneered, “This? This isn’t repentance!” And it was in that moment that I understood he was not going to be satisfied until he had completely broken me.
Mike Rozell proceeded to berate me in a way I have never been berated in my life. He is very good at reading people and sizing up their insecurities, and he goes after those insecurities viciously. In this office meeting, he shared anecdotes, allegedly one from his wife, Pam, and one from his worship leader, Katie, who both claimed to spiritually intuit from brief snapshot incidents with me, like me stepping out to use the restroom during a Bible study, how I was full of arrogance and pride. In one account, the worship leader reportedly advised, “She doesn’t need to be anywhere near worship.”
Mike told me in his office that, because of my pride, I shouldn’t be anywhere near worship; I shouldn’t be anywhere near ministry. He told me that if I tried to step down as worship leader of Blue Island, I wouldn’t be able to stay in the church, because of the humiliation. He told me I was a joke to my entire class, that when I entered a room they could just smell the arrogance coming off of me, and insinuated that they were only putting up with me. He told me I would never be like him, a “simple-minded” person who could take God at His Word in faith, without getting all heady and trapped in my own intellectualism, and that I would never know the fullness of walking with the Lord as He did, as a result of my own intellectual makeup. He shouted, “PHARISEE!!!! PHARISEE!!!” straight in my face, leaning over the desk that separated the two of us. And his big finish was, “And that boy you want to marry? Dear sister, I beg of you! I beg of you! DON’T DO IT! YOU WOULD RUIN HIM! YOU WOULD RUIN HIM!!!” And it was at that point that he had me in tears, totally broken, blubbering for forgiveness, telling him how I hated myself, I hated my mind, I wished I could have a simple faith, etc. It was at that point he switched gears. He began to comfort me with all gentleness, saying, “This, this is repentance!”
I hated myself in that moment, because I knew at the time he was manipulating me, I was also manipulating him. I didn’t actually believe everything was all my fault. I knew the math didn’t add up. I did resent my own intellectualism, but I had kicked into survival mode and was more or less telling him what he wanted to hear. I left that office so reduced to nothing. We left for an outreach at an Indian reservation that night, and on the long bus ride, tears poured down my face, as I frantically repeated to myself, “I can’t remember the Gospel. I can’t remember the Gospel. I thought I knew repentance. I can’t remember the Gospel.”
The Lord did some beautiful things between Him and I in the next forty-eight hours to stabilize me, and I spent the remaining five or so days staying as under the radar as possible. Mike passed a message on to me through Jim Randall the day after, “Tell Brooke I love her.” I received the message with a forced smile and thanked him. I wrote an apology letter to Pam for how I had offended her and discouraged her in ministry. I apologized to my class for my arrogance and pride problem. Mostly, I spent the next several days refusing to say a word to anyone about what had happened and trying my best to create zero waves until I was on that plane out of Kalispell. I rejoiced inside when I went through security at the local airport on my way home and knew I would never return to this ministry.
For the next year, only my then-boyfriend (now husband), my pastoral authority, and a couple that mentored me prior to my departure for Ignite knew what had happened that last week in Montana. I was so spooked to share any of it. During your time on the field, Potters Field has you reading all of this literature on Biblical submission. They make gossip a capital sin. They’re constantly asking you to question what is Biblical vs what is American, and it’s not a bad question to ask, but when a church authority is redefining the rules of the game to explain their sin (what is real discipleship, what is godly rebuke, what is godly submission), it has a way of really muddying the waters. Never mind what you know in your home church experience, would Jesus do this? Would Paul say this? For probably two years, I felt like the Lord might take my next breath, like Ananias and Sapphira, if I dared to speak against Mike or the ministry, or call them into question. I got bolder to share with my family and close friends what had happened. Only a little over a year ago did the nightmares stop that Mike was trying to kill me or my family.
I consider myself to have experienced real brain-washing from this ministry and have experienced real PTSD. He never drove me to question the existence of God, but he definitely shook my theological understanding and confidence in serving in ministry in ways that I am still wrestling with today. I have healed so much, but there’s still a lingering cynicism and distrust toward God and a skepticism toward church authority that I struggle with, and you can pray for me about that.
I fully endorse the findings of this report by the Phoenix Preacher. I have not witnessed the sexual comments allegation, but I have witnessed first-hand everything else. If you don’t believe me, or reason that I am only an embittered case of failed church discipline, please take time to read the testimonies of other interns in the comments section of the Phoenix Preacher’s posts. It appears the Lord has provided the second and third witnesses that Mike demanded from 1 Timothy 5:19 by the droves…
This is a cult. Where I was hesitant to speak against it in the past, for fear I might be attacking God’s own church, I am bold to speak about it today. Stop financially supporting this ministry. If you care about the work in Guatemala, I can recommend a wonderful church led by Pastor Luis Sanchez that you can support, or wonderful missionaries that run an incredible kids-centered ministry that you can send your money to. But please sever your ties with Potters Field, because they are actively destroying lives and shipwrecking the spiritual walks of young adults who just want to serve the Lord with their whole hearts. They use a lot of intimidation, shaming, and guilt to keep their past or present interns from speaking out against them. They have mandatory social media assignments for all serving in the ministry to promote their work. It is not all as it seems. Please review the testimonies available and withdraw your support of Potters Field Ministries.
My name is Ashley. I met Pamela and Michael Rozell when I was about 12 years old in Southern California. I was introduced by family of mine who had been close to them at that time. When I was 13 years old, I went on tour with them traveling from California to Montana to help in the pottery studio, subsequently traveling to various churches until we reached Boston. However, it was in Montana that I first experienced Michael’s need for power and control.
Being from California at the time it was common place for a 13 year old adolescent to call others “dude” or exclaim this in surprise or awe. On the final evening at the studio in Whitefish, we were loading the truck up with pottery. Upon finishing this we were standing in a circle talking about the trip to come. Michael was charismatically chatting, when for a reason unbeknownst to me he came up to me and lifted my 13 year old, forward facing body up by my arm pits and lifted me onto the truck bed. Certainly I was surprised and incredibly uncomfortable and exclaimed “Duuude!”. From there he was angered and demanded I go into the studio with him a few feet away. Inside he berated me until I was in tears, demanding I call him “Pastor Mike”. He made a point to tell me I may also never call him “Mike” because he is a pastor (although he never actually went through formal pastoral training or seminary I later learned). I was horrified and too ashamed and humiliated to come out of the studio to face every one who had been there. So I cried and sanded down unfinished pottery. Tour came and went and I spent majority of my time helping sell pottery and stayed with his long time assistants at the time.
Less than a couple of years later, I learned that Michael and his ministry were opening up a program for “troubled girls” called “On Track”…never in a million years could have I have foreseen that I would be one of those girls. At the age of 15, after an invasion of privacy, I was sent to that program for having minor sexual relations with my first boyfriend. At 15 of course, this is pretty normal. Yes, it was sinful and against my faith and I felt the guilt of that even putting an end to that the same night I would later be told I’d be going to Montana to “take a break”. Keep in mind, I had never drank alcohol, smoked a cigarette, done drugs, snuck out, or cut my skin, which were the common reasons for other girls being in the program. I was a well performing student at a private Christian school who loved Tennis and studying French. I was so excited about my plans to become a social worker I had even began sending off for information packets from potential colleges. After arriving very late due to flight delays, I awoke the next day with the assistants to go to Michael and Pam’s home to work a full day. The first day I dug a giant flower bed out front and then weeded the flower beds surrounding the home, pouring sweat in the summer sun. The following couple of unpaid work days were spent working in the studio and cleaning out pottery equipment (without a mask, which I later learned in a college ceramics class is very important for health reasons). I received a call from home informing me that I would be going to On Track. I dropped the phone and started running down the road. Unfortunately for me, I was caught and spent fourth of July with the On Track Girls of Potters Field “Ministry”. From there I spent my days doing nothing but listening to music and journaling as the other girls did their home schooling. I had occasional “counseling” sessions, until the “counselor” got fed up with me and said I could just come if I ever wanted to which would of course I would never want to. These “counseling” sessions were aimed at finding the deep meaning behind my sin, which of course I could never find. Although I drove myself into a sad little hole trying to find the reason and meaning so I could get out of there.
I spent a total of four months there. I was supposed to leave after two months, but when I asked a few days before those two months expired, I was told by the “counselor” of the program (who I do not believe was ever trained in formal counseling or even licensed by a board of any sort), that I was not leaving. I dropped my half-peeled orange on the deck and ran inside up to the dorm rooms at Potters Field that housed both female adult discipleship students and On Track adolescence. For some reason in an effort to calm and self-soothe I suppose, I began washing my hands under ice cold water until I began to scream, throwing water all over the mirrors. At some point, others came and someone restrained me as I began scratching my neck as hard as I could in the midst of my first panic attack. I couldn’t breathe, hence the scratching at my neck. When asked later by students about my neck I lied and said I had a nightmare, resulting in the scratches leading down my neck.
During my time there we were forced to fast along with discipleship students two times despite our protests. It wasn’t a true fast but the food was minimal and the fast of course had no spiritual purpose when it wasn’t even determined by our free will. Michael came to the school here and there. However, when he would come it was expected to applaud, hoot and holler at the sign of his arrival through the doors as though he was God himself. Things got really bad for me when Michael sat down with me on a couple of his visits. He once told me that he didn’t want me to become my mother (a chronic alcoholic and felon) and told me, “You don’t love your grandmother, or else you would not have done what you did”. I was disgusted and dared to protest against this as best I could, as a shy 15 year old girl, but he spoke over me and insisted this to be the truth despite anything I would say. After this, each day, I would stare in the mirror at myself wishing to drain my mother’s blood from my veins. To somehow clear the filth. I was so filled with shame. I was filthy, impure and disgusting. Maybe I should even die. I began cutting during my time there, as learned by hearing stories of another On Track girl using cutting as an escape prior to her arrival. To this day, few people know of my cutting because I hid it and only cut on my upper thighs with the metal clip piece broken off of a skinny sharpie.
After the program I turned to kitchen knives and became so depressed I began stowing away any and all pills for my future suicide. I obsessed about this and had a list of at least 15 different ways I could kill myself should I “need” to do that. I once considered jumping out of the car going down the highway, but it didn’t seem like a sure bet. I came out of the experience with a destroyed relationship with my family and felt worthless. At one point, I began taking the pills in a crisis. I was desperately depressed and hopeless. Between anti-depressants and my first job the depression lifted enough that I got rid of the bag of pills. However, the years to follow were filled with decisions of self-destruction and low self-esteem. I did anything and everything I could to self-destruct. I also abandoned my faith and denied God following my release from the program. Not His existence but my decision to follow Him in any capacity believing He had abandoned and betrayed me. The program ended after my peers and I left. Although I cannot say for certain, another On Track peer purported they decided to close the program because they thought we would all “kill ourselves” if we stayed there over the holiday season.
Who knows for certain, well I’m sure there are those that know, but what I do know is that I experienced Spiritual Abuse, as many others who have crossed the paths of Potters Field Ministry have. Although at the age of 19, I processed these events and the remaining feelings in therapy, I continue to struggle with my faith and trust in leaders of the church. I observe new pastors very carefully, surveying their every word and possible intentions, scanning for lies, deceptions or simply my own icky gut feelings which I’ve learned to trust fully. I’ve decided to write my story in hopes that no one else experiences the deception and spiritual abuse that is so common within this “ministry”. Perhaps it was a true ministry at its conception, but it has not been a Christian ministry for many years now.
I am so thankful for this post, and to all the hurting souls who are brave enough to come forward with their stories, some still in the midst of their pain.
I worked for PFM for almost 9 years. During that time,
I was almost daily berated (sometimes multiple times a day), called worthless, and was the brunt of Michaels rage tantrums and Pam’s wrath. I believed, at the time, that I deserved the constant verbal and emotional abuse, because I was sinful and not good enough to serve the Lord. I was told that I was a nobody and that I wasn’t allowed to have an opinion. That I was lucky to ‘get’ to serve in this ministry. The very few times I gathered up the courage to object or question the treatment of others, I was told ‘this is not a democracy’, and ‘you aren’t loyal to me (Mike)’, and ‘remember who signs your paychecks’….all followed by hours and hours of rebuking unto the wee hours of the morning. I had originally started working for PFM, because I was told it would be a ‘safe haven’ for me to come away from ‘the masses’ and everyday life. That this would be a way to take a respite from some serious things that I was going through and trying to process through at the time. A time to seek the Lord. (This was before the discipleship school & the intern program was up and running, so I was never a student/intern).
The Rozells kept me so mentally and physically exhausted working an inhumane amount of hours each week, I found that I had very little time to seek the Lord. Myself, and the others I worked with…we were all just so exhausted all of the time. I toured with the Rozells, along with another assistant for 8 years. Initially I enjoyed the travel and I really loved all of the driving. It took me until recently to realize that the reason I loved the driving so much was because I could be alone, and Michael or Pam were unable to invade my personal space and boundaries while safe in the confines of a van. While on the road, the other assistant (who is now like a sister to me) and I lived in an 18 ft travel trailer. Michael would always remind us that this was HIS trailer and HE paid for it, so if he wanted to come over at 1 o’clock in the morning because he needed something from one of us, then that was within his rights to do so. Sometimes Michael would come over to the trailer and yell at one or both of us until 1 or 2 in the morning. I remember feeling suffocated and claustrophobic, stuck in a small trailer with a raging maniac and feeling like I could not escape. I want to mention that Pam was well aware of what Michael was doing during his rage fits and tantrums, and would just sit over in their bus and watch tv. This went on for so many years, it became ‘normal’ life for me. I was a shell of a human being when I finally left Whitefish, MT.
It took years before I was able to fully grasp what had taken place there. The abuse, the accusations of various ambiguous sins (real or imagined )and the yelling. Always the yelling. I still cringe and disappear somewhere inside myself when people are too loud or the volume of a tv or radio is too high.
When I left PFM, I questioned if I was even saved or not. I broke off contact with many family members and some friends, because I did not know how to explain to them what I had been through. I was ashamed that I had let the abuse continue for so long, and I was afraid they wouldn’t believe me. I felt guilty as welI, that I didn’t get out sooner, or that I stood by and said nothing while others were abused in Jesus’ name, or that I chose to excuse the Rozells behavior, convincing myself that nobody is perfect and that it isn’t really as bad as it seems.
I still have a hard time reading the Bible, because all I hear is Michael yelling verses at me, or Pam twisting them to make herself look righteous and right, and me sinful and wrong. I have been able to find verses that comfort me, and I still cling to those. I have not been able to bring myself to go church. I tried for bit, and it would trigger panic attacks. I am hoping to one day be able to go to church, and make it through an entire sermon without shaking.
I have been out of PFM for 7 years, and I have healed a lot since then, but it has been a process, and God is still continuing to heal me daily.
It’s both encouraging and painful to read these horrendous stories. It has stirred up many internal emotions, and brought back a flood of memories, even after all of this time.
I am so sorry for the pain that all of you interns, staff members, and families have experienced. Your bravery and honesty is amazing and encouraging. I am also sorry to any of you that were hurt my own passivity. I stood by and watched a number of people get emotionally and spiritually abused and I was too afraid to stand up and say anything, because I was afraid of man. Please forgive me.
This verse from Matthew is a comfort to me, and reminds me of God’s gentleness:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
It seems absurd. Incredulous that families would allow their kids to attend or sign up and serve. Friends I was nineteen. In my new faith I was ready to go eat locusts in the desert to proclaim the gospel. I was young, no attachments. Spending every waking hour feasting upon God’s word, fellowship with other believers and service in whatever form I could give. I was young and naive.
I didn’t realize the weight of the humanity of PFM.
You see PFM is spread out friends. Mike and Pam and one or two workers are typically traveling quite a bit. When they are out doing their performance ministry ( God still uses to bring people to Jesus) day to day tasks go smoothly. Our parents see the ministry and are proud of us kids for giving our lives. The next area is church. Mike and Pam are leaders in your church. Really cool.churches with great Bible teaching ( the pastor’s cycle through every couple of years as do the board members) it was rare to see Mike in a rage at church so many people don’t know. There is a church in Whitefish now that Mike and Pam are heavily involved in. Thirdly, there is the school or Mudman where students who have seen this amazing ministry can sign up, and spread the love of Jesus through the whole world. It’s very enticing. I didn’t even know that what I was going through was abuse. It took YEARS of God’s healing to understand that that is not what God wants. The phrase “it’s a really intense ministry and not everyone is cut out for intense ministry”, it’s sold like the Navy seals of ministry. As a young person you want to be that!! You want to give your all! So when things go south you are ASHAMED that you couldn’t cut it. You don’t want your parents to know how much of a failure you are. You lose you friends, your fellowship and are an outcast and blame yourself for “not being faithful in the small things”. These kids serving are not all having a bad experience, they don’t know, they can’t see. This will no doubt be played as persecution from the enemy which will firm up their young convictions and serve more. Mike and Pam are human. It’s that humanity that is the issue here. Lord only You can heal our hearts. Help us.
(I still struggle working with men. I made a clerical error on a letter that was printed, Mike took the letter and started yelling and walked towards me to the point I was against the wall. He had the letter in one hand and a finger close to my face. I was balling. I was not faithful in the small things. I was ashamed and felt that I wasted God’s resources. I wasn’t forced to resign and repent until months later.) My own pastor was there. When I went to him it was “an intense ministry”. I don’t think he was intentionally complicit. In his heart he did what he thought was right. He too was oblivious that he was in a cult. Our highschool kids call Mudman cult burger. The community is not stupid. Getting outside confirmation from news sources would be helpful.
Here is my full story. I guess I am still ashamed because I was still too scared to share my real name. My name is Alissa. My introduction to ministry life was ROUGH. I had just been through a church split where I was interning and Mike and Pam “graciously” invited me to intern with them. Granted this was for very very little money which at that time I saw as ok. I had plans to go Calvary Chapel Bible College in the fall. Mike (who didn’t have us call him pastor at this point – just to show you the change that has occurred and the intensity of him continuing in ministry as he now demands that title) offered to pay for my room and board at CCBC. Sooo making little money to get my room and board paid for was great! I got to work with my best friend Dawn Marie and got to work with the amazing Evangeline. That was it. There were three of us. I want to say it was 2001ish. Dawn and Evangeline lived on the new Ranch Property originally purchased as a sanctuary for pastors and performance ministry workers that needed to get away and recharge. This was before the remodel. I am talking creepy old farm house with very little heat, rats and a poor old goat named Thelma out in the middle of nowhere. Two single girls out in the middle of nowhere. I stayed there from time to time until it was just too cold and inconvenient as it was quite a way out of town.
During the day we would go to Mike and Pams house up on a Mountain in Whitefish. I would do things like collate and make the packets that are sent out to churches interested in having them come to do ministry. I remember there were a couple of occasions that I would come in and Michael was yelling on the phone to someone. It made me feel very uncomfortable. I walked in the wrong door at the wrong time once and it was like being scolded by your dad for doing something horrible. I was quickly rushed out of the office. Everyone acted as if this was normal so I just went along with it. I would essentially do odd jobs, vacuuming, dusting, planting, weeding, working in the pottery studio with Evangeline. Evangeline would be the one that went on tour with them. There was a peaceful feeling when Mike and Pam were not around. We didn’t have to walk on eggshells. We never hung out in their house out of respect and just focused on the pottery studio etc. (eventually there was an office in Whitefish where the previous story took place).
By this time Pastors from CC FT Lauderdale were coming and starting to create the vision for the Ranch. There was another intern who I will leave private as they have not yet come forward with their story. One day when Mike and Pam were home from tour, I went to the Pottery Studio to clean some merchandise and get it ready for the kiln. Dawn came in to say hi and let me know of the laundry list of things to do that day. One of which was filling a truck with pea gravel for Mikes dog and spreading it out in the run. I offered to help Dawn once I was done cleaning these two pots. Dawn, being the ever efficient one was already picking up a tool to help while we discussed how we could combine efforts and get things done. I put my pot on the shelf and sat down as Dawn was just about to finish with hers.
Then Michael came in. I have never been so humiliated in my life. He immediately started yelling at both of us. He wouldn’t let us explain a thing. I already had a feeling he didn’t like me because of the office incident but this was a whole new level of wrath unleashed upon us. We were wasting his goodness towards us and wasting God’s resources. To be honest I have shoved the majority of what was said into the deepest darkest hole not wishing to ever re-live it ever. All I know is that he literally through us out of the studio. Told us we were fired then changed his mind and (I REMEMBER THIS DISTINCTLY) with a grin, said that only one of us needed to resign and we had to decide among ourselves just who that would be. Dawn Marie and I cried and cried. I told her it would be ok, I would resign. I had family right in Kalispell. I had a place to go. I was leaving in the fall it would be ok. Shaking I got into my minivan and drove home to Kalispell. I was so afraid and in so much shock I had stopped crying and was just shaking all over. I went home and wrote out a gracious letter of resignation apologizing for…what I don’t even know. I didn’t hear from Dawn until the next day. I got a phone call asking to see me in her office in Whitefish, she was calm cool and collected. I went in and Dawn was like a different person. She rebuked me. She had three or four pieces of pottery that were unsalable due to improper cleaning. She told me that I was not faithful in the small things. I remember being told that there was great concern that I was never going to do well in ministry because I was not faithful in the small things. That phrase haunted me for so many years, all through the Bible College and even to this very day.
Something happened to Dawn! She was my only friend! (when you are in ministry like that your ministry mates are your best friends they are your family) I was told that they do not feel comfortable supporting me to go to Bible College any longer. (God is faithful and provided in other ways). That was it. Phone calls were not returned, I was cut off from my friend, Evangeline and the other intern. The other intern I remember told me “it’s just a really intense ministry and not all people are cut out for it”. I wasn’t good enough. I had failed and these people who my pastors, parents and friends trusted and respected said I was not faithful and shouldn’t be in ministry. It doesn’t end here I’m afraid. While I was at CCBC I went to CC Murrieta (why Lord that day??) and low and behold Mike and Pam were there. I was excited to Evangeline but I started shaking when I saw Michael. You know the worst part? He put his arm around me and introduced me to the Pastor at CC Murrieta and said “This is Alissa, she was one of our interns and is now going to the Bible College!” He was so proud and boasted like I was some type of success of his ministry. You guys!!! I went back to my dorm and cried and vomited!
The story goes on, I live in this valley to this day. Everytime I see Michael I shake and have to leave the room. I am so scared of him. For years I was either praised in public or shunned by Michael and the staff. I was one of the first. One of the first to be forced to leave with strong fellowship. I had no idea that it was still going on after I left (I truly thought I was the bad egg). This was just the beginning of Mike’s anger. It has morphed into frightening power over people. He is charming one moment and exploding the next. Michael has increased and changed for the worse.
I would like to insert something here. We were taught that secular therapy was not in God’s plan. It should only be Biblical counseling aka the pastor. I just started therapy three months ago! A real licensed breathing therapist with education and amazing ability to help me deal with life. PLEASE HEAR OUR PLEA!! GET YOUR KIDS AND LOVED ONES OUT NOW! IF THEY WON’T COME CAUSE THEY FEEL THEY ARE BEING PERSECUTED (they are deceived) PRAY THAT GOD WOULD OPEN THEIR EYES.
PLEASE SHARE OUR STORIES! PLEASE HELP US FREE OTHERS AND STOP THIS BEFORE OTHERS GET HURT. If you think my story is bad it is “cult light” in comparison to the survivors that came after.
**side note GOD IS FAITHFUL, He has restored Dawn Marie and my friendship and I am so thankful that He delivered her out of this! I love you Dawn Marie! ***
I lived and worked at Potter’s Field Ranch for almost 2-years (Feb 2007-Nov 2008). My story probably starts similarly to other folks who went to PFR when it was a Discipleship School–I was 20-years-old and I had been preparing to go back to Africa full-time as a missionary when I developed an eating disorder as a result of some significant traumas that had occurred. My little sister had gone to the ranch as a student maybe 1 or 2 years earlier, and my Pastor thought it would be a great opportunity for me to go and refocus on my relationship with God. It was made clear to staff in my application that I had an eating disorder and that was the primary reason for me to go to the Ranch.
I wouldn’t say my term was much different from anyone else. Our second day there we were running (literally) races against one another across fields 4-feet deep with snow, carrying giant logs across shorter distances, running the obstacle course, and of course, hiking up Dog Mountain in the snow while fashioning snow shoes out of branches. It was awful but I thought it was going to help me to humble myself and heal. I cried a lot. We were berated by staff for having a divisive team and told constantly throughout our class that we were the most difficult team to come through.
On February 19th, just a few days into my term, I wrote, “Pastor Mike Rozell is here. He has spoken into the lives of ____, ____, and ____ [all females]. He has such an amazing gift of discernment. God can speak to him and say, ‘Someone here needs to hear about abortion,’ or, ‘you are doubting God,’ and he knows exactly who to go to and God speaks through him. At first I was jealous of the other girls, but God spoke to me through [the staff member assigned to me]. For that, I am blessed.” It would become a recurring theme that with each term of students, Pastor Michael would select a few girls and would single them out to meet with him and he would, “speak into,” their life. Pastor Michael ignored me for the entirety of my term, until Monologue Night. He told me later it was because God told him I was seeking validation from men and he should avoid me.
Like I said, the rest of my term was not much different from any other student’s term. We were put on fruit and vegetable “fasts” and woken up at 5am to run drills and exercise in the snow. I threw up several times from how strenuous it was on my body. It wasn’t great for my eating disorder either, but I was so busy all the time that I didn’t struggle much with it much otherwise. I thought I was healed. There were times we were woken up at 10pm or 4am to switch dorms with the male students while it was snowing heavily. We were told we needed to be prepared at all times. I look back on some of this stuff and though it feels abusive, it was all done under the guise of preparing you for ministry. Every challenge was accompanied by a bible verse and a biblical application. All of it was designed to benefit you. We had signed up for it. It was in the brochures.
We were given personal challenges. For some, they had to be a paraplegic for the week. Another person would have to carry them. Some people were tied together with string and had to accompany each other everywhere. Some people were asked to lead bible studies or worship. Some people were mute or blind. My first challenge was to write a song and lead a bible study. The second time I was given a challenge, it was that I wasn’t allowed to smile at the male staff or students. I was told it was because men were reading into me being friendly and that I was causing them to stumble. The other students were all given challenges like the ones I mentioned previously. I felt ashamed and self-conscious about mine.
About a month into my term on March 17th, I was asked by a visiting Pastor if I would consider moving to Thousand Oaks, CA to stay with his family and work at a pregnancy center his church was affiliated with. I was ecstatic. I prayed about it and talked to my Pastor and his wife back home, and then it was settled. After my term, I would be moving to California.
May 3rd, 2007
“Today Pastor Mike came and told us the visions (our plans for how we would serve God after leaving the Ranch) weren’t big enough… Afterwards, I talked to him and…[sorry, I’m parsing this down for clarity but the parts I’m typing out are word for word] he said, “You guys aren’t a team yet and none of us can figure out why.” He said it then aloud to everyone in the room and left.
“After lunch, he came to ____ and I and brought up the fact that after he had left the room, someone said, “I think we are a group,” and it undermined Pastor Mike. Pastor Mike said God has given PFR to him. He’s seen 8 teams come through–enough to see the difference between those that are unified and those that aren’t. He said we aren’t a team because we all think we still have rights. We think we have the right to say that we believe the authority set above us is wrong. But if it [the leadership structure] goes: God, Pastor Mike, Pastor J and Pastor D, then the rest of the staff, what makes us think we have the right to be the one that’s right?
“God gave Pastor Mike all the rights and his staff does whatever he asks without asking why or telling him what they think he should really do because they all know that they were called to serve there and doing that means having respect for Pastor Mike. He said that we’re wasting near half a million dollars by not being a team because that’s what we’re called here to be, so we’re missing out on the blessings. He said we would be accountable to God for the $13,000 that was paid for us to be here and to use it wisely, fix the problem, and grow. Pastor Mike said that he was crucified by us right here on his own property because of criticism. He asked me if I was all in and I said I was.”
We had our monologues a few days later, around May 7th. Monologue night is basically where all the students put together a 5-10 minute presentation on what God has done in their hearts since they came to the Ranch. Everyone had volunteered which order they wanted to go in, but Pastor Jeff asked me specifically at one point to go up. I found out later from Pastor Mike that he had, “felt a burden on his heart that I should go next.”
Here’s what I wrote on May 7th:
“My monologue was really emotional. I started crying after the second sentence and I’m not exaggerating. It was just really honest and I was very vulnerable in front of everyone. Pastor Mike was crying, ____ was crying, people I’d never talked to before felt what I felt. After I finished, Pastor Mike called for a 15-minute break so he could talk to me and I knew he was going to ask me to stay. I’d had that feeling. I knew he’d ask me once he heard my monologue and he did. He asked me if I was sure I was supposed to go to Thousand Oaks. I said yes, that I’d been praying about it, my family, my pastor, the Thousand Oaks people had all been praying. He told me okay and that he really anted me to stay and do ministry with the girl staff and the students and that I was always welcome to do ministry here. All I had to do was call and J would buy me a plant ticket.
“The next day, two days before Commissioning [that’s when everyone “graduates” and leaves] Pastor Mike called for me and I had to walk down to the admin building. I was terrified because I knew he was going to tell me that God wanted me to stay here and I didn’t want to. I wanted to go to Thousand Oaks. … the last thing I wanted to do was be stuck in Hicksville, Montana in a Christian bubble. I mean, I was tired of feeding myself [the word of God]. Wasn’t it time that I went out and did something radical for Jesus? He had other plans.
“Pastor R from Thousand Oaks had called Pastor Mike that morning and asked him if I could stay because they didn’t have room at the time for me. Pastor Mike said, “It’s funny that you should ask that because I really feel like Jessica is supposed to stay here.” So Pastor R said my invite to Thousand Oaks was considered off the table; God wants me here for longer. Pastor Mike asked me to commit to staying for a year and I said yeah.”
I still wonder to this day if that was true or if Mike just told the other Pastor’s he wanted me to stay on staff and they didn’t argue with him on it because they had a mutually beneficial relationship that they didn’t want to compromise.
I think what really messed me up is that no one had any concerns about me going to the Ranch to recover from an eating disorder. No one thought to suggest that I see a doctor, go to therapy or even rehab. It was just like, “Okay, let’s bring her in.” I watched it happen for the next few terms–girls would apply to the Ranch saying they had eating disorders and we just brought them in without hesitation.
During my monologue, I had talked about how I was healed from my eating disorder. In just 3 months, years of addictive and destructive behaviors just disappeared all thanks to extreme discipline and the constant reading of His word. Saying it now, I realize how ridiculous that is, but I really believed it at the time. I was assigned a mentor, one of the pastor’s wives. We went through a workbook together weekly that touched on topics like sexual assault and eating disorders. I was also assigned to mentor a student for the next term who was struggling with an eating disorder.
May 7th, 2007
i heard that possibly one or two girls that are coming down for the next term may have eating disorders. pastor mike rozell called to talk to me and he was like, “you know that God’s called you here for such a time as this, right?”
i don’t think i’m ready. i know it will stumble me to talk to girls with current eating disorders. i went seventy days without purging while i was here. that’s, the day that i got here all the way until the last week. and i broke down. it was like an old friend. it was familiar and it was the same as i remembered, and yet, i was changed. i am different, so it affected me differently. i felt guilty and ashamed that i’d dishonored something that God loved enough to die for. it’s like i threw it in His face, “yeah, you gave your life for me because you thought i was worth something. but this is what i think of myself.”
i don’t know. i’m just not ready.
During the day I would clean, cook, or work in the coffee shop. I was eventually transferred to the admin building where I worked as an assistant reconciling bank accounts and helping out in the admissions department, and then to the missions department. Things went really well until they didn’t. I heard murmurings that Pastor Mike would yell at people if he thought they were messing up or not respecting his authority, but he pretty much ignored me when he was around. It came as a surprise to me when I asked to be re-baptized in July and Pastor Mike asked if he could do it. He would tell me he loved me as a daughter but he never really talked to me at all.
October 2nd, 2007
one of the pastors here told me the other day, ‘you’re so fake. why can’t you just be real?’ and yet when i told him how i really felt he said, ‘that’s why you talk to ___________.’ so, basically, when i am real, people don’t know how to respond to…what i’m really feeling so i get pushed aside. it wouldn’t be that bad, except that when it’s a man who’s saying he cares but then disregards what i’m saying, i feel rejected and crushed and i can’t emotionally deal with it.
for example, last night pastor michael, the president of potter’s field ranch served every single person at my table other than me. i sat there for several minutes, waiting. he sat with his back to me at a separate table. i waited for him to remember that he had forgotten me, but he didn’t. so i sat for three or four minutes while everyone else at my table ate happily and looked at me quixotically, also wondering why i hadn’t been served. okay, so maybe he didn’t do it on purpose, but it would almost be worse to have just been forgotten. i just don’t understand. and i hate that i take stupid things like that to heart, but i can’t help it. i hate that i do it. i really, really do.
Sorry for all the backstory. I feel like it’s really important for some reason so I’m including it. I think it’s because I want everyone to understand that it’s not just Mike Rozell. It was an entire culture. You are told by those in authority to die to yourself, to be all in, have a thick skin and a tender heart. If you complain or have concerns, you are not trusting the Lord enough. You are standing in your heart. You are prideful. You need to die to yourself.
Things with Pastor Mike stayed the same for the most part through this part of my internship. Hot and cold. I had no idea where I stood with him. It didn’t feel good. He spent a lot of time talking with other female staff members and avoiding me.
We treated the students the same way we were treated–at times we took away their mirrors, technology (internet and phone), gave them personal and group challenges, pushed them to physical exhaustion, fasting, etc. Back then we interns (and some staff) lived on the Ranch property with the students. As one of the first groups of interns, the 3 of us were treated more as staff. We didn’t have an “intern program” per say until months later. I was making $150 per month for +50 hours of work per week on top of the time I spent “mentoring” students. I put mentoring in quotations because I literally had no idea what I was doing and should not have been in the position to be offering advice or accountability to anyone.
April 24th, 2008 is the day that changed the trajectory of the rest of my stay at Potter’s Field. I confided in my mentor that I was struggling with my eating disorder and that another staff member was threatening to tell Pastor Michael. My mentor was hurt that I hadn’t told her and said that it showed that I didn’t want to be better because I have so much opportunity for accountability.
May 1st, 2008
A lot has happened since I last wrote. I had come to the Ranch to pack a bag to go and get ____ and as I was leaving, J said, “Pastor Mike needs to talk to you.” We sat on the couch in the Ranch House and he told me he should have known [that I was struggling]. He said he wanted to help me if I want help…I started crying. He asked if I did want help. I said I did but I didn’t want to get fat. He laughed and brushed the tears from my cheek and said, “you’re not fat, Jessica. You are one of the most stunningly beautiful women that have set foot on this property. I love you desperately. I hope you know that. But you have to stop. Somedays the only thing that keeps me from doing blow are the 30 people serving on staff here. You just don’t care anymore. I don’t want to send you home but you’re going to die if you keep this up. It will destroy this entire Ranch and I can’t have that. If all 30 people here did whatever they felt like doing, do you think there would be a Ranch? You don’t have that kind of leisure.”
Later on, I had a conference call with Pastor Mike and [my mentor]. I was told that I would no longer be allowed to exercise and that exercise is a privilege. He said that I need to meet with C once a week.
I met with C [wife of a board member] the next day. She was a therapist in Florida and worked at eating disorder clinics. She said this is not a rehab facility and she is not treating me. If it got out that I had an eating disorder and wasn’t sent away for help, they could shut the whole Ranch down. If anyone thought C was treating me, we aren’t an authorized facility so they could come in and shut down the Ranch. She had me write up a contract and sign it that if I broke anything I wrote and I didn’t talk to her within 24 hours of breaking the contract, I would be dismissed from Ministry.
Later that evening in a conversation with another staff member, I had made a comment that I didn’t like the negative attention and that I wished I could go back and pretend like everything was fine so I could be treated the same way I had been treated–like every other staff member. The staff member I’d confided in told this to C.
May 1st, 2008
C was mad that I’d said that. She said I didn’t really want help. She said I need to go to a treatment center and the perimeters here at the Ranch aren’t strict enough. I’m being set up to fail. I don’t really want to go to rehab. What will people think of me? She said I’m so sick and that I need to be stabilized before she can work with me.
The thing about C is that she told me I could tell her anything and it would remain confidential. The only person she was accountable to was Pastor Mike and he only wanted to know, “is she getting better or worse?” Anyway, she told him that I [engaged in my eating disorder]. Pastor Mike came and got me. He was yelling at me for what felt like hours. He said that I had to leave. He couldn’t have me stay. He’d done everything he could. [My sister} and ____ were bawling. I was bawling. C was looking into rehabs. Pastor Michael left to go to a leadership meeting and he told all of them I was leaving. One of the pastors cried when he told them. I am upsetting lives and I don’t mean to. I’m the same exact person I was 2 months ago, investing in students, working…it’s not like I’ve wasted this time.
Pastor Mike told me he couldn’t have me stay but he wants me back after rehab. He said there are girls coming in 2009 with eating disorders and that God is going to use me. He said a lot of other things about how I don’t cry out to God, that I’m not sorry, and that I’m affecting the entire ministry.
Lord, please help me. I can’t live like this. I am on 24-hour watch until C gets me into a clinic. ____ is babysitting me.
Honestly, I wish that had happened. I wish Pastor Michael had actually made me leave and that I could have gotten real help.
May 7th, 2008
Yesterday C told me Pastor Michael had said I could stay. C had begged him more than once and he hadn’t consented until he asked [my mentor] what she thought. The day before, she had been strongly against me staying but something that happened–God had changed her heart. I had been burned on her heart and God had given her a hope for me. I was in shock. C told me the rules for if I decided to stay. I’d need to see a doctor. She told me I needed to go on an antidepressant. No cellphone, no internet, 24-hour supervision. Basically, be in rehab. Only I’m here, where my life is.
Everything changed. Everything was controlled from that moment on, down to the little things like banning me from drinking ice water. This wasn’t a treatment center. This was my home. This was my work. These were’t professionals watching me on 24-hour supervision with a distrusting eye. These were my best friends. The people I served alongside in ministry for over a year. My family. It was humiliating. It devastated my relationships with these people. They were told that I was manipulative and that I would do anything to get my needs (my addiction) met. The relationships I built shattered. All the work I had done was destroyed. Nothing I touched was good anymore. I had no power.
May 11th, 2008
I think what’s been so difficult about this is that for the past year and a half, I’ve been treated normally. I’ve built a life and had freedom. Now all of a sudden, [having an eating disorder] is a big deal. I’m like a big fire that they’re trying to put out. Why hadn’t anyone cared when I was playing with matches? It’s not like they didn’t know what they were getting when they saw my monologue, or even when I applied to be a student. Why hadn’t they watched me and given me rules then? Even when I was an intern? Why does my life have to start unraveling before my eyes now? Am I sitting in my heart yet, God?
None of this occurred in private. We had students coming and going, the ministry was still active. One of my rules was that I wasn’t allowed to talk to the students. I felt like a leper. I’m sure the other interns knew something was going on but we didn’t talk about it. This went on for 42-days. It wasn’t just having the rules or being watched for 24-hours a day that was hard. During this time I met with C regularly and she would tell me things like, “you’re angry at God. You have disbelief that He will heal you.” She would say I am not surrendered, that I have pride, I’m not all in this, etc, berating me until I cried and begged for forgiveness and another chance to prove myself worthy. When I would share with my friends that these sessions were really hard and that I didn’t believe all the things C was telling me, they would go back to C and tell her. I felt sick to my stomach every time the phone would ring and someone would say, “It’s C for you.” because I knew she was angry at me for something and was going to tell me I have to leave the Ranch, and I would need to prove all over again that I was “all in,” despite the fact that I hadn’t actually broken any rules. I was just a person going through something incredibly intimate in a very public way. Of course I was going to have feelings about it. I just wasn’t allowed to share them.
May 11th, 2008
I talked to Pastor Michael today. he talked to me about taking it one day at a time and not getting ahead of myself, and that it was God that saved me from being sent home. Pastor Mike had (after telling me I was going home) gone to the upper room and said that he’s not one to put a fleece before the Lord, but if He wanted me to stay, to show him. In the upper room the students were doing teachings and one of the students was teaching on forgiveness. He said, “if someone asks you to forgive them, you forgive them everything.” That’s how I got to stay.
Anyway, he called me a second time and sounded less gruff and told me he loved me and that I’d been having some rough days.
It became a pattern. At least once per week I would expect to be called or visited by Pastor Michael and he would berate me for putting the ministry at risk and tell me how fortunate I was that he was allowing me to stay. Looking back through my journals, I didn’t slip up at all for months, yet every few days I was told I had to leave because I wasn’t repentant and that I didn’t want to be, “healed.” I was still doing everything that was asked of me and more. I was terrified of leaving. I had no where else to go and felt shame about being kicked out of ministry. I spent the majority of my time for the first few weeks crying and praying and asking for humility.
May 15th, 2008
Last night I had a meeting with C and [my mentor] about me staying. C said she wasn’t sure that this was the best place for me or that I was ready. She assaulted/interrogated me with questions that left me confused. I finally started yelling at her, “Tell me what you want! I’ve done everything you asked! I spent 9-hours this weekend doing homework. You asked me for my honest and it’s all there in my food journal. Every dirty thought in my head. I’ll do anything. I don’t know what else you want me to say. Just tell me what you want and stop playing these games.” Well, that was what they were looking for. Passion.
So, this is it. Last shot. I’m not a staff member, still an intern. Depressing because ____ and ____ made a sort of big deal about it and I had to go back to the interns and say, “I’m officially not staff. I’m here by the grace of God. You’ve seen that I’m dealing with some things right now. You can congratulate me on being staff in the future once I allow God to continue working on the areas of my life that I need to change.” I thought I’d be more upset about not being staff, but I’m just grateful for the chance to stay and do this.
The public humiliation was really hard.
June 13th, 2008
C said I’d come a long way and that she thought I was ready to move on to the next phase but she’d have to talk to Pastor Mike first. Not because she didn’t have the authority to move me forward, she just said she’d like to clear it with him.
Pastor Michael was aware of everything that was happening and allowed it. This was all facilitated and approved by the board as C was the wife of a board member. When Pastor Michael wasn’t around, that wasn’t a problem because there were other ministry leaders who were happy to let me know how grateful I should be to have the opportunity to stay after I had put the ministry at risk of being closed down. …and yes, I now realize that putting that kind of pressure on me was an abusive tactic and was meant to make me feel ashamed for being a sinner. At the time I believed it. My journal is filled with words about how vile and wretched I was and how much I just wanted to die for disappointing everyone at PFR.
When I wasn’t being watched by my peers, I was either working or being counseled by C. She demanded more and more from me each time we met, and it escalated to the point that she asked to read a workbook I had gone through that detailed a sexual assault I had experienced. A week or so later she said she wanted to start reading my journals. I told her no and she told me that secrets breed sin and sickness, and that I wasn’t, “all in,” if I wasn’t allowing her to read my private thoughts. I remember I ripped a bunch of pages out and started being very guarded about what I could write. She told me she would read my journals and then tell Pastor Michael the contents, so he started reading them himself. This is disturbing to me as I write in my journal about a lot of things that I would never share with a man–period. Things that would be considered “stumbling.”
I was taken off 24-7 watch on June 18th—42-days later—and it was reduced to 4 1/2 hours per day. Pastor Michael told my mentor that I was being treated, “like an animal.” I still had strict rules and had to ask for permission to do things like go for a bike ride. On June 29th, Pastor Michael and Pastor Don McClure called C to ask where I was at in my recovery because there are students coming and it wouldn’t look right to have people still watching me. Pastor Michael had called me a couple days before that and laid into me about grace and about how lucky I am to still be allowed to stay at PFR, and then said he believes in me and believes I can recover and that I could have all the rules lifted and succeed/thrive again. The next day, he called and again talked to me about staying and said he wanted this to be a “God thing” and he prayed over me. Then I met with C and she’d tell me everyone agrees I need to still go to treatment. I was getting conflicting messages about my future. This went on for months. I didn’t leave the Ranch until November of that year. I was moved from living at the Ranch to living at the Lodge with the other staff members. I was put to work part time at the church we were closely affiliated with at that time. Students came and went and I was still banned from interacting with them. I wasn’t doing anything wrong or being active in my eating disorder, but no one trusted me to do ministry anymore.
In July, I got a letter from a former student. It is not my place to share her story but it is similar to mine. In the letter, she named what was happening at the Ranch for what it was–spiritual abuse. This was the first time I had heard that term. I didn’t agree with her at the time and I was upset she had said that. “After everything the Ranch has done for you and I!” That thought rang in my head because that’s what Pastor Michael and C told me week after week. It feels a little bit like brainwashing.
In October, I was accepted into a free, faith based treatment program. It was a 6-month program and I went with the expectation that when I was finished, I could return to the Ranch and everything would go back to how it was before. I won’t get into the specifics as it’s a story for another time, but the program I went to has had multiple facilities shut down–one for trying to cure anorexia with exorcisms. I called my mentor in Montana about a month into my stay and asked if I had her support to leave. The teachings at this place didn’t align with Calvary Chapel–they told women who were sexually abused that demons of lust were attached to them, you could be healed from addiction and eating disorders by claiming healing in the name of Jesus. If girls got in arguments, they would go on prayer walks through the house with other residents screaming at the top of their lungs, rebuking satan, sobbing, speaking in tongues without a translator. Those are just a few examples.
My mentor said yes. I called and left Pastor Michael a message letting him know why I was choosing to leave the treatment place, that I was doing well and was still healthy. It was a 3 day bus trip back to Montana. 3 whole days Pastor Michael had to call me and tell me he didn’t support my decision. He didn’t do that. I didn’t come home to what I expected. While Pastor J, the B family, and the pastor of the church in Montana I attended all backed my decision to come home, Pastor Michael was opposed. He called and told me he loved me but I had to leave. I had broken my commitment to stay in treatment. I told him I would be staying with my mentors family and he told me I wasn’t allowed to do that. He called the church pastor and asked him to take me in until I could fly home. I spoke with Pastor Michael a few times on the phone after that over the next few months. He still insisted he loved me like a daughter.
Amber Kurutz’s PFM Testimonial
I began PFM’s Discipleship Training School in January of 2017. My time involved with Potters Field Ministries ended much earlier than I had anticipated. My excitement and joy to live in Guatemala and be a part of community quickly diminished as a result of being at the mercy of Mike Rozell and Austin Hiatt.
Roughly two weeks into my training time in Guatemala I began noticing extreme control and manipulation tactics used to “disciple” interns. One early sign of this was that interns were electronically unplugged for their first two weeks of training. We were allowed one phone call home on Sundays, and the calls had to be made in the center of the compound. We had to be in earshot of the leaders. From this point, we had very limited communication with friends and family back home. I remember sitting on a bench inside of the compound and watching Austin pace around the interns, listening to their conversations. I believe this was an early attempt to isolate interns from friends and family for the purpose of creating an unhealthy alliance with PFM.
I continued watching similar tactics unfold and felt deeply unsettled.Being under spiritual leadership, I decided that it was time that I express my thoughts of returning home after training to both Austin Hiatt and his now wife Shannon. I strayed from telling them my concerns within the ministry and simply expressed my desire to go home. Austin counseled me to stay quiet and said that he would talk to Mike about my desire to leave. I left that conversation with a sense of relief, knowing that I had clearly communicated with those whose care I was in. A few days following, Mike sat me down in the middle of the compound and as he called it, “discipled me.” He laid into me and my character like no one had ever done. He told me that I had no integrity, my generation has no integrity, that he and his wife are prime examples of what the “right” way is and that I didn’t desire to be there in the first place. People walked by and looked at him smiling at me, not knowing that my whole body was sinking into the very bench I was sitting on. No one knew what he was saying because he was extremely calm. He didn’t give any room for me to speak and concluded our conversation by saying that if I so much as thought of going home that I would hear three roosters crow, as Peter did, and be denying the Lord. I walked away from this interaction with Mike terrified and alone. I felt as though I had betrayed the Lord and had to force myself to submit and comply with PFM.
I continued to watch Mike, Austin and the RA’s manipulate the interns to submit and conform to Mike’s expectations. There was one day that Austin taught our class and referenced Mike as his “master,” which furthered my fears of both Mike and Austin, knowing that he was Mike’s protégée. One night after chapel, my class was standing around and discussing our guesses as to where our field assignments would be. Mike charged through my class, got in my face and began to threaten that he would send me to Uganda because it was one of the hardest locations. He told me that I was weak and unfit and laughed as he made me the public image of the black sheep. I cried that night, afraid that I had upset the Lord, afraid that I was being punished, afraid because no one knew what was happening.
At this point, my physical body began to feel weak and I knew it was time to express my observations to someone. During our allotted time to contact home, I reached out to a family member via e-mail, because I was too afraid to speak aloud about what I was seeing, and this individual confirmed that it was a toxic situation. I was almost two months into my training time, and I knew that I needed to leave within the next week. I waited until my return flight was purchased to confront Austin with my decision. I sat down with Austin and told him that I had spoken to a family member and decided to return home. He laughed in my face and told me that there was no fruit in my life, that the Lord truly can’t work in my life outside of being in PFM, and said, “I don’t know what God you are talking to, because it’s not my God.” He continued by saying, that I am walking in darkness and even if I decided to stay, no one would listen to me because I wavered. Our conversation ended by him telling me that they were most likely not going to give me a ride to the airport, so I would have to find transportation on my own. My flight was scheduled to leave within the following 48 hours.
I walked away from that conversation numb, feeling nothing but fear.
The next evening, I was called into the office because Mike was on the phone and wanted to talk to me. I sat down in a room with Matt and Brooke Mcclain, Austin Hiatt and Mike Rozell on the phone. He used the next two hours to lay into me. For two hours I sat there numb as he told me that I was going to open the flood gates at my church when I returned. He said that either no one would believe me or that they would welcome be back with open arms and it would be sin. He told me that because I made a commitment that I wasn’t going to keep that I owed him 15, 000 dollars. He told me that no one from my home church would be accepted into the program again and that it was my fault. There was one intern who really wanted to go to Africa, and Mike told me that he was going to have to remove her from the Africa team and that it was my fault. He also said that if I slept well when I got home, that it would confirm that God had left me in my sin. Matt, Brooke and Austin sat there and listened as Mike drilled into me.
After this interaction, Austin called my entire class into the chapel room and made me confess my sin, that I was leaving and that I wasn’t fulfilling my commitment. Before I went to bed that night, Austin told me that they were in fact going to give me a ride to the airport.
I woke the next morning and boarded a plane. I sat in my seat shaking, looking out over a country I wasn’t ready to leave and wept out of terror.
It is hard to leave a cult.
It is equally hard to know and admit you’re actually in one.
I don’t even know where to begin this story. This is the first time writing just a small part of my experience with Potter’s field 11 years ago.
When I first arrived at PFR, it didn’t take long to become aware of the power structures in place and how unhealthy they were.
It was the class of 2008 and I was among the older students attending the session. Newly graduated from college, 24 at the time and already coming to PFR with a history of trauma, I was searching outside of myself for peace and understanding. I was serious about growth, my relationship with God and the Bible, correct biblical interpretation and application.
From the beginning, I knew that I didn’t fit in.
I was vocal about questioning certain interpretations of scripture and it’s misuse to manipulate and exercise power over people in our class that were viewed as “unsubmissive”.
When I applied to PFR and was in touch with the admissions pastor at that time, I was told that the program was much different than it was before, which had previously existed as a type of boot camp style missionary training ground. I was told the program was more of a Bible School centered around theological studies than it was a “discipleship training school” as it had been in the past.
It wasn’t long after the session began that this pastor abruptly left.
I was financially supported to go to PFR and didn’t want to disappoint those who made it possible for me to be there.
I had my doctrinal disagreements, called out the ridiculous power structure and supported fellow classmates that we’re being mistreated.I was expected to yield to interns that were immature, with far less and far different life experience, and was accused of being full of pride and out of God’s will because of my unwillingness to submit, however that was defined to mean.
I tried to be respectful, pliable, and agreeable, as I truly was seeking to understand, but early on in the session, I came to the realization that I was not in a safe space to grow and the program wasn’t what I thought it was. Mike came in one day to address our class, saying that the authorities in place at the ranch were appointed by God and that in the Bible “authority” is a “military term” and we are called and required to submit to the authorities above us.
We were also required to do bizarre physically strenuous exercises for “team building”. One of the first things we were made to do was carry a huge solid wood cross to the top of a mountain. At the top, one of the classmates had what seemed to be a severe panic attack. She had to be carried back down and was almost air lifted to the hospital. This happened twice to her during these physical challenges. It was treated as a spiritual attack from satan.
I remember so clearly one of the first experiences I had that made me feel unsafe.
There was one person in particular I felt deeply uncomfortable around.
I had gone horseback riding one day, and while there, this particular employee smacked the horse’s rear, nearly making the horse take off.
I let him know the next day that it was not only extremely inappropriate but dangerous to come up behind a horse and hit them, especially when someone is riding.
He responded at first with an obviously insincere ‘thank you’, but when everyone started leaving to go to class, he approached me in the dining room.
Instead of an apology, he said, “I only did it, like, this hard” and proceeded to hit me on the arm to where it physically pushed me backward and knocked me off balance.
I was in shock and completely shut down. I didn’t speak in that moment, and I haven’t spoken about that moment until now.
Something interesting happens with those who have experienced past trauma. They learn to disassociate, disconnect, compartmentalize, and minimize.
They are quick to doubt themselves and place blame on themselves in the aftermath in an attempt to make sense of it. It makes abuse survivors extremely susceptible to further abuse. It’s the perfect set up for being at the mercy of dysfunctional humans that lack accountability, love power, and can’t stand to be anything but right.
Instead of reporting this employee, I regretted saying anything at all, and just set out to avoid him as much as possible.
I got extremely sick at PFR twice.
Once with the worst case of food poisoning I have ever had, and then a separate time with a severe cough.
The time I was sick with the incessant cough, I was exhausted from lack of sleep, and needed to rest. Instead, I was coerced by one of the interns to participate in a ridiculous and pointless ‘ropes course’.
The leader of this particular group exercise was minimizing how sick I was and accused me of not wanting to “work as a team”. At that point, I was completely fed up and told the leader that I was done and going to bed.
He pulled me aside and told the group to go on and proceeded to say, “what is your problem? Your attitude is horrible”, and continued to make it known that I was rebelling against God and needed to repent. Later, the interns admitted that this ploy against me was about ‘humbling and disciplining me’.
Then came the mission trip to El Salvador.
I didn’t pay for the trip and didn’t want to go based on the experience I’d had thus far, but at a meeting called by Mike, we were told that the trip was required. We traveled on a bus through harsh weather conditions, driven by one of the employees that wasn’t even comfortable driving a travel bus, let alone in snow. We visited the Calvary Chapels in Nevada and Utah along the way, stayed at various people’s homes and were forced to serve and work in whatever capacity needed.
This infuriated me, because not only was this not at all what I signed up for, I felt extremely taken advantage of.
One night, after working all day at a church event, some classmates and I walked to a restaurant to get some food and have a break. We got back a little late and my small group leader lit into me and shamed me for not getting to my assigned “job” on time.
When we finally made it to El Salvador, I loved being with the people and the children but there were so many things that just didn’t sit well with me. I didn’t want to participate in short term missions for multiple reasons, and ultimately felt that we really made no lasting positive difference in the lives of the children and there was little reason for being there. I felt deeply ashamed that it felt more like a plug for PFR. I didn’t agree that building relationships with the kids to leave shortly thereafter was healthy. I was harshly judged for my stance.
When we got back to Montana, I was asked into one of the cabins one night along with another classmate and at least two interns, and more came and went throughout the conversation as directed by Mike. My memory is unclear on who exactly was there for what, because there was a point in the meeting that I shut down and detached from the experience.
When Mike entered the room his haughtiness was palpable the moment he opened the door.
“It’s like the principle’s office in here…” He started as he walked in, but I was confused. I had no idea what to make of it and was completely caught off guard.
So I let out a nervous laugh and said something like, “yeah really” trying to figure out his reason for calling this meeting.
“Well, tonight it is”, he said and proceeded to point in my face and tell me I was the biggest disappointment of his ministry, that every single member of his staff had a deep problem with me, that I was a false prophet, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a disgrace, a gossip, and leading people astray.
He told me he would call every single Calvary Chapel leader in the nation and tell them to never hire me, because I was a liability.
The conversation was hours long. No one stood up for me, except for the classmate that was there in the beginning when she told him, “Dana has done nothing wrong. She has only ever encouraged me, and if anything has brought me closer to God.” After that, she was asked to leave.
By the end of the conversation, he said I was forbidden to talk to my classmates for the remainder if the session. He got very close to my face, as I sat there in a blank stare, tears trailing down my face, and then did this…
He held up his hand as if he were holding a knife and motioned as if he was cutting into my chest and said, that darkness… you have to cut it out of you.”
Our final assignment was to present a sermon. I chose to teach on the topic of love. I stood before him and everyone that stayed silent or betrayed me, and everyone who knew the truth and supported me. I spoke about the love of God that does not involve punishment, because punishment is fear and control based, but true love is freeing, and yields healthy growth for all.
At the end of my sermon, he pulled me aside and critiqued me, saying, “your ministry will be to teach and guide, but you can’t just give the good news. You have to give the bad news first.”
After the graduation ceremony, he hugged me and said, “Out of everyone, I’m going to miss you the most” and asked me to return to the ranch. He said he was shutting down the program for a time to revamp it and solidify his staff but that I could help care for the horses.
I knew there was no way I would ever return.
He is pathological and capitalizes off the trauma and vulnerability of others. The system itself is parasitic and the reason why people like him are given an environment to flourish and carry out their abuse. He gets his ego trip, and those who don’t question get belonging. He absolves himself of responsibility, because in his mind, he is appointed by God. It is, by definition, a cult and is upheld by a culture that preconditions people for exploitation.
And this is just a small part of the story.
Now, it’s been 11 years, and I continue to do the hard work of healing. PFR is far behind me, but the work I do daily to challenge my thoughts and beliefs that landed me there in the first place remain. The experience has made me so much more aware of spiritual abuse and also, the importance of my own intuition.
I stand with all who have suffered at the hands of people that have been given a platform to thrive and feed their egos through damaging others.
I stand for them, and for myself, holding space for the pain and the hope ahead for healing and resolution and admire those who are working to end the abuse.
Enough is enough.
In spite of it all, I have been honored the bear witness to the healing process of others, as well as my own, and have found that the love and strength was within all along–and none of us needed a Potter’s Field, a Mike Rozell, or anyone for that matter, to show us where to find God.
I’m a former PFM intern. I’m writing this because I recently became aware of the situation regarding Mike and Pam Rozell and the treatment of so many employees and interns, and I’m horrified, mostly at myself for not speaking out about what was going on, though I had no idea about the extent of the problem.
I don’t have a dramatic story about verbal harassment or anything like that. I went to Potter’s Field with my family to go through their internship somewhere around 2010-2011 I think. My experience was, quite frankly, great. The pastors taught solid missions principles, I didn’t mind the work of helping clean the buildings or otherwise keeping up the property, and the free time we had was amazing. The staff were real people, but the behavior I saw was that of genuine Christians seeking to train up evangelists.
Of course, there were warning signs that not all was well. Employees came and went, but that didn’t seem unusual in ministry. I dismissed stories of why they left as gossip. Maybe I was just a clueless kid. I’ve never been very social or good at reading people. Looking back, I feel horrible for missing what was going on. I didn’t experience any of the abuse of power that so many others did. Maybe it was because Mike and Pam were on tour during almost all of my internship. I don’t know. There was one instance that stood out to me. Near the end of my internship, Mike and Pam came back and the whole intern class went up to one of the lakes. There, Mike insisted on the intern class cliff jumping as part of a team building exercise. (Being deathly afraid of both water and heights, I chickened out. I think I wasn’t pushed into it because my parents were also there.) Later, one of the interns hurt their back seriously as part of the same kind of “team building” exercise.
There were signs later on, when my brother and sister went to work for the ministry after finishing the internship. They returned with stories very similar to those your site has already shared. Those are their stories to tell, so i won’t go into them. They’re the reason I’m kicking myself right now. The practices I heard about should have made me contact Don McClure or other leadership immediately. Maybe it was me being a self-centered kid again. Maybe I didn’t realize the extent of the problem. At any rate, I want to apologise to everyone who experienced the verbal and spiritual abuse it seems was so common at PFM. Maybe, if I had spoken to someone when I first heard about things like this going on, so many people wouldn’t have been hurt.
There are those who are shocked that it took so long for Calvary leadership to become aware of the situation. I’m not. I didn’t know the whole story and I went through the program. I thought that what my siblings went through was an aberration. I was wrong. The face of PFM that I saw was one of genuine ministry. It seems that the leadership of PFM was very good at maintaining that facade for the right people. Don’t blame the leadership of Calvary. Pray for them, and for the former and current employees, interns, and members of PFM.
That’s all I wanted to say.
To whom it may concern,
I recently saw the rash of survivor stories that were posted and I would like to add mine to the list.
My name is Caleb. I first interned at the Potters Field Ranch property outside of Olney, Montana in October of 2009. This particular property has since been sold. I can corroborate the other accounts of media black outs and tech fasts that were implemented in the internship side of the program. At the time I didn’t second guess this because I was excited to be in Montana and I don’t mind being unplugged from technology. However, I did not take into consideration that my family would be concerned by my lack of communication.
During my internship which lasted through April of 2010 the Rozells were out on the road the majority of the time and I did not experience any of the “strong fellowship” sessions that other interns describe.
I became friends with B, the facilities manager, who I look up to to this day as one of the foundational role models and mentors in my life.Largely do to him and how much I loved being in Montana, I asked Pastor Steve V if I could come back to serve on the facilities team. After receiving approval, I came back to Montana in the early summer of 2010 where I volunteered for two months.
Shortly thereafter Mike and Pam returned from touring and were unsatisfied with the care of the lodge property where the personal and ministry horses were kept. The individual was let go and given only a few days to pack and move her two horses back to her home state. Pastor Mike pulled me aside and told me he was impressed with my work ethic and offered me the job of taking care of the lodge property and horses which I continued to do so until I left in 2014. I was paid approximately $340 every two weeks for my first two years or so after which I was asked to work 7 days a week and paid approximately $480 every two weeks. I also had rent deducted from my check. I have pay stubs from this time which I can dig out if they would be helpful in any way.
During this period I heard of more “strong fellowship” sessions given to various intern classes, however, I do not know what was said or how as I was not present for any of them. I also saw many people leave, often with little explanation or warning. On one occasion Mike asked if we needed to have a conversation about so and so (name withheld because he has yet to share his testimony) as I continued to have contact with him after he left.
I was expected to work long hours, frequently over 60 in a five day work week, after I began working seven days those hours only increased, on one occasion working 96 hours in one week while being expected to attend two chapel services and church. One week before I was asked to start working seven days a week I had asked B if I could begin learning from him in his wood shop about woodworking. I went there for one Saturday before I had to stop because I no longer had time.
If a job wasn’t completed satisfactorily, even if it wasn’t communicated beforehand, I was accused of failing in the “small things” even though I literally had no more time that I could have given. This is where I experienced Mike and his “discipleship” sessions. On two different occasions he laid in to me for over two hours. I still don’t remember what precipitated these monologues, as they had less to do with how I didn’t do something properly and more to do with what was wrong with my character.
I remember three specific things he told me. He asked if I was even saved after I hadn’t completed a job in a satisfactory manner. He threatened to “hire a lawyer to follow me and ruin every romantic relationship I ever tried to have” if I ever did anything to hurt one of the horses. Even though I never gave him reason to think I ever would. And lastly when I was considering leaving or finding extra work because I was barely scraping by, he told me he would “Call all of the people I knew of in the area and tell them I was unreliable and untrustworthy.”
That was it, I’d had enough. The next day I put in my two month notice. I was not going to work for someone who threatened me. I gave them this much notice because I knew how hard it would be to find someone to replace me. I trained one of the other men mentioned in others accounts, Austin, to do the daily required chores before I left, I have no knowledge as to the accusations made against him as I was not there or had no secondhand information. I have heard from almost no one since I left.
To Sarah, I am sorry that by me leaving they felt they needed to ask you to come and fill my place and you got hurt because of how they decided to treat you.
To the others who have experienced the spiritual, emotional, and verbal abuse: you should never have had to experience this. You deserved to be treated with respect, with honor, with decency, and as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
To the reader:
This letter that I’m writing is not for Mike and Pam Rozell. It’s not for Steve Venable or Steve Miller. It’s not for them because they already know what truly happened to me and others a year and a half ago. They already know the lies they told. The sin they committed and the hurt they caused me and so many others.
So this letter isn’t for them, it’s for those who were lied to. Those I loved and served Jesus alongside everyday for just short of three years. The ones I lived with and did life with. This letter is for them because they deserve to know the truth.
To my friends:
It’s honestly hard to find a way to describe to all of you how traumatic and heart breaking these events were. But I want you all to know, you played a part in everything and that’s what broke my heart the most.
As a lot of you would already knew, my dad, a long time Calvary Chapel Pastor and dear friend to the Rozells, died of liver cancer in November of 2017. I remember all the love and prayers I received from you guys in the time leading up to that and after. I remember weeping in the arms of my roommates. Needless to say I think you all could see my hurt. I will be the first to say to all of you that I was a wreck. Leading up to that time and after my dad passed I was working a minimum of 70-75 hours per week at Mudman. Like many of you I was overworked, exhausted, and broken. Now add on top of that the loss of my father. I started to spiral and a lot of you saw it I’m sure. I was falling into depression and I knew something needed to change.
I had a meeting with Mike and Jordan Cole about how I was feeling(Cait was there too). I explained to them everything I just explained to you. Where I was at. How I was feeling. Mikes “council” to me was nothing short of foolish. His remedy was to serve more. Work more. Do ministry. He didn’t affirm my feelings at all. Just told me to pull myself out of it. That it wasn’t as bad as some others had gone through. I think his exact words were, “I’m either going to do your wedding one day or your funeral.” Something like that. Not what I needed to hear. But like the rest of you I trusted God, put my head down, and rolled with it.
Fast forward to March 2018. I was still a wreck. Trying my best but really struggling. I was now working seven days a week on top everything else, so we could open the Kalispell Mudman.
My birthday is in March, so I had put in time off to go home and be with my family. This was the first time I would have seen them since my dad had passed. I got approved for the time off which wasn’t common, so I was stoked. I think the original time I requested off was six days. Eventually the time came for me to leave Montana and go to Washington to hang with my family. This is where everything took a huge turn and my life was drastically changed.
While at home the Lord really met me. I felt him closer than I had in a long time and being able to see my family, grieve, and rest was huge for me. Rest. Jesus kept bringing that word up. I felt like a wounded athlete who kept playing on his bum knee and God was calling me to sit. It was humbling and hard. I remember feeling guilty for even going home because I knew how hard you all were working back in Montana. I started to feel God speak to me to stay. Not forever. I just felt like I needed time to heal with the Lord and my family. I remember talking to my family about it and seeking council from others. I knew I needed to do what was best for me and my relationship with the Lord. Ultimately I knew the Lord was asking me to. I knew the next step was to call and talk to Mike and the other leadership about it. It was something I was dreading for reasons you all know. You know the four hour long meetings and phone calls we had constantly. You know the control and manipulation. The way Mike made you question what you heard from the Lord. How you often were turned down or discouraged. Usually “rebuked”.
The ones we were all forced to listen to and would leave more confused than when we entered the conversation. Honestly it gave me anxiety to call and talk to my pastor. Something you should never feel by the way. But I knew it had to happen and that either way I was doing it to be respectful not because I needed a mans permission to do anything God had already told me to do.
The first phone call took place in a car with my mom sitting right next to me. It would be impossible for me to give a perfect account of what was said because Mike talked for a while and a lot of things were said, so I won’t try to tell it word for word. In summation, I explained what Jesus was up to and how He was ministering to me while I was at home. Then I told Mike how I had sought council from my family and others. In short Mikes response was twofold. First, he explained how me leaving would place my responsibilities and other such things on other people, you guys. Of course I understood that. The second thing he said, was that maybe it would be good for me and that I should do it. Basically it was my choice, that was my take away. I hung up the phone kind of surprised at how well it went. I felt confident I was making a good decision to stay home and heal. In Mikes words he said, “ Stay three days, three months, or three years if you need.” My plan was to always return after a few months at the most. If you guys remember I left everything I owned in Montana, including my car. I thought everything was fine and that I’d come back in a month or two, but everything wasn’t as I thought it was.
A day or so later, I texted Jordan Cole, who at the time was a leader, friend, and manager in my life, like many of you. I explained what Mike had said to me and asked to see what could be done as far as my Mudman shifts were concerned. He told me he would look and get back to me.
A few days after that, I received a text message from Anna Scott, who was overseeing the group of interns in Cambodia. Anna and I had been friends for a while ever since I was in Cambodia. We had began talking to each other a few months prior, with some intention to move forward in a relationship. Most of you guys knew that. Mike was of course involved in the entire process of us even talking. You guys know how relationships and everything go in PFM. Everything ran through Mikes hands first and he had to give the OK. Which just so you know isn’t normal.
In this text Anna said that Mike had called her and had been “rebuking” her for a few hours straight and they were still on the phone. Mike was trashing me behind my back and telling Anna every reason why he thought I had no character. The phone call lasted for nearly four hours total. Four hours of him yelling, screaming, and telling her everything he saw wrong with me, my life, and hers also. How I was in sin for trying to take time off. How I was selfish and deceitful. He also instructed her to end our relationship. Mike told her to call me, not tell me what they had talked about, to end what relationship we had, and tell me Mike would call me. This of course confused Anna. She had no clue what was going on and had a million red flags. She called me after, weeping and just broken. I could barely understand her on the phone. She explained all Mike had said to her about me and asked me what was going on. I was so confused. The last conversation I had with Mike ended fine. I told Anna to listen to Mike and not talk to me from that point on. I told her to pray and we both agreed to seek council from an outside source. We both agreed to listen to the Lord only and to do what we knew would be right. We both knew something was off. So I waited for Mikes call. After a few days, it never came.
What did come was a text from Jordan Cole, that said they would allow me to have one extra day at home. One day. I didn’t understand. I don’t think they did either. I was asking to be respectful but I was also telling them what I needed. I was telling them what Jesus has asked.
That’s when I called Mike for the second time.
This second phone call was the one that exposed the true heart of our “pastor”. I sat in a room with two other people for accountability, because I wanted others to know how Mike treated those under his authority. This wasn’t my first time being manipulated and abused by him. This is another conversation where a lot was said. I never once mentioned what I knew he had said behind my back. I never talked about the situation with Anna or how he had sinned against me by dragging my name and character through the dirt. Not in this call. I just asked him why. Why would Jordan say I could only have one day to rest. One day to heal. One day? I asked him where the love was. I asked him where the decency was. I asked Mike, “ Haven’t I served this ministry faithfully?” I had done everything they asked. Many things that went against my better judgment or understanding of the Bible. I endured everything. I worked over eighty hours a week at some points. Barely went to church. I gave up my family. I gave all my time. But it wasn’t good enough for them. Mike went on to tell me how I didn’t get it. How he gave me a choice and I chose the wrong one. That the right thing to do would have been to come back to Montana. That I was going against my word. He told me “I was giving up in the fourth quarter,” when I told him I felt injured. He laughed at me on the phone when I said it. He had given me an ultimatum and I “chose wrong”. I chose wrong because I wanted to heal? He questioned my calling. Told me that if I left God wouldn’t bless that decision. Mike told me I was in sin for my choice. He was wrong. He was in sin for abusing and manipulating me. I couldn’t even believe what I was hearing from a man who said he loved me. My pastor. The call ended because he lost service and the call dropped.
The third and final phone call was when everything came to a head. I called him about thirty minutes after the call dropped. I told him I knew that he had called Anna. I knew what he had said about me behind my back. I explained to him how hurt Anna was and how hurt I was. He denied that he even talked to her for four hours. (I later saw the total call times on Anna’s phone. He lied.) Mike told me he had every right to go to her and say what he did out of “concern” because I was a loose cannon. I was rebellious and insubordinate. I then called him out on his sin. I shared with him from the Gospels about what it says when a brother has an issue with a brother, pastor or not. It’s not right how he handled it. Why wouldn’t you just call me? “We are not level at the cross,” was his reply. Three people heard him say that in the room. Oh, and I recorded the phone calls on my voice memo app. He told me that verse didn’t apply to a situation with a sheep and a shepherd. All of his yes men in the room agreed. That’s absolutely false though. I couldn’t call him out he said. He told me he’d never do that to Don McClure. I was just in awe of his pride. On the phone I was holding back tears. Never have I been so confused in my life. Baffled by the arrogance of a man who always told us, “There’s no counter punch for humility.” He told me I was the manipulative one. That I was in the wrong. That’s when I told him Anna and I had both sought council outside of PFM. Multiple people. Pastors, friends, family, and leaders. They all gave the opposite council as Mike. They all said he was spiritually abusive and controlling. That everything he did was “cult like” in nature. They all said it was wrong. When Mike heard this, he lost it on the phone. He yelled and screamed at me. Pam snatched the phone. She screamed in my ear. She told me I would never be anything. I wouldn’t be a good husband. God wouldn’t bless me. She told me was coddled as a child. Again and again they tore me down. Never to build back up. That was always Mikes M.O. Mike then told me that Anna and I were done with PFM. He laughed. Then he hung up the phone. I never chose to leave. I was told never to come back. We never had a choice or even given a voice for that matter. What happened after these phone calls was the worst of it. The hardest part was what Mike told all of you had happened. Just so you know. He lied.
Everything I’m gonna share right now was told to me from people who were in the room when it happened. They heard the lies with their own ears like you did. Saw the abuse. Saw my character ripped to shreds. They were witnesses of Mikes wrath and anger. The way he poisoned people against me and others. These were the stories that made me the most angry. The ones that hurt the most. Do you know why? Because all of you listened without a question. You ate it up and didn’t even question him. You who lived with me. Those of you who served with me. Saw me everyday. The ones I confessed sin to. The ones who held me when I cried. The ones I had as accountability partners. My best friends. I stood in some of your weddings. I would have stood in more if not for everything that took place. You would have stood in mine. I was one of you.
You were all told that I left. I never did. I was told to leave. You were told I led Anna Scott astray. I didn’t. She was told to leave also. She asked Mike to finish her time in Cambodia and they said no. Remember all the meetings where the pastors questioned all of you separately about me and my character? I was never given a chance to have a voice. My voice was taken. You were all told I was evil. A wolf in sheeps clothing who came to cause divisions and destruction. I never once texted any of you to “draw you away”. I knew you would get in trouble if I did. Remember when Mike sat you all down at the quad and told you to block my number? Remember when he said that in the office? To shun me?To reject me? Do you remember the way he ripped my character to shreds and made you all think I was some one I never was?
Pastor Steve sent me an email that shook me to my core. He said I wasn’t saved. He told me Gods Spirit wasn’t in me. He told me I faked everything for three years. You guys knew me. Ask yourself if those words are true. Was I evil? Was I like a “cult leader”? Mike equated me to a sociopathic rapist. Told everyone I was a liar and deceiver. They said I wore a mask the whole time. Faked my walk with Jesus. For what? To “steal” Anna away? No. Mike built a case against an innocent, hurting, and broken follower of Jesus who asks him for help, because he was worried I’d try to cause division. He lied and I never did. I kept quiet like Jesus told me to. Mike told you I asked you guys to pack my stuff for me cause I never wanted to see you. That was a lie. I could show you the email I sent regarding my stuff. I never asked that. He told everyone it had to do with D&D. Yeah me and a few people played Dungeons and Dragons. We all did. Most of the time it was other people idea, not mine. Have your own opinion, it’s just a game and we all would have stopped if anyone ever shared concern. It was done in innocence. It was never to stumble anyone. Mike spoke against my family. Pam uncovered my dead dads sin to Anna. Sin that was told to them in confidence. Sin that my father was broken over. Pam told her that I’d be like my dad was. A sinner. Who does that? The words they spoke were poison and everything cut deeper than you’d know. I could keep going on and on, but I don’t think I even need to. You’ve seen it with your own eyes. Felt the spiritual abuse of the leaders in the ministry. If you were like me you had Mike uncover other people’s sins to you, just to make a point. He told me things about the girls in PFM I never wanted to know. Uncovered you guys. He screamed in my face until spit flew out. Over my three years there I was beaten down just like you guys were. I was manipulated and used. We were taken advantage of because we wanted to serve Jesus.
My heart breaks for every one of you. Everyone who felt the same kinda confusion and pain everyday. The ones who questioned whether what we were doing was right. The ones who asked If it was okay for a pastor to act that way? Will I be in sin if I leave? I felt all of the same things. Called and trapped at the same time. I want you all to know how bad you hurt me for not once questioning that man or anyone else. You who knew me. Truly knew me. But our God is gracious. He is loving. Jesus is kind. So how do I respond? For a long time it was with anger, hurt, and bitterness. I asked myself how anyone could just take a man word for it? I would have never just taken his word for it. Cause I knew each one of you. Even if I did take his word for it. If one of you went astray and I was in your position, I never would have shunned you. That was Mikes heart not Gods. So what do I say to you now? Today, I ask you all to forgive me for that. Forgive me for being angry at you because Jesus loved and forgave us. You guys showed me everything but love. You showed me everything but the heart of Jesus. But it’s okay. I love each and every one of you. I forgive you and I choose to release you of that debt I held against you.
I love you my friends,
Hello, I am a Potters Field survivor.
I’ve seen a few people come forward and wish for others to come forward. But would like to remain anonymous.
My brother first attempted Potters Field in 2010.
We were shocked when we didn’t hear from him in over two weeks due to their black out. We had no notice this was being done. After his term in the program my family as a whole was convinced to go through the program. It’s their story to tell not mine, but my parents sold everything including my childhood home to be able to attend to program in 2011 with the promise of being able to be missionaries to Africa.
My time in the program was difficult but not unbearable. What was the most difficult was serving. I went to El Salvador with my parents and we spent most of our time being dropped off at the mall and cleaning the compound. Doing things that the compound staff should do. We spent very little time with the kids and people of the local church. My parents were there to learn how to run a kids program and disciple interns and they spent most days sweeping the church compound.
We returned to PFM in Montana and were sent home days before Christmas to raise support. Which never came. It was a confusing time for myself and my family. Potters Field came through our church for their pottery demo a few months later. Convincing my family Africa was only a few short months away and due to my confidence of where I fit in, I agreed to go to Potters Field to train with the first team and go with my family to Africa after the six months of training.
I had just started a relationship with someone who also planned on going to the mission field. Going back to Potters Field was confusing. I was asked to serve also in the kitchen and worked constantly cleaning the guest rooms and compound. Having very little time to actually spend with the interns and others there. I felt lonely and was chided for talking to my boyfriend. I was told I was not committed enough and that I wasn’t involved enough with the interns. I was compared to other female staff members and told that I needed to be more like them, more committed, that I wasn’t cut out for Africa and my relationship would never last. I was encouraged to go dark, break up with my boyfriend and be totally committed to ministry. I was praised for breaking up with him.
Close to sending the interns “out to the field” as it was called I had a meeting with a pastor who said my parents weren’t going to be able to serve in Africa and that they felt I wasn’t cut out to serve there because of my lack of commitment to discipleship ( I was volunteering 60+ hrs a week in the kitchen and housekeeping so I wasn’t sure what time I had for discipleship) and this wasn’t really a negative thing… mostly because I liked to work and had a hard time connecting with other girls.So I agreed to stay.
My struggle was I came to Potters Field with very little money and after almost 3 months of volunteering I had no money. I was offered $300 a month to cover my expenses (which honestly weren’t alot because of the housing they provided and food and I didnt have a car and since my brother was still working there I could bum a ride with him if I needed). After I was brought on as a paid volunteer a lot changed. I was asked to do more and more. And finally to manage the kitchen which was cooking for 90-149 people on a daily basis. My days started at 6am and ended after dinner around 8 pm. Saturday and Sunday were my “days off” but food had to magically appear and I still had to be around to supervise. My saving grace was pastor Jim who stepped in and advocated for me having time off. He would take over cooking meals (I don’t know when he actually took a break) and give me time off. He spoke up for the interns, his wife and him changed the program to be less bootcamp oriented to how can we prepare you for serving overseas. He was a good man and really loved every person he came in contact with.
Towards summer of 2012 I began struggling with depression. I was worked to the bone and after breaking my foot, I was in a really dark place mentally. I wanted to leave, I wanted time to myself. I began talking with someone outside of Potters Field and we started dating. I made plans to leave and go to Nebraska with him. But I felt convinced by the work I had to do and felt I needed to recommit to serving. I went black on him which scared him and he came to come get me. When he showed up to come get me the pastors ran him off said I was in danger and needed off the property. After a long talk with a pastor and being convinced I should be sent home and fired I was put on probation and needed to prove myself. I wasn’t to talk to any interns because I was a negative influence. I was to prove myself to pastor Mike. So I expected the challenge. I worked myself to the bone. Until I had earned my approval, which ended up being myself and one other cook creating he and his wife’s vow renewal ceremony and making it a success. Including food for 300 people, decorating and more.
I kept up a breakneck pace for months. I struggled with self harm… my arms were covered in burns from me trying to find a way to cope. I needed friends I needed help, but no one noticed or cared. My brother and I wanted to go see our family for Christmas, we had gone home the year previous and had to drive 24 hours overnight because I needed to clean rooms for guest, I was yelled at by the RA because I needed to clean guest rooms and everyone had to wait for me to get there to clean so that they could leave. Everyone was sitting around playing instruments and apparently couldn’t possibly be bothered to do it for me. So the Christmas of 2012 we decided to stay in Montana. I with very little help cooked a huge Thanksgiving dinner and then Christmas dinner which was a huge event but I couldn’t enjoy it because of the amount of food that needed cooked and I just couldn’t do it. One last party I needed to pull off new years I cooked the food went upstairs and stood in the window watching and passed out from exhaustion.
The next day I got up for work but didn’t feel right. I was weak and shaky but I pressed through by 8 pm when I got off I was cold colder than I have ever been. I was weak, couldn’t feel anything with my hands. I took my temperature it was 91′ I quickly got help and was taken to the er. Long story short my immune system crashed I had a wheat allergy and due to cooking with it so much I had finally taken my body to the breaking point. I told the staff and they said that I needed to not cook with flour any longer. This continued for a month and I was let go as chef and moved to admin and working in the pottery studio. Which I hated admin I cleaned the church alone every tuesday and hated folding and sorting support cards for hours. Finally I apparently failed at admin and was asked to find other work. Which I did happily. Except for not having a car… so until I could afford one I was able to get rides to work then would walk 3 miles after work to the main office. Then I worked on my days off as a nanny. Which I really enjoyed. For some reason this working 7 days a week and walking every day from work felt like a break. I was so happy.
But it didn’t last. After being with Potters Field for so long I was told a new staff member was moving in and I needed to leave so she could have my bunk bed. I decided it was time to go home. I loved Montana it’s still my dream place to live. But I couldn’t handle these people. Even outside the ministry I wasn’t outside of it. I was controlled and chided for my every move. I still struggled with self harm and needed time to recover. So I went home. I didn’t work for 3 months after. I was in debilitating pain. I would stay in bed for days. Burnt myself repeatedly with a curling iron. I wasn’t able to work… I tried but even a normal full time job was impossible. It took months. Starting yoga and meditation, counseling and a lot of time for me to feel healthy and in a good place mentally and emotionally. Not everything at Potters Field was bad. Pastor Jim and his wife Patty were an amazing couple and if I had listened to them more I know my experience would have been a lot different. Barb and Dave were so good to myself and others. They helped me in so many ways and took me and my brother under their wings and shielded us from a lot of the bad. I hope others read this and get out if they need and get help. I don’t remember all of what happened but I know I’m not alone.
My PFM experience – Sarah Soderholm (formerly Bachelder)
I was apart of the ignite class 3 in 2012.
Being only 19 years old and raised in a strict Christian church, I genuinely wanted to just serve the Lord with my life and the gifts I was given. That was the thing to do.
I had heard of PFM through my church (that I don’t go to anymore, and don’t recommend anyone to go there ever!) Calvary Chapel San Juan Capistrano in Southern California, because Pastor John Randall’s father, Jim was involved with PFM. (Jim Randall is amazing, him and Patti, I believe, took me under their wing and shielded me from a lot of the chaos Mike was unleashing. I also know that God protected me and my heart form that evil man as well).I honestly felt led to PFM by the Lord and had prayed about it on my own a lot.
So I got a scholarship, my church supported me, and I was off on a new adventure! I trusted and liked everyone right away and just followed along with the leadership, strict rules, and commitments that the PFM ignite program entailed.
None of the “cult-like living and abuse” really phased me until looking back at it all now years later! (Maybe because I grew up in a legalistic church? Or ‘cuz I was very young and ignorant!) … I realize now how odd it all was…
The extremely strict rules and schedules, no internet time except a few hours every once in a while, the location was very far from the town and civilization, no boy-girl hangout time/no dating, ridiculously long classes (that I would fall asleep in), really random and often very uncomfortable “team building” exercises with the other interns, getting woken up at 3am by the leaders screaming and banging on the walls and then getting lectured about how we were all so disrespectful or something like that, and then of course *drum roll please* “strong fellowship.” ….
When Mike would have everyone gather in one room while he yelled for hours about how we were all so prideful, such sinners, selfish, how we weren’t ready for our field time overseas, and that we needed to be broken and give our all for Christ. During one of those yelling sessions Mike was swinging around a machine gun and draping it over his shoulder, while standing on a table yelling something like how we don’t know what serving the Lord really means… was the gun loaded? Who knows! I remember clearly the gun, the yelling, and how if you were to drop a pin in that room, you could have heard it perfectly — We were all in shock, tearing up, scared, and wondering what the hell we got ourselves into. I don’t even remember Mikes exact words, I just remember the gun, and being scared. I even believe we were on a “tech fast” that week so we couldn’t even tell anyone what happened… And I don’t even recall ever telling anyone about it! It’s almost like I blocked it all out, like no, that couldn’t have happened, he’s not crazy, he’s our fearless leader! *eye roll*
I also have no clue how the other leaders and pastors could just stand by and let this mad man run wild?!?! Like, how is that not a HUGE red flag? This man has had a history of having serious anger issues, even his wife Pam has talked all about it how when they first got married he was insane, she even wrote a book about it, she used to joke about how “she married the devil” I kid you not!
So, obviously the man is still having mega-huge issues!! And that was only my three months in training in Montana… I’ll also admit that I became a “favorite” of the pastors, (PFM shows favoritism very openly and its so very wrong) I was favored and taken out to dinners or outings with only the leaders, taken out of class to go ride horses with Pam, and I was the worship pastors’s pet, because I was a musician, I was told I was special, yes I was full of pride, and I knew it — But I was also only a dumb 19 year old wearing a backwards hat.
During my 6 months in Kenya we didn’t have Mike around, he only came to visit like twice, so we were actually “okay” and yeah there were really difficult times, and our leaders weren’t perfect, but it was Kenya so… But I do clearly remember being told straight up that I was mean and rude (which was probably true, I am a very strong willed woman, only I’m not ashamed of that now!) And to teach me a lesson, I had to stay at our house while my team went out to serve at a school or church somewhere with the Kenyan kids, and I had to deep clean our whole house all alone. Thats probably why I literally despise cleaning so much! We were always having to clean things, like the whole time you serve with PFM, like very thoroughly, not just a quick sweep-mop deal no, DEEP CLEAN. That may sound like its not important, but when you have to clean an ENTIRE building all by yourself, it can get bad— that’s what happened to me when I was serving back in Montana almost two years later… I had to clean the entire Selah church all by myself, a few times a week, and if I finished too fast, I was told I didn’t do a good enough job, and let me tell you, I cleaned every nook and cranny and floorboard y’all!
They would always just say that I had to learn to be “humble” and “submissive” and “quiet” … And if you know anything about me, I will NOT let people walk all over me, I will say what is on my mind… gosh, If only I had that skill back then!
I could have gotten out of that cult a lot sooner!
But I know that God used it all and I did actually learn a lot. What satan meant for evil, God used for good, right?
After our field time, we went back to MT for the two week re-entry time. We were all in culture shock and simply wrecked not knowing what to do with our lives or our thoughts. Coming off the filed right back into classroom time and long lectures was not what we needed. We needed to talk and share and cry and figure out life! We were able to share a little, but after 6 months of living in a different culture, two weeks of re-entry isn’t going to help anyone. The only refreshing times were when I got to be alone out in nature or at a waterfall with Jim and Patti Randall and my team.
We then had to go back to our home churches for the remaining two months of the 365 ignite days. Being back home was fine, I had friends my dog, and my mom … And I was still just wanting to “serve the Lord” But I thought the only way you can serve God was in ministry or by being a missionary! (Which is not true, you can serve the Lord with your entire life in WHATEVER you do using the gifts HE gave you!)
While at home for my two months I was still in contact with PFM and I got asked to come be a leader, worship leader, and help with the new PFM training location in Antigua, Guatemala at “the Center.” I was so at loss with what to do with my life at that time, I was even looking into joining the marines! I just wanted to DO something and be apart of something!! So after talking to PFM and thinking and praying about going to Guatemala to serve, it sounded like a great idea! My home church supported me once again, and I do believe the Lord led me there and used it to teach me a lot, even through all the chaos. (Jim and Patti Randall were the ones who really influenced me to go to Guat with them too, in a good way though.) I think I definitely had a tendency to follow people, rather than God, but aren’t we all guilty of that?
People love to idolize people… especially manipulative men like Mike!
I was in Guatemala for a little over 8 months serving. Working hard 8 days a week, doing more deep cleaning, leading worship, making sure the interns followed all the “rules” like I was, cooking for over 50 people sometimes, construction and painting projects, teaching the interns, kids club with the locals, and more all while not getting paid. I was so tired that on my days off I would stay in bed till noon!
I remember while there at different times I got lice, amebas, parasites, and was bed ridden for two weeks not able to eat, in a lot of pain, and just laid in bed feeling helpless, nobody cared except Patti Randall.
But on the bright side, I did have a lot of fun while in Guat, it was a really cool location, and I made new friends. Except the corrupt leadership made its way there as well.
Whenever we knew Mike or Don McClure was coming to visit we would have to clean everything EXTRA super clean… and we already had to clean and make our beds military style daily. And the leaders just did whatever Mike wanted them to, like he was God to them, and he would meet all the interns and talk to them all day till night time. It’s like he was brainwashing them and getting them ready for their overseas time! And I thought it was “normal” ‘cuz that’s how my training was, it’s like oh that’s just pastor Mike and he’s the boss so whatever goes! Because when you are so physically and emotionally exhausted, you have no more energy to use your discernment, and the truth of Gods word gets tainted with a cunning man’s words.
Looking back and thinking about it all now, I see the truth and the craziness perfectly clear now. I was up all night thinking about all I went through with PFM, what I should write, and I realize that I have ignored and blocked a lot of it out, I know that I have healed a lot, It’s been so many years, but I am not sure if have fully forgiven them, especially Mike and Christa. I feel like I’m more along the lines of “Well, it’s in the past, screw them, I am not a victim anymore. Moving on!”
Which hey, I think is a great place to be!
I have one more story from Guat… The one thing that I did that was ACTUALLY against the rules was when I had a crush on one of the interns and so we had a “thing.” Literally two young kids crushing on each other, nothing even happened! But of course we were hanging out too much and got in trouble and got talked to and yelled at… I understand the rule I broke but to yell at someone for having a crush? Like, the leaders know they are gathering bunch of young adults that are the same age with similar interests together, but you can’t be attracted to someone, oh okay! It’s be like accusing someone for being a sexually straight human with a natural desire for companionship or something, like, okay sorry for being human.
So I ended up being “kicked out” and sent home earlier than the time I was originally going to leave. It wasn’t a big deal for me, I wanted to go home for Christmas anyways. I remember Mike yelling at me and telling me that my church was going to be so ashamed of me and that nobody from my church would ever go through PFM because of me, and that I should be ashamed for giving up my calling, or something, for a guy, I honestly have no clue, he was obviously trying to make me feel guilty. I think I just tuned out any time he began to yell (thank God). Yet I felt no guilt, I was simply bummed out ‘cuz I had a crush and I liked it there. So I went home. I was told later that the male intern that stayed in guat got yelled at by Mike too, poor kid.
Almost a year later, while at home, I remember Pam coming to the church’s ladies Christmas dinner, or a different event at my church, and they did their presentation, and we spoke after, and I always had a weak spot for her, she was always so sweet to me and we both loved horses..So then I was asked to pray about coming back to PFM to work on her ranch with the horses. It sounded like a dream to me! I wasn’t really doing much at home anyway and I loved horses, so why not!
Montana is where all the serious mistreatment took place. I was 22 and had my 23rd Birthday in MT. When I got there I jumped right into serving again and I remember Mike just yelling something about grace and second chances for me since “I was back.”
When I first worked there (without pay) I worked a few days at the church cleaning the entire building all alone, and a few days working on the horse ranch with one other male staff member and our equine overseer Reanna (who I really admired and liked because she taught me a lot about horses and wasn’t mean to me) Where we were always mucking all the poop, bucking 50-80 pound hay bales, cleaning giant metal water troughs, pulling weeds, raking the large arena, all the hard labor that comes with running a ranch, and basic animal care for, I think, 8 horses, 3 ponies, and 2 goats. After I was fully trained to work on the ranch full time, I didn’t work in the office anymore, so I was glad for no more cleaning, but then that got replaced with mucking animal crap… which was a lot better than cleaning an entire church in my opinion actually!
When Raeanna wasn’t there it was just me and my co-worker, and we didn’t really get along, he was a well known favorite of Mike and Pam and was also secretly abusing girls sexually and nobody found out for a long time! He was a manipulative funny guy just like Mike, and that’s most likely why we didn’t get along, because I never let him control me. One time he threatened to have my dog taken away, so I told Raeanna and Pam and got him in trouble, and from that meeting on, he didn’t mess with me after he knew I wasn’t afraid to speak up. I only wish I had known about the girls being assaulted by him, I would have kicked him in the balls and told the leaders!
Other than working my butt off at the horse property, I was also almost ALWAYS alone. Everyone worked in town which was a 30 minute drive away, and I didn’t have a car! I definitely was dealing with a lot of loneliness and depression and ate my feelings in food. I remember when I told the pastors and leaders that I was lonely and that I needed a car, I was rebuked and yelled at for wanting a car and for not being thankful that I got to work with the horses. I was then told that I seclude myself too much… When I had no choice! I was literally stranded at a ranch with no car! So I would have to beg the other staff members to let me hitch rides or borrow their cars, (they all worked in the same building and could easily carpool, yet I was stranded with no form of transportation, not even a horse because I wasn’t allowed to even ride them for fun!) and they were always so stingy about it, and often made up excuses and didn’t help me. A few long months later when they finally started paying me tiny paychecks, and with key moms help, I was able to get a crappy old jeep and I was so thankful that I could drive into town by myself and get groceries or go to the lake or hike with my dog!
I remember also asking if I could have my own room like all the other staff girls that worked in the office, because there was an empty room in the house, but they said no and put me in a room with a girl who wasn’t involved with PFM, we actually became friends and I know God used her to help me get through my time there, we would go on hikes and laugh together. I am also super thankful for a couple other friends I ended up meeting that weren’t involved with PFM either, and they helped me get through summer and took me to the lakes and trails and made me actually like it there!
But I never hungout with the other PFM office girls, except Reanna, they were their own little clique, and I never “fit in” with them. I remember everyone had to work such long hours. And everyone was always tired. Why did they make us slave away like that? I started to realize all these flaws, and the final straw had to do with my dog. My co-worker had a lab puppy, and he abused it and it was scared of him, but I remembered seeing a picture of his dog inside the house on the couch with one of the other girls before I had arrived there, and so I thought “maybe they’ll let me bring my well trained dog too!” So I got permission to have my dog come to the property but they told me he couldn’t go inside the house, and in my head I thought I could get them to change their minds because pam loves animals blah blah blah ….
Boy, was I wrong!
My mom came to visit and flew up with my dog, we had a good time and I showed her Whitefish, and my dog was with me and he was like my baby, and everything was great in the summer! And everyone put on their smiling faces for her! Then she left, my dog stayed … Then it started getting cold… And my dog, a shepherd-lab mix, who was raised as an inside dog, who’s extremely well behaved, was NOT allowed inside… when it would be freezing at night! Nobody had allergies, and nobody was ever home, but he couldn’t go inside with me…. I was so angry about it! I even snuck him in the house when they were all gone all day, and he would just happily chill with me. Before I got my jeep I would wrap him in my sweater because he had to stay outside tied up, but when I got my jeep I would heat it up and lay in the back with my dog to warm him up, calm him down, and then let him sleep in my car.
Any dog or animals lovers out there should be getting heated right about now…. I then asked leaders if I could please let my dog inside one of the storage sheds at night so he wouldn’t freeze to death! They said yes, but my poor dog has separation anxiety and didn’t like that storage shed, and so he ended up breaking both his fangs trying to get out, and scraped the top of his nose till it was raw and bloody… You could say I had just about had it! My dog was fine, it just made things A LOT harder, and all the girls hated him, he’s not aggressive, but he would bark at them when they would come home. Because he knew they didn’t like me or him. And nobody cared. Just me, all alone, with my dog, spending my days off alone in my bed, and then my jeep broke down and I had to sell it. But I was “out of sight, out of mind” from everyone in town at the offices, so literally nobody cared or ever asked how I was doing. Maybe they were punishing me for the Guatemala crush thing? I have no clue. I loved the horses, but I was just so alone. The only time one of the girls tried to talk with me, was because she was asked to try and find out “what was wrong with me” or if I was “in sin!”
I remember it was November, and I was planning the time I would go home for my Christmas break. I was talking to my leaders back home, along with my mom, about coming home and told them how I was being mistreated, condemned, neglected, and underpaid, and they told me it was time to leave, and I knew it was too.
My plan was to leave for my Christmas break, and just not come back… Unfortunately someone heard about my plan, they told the leaders, and that is when I experienced my first real “bad” time in Mikes office. (I had meetings with Mike before and also Steve Venable, about how I was feeling lonely, but they never led anywhere, they would basically tell me to suck it up and be thankful for what I had.)
So, It was me, Mike, and Steve Miller. I was nervous. I didn’t do anything wrong, I just wanted to go home, and I knew the Lord was calling me back to SoCal. Yet this man was right in my face yelling at me. This insane man literally thinks that his will is God’s will! While Steve Miller did nothing. I sat there silent, with tears rolling down my cheek in fear. I remember leaning back as far as I could in my chair to put some space between Mike and I. He was right against my knees, and I was stuck. He was more than just in my personal space! I thought “he can’t do anything to me because Steve is here, right?” But he ended up just yelling and spitting, and throwing a CD at me. I remember Steve telling me that I needed to talk, because I was staying so silent. I just remember shaking my head “no” while the tears came down my cheeks, I had nothing to say to this mad man. I don’t listen to crazy people that think yelling is a good idea. I don’t exactly remember how the meeting ended or how long it was, but Mike basically shamed me and told me that I should just leave now instead of in the next few weeks, although I had already gotten my plane ticket. I don’t remember what happened with the plane tickets, I think they, or my church, rescheduled it for me or something. Then I had to go pack up and leave within the next 48 hours. I remember the last, I want to say 2-3 days? They gave me my own room so I could “have private time to think about what I had done!” And Christa was like, don’t let the excitement of a new room distract you from what you need to think about! I honestly just laughed to myself, I was so done there, done with these crazy people, I was going home, my dog was alive and fit for travel, I was getting out! I made it home and I am just so glad that its over.
I am so glad and thankful that the truth is finally getting out for people to hear!
This screwed up “ministry” has been running and ruining peoples lives and faith for too long! They are going to answer to God for their actions.
There is nothing to be afraid of.
I am no longer a victim.
I have moved on and am living a great life with my wonderful husband! Keep sharing theses stories!
I have just completed reading all the comments and related articles. As I personally know most of you, my heart is grieving.
My husband and I have been volunteers and supporters of this ministry for seven years. Until June 3 of this year I was unaware of the depth and severity of what has transpired over the years. I knew there were issues… I have to go through my own turmoil and journey of not seeing the signs for what was really happening. I want to publicly apologize to all of you who know us for our not having my eyes opened sooner. From the bottom of our hearts please forgive me.
In December 2018 my dear sweet friend who I loved with all my heart and her husband left in the middle of the night. (This is where I beat myself up. Why didn’t I question this more. It happened so many times. These kinds of departures happened so many times, and were either never discussed or lied about. We were given another story or we never even knew they left. When we asked where the individuals were we were told a different version of the truth.)
In January of this year when the Calvary association began to take a stand against the Rozell’s I began to pray constantly. It was as if I couldn’t stop praying about this. The burden was so heavy on my heart. I began to pray for truth to be revealed. I prayed for six months like this. I would wake up in the middle of the night and very early, praying, and continuing all day long.
It was on June 3 when I met with a brave and courageous young couple who stepped forward and this honorable, noble young man stood up to the Rozells and had the courage to tell the truth openly and without malice.
They had become very dear to us and when they shared the truth I knew that God was answering my prayer.
I would like to share the letter I wrote to mike.
June 25, 2019
It is with a heavy heart that this letter is written. You know that we have given our heart and soul to this ministry. Nearly seven years ago in July, we came to Montana and we were so thrilled to be a part of PFM. We gave whatever monies God had provided through the years to support the ministry. We gave our time, we opened our home always, and we did it all with loving hearts.
Through the years we have seen several things of concern, but we always gave grace. We knew there were issues, and yet we continued to stand by you and Pam. There were good things that we saw and experienced with PFM.
In January, when accusations were made against you we defended you. We defended you and Pam even to some others that we had loved and had good friendships with.
You know that I had been praying and praying night and day. I told you this many times. I often woke up in the middle of the night praying. I kept praying for truth to be revealed, and I honestly thought it would be in your favor.
When I got the call on Monday, June 3, I had just been praying for 45 minutes. My heart was heavy. Again, I prayed for truth to be revealed. Dave told me that Kendra and Derek were leaving. We had developed a close friendship with them. They have proven themselves to be persons of great character and integrity, and I trust them completely. I called Kendra and asked her why and she said, “Do you really want to know?” We went and sat with them that evening and we were shocked by what we heard.
I felt compelled to do my own investigation, for two reasons. I did not want to accept heresay, but find out for myself. Also, I was a teacher for over 20 years, and I took an oath. If I suspected abuse, I would act on it. That oath is still a part of who I am.
I did not call the McClures, as you would suspect. I began to call people that had left and we never heard from them again and I began to hear the same story over and over. The recurring words were “fear”, “manipulation” and “control. ” Since June 3, I have personally spoken to more than 20 former interns [many, many more by now] and I only asked them why they left. I did not try to get them to say anything. I have to tell you that there were many days that I was trembling and physically ill from what I heard.
We have also spoken to pastors whom we trust who have had former interns who have acknowledged that there were similar wrongdoings, but they were afraid to come forward. There are more than a dozen interns in this category.
This is not not even counting other adults who have had bad dealings. I heard that without going to anyone. Regarding my friend ——-; you told her in a meeting [ in December 2018] where my husband was present, along with pastor m that you would help her by paying her $1000 a month in exchange for her creating the website and using her creative talents. As of this day, she has not been paid for her last month, and she worked many more hours than agreed upon. How could you treat a hurting woman like that?
Based upon overwhelming evidence we have made our own conclusions. You have wounded your sheep.
“Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock;”
1 Peter 5:2-3 – NKJV
You have not displayed, nor do you continue to display the characteristics of a godly leader. Despite the good things from your ministry, there are too many issues. You have cheated these young people financially, under the guise of ministry. You have misrepresented the Gospel in a myriad of ways to vulnerable young souls looking for water in a dry and thirsty world. You have been dishonest with Dave and me repeatedly.
At first I was very angry, but I have come to feel sorry for you. Yes, we are all sinners, but you are called to a higher calling as a “pastor.” This is even more defined as you are responsible for young people, many just new in the faith. Are you aware of how many you have wounded? Some don’t go to church, some have trouble reading the Bible, and those that still trust our Saviour are struggling with the things they have experienced, seen, or the false doctrines you have shown them, either by direct words or your behavior.
As a result, we can no longer be a part of the ministry or church. It breaks our hearts because we have spent the last seven years of our lives there.
We love and care deeply so very much for everyone there, but I am quite certain that no one will contact us as you tell them we are “trashing the ministry.” How do I know this? Because we have seen and heard this time after time through the years.
By the way, as I came to my own conclusion, so did —. I did not share things with him, but we allowed him to seek God, and The Holy Spirit gave him his own discernment. He knew things weren’t right, but he wanted so badly to go into the Ignite program that he was willing to overloook. But after speaking to you in your office on June 12, he made his own decision.
In conclusion, we have experienced lies, deception and cover up, and these have continued long after January 2019. They continued until our last conversation.
We cannot be a part of or support a ministry where such things are happening.
You are not the man we thought you were.
Our hearts are breaking over this. We will pray for healing for you.
Again, my intention in sharing this is to humbly ask forgiveness from so many of you that have been deeply affected by the spiritual and emotional abuse. We know that Pastor Jim Randall and Patti and so many others were oblivious, as were we, to the horrific treatment that went on behind closed doors. I try not to dwell on regrets in my life, but this is a tough one. Believe me, if only I could go back and do things differently, and SEE things differently…
As for those of you from the outside, please be careful not to judge so severely. Listen to all theses accounts of seriously wounded individuals. And I know personally many more who still are afraid to speak out. Many more. I ask you not to be so harsh with your criticisms of who should have done more. We were all lied to, deceived and manipulated. There was a great deal of good, godly people who were associated and involved. Now that I look back, they were all used to promote and to strengthen the facade. I dearly love every staff member, and I can’t imagine what they are going through. These are wonderful, caring, loving people who unfortunately fell under ungodly, twisted leadership. My heart grieves deeply for them. We love them, too, but I’m not sure they feel the same since we left. I hope one day they will realize that it was never them we were against, but the two who caused all this pain.
Again, I ask forgiveness for not seeing this sooner or attempting to investigate sooner. I will pray for you all every day, and we love you as we always have, only now with a deeper sense of concern and care. Please feel free to reach out to me if there’s anything I can do, or just to talk.