Zach’s Story, “A Letter To My Friends”: The Potters Field Case (Updated)
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,