Charvel’s Story: The Potters Field Case
With the Phoenix Preacher posts and now many phone calls and messages the last week, it is inevitable but to just to believe what is being shared. People are clearly hurting and have been hurting for years. It is very heart breaking to realize. These are not just stories, they are actual real experiences, real feelings, and it is utterly sickening. It has made me think on my time in PFM. Combing through experiences and moments and seeing how things really were twisted into the guise of spirituality, obedience, being a good student, being a good servant, obeying authority no matter what. By God’s grace did he protect me in many times during my time with PFM and God did teach me many things and I learned a lot of good things. I also recall some very questionable moments. I think I’ve put a lot of it into a box.
A box of “that’s just Satan trying to keep me from the ministry” versus seeing fully “a red flag.”
I’ve always had a small bone to pick with PFM and it’s been the legalism and now in hindsight seeing how that and some other things have really been twisted into being ok when it really was not ok. This twisting of service and submission and authority, it is all so marred and I can’t exactly put the words to explain it better except the word that is sticking out with me is conditioning, which is what abusers do. I’ve experienced it very little with Mike in Guatemala but I realize that I did see it but never in this perspective. Hindsight is 20/20. I journaled a lot in the past especially training and I have all notes and journals, so I began looking.
In my training there were some red flags. I forgot that Jake shaved his head. I remember that reaction from Mike being so outlandish. Having someone yell at me is traumatizing. Mike came into the upper room, our class room at the old ranch and he was carrying a gun. It was this twisting of submission and service and using the threat of sending us home and not sending us to the foreign mission field. It was a common theme I saw in every class I served with: more often than not, Mike would use the threat of going home. In my training, I already didn’t want to be there and wanted to leave. I knew I wasn’t trying whatsoever to “be a team” so I kind of understood what he might have been saying. I still recall feeling uneasy and I wonder now if there was more to that feeling.
Pastor Jim was an amazing buffer for us then in training and for many of the following classes. All these experiences being shared has made me think over every moment and interaction with Mike. It has made me wonder of those strong fellowships during training like the one above and especially the one when they woke us girls up in the dead of sleep. Utter nightmare for me.
It has been seven years and I remember this all too well. The RA and RA assistants woke us girls up in the dead of sleep. Utter nightmare for me because I sleep rock hard but all sounds go into my dreams. I felt I was having an odd nightmare but it was weird ((because the day before we served at habitat for humanity and I worked on scaffolding with a nail gun)) So to wake us up the RAs were slamming doors, yelling, and bouncing an exercise ball, etc. In my dream that was happening on scaffolding high up and the sound of slamming doors, in my dream was the sound of a nail gun. I was asleep in the top bunk and I woke to an RA assistant yelling at me to get out of bed. I guess she had said it a few times and “I wasn’t listening” but I didn’t comprehend what I was hearing in my jumbled dream mind.
I was SO mad and stood there and listened but I didn’t fully comprehend what was being said. I was still mad when I woke up at the regular time. I didn’t talk to anyone really and wrote in my journal – (picture of journal). Then we had more strong fellowship that afternoon in the coffee house room with most of the girls and on speakerphone with Mike and Steve Venable. I saw firsthand the “breaking of girls” in my class. It was like as if mike wasn’t going to be satisfied until there were girls putting themselves down and being willing to be sent home. I vaguely recall him saying that someone was going home. No one went home and looking back I see that conditioning happening. This twisting of receiving grace and favor cause you weren’t sent home. It is just making me sick really thinking about it.
I wasn’t ever the point of contention or attention in training. I listened and wondered why I was even there in the room cause I didn’t do anything wrong. I am not the type of person to apologize for something I did not do. I talked to our RA a day or two after and she shared that she was told by mike to wake us up at night and she said she felt no peace about it but she listened as RA and to be obedient to the authority which was Mike. So she woke us as mike instructed her to do despite not wanting to do so.
Mudman food truck is in our town Vancouver, WA and they have some plans for building. It’s been a very slight thought to have Scott work there because he hates is current job. However, we learned of some issues arising a few months ago and we have had a few hour long conversations with Mike then. Our friends who were previous interns shared on Facebook and shared with us by Skype of various allegations against mike. It seemed odd but I did trust these friends. Initially if felt as the rumor weed from veggie tales. We have stood on the line of not knowing what is true.
I so wanted to trust Mike but stood on the line of idk what’s true.
Our hearts are very heavy.
I didn’t think too much of our training until now or really seeing things that have been twisted into spirituality when it is actually just been wrong. It is seemingly inevitable to see the amount of people sharing about PFM and about mike specifically. I am replaying various experiences myself and seeing how it was twisted into being right and spiritual. I have been reading through post after post of people sharing their experience with mike.
The way authority is used and the hierarchy of it in the ministry has always been questionable to me. In training I had issues with authority so I put my feeling aside and into a box of I am to self-focused and not serving well enough.
When I was in Guatemala in 2015 after I had married, we went to visit for a week. Less than a couple hours of being there, we were asked by Pastor Jim and Miss Patti if we would be willing to stay for two months. After a few days we decided that we would stay and we were told not to talk about it to others just yet, so we stayed quiet about it. This leads to my own “strong fellowship” with Mike when I inadvertently called him out in front of others for saying too much. He had mentioned in front of others about our decision to stay. We were caught off guard because we had been told not to say anything yet. He asked seemingly joking, “do I say to much?”
And without thinking I replied “yes you always do”
He responded, “what?”
And I repeated but added “ ‘sometimes’ you always say to much”.
He retorted- “well maybe you shouldn’t stay”And left the room.
A moment later I went to him to apologize because it felt off and perhaps disrespectful but he was coming to me to lay one into me. Getting out of the room I was in and into the hallway I think made all the difference. It still became almost an hour long conversation with mike in the middle of the hallway in Guatemala at the old center where you would ring the bell. I was crying already to him and had said sorry but it wasn’t enough because of how I tried to explain how I felt. My husband came into the conversation quickly and was a good help. Mike was mad because I had said that too him in front of interns and staff. I didn’t feel that what I said was wrong but more about how and where and to that I was sorry. I really didn’t think it was a big deal but mike made it into a big deal. The reality was that he was “saying too much” because he was speaking on things in front of the students and staff when we were asked not to speak about it. When I brought that up he pushed about his authority. He would say, “I am the head of this ministry” And this was not the first time I heard him say that or things like “Am I not the head of this ministry” or “God put me as the head of this” or “Am I not the authority in this ministry”
At the time, I went into “I am broken” mode and I apologized. I think Mike sort of apologized. I know hindsight I should of said nothing despite what I felt to be true. I even went to serving staff apologized for not respecting Mike in that moment. But what has stood out to me from this experience was his initial retort of “maybe you shouldn’t stay” and it has played over and over in my head the past years. I put it into a box of Satan trying to use it against me for this ministry, but I now see it was a warning for the character of this man. He felt threatened by what I said and how I responded to him.
I served as RA and media teacher for many classes and I remember seeing many sideline conversations Mike had with students. I never realized that it caused so many issues. I remember seeing the closed door conversations with various students. Repetitive phrases Mike would use and out of context verses he would use to push a point to create a response he wanted.
Their current working conditions are poor as everyone is overworked and underpaid. I was and am concerned about other office staff in Montana. When I worked in the office briefly they were always working and stressed. One girl was always working even at home I remember her having to pull her computer out to do work because it couldn’t wait until the next day. I saw her stress and her desire to please but what was expected of her and others in the office was just unnecessary.
In my times in Montana I worked as serving staff which meant I was given a stipend for the month along with a place to stay. The work was easy and it wasn’t too much so it wasn’t a big deal but financially it was difficult as I was still responsible to buy my food for most of my time there. I did come on staff full time for a month and was paid minimum wage. I had realized pretty quickly that I didn’t enjoy working in the office and I wanted to be back in Guatemala serving with the Ignite class.
In my time in Guatemala, I was overworked but in the mindset of serving so I just continued. Physically my health took a toll. I had chronic hives for over a year because my immune system was crashing. I was super stressed as I was RA, teaching media, posting on their Facebook, and various other responsibilities.
Mudman definitely made things muddier.
In all this I must share that God loves all of you and he is not about breaking you or tearing you down. This twisted theology you’ve been presented is wrought with repetitive phrases and misused verses. I am praying for many of you and as a whole praying for healing. I am available if anyone would like to talk or just need someone to pray for them. Call me or text me (email Michael for the #)