An Anonymous Story: The Potters Field Case
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.