Caleb’s Story: The Potters Field Case
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.