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.
Mike and Pam,
Do you see yet? Do you see what you have done? Do you see that all of us are genuinely and rightfully hurt? Do these testimonies really sound like everyone is out to get you? Do you feel it yet? Do you feel the pain of what everyone is feeling? Or do you even feel anymore? Please don’t try to reach deep down within to remember the heart that brought this ministry into existence. You haven’t been operating in it for some time, therefore you cannot rely on it.
So, since you’re letting 20-30 year old’s speak into your life, please listen in: you both have become the abusers, and we are hurting!
Please own your part in all of this. Please stop saying “I am being still and knowing He is God” while you send your pawns out to play the game and fight for you. If I were in your shoes, I would have laid down my pastoral title and sworn to never disciple again. I would have seen the damage I did in these young people’s lives, intentional or not, and realized that I just got it wrong. I would say I’m not the guy. I’m actually Saul not David. But I guess that’s the difference between me and you. God has built you for this, remember? You were built to endure this persecution for doing the Lord’s work. You told me that! You! In front of Pam and my husband. Just look at the fruit of your work!!! Listen to these people with pastoral ears! They are anguishing in shame and trembling in fear. You told me that God has laid His hands on you and ordained you for this. This!?
I believe the example you used was “like Job”. Job was a ‘blameless and upright’ (1:1). But the people coming out of the woodwork that are still suffering from you and Pam are NOT the fruit of ‘blameless and upright’, are they? Are they? Mike, you know that everything that I have shared about has been true, everything we have all shared is true. You know it! You have to know it – because its true. Remember when I was grieving over my father’s death in IGNITE and you told me that he’s already dead so get over so I can be free indeed and not just free? Now I’m telling you, accept it and move on so you can be free indeed. Not the most comforting biblical counsel is it? Way to love the fatherless!
Do you remember when you asked me to go unsaved on the insurance companies so I could get you a brand new trailer? I just need to let you know that I was puffed up by that. But you should have known that. You were my senior pastor and knew that I struggled with letting work define me, much less what that did to my marriage. Oh, Pam, do you remember calling me to see what insurance strings I could pull to get your sub-contractor fired? I can recover the text messages that you asked me to delete if you need a reminder. Or what about when all of this CCA stuff started toppling down and you two called me all the time? I felt so loved and comforted by you. Sometimes you wanted me to share with you secrets I knew about people who left, sometimes you needed me to lie to a pastor (and yes it’s a lie when you give me a script before the phone call and then tell the pastor this is the first time we are talking about it), sometimes, Mike, you called me alone and in secret asking me to keep secrets from my husband, which I did because you told me that’s honoring the Lord by submitting to my authority. Do you remember those phone calls and meetings? You were my senior pastor and leader!!!! What do you think that reads to me? That is derailing!!!
Here’s the thing, you cannot deny it because you know it happened, and you will stand before God one day to answer for all of this. What about when I got raged on for trying to help someone in the community because you weren’t controlling it? Go back to that memory, try to look past the dollar signs and try to remember the fear that was in my eyes. Do you remember??? They probably looked similar to my son’s when you put your hand around his neck and told him that is what it feels like to have the enemy controlling your life. My son! The MudBoy! Which, by the way, since we left, our relationship has flourished. He admitted to me that the favor that you placed upon him made him prideful and that’s why he was so defiant and rebellious to me. (Ironically, I came to you for council when I couldn’t get him to submit to me.) He said he could feel the pressure to live up to your expectations. He said this all on his own which gives me hope that he still has the Spirit of God in him considering he won’t even open his bible because of you!!! You! He is walking away from his Jesus because of you! You have stumbled a literal child in the faith. Are you hearing me? This nine year old is not out to get you. This nine year old is not jealous that you broke the Christian code (MudMan) and wants it. This nine year old is crushed in spirit because of you. Does that break your heart? Does that even penetrate your heart?
What about yours, Pam? Pam, do you remember the last few times that we met for bible study as the “12”? Do you remember how angry I was? Do you remember how confused I was? I lied. I told everyone I was mad at someone who left the ministry, but really, Pam, I was mad at you. This is why: When we were in the showroom at the ranch meeting with a pastor who was investigating the ministry, as I was sharing I saw you whispering something to me, and I asked you out loud what you were trying to tell me. Ring a bell? You looked away like I was an idiot. But I knew. I knew what you said. I knew what and who you were asking me to expose. It was in that moment that I realized how used I was. I hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt devalued. I literally felt like I had no worth! I thought about dying to escape. I felt like yours and Mike’s puppet. You used me to save your face! All of the loving you two had towards me was just conditioning me for fighting your battles. All three of us knew I was bearing false witness, but I continued to do it. Partly because I thought I needed your approvals, but really it was because no one is allowed to question Mike.
You might remember saying this, I know I do, that God gave the vision of this ministry to you, and if anyone tries to give their input then it creates a monster, something with two heads. Oh, it definitely creates a monster! I wasn’t going to do that. That’s why we didn’t confront you when we left. That’s why I didn’t tell you how uncomfortable I was when you started sharing about another girl’s sexual sin and asked me if her sin was normal for little girls, or when you wanted to unpack my sexually sinful past. Mike, I was so scared when you started talking about that! You know my past, so why would you put me in that situation? Unless, that is why you did it. But I may as well admit to it all, every time you said the word “porn” or “masturbation” or “same-sex”, I cringed. I just wanted to disappear. I stumbled in confusion. Things that I thought I had put to death were being brought back up through you. I was literally reliving some of my worst memories through you. And here’s what’s crazy, I told you that your character broke these chains and set me free. I told you that God shared that with me. But, unfortunately, I fed my pearls to swine, because days after I shared that with you, God showed me the whole lesson.
Yes, Mike, your character has broken those chains of fear in my life, but it wasn’t your good character that did it. It was God sustaining me despite your corrupt character! So now, full circle, your fruit is all of our testimonies. God’s fruit is the courage to make them public. Your fruit was the ones who lost faith and turned away. God’s fruit is His pursuit for them. I never saw that character in you. Ever! You always tried to ruin God’s fruit. Just like the way my family and I left – righteously. We were faithful the 2 ½ years we served PFM, we tithed every month, even before you rebuked everyone for not giving back to your church, and we never complained about the workload (BTW, I know why you were asking for tithe money. I remember what happened at the end of 2018 – it wasn’t her fault, it was yours and you broke her over it). That was the Spirit in us, but you tried to squash it by telling everyone that I was going to “abuse my son”. And you said this after I got your apology letter already apologizing for all of this.
I just want you to know that it turned people who were still in the ministry to reach out to us and from that convo are no longer in the ministry. And honestly, how could you use my past and twist it like that? Berta would be so disappointed in you, because God gave her a second chance at parenting just like He did me, and she would never want her past thrown in her face like that. You attack other people to protect your own sins from being exposed. And you actually believe that God has made all of these people suffer in the name of your faith?? “You sound like a self-centered narcissistic eight year old”. Remember telling my husband that when we tried to leave the ministry to be closer to family? You’re right about one thing, writing a letter to the ones who have wronged me really does make me feel better. I do hope this letter brings your sin to the light so God can start working on you, like you counseled. Isn’t that why you always had us prepare letters for the ones who left, who were in “sin”? Honestly, I started this letter in hopes of getting through to yours and Pam’s heart, but really I think I was the one touched by it. Thank God that I am finally “free indeed”!
Anyone reach out for further details,
P.S. – I never got to tell you this before I left, but I wasn’t able to obtain worker’s comp in CA, FL or WA.
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.”