Sarah’s Story: The Potters Field Case
I was apart of the ignite class 3 in 2012.
Being only 19 years old and raised in a strict Christian church, I genuinely wanted to just serve the Lord with my life and the gifts I was given. That was the thing to do.
I had heard of PFM through my church (that I don’t go to anymore, and don’t recommend anyone to go there ever!) Calvary Chapel San Juan Capistrano in Southern California, because Pastor John Randall’s father, Jim was involved with PFM. (Jim Randall is amazing, him and Patti, I believe, took me under their wing and shielded me from a lot of the chaos Mike was unleashing. I also know that God protected me and my heart form that evil man as well).I honestly felt led to PFM by the Lord and had prayed about it on my own a lot.
So I got a scholarship, my church supported me, and I was off on a new adventure! I trusted and liked everyone right away and just followed along with the leadership, strict rules, and commitments that the PFM ignite program entailed.
None of the “cult-like living and abuse” really phased me until looking back at it all now years later! (Maybe because I grew up in a legalistic church? Or ‘cuz I was very young and ignorant!) … I realize now how odd it all was…
The extremely strict rules and schedules, no internet time except a few hours every once in a while, the location was very far from the town and civilization, no boy-girl hangout time/no dating, ridiculously long classes (that I would fall asleep in), really random and often very uncomfortable “team building” exercises with the other interns, getting woken up at 3am by the leaders screaming and banging on the walls and then getting lectured about how we were all so disrespectful or something like that, and then of course *drum roll please* “strong fellowship.” ….
When Mike would have everyone gather in one room while he yelled for hours about how we were all so prideful, such sinners, selfish, how we weren’t ready for our field time overseas, and that we needed to be broken and give our all for Christ. During one of those yelling sessions Mike was swinging around a machine gun and draping it over his shoulder, while standing on a table yelling something like how we don’t know what serving the Lord really means… was the gun loaded? Who knows! I remember clearly the gun, the yelling, and how if you were to drop a pin in that room, you could have heard it perfectly — We were all in shock, tearing up, scared, and wondering what the hell we got ourselves into. I don’t even remember Mikes exact words, I just remember the gun, and being scared. I even believe we were on a “tech fast” that week so we couldn’t even tell anyone what happened… And I don’t even recall ever telling anyone about it! It’s almost like I blocked it all out, like no, that couldn’t have happened, he’s not crazy, he’s our fearless leader! *eye roll*
I also have no clue how the other leaders and pastors could just stand by and let this mad man run wild?!?! Like, how is that not a HUGE red flag? This man has had a history of having serious anger issues, even his wife Pam has talked all about it how when they first got married he was insane, she even wrote a book about it, she used to joke about how “she married the devil” I kid you not!
So, obviously the man is still having mega-huge issues!! And that was only my three months in training in Montana… I’ll also admit that I became a “favorite” of the pastors, (PFM shows favoritism very openly and its so very wrong) I was favored and taken out to dinners or outings with only the leaders, taken out of class to go ride horses with Pam, and I was the worship pastors’s pet, because I was a musician, I was told I was special, yes I was full of pride, and I knew it — But I was also only a dumb 19 year old wearing a backwards hat.
During my 6 months in Kenya we didn’t have Mike around, he only came to visit like twice, so we were actually “okay” and yeah there were really difficult times, and our leaders weren’t perfect, but it was Kenya so… But I do clearly remember being told straight up that I was mean and rude (which was probably true, I am a very strong willed woman, only I’m not ashamed of that now!) And to teach me a lesson, I had to stay at our house while my team went out to serve at a school or church somewhere with the Kenyan kids, and I had to deep clean our whole house all alone. Thats probably why I literally despise cleaning so much! We were always having to clean things, like the whole time you serve with PFM, like very thoroughly, not just a quick sweep-mop deal no, DEEP CLEAN. That may sound like its not important, but when you have to clean an ENTIRE building all by yourself, it can get bad— that’s what happened to me when I was serving back in Montana almost two years later… I had to clean the entire Selah church all by myself, a few times a week, and if I finished too fast, I was told I didn’t do a good enough job, and let me tell you, I cleaned every nook and cranny and floorboard y’all!
They would always just say that I had to learn to be “humble” and “submissive” and “quiet” … And if you know anything about me, I will NOT let people walk all over me, I will say what is on my mind… gosh, If only I had that skill back then!
I could have gotten out of that cult a lot sooner!
But I know that God used it all and I did actually learn a lot. What satan meant for evil, God used for good, right?
After our field time, we went back to MT for the two week re-entry time. We were all in culture shock and simply wrecked not knowing what to do with our lives or our thoughts. Coming off the filed right back into classroom time and long lectures was not what we needed. We needed to talk and share and cry and figure out life! We were able to share a little, but after 6 months of living in a different culture, two weeks of re-entry isn’t going to help anyone. The only refreshing times were when I got to be alone out in nature or at a waterfall with Jim and Patti Randall and my team.
We then had to go back to our home churches for the remaining two months of the 365 ignite days. Being back home was fine, I had friends my dog, and my mom … And I was still just wanting to “serve the Lord” But I thought the only way you can serve God was in ministry or by being a missionary! (Which is not true, you can serve the Lord with your entire life in WHATEVER you do using the gifts HE gave you!)
While at home for my two months I was still in contact with PFM and I got asked to come be a leader, worship leader, and help with the new PFM training location in Antigua, Guatemala at “the Center.” I was so at loss with what to do with my life at that time, I was even looking into joining the marines! I just wanted to DO something and be apart of something!! So after talking to PFM and thinking and praying about going to Guatemala to serve, it sounded like a great idea! My home church supported me once again, and I do believe the Lord led me there and used it to teach me a lot, even through all the chaos. (Jim and Patti Randall were the ones who really influenced me to go to Guat with them too, in a good way though.) I think I definitely had a tendency to follow people, rather than God, but aren’t we all guilty of that?
People love to idolize people… especially manipulative men like Mike!
I was in Guatemala for a little over 8 months serving. Working hard 8 days a week, doing more deep cleaning, leading worship, making sure the interns followed all the “rules” like I was, cooking for over 50 people sometimes, construction and painting projects, teaching the interns, kids club with the locals, and more all while not getting paid. I was so tired that on my days off I would stay in bed till noon!
I remember while there at different times I got lice, amebas, parasites, and was bed ridden for two weeks not able to eat, in a lot of pain, and just laid in bed feeling helpless, nobody cared except Patti Randall.
But on the bright side, I did have a lot of fun while in Guat, it was a really cool location, and I made new friends. Except the corrupt leadership made its way there as well.
Whenever we knew Mike or Don McClure was coming to visit we would have to clean everything EXTRA super clean… and we already had to clean and make our beds military style daily. And the leaders just did whatever Mike wanted them to, like he was God to them, and he would meet all the interns and talk to them all day till night time. It’s like he was brainwashing them and getting them ready for their overseas time! And I thought it was “normal” ‘cuz that’s how my training was, it’s like oh that’s just pastor Mike and he’s the boss so whatever goes! Because when you are so physically and emotionally exhausted, you have no more energy to use your discernment, and the truth of Gods word gets tainted with a cunning man’s words.
Looking back and thinking about it all now, I see the truth and the craziness perfectly clear now. I was up all night thinking about all I went through with PFM, what I should write, and I realize that I have ignored and blocked a lot of it out, I know that I have healed a lot, It’s been so many years, but I am not sure if have fully forgiven them, especially Mike and Christa. I feel like I’m more along the lines of “Well, it’s in the past, screw them, I am not a victim anymore. Moving on!”
Which hey, I think is a great place to be!
I have one more story from Guat… The one thing that I did that was ACTUALLY against the rules was when I had a crush on one of the interns and so we had a “thing.” Literally two young kids crushing on each other, nothing even happened! But of course we were hanging out too much and got in trouble and got talked to and yelled at… I understand the rule I broke but to yell at someone for having a crush? Like, the leaders know they are gathering bunch of young adults that are the same age with similar interests together, but you can’t be attracted to someone, oh okay! It’s be like accusing someone for being a sexually straight human with a natural desire for companionship or something, like, okay sorry for being human.
So I ended up being “kicked out” and sent home earlier than the time I was originally going to leave. It wasn’t a big deal for me, I wanted to go home for Christmas anyways. I remember Mike yelling at me and telling me that my church was going to be so ashamed of me and that nobody from my church would ever go through PFM because of me, and that I should be ashamed for giving up my calling, or something, for a guy, I honestly have no clue, he was obviously trying to make me feel guilty. I think I just tuned out any time he began to yell (thank God). Yet I felt no guilt, I was simply bummed out ‘cuz I had a crush and I liked it there. So I went home. I was told later that the male intern that stayed in guat got yelled at by Mike too, poor kid.
Almost a year later, while at home, I remember Pam coming to the church’s ladies Christmas dinner, or a different event at my church, and they did their presentation, and we spoke after, and I always had a weak spot for her, she was always so sweet to me and we both loved horses..So then I was asked to pray about coming back to PFM to work on her ranch with the horses. It sounded like a dream to me! I wasn’t really doing much at home anyway and I loved horses, so why not!
Montana is where all the serious mistreatment took place. I was 22 and had my 23rd Birthday in MT. When I got there I jumped right into serving again and I remember Mike just yelling something about grace and second chances for me since “I was back.”
When I first worked there (without pay) I worked a few days at the church cleaning the entire building all alone, and a few days working on the horse ranch with one other male staff member and our equine overseer Reanna (who I really admired and liked because she taught me a lot about horses and wasn’t mean to me) Where we were always mucking all the poop, bucking 50-80 pound hay bales, cleaning giant metal water troughs, pulling weeds, raking the large arena, all the hard labor that comes with running a ranch, and basic animal care for, I think, 8 horses, 3 ponies, and 2 goats. After I was fully trained to work on the ranch full time, I didn’t work in the office anymore, so I was glad for no more cleaning, but then that got replaced with mucking animal crap… which was a lot better than cleaning an entire church in my opinion actually!
When Raeanna wasn’t there it was just me and my co-worker, and we didn’t really get along, he was a well known favorite of Mike and Pam and was also secretly abusing girls sexually and nobody found out for a long time! He was a manipulative funny guy just like Mike, and that’s most likely why we didn’t get along, because I never let him control me. One time he threatened to have my dog taken away, so I told Raeanna and Pam and got him in trouble, and from that meeting on, he didn’t mess with me after he knew I wasn’t afraid to speak up. I only wish I had known about the girls being assaulted by him, I would have kicked him in the balls and told the leaders!
Other than working my butt off at the horse property, I was also almost ALWAYS alone. Everyone worked in town which was a 30 minute drive away, and I didn’t have a car! I definitely was dealing with a lot of loneliness and depression and ate my feelings in food. I remember when I told the pastors and leaders that I was lonely and that I needed a car, I was rebuked and yelled at for wanting a car and for not being thankful that I got to work with the horses. I was then told that I seclude myself too much… When I had no choice! I was literally stranded at a ranch with no car! So I would have to beg the other staff members to let me hitch rides or borrow their cars, (they all worked in the same building and could easily carpool, yet I was stranded with no form of transportation, not even a horse because I wasn’t allowed to even ride them for fun!) and they were always so stingy about it, and often made up excuses and didn’t help me. A few long months later when they finally started paying me tiny paychecks, and with key moms help, I was able to get a crappy old jeep and I was so thankful that I could drive into town by myself and get groceries or go to the lake or hike with my dog!
I remember also asking if I could have my own room like all the other staff girls that worked in the office, because there was an empty room in the house, but they said no and put me in a room with a girl who wasn’t involved with PFM, we actually became friends and I know God used her to help me get through my time there, we would go on hikes and laugh together. I am also super thankful for a couple other friends I ended up meeting that weren’t involved with PFM either, and they helped me get through summer and took me to the lakes and trails and made me actually like it there!
But I never hungout with the other PFM office girls, except Reanna, they were their own little clique, and I never “fit in” with them. I remember everyone had to work such long hours. And everyone was always tired. Why did they make us slave away like that? I started to realize all these flaws, and the final straw had to do with my dog. My co-worker had a lab puppy, and he abused it and it was scared of him, but I remembered seeing a picture of his dog inside the house on the couch with one of the other girls before I had arrived there, and so I thought “maybe they’ll let me bring my well trained dog too!” So I got permission to have my dog come to the property but they told me he couldn’t go inside the house, and in my head I thought I could get them to change their minds because pam loves animals blah blah blah ….
Boy, was I wrong!
My mom came to visit and flew up with my dog, we had a good time and I showed her Whitefish, and my dog was with me and he was like my baby, and everything was great in the summer! And everyone put on their smiling faces for her! Then she left, my dog stayed … Then it started getting cold… And my dog, a shepherd-lab mix, who was raised as an inside dog, who’s extremely well behaved, was NOT allowed inside… when it would be freezing at night! Nobody had allergies, and nobody was ever home, but he couldn’t go inside with me…. I was so angry about it! I even snuck him in the house when they were all gone all day, and he would just happily chill with me. Before I got my jeep I would wrap him in my sweater because he had to stay outside tied up, but when I got my jeep I would heat it up and lay in the back with my dog to warm him up, calm him down, and then let him sleep in my car.
Any dog or animals lovers out there should be getting heated right about now…. I then asked leaders if I could please let my dog inside one of the storage sheds at night so he wouldn’t freeze to death! They said yes, but my poor dog has separation anxiety and didn’t like that storage shed, and so he ended up breaking both his fangs trying to get out, and scraped the top of his nose till it was raw and bloody… You could say I had just about had it! My dog was fine, it just made things A LOT harder, and all the girls hated him, he’s not aggressive, but he would bark at them when they would come home. Because he knew they didn’t like me or him. And nobody cared. Just me, all alone, with my dog, spending my days off alone in my bed, and then my jeep broke down and I had to sell it. But I was “out of sight, out of mind” from everyone in town at the offices, so literally nobody cared or ever asked how I was doing. Maybe they were punishing me for the Guatemala crush thing? I have no clue. I loved the horses, but I was just so alone. The only time one of the girls tried to talk with me, was because she was asked to try and find out “what was wrong with me” or if I was “in sin!”
I remember it was November, and I was planning the time I would go home for my Christmas break. I was talking to my leaders back home, along with my mom, about coming home and told them how I was being mistreated, condemned, neglected, and underpaid, and they told me it was time to leave, and I knew it was too.
My plan was to leave for my Christmas break, and just not come back… Unfortunately someone heard about my plan, they told the leaders, and that is when I experienced my first real “bad” time in Mikes office. (I had meetings with Mike before and also Steve Venable, about how I was feeling lonely, but they never led anywhere, they would basically tell me to suck it up and be thankful for what I had.)
So, It was me, Mike, and Steve Miller. I was nervous. I didn’t do anything wrong, I just wanted to go home, and I knew the Lord was calling me back to SoCal. Yet this man was right in my face yelling at me. This insane man literally thinks that his will is God’s will! While Steve Miller did nothing. I sat there silent, with tears rolling down my cheek in fear. I remember leaning back as far as I could in my chair to put some space between Mike and I. He was right against my knees, and I was stuck. He was more than just in my personal space! I thought “he can’t do anything to me because Steve is here, right?” But he ended up just yelling and spitting, and throwing a CD at me. I remember Steve telling me that I needed to talk, because I was staying so silent. I just remember shaking my head “no” while the tears came down my cheeks, I had nothing to say to this mad man. I don’t listen to crazy people that think yelling is a good idea. I don’t exactly remember how the meeting ended or how long it was, but Mike basically shamed me and told me that I should just leave now instead of in the next few weeks, although I had already gotten my plane ticket. I don’t remember what happened with the plane tickets, I think they, or my church, rescheduled it for me or something. Then I had to go pack up and leave within the next 48 hours. I remember the last, I want to say 2-3 days? They gave me my own room so I could “have private time to think about what I had done!” And Christa was like, don’t let the excitement of a new room distract you from what you need to think about! I honestly just laughed to myself, I was so done there, done with these crazy people, I was going home, my dog was alive and fit for travel, I was getting out! I made it home and I am just so glad that its over.
I am so glad and thankful that the truth is finally getting out for people to hear!
This screwed up “ministry” has been running and ruining peoples lives and faith for too long! They are going to answer to God for their actions.
There is nothing to be afraid of.
I am no longer a victim.
I have moved on and am living a great life with my wonderful husband! Keep sharing theses stories!