In respect to those at Grace, I will not use their full names, but a two letter identifier that those who have been at Grace will recognize. I initially went to Grace with a group of friends from another religious organization on campus. From day one I had my reservations about committing to the church the way that others did, but it was made clear by the leadership that you could not achieve their level of faith without being all in. I signed up to work with PC on the coffee bar when it first started. We worked full shifts at the coffee bar doing the kind of work one would get paid minimum wage for and received nothing for it. And at the time we thought nothing of it even though the church always seemed to have money or funding when people weren’t always giving.
I was also asked by BF to become a summer “intern” there. We were asked to pay our own way through the internship (the price was somewhere in the thousands) by collecting donations from those outside of the church. On top of that, we were all still expected to work work the coffee bar over the summer without pay. When I left the Grace Summer “internship” program, BF sat me down talked in a way that flipped the blame on me and my lack of faith, with him failing to see just how demanding this program would be.
At some point, I also worked under PC at his day job. The only strange part about this is that he would often pull me aside or offer me lunch and then strike up conversation about my sexual habits, often trying to make me admit to things that I was either uncomfortable admitting to or did not do at all.
There is no doubt that the congregation at Grace is often used for free labor. On one occasion, I was asked to take JT’s truck and drive to the next town over to pick up supplies during one of my class periods. Stupidly, I skipped class to fulfill the request. Other times, the entire congregation would be addressed by BF or one of his family members and asked to come help out at one of their numerous (and addmitedly often luxurious) properties.
Lastly, to echo what others have mentioned before, there is a strong push to separate from outside ties at Grace. Mention of my faith background (LMS) was often met with rigorous questioning to see if I really knew my faith or trusted it. I was often invited to dinner by many of the deeply rooted family’s in the Church where questions of my past actions and future plans would be the topic of conversation. To put it in fewer words, many of us were being groomed.
There is much more I could say and much more detail I can get into, but I will leave this post here. It sickens me that this behavior continues at Grace, but I am glad there are people out there taking a stand.