Is the Word of Faith Fellowship in Spindale, NC Trafficking Congregants from Brazil?

"Trapped in a foreign land, he said he was forced to work 15 hours a day, usually for no pay, first cleaning warehouses for the secretive evangelical church and later toiling at businesses owned by senior ministers. Any deviation from the rules risked the wrath of church leaders, he said, ranging from beatings to shaming from the pulpit."

The Washington Post

Screen Shot of Church Sign from AP Video Below

The Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) in Spindale, North Carolina (link to website) has garnered headlines once again. It was a little over four months ago that we published two posts with breaking news regarding accusations against this organization. If you are not familiar with this 'church', you may want to take a look at these two posts for some background information.

Word of Faith Fellowship (Spindale, NC) Accused by Ex-Members of Being a Cult – Part 1

Word of Faith Fellowship (Spindale, NC) Accused by Ex-Members of Being a Cult – Part 2

Late last week there was stunning news that those in charge at WOFF Spindale were allegedly trafficking congregants from member churches in Brazil to the mother ship in North Carolina to work as forced labor. Here is an excerpt from an article that appeared in The Washington Post

When Andre Oliveira answered the call to leave his Word of Faith Fellowship congregation in Brazil to move to the mother church in North Carolina at the age of 18, his passport and money were confiscated by church leaders — for safekeeping, he said he was told.

Trapped in a foreign land, he said he was forced to work 15 hours a day, usually for no pay, first cleaning warehouses for the secretive evangelical church and later toiling at businesses owned by senior ministers. Any deviation from the rules risked the wrath of church leaders, he said, ranging from beatings to shaming from the pulpit.

“They trafficked us up here. They knew what they were doing. They needed labor and we were cheap labor — hell, free labor,” Oliveira said.

The Associated Press has been investigating these claims. According to The Washington Post piece, the AP discovered that church leaders in Spindale were able to funnel a steady stream of young laborers from two Latin America churches (that belonged to the mother church) to the rural 35-acre compound in Spindale. These innocent young people came on tourist and student visas.

The Post article further states:

Under U.S. law, visitors on tourist visas are prohibited from performing work for which people normally would be compensated. Those on student visas are allowed some work, under circumstances that were not met at Word of Faith Fellowship, the AP found.

On at least one occasion, former members alerted authorities. In 2014, three ex-congregants told an assistant U.S. attorney that the Brazilians were being forced to work for no pay, according to a recording obtained by the AP.

Here is an Associated Press video which sums up the claims being alleged against church leaders at WOFF Spindale.

 

Based on interviews with former members of WOFF Spindale, it is alleged that several hundred young Brazilians have come to North Carolna over the past two decades, although immigration officials in Brazil and the United States admit it is impossible know how many were funneled through this human pipeline.

The New York Post published the story today, and this news is being distributed far and wide across the internet. As North Carolinians, Dee and I are upset that these alleged crimes are occurring in our state.

Here is an excerpt from the Post article that mentions Oliverira, who is quoted above:

Oliveira, who fled the church last year, is one of 16 Brazilian former members who said they were forced to work and were physically or verbally assaulted.

He said he was 18 when he left the Word of Faith Fellowship in Brazil for the secretive mother church, whose leaders confiscated his passport and money.

The young man said he was forced to toil 15 hours a day, first cleaning warehouses and later working at businesses owned by senior ministers, the AP reported.

Any deviation from the rules risked incurring the wrath of church leaders — ranging from beatings to shaming from the pulpit, he said.

According to the New York Post, Jill Rose, the US attorney in Charlotte, has been looking into the matter but declined to comment to the AP because of the ongoing investigation. Hopefully, Rose will be revealing her findings soon.

Our local ABC affiliate also reported on this story today. According to that report:

[Jane] Whaley and her lieutenants travel several times a year to the Brazilian branches, in the southeastern cities of Sao Joaquim de Bicas and Franco da Rocha.

She tells the Brazilian members of her flock that they can improve their lives and relationships with God with pilgrimages to Spindale, according to several of those interviewed.

Some said they also were enticed with the chance to attend college, to learn English, to see a bit of the U.S. Others said they felt they had no choice but to travel to North Carolina.

Perhaps to circumvent the rules against employment, church leaders sometimes referred to the forced labor projects as "volunteer work," according to Brazilians interviewed in both countries.

For those not familiar with this so-called church, it was founded in 1979 by Jane Whaley (a former math teacher) and her husband Sam. Under Jane's leadership, the church grew from just a few followers to around 750 members in North Carolina and nearly 2,000 members in its churches in Brazil and Ghana and affiliations in Sweden, Scotland and other countries.

They say where there's smoke, there's fire. WOFF Spindale has come under scrutiny several times this year and appears to have plumes of smoke rising above its compound (figuratively speaking). We are praying that the U.S. Attorney investigating this matter will finally get to the bottom of what's really going on inside Spindale's Word of Faith Fellowship.


Comments

Is the Word of Faith Fellowship in Spindale, NC Trafficking Congregants from Brazil? — 103 Comments

  1. I dunno, the name “Word of Faith” is pretty much a seal of good quality. I mean, what other church has remained faithful to Christ’s teaching that God wants YOU to be rich?

  2. Appalling.
    I am so glad to read the authorities caught this so called, church , trafficking people.
    Feel do badly for those people who were abused in the name of the Lord.
    Can only hope these leaders of the church go to jail, and victims receive compensation and citizenship.

  3. Mae wrote:

    Can only hope these leaders of the church go to jail, and victims receive compensation and citizenship.

    Unfortunately I suspect the leaders of the church are more likely to report their victims to ICE as undocumented immigrants and have them deported before they can testify or successfully see through a civil lawsuit. I suspect their dicey legal status in this country was also used as a threat to keep them in line or, if they fled, to ensure they did not go to the authorities. ICE detainment facilities do not have a good reputation.

  4. TWW regulars will recognize a key word in the following AP report of this mess. Can you find it?

    “Many of the abused members would not speak of what happened due to their fear of authoritarian Word of Faith Fellowship church leader Jane Whaley.” (Chuck Burton, Associated Press) http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/ex-congregants-church-reveal-years-ungodly-abuse-article-1.2983334

    Answer: “Authoritarian”

    Also from the same article, additional insight is provided regarding the Whaley’s authoritarian control of their slaves: “Word of Faith was founded in 1979 by Whaley, a petite former math teacher with a thick Southern accent, and her husband, Sam, a former used car salesman. They are listed as co-pastors but all of those interviewed said it is Jane Whaley — a fiery, 77-year-old Christian Charismatic preacher — who maintains dictatorial control of the flock and also administers some of the beatings herself.”

    It appears that Ms. Jane is not the motherly and godly figure she should be at their “ministry.”

    Yep, I have a feeling that much more will be revealed in the days ahead. You can only hide in the dark for so long before the light exposes you. Verbal abuse, physical abuse … what else?

  5. Max wrote:

    Verbal abuse, physical abuse … what else?

    Max, as you and other regulars at this site know all too well, there is not room for much else other than sexual abuse. It is short step to go from human labor trafficking in slave labor to human sex trafficking; this cult already has the connections and the pipeline in place. It is no stretch to believe that forced marriages, ‘servicing’, etc., will be soon (or already have been) discovered.

    As the 1st Baron Acton famously said, Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Whaley appears to be enthralled with her ‘power’ – why should she limit herself to controlling only the slaves work lives? Why shouldn’t she allow the faithful leaders of her group to experience sensual pleasure as well?

    I would not be surprised if we eventually learn that she considered herself to be the messiah, god on earth.

  6. Pingback: Burn Some Word of Faith Leaders At The Stake | 1st Feline Battalion

  7. Max wrote:

    : “Word of Faith was founded in 1979 by Whaley, a petite former math teacher with a thick Southern accent, and her husband, Sam, a former used car salesman. They are listed as co-pastors but all of those interviewed said it is Jane Whaley — a fiery, 77-year-old Christian Charismatic preacher — who maintains dictatorial control of the flock and also administers some of the beatings herself.”

    If this turns out to be true, I hope this woman and others end up in prison. Unfortunately, I don’t have much hope that the victims would find justice regarding immigration under the current administration.

  8. You might be in a cult if…

    – Your leader’s prophecies must be spell checked first.
    – Special music is performed by the leader’s eight wives.
    – The parking lot has designated spaces for aliens.
    – Fatigues must be worn at the church retreat.
    – The sacred writings are kept in a three-ring binder.
    – The church motto is “In Bob We Trust.”
    – Services are canceled because the rattlesnake got loose.

  9. Zla’od wrote:

    I dunno, the name “Word of Faith” is pretty much a seal of good quality. I mean, what other church has remained faithful to Christ’s teaching that God wants YOU to be rich?

    Are you sure that this church teaches that God wants you to be rich? My guess is that this church teaches God wants you to make a lot of money so that you can give it to them. Places like this the “pastors” typically get money hungry and expect a lot more than just the tithe.

    This allegation about this church bringing immigrants up to act as slaves certainly is a much serious charge IMO than the abuse of members which was bad enough.

  10. @ Bridget:

    They did not find it before, either, as per the article:

    “On at least one occasion, former members alerted authorities. In 2014, three ex-congregants told an assistant U.S. attorney that the Brazilians were being forced to work for no pay, according to a recording obtained by the AP.”

  11. Deb

    This is an important story in light of our soon to be revealed new effort at TWW. That supposed Christian churches would even consider doing something like this is beyond imagining. This makes me sick.

  12. Burwell wrote:

    As the 1st Baron Acton famously said, Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    And as author Frank Herbert not-so-famously said, Power tends to attract the already corrupt and the easily corrupted.

    Whaley appears to be enthralled with her ‘power’ – why should she limit herself to controlling only the slaves work lives? Why shouldn’t she allow the faithful leaders of her group to experience sensual pleasure as well?

    Brown Sugar… Actually, Roman Paterfamilias having total sexual rights over his animate property.

    And that anecdote I heard about those Millenials at parties who not only say “What’s wrong with slavery?” but always ask about a Master’s sexual rights over Animate Property.

  13. Steve240 wrote:

    Are you sure that this church teaches that God wants you to be rich? My guess is that this church teaches God wants you to make a lot of money so that you can give it to them. Places like this the “pastors” typically get money hungry and expect a lot more than just the tithe.

    Remember that one Pastor(TM) who pressured the women in his congregation to have abortions because childrearing costs cut into the Tithe?

  14. Mae wrote:

    Appalling.
    I am so glad to read the authorities caught this so called, church , trafficking people.
    Feel do badly for those people who were abused in the name of the Lord.
    Can only hope these leaders of the church go to jail, and victims receive compensation and citizenship.

    Remember this is North Carolina, Former Confederate State and deep in the Bible Belt.

    Normally I don’t much trust the Feds, but local authorities in the Bible Belt always have the suspicion of “TOUCH NOT MINE ANOINTED!” Even when they’re not members of the church they’re supposed to be investigating. (Remember ToJo, Bob Greiner, and all those other Pastor/Dictators who made sure they were on the “cop” side of the Code of Blue? And others who had local cops and DA’s as Pastor’s Enforcers? And the one in Alabam’ who’s trying to get the State to authorize their own Church Police Force?)

  15. “Every civilization was built off the back of a disposable work force…”
    — Script line from the upcoming film Bladerunner 2049

  16. @ Max:

    There seems to be more cults out there, then I ever realized. The spiritual, emotional, physical damage to these people is horrific.

    I live in CT. Not saying there aren’t a few wackos around here but we can hardly get 300 people to go to any church. To think this cult had a local congregation of, 750 people is awful. Plus, churches in Brazil.

    I can only pray the Fed’s. come down hard on them and their evil ways.

  17. Erp wrote:

    Unfortunately I suspect the leaders of the church are more likely to report their victims to ICE as undocumented immigrants and have them deported before they can testify or successfully see through a civil lawsuit.

    It sounds like they did have visas, though, so they at least came over legally. Now they may have overstayed them..

  18. Burwell wrote:

    Max, as you and other regulars at this site know all too well, there is not room for much else other than sexual abuse

    I haven’t heard about that but I haven’t researched this cult thoroughly. I wonder if its being run by a woman might make a difference in that respect?

    Awful, regardless.

  19. Mae wrote:

    @ Headless Unicorn Guy:
    Can only hope/pray as the rural southern culture changes, these cozy arrangements between church and local sheriff, cease to exist.

    Certainly, but cults are hardly limited to the south. This kind of thing can happen anywhere. Maybe its an ashram in Connecticut or whatever jim jones deal was in cali.

    The thing I think needs to happen is a recognition that a certain type of organization is not a church. And that when a church errs, the only way to protect the people is to treat them like any other organization.

  20. Zla’od wrote:

    I dunno, the name “Word of Faith” is pretty much a seal of good quality. I mean, what other church has remained faithful to Christ’s teaching that God wants YOU to be rich?

    My experiences with these groups as well.

  21. Mae wrote:

    Can only hope/pray as the rural southern culture changes, these cozy arrangements between church and local sheriff, cease to exist.

    Only if the people (regardless of religion, creed, or color) stick together in solidarity and stand up to them will it change. But yeah, you and HUG are right, this is the way it’s been below the Mason-Dixon line since Reconstruction. It’s how they’re able to stay in power; gerrymandering with impunity, voter ID laws designed to stack the deck, and most of all FEAR, fear of losing the Lord’s favor if you buck the system (ala Romans 13).

  22. Steve240 wrote:

    Zla’od wrote:
    I dunno, the name “Word of Faith” is pretty much a seal of good quality. I mean, what other church has remained faithful to Christ’s teaching that God wants YOU to be rich?
    Are you sure that this church teaches that God wants you to be rich? My guess is that this church teaches God wants you to make a lot of money so that you can give it to them. Places like this the “pastors” typically get money hungry and expect a lot more than just the tithe.
    This allegation about this church bringing immigrants up to act as slaves certainly is a much serious charge IMO than the abuse of members which was bad enough.

    Good point, the only person who seems to get rich in these WoF schemes is the person or handful of people at the top–the rest are drained dry, though kept on with promises that their prosperity is forever imminent, so long as they just have the faith to receive it.

    The one WoF church I attended years ago (before I knew better) was led by a woman, Alyce (who styled herself as a poor man’s Gloria Copeland, right down to the uncomplimentary hairstyle) who drove the late model white Cadillac while the vast majority of her congregation drove cars ranging from lower-middle class modest to downright junk. There was always a Great Breakthrough just around the corner (at least that’s what she consistently told the congregation in her rambling, disjointed sermons that seldom seemed to mention Jesus) it just never seemed to come, at least not for the congregants. We were always told of healings and prosperity and health and joy “on the way”, but I never saw a single person healed, prosperous, happy–and most of the marriages of couples under 40 had failed, including one woman who was working on her third husband while a member of the church.

  23. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    Remember this is North Carolina, Former Confederate State and deep in the Bible Belt.

    Thank you for another useless caricature of the south. I am sure things are better than in the People’s Republic of California.

  24. Muff Potter wrote:

    “Every civilization was built off the back of a disposable work force…”
    — Script line from the upcoming film Bladerunner 2049 —

    Sounds a lot like a line from Confederate President Jefferson Davis in Harry Turtledove’s SF novel Guns of the South:
    “Every civilization is built on a mudsill of brute labor. We are more honest about it than the North.”

  25. Ken P. wrote:

    Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:
    Remember this is North Carolina, Former Confederate State and deep in the Bible Belt.
    Thank you for another useless caricature of the south. I am sure things are better than in the People’s Republic of California.

    That’s “GLORIOUS PEOPLE’S DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CALIFORNIA! LONG LIVE THE PARTY! ALL HAIL THE PLAAAAAAAANET!”

    And that is NOT “a useless caricature”. There’s a reason I’m going over the Berlin Wall when I hit retirement (assuming The Party doesn’t confiscate all my retirement assets in the process to Saaaaave the Plaaaaaanet). I hear there’s a place called “America” on the other side of the Wall…

  26. Lea wrote:

    This kind of thing can happen anywhere. Maybe its an ashram in Connecticut or whatever jim jones deal was in cali.

    Jim Jones was able to charm Bay Area politicians for a long time. I don’t know if People’s Temple delivered the votes for the Machine, Jim Jones told them what they wanted to hear, or what. In any case, he ended up overstaying his welcome up there and had to move to Jonestown in Guyana. We all know how that ended up.

  27. Lea wrote:

    I haven’t heard about that but I haven’t researched this cult thoroughly. I wonder if its being run by a woman might make a difference in that respect?

    I remember some cult-like Fundy radio preacher ranting about how “ALL CULTS WERE STARTED BY A WOMAN!!!!!!” (Reality did not play much of a role in the Faith of a lot of those proto-Televangelists and wannabe Televangelists.)

  28. Mae wrote:

    To think this cult had a local congregation of, 750 people is awful. Plus, churches in Brazil.

    Any of those “churches in Brazil” called “Whaleytowm”?

  29. Lea wrote:

    Mae wrote:
    @ Headless Unicorn Guy:
    Can only hope/pray as the rural southern culture changes, these cozy arrangements between church and local sheriff, cease to exist.
    Certainly, but cults are hardly limited to the south. This kind of thing can happen anywhere. Maybe its an ashram in Connecticut or whatever jim jones deal was in cali.
    The thing I think needs to happen is a recognition that a certain type of organization is not a church. And that when a church errs, the only way to protect the people is to treat them like any other organization.

    It’s more likely CT and MA might have cults of a different flavor then Christianity. They should be treated no differently.
    My point was, in the N.East, going to any Christian flavored church is not popular.It would be hard to have a big congregation in a more rural setting.It would be considered unusual.

  30. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    Ken P. wrote:
    Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:
    Remember this is North Carolina, Former Confederate State and deep in the Bible Belt.
    Thank you for another useless caricature of the south. I am sure things are better than in the People’s Republic of California.
    That’s “GLORIOUS PEOPLE’S DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CALIFORNIA! LONG LIVE THE PARTY! ALL HAIL THE PLAAAAAAAANET!”
    And that is NOT “a useless caricature”. There’s a reason I’m going over the Berlin Wall when I hit retirement (assuming The Party doesn’t confiscate all my retirement assets in the process to Saaaaave the Plaaaaaanet). I hear there’s a place called “America” on the other side of the Wall…

    Hope you are able to find, the other side of the wall, when retirement comes!

  31. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    There’s a reason I’m going over the Berlin Wall when I hit retirement (assuming The Party doesn’t confiscate all my retirement assets in the process to Saaaaave the Plaaaaaanet). I hear there’s a place called “America” on the other side of the Wall…

    I just saw a travel program on Baja Mexico and specifically about Cabo San Lucas an San Jose del Cabo. At the time of the show’s original airing (2013), there were approximately 75,000 “northerners” living in that part of Mexico. I was impressed by its artistic communities and fierce beauty, along with the Sea of Cortez.

    In my opinion, it is a worthy consideration for retirement.

  32. Burwell wrote:

    I just saw a travel program on Baja Mexico and specifically about Cabo San Lucas an San Jose del Cabo.

    I neglected to mention which one – Joseph Rosendo’s “Travelscope”

  33. “[Jane] Whaley and her lieutenants travel several times a year to the Brazilian branches, in the southeastern cities of Sao Joaquim de Bicas and Franco da Rocha. She tells the Brazilian members of her flock that they can improve their lives and relationships with God with pilgrimages to Spindale, according to several of those interviewed.”

    This sickens me. I have to honestly wonder if the only parts of the Bible this woman and her followers read are the rules surrounding slaves (from the OT) and Ephesians 6:5. Honestly, with their lying, their enslavement of these people, their trafficking, I doubt they’ve even heard of the love of Christ (or how there is neither slave, nor free and we are all on in Christ – not to mention all heirs to the same sonship and members of the Lord’s household).

    I hope their are more investigations into this matter and God-willing may this “church” not be found to be running a prostitution ring or dabbling in other dark deeds…

  34. At least Scientology tried to keep it legal by getting “religious worker” visas for the people they were importing from Russia and Eastern Europe. /snark

    I was told last week by someone who had a conversation with an employee of ICE recently that the number of “religious worker” visas had been cut by 90 percent. The ICE employee volunteered that this was due to shenanigans by Scientology, which had been bringing people over to do non-religious work, like cleaning,
    construction and the like.

  35. Muslin fka Deana Holmes wrote:

    The ICE employee volunteered that this was due to shenanigans by Scientology, which had been bringing people over to do non-religious work, like cleaning,
    construction and the like.

    Interesting. I was unaware of this stuff.

    I have heard about people being trafficked over for work, of course, but generally illegally (as in the tragic case in texas (iirc) the other day). But not specifically to work in cults via legal means like student visas. Seems like this could be badly misused if your church/cult has a school. (Did WOF?)

    I would say – if someone tries to take your passport, run.

  36. There are many similarities between this cult and my former ‘Christian’ cult. Believe me, these deceivers believe that they are above the laws of the land. They think they are more enlightened than everyone else outside their group. There is no way to reason with these kind of cult leaders. For them, the end, i.e. – the growth of their ‘church’, justifies the means, i.e. – whatever practices they implement to meet that goal. It is truly a miracle that anyone escapes that insular enclave and is able to come to their right mind.

  37. Darlene wrote:

    There are many similarities between this cult and my former ‘Christian’ cult. Believe me, these deceivers believe that they are above the laws of the land. They think they are more enlightened than everyone else outside their group.

    Well, when GOD is on Your Side and has YOU on personal speed-dial…

  38. Bridget wrote:

    Unfortunately, I don’t have much hope that the victims would find justice regarding immigration under the current administration.

    So they suffer in silence in a place that should be a Christian sanctuary rather than a prison. The few who have come forward are bold souls … they have taken a big immigration/deportation risk by standing in the gap for others, so there must be truth to their claims.

  39. @ Lea:

    I believe WOF, had 2/3 schools.

    We have modern day slavery occurring. It’s hard to detect because mobility is so easy. Recently in our town, the State Police stopped a car for speeding, inside were two women being transported for the sex trade. They’d been held in two other cities and were being taken to Boston for more sexual trade.

    All kinds of predatory behavior is exploding right under our noses. Exploitation of all kinds is rampant.

  40. Burwell wrote:

    Whaley appears to be enthralled with her ‘power’

    And it appears that Jezebel has subordinated Ahab. He’s letting her do all the talking.

  41. Max wrote:

    Bridget wrote:
    Unfortunately, I don’t have much hope that the victims would find justice regarding immigration under the current administration.
    So they suffer in silence in a place that should be a Christian sanctuary rather than a prison. The few who have come forward are bold souls … they have taken a big immigration/deportation risk by standing in the gap for others, so there must be truth to their claims.

    I hope our government has mercy and dies not deport them all. They were deceived. It’s not like they snuck in. They came on a supposed mission and worked hard for no wages.
    Isn’t it maddening, sickening,a church is doing this? No wonder the world runs from any church. And meanwhile, too many churches are worried about the next big conference.

  42. Deb wrote:

    Very sad to see how protective (and afraid) those members are of Jane Whaley.

    Whew! Those videos on the WOFF website show folks who are controlled, manipulated and intimidated! Authoritarian/abusive charismatic leader, mind control/brain washing, isolationist, opposed to independent thinking, threats of satanic attack if members dissent/leave … CULT!

    This gal is possessed! It’s a poor video/audio quality since it was obviously being recorded in secret, but check out the following video of Ms. Jane chastising “wicked family members” … trying to scare the hell out of any others from coming forth. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1X0t0_vae0

    And hundreds attend there?!! They are out of their minds!! But, of course, that’s the product of a cult.

  43. Max wrote:

    Deb wrote:
    Very sad to see how protective (and afraid) those members are of Jane Whaley.
    Whew! Those videos on the WOFF website show folks who are controlled, manipulated and intimidated! Authoritarian/abusive charismatic leader, mind control/brain washing, isolationist, opposed to independent thinking, threats of satanic attack if members dissent/leave … CULT!
    This gal is possessed! It’s a poor video/audio quality since it was obviously being recorded in secret, but check out the following video of Ms. Jane chastising “wicked family members” … trying to scare the hell out of any others from coming forth. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1X0t0_vae0
    And hundreds attend there?!! They are out of their minds!! But, of course, that’s the product of a cult.

    This is typical of WoF cults. The leader I spoke of in a post above, “Pastor Alyce”, prophesied that members of her congregation were going to die and one time looked out at the pews and, in the context of running down her congregation for their “lack of faith” (I know this was the context, I was there) said “When I see you out there, I wonder why I’m even standing up here.” These people are extremely abusive, vicious, really, and they seek out the lower echelons of society, the hurting, the insecure, upon which they can vent their rage. It’s the only way they can maintain control.

  44. Lydia wrote:

    @ Bridget:
    They did not find it before, either, as per the article:
    “On at least one occasion, former members alerted authorities. In 2014, three ex-congregants told an assistant U.S. attorney that the Brazilians were being forced to work for no pay, according to a recording obtained by the AP.”

    Congregants told the US attorney but no one believed them? Or US attoney found no proof after he/she was told?

  45. dee wrote:

    Deb
    This is an important story

    Yes, this is a very important story. After reading WaPo earlier this week, I was hoping you would post it so discerning Christians can weigh in on what is clearly illegal and certainly not of God.

    Thanks again, TWW, and all who comment.

  46. Max wrote:

    So they suffer in silence in a place that should be a Christian sanctuary rather than a prison. The few who have come forward are bold souls … they have taken a big immigration/deportation risk by standing in the gap for others, so there must be truth to their claims.

    It’s hard for me to view the leaders in this situation as Christians . . . so I won’t.

    I think we need a new term “alledged Christians.”

  47. Bridget wrote:

    we need a new term “alledged Christians.”

    Whew! Ain’t that the truth!

    “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch” (Acts 11:26). We’ve come a long way from Antioch … the early church wouldn’t recognize us.

  48. Don’t forget their list of rules. Keep your happy face, but don’t read newspapers or watch TV, don’t celebrate holidays or birthdays, and don’t send your kids off to college, buy a car, buy a home, buy insurance, take a new job, go on vacations, or attend funerals unless you check in with Jane or Sam and get approval.

    https://www.familiesagainstcultteachings.org/resources/WOFF—RULES-FOR-NEW-MEMBERS.pdf

    What’s really disturbing is that I have relatives who live in Forest City, NC, which borders Spindale where these guys are headquartered. I just hope they haven’t gotten mixed in with this cult.

  49. Law Prof wrote:

    These people are extremely abusive, vicious, really, and they seek out the lower echelons of society, the hurting, the insecure, upon which they can vent their rage. It’s the only way they can maintain control.

    “Your adversary the devil walketh about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

    Sadly, the “whom he may devour” are those you describe. Predators always go after the weakest prey. Yep, I would say there is something spiritual going on at WOFF and it ain’t Holy Spirit.

  50. Jamie Carter wrote:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YwE5fBT9RYE
    Looks like Inside Edition investigated them a few years ago.

    Good Lord! That exposure was over 20 years ago and WOFF is still at it!!

    Mind control, piercing screams to cast out demons, tying children to nursery chairs, splitting families up, controlling and using local law enforcement to your advantage, etc. etc. is straight from the pit of hell. There should have been enough local outrage to send them out of town by now. Charismatic is one thing, but this bunch has taken on a character all to itself. If you’ve ever wondered what a cult looks like, this is it!

  51. Max wrote:

    That exposure was over 20 years ago and WOFF is still at it!!

    With much exposure over time, wonder how these folks measure on the scales of the recent post:

    Why Predators Choose Careers in the Clergy and the Members Who Love Them Anyway
    Fri Jul 21, 2017 by dee
    Fascinating observations by professionals who study psychopaths and predators.

  52. Whaley reminds me of a character from the “Whisper Country” episode of “Little House on the Prairie”.

  53. Burwell wrote:

    In brief, the abuses that we see in Evangelical America can be found in other countries and in other religions.

    I’m going to hazard a guess that the common factor is that humans are involved. Wherever there are humans this stuff happens.

  54. JYJames wrote:

    Max wrote:
    That exposure was over 20 years ago and WOFF is still at it!!
    With much exposure over time, wonder how these folks measure on the scales of the recent post:
    Why Predators Choose Careers in the Clergy and the Members Who Love Them Anyway
    Fri Jul 21, 2017 by dee
    Fascinating observations by professionals who study psychopaths and predators.

    This group is like a text book case.

  55. scott hendrixson wrote:

    Whaley reminds me of a character from the “Whisper Country” episode of “Little House on the Prairie”.

    Will have to look that episode up on Google.

  56. “When you are in a cult, you don’t know you are in a cult because little by little it all becomes ‘normal’… It’s like a frog in a pot of water. By the time it’s boiling, he can’t jump out.” (Juliana Oliveira, WOFF victim)

    More details are coming forth describing WOFF abuse of Brazilian forced labor: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/ap-us-church-goes-to-brazil-instills-fear-splits-families/2017/07/21/7d7924f0-6e38-11e7-abbc-a53480672286_story.html?utm_term=.be6d69fa7e3d

  57. @ Max:

    From the article.

    “Neither Whaley nor the pastors at both Word of Faith Fellowship branches in Brazil responded to requests for comment.”

    Typical cult leader response. They have no words to explain their actions, because there is nothing to excuse what they have done in God’s name.

  58. @ Mae:
    “If you question anything I do
    YOU REBEL AGAINST THE FATHER, TOO!!!!!”
    — Steve Taylor, “I Manipulate”

  59. I would also be curious as to what extent the general membership was aware of these activities.

    Did they see things that looked suspicious, but assumed it was all good because the leadership was made of people they either liked or otherwise trusted?

    Or was it one of those things where they feared speaking about it because the leaders fostered a culture of intimidation where you don’t question them…or else!

    I’ve long been an opponent of Word of Faith theology. WoF preachers are heretics; there is no other way to spin it.

    But what WOFF leaders are doing…this moves you from mere heresy into potential Jim Jones territory.

  60. Burwell wrote:

    I just saw a travel program on Baja Mexico and specifically about Cabo San Lucas an San Jose del Cabo.

    The Baja peninsula has a beauty that is both stark and inviting at the same time. I know a place about half-way down and about midway between the Pacific side and the Sea of Cortez. It’s a magical valley ringed with granite crags and the only way in and out is by four-wheeler. Two things told me that I had arrived at my real home. The screen of my old-style flip phone (yeah, the old Luddite eschews a ‘smart’ device) said NO SERVICE, and when night fell the star-fields were so dense I had trouble picking out even the big and little bears.
    My kind of place…

  61. Max wrote:

    “Your adversary the devil walketh about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

    Well then, get the facts, build a case, and then devour these mountebanks in court.
    Yes?

  62. Muff Potter wrote:

    It’s a magical valley ringed with granite crags and the only way in and out is by four-wheeler. Two things told me that I had arrived at my real home. The screen of my old-style flip phone (yeah, the old Luddite eschews a ‘smart’ device) said NO SERVICE, and when night fell the star-fields were so dense I had trouble picking out even the big and little bears.

    That sounds AMAZING – my kind of place! 🙂

  63. Mae wrote:

    To think this cult had a local congregation of, 750 people is awful.

    I visited a friend in a nursing home a while back. He had various health problems, plus a touch of dementia. When I asked him how he was doing, his answer demonstrated that at least he still had his humorous wit “We’re all here because we’re not all there!” That is certainly fitting for folks who attend WOFF!

  64. Max wrote:

    “When you are in a cult, you don’t know you are in a cult because little by little it all becomes ‘normal’… It’s like a frog in a pot of water. By the time it’s boiling, he can’t jump out.” (Juliana Oliveira, WOFF victim)

    As a former member of a cult, I can attest that this is true. For a cult to operate successfully, it must cordon off itself from the outside world – at the least figuratively speaking, if not in actuality. And those in the upper echelon of that cult must be continually be programming and conditioning the cult-speak into the minds of the followers.

    This is why it is crucial for those that leave cults to understand the toxic thinking that entrapped them. Physically leaving is only the beginning of healing. If one does not understand the psychological dynamics that they succumbed to while in a cult, they will likely fall prey to another mind-controlling environment. This could be in a work place environment, a marriage/relationship, or another cult or abusive church.

  65. Amir Larijani wrote:

    I would also be curious as to what extent the general membership was aware of these activities.
    Did they see things that looked suspicious, but assumed it was all good because the leadership was made of people they either liked or otherwise trusted?
    Or was it one of those things where they feared speaking about it because the leaders fostered a culture of intimidation where you don’t question them…or else!

    I would suggest that a number of factors are at work. Certainly fear, as you point out, because peer pressure can be a great motivator to keep people in line. When all relationships outside the cult are disparaged, the cult member’s only social structure is the cult itself. To expose wrongdoing in such an environment means to be ostracized and shunned, leaving the cult member cut off and alone.

    Another factor is willful blindness. The members may have an inkling that something not quite right is going on. They may see red flags that disturb them for a moment, but they ignore their instincts because of what such red flags might mean, i.e. – the leader/pastor/guru, etc. is a charlatan/fraud, and they were led astray/deceived/manipulated, etc. So they tell themselves that X (those red flags) cannot be true and they push it aside or bury it. Cognitive dissonance is a factor in this kind of self-deception, which becomes like a cycle where a cult member must periodically convince themselves that they aren’t deceived. All those conflicting thoughts must be the devil, or an evil force or the powers that be that are out to destroy their group. It takes something unique to happen in order for the cult member to leave that controlling environment. Often, it is when they themselves become the target of the abusive leadership.

  66. Darlene wrote:

    This is why it is crucial for those that leave cults to understand the toxic thinking that entrapped them. Physically leaving is only the beginning of healing. If one does not understand the psychological dynamics that they succumbed to while in a cult, they will likely fall prey to another mind-controlling environment. This could be in a work place environment, a marriage/relationship, or another cult or abusive church.

    This is so true. I remember, after I got out of my former church, there was a point where someone I trusted looked at me and said, “That sounds like a cult.”
    It was like a figurative slap in the face. I started doing research and found that they pegged at 65% or higher (some 90%) on every cult identifying criteria list I found. I realized that in part, the way I was raised conditioned me to be vulnerable to these tactics. Even now, 10+ years out, I still catch myself getting twisted up by some of the teaching. It takes time and replacing it with true(r) stuff to get untangled from the teachings. I have friends that are still trapped in there and they live in such fear of “getting it wrong.” And they will not talk to me about the church. They are too afraid to hear what I have to say. 🙁

  67. Darlene wrote:

    it must cordon off itself from the outside world – at the least figuratively speaking, if not in actuality

    From the photos and videos I’ve seen of WOFF facilities, they appear to be off-the-road, concealed in a wooded area, with controlled entrance/exit.

    Has anyone seen any links to Ms. Jane’s sermons? I couldn’t find any on their website or YouTube (except a couple things with poor video/audio quality).

  68. @ Max:
    Enlightening that TWW has connected:
    1. professionals and research in the behavior sciences (i.e., Joe Navarro) to inform, AND
    2. ministries that are, as a pilot would say, a click off, to shed light, warn, and stay the course regarding integrity of the church.

  69. Off topic to this particular post, but very on topic to other posts on this site. I just discovered a most interesting book on Amazon Kindle. And it is free, “. My People, The Amish, the true story of an Amish Father”, by Joseph Keim. It goes into rules , regulations and church covenants. And breaking away.

  70. Max wrote:

    From the photos and videos I’ve seen of WOFF facilities, they appear to be off-the-road, concealed in a wooded area, with controlled entrance/exit.

    Like the Hill-of-Hopers or Scientology Gold Base…

  71. Darlene wrote:

    Cognitive dissonance is a factor in this kind of self-deception, which becomes like a cycle where a cult member must periodically convince themselves that they aren’t deceived.

    “That was Doublethink…”
    — G.Orwell, 1984

  72. They were featured in a story on NPR on Wednesday morning. Sometime between 11.30- 12.15 est. I listened to it on the way to work today

  73. Amir Larijani wrote:

    I would also be curious as to what extent the general membership was aware of these activities.
    Did they see things that looked suspicious, but assumed it was all good because the leadership was made of people they either liked or otherwise trusted?
    Or was it one of those things where they feared speaking about it because the leaders fostered a culture of intimidation where you don’t question them…or else!

    Probably both.

  74. Darlene wrote:

    They may see red flags that disturb them for a moment, but they ignore their instincts because of what such red flags might mean, i.e. – the leader/pastor/guru, etc. is a charlatan/fraud, and they were led astray/deceived/manipulated, etc.

    One of my favorite pieces of ‘pinterest wisdom’ was ‘don’t cling to a mistake just because you spent a long time making it’. I think you see this in regular relationships too…you hang on and give people a lot of breaks because you don’t want to realize you were deceived.

  75. Lea wrote:

    One of my favorite pieces of ‘pinterest wisdom’ was ‘don’t cling to a mistake just because you spent a long time making it’. I think you see this in regular relationships too…you hang on and give people a lot of breaks because you don’t want to realize you were deceived.

    Sunk Cost Fallacy, the con man’s greatest friend.

  76. Lea wrote:

    Certainly, but cults are hardly limited to the south. This kind of thing can happen anywhere. Maybe its an ashram in Connecticut or whatever jim jones deal was in cali.

    Or this excerpt from a recent item on Leah Remini regarding her next season of Scientology documentary exposes.
    Sound familiar?

    Remini filed a missing persons report on Shelly Miscavige, whose whereabouts are still in question. A Los Angeles Police Department detective later told Remini, “She is fine,” which Remini considered an unsatisfying response. “I asked, ‘Did you see her? Did you see her body? Was somebody speaking on her behalf?’ ” (She recalls the detective replied, “Can’t tell you that, ma’am.”) Remini says the detective in question has since been hired to speak at Scientology events. “Does he work for the Church of Scientology, or is he LAPD?” she asks aloud. “Like, what’s going on here? They host detective lunches at the Celebrity Centre for the LAPD Hollywood division. I mean, they’re very, very friendly with each other.”

    And this? Sound familiar?

    Asked to explain these “abusive practices,” Remini takes a deep breath, then lays out some foundational principles. “Scientology policy dictates that children are grown men and women in little bodies. They believe a 7-year-old girl should not shudder at being passionately kissed. That’s in Dianetics,” she says, referencing L. Ron Hubbard’s 1950 book that establishes core tenets. “If you join the Sea Org [a clergy class with a nautical heritage] as a child, your parents give you over to Scientology. Children are treated as crew. They are assets. And if a child is molested, that child and/or parent cannot go to the police, because it’s against policy. They handle it in Scientology. They will usually bring the molester in and give them spiritual ‘auditing,’ or counseling.”

    The victim, she continues, “gets punished for ‘pulling it in,’ which is a Scientology term that means you did something that you’re not telling the church about – and that’s why you received the abuse. The child is usually made to do some kind of amends, to make up for what happened to them.”

    Full article, from MSN Entertainment section:
    http://www.msn.com/en-us/tv/news/leah-remini-doubles-down-on-anti-scientology-crusade-i-want-a-federal-investigation/ar-AApLXg1?li=BBmkt5R&ocid=spartandhp

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