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A BETRAYAL THAT CHANGED MY LIFE:

In 1980 I lived in Safford Arizona. I worked at Best Western there as a dinner chef. I started
attending the First Assembly of God Church. It was a small church at the time.

I joined the youth group there. I got along, but there was a problem of which I was blissfully
unaware. For you see, I was not happy with Jim Bakker, nor his wife. (The leader of the PTL club
and televangelist) I thought they were phonies and I wasn't shy about saying so. I also had big
problems with the 700 club and Jerry Falwell.

(As it turned out the Bakkers were convicted of fraud, the first televangelists to be convicted for
their fraudulent activities).

I just had a sixth sense about Jim Bakker and I did not like the prosperity teachings of the PTL
club and the 700 club. They were not scriptural and I could easily prove why. They were always
asking for money too much. I felt it was unseemly.

I had had more than a few spirited debates with members of that youth group about the 700
club and the PTL club, Jerry Falwell, its leaders and their teachings.

One day a traveling singing group led by a man by the name of "Cook" came to town. They were
a traveling praise and worship group, complete with a beautiful bus. The Patriarch of this family
heard me play the guitar and was immediately impressed.

He asked me to come play with them at the next town. Despite not having a very dependable
car and despite my limited limited funds (I was living in a boarding house for the previous
month) I went there. He sat me behind him at the piano bench with no amplification so that he
could hear my playing but no one else could. I realized I was being auditioned.

I began to hit it off with his family. It was clear that they liked me.

He asked me to come to their next scheduled town. I drove 100 miles one way the next week in
an old 1960's Dodge dart to repeat the audition. At the end of that night he told me where the
next town would be and he told me that when I came I should bring my belongings with me. (He
knew my situation by that time and knew I didn't have much to begin with). He told me
specifically to bring my stuff with me because I might not be returning to Safford for a while.

Everyone in the group was excited. It appeared I was now in the group. Which had been my
dream since I had learned to play the guitar.

I was thrilled. When I got home and began to prepare I told my job that I was leaving. I gave my
car to a fellow cook named Emanuel (Manny) who hadn't had a car in years. I made
arrangements with the youth group to give me a ride to the next church.

When the time came for them to come pick me up the youth group never showed up.
It got later and later. It was 120 miles to the destination and time was running out. I got
desperate and began calling everyone in the youth group until I finally got the youth pastor's
brother on the phone.

He came over and sadly told me that they had all left without me.

I was stunned.

The youth group had not attended a single one of those programs. Now, all of a sudden the
entire group packed up and went 120 miles to attend a small church gathering with the cooks
and somehow, they forgot all about picking ME up.

I finally got the truth from him and apparently, they went there to sabotage me. They went
there to "warn" them not to let me join their group!

I was truly devastated.

I had no idea anyone in the youth group even had a problem with me.

I begged the youth pastor's brother to give me a ride to the destination. He did. when I arrived
the program was over and they were packing up. None of the members of the group would talk
to me. The youth group who had stabbed me in the back had already left. I found Mr. Cook and
asked him what was going on.

He looked at me and said, "why were you telling everyone that I asked you to join the group, I
never asked you to join the group?"

I told him, "you asked me to bring my stuff with me because I would not be returning to Safford
for a while... what else would I think that meant?"

He said, "but I never actually told you that you were joining the group right?"

I told him "I gave away my car, I quit my JOB!"

He said, "well you shouldn't have jumped to conclusions."

So it was MY fault?

I merely walked away. As I went to try and say good bye to some of the members of the group
the man who ran sound was the only one who would talk to me. What he had to say made it
clear what "horror" stories the youth group had told about me.

He said, "Jeff, you do know that we are a part of the 700 club?"

I was shocked.

I said, that I was completely unaware.


He laughed and said "all of this equipment we are using belongs to the 700 club."

I was speechless. He then nicely explained that he thought Jim Bakker was a great Christian
man. He knew him personally. It was obvious what the youth group had done.

He then apologized for Mr. Cook.

He said, "we've had some real problems with people we've brought in, I don't know, it just
seems like the Devil brought them to us."

So, apparently, I was "of the Devil". That's how the youth group had painted me. My Christian
friends, who didn't have the guts to confront me openly about how they felt about me, but
drove 120 miles one way to "warn" people not to associate with me.

Never before had something like this been done to me. And done by people who claimed to be
followers of the “Lord of Love!"

It changed how I looked at Christians in general for the rest of my life.

I went and said goodbye to the rest of the group and they were sad but also wary of me. I don't
know what these people said about me but whatever it was they scared that group. Perhaps
just their dedication of driving 120 miles to “warn” them about me was all it took.

I never forgot that betrayal. It forever changed my interraction with Christians. I believe, in the
end it was instrumental in my ability to stand back away from a Church, not get caught up in its
politics and see people with a critical eye.

In the end I believe it awoke me. It was my first run in with the hypocrisy of the Churches. I
dared criticize their “beliefs.” I was “the enemy” who had to be stopped. (Never mind that their
beliefs were WRONG and the people they put their faith in, the ones that I was criticizing were
later proved frauds).

It gave me a strange satisfaction, years later, to watch Bakker go down in a proverbial ball of
flames. Another one I complained about during that era was Jerry Falwell who also went down
in flames right after Jim Bakker.

This was the first betrayal by those who pretended to be my “brothers and sisters” but believe
me it would not be the last.