Tuesday, January 17, 2012
WHY I LEFT THE PINK CROSS FOUNDATION, PART 1 - MY STORY
In almost every epistle in the New Testament, the subject of false prophets is addressed. If it is not addressed directly, the philosophies that they espoused are touched on. In his second epistle, the apostle Peter describes false prophets, who through covetousness “exploit people with deceptive words” (vs. 3), and “walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, despising authority, and are presumptuous and self-willed” (vs. 10).
These are the character traits of a false prophet. Many of us have read the Bible passages that address false prophets – probably many times over. I know I did. I thought that I knew what a false prophet was, and what to look for. I never expected that I would ever be working full-time for one, or that I would be so deceived, putting my own expectations above what the Bible clearly reveals about them. Through my recent experience with the Pink Cross Foundation, I experienced first-hand what it is that people who are taken in by false prophets, and counterfeit ministries, go through. The following is part 1 of a series of blogs in which I will attempt to explain just why I left Pink Cross, and some of the disturbing things I experienced while serving in Bakersfield. I will begin with my own personal experience.
The Bible talks a lot about what to look for in a false prophet, but what happens to those people who become deceived?! In my own case, I was violated, hurt, betrayed, and taken advantage of – not just emotionally, but spiritually as well. This is my account of my time as an employee of the Pink Cross Foundation, the events that transpired, and the aftermath of a very empty and traumatic period in my life.
By the end of June of last year, and I was at an all-time low. Not only was I financially destitute, getting kicked out of my home and about to lose my car, but I was struggling with severe depression, and the worst part – I was completely alone. Eight months earlier, I had packed up everything and basically dropped my whole life to move out to Bakersfield to work full-time for Pink Cross Foundation. Like anyone else starting out in ministry, I was overwhelmed with anticipation and excitement about the things that God was about to do in my life. In my mind, and in my heart, I was expecting to see an amazing work of God, and was thrilled to be a part of it. By the end of my 8 months in Bakersfield, I was confused, hurt, and spiritually exhausted. What I was expecting to be an amazing experience serving God turned out to be a time of great distress, full of broken promises, spiritual confusion, heartache, and loneliness that I never would have imagined could be possible in ministry. I knew and understood that ministry had its share of spiritual warfare, but what I experienced in Bakersfield was not spiritual warfare, but spiritual confusion....and the ministry partners whom I was to engage in warfare with were often nowhere to be found....that is because the ministry team of Pink Cross were not a “team” at all. In a real ministry team, the team members are there to serve God, and to support one another. It was not like that with Pink Cross. The group of individuals I worked with were not there for one another, but for Shelley Lubben. It was not about God. It was about the vision of Shelley Lubben, and pleasing her. Shelley Lubben made this very clear in a letter in which she states that our ministry was to "hold her up."
I left Bakersfield financially and spiritually destitute, having nothing to show for my time there and feeling completely betrayed and let down by my ministry partners. I was beyond broken. Here is my story.
I first met Shelley Lubben and her husband, Garret, back in 2007. I came across her website and began posting on her message board, about my experience in the industry and some of the issues that I, as an ex-performer, had to deal with. She immediately contacted me and said that she wanted to get to know me more. I was so excited to hear from her. Having another Christian to talk to about the kinds of things that I went through was like a breath of fresh air. We e-mailed back and forth a few times, then I met her and her husband Garrett for sushi in L.A. It was at this meeting that she disclosed to me that she wanted to start a non-profit ministry to reach out to other men and women who have been hurt by porn. I thought it sounded like a great idea. She helped me design my MySpace page and encouraged me to publish my testimony, which she personally proofread and edited. She sent the edited version back to me, in which she had cut out a couple of things -- details that I suppose would have made me look less like a victim. I wanted to share EVERYTHING that led up to my time in the industry. I realized that some of these things would probably put me in a negative light, but I didn’t care. I wanted to be completely honest in my account. Shelley Lubben is not stupid, and she removed those things that would have put me in a negative light.
After Pink Cross was established as a 501(c)(3), I volunteered in various capacities. I helped with events and outreaches, and moderated on the Pink Cross forums.
In October of 2010, Shelley Lubben contacted me via e-mail and told me that Pink Cross wanted to hire me. This was no surprise. For several months beforehand, Shelley had tried to convince me several times to quit my job and move to Bakersfield to help Pink Cross. I had the desire to, but I had concerns about my financial situation and my daughter. I knew that my main responsibility was to her. I was still trying to get back on my feet, and desperately wanted to make a home for her so that she could eventually come live with me. So, I continuously declined Shelley’s offer – but when she contacted me in October, offering me a salary of $25,000/yr., and a position as her “executive assistant,” I figured that this was God opening a door for ministry. Shelley promised me the world. She told me that I was training to take over for her as president of Pink Cross, and that I would eventually be making more money as Pink Cross became more established.
Shelley painted a rosy picture, but my main concern was reaching out to hurting women, and this is why I decided to accept her offer. I wanted to make a difference. I told Shelley yes, quit my job, and packed up and moved to Bakersfield. By this time, I had been ordained as a chaplain, by Shelley, and I thought I saw God’s hand in this situation. Although Shelley said and did many things that I did not agree with (which I will address later in this blog), I went along because I truly believed in the mission of Pink Cross, even though she often told me that a person should never question a person in leadership.
So, against my better judgment, I packed up my life and moved to Bakersfield. Things began to turn sour almost from the very beginning. I hadn’t even been in Bakersfield for 2 months when Shelley e-mailed me and told me that she could no longer afford to pay me what she had promised. In an e-mail, she said that donations were down, and she had “not really put enough thought into” what she agreed to pay me, and unfortunately had to cut my salary – not only mine, but that of another Pink Cross employee – by a substantial amount. For Shelley, it was no big deal, but for me, it was huge. I was already struggling financially with what Pink Cross was paying me, but this pay cut made it almost impossible for me to support myself. Because I was on salary, I was expected to work the same amount of hours. Shelley suggested that I get a part-time job in order to supplement my income, but this was not realistic. As her “executive assistant,” I was expected to attend ministry events, and accompany her to speaking engagements, which necessitated my being out-of-town for days at a time.
Indeed, when I was employed with Pink Cross, great emphasis was put on money. It was ALWAYS about money and donations with Shelley, and it put enormous stress on me. In December of 2011, Shelley sent an “urgent message” to the Pink Cross team, telling us that donations were way down, and that if we did not step up to the plate, and work harder raising funds, she would have to stop paying us altogether. I took this as a threat. She explained to us that our position as Pink Cross employees were impingent upon our ability to raise funds. This took me by surprise, as fund-raising was NEVER brought up as a requirement for employment in her initial e-mail to me. Now, she was telling me that fund-raising was an essential duty as a Pink Cross employee. While I understand that raising funds is essential to Christian ministry, NONE of this was mentioned in her initial job description, or offer of employment. Fund-raising is definitely not my forte, and if I had known it was a major part of my job description, I might not have even accepted her offer. Either way, at this point, I was stuck, so I did all I could to help with fund-raising. This now became the central focus of my ministry.
I kept hoping that Shelley would see my financial situation and offer to help me, but that never happened. Shelley and Garrett lived in luxury, yet they could not afford to help me. We were told not even to approach her with our financial problems, but to trust God, as she was too busy battling Satan and “thousands of demons” to worry about our problems.
Shelley would continually boast about how the Lord had blessed her, and her family, because they were special to God and mighty warriors for Him. Meanwhile, I was contemplating going on food stamps. Eventually, I did.
In January of 2011, Jenni Case (one of the girls that Pink Cross reached out to and helped years earlier) re-located from Colorado to Bakersfield, California, and moved into my 2-bedroom apartment with me. I initially got a 2-bedroom because Shelley was hoping that another ex-pornstar might come and live with me, and that we could reach out to her. When that fell through, I suggested that Jenni move in, as she was having a very hard time and was very discouraged with her job situation in Colorado. I asked Jenni if she would like to move in, she jumped at the chance.
In February, I accompanied Shelley on a speaking engagement to Cambridge. Shortly after we returned, I expressed to Shelley and Garrett my desire to go on a 2-week mission trip, reaching out to prostituted women in Israel. I almost didn’t ask, for fear of what Shelley’s reaction might be. Shelley was very controlling. I saw how Shelley went off on another Pink Cross employee, for over an hour, for wanting to go out of town for Christmas and New Year’s holiday, demoralizing him and telling him that he was abandoning her and Pink Cross. In spite of this, I asked anyhow. I figured that 10 months was adequate notice, and that the most they could say was “no.” So, I e-mailed Shelley and told her about the trip, and my desire to go. A few days later, Garrett e-mailed me telling me that they didn’t want to stand in the way of my “missions calling,” and decided to demote me from a full-time to a part-time employee, and paid an hourly wage “to be determined.”
It was at this time that they told me not to come to the office any more. Instead, they had Jenni come over there every day for training, which consisted of doing the duties that they previously had me doing. Without being told directly, I was basically being replaced by Jenni, who was now deemed the “Pink Cross Recovery Specialist.” I was told that I would no longer be reaching out to the women, as that was now Jenni’s job. This absolutely broke my heart, as this was my whole motive for moving to Bakersfield in the first place – to reach out to the women in the industry.
It all came to a head when Shelley called me and told me to come to an emergency meeting at her house. I had been sick for a few days, but Shelley said she didn’t care – that I needed to get out of bed and come over to the house. Apparently, Jenni had expressed to Shelley about how miserable she was living with me. Shelley, Garrett, and Jenni confronted me, in front of Roger. I didn’t know what to say. It was a very strange meeting. I remember Shelley coaxing Jenni into airing all of her grievances in front of everybody, in that room. After Jenni was done, Shelley turned to me and told me to tell them all of the problems that I had with Jenni. I told her that I had absolutely no problems with Jenni (which I did, but I really didn’t feel that it was the proper time or place). It was then that Shelley told me that she didn’t really need an executive assistant, and that Jenni would be coming over to the house from now on instead of me. She told me that I needed to get psychiatric help.
Regarding my duties with Pink Cross, my primary task from now on was to raise funds (which I had absolutely NO experience with), work on the forums (which I did before as a volunteer), and whatever else I could think of to do. I was no longer involved in writing newsletters or blogs, like I had been before – and if I did write something, Shelley just rejected or rewrote most of it. I basically had no job duties. I was no longer allowed to come to the office to work, because I was slowly being distanced from Shelley and the rest of the Pink Cross team. I had very little contact with Shelley and Garrett, aside from weekly reports that I sent Garrett.
Having been removed from my position, and my uncertainty regarding my role with Pink Cross, I started slipping into a deep depression. When I would try to contact the team members for support, my calls were never returned. I felt distanced and isolated from the team, including my roommate Jenni. I felt left out, without purpose, and had no idea what my place was on the team.
To make matters worse, I had absolutely no one to talk to. I didn’t know anyone in Bakersfield, and I was told by Shelley and Melanie, another team member, that I was not to talk to anyone else outside of the team about Pink Cross-related stuff. They said that we were in such intense spiritual warfare, and that no one outside of the team would understand. According to them, pornographers were watching our every move, and if we confided in anyone, or did anything like post on facebook, that we would be giving pornographers ammunition to attack us, and bring down the ministry.
Looking back, I realize how ridiculous this all was. I do believe that this was Shelley’s way of controlling us, and keeping everything hush-hush. I was only allowed to talk to people inside the Pink Cross circle.
The problem with this was, whenever I wanted to talk with anyone on the team, no one was ever available. When I asked Jenni if she could come home from work and spend the evening with me, she told me I was being selfish, that she had a son to worry about, and that I shouldn’t be so demanding. It was at that moment I realized this was not a team, but a collection of self-serving individuals.
Most of my time was spent at home, on the computer. The more time I spent alone, the more depressed I became. I had no friends, no real job, and no purpose. I asked the Lord to give me clarity regarding the situation, but my depression was all I could think about. The fact that no one on the team seemed to care about me or my situation made it worse. Even though I was at home basically doing nothing, I continued to collect a check from Pink Cross. This brought guilt into the mix, as I knew that the check I was collecting, for basically doing nothing, was hard-earned money donated by people who believed in the mission of Pink Cross. In taking money for basically doing nothing, I felt almost like I was stealing from good, honest donors. After about 2 months, I stepped down. I could no longer, in good conscience, accept money that I was not working for, and I did not see myself as a part of Pink Cross anymore. In all honesty, I have no idea why they even kept me on staff. So, I sent Garrett my resignation letter, explaining that I had a daughter to think about, and the whole thing was just too much to handle. I did not go into detail regarding my feelings about taking donor money for basically doing nothing, because I was so worn out from my experience with Pink Cross, and my emotional state at that time, that I just tried to avoid confrontation altogether. I knew that they would try to pin the blame on me.
The remainder of my time in Bakersfield was spent trying to secure a job and deal with the enormous financial strain that I was under. I would have to borrow money just to pay the rent. Shelley told me that she loved me and desperately wanted me to remain in Bakersfield, to volunteer with Pink Cross, yet she refused to help me financially. She was being very unrealistic. Even after everything that transpired, I still believed in Shelley and wanted to volunteer with Pink Cross. Even so, I knew in my heart this was not where the Lord wanted me. Nothing was working out.
My final day in Bakersfield ended with Garrett and I yelling at each other on the front lawn of their home. I won’t go into detail about the specifics of the argument, but let me just quote from God’s Word:
John 3:17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?