Disclaimer: The information presented and opinions expressed are solely the author's. Names have been changed to protect identities. The only names kept true are leadership.
I had been struggling with alcoholism at that point for over a year and I was ready to be free. I had a friend who had been to the farm and had a good experience so I thought I'd give it a try. I was told that they don't accept just anybody, but they pray about who they accept. I knew that because of that, I may be denied which was worrisome to me because I desperately needed a change. While the farm was praying on if I should be accepted, I went to a detox center in my city to get immediate help. I fully believed the Farm would help me beat my addiction. While I was in detox, I heard that the cost to stay at the farm would be $300 a month. A friend of mine stepped up to organize a fundraiser for me to cover the expenses. I was told by the farm I was being accepted and urgently needed to come right away for a training that was going to start early in June, so I arranged a flight and arrived June 1st, 2020.
When I arrived, two of the leaders went through all of my personal belongings, even flipping through my private prayer journals. I had such a high expectation for how God would meet me. I had heard about God Encounters and how they were life-changing. I had a happy heart and was truly ready to work hard and serve. Which is exactly what I did. The labor on the farm is required and they never have a day where they are not working. After being there for a couple of weeks, I wondered, "Are we working so hard in the nearly 100 degree heat everyday because the leaders believe it will work good in our heart and result in us healing from our trauma... Or are they making us work because there is just a lot of work that needs to be done on this farm?
I wonder if there was no work to do and we were all caught up, would they still find labor for us to do?" I found out pretty soon after wondering this that there are no days off. Even if the entire farm is caught up. I know this because one of the girls there told me, "When there is nothing for us to do, they make us move piles of rocks and bricks." That was a big red flag to me because I remember reading years ago about how the Nazis would force their victims in the concentration camps to do the exact same things and since the labor on the farm is non-negotiable, it seemed a little abusive.
When I was in my addiction, I would sometimes wake up at 5 or 6pm to start my day. So in going to the farm, I had a complete schedule flip. There was one alarm clock in our bedroom and 4 of us on bunk beds. Since I was on the top bunk, when the alarm would go off in the morning, one of the girls on a lower bed would stop it. Because it takes a little more for me to wake up, I sometimes would accidentally fall back asleep. I wouldn't mean to, it would naturally just happen since I had not yet adjusted to the schedule. This made me one minute late to morning prayer one day and I was told that it is unacceptable for me to be a single minute late for morning prayer. Even though it takes about ten minutes for everyone to move the chairs into position and get settled in before starting. At my God Encounter later on that day, I was simply sharing what had happened with one of the facilitators to my GE session. I told her I was frustrated with myself for not being able to wake up easier and that this new schedule is a hard shock on my body. The woman I spoke with told me, "I have a solution! I have an extra alarm clock! Would that help you? You could keep it closer to the top bunk so you can reach it and that way you can set it to go off more than once so you have a better chance at getting up on time." I thought it was so polite for her to offer that. "Yes! Please!" She told me that later that day, she would find it and get it to me.
Later on that night, B approached me with harshness and accusation on her voice. "I heard you were going around asking people for alarm clocks! Why on earth didn't you bring an alarm clock with you if you knew you would be needing one?!" "Um... I didn't think about it," I said. "It is not the responsibility of others to make sure you are awake on time!" I really had no clue why she was yelling at me, I didn't do anything wrong. Looking back on it, this was really an opportunity for me to point out that she could be kinder in her words and her tone when speaking to people. She spoke down to me for several minutes about how irresponsible I was, raising her voice at me the whole time.
There was one night that I wasn't able to get any sleep. I laid in the bed for 8 hours, wide awake. I remember hearing that the next day was going to be an "all hands on deck" farm labor day because we were laying sod and it was going to be a lot of work. I know myself when I don't get any sleep, I cannot simply push through, I absolutely have difficulty functioning. When it was time to go work, I explained to one of the leaders my situation and pleaded with her if I could take just this one day off of working. I was told she would think about it and get back to me. She let me rest for a little while. It was probably close to about 45 minutes to an hour while the others were getting ready to start working. Then, just as I was dozing off for the first time, I was awakened. "L, I let you rest for a little while, now you have to come work with the rest of us." I wanted so badly to honor the Lord and to honor those in leadership as if I were serving Christ Himself. I wanted to be a blessing and not a burden, so I got up, got ready, and worked all day in the heat, even though I didn't get any sleep at all. I believe it is because the Lord loves me that He gave me grace to complete that day, despite having no sympathy from farm leadership.
While I was there, a new girl came and she had clearly experienced a lot of trauma. Due to my past history with eating disorders, I could see it was something she struggled with. She was very quiet in her early days at the farm, dealing with anxiety and possible fear of people. I watched at dinner as she cut her food into small pieces and tried not to have the attention on her. I remember our house leader, B, prodding her and asking her questions about her food, putting the spotlight on her. I remember even the next day, B asking her, "What did you eat for lunch? How did you make it?" ... etc. Due to my past eating disorder experiences, I was absolutely mortified for this poor girl. Horrifically mortified.
The house leader, B, was either incompetent to do her job because of her age and forgetfulness, or she was completely uncaring and lazy when it came to keeping track of things. I say this because in her room, she had all of our stuff organized into separate bags, phones, medicine, etc. Things we weren't allowed to have. Each person had their name labeled on their own plastic bag. Just about every time she went to grab someone's phone, she would bring out the wrong person's phone. I didn't understand how this could be happening since every bag had the person's name on it. I figured out when I ended up leaving the farm that she had been giving my medication away to other girls. It was just ibuprofen, but my entirely full bottle was almost empty when I got it back. This frustrated me since I did not have enough money to buy more right away and I get headaches regularly, so I actually need that medication.
At the farm, on top of the non-negotiable heavy labor everyday, we had household chores. I was doing my chore one night which included sweeping the outside walkway of any leaves or debris. I was almost done with my chore, when B, the house leader, came outside, grabbed an extremely dirty rug from somewhere nearby, and slammed it on the ground directly in front of me. She began beating all of the dirt out of it, creating ample more work for me. I remember thinking about how rude and inconsiderate that was, but I bit my tongue and did not say anything to her.
As I grew to know her more, I understood this is how she treats the people she doesn't like. I was new, she didn't get a real opportunity to hear my heart about anything, yet she exemplified in her actions very clearly that she wasn't wanting to give me a chance. Another thing I noticed about her, was that if she realized you enjoyed a specific job or task, if you let her know you liked it, she made sure to never assign you to that task ever again. She made it a point to bring frustration and misery in the working day. Example, if I wanted to work with the chickens and made a request for that, she would never assign me the chickens again. Even though they need to be taken care of daily, and nobody else loves working with them. She simply wanted us all to dislike whatever labor we were assigned.
While I was at the farm, I had a dear friend from elementary school I had recently reconnected with mailed me a postcard. I wanted to write her a letter and mail her back. I had been in a treatment facility before and asking for a stamp had not been an issue, so I figured it would be the same at the farm. Why would it be an issue? We mail out hundreds and hundreds of support letters. With all of that mail traffic and additionally the finances coming in because of the support letters, wouldn't they be able to spare a single stamp? I had a meeting with my "Pastoral Care Team" that day. I figured I would just ask them when I meet with them. I went into the house of one of my Pastoral Care members, S, and I brought it up as one of the first topics thinking it would be easy to get it out of the way so I don't forget. I told them my friend had mailed me something and I'd like to respond, may I have a stamp to do so?
It is difficult to explain how deeply her response impacted me and started pricking at all of my stored up trauma, the very reason I was at the farm and had an alcohol addiction in the first place was loneliness and rejection. Being rejected by my friends and family led to a vicious alcohol problem. S looked at me with a very stoic and unfeeling expression, "Do you have somebody that can bring you a stamp?" I was confused, but I answered truthfully, "No, I don't." Being reminded that I had nobody on the outside caused tears to start welling up in my. I swallowed hard and tried to hide the tears. "Do you have somebody that can mail some stamps to you?" I think one of the reasons I was so deeply hurt by this interaction is that I was clearly, visibly having a reaction to trauma, yet her face was just so unchanging and her questions demanding. It was as if she was completely disconnected to her heart as we spoke. I answered her again, my voice shaky and tears now running down my face, "no, I don't have anyone who can mail me stamps." She seemed so cold, "Well then... I am a little confused what you were thinking. Why would you have even brought this up to us? If you don't have anyone on the outside that can bring you a stamp or mail you stamps, then we simply cannot help you. How did you think you were going to mail a letter?"
I wanted the earth to open me up and swallow me whole. I was mortified and deeply hurt. I figured that maybe they didn't think I was worth a single stamp, which reaffirmed all my greatest fears and was beyond triggering to me. The shame I felt when I was reminded that I didn't have friends or family was terrible. I felt like a child in the principal's office. Face red and chin quivering. As if I had done something terribly wrong and now I was trying to act normal. I simply said, "I don't know. It's okay. Never mind." Z could see I was struggling and I believe she felt genuine compassion for me. But S looked at me stern and said, "why are you here!? We don't know much about your story." But her demeanor wasn't out of concern. I felt like there was no empathy for what I was experiencing. It was difficult for me to open my mouth to even speak, much less give details about the trauma I've experienced that led me to the farm.
I felt trapped. She waited, demanding I give an account. I felt I had no choice. Weeping, I shared an extremely brief overview of my deepest, most painful experiences. I did not want to open up to this woman, but I felt I had to. The way she spoke to me was emotionally abusive. This is one of my worst memories of the farm.
The whole time I was at the farm, I expected to hear the "important" training that I had to fly in as soon as possible for. But the only teaching Rhonda was giving was on demonic powers and principalities. I was so confused. Isn't this a healing center for trauma? Why are we hearing about all of the principalities and not about God's love for us? About what He did on the cross? Why are there hours and hours of teachings that are non-negotiable to sit through, on demons? This was unsettling to me.
I was learning all about how a demonic power possessed a statue of Mary and made tears come out of her eyes, but not about the beauty of what Jesus did on the cross so that we could be free and delivered. Then I started hearing about soul fragmenting. I was told by a few different people on the farm that fully believe in Rhonda's teachings that pieces of their souls are locked away in hell and they have to get them out. This teaching is entirely unbiblical. If this were the case, was Jesus' blood not powerful enough to fully deliver me? What about the verse that declares, "Who the Son sets free shall be free indeed?" (John 8:36) Rhonda's teaching on this is absolutely ludicrous. If Jesus' blood wasn't powerful enough to fully deliver me, then that means my salvation and deliverance is based upon my own works... I can assure you that that is not accurate. It is only by grace through faith in Christ that we are healed and delivered.
We do not have to free pieces of ourselves that are trapped in hell in order to be a whole person. Another ridiculous teaching is unclean spirits. Rhonda teaches that unclean spirits can be people who have died, but decided not to go directly to judgment (as if we will get to make that choice) but they decide to parade around the earth and search for a helpless person who they can possess to get that alcoholic drink they are still craving, even though they are dead. An example I heard explained to me at the farm, was that there was once upon a time a man who was an alcoholic. He died, but didn't want to leave earth just yet, so he wandered around, and he went to a bar. And just as another guy was about to start drinking for the night, the dead guy possessed the living guy so that he could still get his fix. This is absolutely no where in scripture. In fact, it is written the opposite.
"It is appointed unto man to die once, but after this, the judgement." (Hebrews 9:27)
After my first couple of weeks there, a girl who had been at my house on the farm left. It started stirring up in me the desire to leave again. I didn't want to drink. I felt confident that I could stay sober. So at dinner one night, I simply mentioned it to my house. I asked what they thought. B, the house leader, started sharing stories about how when she wanted to leave there was always grace for her. How the farm fought for her to stay because they wanted to see her walk in her victory. She said, "I can't even tell you how many times I packed my bags and almost left this place! At least 7!" Because she said this, I thought I was safe simply discussing my wrestle with the thought of leaving.
I explained that I just wanted what God wanted for me, but the urge to leave was strong. I left it at that, but the next day, I was wrestling again. Because I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, the leaders held a meeting with Rhonda. Rhonda told me I needed to commit to a specific number of days and they will let me stay, but if they heard me mention it again at all, I would be asked to leave. This was confusing to me because B had just explained to me the day before how she had all of her bags packed at least seven times and yet they fought for her to stay. But with me if I even mentioned I was thinking about it, they didn't have the patience to work with me through it and talk it out with me. I simply committed to the number of days and that was that. But I felt a certain type of way about how they handled the situation.
I stayed for almost one more week but my glasses were broken and I needed to make an eye doctor appointment to get new ones because I am almost legally blind. I cannot see even 5 inches in front of my face without them. I was able to convince the leader to allow me to retrieve my phone long enough to make the phone call. Every time you make a phone call at the farm, they make you put the phone on speaker and sit near you while you talk so that they can hear everything you and the other person is saying. Whenever you receive mail at the farm and when you send mail as well, they screen everything. I was on the phone with the eye doctor and B was sitting right next to me. As I was trying to talk to the assistant on the other end, B kept interrupting me harshly and causing me to stumble over my words and lose my train of thought. I was beyond frustrated. It got to the part of the conversation where she wanted to nail down a time and date to book me.
By this point, because of the way B was treating me while I was trying to talk to this woman, I had decided I was packing up my stuff and leaving the farm. I had had enough. I couldn't live with her any longer. I booked the appointment knowing I'd be available because I wouldn't be at the farm. B was being loud and angrily telling me, "You're just gonna have to call them back because I don't know if that day and time works for me!" I told her, "I'm leaving the farm." She told me that I would have to call for a ride and they would have to come after dinner. I felt a little relieved by this because I didn't know where I was going to stay or if there would be any food there. I went to my bedroom to go pack up all of my belongings, after making a phone call and arranging a ride. I was truly planning on finding a homeless shelter.
I had already moved out of my house, so I had nowhere to go. While some of the girls were in the kitchen, preparing dinner, B suddenly stormed into my bedroom and said, "You have to be ready soon because I'm personally taking you before dinner! I'm not waiting on your ride to get here. Call and tell them to meet you. And when I drop you off, you know what?! I'm not waiting for them to come pick you up, either. I'm pulling up, you're getting out, and I'm leaving!" Because I was so relieved to be leaving the farm, I didn't argue or share my thought with her on how she was treating me at all. I simply packed my stuff, loaded it all into her truck and we headed out. On our way out to the main road, she realized the hood to her truck was not latched. She slammed on the breaks, "Go close the hood!" ... I didn't hesitate.
I remember the entire time I lived with this woman, it seemed as if she thought everyone was there to serve her. While we were on our way to Lee's Summit, which is where my ride was going to pick me up at, B spat the words, "Well... Now you can go get your alcohol fix! Now you can go get your nicotine fix!" I was absolutely shocked that she said this to me. "...Um... I'm actually not planning on drinking again.
A strange aspect at the farm when you are leaving, they tell you that you are not allowed to tell anyone that you are leaving. You are not allowed to say goodbye to your roommates or friends. I thought this was weird and as I have shared with my friends some of my farm experiences they have definitely agreed. "Yeah, that's not normal." For some reason, that is how the farm does things. It makes we wonder what their reason truly is. They tell you that it causes others to become emotional. I would think that it's more painful to others to just wake up and you are gone.
After a few weeks being away from the farm, I felt like I had made a mistake. Yes, the farm was difficult, and no, I didn't agree with everything at the farm... But a part of me felt that the healing I needed would come from being at the farm. So I sent a message and started the process to return. It took a few weeks to get everything squared away in order for me to return.
When I returned, I noticed a lot of the girls were wearing my clothes. I had noticed that I didn't come home with everything that I had while at the farm. But seeing my best friends sweater on one of the girls upset me pretty badly. I thought, "Why on earth would they not have contacted me to let me know that I left my clothes here? Why would they just give them all away?" I don't really know how to explain the feeling I felt. I think the best way to describe it is that I felt used, taken advantage of, and stolen from. It hurt my feelings that they couldn't make a simple phone call. Some of those items were very sentimental and I would have missed them very much.
One of the girls told me that as soon as I left, B told all the girls to go through my clothes and whatever they didn't want to box up so that it could be donated. I was absolutely livid about this. The girl wearing my friend's sweater told me how sorry she was. She only went through the clothes because she was told that she could. She went through her closet and retrieved every item that she had taken, even though I told her some of the items she could keep. I felt bad for her, she clearly was not trying to steal anything from me, she had been misled by farm leadership and so I wanted to be able to give her some of the clothes that she liked. She refused, telling me she was so sorry the farm had given my clothes away. I ended up becoming good friends with her, and we are still friends today.
There was one day in the morning when B was giving us our instructions for the day and she assigned me to work with C. We were told that we needed to go grab some shovels and then ride with B back to the building called The Haven. I don't remember what our assignment was, all I remember is that we were to ride on the golf cart with B. I asked permission to use the restroom quickly and B told me yes. When I came out of the restroom, everybody had left me. I knew B well enough to know that I somehow was going to be blamed for not being on time. That somehow, even though I got permission to use the restroom, I was going to be reprimanded for not going back to The Haven with B.
I don't know why this was so triggering for me. Probably because of all of the abandonment issues I've experienced. I had an anxiety attack. I stood there on the road directly in front of the garden, hyperventilating and panicking. I just knew there was going to be some form of punishment coming to me. I didn't want to get into trouble, but I also didn't want to have to walk back to The Haven alone. I waited. As soon as B returned, everything I had held in with how she had treated me came out all at once. I told her how ridiculous it was that she would tell me to do something and then leave me behind without proper communication.
I had no idea where everybody went! I could tell for the first time that she did have compassion. When she saw me having the anxiety attack, I saw genuine compassion in her eyes. I didn't think she had it in her, but for the first time, she apologized and actually explained herself. I don't remember everything I said to her, but I know that I made sure to let her know how triggering that experience was for me. Her impatience and unwillingness to wait for a couple of minutes on me brought me to barely being able to breathe.
On Friday nights at the farm, they observe Shabbat. We all gather at The Haven building and have dinner together. This meeting sometimes goes very long and there is no option for you to be released for bed early. It's like they don't take into consideration that laboring for 8 hours everyday in the 100 degree heat might not be a normal thing for some of us. I think this meeting should be optional or at least if the Shabbat dinner is required to attend, then there should be a certain time where it's okay to be released for bed if the meetings keeps going.
I could barely keep my eyes open and had no physical reserves to keep myself awake, but the meeting continued and did not end for hours and hours. One person after another would get up from their chair, take the microphone, and give exhortations and prophesy over others. I asked if I could leave to go to bed. I did not know why I needed to be there for this, but it became very clear that nobody cared how I was feeling. I was required to stay and that was that.
I began realizing that the farm is more detrimental to my healing than helpful. I mentally couldn't do it anymore. If it were just the physical labor in extreme heat, maybe I could have handled that by itself, but the way I was talked to and treated by my house leader was unacceptable. I went off by myself and wept.
The thought of leaving the farm was hard for me because there is sort of the culture there where if you leave, they make you feel as if you are walking away from your destiny and your salvation. This is not verbalized in exact terms, but when I mentioned that I wanted to leave again, the leaders treated it as if it were an emergency situation. The male leader in the men's house told me that he was deeply concerned about my decision. He spoke to me for about ten minutes, pleading with me to stay. I had already made up my mind and I let my house leader know. I was told to sleep on it and let them know my final decision in the morning. I woke up the next day with such a feeling of relief, knowing that I wasn't going to be forced to labor or be treated harshly any longer. After morning prayer was over, I let my house leader know right away that I would be leaving.
Despite knowing this information, I was told I had to labor all day and when the 8 hours were completed, then I could retrieve my phone and make the necessary calls to arrange a ride. Since I had no idea who I was going to call for a ride, and no clue where I was going to stay, I really should have been allowed access to my phone a lot sooner. At this point, I truly was feeling a captive to the farm. It felt like they were squeezing every last drop of labor out of me that they could. I was angry about it, but since all I could think about was how I was about to be free of that place, I submitted. While working in the garden that day, I mentioned to one of the girls that I was leaving. Suddenly, someone came to get me on a golf cart and brought me directly to B, and she told me, "You are not allowed to tell anyone you are leaving. That is absolutely not okay." I felt upset by this because I truly had made some friends on the farm who I would have liked to stay connected to. If I wasn't telling them I was leaving, how would I get their contacts and stay connected to them long-term? Well, I wanted to honor the farm and their rules, so I did not tell anyone else I was leaving.
When my labor was completed for the day, I was finally allowed to begin packing my things. Since it was late, I didn't know if anybody would even answer their phone to me and drive an hour to pick me up. I got extremely lucky that a friend of mine, though she is a mother of 6 and was preparing dinner for her family, was able to come get me. She was an absolute lifesaver. I will not forget how I felt leaving the farm for the second time. I truly felt I was walking away from my destiny. I wondered if Jesus would somehow work out His plan for my life anyways, I prayed that He would. It felt like I was sinning horribly.
After I was away from the farm for a couple of months, I had gotten a job and I was staying sober. I was at work one day and a friend from the farm called me, sobbing uncontrollably. She told me that the farm had stolen all of her money and kicked her out with nowhere to go. She needed a place to sleep that night. I told her she is most definitely welcome to come and stay with me.
Her testimony is hers to tell, but something I will share that she told me is this: "After you left the farm, the farm got more and more strict. They became very serious about letting people know that they need to cut off their family members." She told me that the farm is making everybody cut off all friends and family members who are not just unsaved, but even if they are christians, but if they don't believe in everything Rhonda teaches exactly, they are being forced to cut off those family members. There is one woman on the farm who wept as she heard this news, because she has christian children who don't agree with everything Rhonda teaches. She wept because she knew she had to cut them out of her life entirely. I cannot even imagine what it would be like to be deceived to the degree that I would submit to that type of abuse. I pray that the farm is exposed and shut down as soon as possible.