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Faith Redefined

(This one factor was key to my coming redefinition of faith and to the direction my life would take from the moment I set foot in C’ville.)

The purpose here is not to recount my service experience(s) at Abundant Life, although at least nominal mention needs making for context purposes.  The purpose is to show how the negative consequences from the nonspiritual influences with which I was confronted worked to reshape my definition of faith.  My service there in its positive aspects, of which there were many, was highly fulfilling.  Good works were accomplished and they were performed solely out of love for my brothers and sisters.

This is an important distinction.  Good works performed from a foundation of love is vastly different than good works performed solely for self-aggrandizement, or as an attempt “buy a stairway to Heaven.’  Some might say, “Good works are good works regardless of the motivation.  Regardless of the motivation, the end is the same.”  They might say that, but they would be wrong.

The "Yellow House" and the Executive Director

Abundant Life Ministries was covered up by a Spirit of Poverty with all the prerequisite and attendant demons.  The chief of these worked through the executive director.  BY the end of the summer and far less than halfway through my tenure, I could add to the previous charge of Con Man, the charges of Abuser, Bully, and Criminal.  By Criminal, I mean at the local, state, and federal level.  The list of these charges would be too long and too painful to recall and relate.  I will however relate two (of many) that impacted directly on my situation.

At the end of the summer I was made Property Manager for two houses and a small stone church on 7 acres of land.  The main house that would be used for programs was the one from which I would operate.  The other house and the church were derelicts.  as it turned out the main house (the “Yellow House”) was in fact a near derelict itself and it took a great deal of work to bring it into serviceable condition.

The Yellow House was the place where the children, served by the organization, came to be tutored, play, and participate in special events.  It was the place where teen groups came for club meetings and activities.  It was a meeting place for a Senior Auxiliary group.  It was the production and staging point for all programs and activities.

It was the external hub.

My first administrative duty was to survey the property and list, report, and recommend any repair/maintenance needs.  This house among all the other individual items to be surveyed on the property was Priority A1.  The first two items that caught my attention were an immediate health and an immediate life danger.

one

The basement of the house was used to store food and drink snacks (by the pallet load) for the children.  A toilet and waste water pipe of ancient vintage and made of cast iron ran through the basement.  A vertical section of the pipe had a hole in it the size of a mans fist.  Septic water constantly ran and dripped into a foul, fetid, dark and greasy puddle three feet from food stuffs intended for the children.  Cholera and myriad other diseases are born in just such conditions.

two

The house had two exterior chimneys.  One served a non-functioning fireplace and came up through the center of the rood.  The other was a basement gas furnace chimney and ran up the side of the house and extended several feet above the roof line.  You can see both chimneys in the photo above.

Both chimneys were built when the house was built which was around the turn of the 20th century.  Both chimneys had lost most, if not all the cement between the bricks dues to erosion and the freeze/thaw cycle.  The one on the outside of the house was the worst as a large portion was above the roof (see photo).  It was also leaning!  A leaning chimney is a very bad thing.  It was in imminent danger of falling.  That much weight in masonry is not meant to stand, at any angle other than a strict vertical 90 degrees.

Leaning, as it was, over the yard on the side of the house it was an immediate danger of death to anyone passing under it.  A single brick to the head from that height (or just about any other) would result in death.  The idea of the whole chimney toppling onto someone (especially a child) is too horrible to contemplate.

I filed three separate reports on these dangers and spoke on it verbally to the executive director and mentioned it to several others in the organization.  The director ignored my reports.  When I spoke to him about it he denied the all too obvious danger and said he was not going to do anything about it.

In the meantime the other conditions continued to worsen.  His behavior became criminal and that which was not overtly criminal became more and more intolerable for its reprehensible nature.  I kept detailed records and documentation of all my attempts to get the problems fixed and of his other behaviors as well.  I wrote thousands of words in my journal about it.  I fumed about it.  I told my roommate about, I even shed actual tears and reported it to staff members at CALM.  Nothing was done.  At NO time did I go to a faith filled community, such a church, and seek guidance from others who shared my spiritual beliefs.  That was a fatal error.

I began to caught up in the insidious influence of his character and the Spirit of Poverty that pervaded the organization.  I forgot about the life and health dangers and became consumed with the illegal games he was playing with my Living Stipend and the constant bullying.

Then one weekend in February 2009, on a weekend covering all the above mentioned behaviors, in preparation for an organization event, another VISTA was injured as a result of the director’s intentional violation of federal grant guidelines.  And I was subjected to a terrifying ride in a church bus under his control while he was under the influence of alcohol.

The Tuesday following that weekend I was taken to the hospital for severe chest pains.  I was admitted to the hospital for a quadruple heart bypass.

TO BE CONTINUED

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