Exit and Support Network

My Horrible Experiences at S.E.P.

It was the summer of 1987. I was 16 years old and had been quite reluctant about attending the Worldwide Church of God's Summer Educational Program in previous years because of health problems. Anxious at the thought of driving and having a car, I was willing to do whatever it took to earn some points with my parents. Perhaps I could show them what a good camper I could be and come back home from Big Sandy, Texas with a couple of camp awards. Or at least that was my plan. Trying to save money on an airline ticket, my parents hooked up with another family out of Tennessee (they were complete strangers to us). They were going to drive down and pick up their own son from the first session camp. So it worked out that I rode to Big Sandy, Texas with them. The only catch was that they drove down 4 days before my camp session started, so I had to be the early bird.

I remember meeting the counselors, Heidi Schatz and Elizabeth Adlington. They were in their early 20s (Ambassador College students) and were going to be "in charge" of us teenage girls for the next three weeks. They weren't the warm, hospitable types I'd hoped for and I remember waiting very impatiently for some of the other campers to arrive. After my first night in the dorm with them (the counselors), I was awakened by Ms. Schatz as she explained she wanted to discuss something with me. Apparently, the night before when I'd walked to the campus mart, they'd snuck into my room and searched through all my stuff. Of course, they didn't bother to apologize or explain why they'd taken such an action. They said they'd found a prescription (given to me by my doctor) and informed me that they would have to lock up any medicine, even aspirin I had brought. I explained to them that I suffered from severe endometriosis and pulled out a doctor's note stating that I was to be excluded from strenuous physical activity while going through the girly thing. Ms. Adlington peered at the note and said, " My father was a doctor. All you'll need is a banana if you have cramps." I remember thinking how she had downplayed my illness and how my privacy was invaded and how I didn't like it too well, but there I was, hundreds of miles from home, so what choice did I have? I also remember praying that God would hold off the girly thing until I returned home. As fate would have it, my girly thing started 2 days later.

The next thing I remember was being with the other campers on a 30-mile bike trip. Even though I had begged them to let me "sit out" the bike ride, they were not concerned. I had honestly been having the worst endometriosis episode I'd ever had. Explaining my pain to them was a complete waste of time. So, after making it through the first couple of miles with tears streaming down my face, I finally passed out, partially from the pain and partially from the 117 degree heat, while they (the counselors) rode behind us in an air-conditioned van. I just remember looking up and seeing two of my fellow campers wiping my face. I then pleaded with them (the counselors) to let me ride with them in the van to no avail. Misery doesn't really come close to describing that bike trip.

That night, I asked to make one call to my mom. The calling policy was that you could only make a phone call in an emergency and it had to be approved by the counselors. Of course, they denied my request. Another day passed as I felt like I was going to scream if someone didn't help me. I thought of running away but I remembered that we were several miles from a highway and I'd probably be spotted by another WCG S.E.P. leader and worsen the situation. By this point, the counselors wouldn't even speak to me. It was obvious they considered me to be a "whiner" and they wished they could lock me in a closet. Looking back, I'm surprised they didn't. Finally, opportunity knocked and I had the chance to grab that phone without anyone seeing me. I remember hearing my mom's voice and saying, "Mom, they don't know I'm calling you. Please call here (at the camp) and talk to someone who can help me!! Please mom, I'm in pain, please help me!" She was worried; she knew I was serious and needed help. She then made several calls and actually reached someone in the camp infirmary who said, "Is she the one who's diabetic?" Mom said, "NO, but please give that girl her medicine also!" After alerting the medical authorities on campus, it was obvious that no one really cared about me or the diabetic. Somehow I survived it though. I wonder what happened to the other girl? I never received medical attention or medicine of any kind. My mother told me much later that she almost drove down to get me...I wish she had of!

There was another camper in 3-G named Toby something, from Minnesota. I'll never forget the night I overheard Ms. Schatz and Ms. Adlington discussing whether or not to inform her that her brother had been killed in a car accident. After a casual banter, they agreed to tell her but to deny her a leave. That meant she was to stay at the camp and miss her own brother's funeral, etc. My mouth dropped. I tried to imagine how I would feel if my brother had just been killed with me hundreds of miles from home, devastated. Sorrow took a new dimension with me as I watched Toby writhing on the floor, begging to go home. Straight-faced and in a very cold tone, both counselors said, "We feel it is in your best interest to stay at S.E.P." That poor girl was a pale-faced, tear-ridden shell for the rest of that camp. My own dilemma seemed very slight in light of hers.

I could write pages more on the mistreatment of me and many other campers.

By India - Child survivor of WCG (first name used with permission)

Read India's other story: The Spank Tent


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