Ephrata Youth Bible School: The Experience Recounted (Part 2)

(Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 2.5)

Authorial Comment: It’s been quite some time since I posted the first part of my series about what it’s like to attend Charity Youth Bible School. As I was reading over the comments, I made a few notes I thought I would answer:

Of course you had a bad time, you lied on your application and so your guilty conscience just couldn’t stand going to such a spiritual place!

This made me chuckle, I’ll admit it. The reason that probably 99% of all applications to this school have lies or omissions is because Charity standards are deliberately high. They make standards that are impossible to follow because their religion relies on a constant cycle of heavy guilt, and a brief honeymoon period of bliss when they repent. Almost all cults rely on some form of this cycle. In order to create guilty members, they create standards that are impossible to follow, at least all the time.

So if I lied on my application form, it’s because I left off Enya as a singer I enjoyed. Seriously. Enya, who is probably seen as bland elevator music to most of the sane world, could be seen as some kind of New Age witch in these circles. If I lied, it’s because I was afraid that my enjoyment of mystery novels about a medieval monk might betray my secret desire to become a Catholic.

I just don’t understand why you didn’t like YBS. I went there, and I really loved it. Everyone was so spiritual!

YBS is used as a tool to lure families into the movement. In that sense, it is tailored heavily to appear in the best possible light. My own family was led into the movement because my oldest sister attended and returned with glowing reports about the amazing modesty of the girls and the genuine spirituality of everyone there. For people who may attend a church with no spiritual heart, the outward trappings may seem to indicate an actual rich inner spiritual life. For someone is hungry to connect with God, Youth Bible School may seem to be a haven, where people actually care about God and want to talk about his Word.

In reality, the reason for those heavily enforced modesty rules and hawk-like monitoring by creepy “principals” is because Charity churches are highly distrustful of young people. They are afraid of what could possibly occur if crazy young’uns are allowed to congregate and talk with each other. On one hand, it makes sense to keep an eye on hormonally-charged teenagers; no one wants someone to get hurt. On the other hand, one female monitor swooped in on me because I had braided my hair into one long plait and placed my covering on top. She said that I should place my hair “up” into a bun. I was feeling sick that day, and had been unable to find the bobby pins required to place my hair into a bun. In addition, there were no rules that indicated that braids were unacceptable ways of dressing ones hair. Even if someone can justify every single written rule that exists at YBS, there are a thousand more unspoken rules that no single human can follow. Believe me; these rules are enforced MORE heavily if they know your family is already in the movement. They are “easier” on teenagers attending who come from a worldly background, at least in some ways, because they know these teenagers have more ability to actually leave.

SO! Let’s get on to part two of the YBS experience.

Day Two: Monday

You wake up depending on how close your family lives to the school. If you’re lucky, they actually live nearby. If you’re unlucky, you’re 2 hours out in farm country with half a dozen other youngsters and you’ve gotta get up at 5 am if you need a shower. You rub the grit out of your eyes and get ready for a grueling day. After all, you’ve got the morning service, the mid-morning service, lunch, choir practice, another sermon, prayer group and finally, another sermon that usually has an evangelical theme.

So as you settle onto your chair, you can scan the list of speakers and sermon topics. Oh, goody. Every morning you get to listen to Brother Pontificus talk about the evils of Social Media. You remember Brother Pontificus from last year. He has a wagging grey beard, likes to pound the pulpit with his gnarled fist, and spittle starts to fly when he really gets going. Oh, you also remember another annoying fact. Although the head principal constantly reminds students to return ON TIME from breaks, and even suggests going to the restroom so much during sermons, pastors are freely allowed to run over their time limit. This frequently reduces breaks from the already paltry 10-15 minutes to 5. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to relieve your bladder. Lucky you!

Quiz question: what happens when you take hundreds of young people from all over the United States and cram them into a confined space during the middle of November? If you guessed fornication, you’re probably some kind of godless heathen. If you guessed TONS OF COLDS AND SICKNESS, thank God, you’ve probably been to YBS. Although the main auditorium is usually warm, prayer group meetings take place in a creepy, badly-lit backroom area that is always slightly chilly. Each prayer group meets in separate cubicles…on the floor, which is usually thin carpet over cold, cold concrete. Monday isn’t too bad, but wait until Wednesday, that’s when you’ll really starting to hear the sneezing and coughing and hacking.

Curiously, this wave of sickness has never caused Charity to move the weird timing of their school. Incidentally, it seems designed to interfere with normal life. Most teenagers to young adults should be in school, or they will be attending college. However, perhaps they don’t want to attract the kinds of adults who may have the critical thinking skills imparted by a college education. After all, they might bring in some worldly ideas like…uh…tape cassettes of Amy Grant or something. So if you were working a job or school and your parents forced you to go, have fun explaining why you’re missing a week of school or work in the middle of freaking November.

I forgot to mention mealtime. Because of the hundreds of people attending, the students are required to help set the table and wash dishes. In their traditionally sexist way, it is almost always female groups who must handle the messy task of washing trays and refilling water jugs. The male students typically handle setting out the tables, a task that, although tedious, is much quicker. Apparently kitchen work is female, and moving tables is not. None of these students are given gloves, masks or hair nets, so only God knows how many people get infected every year by a student with a cold who has been detailed to pour water. What could be a good lesson about serving others becomes a sexist, unsanitary mess.

If you’re lucky, you just get to sit down and eat whatever casserole or soup they made. The food, if boring, is at least filling. Seating is dictated, and male and female students are NEVER seated at the same round tables. They might be seated across from each other at long rectangular tables, but never next to each other. God knows that kind of evil might occur if Abner Miller and Hepsiba* Amschtuz brushed hands while reaching for the same water pitcher**.

So. Your second day at YBS is over. If you’re not sick with a cold, bronchial infection or the flu, good job. You’ve alive.

*Note: the uglier the name, the more spiritual the child

**If you’re having trouble imaging what might happen, it’s fornication. Fornication would happen.

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About princeasbel

I'm just a college grad who loves God.
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27 Responses to Ephrata Youth Bible School: The Experience Recounted (Part 2)

  1. Myron says:

    This is actually kind of similar to Mennonite Bible Schools, except the students stay in co-ed dorms on one campus, instead of in local homes.

    I kid, I kid, the dorms weren’t actually co-eds. Thankfully we were spared from that.

    More please, this is pretty good

  2. 2 Tim 2:15 says:

    I went to one of them in Iowa back in March. I went as an observer (so I was not bound by the rules at the conference). I spent 2 nights at someone’s house and the father of the home took everyone’s cell phones each night before we all went to bed and would give it back to us the next day. He even asked me to surrender my iPod. Guess this is an example of how they do not trust young people including folks in their mid to late 20s.

    • princeasbel says:

      Wow, what a jerk. I can bet that was the first and last time you ever stayed at his house.

      • 2 Tim 2:15 says:

        Indeed. What’s interesting is that he was Baptist before embracing the doctrine of CCF and most likely moving to Iowa to blend in with the Amish in order to make sure that they were within a community that is similar to theirs. He married two of his older daughters to Baptist men (I can tell by the neckties they wear in their family picture) which most likely occurred before he converted to the CCF lifestyle.

  3. Anonymous says:

    My friend, you totally missed the point. You won’t get any more out of it than you put into it. If you would have gone with the right attitude, you would have a completely different picture. All I can say is, you had better enjoy your “happiness” and “freedom” now because some day we will all bow speechless before our God.

    • princeasbel says:

      If you would have gone with the right attitude, you would have a completely different picture.

      That’s superfluous. You might as well say that about any church or religious school in which you find error.

      All I can say is, you had better enjoy your “happiness” and “freedom” now because some day we will all bow speechless before our God.

      Yes, and I hope before then you realize how our God kept offering liberties and freedom to people like you and you slapped his hand away.

      • Anonymous says:

        For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:2

  4. anonymous says:

    You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. Gal. 5:13

  5. CharRG says:

    This really isn’t at all what Youth Bible school is like! I’ve been, my siblings have been and its way different then you described.

    • princeasbel says:

      No, it isn’t, CharRG. I have also been to YBS, so have my siblings, and one of them went to YBS this year. Things are exactly the way we describe them to be, and I’m afraid your bland assertion that these multiple witness accounts are wrong is hardly a refutation. You want to prove that YBS is different, then try proving it from their own sermons.

  6. noreligion says:

    I really love this. It’s all so true!! thanks for posting.

  7. In agreement. says:

    I think it’s funny. Most ppl are accurate in their comments. But so is the post. Your experience is greatly influenced on your family’s currant reputation with the church. If you are on your home church’s good side and they are affiliated with Charity you won’t have a problem. If you come from a nonmennonite background and are are pursuing God, you won’t have a problem. However If your family has made mistakes committed sins (we all mess up) and they are known. Rather then letting Love be the focal point. Fear that you’ll fail again causes control. If you have come from a conservative background and should “know better” you will probably be being talked to and watched the entire week. There’s got to be a balance. They have a glimpse of a good thing but take it too far. But not everyone’s journey is the same. “It’s not so important where you are but where you’re going.” The best way to survive at YBS is to ignore reality and live on a Spiritual High. I could never relax because I didn’t feel the unconditional love. I must not have jumped the right hoops. but I wasn’t ready when they said jump. May the Lord Be gracious to us all.

  8. kjworou says:

    I applaud the creativity and humor of the author. There are indeed elements of YBS’s that should have been different. I was at 5 of them. What concerns me more, however, is the growing attitude among my generation (mid 20s) that looks with shameless contempt on the Charity movement because of experiences they had in it. I’m tempted with this attitude myself, but I know that simply reacting to negative experiences is a sure way of landing in another bad ditch on the other side of the road. Friends, reaction will never produce good fruit. Only a heart fixed on the beauty and wonder of Jesus will.

    • Koala-chan says:

      I appreciate that comment, kjworou. I can see how some people would be angry with Charity, but I have friends in that church, and I guess they would be on the ‘good’ side… even though they are a bit less conservative than the church standards. But they really like Charity.

    • princeasbel says:

      Only a heart fixed on the beauty and wonder of Jesus will.

      Actually it’s the heart fixed on the beauty and wonder of Jesus that prompts contempt for YBS. When you see grown men sniveling because they’re scared of how afraid they are of things getting worse (whatever that may mean), and grown men yelling and screaming about how even one tiny sin can send you to hell because it all begins with a thought, a person who previously bought into such things and now truly understands God’s unlimited power and control and his unconditional grace can’t look upon such things with anything but contempt. I may feel sorry for the people who believe it or even the person who might be preaching it, but I hold such behavior and preaching behind the pulpit with utter contempt.

      That contempt ought not to concern you so much as the machine that generated their contempt in the first place. YBS needs to be permanently shut down and the Charity Ministries movement as a whole needs to disband and look to other more sound Christians for their spiritual guidance. They are not leaders. They need to do what they want their children to do, and get under someone else’s authority for the sake of their own souls and stop poisoning other peoples’ lives.

  9. jsprophoto says:

    “If you look for the good and bad in people expecting to find it, you surely will.”

    • Koala-chan says:

      Totally true.

      I came to Bible School partially because my best friend was coming for the second time, and she said I’d enjoy it. And also, I’d been going through some spiritual low points. I figured it would be a lot of fun, but I also thought that I wouldn’t find many nice people there, since they’d all be so conservative. I was so wrong, though, and I can’t say how much I loved YBS. The people were so great. I found a ton of really nice new friends. My host family (which was a friend of my friend) had two kids going along to Bible School, too, and we had a blast. The messages spoke to me so strongly… they encouraged me a LOT. And prayer group was amazing. Maybe it’s just that I’m so hungry for spiritual interaction, since my family doesn’t attend as members any church. But I just don’t understand where y’all are coming from, unless you’re just cynical and bitter towards all of Christianity.

      • princeasbel says:

        If you don’t know where we’re coming from, then you apparently haven’t even been reading. I think you drank the kool-aid, Koala-chan. Some people have left and do have a negative view of Christianity, but I am not one of them. I’ve always believed in God and I’ve been saved since I was around five years old. I continue to worship God to this day. I’m cynical and bitter towards a movement that deceived me as to his true character, and instead preached doctrine that enabled them to manipulate me, my parents, and thereby my entire family (and some of my friends) into becoming afraid of God, afraid of enjoying the gifts he has given us in our liberties, and attacking other people who weren’t afraid like we were or simply didn’t live the Charity lifestyle.

        YBS is a reform-school for people who don’t believe like you, Koala-chan. If you so much as fill out an application and answer honestly about your beliefs when they don’t conform to Charity’s doctrine, you can expect for your application to be denied and get a brow-beating from your parents. Happens all the time. An all-out refusal to go in the first place gets you the same treatment. Perhaps specific doctrine doesn’t concern you or you just like to avoid conflict. That’s what I’m hearing when I read your comments, hence my kool-aid remarks. You might have found YBS to be an awesome experience- but you’re not concerned about the same things other people are. You’re more content to let bad things slide than to resist them and correct them.

  10. michael miller says:

    Now this is funny. I’ve never been there but it sounds accurate from what I’ve heard. Good times! Haha

  11. ShannaP says:

    I’ve been 5 times. Unlike most of you from my understanding who where raised this way, or something like it. I was not. Unlike most of you I begged to go. Begged to be allowed the chance. Saved money all summer so I could afford to fly out and pay to go. I have been shown more love and compassion in the five weeks I’ve spent among the charity churches then in my life. When I attended I answered ALL the questions honestly. I told them I wear pants and that I don’t always cover my hair and that I watch R movies and listen to country music. None of these things was EVER brought up to me! They simply loved me anyway. An while the prayer rooms may be a bit chilly its not like your freezing to death I say this coming from someone who is ALWAYS cold. I have to wonder where your hearts are in all this? Does mocking people who do there VERY BEST to fallow God make you feel better in some way? I honestly don’t get it. I mean even if you don’t agree that’s OK you don’t have to! That is for you and God to figure out. But do you really have to bash on people like this? I find it painful that people like you throw away gifts like this from God. An people like me wish they had been born in a plan family. I enjoy serving the tables and cleaning the dishes. Jesus actually said in the bible that if we bring a glass of water to someone it will be reworded. :D Even a glass of water! I cant tell you how happy that makes me to fill 200 cups knowing that God sees each one. I also get sick alot I catch something roughly every month that usually knocks me out cold. An I have only gotten sick at YBS once. to wrap this up. I would like to beg you to stop this slamming of people I love an care about. I don’t know where you all are in your lives or Christians walks. Ill be honest with you I am coming back form a time where I completely turned my back on God. So please don’t take this as a hollyer then tho thing, because trust me IM NOT!!! But this is painful and I do love this people dearly. You don’t have to agree, just don’t bash on them like this… and PS im by no means saying they have every little fact or rule right just that they do there best! We are all human the charity churches are no different.

  12. J H D says:

    I’ve been to Bible school 7 times, and have never had a negative experience remotely resembling what was described above. Bible School was always a time of soul searching, fellowship, and growing closer to Christ. It was for the most part, a very positive, blessed experience, so I really can’t at all relate to what Matt described.
    Unfortunately it’s quite evident that we have some serious attitude problems here. The whole document is seemingly written on a negative note. He makes mountains out of molehills, and strains at knats and swallows camels! Not only that, but the description is quite derogatory, disrespectful, disdainful, and a place or two, downright ugly. (eg, He wrote speaking of mealtimes,)
    “They might be seated across from each other at long rectangular tables, but never next to each other. God knows that kind of evil might occur if Abner Miller and Hepsiba* Amschtuz brushed hands while reaching for the same water pitcher**” “**If you’re having trouble imaging what might happen, it’s fornication. Fornication would happen.”
    The way that mealtime scene is depicted is supremely disrespectful and filthy. A true Christian, filled with the spirit of Christ should be connected closely enough to HIM that disgusting, and evil thoughts, ideas, and notions like that would not be allowed a place in their heart or mind. Much less in their vocabulary.
    I just pray our friend Matt can find true peace, forgiveness, and healing, in his heart through Christ Jesus, so he can get on the path of encouragement, and edification instead of bitterness, and tearing down of others.
    Before we close, let us examine the writeup by scripture, and see if it lines up:
    Philippians 4:8 says, “Whatsoever things are true, (he might say it’s true according to his distortions of it) Whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just,
    Well, Let’s read one of his excerpts here and see it it’s just, “Every morning you get to listen to Brother Pontificus talk about the evils of Social Media. You remember Brother Pontificus from last year. He has a wagging grey beard, likes to pound the pulpit with his gnarled fist, and spittle starts to fly when he really gets going. Oh, you also remember another annoying fact. Although the head principal constantly reminds students to return ON TIME from breaks, and even suggests going to the restroom so much during sermons, pastors are freely allowed to run over their time limit. This frequently reduces breaks from the already paltry 10-15 minutes to 5. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to relieve your bladder. Lucky you!”
    From the 7 years that I attended, there were only a few times where they ran over the time, it wasn’t “frequently” like he described. So being just, Hardly!
    but let’s keep going…
    “whatsoever things are pure”, (that table scene he concocted is anything but pure) “whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report” (the writeup comes up far short on those last two) “If there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things.”
    I think the bible it’s self has clearly judged on the matter of this article, and this whole site for that matter. Honestly, I fear for our friend Matt on the judgment day. Holding all these grudges and attitudes. His bitterness is eating him up, and the root thereof is defiling many more.
    Jesus said, if we don’t forgive, God won’t forgive us. I’ve been in great need of forgiveness, and still am many times. That means if I want forgiveness from God, I must likewise forgive others….
    I love you Matt, and want to see you in heaven some day. I pray you can find the true peace, and forgiveness through Jesus Christ, who alone can give it!

    • Hans Gygax says:

      I agree. Like this website, this series of articles is blatantly anti-Christ. Look no further than the article mocking gender roles of male and female, using the world’s term “sexist”. This is filled with anti-Christ rhetoric that only enemies of Christianity use.

  13. Pingback: Ephrata Youth Bible School: The Experience Recounted (Part 2.5) | Charity Ministries Insider

  14. Pingback: Ephrata Youth Bible School: The Experience Recounted | Charity Ministries Insider

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