In 2011 I had this overwhelming sense of purposelessness. I was in my second year of TAFE. I was given an assignment and I thought, “Another assignment? What’s the point?” I was depressed and lonely because of these thoughts. My mother would ask me, “What’s wrong?” and I would say nothing.
An old friend told me I should read the Bible. I put it off, even though I was raised Catholic. I had never been devoted to Catholicism, I just... went to church on the special days. We never read the Bible. However, I bought an NLT version and started reading. I was always fascinated by prophecies, and so became obsessed with the May 2011 conspiracy about the end of the world. Obviously it didn’t end, but I wanted to know what happened to the guy who prophesied this. I came across a video [from a cult called the British Israelites] a few days later explaining why May 21 was not the end of the world. He explained many things, and I was captivated… I thought I could learn a lot, so I watched their videos and ordered their resources. You can imagine me, obsessed with prophecies and vulnerable in the faith.
"I was meant to go through a cult experience"
Part of their teaching was that Jesus did not do away with the seven festivals we are commanded to celebrate in the Old Testament. The cult said we shouldn’t celebrate Christmas or birthdays, and was strict on Sabbath keeping. Saturday is the day you are not to do any work, no matter what. During this time, my family cleaned my grandparents’ house every Saturday, and when I joined this cult I stopped contributing to cleaning.
I tried to share these beliefs with my family. I ordered so much material and sent them to my extended family, but that didn’t work out. Fights with my family were evidence I was doing the right thing, because the cult would say Jesus himself said they will persecute you. That made me feel like I was in the only true church. My family thought I was brainwashed, which made me more lonely and depressed.
I contacted the pastor of this cult in Australia [and asked], “If I fail in this life, will I be given a second chance?” He said, “No. You’ll be sentenced to the lake of fire.” This scared me. I wanted my family to be saved but they thought I was brainwashed. It started off positive, having a purpose, but now I thought, if I leave, I’m damned; if I stay, I’m alone. I stopped praying... because they said God doesn’t listen to the prayers of sinners, therefore all my prayers were meaningless because I was still a sinner.
After two years, the head pastor released a prophecy that all their splinter churches would either reunite or die. I was incredibly excited about this because if it didn’t happen, it was my chance to leave. Deuteronomy 18:21-22 says if a prophecy does not come to pass, that prophet is not from the Lord. And I held onto that. When the time came, the pastor made an excuse for why it didn’t happen, and I tore up all the literature. I got a steel bucket, doused the literature in petrol and lit it on fire.
I closed the Bible and did not want to ever affiliate myself with this book again. I poured myself into work, travelled, got into self help and improvement, motivational speakers. I had a new perspective on life, but after a few years those existential questions still came up. I still wondered what the point was when we were all going to die. I [looked for] something to help people who had gone through cult experiences, and found a support group of strangers who had very similar experiences.
"I find a fulfilled purpose in Jesus"
The group leader gave me a book with a new perspective on understanding what it means for God to love. Even though we don’t deserve that love, it’s there for us and it changes us… because it’s such a beautiful gift. The book made me cry like crazy because it gave me a new hope. It helped me de-program what I had learned from the cult.
I wanted somewhere to fellowship, but I didn’t know who to trust. [The support group leader] recommended a church that ended up being in my suburb! I started studying the Bible but was still thinking, “Jesus died on the cross but what does that mean?” I got home from work one day, and my Bible was open. My mum had dropped it while cleaning, and left it open on my desk. It was at Luke 24, when Jesus was on the road to Emmaus… he said I’m written throughout the entire Old Testament, everything was pointing to when God himself would come in the flesh to demonstrate his love. That just blew my mind.
I have a massive church family that I never thought I would have. I have Christian brothers and sisters, and my social support group has enlarged on a scale I never thought possible. My family were happy when I left the cult. The relationship I have with my mother is so full of love and closeness and laughter, it’s really improved.
And I have an assured hope because of Jesus. He died for my sins. Life is not about getting the best career. Things in life are here one day, gone the next. I find a fulfilled purpose in what Jesus offers in Matthew 28 when he gives the Great Commission. Everything else fades away, but that will last forever.
"This will last forever"
I would say I was meant to go through that cult experience. It has made me not just blindly accept what the leader of a church says to be true. Grow in knowledge and understanding and find out for yourself if it’s true.