In part one, of our five part series we learned how our correspondent from New Jersey was recruited into the World Mission Society Church of God. Now, read part two below to learn how her time commitment and involvement was slowly encouraged to increase…
After being a member for about two weeks, I invited my boyfriend of about one year to come to the church for a Bible study. Things were rocky between us at the time and I thought that going to church together and learning more about God might help. He seemed a little reluctant at first, but he agreed. I was allowed to be present during my boyfriend’s first study with a WMSCOG Deacon. He also opted to be baptized immediately after his first study about the Sabbath.
Soon after we began attending Tuesday and Saturday services and occasionally visiting during the week for a study. After all, we had a list of about twelve basic studies to complete. We would study separately from now on. I noticed that married couples and families did not study together unless there was a longer study being offered on a Sunday afternoon. Even during these 6 hour long studies, women and men sat separately. I remember finding it strange that women and men were seated on opposite sides of the sanctuary during worship times as well. I was told that the seating arrangement was to prevent gossip, distractions, and men looking at women with a romantic interest or vice versa. One of the members said, “this way we only focus on God”. It didn’t take long for the seating arrangement to seem normal. During one of the services I attended, I remember the pastor mentioning how outsiders find this seating arrangement weird. Then he shouted “but brothers and sisters, we don’t find Zion customs weird right?” This was followed by everyone shouting “Amen!”
For about two months we only attended one of the three services held on Saturdays. I remember being surprised to find out that most members spent their entire Saturday, from about 9 am to 10 pm, in the church attending services and in between, studying the Bible, watching videos (usually about Zhang Gil Jah or disasters), or reading books written by Ahnsahnghong and others. I remember asking someone there why it was necessary to spend all of Saturday in the church. The “older sister” replied that “God commanded the Sabbath day not the Sabbath hour or one Sabbath service”. This topic would be touched upon during services as well. I remember one of the missionaries mentioning that members of strong faith don’t question the amount of time you are supposed to spend in the church on the Sabbath. I started to view these subliminal messages during services as ways to suggest feelings of guilt among members. I decided to keep my concerns about this to myself. It didn’t take long for the pressure to build, so we started attending two services on Saturdays.
Shortly after, I began receiving text messages on Fridays or Saturdays from the “older sister” assigned to watch over me, asking what time I would be there for service. My boyfriend would receive the same from one of the “older brothers” assigned to watch over his progress. This “buddy system” that I observed seemed increasingly odd as the frequency of the text messages increased to every day. I remember being at work and getting a text message that read something like “GBU sister, when do you think you will be coming to Zion to continue your Bible studies?” Again, I felt that this was more pressure to spend more time in the church.
Two months into my membership at the WMSCOG, my boyfriend did something that really hurt our relationship. I went to the pastor for guidance on the situation and he advised my boyfriend and I that it was not good to be together and that we should be with other people. He suggested that if we loved one another and wanted to be together, then we should get married. Despite how heartbroken I was, I forgave my boyfriend. Four months later we were engaged. Four weeks after that, we bought a foreclosed home that required a lot of construction. So between work, the construction, and planning the wedding that would take place four months later, we really didn’t have much free time. My now fiancé also worked part time a few nights per week. We were both completely overwhelmed but we continued to spend as much time in the church as possible.
After a while, Saturdays were not enough. We were pressured to return on Sundays too. The WMSCOG holds what they call a “preaching assembly” on Sunday mornings followed by recruiting for the rest of the afternoon. When members return, they typically spend more time in the church studying. Those members that were not experienced enough to go out recruiting would attend an approximately 6 hour long group study. There were also times when members would gather on Sunday evenings to watch movies that were determined by the WMSCOG to have some “spiritual” content.
And then there were the feasts during which members were required to attend services at 5 am and then again at 7:30 pm for sometimes 10 days at a time. I tried the 5 am services but it was nearly impossible for me considering that I normally went to bed around 2 am. So I would attend the 7:30pm services despite being exhausted after a long day at work.
During the first year of my membership at the WMSCOG, my family was quite concerned with the amount of time that I was spending at the church. I tried numerous times to get my family to join the church with me to no avail. I was initially disturbed by their resistance because I really believed in the WMSCOG’s claim that one could not be saved without their many requirements (Sabbath, Passover, other feasts, etc.). I was told by my “older sisters” not to worry and that God will make them come if I provide a good example for them to follow. I soon found myself feeling pressured to choose between the WMSCOG and my family. I remember telling my sister that I could not attend my nephew’s birthday party because it was on a Saturday. I dropped off a gift and went on my way to the church for the rest of the day. I regret this now. But this would only be the beginning of conflicts with my family due to my involvement with the WMSCOG.
The creeping time commitment is a big concern we hear from others who have loved ones in the WMSCOG. In part 3, we’ll learn of the astonishing Biblical contradiction and the surrounding events that led to our correspondent’s dramatic exit.