Out of all my history, all of the things that have happened to me, this has been the hardest one to write about. I have started this post so many times over the years, but today, I think I am finally ready to write it. And I am going to use his name, because he keeps hurting people, and getting away with it. People I know and respected, have given him a platform, as reccently as this last Summer. I moved away, and he is still affecting me…coming into town, holding meetings in my town. Supported, hosted, again, by people whom I trusted. I have tried every avenue open to me, at least for where I have had proof, even the media… but to no avail. This is an avenue where I can speak, and perhaps, it will make a difference. I can only hope that people will listen.
I grew up in a small town in Northern BC. I attended a Full Gospel Church with my family, but at age 11, I started attending a weekly meeting at the local Pentacostal Church. It was called Renewal Night. It was inspired by the Toronto Blessing, and I was invited there by a man named Art Lucier. I was the youngest one, and he treated me somewhat like a wonderkid. He paraded me around at various other church meetings, calling me the “most spiritual kid he had ever seen.” I moved in the spirit, gave prophetic words, lay on the ground moaning and interceding for my classmates. I danced wildly with flags and ribbons. He heaped praise and attention on me, and as ashamed as it makes me now…I lapped it up.
There was only thing I wanted though, and that was a friend my age, who understood me. I was very lonely at my local public school, where I was seen as a bit of an oddball, and was bullied by a few of the other kids. I shared my heart with Art about it, asking if he could pray with me that God would send me a friend. He brushed it off, telling me that God was probably holding back from giving me a friend, so that I wouldn’t forget about Him. Because, didn’t I know that God was a jealous God? I listened, because I wanted the adults in my life to be happy with me. I did manage to find a few froends, but I still felt “different” and alone…misunderstood by everyone, except Art and his small band of “Charismatics.”
When I was thirteen, my family moved to Port Coquitlam, and shortly after, I began attending a large local youth group. I found friends there, and while life was not all roses, I finally had the Christian friends I was looking for. Eventually, I felt a desperation to leave home. As I have written before, I was struggling with self injury, and a feeling of never being able to measure up. I thought that perhaps, I could find belonging and love with Art, and his new church. I called him up.
He said he was so excited to hear from me. He had started his own church, and purchased the old movie theatre to hold services and outreach to the town. I told him about the cutting, and he said “Don’t worry…we will love you through it.”
I discovered that my arrival had been preceeded by an announcement at church. Art told everyone about how spiritual I was, and how it was God who brought me back to help bring about His move in our small town.
I had not come back to be a move of God. I had come to heal.
At first, everyone love bombed me. I was invited to join the drama team, brought along to all the church events. I fell in love with the kids, who followed me everywhere. I never tired of dancing and playing with them, and I could never go anywhere without at least one of them hanging on to me. Several times they fell asleep on my lap during long meetings or traveling home on the Harvest bus from trips.
The honeymoon was not to last, however. I started to question alot of the doctrine being taught. Art believed in Joel’s Army, and taught that Harvest Church was at the centre of that prophecy. There were alot of “signs, wonders and miricles”…in fact, if a night went by without someone falling over, writhing on the floor in convulsions, or loudly calling out prophecies or tongues, then God had not moved that night, and someone was “hindering the spirit” by being “in the flesh.” Alot of things happened, here are just some of them:
One night, I sprained my ankle by dancing on an uneven part if the floor, jumping up and then coming down the wrong way. As I was hobbling out of the service, one of the congregation’s well revered prophets asked what happened. When I told him, he snorted that I “must have been dancing in the flesh.” I would not have hurt myself, he said, if I had been dancing in the right spirit, for the right reasons. God would have protected me.
One of the female elders invited me over for tea. I thought nothing of it at first, I thought she just wanted to get to know me. It turned out, she didn’t like that I had been crying while praying during the services, or that some of the women had come over to pray for me. She told me that I was being used by the devil as a distraction, and that if I was truly following the flow of the spirit, I would be responding the same way as them. She was not interested in what my hurts were, she told me I just needed to get over it.
At one point, I needed to move in with a roomate, so I moved in with a girl from Harvest. She considered Art and some of the other men her dads. She reported back to Art anytime I did or said something that she didn’t like. She told me I needed to stop talking to my other friends from the lower mainland, as I wasn’t supposed to miss them. They didn’t matter, they didn’t understand us. I started going to another local pastor for counseling about the cutting…she told me that was being unfaithful to the church, I needed to be undivided in my loyalties. At one particularly heated point, she told me that if it weren’t for God stopping her, “she would have slit my throat in my sleep by now.” My friends got concerned by the isolation tactics and threats being uttered, and reached out to Art to intervene. Art ignored all of them, seemingly agreeing with the girl’s assessment of the situation that I just needed to tap into their church more.
Art and at least one other man in the church kissed several of the young girls on the mouth on multiple occasions, me included. As far as I know, nothing more inappropriate happened, but his discernment as a leader was definately lacking. I admit that I willing participated, and didn’t tell anyone for a very long time because of it. Many of those same girls called him Dad, but I did not. I think, however, I just desperately wanted to be liked, and to fit in. In many ways, it felt like high school, where the most popular people followed Art’s every word, and were “moving in the prophetic” the most. Somehow, though, I felt way more pressure to be included at Harvest, than I ever did in high school. Perhaps it was because they preached constantly that they were an army, and their true soldiers didn’t break rank, or they would be left behind to die.
It got to the point, where I felt as if I couldn’t breathe in the worship services. Several times, I ran out, feeling I would be suffocated if I didn’t. I had nightmares where I felt like something was on top of me, trying to force me to hurt myself. I started to wonder, if this was really God, why would I feel so depressed, so suicidal? At one point, Art saw me cross refrencing verses with a quizical look on my face about Joel’s Army and its place in the Bible. (Joel Chapter Two, where the Lord compares a plague of locusts to a mighty army. It was pretty clearly a metaphor, not this prophetic army I kept hearing would “rise up” in the last days…unless, of course, he meant that we were to go out and punish eberyone who didn’t follow us. That was not a narritive that fit my understanding of a just and loving God.) He marched up to me with a bunch of male elders following behind him, and asked me “what big revelation I got” while flipping through my Bible during the service. I was intimidated, so I started to stammer out a response. He leaned in and said, “You know what I see? I see a spirit of confusion, and a divisive spirit. The devil is trying to split this church through you…you need to repent.” Up until that point, I had never said anything to anyone else in the church about my concerns.
When I had a meeting with Art later about my concerns with his teachings, and the struggles I was having with their actions and beliefs spiritually, he told me that I couldn’t hear from God, because I had “rotten fruit” (here he gestured to my arm, with fresh cuts on it.) When I told him at the end of the conversation that I was sorry, but I needed to leave…he told me,
“If you walk away from me, you are walking out from under your head. You will be uncovered, and unprotected.”
I stopped. I turned around and said, “You aren’t my head. God is my head, He is my covering, and there is no way I am leaving Him. I could no sooner walk away from him than I could stop breathing.”
Some time after leaving town, someone sent me a video of two shirtless boys, being shot in the back by airsoft rifles until their backs were pockmarked and bloodied. Art, when confronted, threw these boys under the bus, saying it was all their idea, that it was just a stupid dare, he didn’t do the shooting, and he “just monitered them, for safety reasons.” He apparently “stopped them from going too far.” However, he was standing there, holding the airsoft rifle, saying what kind of rifle it was and the details of what it shoots. He filmed the one boy saying they were “taking up their suffereings for Christ.” So they would be shot 39 times, for Christ’s 39 lashes.
The film was on Vimeo for a very long time, before it went public again this last Summer, and was subsiquently taken down. The one boy made a video apologizing and saying it was all his fault…never mind that he was an underage child at the time! To make matters worse, apparently police were given the video footage, and nothing was done.
On several occassions, I have heard sermons from Art, accusing abuse victims of lying when it does not suit his fancy. He once preached a sermon directly refrencing a young woman who had come forward about her abuse at the hands of a prominent pastor. He said that the people calling for the pastor to step down, were just like Noah’s son, uncovering his father’s nakedness, and they would be punished/cursed. Also, this offending pastor was like the woman accused of adultery in the Bible, and those calling for him to be removed from ministry so as not to harm others, were like the pharisees, throwing stones. On his facebook reccently, he called the girl who accused Roy Moore of abuse a liar.
I am tired of being told to have grace, and pray for my abuser. I find myself sitting here, asking, “How long, Lord?” How long will he be allowed to continue hurting people, how long will he allow things to go unchecked? He has had many, many pastors and leaders speak to him, but he refuses to listen to any who do not suit his fancy. He continues to call people out, off and on facebook, and warn them of God’s judgement that will befall them. He has said that God is using natural disasters to punish gay people, and the Christoans who are their allies. So many people just nod and smile. He is very charasmatic, and as someone who fell for his charm, I understand it. But I cannot remain silent anymore. I am not the only one this has happened to, many have left, and been dispareged and threatened. I know still more people who attend Harvest, or promote him, and are good, decent, lovely people. I can only hope and pray that God opens their eyes.
Art once declared that God brought me to his church for a reason once…well, perhaps it was so that I could warn others.