In the 1980s I worked for a ministry that focused on counseling people out of the cults and the occult by helping to establish or re-establish them in biblical truths. Stories of hope in the midst of great odds remain with me from that time. This is one of them, though not about a family we served. I wanted to close my contribution to the radio program on which I was a guest the other night (see below) with this story because it is so encouraging, but we ran out of time.
This story is fresh on my mind lately particularly because I am contending in prayer for a young friend caught up in one of today’s cults, a facet of the emergent church phenomenon. I told him this story the last time I saw him before he left his job, rented out his house, and headed with his young family to his group’s headquarters. I told him I was going to be like the praying mother featured here, and that I wouldn’t give up on him. Perhaps you know someone in a similar situation. If so, I hope this story inspires you, too.
(Fictional elements have been employed to protect privacy.)
A MOTHER’S NIGHTMARE
She hadn’t seen her grown son “John” for awhile, and when he finally came home for a visit he seemed to talk non-stop about religion. Only it wasn’t the faith he’d grown up in or one that she recognized. She was afraid that maybe he had joined one of the new cults: the Moonies, The Way International, or one of the “hippie” groups with their Eastern beliefs. Whatever it was, John talked non-stop about his new friends, his new beliefs, and how he was sure this group showed the way to all truth.
Dinner table discussions during John’s brief stay were frustrating arguments. He insisted the family was entirely wrong about God and the Bible and that there were other spiritual leaders and sacred texts. It was a new age with new revelations. No amount of reason or persuasion seemed to change his mind. He refused to talk to a church leader about the issue and finally left with no indication he would return. Ever. His mother was heartbroken.
A MOTHER’S DETERMINATION
But never one to give up on her children no matter how far afield they went, she made a list of the names and beliefs he’d mentioned and began her investigation. She eventually discovered the whereabouts of the group’s headquarters—in another country. She also found out that was where her son headed when he left home.
She packed her bags and boarded a plane. She was determined to fight for John no matter the cost, for from what she learned about the cult it was one of the more dangerous. People who joined it soon cut off all ties with their families and friends and donated all their possessions to the group. If they came out of it—or escaped—they usually needed extensive counseling to overcome brainwashing and other mechanisms used control them, especially if they were involved for a long time. She was very afraid for John.
When she arrived at the doorstep of HQ, however, she was refused when she demanded entrance to see her son. “He’s not here,” she was told, and “don’t try to contact him.” Discussion ended. Door slammed. Hopes dashed. She could do nothing else but return home.
A MOTHER’S PRAYERS
Back home, she solicited the prayers of her friends and got down on her own knees. Every day. For weeks. For months. One night about 3 a.m., she got a long distance call.
“You must let your son go!” the voice on the other end of the line demanded. “He is ours but you must let him go.”
She sat bolt upright. “No!” she shouted. “I’ll NEVER let my son go!” The caller hung up.
She realized the message between the lines: if they claimed they “owned” John but had to call her long distance to “let him go,” THEY DIDN’T REALLY “HAVE” HIM! She also understood, as never before, the power of prayer.
She called her prayer supporters again and re-doubled her own efforts. She continued to learn everything she could about the cult and sought out people who could tell her what John would need when he got out—so that she could prepare.
Not long afterward, her prayers and hopes were realized: he did come home. A difficult season of readjusting to normal life and coming fully out from under the influence of the cult ensued, but it was also a season of great joy and thanksgiving. He who was lost was found. She who persevered in prayer was rewarded.
John got on with his life. His mother no doubt continued to pray for him and for her other children in a world populated with so many false teachings. And she likely continues to praise God today, wherever she is, for His extraordinary faithfulness.
Those touched by this story back then remember today the power of prayer so well illustrated. And I pray that you, too, reader, will realize hope afresh or hope anew in the power of prayer in your own situation, should it be similar. Don’t give up. I know I won’t!
“And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us” (1 John 5:14, KJV).