Monday, November 30, 2015

RU: Labor Exploitation for Jesus - Part Nine

I think I can get through the rest of the handbook in two posts.  Today's theme: clothing and cleanliness.  You may be confused - didn't we cover clothing requirements before?  Yes, in Part Six

My thoughts:

  • The quotes from 1 Peter: " for it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” and " But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people,[a] in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
  • Quote from 2 Corinthians: "15 What agreement does Christ have with Beliar? Or what does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we[a] are the temple of the living God; as God said,
    “I will live in them and walk among them,
        and I will be their God,
        and they shall be my people.
    17 Therefore come out from them,
        and be separate from them, says the Lord,
    and touch nothing unclean;
        then I will welcome you,
  • I have no clue how any of these verses apply to wearing a belt and keeping shirts tucked in.
  • No V-necked tee-shirts, huh.  Must be the sign of the devil.
  • Another way to save on costs: make the patients do the cooking.  This practice is illegal in the way that RU Ministries does it.
From Illinois Legal Aid:
"Working for the Facility
The facility cannot force you to perform work for the facility, except that you may be required to perform your own housekeeping chores.
Example: The facility can have rules requiring you to sweep and dust your room, but the facility cannot require you to cut the grass or sweep the hallways.
If you agree to perform work for the facility, you are entitled to be paid a fair amount for your services, in accordance with federal and state wage laws."
  •  I strongly doubt the legality of being paid by the facility and then having the facility take that money directly as payment for treatment. Doubly so since RU has no set "total cost" that a patient needs to cover during their stay; RU just takes all of your wages earned during your treatment period.
My thoughts:
  • So far, all I know to pack as a woman is 3 dresses or 3 skirt/blouse combinations, a black sweater, shoes and hosiery.  How do I know what to bring?  I suspect there are rules about how much skin can be showing - but if you don't tell me ahead of time, how can I plan accordingly?
  • How does this fit in with one of the "volunteer jobs" available for RU women - working in the shipping department of RU?  I stumbled upon this gem while looking up the tax status of RU.
    Screen Capture from 11/2016.  Underlining adding by Mel for emphasis.

    My two cents:

  • Mark 5:15 tells me what I to know about how RU views their patients.  "They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion; and they were afraid."  Yes, patients need to dress nicely because like the demonically possessed man in the Gospel, you can scare your neighbors into believing in Jesus if you wear a nice shirt and hair cut above the ears while dealing with addictions.  
  • John 11:39 tells me what I need to know about how RU views their patients. "Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.”  Fuckers.

My thoughts:
  • The main bullets are SOP in most institutions to prevent chaos.
  • The random search and seizure of items in rooms is completely legal.  I don't know about searches of persons - that's not covered in the legal documents I've found online.
  • We covered above how unpaid chores outside of keeping your room clean is illegal in Illinois.
  • To my way of thinking, the Bible verse from 1 Corinthians is a scathing indictment of RU:
    • 1 Corinthians 4:2 "Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy."
  • To my way of thinking, the Bible verses from Matthew are a scathing indictment of how RU sees their patients:
    • Matthew 25:21 " His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’"
    • Matthew 25:29 " For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away."

Sunday, November 29, 2015

RU: Labor Exploitation for Jesus - Part Eight

We're into page 7 of 10 in the RU: Schools of Disciples Handbook.  Today's theme: conduct, conduct and more conduct - and the Bible verses that don't really support them.

First up: how to behave during educational components.

My thoughts:
  • How many Bibles do the students need?  Is this a way of adding that Bible Concordance to the list of needed materials?  How long do you need to do that journal a day?
  • I have a mental image of staff members running surprise checks of patients to see if they are carrying their "Daily Meditation Cards" during dinner or at work.
  • How much Bible work is required on top of the work from the "Phases"?
  • How far do you need to progress in the "Program" each week?
  • The last two bullet points are weird for any program - and creepy for adults.  During my time in Pine Rest, I gave and received support from people of both genders. Often, people in similar life situations - unmarried young adults, married adults, older adults who had lost a spouse - shared good times with each other.  Also, how does this work out practically on a job site?

My thoughts:

  • 2 Corinthians 5:12 " We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart." I have no idea how that has anything to do with riding in a van to a job site.
  • 1 Corinthians 14:40 "But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way." Sounds better - but the chapter is about how to conduct yourself in church so perhaps it should be moved to the previous chunk.
  •  All of my math for the scheduling bit is a bit off now since a full 30 minutes is wasted at the beginning and end of all programs and services.
  • Does keeping all conversations "Christ-like" mean that you have to use the aphorism "Amen, Amen I say to you....." at a certain frequency?  Or that all convos will be in ancient Aramaic? I missed the obvious one: It's all about carpentry.
 My thoughts:

  • Sweet!  I call turning over tables and yelling at people when they do something I don't like after Mark 11:15-16. Go Jesus-style or go home!
  • Notice that most of the outlawed verbal behaviors - e.g. griping, negative criticism, complaining, faultfinding and sowing discord - create problems for the staff, not the patients.
  • Good luck trying to contain gossiping in a place with 50 men or 80 women and 3 full-time staff.
  • In real therapeutic settings, you talk about "old habits or lifestyles" - e.g. your addictions - to help clearly see how they were hurting you and the people in your life.  By talking with others, you gain understanding of what triggers your behaviors and other bad consequences that can befall you if you continue in your current path.  Now, glorifying the old habits and lifestyles is a bad idea - but in a therapeutic setting either the therapist or fellow patients will call you out on that.
  • Who is scrutinizing the relationships to determine their relevance?  The correct answer is the patient with support of a therapist - not a blanket prohibition on anyone that is not your spouse or a blood relative.  Two of the people who were most helpful to me when I was recovering from depression were two family friends who had experienced depression themselves and reached out to help me recover.
  • I worry that there is no timeline for dealing with complaints addressed by the patients.  I'm sure this surprises no one, but there is also no appeals process or outside oversight - but we'll cover that more when we get to the Complaint Process.
My final thought for today: The priorities of a group become clear in their writings.  Helping patients recover takes low priority for RU compared to crowd and cost control measures.

Friday, November 27, 2015

RU: Labor Exploitation for Jesus: Part Seven

We've made it to page 6 of 10 in the Handbook for RU: School of Discipleship.

The next section covers "Care Packages".  Since RU doesn't provide any clothing, bedding or personal hygiene materials for the six months the students are in the program, a more honest term would be "Resupply Packages".
The first thing I noticed when reading about the care packages is the presence of a "Bible Concordance" and "Personal Reading Lamps".   The reading lamps should be included in the room since the daily schedule includes most of the hours of study during times when there is no sunlight in Illinois.  I've never used a Concordance and sincerely hope that the RU recovery program doesn't require using one.  If it does, that's another $20-30 dollars per patient that RU is foisting off onto the patients.

The second thing I thought about is how heavy these packages could end up.  About half the items are liquid-based and weight ~ 1 pound each.  

For people who live in warmer climates - like Arkansas - they will likely need to purchase heavier gloves, scarves, HATS (don't know why that's missing, but you want a hat on a cold day) and possibly a heavy-duty winter coat if the job the person is working at is based outdoors.  I plan to spend between $80-110 dollars on a work coat that I use on the farm - hooded, water-repellant outer shell, insulated inner shell, cuffed sleeves, and zipper with snapped placket on the outside - that lasts me 2-3 years if I wear it as my "good" coat for nonfarm times during the first season, then use it for farm work in following years.  My husband's coats last 1 season maximum of full-time farm work.  For patients who have no income for 6 months, that's a large outlay of cash that may be required if you are in the program from late October through the end of March.

It looks like patients also have to provide their own medication throughout the program.  That would cause problems for me.  There is no way my doctor would let me disappear off the radar for 6 months while still getting refills on my SSRI's.

Notice that patients aren't allowed to have access to any forms of legal tender or Walmart gift cards.  That's patently illegal in Illinois. From Illinois Legal Aid:

"Handling Your Own Money
The facility must let you use your own money as you choose. You have the right to deposit your money in a bank. Some institutions will maintain accounts for residents. If you deposit your money in an account with the institution, you are entitled to any interest earned. You are entitled to the return of all of your money when you are discharged from the facility."

The next section of the handbook covers visits during the program.  I'll start by saying that the entire visitation section is illegal under Illinois law because limitation of communication access can only be done to protect patient safety or health.  You can't remove visitation rights as a punishment or use visitation rights as a bonus for going along with the program.

Note: The weird sentence "A signed variance form from the Dean or must be on file." is word-for-word from the original since the section is a screenshot of the handbook.
So, the actual visitation period isn't from 5pm on Friday since the patient is required to be present from 5:30-9:00pm at church services.  Likewise, the visitation actually ends around 6:00 pm on Sunday.  Let's assume visitation lasts from 8am-6pm on Saturday and from 12:30pm-6:00pm on Sunday.  That's a total of 10 hours on Saturday and 5.5 hours on Sunday for 15.5 hours of visitation time per trip.

Across three trips - which may be revoked at any time - that means patients get a total of 46.5 hours of visitation across six months.  That's about the same as a 2 hour visit per week.

 By comparison, at Pine Rest, we had a 1 or 2 hour visitation period each evening.  Plus, if you had a family member who couldn't come during the scheduled period due to work or childcare issues, the facility was more than willing to schedule a visit during other times of the day.

This program needs to be shut down or strongly rewritten.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

RU: Labor Exploitation For Jesus - Part Six

This next section of the handbook covers what people need to bring with them for their 6 month stay at the RU School of Discipleship.
The clothing section seems to imply that the men will be working on some kind of physically demanding labor crew along with some kind of white collar job while women will be working in some kind of white collar job.  Based on the schedule from earlier in the handbook, I also suspect that women are in charge of laundry duties because I can't figure out when anyone would have time to wash their clothes.

How RU saves money:
  • When I was at Pine Rest, I brought my own comfortable clothing, personal hygiene items, slippers and a book or two to read before I fell asleep.  Pine Rest, however, provided ALL of those things if you needed them.  You could also make local phone calls for free - and without monitoring.
  • Things that were provided by Pine Rest that RU makes the patients bring:
    • Towels
    • Alarm Clock
    • Bedding
    • Pre-paid phone cards
    • Office Supplies.
  • When I was in Pine Rest, I did ask for Pastoral Counseling.  One of the chaplains was an elderly retired priest who was a big supporter of psychology and psychiatry.  He asked me if I wanted a Bible.  I did and mentioned I liked the NRSV.  He gave me a copy of the NRSV Bible that I still have to this day.   The fact that the staff at RU makes people bring their own Bibles - and paper - makes me feel sad as well as angry that RU is passing off normal business costs onto the patients.
  • Why do you need two forms of ID?  All I've ever needed in medical situations are a single, picture ID and in emergencies you'll get treatment without it.  In fact, the only time I've ever needed two forms of ID was for a job..... hmm.  Fuckers.
1 Corinthians 6:19 is oddly fitting: " Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;" since you're turning over your whole life to RU.

Most of these prohibitions make sense.   A few don't.
  • I'd like to know who is in charge of deciding which medicines are authorized and which are not.  Does this person have advanced medical training?  Are they legally liable for any negative side-effects if someone goes off a medication at their behest?
  • What is the obsession with jewelry?  I doubt that a man who is addicted to meth is going to be cured by not wearing a necklace or removing an earring.   In a medical setting, jewelry is discouraged for reasons of personal safety or theft, but if you aren't suicidal, no one cares if you are wearing a necklace or three earrings in each ear.
RU's communications policy is in blatant violation of the rights of mental health patients in Illinois.
  • Patients may communicate freely with any persons they want without monitoring or interference of staff.
  • Patients must be given access to phones and writing materials if they cannot afford them on their own.
  • Communications can be restricted only to prevent "harm, harassment or intimidation".
Compare those rights with the program handbook:
Another way of looking at this: 
  • In Phase 1, you get a 6 ten minute monitored phone calls for a total of 60 minutes of outside contact to pre-approved people across six weeks.
  • In Phase 2, 12 ten minute phone calls for 120 minutes (2 hours) across six weeks.
  • In Phase 3, 18 ten minute phone calls for 180 minutes (3 hours) across six weeks.
  • In Phase 4, 24 ten minute phone calls for 240 minutes (4 hours) across six weeks.
You get to talk to your family for 10 hours across six months.

When I was in Puerto Rico for 16 days, I talked to my husband for close to 10 hours by just having 30 minutes of talk most days and a few longer talks when I had had a hard day.

I don't trust programs that limit contact to outside human beings.

Monday, November 23, 2015

RU: Labor Exploitation for Jesus - Part 5

We're working our way through the Handbook for RU ministries.

Page Four outlines the weekly schedule for inmates disciples.  Since these are people who are dealing with legitimate mental illnesses like alcohol and drug addiction or anorexia, medical treatment programs would include group therapy, individual therapy, classes to learn about coping mechanisms and plenty of time for rest.  The rest time is as important as the other parts because when someone's brain is injured, the brain's way of recovering is through sleep.

(This is something I've learned both from a very severe case of depression when I was 19 and a closed head injury I received a few weeks ago.  I've started to tell people that my main daily activity is sleeping followed by hard-core napping followed by short-bursts of mental work which leads to more napping.)

Here's the weekday schedule.
Things I've Noticed:

  1. The day starts very early and ends very late.  Assuming that you fall asleep immediately at lights out, men can get 6.5 hours of sleep per night during the week and women can get 7 hours of sleep per night during the week.
  2. Somewhere in all of the materials for this program the fact that disciples have chores is mentioned.  I'm assuming that's included in the first hour of the day compared to the normal 30 minute dinner period.
  3. I can find 3 hours of time to work on the "Phase" work - the cornerstone of the recovery bit - from 5:30-7:30 AM and 9-10PM for men and 6-8AM and 9-10PM for women.
  4. Men put in a 9 hour workday; women put in an 8.5 hour workday which says quite a bit about the priorities of the program.  Unless the men get a full hour lunch and the women get a half-hour lunch, these work periods move into overtime rules.
  5. You also get 3.5 hours of chapel, church services or something thrown together by the volunteers involved with the ministries a day.
  6. I'm guessing that using the 9-10pm slot to actually relax will end up either slowing your program down to a crawl or end in disciplinary measures taken against the person.
  7. I'm curious who provides lunch.

Here's the weekend schedule.  Men are on the left; women on the right

 Things I've noticed:

  1. On Saturday, men get a Bible class.  The program overview describes the Saturday morning class as
     "College level classes will be held every Saturday. These classes may include: Theology, financial management, health and nutrition, basic computer skills, auto mechanics, driver’s safety training and childcare. The college classes give students an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of God’s word, life skills, and Bible doctrine. The classes also prepare students for greater usefulness to their local church when they return home."
  2. On Saturday mornings, women clean the buildings.  Sexist much?  Actually, to bring the women up to 9 hours of work per day like the men, I'm guessing that the women are used as a local cleaning crew for either the ministry or businesses for at least 2.5 hours on Saturday after doing any grunt work needed around the campus.  Maybe it's the whole time.  RU sells a daft book for women called "Handing Her the Heritage of Holiness and Homemaking" so I can see how they could justify using the female patients as a cleaning crew.  This would also add to overtime pay.
  3. Saturday gives you 1 hour of time to work on the Phases.
  4. Is there really a monster chapel session from 5:30-sometime before 11pm?  That's overkill.
  5. Friday night into Saturday morning gives a decent 9 hours of sleep for men and 10 hours of sleep for women, plus eight more hours of sleep on Saturday night. God knows they would need it at this point.
  6. Looks like everyone get mandatory rest time on Sunday afternoon from after lunch to dinner.  That must be the time that the website talks about being able to enjoy their lovely campus because I can't find any other time on the schedule for it.
  7. Sunday does allow you 2 hours of work on the "Phases" program.

 Summary Per Week:

  • A maximum of 50.5 hours of sleep per week instead of 56 hours of sleep per week recommended for healthy adults.
  • 18 hours of work on the "Phases" Recovery Program.
  • 26.5 hours of chapel, services or other scheduled worship times (That could jump by 6.5 hours per week to 33 hours per week if you are male and the Saturday Morning Class is on a theological aspect.)
  • 45 hours a week of "paid" employment for men; 42.5 hours + "cleaning crew" of "paid" employment for women.  In case you haven't put it together, the money earned by patients goes right into RU's pocket to "offset expenses".
How much can RU earn from their patients a week?
For one person working 45 hours a week at $8.25 per hour - the minimum wage in Illinois - the person makes 371.25 before tax and ignoring overtime.  Let's say that's $300 per week.  That's $1,200 per month.

For 80 women and 50 men, that's 156,000 per month income.

The numbers start climbing if the women do secretarial work and the men do construction work - but we'll get to that later along with the unethical ways they keep their costs low.

RU's emphasis isn't on recovery; RU uses desperate, hurting people as an income stream. 

RU: Labor Exploitation for Jesus - Part Four

 We've covered why RU should be compared to inpatient treatment facilities, their spurious views on addictions and the lack of trained staff on site.

This information alone would be enough to send me running for the hills, but let's pretend for a minute that I'm still interested in going to RU Schools of Discipleship like Josh Duggar did.  They have a four part application process.    The first step is to read the handbook fully and until you completely understand it.

Page 1 is a cover page.

Page 2 is a standard welcome letter explaining that you have to read the handbook, fax the application packet and supporter packet, and someone will call you back.

Page 3:
The total program cost is $7,500 which is non-refundable.
The same page lays out the fact the program will take a minimum of 180 days because there are 4 phases each of which requires a minimum of 45 days.   Most inpatient drug rehabilitation centers cost between $18,000 - $35,000 per month.

 Six months at the low end of that range should cost $108,000 - so how is RU making up the $100,500 difference per patient?  We've already covered that their staff has no degrees from accredited colleges and most are recent graduates of the program, so that drives the salaries way down.

The handbook lays out the "Phases".  I've linked the materials that are for sale through RU.

Phase One (minimum of 45 days)
 1. Complete the Challenger Workbook
 2. “It’s Personal” Daily Journal
 3. View a principle a day, every weekday
 4. Attend all evening training functions
5. Six individual student intervention meeting sessions with the Intervention Mentor (SIP)
6. Read Nevertheless I Live chapters 1-2 by Steve Curington
7. Read Distressed, Oppressed, or Possessed? by Steve Curington
8. Your First Phase will be evaluated by the Dean of the Home upon completion.

Phase Two (minimum of 45 days)
1. Complete the Transformer Workbook
2. “It’s Personal” Daily Journal 
3. View a principle a day, every weekday
4. Attend all evening training functions
5. Four individual student intervention meeting sessions with the Intervention Mentor (SIP)
6. Read Nevertheless I Live chapters 3-4 by Steven Curington
 7. You must pass the Transformer level test to enter into Phase Three.
 8. Your Second Phase will be evaluated by the Dean of The Home upon completion.

Phase Three (minimum of 45 days)
 1. Complete the Conformer Workbook
2. “It’s Personal” Daily Journal 
3. View a principle a day, every weekday
4. Attend all evening training functions
5. Three individual student intervention meeting sessions with the Intervention Mentor (SIP)
6. Read Nevertheless I Live chapters 5-7 by Steven Curington
7. Read Tall Law by Steven Curington
8. You must pass the Conformer level test to enter into Phase Four.
9. Your Third Phase will be evaluated by the Dean of The Home upon completion.

Phase Four (minimum of 45 days) 
1. Complete the Reformer Workbook
2. “It’s Personal” Daily Journal 
3. View a principle a day, every weekday
4. Attend all evening training functions
5. Two individual student intervention meeting sessions with the Dean (SIP)
6. Read Nevertheless I Live chapters 8-10 by Steven Curington
7. You must pass the Reformer level test in order to graduate.
 8. To graduate you must be have a final evaluation with the Dean of the home.

Things that I've noticed:

  1.  There is no reason the "educational" component of this program should take 6 months.  It consists of 
  • a workbook which is probably based on the "Nevertheless I Live" textbook readings.
  • writing journal entries (the journal lasts 90 days, so you work through it twice during the program)
  • look at one of 10 principles on a weekday (which means you'll have them memorized by the end of Phase 2 at the latest)
  • Reading two additional books - one on how "satanic oppression" makes you feel unmotivated and one on how this whole curriculum isn't really "works" based.
2. You have to attend all evening meetings which run from 6:30-9:00pm at night and be in a good mood the whole time.

3. You get fewer and fewer meetings with actual staff members as the program goes on.  Since the women's program is missing an Intervention Mentor - and I have no idea what SIP stands for - either everyone in the program has ground to a halt or something has been modified.

4. How does the staff handle all these meetings?
The women's program can have 88 women in it. For simplifying the math, I'm going to assume 80 women are enrolled.  I doubt the number of people in each phase is evenly distributed, so let's assume 10% are in Phase 4, 20% are in Phase 3, 30% are in Phase 2 and 40% are in Phase 1.
This means:
8 women in Phase 4 needing 2 meetings per 6 weeks = 16 meetings
16 women in Phase 3 needing 3 meetings per 6 weeks = 48 meetings
24 women in Phase 2 needing 4 meetings per 6 weeks = 96 meetings
32 women in Phase 1 needing 6 meetings per 6 weeks = 192 meetings.
That's a total of 352 meetings per 6 weeks or ~59 meetings per week.

If each meeting is one hour - 50 minutes of time with the patient and 10 minutes of bookkeeping and prep - that's 59  hours of meetings a week for two staff members to handle.

This doesn't include anything about making plans for new patients, dealing with "discharge summaries" for anyone who leaves, or running any of the administrative items involved with this type of care.

The next section in the handbook is on the daily schedule.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

RU: Labor Exploitation for Jesus - Part Three

The quality of staffing in inpatient treatment varies greatly.  The American Psychological Association noted that getting qualified staff in substance abuse treatment facilities is difficult due to low pay and weak educational opportunities for employees (pg. 16).  The implied educational criteria is that there are multiple layers of professionals with advanced degrees - doctoral, master's and bachelor's degrees in psychology or medical degrees in psychiatry - with paraprofessionals with less education being overseen and trained by people with advanced degrees (pgs. 16-17).

Compare those ideas with the listed staff for the RU Schools of Discipleship; a school that treats potentially life-threatening disorders such as heroin addiction and eating disorders like anorexia.

Cribbed from their website:

Dr. Paul Kingsbury: 

  • Pastor of North Love Baptist Church; cofounder of RU
  • Attended Maranatha Baptist College  (which has regional accreditation) - but gives no dates of graduation or degrees earned.  The highest degree awarded by Maranatha is a Master's Degree in Education or various Master's in Ministry degrees.  None of the degrees has an emphasis in healthcare ministry let alone training for working as a provider of healthcare.
  • Graduated from Hyles-Anderson College (which is unaccredited). Hyles Anderson has Master's degrees in Education and Ministry.  They have a certificate program for counseling - this is equivalent to about 1 year of freshman level college classes.
  • When researching North Love Baptist College (also unaccredited) from another staff member's blurb, I found a different educational list for Dr. Kingsbury.  He got a Bachelor's from Hyles-Anderson and a Doctorate of Divinity from both Ambassador Baptist College and West Coast Baptist College.  I hate when people can't get website information correct.
He's a highly educated individual within the unaccredited Baptist college world.  Unfortunately, that's not enough to run an inpatient program.

Steve Currington:
  • Cofounder of RU based on his personal recovery from a heroin addiction.
  • Wrote or coauthored most of the recovery materials used by RU.
His credentials are moot; he died in 2010 of a heart attack.  I find it strange that he's still listed on their staff page.

There are six people listed who sound like administrators for day to day operations at the Schools of Discipleship houses.  The men's program can have 55 inpatients while the women's program can have 80 patients.

Donnie Barnes:
  • Graduated from the RU program in 2007 from a previous drug addiction.
  • Married Hannah Barnes in 2008.
  • Has been the Director of Housing for some unspecified time.
  • Earned a degree from North Love Bible College in Ministry in 2014.
Hannah Barnes:
  • Graduated from West Coast Baptist College with a ministry degree.
  • Has served in RU since 2008
  • Became the Dean of Women in 2012.
Dale Akin:
  • Graduated from Hyles-Anderson and served as a pastor in CA from 1995-2011.
  • Graduated from RU in 2003 for an unspecified addiction.
  • Has worked in RU as an Assistant Steward (spring 2012), Student Mentor(summer 2012) and is currently the Men's Intervention Mentor
Shirley Rawlings:
  • Began as a patient at RU in 2011 addicted to heroin and "other sins".
  • Became a volunteer monitor after graduation for two years.
  • Became the Head Steward in around 2013.
  • Became the Assistant Dean of Women at some time in the past.
Sheridan Powell:
  • Began as a patient at RU in 2013 addicted to meth, heroin and "other sins".
  • Volunteered for a year after graduating from RU.
  • Became the Head Steward either in late 2014 or early 2015.
Charles Rodberg:
  • Addiction to crack cocaine lead to discharge from the Marines and prison
  • Graduated from RU in 2014
  • Became Head Steward sometime after graduation.
Things that concern me:
  1. None of the staff members have a degree of any level from an accreditation agency recognized by the US government.
  2. Five of the six staff members who are presumably interacting with patients have graduated from RU because of previous addictions.  Of those 5, two have been "graduated" for less than 3 years.  Only one of the five has been graduated for more than 10 years.
  3. The one staff member who was never enrolled in the program married a former patient within one year of the patient graduating.   While this is not illegal - to the best of my knowledge - it opens up questions about professionality since she was volunteering while he was in treatment.
  4. Based on those three previous points, I question the oversight available by the staff towards volunteers and patients.
  5. This appears to be a closed-system.  Since most of the staff rose up through the RU program, has no outside education, and has no oversight from an outside body, there is no one available to question any unethical or illegal behaviors by RU.
We haven't even gotten to the really shady stuff, though.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

RU: Labor Exploitation for Jesus - Part Two

Since Reformers Unanimous (RU) is an organization that treats addictions, I thought it would be important to understand their definitions of addiction.

From their website on "What We Believe about Addictions:
  • Addiction by one definition is “to cause to become physiologically or psychologically dependent on a habit-forming substance.”
That's a good definition which would incorporate  ten of the 15 topics covered by RU.

  • Addiction by another definition is “to occupy oneself or involve oneself in something habitually or compulsively.”

This definition is missing a key point; the activity has to be negatively affecting the person's life in a major way.  When that point is added, the remaining four listed topics could be incorporated under this definition.

Logically, since they've defined 14 out of 15 topics - and my guess is that the 15th topic is alcohol - they don't need any more definitions.  Yet, the list continues.

  • Addiction is an unnatural obsession with anything other than God.
Under this definition, my love of cheetahs when I was seven was an addiction.  Plus, what is an unnatural obsession with God called?  (This is why someone should proof-read websites for public consumption, IMHO. Sloppy construction undermines messages.)

  • Addiction is any appetite on a binge.
Too vague for actual use.  Although..... this definition does allow outsiders to label Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar's attempts to have a twentieth living child after Michelle had had a micro- preemie due to preeclampsia and a stillborn baby an addiction.  

  • Addiction is anything you continue to do knowing it is harmful for you.
Overly broad categorization.  For example, people working in high stress jobs with lots of sad outcomes - police, firefighters, certain medical professions, certain teachers, CPS workers - can be emotionally harmed by their jobs.  That's not considered an addiction anywhere else.

  • Addiction is a disorder caused by sin.
Partial credit for this one.  Addictions are a disorder - generally a medical disorder that affects brain chemistry.  To treat addictions, the person with the addiction must choose to behave in ways that separate them from the addictive substance or action.   I have a problem labeling failure to follow those choices as sins because my understanding of sin requires conscious choices.  Since addiction often coexists with other mental illnesses, labeling failure to comply with treatment a sin feels like a bridge too far.

  • Addiction is anything that brings you into spiritual bondage.
Well, according to one whack-a-doodle blogger, Anne of Green Gables drags girls into spiritual bondage so that's another addiction.

  • Addiction is being under the rule of anything other than the Holy Spirit.
That's why we're called "Spirited" not "Christians".  That's also why the Rule of Law is completely pointless and addicting.

  • Addiction is anything to which I run to meet my needs apart from God.
    What does that even mean?  I need to stay warm during the winter so I use indoor heating and put on a coat when I go outside.  Under this statement, both indoor heating and wearing a coat are addictions.
  • Addiction is any coping mechanism I use to deal with disappointments.
Apparently, including prayer or reading the Bible are now addictions according to this definition.  I've been disappointed recently that a car accident injury dragged my graduate school career to a temporary halt.  To deal, I've been trimming blackberry bushes, winterizing the garden and cleaning out my poultry shed.   Those now addictions as well.

  • Addiction is any sin, because all sin is addictive.
RU really needs to add a definition of sin to their theological statement of beliefs because I don't know what they mean by sin anymore.  I've heard that sin is attractive - but not addicting.
Just wait until we meet their staff.

Friday, November 20, 2015

RU: Labor Exploitation for Jesus - Part One

Me: The Duggars have opened my eyes to a lot of problems within Fundamentalist Christian health ministries that I'd never heard of before. I wish they would stop getting involved in ministries that are going to kill someone someday.

 I have personal experience as an inpatient for mental health issues.  When I was 19, I suffered a severe episode of depression.  The first anti-depressant I was prescribed reduced my depressive symptoms, but caused severe anxiety and suicidal thoughts.  (This SSRI - which often works well in middle-aged and older adults - now has a black box warning about increased suicide risks in teenagers and young adults.  I missed the black box warning by 6 months.) After two months of outpatient counseling, I felt I was at risk of committing suicide and got myself admitted to Pine Rest.

Take-Home: Inpatient treatment for mental disorders and substance abuse is reserved for people who are unable to function in an outpatient setting AND have failed at repeated outpatient attempts OR are at imminent threat to their own life or the life of others.

Application to RU and Duggars: RU offers help with 15 addiction topics: Cutting, Huffing, Prescription Drugs, Steroids, Weed, Cocaine, Heroin, Porn, Acid, Uppers, Eating, Tobacco, Gambling and Meth.  (I don't know what the 15th is, but my best guess is Alcohol.)  Of the 14 listed addictions, eleven can require inpatient treatment with my assumption being that "Eating" includes anorexia since RU has a tract about how someone recovered using their methods.  I have never heard of inpatient treatment for tobacco, gambling or porn.

 While the "Residential House: School of Disciples" has a disclaimer that it is not a medical facility, they are selling a treatment plan for eleven problems generally treated by mental health professionals.  For these reasons, I believe it is reasonable to compare them to a inpatient mental health facility.

Me: See, in my local area, there are two mental health hospitals.  The one that is agreed by the local mental health professionals to be better (Pine Rest) is affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church of America and the Reformed Church of America. Until 2 minutes ago when I looked the affiliations up online, I had no idea which Christian churches Pine Rest was connected to.   These affiliations had no effect on the treatment I received there. If you wanted pastoral counseling (which you indicated at admission), they would find you someone from your denomination or religion who was supportive of mental health issues.  If you didn't want it, you weren't bothered about it.    I do remember that if you were in the hospital on a Sunday, there was an option of going to an on-site church service and a few patients went to it.  The rest of us played cards, read or watched TV.

Take-Home: Good Christian health ministries provide health support first, enable spiritual support second, and never actively convert patients.

Application: RU has a long - and fragment filled - statement of belief that should weed out most non-Fundamental Christians and the entire recovery path is filled with Biblical applications.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

A New Ministry for the DIllards: Saving El Salvador from Gangs - Part Three

In previous posts, I've highlighted why I think the Dillards are unprepared for dealing with gangs and why SOS ministries is placing volunteers at undue risk.

In this post, I'd like to discuss how SOS Ministry hurts the local population (including Jill, Derick and Israel if they choose to remain in the country.)

My information is based on Carissa's blog posts along with SOS's online mission trip information combined with my experiences working in an urban district with many immigrant students, basic web searches of sites like the US State Department, the Centers for Disease Control, Wikipedia, and a heap of common sense.

What does El Salvador Need?

Let me throw an additional resource into the mix.  The CIA World Factbook is an incredibly useful tool for researching countries.  I'm going to compare three countries: El Salvador, the United States of America and Denmark.

Improved infrastructure: Sanitation Controls
While most of the population has access to safe drinking water, 25% of the population does not have access to safe sewage disposal systems.  The prevalence of bacterial/protozoal diarrhea and typhoid are directly related to underdeveloped sanitation systems.   Getting rid of those two endemic health issues is as simple - and costly - as building sewers and septic systems.

Educational Systems:
Students in El Salvador will - on average - receive 25% years of education than students in the USA and 36% years of education fewer than Denmark.  (Side note: The USA does not have a great educational record.  We have a disturbingly high drop-out rate in high poverty areas.)  Education is free, but class sizes are very high and funding is very low.

An additional problem is that the university system in El Salvador was severely damaged during the civil war due to murders of faculty and students.  Replacing the loss of human capital will take several decades and is affecting the country's ability to train doctors, teachers, and engineers.

Medical Systems:
God, where to start?

  • 204% higher infant mortality rate than the USA
  • 7.5% shorter life span
  • 55% fewer doctors than the USA; 68% fewer doctors than Denmark 
  • 62% fewer hospital beds than the USA; 68% fewer hospital beds than Denmark
  • Endemic infectious diseases occur.
  • 1,100% higher rate of childhood malnutrition than the USA
Is SOS Ministries providing change in infrastructure, education, or medicine?  I see no evidence that they are.

Are Jill and Derick Dillard adding any informational or resource capital to infrastructure, education or medicine?  No.  

(For those who are wondering, Jill's midwifery "certification" is inadequate for use in developed nations where advanced medical support (EMT) is a short phone call away.  Delivering a woman in El Salvador with her training should be criminal.)

But Mel, what harm are they doing?  They're just passing out clothes and toys.

 The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
  •  Africa's local clothing market has been destroyed by well-meaning charities.  Every T-shirt, jeans or shoes handed out by SOS Ministry is a job taken away from El Salvadorans.
  • Every toy handed to a child is a job taken away from El Salvadorans. (Logically - Salvadoran children were playing with something before SOS Ministries showed up.  Why not support those workers?)
  • Every dollar spent on clothes or toys is a dollar NOT spent on school materials, teacher education, new infrastructure, medicines, doctors or hospitals.
Let's think about those good intentions for a second.  Who really benefits? 
  •  The volunteers get some warm fuzzy feelings for handing out second-hand clothing and toys - but they aren't really changing anything.
  • The locals get free clothing and toys - but is that what they want?  Has anyone from SOS Ministries asked them?  SOS was invited - allegedly - to help run a recreation center to keep the kids out of gangs.  How does a duffel bag of used T-shirts keep the kids out of the gangs?
  •  El Salvador has a large textile manufacturing sector that is churning out cheap clothing that will go to the USA and be returned as second hand clothing.  While I enjoy the irony - a cheap T-shirt may well travel more than I ever have - my amusement is not worth the waste of capital involved in using money to buy shirts made in El Salvador in the USA and bringing them back to El Salvador.  
There are better ways of doing this.

My church supports an orphanage in Ecuador for children who are HIV-positive who have no one else to care for them.  One group of professionals - doctors and nurses - heads down several times a year to help the local community medical workers.  If you want to go, you need a RN or a MD/DO.

Not an RN or MD/DO?  The rest of us raise funds.  We use the money to purchase medical goods and devices that were not easily available in Ecuador.  Other things that the children need - clothing, toys, household goods, food - are purchased locally (i.e. in Ecuador).

We do send duffel bags of materials down to Ecuador - but it's full of anti-retroviral drugs, sutures, feeding tubes. oxygen masks - things that are needed, but not accessible

Derick and Jill, it's time to grow up.
  • Play-acting in hopes of saving souls is forgivable in pre-teens, but shameful in grown adults. 
  •  Real missionary adults have skills - they are teachers, nurses, doctors or engineers.  They know how to raise money and disburse the money in ways that help the recipients rather than soothe the egos of the givers.  They speak the language fluently.  
  •  Real missionaries take care of their health and the health of their children.  What are your plans for getting Israel vaccinated against rabies and typhoid?  He's at high risk of exposure  of typhoid right now and will be at extremely high risk of rabies exposure when he can walk/run since little kids like animals.  Did anyone at SOS ministries bother to tell you that?  Did you bother to check yourselves?
To paraphrase 1st Corinthians 13:11, when you were children, you thought and reasoned like children.  When you are an adult, you put childish things aside.