by Edna, recent employee and inner-circle of Calvary Chapel Visalia
I want to share about our experiences with CCV but I want to do so in a way that brings some closure to my own heart, helps others to see why we left, and to help them to see that all is not as it seems at that church. There are many details to my story and I am not sure how or when I will share some of the details of what exactly took place that caused both of us to leave. But for now, I’ll just leave you with some of the facts.
My prayer is that those who are there will look to the Lord and will see what is really going on over there at CCV. In the beginning, I wanted so badly to defend myself because I felt so hurt and offended when I wondered what people thought or whether they believed what they were told about us because we did nothing at all wrong. (I am always in wonder of how Jesus was never offended. So hard to learn that lesson!) But I finally came to a place where God showed me that it didn’t matter what others believed about myself or my husband and why we were suddenly gone off of staff and left from the church.
Many of you may know that my husband and I both posted on the old Topix thread, trying to defend Bob and to condemn Alex and the others for their actions for what I believed to be all lies. I believed Bob and Gayle very easily. They were very convincing and I had no reason to think my Pastor was lying to me. They took us in as “family” (so they said), and treated us very well. We struck up a friendship with another couple during this time and felt comfortable where we were. So, we felt that our poor Pastor, his wife, and remaining son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter were in the cross hairs of something really horrible and that Alex (as we were told) was a bad person who was out to ruin poor “Pastor Bob”. I felt compelled to say something to defend them, and I did. Even my quiet husband wrote a few posts accusing Alex of hurting his family, etc. We were aware that people had left the church, but did not know any of them. We were only familiar with this church because they had supported us during our time in Ukraine. So, we really had no idea what had happened or why. We just trusted Bob and thought he was telling the truth.
As time went on, we started seeing things that we would question, but didn’t want to believe it. I guess you could say that we were happy and didn’t want to rock the boat. We had only returned from our time as missionaries to Ukraine earlier that same year and getting back into the swing of life here (including finding employment) was pretty difficult. We just wanted things to stay on an even balance, I suppose you could say.
My husband was seeking other employment for quite a while as we were not able to make ends meet with his small salary. They were aware of our needs (we had quite a bit of debt from our time as missionaries in Ukraine) and reassured us that they wanted to do more but were unable. We were understanding of that and kept our minds on serving the Lord and not worrying about finances. After all, we were happy there and felt we were where the Lord wanted us, and that is what mattered to us. But, what held us back was having insurance through Greg’s full-time employment, since they reimbursed all of your medical expenses as a full-time employee. When I was hired, the previous administrator and Bob Grenier were both aware that I had health problems that needed attention and they were happy to provide the insurance. As time went on, our reimbursements grew due to our medical issues such as my neck surgery, discovering I had an auto-immune disease, and towards the end, realizing my oldest son has permanent atrial fibrillation that was/is quite symptomatic that required a cardio-conversion surgery and a referral to a specialist in San Francisco in order to perform a much needed ablation ASAP (the insurance has a deductible of $6,000, which we still carry today through COBRA, as we had no other options up until a week ago!). Greg Dowds, who took the position as administrator in January, was quite troubled at how high medical reimbursements had become, as he inquired a few times why they were so high. Shortly after these exchanges, my husband was suddenly offered a job (the details of this job were mainly relayed to us by the daughter of the employer since she said she knew all of the details better). I had my suspicions about the timing and details, but my husband told me not to think such things. Since this new employer did not offer insurance (he offers to pay $300 a month toward your own plan) we were reassured by the daughter that our finding insurance would be “no problem at all all” and that she would even help me. She gave us a figure of how much money Greg would be making and so we decided to pray about it. Well, Greg was worried about leaving the church as their Facility Manager since his position covered SO many responsibilities with no one to take over. His first concern was for the welfare of the church and his job responsibilities. He decided he would take the job, but phase out of his position of CCV very slowly to allow enough time to find a suitable replacement who could be trained and for us to find insurance.
As for me, I worked there part-time as their bookkeeper. I can say that I crossed every t and dotted every i. They would be hard pressed to find a mistake on my part. I was very organized, detailed, and thorough. My conviction was always that my job was confidential and that God’s money was something very sacred and to be handled with the utmost care. I deposited every stray penny I would find under my desk. ￼ I loved my job and enjoyed learning how to be a bookkeeper, something I never thought I’d find myself doing. But the Lord is the one who enabled me to learn and I am grateful for the learning experience. I took my job very seriously and I know that there wasn’t a person in that office who thought I wasn’t doing my job correctly. I am a people pleaser by nature and I always aimed to please those above me and did so happily. So, I do think that when I gave my notice to them it came as quite a shock.
Well, to get to the point, I found out that no one would insure myself or my son due to our health issues. That was pretty frustrating. I was told by insurance agents that our best bet is a job with group insurance, like we had then. One suggested to just stay where we are. Greg and I discussed it and decided that it would be best if he just stayed on at the church. We figured that would be no problem since they really did need Greg and there was no replacement. We were sure that they would understand and it would be no big deal. Well… That is where we were both wrong. My husband was told by Greg Dowds (they all knew my son needed heart surgery and that I was in the middle of getting started with important treatments with my new Doctor, a Rheumatologist at UCLA) that Bob still wanted him to take the other job because they were just gonna save money by using volunteers. Wait…. Really?!?! Okay, so I took a deep breathe and thought I had a solution. I emailed both Greg and Bob and asked if it were possible to keep Greg on in some capacity to finish out the year and offered to pay our share of the premiums on THEIR health plan. I also offered that I wouldn’t ask for any reimbursements either. I hit send and figured it wouldn’t be a problem since it would cost them nothing and it would allow us to pay a cheaper rate than COBRA and give us time to find other coverage and a job for Greg, and my son and I can get the medical help we were in the process of obtaining.
I received the email back that the answer was no. I was also informed by Greg Dowds a few days later that Greg would have a little more than one month on payroll and insurance. My heart sank as I struggled to find the reasons of how they could be so callous to the people they had in their own home and claimed to have such love and respect for. I felt crushed, abandoned, and confused.
During this time, our friendship with a certain couple started running into some problems that we struggled to understand. We did our best to mend fences with them, but we were really then beginning to see their true colors towards us, as well as most of the staff at the church (very cold towards us and even huddling together at times at church in what seemed like a talk about us. Talk about feeling uncomfortable!). Especially since all of it was following a disturbing pattern that we had seen with previous employees. We were beginning to see that we were on the chopping block, so to speak. Why? I don’t know. What I do know is that Bob does not think about the welfare of anyone but himself and those that he knows are loyal and close. Even then, I have seen those people disappear as well. We couldn’t face the facts – it was staring us in the face and all we could do is say, “Why, Lord?”
A few days later, Greg Dowds had come to my office and gave me a list of things that were approved by “the board”. They were pay increases and some extra pay for someone. When he handed me that paper with all of the adjustments, all I could feel is anger and sadness. It was like taking salt and just rubbing it in a wound. I let my anger get the best of me and said something to Greg that made him uncomfortable, but I was just stating my feelings that I couldn’t hold in. So, he prayed for me right there that God would provide what we needed for our family to find health insurance, etc. He left my office and I shut my door so I could cry. I cried there in my office and thought about just running from there and never looking back – but I felt the Lord had a word for me in the Psalms. He gave me promise that day and today I know it is true, because I see it in my life now.
I sought the LORD, and He heard me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
5 They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces were not ashamed.
6 This poor man cried out, and the LORD heard him,
And saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel[a] of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him,
And delivers them.
8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
9 Oh, fear the LORD, you His saints!
There is no want to those who fear Him.
10 The young lions lack and suffer hunger;
But those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing.
Greg and I went home and just knew in our hearts that everything that was written about Bob is true. We knew it in our hearts because we experienced it for ourselves. There are some other things that happened that don’t need to be on the blog, but through a series of talks I had had with someone close to Bob, this person felt the need to complain about me to Bob. I had already felt convicted inside that some of the frustrations I aired with this person (who also had my same views at some point before that about a particular family and some behaviors being allowed by their children) needed an apology because I felt she had felt offended and my words were not wise. I went to this person and asked for forgiveness through lots of tears since this is someone I really cared for and didn’t want to soil our friendship over something so petty. She kindly accepted my apology and said she was fine and everything was going to work out and not to worry.
A few days later, we were summoned to a meeting with Bob where I was chastised very harshly and talked to as if all of his assumptions/assessments were right. When I tried to speak up to let him know what had transpired, I was quickly hushed and told not to speak. He instead spoke AT me, and told ME what had “happened” and what HE supposed out of all of it. To him, what he was saying was fact and therefore, I needed to listen and just agree that he was right in his assumptions. I was not allowed to share anything regarding the matter. I have never, ever been treated this way by a secular boss, let alone a Pastor. I just sat there and cried, as my husband squeezed my leg to let me know to be quiet. That was hard. So, I just sat there and and listened to his version of how he believed the situation had occurred, what he believed the motives were, and it was like Bob was the Judge and Jury: case closed. At the end, I was told to drop it and never bring it up again. And then….. I was told my older son was free to attend church elsewhere (this matter involved him in a certain sense, but he didn’t have a desire to leave the church over the few incidents that he witnessed since he wasn’t offended.) The matter we discussed was blown out of proportion and the “story” Bob had in his mind was relayed to him by son. They were his son’s opinions over the matter. They became Bob’s measuring stick in which he used to judge us and the situation. It was all wrong. All I could do was cry. I couldn’t understand how something SO SMALL turned into what it did. We realized it was just one more nail they had for our coffin… We no longer had a place there and it was made VERY clear. We started to feel like outcasts there as people who once liked us ignored us now. We felt shunned and alone. Yet, we had seen this pattern happen before with other staff. Now, it was happening to us, just like the rest. Just like Alex said on his blog. We had knots in our stomachs as we slowly realized that all of it was true. These people had no care for us or for biblical principles whatsoever. It’s like a family run business, but it’s a church. It’s a strange and twisted dynamic.
After Bob’s wife, his son, and daughter-in-law ALL blocked me on my Facebook account (they did this the SAME day my husband told Robert we were seeking the Lord in regards to leaving the church when he asked Greg if we would be staying at the church), I added someone who friend requested me who posts here. Apparently, someone on my friend’s list found it appropriate to report this back to them and my husband was called a liar and every other name in the book for allowing me to add this person who he doesn’t even know. I didn’t even know her for that matter! I knew her name, as she is a former employee of that church, and someone who posts here. But my poor husband, who is very gracious, honest, and decent, was called a liar and accused of knowing all about this person and what she has supposedly done to their family. A slew of cruel and harassing text messages ensued from Bob’s son (Jr.) which were extremely offensive and hurtful. To Greg’s credit, he has never read this blog and he hardly even gets on Facebook. So, as a result of my confirming a friend request on Facebook, a big argument took place over this and the job that my husband was offered. It was put “on hold”, as he was told, due to the anger of the man Greg was to work for because my husband “allowed” his wife to add this person to Facebook. My husband made it easier for them and just declined the job offer.
We had also come to find out that the daughter who promised me health insurance would be “no problem”, knew insurance would be an issue for us. She suffers from a condition that makes it almost impossible to allow for her to apply for individual insurance, just like me. But, we believed her and had no reason to doubt. I always assume the best out of people. When it bites me, I tend to bite back. The Lord is using these things to calm me and teach me to wait on Him. In all of this, I am turning to Him more than I had in a while. He truly is my only hope!
A few weeks later I was threatened on my private property by someone in the Grenier family. The police were called to take a report, as this person was uninvited onto our private property and threatened my family with harm, all using disgusting profanity and declaring how angry she was for seeing a picture I was tagged in on Facebook that had Greg and myself, along with Alex and Amy, and Geoff (Alex’s other brother).I don’t know how they could see it since they had already blocked me. What I do know is that this person, or someone close to her, made good on her threats after finding some things written on another blog site about someone close in my family. The contents were things known by only ONE person. The information written was designed to hurt, threaten, malign, and dole out retribution towards us. But, how could we be surprised? What makes us immune to this behavior if they have disowned their own flesh and blood? If you go to CCV and are reading this – you need to understand that the stories you are told about people and events in the past are probably not the whole truth. They are twisted or just plain fabricated. I know we heard the same stories about people, only to find out later the complete opposite. Please, follow the Lord and his commands, not a man. Be careful. You will be deceived. Some people who I know read this do not realize that there are people you think are your friends but they are not. I will not name names here. But be aware that I am saying this to help you, not harm you. If you want to be Godly and be like Jesus, surround yourself with those people who act like Him. Don’t be fooled any longer. You may not see it now, but one day you will. When you do, my words will ring in your head just as they did ours. I’ve learned this pattern goes back a very long time.
Anyway, being depressed about it all of this got me no where and left me feeling spiritually drained. The road to today hasn’t been easy and it still isn’t. It’s hard when you lose every friend you had all because you choose not to attend church with them. I was/am very hurt about some of the friends that left us and either lied about their reasons or just left in silence. I still tell myself they don’t see yet… just as we didn’t. One day they will. I pray for them all and hope that they know my heart never harbored ill will toward anyone. I know I have reacted out of my hurt a few times and didn’t handle myself well. I am not perfect.
We are starting over in every area of our life now, which I know will serve to be for our good (Romans 8:28). Now, I am seeing the wisdom that God is bringing to us and I see the blessings all around us. So, no more whining from me! We are just looking for solutions as the Lord leads. Just wanted to bring myself out of “hiding” and show my support for Alex and his family, as well as the many that post/read here and can relate or understand the persecution and hurt imposed by such a corrupt leadership and pastor. Actually, I blame Bob because he controls them all and will allow no one to question him. It’s scary to see that people actually feared him. Now I can see why. Not normal and not biblical. Certainly not what I had seen modeled EVER before in the CC’s I’ve been to. People don’t see it until they are on the inside of CCV…. that’s the scary part.
The leadership never announced our leaving staff to the church and many people wondered what happened to us. They never had the typical “going away party” that I had been to for every other staff member that left. Wouldn’t have mattered much because by the time I was at the end of my two week’s notice, I could hardly stand to step foot in there anymore because it seemed each message at church had some sidebar that was meant for us to hear, which confirmed my suspicions that he was doing this same thing to some other staff that had left previously. What a shame. But, even though my hubby had a few weeks to go I sure am proud of how he handled and still handles this. He is a good man. He worked hard for that place but does not regret it because he made those grounds beautiful for the Lord and he loved every minute of it. He always did what he was told and worked more hours than anyone on staff did on most days. I mention this not to boast, but because we had heard rumors that he was lazy, which really upset me.
You know, it all just takes me back to the book of James. And it’s always a good lesson to me to never turn someone away that you have the means to help or minister to. I guess I judged the meaning of “we love you as family” wrong. That can be taken both in the spiritual and familial sense. But spiritually, that is what led me to see the truth about Bob and his leadership. I ignored so many things that were wrong for so long. We both did. We both allowed ourselves to get sucked into a friendship that was not pleasing to God because the friendship was not a healthy one in the spiritual sense. We are to blame for allowing ourselves to get close to people who brought us down spiritually all because we thought we could minister and love people who we thought were so wounded…. We were naive and chose to love and believe. We know our faults before the Lord and because of this, we are grateful beyond measure that the Lord allowed us to leave because in doing so it has served to renew us and restore us spiritually.
Don’t forget Jesus’ words in the bible… he said… “Don’t ALLOW yourselves to be deceived.” We allowed it, but so did the Lord. He has and will use it for His glory. Please pray that the Lord will soften my heart so that I can forgive and love completely.I want to trust again and I don’t want anything to hinder my passion for the Lord. I have left names and many details out of this because it serves no purpose. There is much more to this, but the Lord is leading us to handle it differently. God is good and He will not give us more than we can bear!
God Bless you all.