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An Open Letter From Your Roommate

April 3, 2001

A response to the distorted and inaccurate Web pages about Bill Gothard posted by my former roommate at http://members.tripod.com/Glenwood37/homepage.htm

My dear friend,

It might surprise you that I call you "friend," for I was one who roomed with you virtually the entire five months you stayed at the Indianapolis Training Center (or ITC, one of Bill Gothard's centers for young people). We didn't see the world from identical angles, but we had several things in common (e.g., a love of music, sense of humor, geographical roots, and professed love for God and His Word), and I appreciated many qualities about you. I've just skimmed my journals of those months to make sure what I say now is accurate. Truth is vital, isn't it?

It was, perhaps, ironic that I was assigned to be your mentor. You had practically grown up in Bill Gothard's home education program, the Advanced Training Institute (ATI). Your parents raised you on the lingo, and you wanted nothing to do with it. I attended public and private schools through junior high and didn't start ATI until high school. My family appreciated the program because it presented principles we had been practicing for years because we had seen them in the Bible. After high school, I graduated from Bible institute and attended a secular college. I became actively involved in ATI again after one year at college, and I spent seven months earning money to move to Indianapolis to work with young people.

There I met you. And what memories I have! Do you remember roasting marshmallows over candles, cavorting around our suite in dunce caps because we were feeling goofy, and playing many games? We did lots of Bible studies, too, read from Hinds' Feet on High Places, and worked on a Kay Arthur study. We didn't do any ATI curriculum at first because you already knew so much, and the Bible communicated the same things.

We started out (as many young people who come to ITC do) staying in our suite of two spacious, decorated rooms. We were lucky, though, because we participated in the annual ladies' tea at the center and got to have a team party in our suite. And I have a picture of you out in the country doing relay races just a couple of weeks after you arrived. You are an incredible musician, and the Klavinova was moved into our suite especially for you. Remember our choppy violin and piano duets? And remember helping me sew? I still wear the skirt you so patiently coached me through making. Later our house parents ordered a French course just for you, and we tackled studying literature together.

I was a strict mentor, I know, and not just because I made you recite "The Bells" repeatedly with fervor. I confronted you when I felt you talked theory and didn't back it up with action. We talked about our relationship sometimes. You felt I was proud because of my education and that I wouldn't do as well as you did if our roles were reversed. That was hard to hear, but I took it to the Lord and asked Him to make me the roommate I ought to be for you. I wished I were perfect, but God showed me that His working in my life in front of you was as valuable a testimony as any. And you so kindly forgave me when I asked your forgiveness for snapping at you or making wrong decisions. I prayed that I would love and be patient with you and my other roommates, and that I would be sensitive to your needs and meek. I also prayed that you would be a doer of God's Word and that you and your family would be reconciled one day.

As we got to know each other a little better, you shared things about your family life, things that concerned me. Some stories were bizarre, and I could never condone misapplication of Biblical principles. I couldn't empathize with the things you shared, though, because they were so foreign to the way my parents had taught me. For me, Christianity was a relationship with the living Christ and I never saw the things Bill Gothard teaches as contradicting that. That seemed to surprise you when we discussed it. You disagreed with the Biblical principles he teaches, but I suspect because they had been misapplied in your eyes. Mr. Gothard asked you to write lessons on "How a Christian Can Misuse the Law" and "How a Father Can Misuse His Authority" because he believed your testimony in those areas, backed by Scripture, would be valuable. You told me you forgave your parents, but it seemed you had given up on them. That troubled me because true love "bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."

Other inconsistencies in your life disturbed me. Lying did not seem to bother you, so I didn't know when you were truthful and when fabricating. I didn't know whether to believe what you said about your family when I suspected you would just as glibly lie about me. I tried to challenge you to be completely truthful.

You suggested a Bible study on belief when we were doing one on truth. But you balked when I pressed you for application of your beliefs. There seemed to be a breakdown between belief and practice which didn't meet Jesus' exhortation "If you love me, keep my commandments." I wanted to believe that you loved Jesus as genuinely as you said you did, but you seemed to pick and choose the commands to obey. And since the sum of God's Word is truth, I couldn't support that.

In the end, it seemed your existence in Indianapolis was a lie. The day you ran away is clearly etched in my memory. Why did you run then when you could have left so many other times? I wondered. I had to convince the Korean roommate you tutored in reading that she hadn't driven you away. All three of your roommates felt betrayed. I sobbed my way through that evening's church service. But you'd made that choice, and I knew I could do nothing to counter your will.

Now what shall I believe about you? I read your web site and scratch my head. "Held...as a prisoner"? I remember walks around our city parking lot, trips to church twice a week, holidays of picnics and sports in the country, shopping, the $600 music course you were scholarshiped through, a trip to hear the Indianapolis Symphony. "Treated…worse than a criminal"? Memories of birthday parties, tutoring sessions with Megan, welcomes with confetti and blue painted faces, cake decorating class, laughs we had over the antics of others around us, songs we wrote and sang together flood my mind. I'm tempted to chuckle at your outline of "Gothard's key teachings" because they are so warped. I can almost hear you saying them. Can you hear me telling you, "Baloney"? Maybe a few people live that way, but not many I know. So it's really not a bit funny to explain them in that manner. (Do you remember the essay I assigned you on the quote "Partial truth is a very mean sort of lie"?)

I had hoped you were real. I know you were hurting, but why put on a façade, then lash out at those who love you? I forgive you and I miss you. Someday I look forward to meeting again, because I'll be here as your friend whenever you're ready to confront Truth.

Sincerely,
Kendra


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