This is another tragic story that reveals deep systematic issues in Community Evangelical Free Church. This story is about the culture in the youth group and allegedly deals with how illegal underage drinking and drug use was introduced to a former family member’s son. In this story the alleged illegal activities adversely affected and harmed the development of a young child. Like Hurit’s story, this reveals how nepotism was used to protect children of CEFC Elders.
“The people you have around you are your biggest influence.”
“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.”
Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”
1 Corinthians 15:33 NIV
When Community Evangelical Free ex-communicated an alleged rape and domestic abuse victim, it is my contention that such environments produce other stories. Often there are other situations under the surface that will come out in time. The culture in such places only guarantees that other acts of injustice, or abusive authority issues have occurred. Time usually proves this as more people read about their former church and learn new information. For others those who were wronged realize its time to tell their story. When you have been wounded and hurt by the institution you came from, which you once trusted, in the course of time you are willing to share what happened. As humans we are not created by the Lord to bottle up our pain, and trauma. That is not how we are designed at all. So I wrote this post which led to today’s story. I have had a couple of other people who have approached me about Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania. I am hoping to document more issues about this corrupt church in Elverson. If you are on the fence, telling your story can help yourself and others. Your story helps reveal how malfunctional a former institution can be. It can also help to warn others, which is what today’s post is about. This story is heartbreaking and one family wants to share what happened to their son at Community Evangelical Free Church. This post is a sad story about corruption, narcotics, alcohol problems and how a family was adversely affected. Before I continue I want to state that I am not opposed to alcohol at all. I do drink a beer from time to time, and when I lived in Milwaukee I enjoyed free samples at the Miller Brewery on their tour. Alcohol in moderation is fine, and I think we need to remember that even Jesus used wine, and had no problems with alcohol. But what happened here is heartbreaking and I am going to ask those of you out there to pray for this family. I am also hoping that those in the Elverson area will come alongside them and help carry their burdens. Today’s post is being sent to Eddie Cole, the District Superintendent of the Eastern District of the Evangelical Free Church of America.
Norma and Todd have lived in the Elverson/Morgantown area for years. They are a proud father and mother of several children. They decided to get involved in Community Evangelical Free Church in 2003. The reason why they got connected is because they were attracted to the church community. Plus they wanted their son to get involved in Community’s Youth Group. So they left their other church and got involved in Community Evangelical Free Church. At the time in 2003 their son James was 11 years old.
Norma and Todd in time became covenant members and deeply involved in the congregation. They served their church in many ways from the nursery to Bible studies. They fit in and enjoyed the church at the time. Both Norma and Todd loved the Lord and wanted to grow deeper in their faith. At the same time they were raising their son and wanted to energize him in his faith. Thus, they encouraged him to get involved in youth group. They believed that at youth group that James would be emboldened by good friendship and develop strong fellowship. They believed that James’ faith in the Lord and participation in youth group would result in a strong faith in the course of time. They wanted their son to build strong character and be reinforced by good role models.
One time an Elder’s son from Community Evangelical Free Church contacted the family of Norma and Todd. They wanted to invite James to hang out with them and others from Community. They would provide the transportation and get them home safely in time. Norma thought it was a great idea and that it would help her son grow and to get to know some of the core families of the church. Norma supported her son in this endeavor. What happened was very different, and she would learn much later in time. Instead of fellowshipping and enjoying each other’s company, watching a movie or playing sports; something else transpired. What happened instead is that the son of a Community Elder took their young teenage son to a frat party at a local college where alcohol was easily accessible and available. Norma had no idea as she trusted these boys who took James because they were elders sons. At this time James was 13.
While her son got to know some of the elders children these problems continued without Norma and Todd’s knowledge. Another time James was invited to a sleep over and Norma gave her blessing to the activity. She after all thought that they would do a lot of teenage activities, joke around, eat and have fun. Again what happened is completely different as James went to a sleep over while Dave Stoltzfus family was out of town. Alcohol was provided to their son and this all happened with no supervision. During the party, a youth leader, who today is a missionary came and drank multiple beers in front of several teenagers he was teaching. Norma had no idea any of this was going on and thought her son was being influenced in a healthy way.
The first indicator that something was wrong was when Norma’s spyware flagged a suspicious email. Norma and Todd had spyware on their computer that would act as a filter. What had happened is that another member of the youth group who was around the age of 19 to 20 tried to sell James drugs. Norma was shocked when she saw the filtration report and after speaking with Todd went and confronted her son James. James started to open up about some of the issues in the youth group. Norma and Todd decided to have a conversation with the other individual from the youth group and his father. This person is a Stoltzfus relative and works for the Stoltzfus. They pressed him on the drugs that he allegedly tried to sell their son, and it was casually dismissed. The youth member’s father just thanked them for letting them know and that was it. There was no apology. No repentance, no shock, and no effort to want to set things right. Todd and Norma left frustrated but their eyes started to be opened that all is not well at Community Evangelical Free Church.
In Brock’s story which Hurit wrote about in her letter which you can read here, it becomes clear that alcohol is a major problem. However, it would also appear that alcohol abuse is a major issue in the church itself. From my side of the story I keep hearing references to alcohol problems and issues that happened in the youth group from a number of differing individuals. As I understand Brock allegedly threw quite a party in high school where allegedly narcotics was used. But what is also troubling is that alcohol allegedly would be made accessible to under age individuals. This tended to be a common occurrence as the youth drank at times to excess and this was done with their parents consent. Parents who knew this was going on according to Norma allegedly made no effort to stop this behavior from occurring. Brock wasn’t an exception, he was a part of the culture in which he was raised, and the heavy drinking was reinforced in this environment. After all if you are going to be legalistic is that how you compensate yourself? You make up for one deficiency in your life by being legalistic in other areas? Recently an older teenager from David Stoltzfus’s family apparently confessed to drinking too much at these events. As a result of all this that teen is now struggling with the hypocrisy of their church and family.
James was allegedly introduced to alcohol and drugs through a member of the Community youth group. When James started to do narcotics, he was allegedly sold the drugs by the relative of the Stoltzfus. The other rich irony is that Matt Carter dressed James down for his alcohol use, while others in the Stoltzfus clan got a pass. The reality of the situation is that James started to do what he was encouraged by some members of the youth group. Brock Estes, and an Elder’s son, and a son of a Stoltzfus relative allegedly encouraged James’ alcohol activity as well. Today as a result this family is now struggling with their son. James is struggling with drug use, and he is acting out in anger. His parents are trying to find ways to deal with him. What drives some of this anger in James is knowing how he was hammered by the church and yet some of the children of the Stoltzfus clan had their alleged alcohol or narcotics issues swept under the carpet. This only highlights what played out in Hurit’s excommunication. Merle Stoltzfus claimed that Brock’s job had to be protected. The nepotism of Community bore toxic fruit in other areas, in this case it protected some of the children of the Elders who also allegedly engaged in illegal activities.
Analysis and Thoughts
For Todd and Norma their son’s faith took a hit as a result of what transpired in youth group. I would like to know if there are other stories or issues in the youth group at Community Evangelical Free Church. Like I said earlier on from my angle this keeps popping up repeatedly through differing people. In the case of Hurit its my belief that the EFCA denomination as part of any effort of reconciliation and healing, should provide Hurit with counseling and support to help her heal. While Todd and Norma’s story is separate it also highlights the dysfunctional nature of this particular church. James from what I understand because of narcotics and anger issues has had a couple of run ins with the law. Its my belief that James needs mental health counseling and this family needs support and love. Since James was introduced to narcotics in the youth group I believe that as part of the reconciliation effort that the EFCA denomination should help this family out. After all who in their right mind encourages their son to get involved in a youth group and later learns that it was that same environment that allegedly opened the door for the destructive behavior of under-age drinking and drug use? I believe this shows negligence on the part of Community. Drugs and other illegal behavior in church programs I believe should be treated like child sex abuse. Does it matter if the child sex abuse happened on church property or off it? What if it happened on an official church event like a Bible study or ice skating outing? The same applies to drugs and other illegal activity. If that is going to happen and allegedly be encouraged on church outings, trips, or youth activities this is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. Its my hope that you will pray for this family and come alongside them. I love and care for them personally and its my hope they will get the support that they need. As always I love you guys!