I've been doing a lot of reflecting lately...on my life, where I've been, where I'm at now...things that normal almost-30-year-olds tend to think about.
I think about my relationship with God, and the church--and I just keep coming back to Teen Mania. So much of the way I see the world, faith, God, and even myself was instilled in me through my involvement with Teen Mania Ministries.
Because of all my reflecting, I've been having dreams about my experience in Venezuela on a short-term Teen Mania missions trip. The dreams aren't exactly "nightmares," but they certainly aren't pleasant. They usually involve me being "trapped" somehow in a foreign country and trying desperately to get home, but ultimately being unable too. I often wake up feeling extremely "shaken" from these dreams, and I certainly don't sleep well on the nights when I have these dreams. As many of my readers know, I am a participant in the Recovering Alumni forums, and many folks there who have been involved with Teen Mania are still having bad dreams about their experiences years (and even decades) after their participation in the group.
I was never an Honor Academy intern, so my direct involvement with Teen Mania only consisted of a handful of Acquire the Fire conferences and a month-long Global Expedition. I would imagine that bad dreams tend to plague Honor Academy participants, some of whom spent years of their life at Teen Mania, even more than they bother me.
From a purely "common sense" perspective, it would seem to me that if you have a ministry running multiple programs that many participants are having nightmares about years later, that should serve as a major warning sign of serious problems.
But I'd also like to point out the second diagnostic criterion for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder:
One or more of these must be present in the victim: flashback memories, recurring distressing dreams, subjective re-experiencing of the traumatic event(s), or intense negative psychological or physiological response to any objective or subjective reminder of the traumatic event(s).This isn't sensationalism. I know of at least a few people who have received confirmed diagnoses of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) because of their experiences with Teen Mania Ministries.
If I were a parent, I would never let my child attend an event (or year-long program) where there was a potential for him or her to walk away with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder! As a former Teen Mania participant, it bothers me that my experience with the group continues to haunt me to this day, and it makes me want to shout from the rooftops that "Teen Mania is dangerous for teens!"--and to encourage others to join me. Safe programs with solid reputations don't tend to inflict psychological trauma on those who attend. Cults and high-control groups do, though!
For now, the bad dreams continue. But hopefully not tonight. Sleep well everyone!