As you might have noticed, if you have been reading the comments in Brett’s latest tobacco review, Steve Cefala (Dawning, Pale Existence, Condemned to Live, Nothing Left, No God Only Pain) and his family members have been targeted by a cult named Victory Outreach. The police has been notified about these events.
It seems that cult members have been trying to get Steve to pay them more money, while isolating him and intimidating his family. He has also received anonymous threats and seems to be under the possibly correct suspicion that he is being stalked, due to a series of strange events and “coincidental” behaviors. According to his own words:
Victory Outreach members (in the leadership back room) had threatened physical violence against me for my past, threatened forced exorcisms of my brother (and mom additionally if I remember correctly), mentioned about possibly having to kill me for being a heretic, and also a black van from the church had parked across the street from our condo on Archer St. Salinas at times.
During certain sermons, their leadership had encouraged members to donate their house to the church. Most of the threats generally came from the strong arm of the church , which are the men’s homes, comprised of former ex-cons, drug addicts, and gang members.
Steve’s involvement with Victory Outreach has been due to a serious medical problem he faced. According to Steve, it appears that this church is trying to clear its past. I have tried to find the L. A. Times article that he recommended but it appears it got erased. However, there are personal accounts of people who joined on many websites, including this one where cult survivors share their experiences. See some of those below:
“I was a part of the Victory Outreach church based in London, England for five years during the 90s. I am not a minister, but simply a believer who wants to see the truth become clear. People I know and care about understand that fine line of spiritual abuse that runs through the ministry of Victory Outreach International.
Within 3 months I was leader on a worship team. I also joined in on leaders meetings. At one of these meetings, the pastor made this point, which really shocked me, he said, “We are not here to become friends, but we are here to fulfill the vision.” The word “vision” was to become a key word in my time there along with words like “sacrifice,” “obedience,” “rebellion” and “Pastor Sonny.”
But what I came to expect was that the congregation was there to serve the pastor and the leaders. When I first joined Victory Outreach I shared with the pastor what I felt God’s calling was for me. His answer shocked me, he said, “The best way to fulfill the call/vision that God had placed on my life, was to lay it down and serve someone else’s vision (e.g. Sonny’s).” By doing this I was told, “This was sacrifice, and only in sacrifice can God bless my call/vision.” Sadly I believed this.
Just by this verse of scripture it seems pretty evident that a good shepherd willingly “lays his life down.” This is certainly far from the “shepherds” who serve the vision of Victory Outreach. The sheep in Victory Outreach is to lay their lives down for their pastor, who in turn is laying his life down for the “bigger Vision.” The “vision” whatever that may be, “United We Can,” “Vision 2000” or any other dream or vision that Sonny has had from God, will always have priority.
I would like to ask Sonny a question here about vision 2000.
Why, if this vision was from God, (i.e. to have 1,000 churches by the year 2000) did this not come true? How much money was put into promoting this vision, printing T-shirts, baseball caps, diaries, banners etc. etc? And did the people who sacrificially gave, get their money back? As far as I know Victory Outreach today does not have 1,000 churches and it is now 2001. But they have got another vision. Did God get it wrong and change His mind? Or did Sonny not hear from Him in the first place?”
“Those that have left the church, including someone i work with have experienced threats, alienation, economic harassment, and malicious litigation by the church.”
“I say “escaped” because these guys weren’t going to let me leave, wouldn’t let me use the phone, and were gathering around me to “knock the devil out.”
When I got out the door my life was still in jeopardy because I was smack dab in the middle of the San Antonio ghetto.
We were fed beans and rice with moldy bread three times a day, that is on the days that we ate three times a day. The kitchen was infested with roaches and scum litter ally ripped from the ceiling.”
“Breakfast: After Morning Prayer, they sing and eat breakfast. That is, IF that day hasn’t been declared a “day of fasting”. The last week I was there, they fasted four days out of seven, which made me physically weak.
Daily work: After breakfast: about half of the men in my home went to an amusement park where they worked concession booths. The men see none of the money, of course, and they are also not served lunch. This is considered to be a “sacrifice to the Lord”.
Dinner: After the work day is finished, usually ten to twelve hours, the men return home to pray for an hour and then eat dinner.
Evening work: Evening work: After dinner, [we were] … told to “hit the streets”–this usually meant selling tickets to upcoming Victory Outreach fundraising events. The last week I was there, they were planning a Christian rap concert featuring “Preachers in the Hood”. We were out until two in the morning, on an average, returning home and sleeping until 5 AM and then our day began again.”
“I’m sure the place collects several hundred dollars a day for the labors of 10 or 15 guys out slaving but none of that money found its way into the food pantry, however, the director wore some pretty nice gold jewelry and drove a nice car.
The word recovering or recovery was taboo, delivered was the word used instead.
The many guys that had been in and out of there numerous times believed each time that the devil had got ’em and once again, back at VO, they were delivered, then were taken to pray with a shovel in their hands.
I have not been delivered, I’ve been clean and sober for two weeks now and seeking a treatment program to help me with my recovery. I do believe in God and thank him for getting me out of Victory Outreach, and I pray that others will snap out of the trance and get some recovery as well.”
There are criticisms of this church all over the internet. Comments have claimed that the next Heaven’s Gate will be related to Victory Outreach. Although it seems that their forceful methods are effective into getting people to quit drugs, one must consider the purpose behind such persistence. This purpose is no other than lust for power. And the fact the church gathers people from a rough background to prevent them from indulging in substances or articles is irrelevant if their purpose is to oppress others. Cults will continue to multiply as the West continues its headlong dive into ignorance, narcissism and stupidity.
We here at DMU, condemn the brain carcinogens and herd mentalities that lurk inside such cults, their subjugation of individual expression and the problems that cause in our communities. If you are addicted to drugs seek medical help, not spiritual hocus-pocus. If you seek spiritual experiences the internet is rife with manuals and knowledge to do so and carve your own path. If you seek solace and a sense of belonging (which is perfectly normal, especially when life comes crushing down), join one of the big religions (I believe Orthodoxy to be a safe choice, I am sure people who weren’t altar boys can say the same for their own denominations) or join the army – which, if you do not suffer from a serious condition, might solve the problems that made you want to join a cult anyway.
Say no to cults! Say yes to freedom! Hail Dawning!
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law
Rebel against the church
Drink from the chalice of Blasphemy
Rise up against the deceiver