A.W. - Ballard, Shoreline 2002-06

Your Name

A.W.

Gender

Female

Which describes your role at Mars Hill?

Regular Attender, Member

What Mars Hill location(s) did you attend?

Ballard, Shoreline

What years were you involved / attending?

2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006

How did you first hear about Mars Hill?

I actually found MH on Yelp.  I was looking for a church in the Seattle area and discovered it online.  

What was the circumstance of your first time attending Mars HIll?

I attended alone as a new/non-Christian.  I had decided it was time to make some changes in my life, and I had a hard time believing that we are just inconsequential beings with no purpose and no destiny.  I had a lot of questions about who I was.  I remember being in the small Ballard church and really taking in the sermons and the revelations about Jesus.  

What were your first impressions?

I immediately knew I had heard the truth when the gospel had been preached at MH.  I became a regular attendee and looked forward to Sunday when I could hear Mark preach.  Overall, the smaller building was welcoming and friendly at first.  I had initially requested to speak with a pastor.  I was naive and thought it would be great to sit down with a pastor and talk about how the gospel had changed me and how I felt about it.  I guess I was hoping to be welcomed into the church, but what resulted was a meeting with a pastor where I walked away feeling awkward.  I think the pastor was typically only meeting with people with huge life issues or something, and I wasn't there to discuss that.  So, I think I was expecting one thing and he was expecting something else.  It ended up leaving me feeling a little disappointed and uncomfortable.

Why was Mars Hill your church home?

I loved Mark's preaching style and the church in general immediately appealed to me.  I was excited at the number of congregants from all age groups and backgrounds and I wanted to be a part of that community and to grow in Christ.

What about your time at Mars Hill has had a positive impact on you?

Mars Hill was the first place I heard the gospel preached.  I learned about Jesus, and why I desperately needed him.  I felt I had finally discovered the truth and wanted to live by it.

What about your time at Mars Hill has had a negative impact on you?

Well, this is a long story so please bear with me.  I met my husband on a Yahoo dating site.  He was a non-Christian and I had just started attending Mars Hill.  I encouraged him to come with me to church, and we both began attending regularly, before and after we got married.  

I was a very lonely person.  I had little family to speak of and my mother and I had a very abusive relationship.  I had been emotionally and physically abused my entire life at the hands of my mother.  My father was never in my life.  I really wanted a family, a husband, and children, and I wanted security.  I didn't have it in my life and I desperately wanted it.  So, I can honestly say I wasn't very discerning about relationships with men in general.  When I met my soon-to-be husband, there were immediately HUGE red flags, but I pretended they didn't exist so I could get what I thought I wanted.  I am extremely sorry for that decision.  

My husband was an alcoholic.  I didn't realize the extent of it until after we were married and we started living together.  He was so drunk by 6 PM that he would oftentimes not even know where he was.  He would urinate on the floor and verbally abuse me.  Then he started physically abusing me.  Again, I was naive and very unwise in the way I conducted myself.  I tried to argue with him when he was drunk, and would raise my voice at him.  That instigated him physically assaulting me.  I'm not saying it's my fault, but I definitely made my fair share of mistakes too.  

As time went on, things escalated.  I was hit, punched, kicked, slapped, had my hair pulled, and physically tackled (like a football player) to the floor or against the wall.  One evening, "THE" evening that changed everything, we had an argument over a project we were working on.  He was drunk and I poked him on the nose saying "You need to treat me with more respect!".  At that point, he followed me into the kitchen and tackled me up against the kitchen cabinets.  He began choking me by placing his elbow into my throat (where I had recently had surgery to remove my thyroid) and pressing so that I could not breathe. I panicked and managed to fight him off of me.  Afraid he would attack me again, I picked up a knife on the counter and told him to stay away while I called the police.  When the police arrived I was arrested because I had ripped his shirt while fighting him off.  I actually couldn't believe it.  I remember sitting in jail thinking that the pastors of MH would help me.  If I could just get ahold of someone to help me.  I filed for a restraining order and he was removed from our home.  While the police were outside, he was allowed to retrieve personal items from the home.  What he did instead was take my glasses, my wedding ring, my make up, pour 2 liter bottles of soda on my clothes and on the bed, steal my hard drive, destroy my jewelry, turned off the water at the main, and set up a small space heater in the garage, surrounded by flammable materials.  I believe he was trying to burn the house down.

After that, he began contacting basically everyone we knew in common.  People from the church, my family, his family, our friends.  He called my mom and told her I was a lesbian and screamed at her "This is WAR!".  He told the church members that I had cheated on him and God only knows what else.  It was the hardest part of this separation, the lies, the deception, the revenge.  I reached out to MH pastors when I decided to file for divorce.  My husband was not showing any signs of repentance, mainly by being dishonest about what happened, about his drinking problem, lying to people about me, having my cell phone disconnected, cleaning out our bank account, falsifying documents to steal money from a trust we had set up, lying in court, oh... and trying to kill me.  That was a big one.

The pastors immediately began pushing me to reconcile with him.  But there was no way that was going to happen.  I knew I had to get away.  I was pressured daily with phone calls and emails.  I was asked to get a physical examination and have the results sent to the church, which I was not going to do.  I was put on church discipline, and shunned.

People in the church who I thought were my friends never called.  Either they believed my husband's lies or they believed I should reconcile and that I was sinning by not doing so.  Nobody called to see how I was.  Nobody stopped by.  It seemed nobody cared.  I was really devastated by that.  How could I fight this?  How could I disprove all the lies without turning into a he-said she-said scenario.  I tried contacting several friends who my husband had previously contacted.  They wouldn't talk to me and they would not hear my side of things.  So I remained silent for years about what really happened.

So, Today, almost 10 years later, I'm here to say that I survived.  Those people and pastors at MH hurt me badly.  I spent years in a deep depression and contemplated suicide until the Lord helped me to forgive everyone.  I forgave my husband, the church, it's members, and the pastors.  Forgiving is really what saved me.  Jesus saved me through His truth and light.  While what Mark did to some pastors at MH was not right, we are all guilty of hurting others, and what we must do is forgive, even if you feel he does not deserve it.  And we must trust God.  "Vengeance is mine" says the Lord God.  So let the Lord have his vengeance and trust that He will work things out with His justice.  

I have many emails or correspondence with MH pastors, the elders, etc., that I have saved and would be happy to share those with anybody interested, including the contract stating that I was to get a physical examination and allow my doctor to share it with the church.  I am not interested in naming names or pointing fingers, but my story is the truth.  I was wronged and mistreated. And maybe now it's time for me to share my story.

What would you like to have changed about Mars Hill?

I think that what was missing at MH was genuine love for each other.  I think people today have forgotten how to really love one another.  People don’t know how to be a friend, how to be a parent, how to be a relative, how to be a good neighbor, and to REALLY love someone.  

Loving someone means that you can disapprove of their sin but still love their soul.  Loving someone means that you put on Jesus’ glasses and attempt to view humanity the way that HE sees humanity.  People are broken, and what mends them together is the love of Christ that should radiate through His people.  For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son.  Without love, Christ would never have been crucified and salvation would be lost.

But honestly, MH failed at loving.  I’m not great at it either.  I have been hurt in a way that makes it very difficult to get close to anyone because I fear hurt and disappointment. But we ought to remember that because Jesus LOVED us that He brought grace and hope and reconciliation to us.

In John 13:35 Jesus said,
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

In 1 John 4:17 it states, “7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

Which describes you?

I left Mars Hill prior to closure.

Please describe why you left Mars Hill and what that experience was like.

I was basically shut out, shunned, and shut down.  I had to leave because I was not willing to be treated that way.

How would you describe the reason for Mars Hill's closure to an outsider.

I think it was sad, but it was something that had to happen.  Certain sins had to be brought to light, and I think Mark is a smart man but he has some serious character flaws that need to be worked out.  I feel that he should not be in ministry at this time, I don't think real change and repentance of sin comes from brute force and authoritarianism but through love and relationship.  I don't think he's quite figured that out yet.  Love is what changes and restores, not pressure, vilification and shunning.  When Christ died for our sins he said "It is finished!", not "We'll have to wait and see what the pastors of MH think".  

What MH did to me, and many others, was wrong, and my heart aches for anyone else who went through that kind of treatment at MH.

What's changed for you since your time at Mars Hill came to an end?

I have grown to mature in Christ.  I'm such a different person now.  I think that what happened to me, Jesus took and turned it into good.  I have become more gentle, loving, kind, slow to anger, slow to speak, more contemplative, and forgiving.   That in itself is a miracle.  A pastor at MH told me that if I didn't reconcile with my husband, I would become "a Bitter, angry woman".  But I'm not.  Praise God.   I still love Jesus dearly, that will never change.  I am sorry that the family of MH was destroyed.  But look how easy pride and anger and hostility can ruin a beautiful thing.  I encourage everyone to LOVE each other.  It's not easy to do at times, but everyone is a sinner, everyone falls short, and LOVE is the restorer.  

Please write anything else you'd like to add.


Thank you for sharing my story.

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