Mar 29, 2024

CultNEWS101 Articles: 3/28/2024 (Clergy Sexual Abuse, Conversion Therapy, Book, Transcendental Meditation, Ishmael Chokurongerwa, Apostolic Church, Zimbabwe, Child Abuse, Angola, Legal, Witchcraft, Hillsong)

Clergy Sexual Abuse, Conversion Therapy, Book, Transcendental MeditationIshmael ChokurongerwaApostolic Church, Zimbabwe, Child Abuse, Angola, Legal, WitchcraftHillsong
"A former bishop in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who was featured in an Associated Press investigation into how the church protects itself from allegations of sexual abuse was arrested by police in Virginia this week after being indicted on charges he sexually abused his daughter while accompanying her on a school trip when she was a child, according to court filings.

Police and federal authorities had been searching for John Goodrich after a grand jury in Williamsburg on Jan. 17 found probable cause that he committed four felonies, including rape by force, threat or intimidation, forcible sodomy, and two counts of felony aggravated sexual battery by a parent of a child.

Those charges were filed weeks after the AP investigation revealed how a representative of the church, widely known as the Mormon church, employed a risk management playbook that has helped it keep child sexual abuse cases secret after allegations surfaced that Goodrich abused his daughter Chelsea, now in her 30s, at their home in Idaho as well as on a school field trip to the Washington, D.C., area 20 years ago."
"In 1967, street minister Kent Philpott began outreach to lesbian, gay, and bisexual hippies in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. Over the next decade, he counseled those who purportedly wanted out of what he referred to as "the gay lifestyle," combining charismatic religious beliefs in demons, divine healing, and glossolalia with psychological theories on gender and child development. This article examines Philpott's efforts to provide the nascent "ex-gay movement" with cultural, social, and intellectual foundations. This article specifically documents how sexual liberation, hippie culture, and conservative religion converged in San Francisco and spawned the "ex-gay movement." Philpott, swept up by the Jesus People Movement, incorporated religious and psychological beliefs prominent in the Bay Area and infused charismatic Christian influences and traditional understandings of masculinity and femininity into the 'ex-gay movement.'"

Christopher Publishing House: TM And Cult Mania, by Michael Persinger
"TM and Cult Mania is a non-fiction book that examines assertions made by the Transcendental Meditation movement (TM). The book is authored by Michael Persinger, Normand Carrey and Lynn Suess and published in 1980 by Christopher Publishing House."

"TM and Cult Mania analyzes the efficacy or lack thereof of the TM meditation process, concluding that it is, "no more effective than many other meditation techniques". The authors write that, "Transcendental Meditation has achieved international recognition through commercial exploitation" and "poor scientific procedures". The book notes that physiological changes observed due to partaking in TM methodology are very small.[9] Persinger, Carrey, and Suess conclude in TM and Cult Mania, "science has been used as a sham for propaganda by the TM movement."

A positive capsule review in the Los Angeles Times noted that the authors use logic to point out transparencies in the assertions of Transcendental Meditation. John Horgan, in his book Rational Mysticism, questions Persinger's neutrality and says that in his book he treats religious beliefs and spiritual practices as mental illness."

"TM and Cult Mania takes a look at the assertions made by the Transcendental Meditation movement and analyzes them from a scientific perspective. The book acknowledges that those who practice the Transcendental Meditation technique feel relaxed and experience an increase in creativity. According to the book, the physiological effects reported by the scientific studies on Transcendental Meditation are relatively small from a scientific perspective and "no more effective than many other meditation techniques". Transcendental Meditation is seen as most noteworthy due to its ability to manipulate stress and expectancy.

"Transcendental Meditation has achieved international recognition through commercial exploitation" and "poor scientific procedures", write the authors. The book notes, "Frankly, the reported effects of TM upon human behavior are trivial. Considering the alleged potency of the TM procedure, the changes in physiological and behavioral measures are conspicuously minute." TM and Cult Mania comes to the conclusion that, "science has been used as a sham for propaganda by the TM movement."
"Zimbabwe police on Wednesday said they have arrested a man claiming to be a prophet of an apostolic sect at a shrine where believers stay in a compound and authorities found 16 unregistered graves, including those of infants, and more than 250 children used as cheap labor.

In a statement, police spokesman Paul Nyathi said Ishmael Chokurongerwa, 56, a "self-styled" prophet, led a sect with more than 1,000 members at a farm about 34 kilometers (21 miles) north-west of the capital, Harare, where the children were staying alongside other believers.

The children were being used to perform various physical activities for the benefit of the sect's leadership," he said. Of the 251 children, 246 had no birth certificates.

"Police established that all children of school-going age did not attend formal education and were subjected to abuse as cheap labor, doing manual work in the name of being taught life skills," said Nyathi.

Police said among the graves they found were those of seven infants whose burials were not registered with authorities.

He said police officers raided the shrine on Tuesday. Chokurongerwa, who called himself the Prophet Ishmael, was arrested together with seven of his aides 'for criminal activities which include abuse of minors.'"
"About 50 people have died in Angola after being forced to drink an herbal potion to prove they were not sorcerers, police and local officials said Thursday. The deaths occurred between January and February near the central town of Camacupa, according to Luzia Filemone, a local councilor.

Police confirmed that 50 people had died.  

Speaking to Angola National Radio broadcaster, Filemone accused traditional healers of administering the deadly concoction.

"More than 50 victims were forced to drink this mysterious liquid which, according to traditional healers, proves whether or not a person practices witchcraft," she said.

Belief in witchcraft is still common in some rural Angolan communities despite strong opposition from the church in the predominantly Catholic former Portuguese colony."
"Investigative journalist David Hardaker's new book, Mine is the Kingdom, tells the explosive story of how Brian Houston's family went from humble Kiwi origins to run one of the world's largest megachurches. This extract reveals how their empire started falling apart."

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CultNEWS101 Articles: 3/29/2024 (Children of God, Divine Light Mission, Krishnacore, Bateman, Child Sexual Abuse, Polygamy, Legal, Japan, Aum Shinrikyo)

Children of God, Divine Light Mission, Krishnacore,  Bateman, Child Sexual Abuse, Polygamy, Legal, Japan, Aum Shinrikyo

There has been a growth in popularity of religious groups like The Children of God and Divine Light Mission (DLM) who are meeting the needs of some young people looking to find meaning in their lives.

"When it comes to punk and hardcore, a nearly palpable disdain for high-handed theology has long been the party line of the scene.

More than music, these bands are traditionally known to espouse a full-throated rejection of the dogma that many had force-fed to them during their formative years. Even those who weren't raised with religion and therefore dodged the personal indoctrination bullet can't turn a blind eye to Bible-thumpers influencing policies that clamp down on reproductive rights, gut social services, and fan the flames of international conflicts.

Of course, there's been a Christian hardcore scene smashing it out since the late '80s, parading their faith around right in the heart of a community that's built on giving the proverbial middle finger to tradition. And then there's hardline zealots like Vegan Reich, who somehow married the teachings of fundamentalist Islam with hardline fury. These groups have always lingered on the fringes, tolerated rather than embraced.

In the early '90s, a different kind of religious fervor began to snake its way into the scene, gaining a level of acceptance that was without parallel or precedent.

Invoking the serenity and communal ethos of the peace and love flower children of the 1960s, the Hare Krishnas represented a significant cultural and spiritual extension of the hippie movement. Disillusioned by the Western religious traditions they were raised in, these seekers pivoted towards the East in their quest for a form of enlightenment that promised a more profound connection with the divine and an escape from the materialistic trappings of modern society.

Easily identifiable by their distinctive shaved heads and saffron robes, Krishna devotees became a familiar sight in cities across the U.S. and Europe in decades past. They were often seen selling flowers, stickers, and spiritual literature or engaging passersby with their melodic chanting. Although walking a fine line between being labeled a cult and embraced as a legitimate religion, their peaceful, rhythmic voices and acts of kindness echoed the flower-power ethos, appealing to those seeking spirituality beyond the confines of the conventional.

In the 1980s, a unique convergence occurred as groups of straightedge hardcore kids from New York City and surrounding areas began to show an interest in the path towards enlightenment espoused by the movement. This road emphasized self-realization over sensory gratification—a principle that resonated deeply with the willful abstinence from drugs, alcohol, and casual sex that many were already practicing.

Disillusioned by the hedonism and nihilism that often surrounded people in the hardcore scene, the discipline and purpose offered by the Hare Krishna faith provided a means of personal improvement and greater meaning in life.

The origins of the Krishnacore can be traced back to New York hardcore bands like Antidote and Cause For Alarm, whose members were known to frequent Temples and openly utilized Krishna imagery in their visual art. The movement saw its ideas propelled into the wider punk consciousness with the release of Cro-Mags' debut, The Age Of Quarrel. This seminal album drew its title from Vedic scriptures, referencing a time of widespread conflict and sin referred to as the Kali Yuga."
"A businessman pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiring with the leader of an offshoot polygamous sect near the Arizona-Utah border to transport underage girls across state lines, making him the first man to be convicted in what authorities say was a scheme to orchestrate sexual acts involving children.

Moroni Johnson, who faces 10 years to life in prison, acknowledged that he participated in a scheme to transport four girls under the age of 18 for sexual activity. Authorities say the conspiracy between the 53-year-old Johnson and the sect's leader, self-proclaimed prophet Samuel Bateman, occurred over a three-year period ending in September 2022.

Authorities say Bateman had created a sprawling network spanning at least four states as he tried to start an offshoot of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which historically has been based in the neighboring communities of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah. He and his followers practice polygamy, a legacy of the early teachings of the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which abandoned the practice in 1890 and now strictly prohibits it. Bateman and his followers believe polygamy brings exaltation in heaven."
"Former Ohio priest Michael Zacharias, who is serving life in prison for sexual abuse, has been dismissed from the Catholic Church by the Pope.

According to the Diocese, his case was transmitted to the Holy See, which is the governing body overseeing Vatican City.

The case was sent with the request that the Pope dismiss Zacharias from the clerical state. 
acharias was sentenced to life in prison last year for sex trafficking minors and adults. He served in multiple parishes, including in Toledo, Fremont, and Findlay."
Japan on Wednesday marked the 29th anniversary of the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult's sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system that killed 14 people and injured more than 6,000.

At Tokyo Metro Co.'s Kasumigaseki Station, 16 station staff members offered a silent prayer around 8 a.m., close to the time of the attack. Shizue Takahashi, 77, a bereaved family member, visited the station to lay flowers around 10 a.m. "We are not in a situation where we can say the incident is over," she said, calling for efforts to keep the attack from being forgotten.

The attack occurred during the morning rush hour of March 20, 1995. Aum Shinrikyo members released sarin in trains on the three lines of Tokyo Metro's predecessor running through the station, close to the Kasumigaseki district where central government offices are concentrated.

At the station, two senior subway officials died, namely Takahashi's husband, Kazumasa, then 50, and Tsuneo Hishinuma, then 51.

Over the sarin attack and other crimes by Aum Shinrikyo, 13 people were executed in July 2018, including former leader Chizuo Matsumoto, then 63, who went by the name of Shoko Asahara."



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Mar 27, 2024

Japan court imposes fine on Unification Church

Japan court imposes fine on Unification Church
UCA News reporter
By UCA News reporter
March 27, 2024

A trial court in Japan has imposed a fine on the Unification Church for failing to respond to some of the questions related to its controversial collection of hefty donations from its members.

Tomihiro Tanaka, president of the Unification Church in Japan, was fined 100,000 Yen (around US$660) on March 26 for failing to answer more than 100 of some 500 questions, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) reported.

Judge Kenya Suzuki of the Tokyo District Court pointed out that "violation of law," which is a requirement for the dissolution order, "includes illegal acts under the Civil Code.”

"Torts have been recognized in such cases as the solicitation of donations made by believers,” Suzuki said citing the decisions of 22 other civil court judgments that recognized the responsibility of the church and its followers.

“It appears that illegal acts that violated the property rights and personal rights of many victims were repeatedly committed,” Suzuki added.

The Unification Church had conducted a “suspected” violation of laws and regulations and “harmed the public welfare," Suzuki noted in his judgment adding that the total amount of damage exceeds 1.5 billion Yen.

Suzuki had imposed the administrative penalty at the request of Japan’s education ministry which had reportedly questioned the group seven times during which it had allegedly refused to answer more than 100 questions, NHK reported.

The penalty imposed is the first such instance in connection with the government's authority of inquiry.

The church said that it would consider its “future response after confirming the details of the written decision,” NHK reported.

The Unification Church which was formally known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification came under heavy government scrutiny and public criticism following the assassination of former Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe by Tetsuya Yamagami.

Yamagami shot and killed Abe on July 8, 2022, over his ties to the Unification Church and alleged economic hardships faced by his family due to hefty donations given by his mother to the church which is estimated to be around US$1 million.

The Tokyo District Court is also in the process of hearing a separate plea from the ministry of education requesting the dissolution of the church.

Meanwhile, state officials have lauded the court judgment as proof of the validity of the claims that it has submitted before the court to provide closure to the church’s victims.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi said he believed that “the court has recognized the state's claim” that the church had refused to answer the questions from the government, NHK reported.

Hayashi said that the ministry “will continue to deal appropriately with” the Unification Church-related issues.

Masahito Moriyama, Japan’s minister of education, welcomed the judgment, saying that the court has recognized the ministry’s claim that the right to collect reports and ask questions is legal.

“We will continue to demand that the former Unification Church properly respond to the lawful 'right to collect reports' and ask questions,” Moriyama said.

Professor Hajime Tajika of Kinki University, an expert in constitutional law and is an expert on religious corporation law, said the penalty imposed on the church was a boost to the government’s proceedings against it.

https://www.ucanews.com/news/japan-court-imposes-fine-on-unification-church/104593?fbclid=IwAR3aN6SueeXPlHBWrzQr5vqEvM8f9IlQZM42VdheFhMdkciVZCe_TsbZ3rE

CultNEWS101 Articles: 3/27/2024 (Sisters of the Good Shepherd, Clergy Sexual Abuse, Gloriavale, Docuseries, New Zealand, Scientology, Legal, Apollo Quiboloy, Philippines)

Sisters of the Good Shepherd, Clergy Sexual Abuse, GloriavaleDocuseries, New Zealand, Scientology, Legal, Apollo QuiboloyPhilippines
"More than three dozen people allege in two lawsuits filed Tuesday that they were sexually abused as children at a Maryland residential program for youths that closed in 2017 following similar allegations.

In the separate lawsuits, attorneys detailed decades of alleged abuse of children by staff members of the Good Shepherd Services behavioral health treatment center, which had billed itself as a therapeutic, supportive environment for Maryland's most vulnerable youth.

The program was founded in 1864 by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, a Catholic religious order focused on helping women and girls. It began at a facility in Baltimore before moving to its most recent campus just outside the city.

Many of the plaintiffs — almost all of them women — reported being injected with sedatives that made it more difficult for them to resist the abuse. Others said their abusers, including nuns and priests employed by the center, bribed them with food and gifts or threatened them with violence and loss of privileges.

The claims were filed against the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services and Department of Human Services, agencies that contracted with Good Shepherd and referred children there for treatment. The lawsuits also named the state Department of Health, which was tasked with overseeing residential facilities. The Sisters of the Good Shepherd religious order wasn't a named defendant in either suit.

In a joint statement Tuesday afternoon, the three state agencies said they had not yet been served with the court papers.

"However, the Departments of Health, Human Services and Juvenile Services work to ensure the safety and well-being of all children and youth placed in state care. We take allegations of sexual abuse of children in our care seriously," the statement said.

Many of the children referred to Good Shepherd were in foster care or involved in the state's juvenile justice system.

"The state of Maryland sent the most vulnerable children in its care to this facility and then failed to protect them," said Jerome Block, an attorney representing 13 plaintiffs in one of the lawsuits filed Tuesday."
"Every person who has left Gloriavale has family or loved ones still inside. That's a fact. And the majority of them want to do something to help. There is a resistance movement growing as more people leave and they all want to do their bit to expose the truth about life inside Gloriavale.

We met dozens of leavers in the course of making this documentary and could have cast it many, many times over with all the warm, smart, perceptive people we met. We are absolutely thrilled with the cast we landed with and can't wait for New Zealanders to have their misconceptions about what people from Gloriavale are like totally turned upside down.

The Gloriavale Leavers' Support Trust estimates they have helped about 200 people leave in the past 10 years – but to put that in perspective, the average Gloriavale family has about 12 children. There are about 600 people still living inside Gloriavale – about 350 of them are children – so there are still more people living inside than out.

There is a growing resistance movement on the outside that casually call themselves the 'Underground Network'. These are neighbours, former members, lawyers, media and just members of the public that want to help. To leave Gloriavale is much like being a refugee – most don't have bank accounts, drivers' licences, passports.

Many have never even handled money, never caught a bus. One of our contributors had only ever been to Greymouth a handful of times in her life for dental appointments – that was her only tiny window to the outside world, so she had never seen phones or ATMs or escalators.

She had never had her hair cut, worn anything but her uniform from birth, hadn't even been to the supermarket. So to say leaving is difficult is a huge understatement.

Add to that the psychological barriers they have – they are raised to believe that leaving means eternal damnation which is a fate worse than death. So the process of leaving can take many years."

Scoop: Press Release from TVNZ
New Zealand's most extreme religious cult, Gloriavale, and the true stories of people attempting to break free, are the subject of a brand-new docuseries – Escaping Utopia – screening this March on TVNZ.

In a worldwide premiere, screening across three captivating nights, Escaping Utopia documents the intricate planning that goes into clandestine escapes from Gloriavale – with unprecedented access to its inner workings, the unravelling of its leadership and the pursuit of justice by the group of passionate and dedicated people known as The Gloriavale Leavers' Support Trust.

Shocking new information is revealed from former and current members of the community who have never gone on the record before – and who through their accounts, seek answers to some of the most crucial questions in the dark history of Gloriavale.

The three-part investigation premieres Sunday 24 March, 8.30pm on TVNZ 1 and TVNZ+ and continues Tuesday 25 and Wednesday 26.

Escaping Utopia is produced by Warner Bros. International Television Production New Zealand in association with the New Zealand Government's Premium Productions for International Audiences Fund and made with the support of NZ on Air. The series is directed by Natalie Malcon and Justin Pemberton, with Philippa Rennie as Executive Producer.
"Leah Remini's lawsuit against the Church of Scientology for defamation and harassment will survive, though only just, after an LA Superior Court judge struck down the majority of the actress' complaint on Tuesday.

Church of Scientology spokesperson Karin Pouw called the ruling "a resounding victory for the Church and free speech," adding in an email, "the Church is entitled to its attorney fees and will be seeking them."

Remini, who gained fame as a co-star on the sitcom "King of Queens," was a member of the Church of Scientology for more than 35 years, starting at the age of eight. She estimates to have spent more than $5 million on classes, services and donations to the organization. When she broke with Scientology in 2013, she soon became one of the church's most vocal critics, largely through a memoir, "Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology," and a TV docuseries, "Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath."

The church responded to Remini in kind, producing a slew of videos and articles attacking her as a racist and bigot, suggesting that she had inspired hate crimes against Scientologists. The headline of one article read, "As the World Remembers the Holocaust, Bigot Leah Remini Inspires Praise of Hitler."

In August 2023, Remini filed a suit accusing the church of orchestrating a vicious online campaign against her, where she said, "for the past ten years, Ms. Remini has been stalked, surveilled, harassed, threatened, intimidated, and, moreover, has been the victim of intentional malicious and fraudulent rumors via hundreds of Scientology-controlled and -coordinated social media accounts that exist solely to intimidate and spread misinformation."

Remini also accused the church of having her followed and surveilled by private detectives.

The church filed an anti-SLAPP motion — a legal maneuver used to quickly throw out suits that are meant to discourage free speech or public participation — arguing that the church and its members were simply fighting Remini's "hate speech" with their own speech. As for surveilling Remini, the church said that was part of its "pre-litigation stance" in anticipation of Remini's lawsuit.

In his 37-page ruling, Superior Court Judge Randolph Hammock agreed to strike more than a dozen paragraphs of Remini's complaint as untimely, finding that those claims took place before Aug. 2, 2022 and it was too late to sue over them. The judge also struck down most of the defamation claims, finding that most of them were not false assertions of fact."
"Defenders of controversial preacher Apollo Quiboloy at the Senate have failed to muster enough signatures to block the contempt order against him, placing the self-claimed "Son of God" at the mercy of looming arrest if he does not respond to a show cause order within 48 hours.

Quiboloy's Senate defense crumbled on Tuesday after only five senators signed the written objection to the contempt order against the Kingdom of Jesus Christ founder, Sen. Robin Padilla said. This is three signatures short of the eight required to overturn the contempt ruling."

" ... Quiboloy has been cited for contempt by two committees at the House and the Senate for his continued refusal to personally appear in hearings concerning his actions as KOJC leader and founder of KOJC's media partner, SMNI.

The Senate women and gender equality committee is currently investigating the sexual crimes allegedly committed by Quiboloy and other KOJC leaders, while the House legislative franchises committee is deliberating on a bill that seeks to cancel the legislative franchise of SMNI after it allegedly aired content that violates its franchise terms."

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Ex- Gloriavale couple share their unique love story

REAL LIFE
MARCH 27, 2024

Despite an extreme campaign to drive them apart, Rosie and Elijah Overcomer escaped to a new life together.

It takes immense bravery to leave the confines of an insular, tightly knit community like Gloriavale. Especially when it’s the only life you’ve ever known and you’ve been told since birth that the community is your sanctuary from an outside world that is inherently evil and dangerous.

Rosanna, known as Rosie, and Elijah Overcomer are second-generation Gloriavale members who, 11 years ago, found the courage to leave the reclusive religious sect.

Along with other former and current Gloriavale members, they’re sharing their compelling story in TVNZ’s documentary series Escaping Utopia, which offers a glimpse into the inner workings of the community, and reveals shocking new information about the allegations of abuse, control and exploitation that have plagued it for years.

At one stage, Rosie, 37, and Elijah, 34, were tapped for future leadership positions at Gloriavale by its founder and former leader, the late Hopeful Christian. However, in 2013, the couple decided to start a new life outside the West Coast community, following an extreme campaign by the sect’s leaders to drive them apart.

“We first started questioning things when we got married and had our first baby,” reveals Rosie. “Then everything was fast-tracked after our third child arrived.”

Elijah was removed from Gloriavale when he confronted Hopeful about his criminal conviction for sexual abuse. This led to Rosie and their three children being whisked away on a small aeroplane and put into hiding in a remote location where she wasn’t allowed contact with Elijah or the outside world for six weeks.

The dramatic story of their escape from the grip of the community’s leaders and the only life they ever knew unfolds in the second episode of this thrilling series.

One thing the Gloriavale leaders did get incredibly right, however, was the arranged marriage of Rosie and Elijah, who were 22 and 19 at the time.

Today, their deep love for each other is evident as they chat with Woman’s Day from the Fairlie farm where they are successful sharemilkers. The go-getting couple lease another farm in Fairlie, as well as one on the West Coast, where they run a second dairy herd with Elijah’s sister Heavenly.

Rosie and Elijah are happy, relaxed and speak with pride about their family of six gorgeous children, aged from 14 to five, who each have big dreams of their own.

The Overcomer whānau has come a long way in the last decade, but their journey hasn’t always been easy. Like many former Gloriavale members, Rosie and Elijah faced numerous challenges as they started to forge their own identities separate from the confines of the community.

As well as grappling with feelings of isolation, questioning everything they believed to be true and the guilt of leaving family members behind, Rosie and Elijah had to learn to adjust to – and trust – the outside world and the people in it, recalls Elijah.

“It’s hard to have confidence in your own decision-making when you’ve been taught your ideas aren’t good and everything comes from the leaders,” he explains. “We were told in Gloriavale that if good things happen, it is the Devil trying to look after you, so even when people were doing nice things for us on the outside, it was hard to trust.”

Rosie and Elijah’s first stop after leaving the community was Christchurch, where some of their family already lived.

Elijah got a firewood delivery and lawn-mowing job, but after managing the deer farm at Gloriavale, he was keen to get into farming. He applied for around 40 jobs and finally secured work on a deer farm in Timaru.

“We were happy to go to Timaru, where we didn’t know anyone, so we could figure out who we were, what we were into and suss out our lives.”

A large farmhouse was provided with the job. The Overcomer family moved in with their few boxes of possessions and very little furniture, not even a fridge. “It was the most empty house you’d ever find,” Rosie recalls.

She faced significant adjustments in the early days too, such as learning to be a mother without the support of other community members and adapting to practical tasks, like using a cellphone, Eftpos card and online banking. Making friends was also difficult, she admits.

“I didn’t want to get too close to people in the beginning because I thought they’d cut me off as soon as they realised I didn’t believe the same things they did. I didn’t want to go through that hurt again, and felt really lost and lonely for a long time.”

After a year in Timaru, the family moved to Fairlie, where Elijah and Rosie started to climb the sharemilking ladder.

“We aim to produce as much food as we can sustainably and are close to reaching our ultimate goal of owning our own farm,” Elijah says proudly. “When I was managing the deer farm at Gloriavale, they told me I’d never make it. Ever since, I’ve been motivated to prove them wrong.”

Despite the many uncertainties they’ve faced, Rosie, Elijah, and their children are thriving. The family has a large circle of friends, with 200 joining them at a 2023 party to celebrate 10 years since leaving Gloriavale. Elijah plays rugby for a local team and Rosie enjoyed her first season of social netball last year.

“We love watching our kids’ sports too and seeing all the opportunities they have to give different things a go,” she says.

 
The doco shows actual goings-on at Gloriavale.

The couple are the only former members to be on the Gloriavale Leavers’ Support Trust, which assists former members to become independent and integrate into local communities, says Rosie.

“Our role is to be a voice and advocate for our people who have left, and those still in Gloriavale who might want to leave or need help and support.”

Despite everything they’ve been through, Rosie and Elijah remain hopeful that real change at Gloriavale is possible, brought about by people like them sharing their stories, and the ongoing scrutiny from media, the police and government agencies.

“There’s a lot more that needs to happen, but progress is being made,” says Elijah.

As they look ahead to their own bright future, the couple want to continue to inspire others to understand their own value.

“We believe that on the day of our birth, God gives us more gifts than we can possibly imagine and we spend the rest of our lives unwrapping them,” Elijah explains. “That’s one of our life mottos we love to pass on.”

Escaping Utopia premieres Sunday 24 March, 8.30pm on TVNZ 1 and TVNZ+, continuing Tuesday and Wednesday.

https://www.nowtolove.co.nz/