Editor’s note: Deborah and Steve Kirk were part of the Freeman group in the 1970s. They have lived in Spokane since 1994 and attend Opportunity Presbyterian Church in Spokane Valley. When they learned that the Freemans had moved near campus, they asked to publish their personal story and personal experience with the Freemans. The Kirks asked to publish their home phone number along with this article.
I, Steve Kirk, met Bill and Patsy Freeman in 1970 at the age of 20 when a friend from Campus Crusade for Christ invited me to their meeting. Three months later I moved out of the University of Washington crewhouse and into their community called the Church in Seattle.
My wife, Deborah Nielsen, 20 at the time, was recruited in 1971 during a summer waitressing job at the Northgate Mall in Seattle. When she recognized a fellow Young Life leader at a meeting she thought she’d found a group of sincere, committed Christians.
Shortly after joining, we realized that daily life consisted of unwritten rules and authoritarian shepherding of all aspects of our lives by more experienced members. We were counseled to cut all ties with our past life, family and friends.
When Deborah wanted to give a Christmas gift to her mother, Patsy Freeman quoted Luke 14:26, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes even life itself, cannot be my disciple.” Bible verses were used to justify their beliefs and practices.
During a leadership meeting in January 1972 we were discussing the shortage of couples willing to be “houseparents” and host single men who were at least 18 years old. Patsy suggested to me that I marry Deborah, who was attending the Church in Portland at that time and was a senior at Lewis and Clark College.
Patsy called Deborah the next morning and told her that God had revealed His plan for us to marry each other. Deborah agreed, dropped out of college and moved into the Freeman’s home in Seattle.
Both of our parents, without meeting or speaking to one another, suggested that we wait six months before marrying. Patsy told us it would be disobedient to wait since we were sure it was God’s purpose for us to marry. Three weeks later we were married at a Sunday evening communion meeting.
One month later, two single men moved into our small two-bedroom house. Three years later there were 10 single men living with us in a six-bedroom house with Deborah doing all the cooking and most of the cleaning.
We moved on average every six months for the first six years of our marriage. In this and so many other matters we willingly took the Freeman’s suggestions. It wasn’t until we were kicked out of their group in 1979 that we realized how brain-washed we had been. We praise the Lord our marriage is strong today.
Of course this is not the message we presented to newcomers. We used deceit and believed that the end for God justified the means.
When one of the Freeman daughters enrolled at Seattle-area Bellevue Community College, Deborah was requested to accompany her. Deborah took German for the main purpose of recruiting students into the assembly. We used to pray for God to severely punish any who left.
Throughout the years they have used different names for identification. They believe they are patterning themselves after the New Testament churches, the Church in Rome, Church in Corinth, etc. There was never a shortage of money or free labor. We gave nearly all our free time and much more than 10 percent of our income to the church.
It is not uncommon for lawsuits to be threatened to silence criticism of their “cult-like” practices. This has caused some concerned ex-members to remain anonymous. Fortunately, there are people willing to express their opinions on the Internet (www.religionnewsblog.com).
We share this personal testimony to hopefully spare any of Spokane’s young people from similar painful experiences.
We pray for God’s love to overcome all fear and control. We know the Lord’s love is strong enough to help these Christians break free from following the Freemans. We hope the broken bonds between family members can be rebuilt. We have faith that these brothers and sisters can find healthy, positive, loving church communities.
In God’s grace,
Steve & Deborah (D.) Kirk
Home phone: (509)928-7987
Apr. 5, 2005 Opinion