Helen Pomery and David Lowe remember a former life of servitude.
“I had to submit and be obedient to my husband,” Ms Pomery, a 60-year-old Brisbane mother, claims.
“I had to submit and be obedient to the church elders and I had to cut off my daughter.”
This, she was assured, was key to her eternal salvation.
“We lived at Samford on acreage. We were ordinary. We just happened to go to an extraordinary church…”
The church – the Brisbane Christian Fellowship (BCF) – nestled in the Samford Valley in Brisbane’s north, has a loyal following.
Church elders preach sacrifice, submission and obedience, she says.
To the church faithful, they are God’s messengers.
But beyond the public face of the church, strategically hidden from the congregation, is human devastation.
Families have been torn apart, and psychological counselling required by former members.
Not that Ms Pomery could see the potential for damage when she arrived with her husband and three children in Maryborough from South Australia.
“We were Christians, we were looking for a new church.
“Then the Brisbane Christian Fellowship sent a pastor to our house.
“They present well; they had a lot of credibility. They are very kind and responsive people. You get embraced by the fellowship and you think `this is lovely.'”
But as her husband became more involved with the church’s elders, demands became more strict.
The BCF demands followers attain sinless perfection.
As part of this, female followers are expected to sacrifice their free will to men, Ms Pomery says.
“The elders held a men’s sexuality seminar out here and they said that my body was not my body it was his body, so my husband had every right to demand that whenever he chose.
“I know of wives whose husbands said that they couldn’t use the car to go out other than to the shops. So the husband wrote down the (odometer) reading in the morning and checked the (odometer) at night.
“I know of other wives whose husbands gave them a list each morning and said, `You will complete the tasks on this list today.’
“The women have to keep submitting and obeying. They are not allowed to have a voice.”
Yet women are not the only victims of emotional abuse here.
Mr Lowe, an electrician by trade, joined the church 13 years after his wife.
“After 13 years of not having my family home on weekends and during the week…I went in,” he says.
“I slogged my guts out, gave all my money to the church…and what for, for nothing?”
“They preach you are a slave and you should be happy to be a slave.”
Cults, she says, exploit normal needs by extraordinary means.
The first is `love bombing’.
“We all want to belong and feel loved and valued,” she says.
Her church life became unbearable when her eldest daughter married a leader’s son.
The family was in the inner-fold.
“When you’re closer to a cult leader he has to have (you) under his complete control. He will make sure that the elders have their allegiance to him, above their allegiance to their wife and children,” she says.
“Those men (elders) will sacrifice their marriages; they will sacrifice their children; and they will do anything they are told to do.
“It’s an acid test.”
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Watch the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Four Corners broadcast on the Brisbane Christian Fellowship cult: The God of Broken Hearts