THEN: In 1998, The Register-Guard’s Jeff Wright wrote about Anna Flowers of Eugene having joined a cult and her mother, Diane, flying to Philadelphia in an attempt to find and free her.
Two years later, he followed up the story with one about Anna leaving the group known as The Brothers and Sisters. She married a young man she met on a Greyhound bus. And looked forward to spending her first Christmas home in four years.
NOW: Anna, 28, has two children and a goal to become a nurse. But her marriage is over.
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Her husband, she says, turned out to be the same kind of controller the leaders of The Brothers and Sisters were, even though he’d never been part of the group. So she’s going it alone as a single mother with children Asher, 5, and Liberty, 4.
“I’ve learned my own strengths and weaknesses,” she says. “You come out of a group like that and you have no idea who you are because you’ve been so controlled and micromanaged. So everything you do – say, having a drink with a friend – you think is wrong. Go to a movie – wrong.”
She’s gaining more confidence. She earned a 4.0 GPA in her first year in Lane Community College’s nursing program.
“I’m not afraid of who I am.”
Her relationship with her mother, difficult after she first returned, is getting better. “I was 17 when I left and 21 when I got back,” she says, “but I never had a gradual progression.”
Flowers has a heightened concern for others who might be susceptible to cults. “I saw a `brother’ two days ago. They’re here, probably for the (Oregon) Country Fair. When you travel with these folks for four years, you easily recognize them.”
They’ll start talking about spiritual matters, and move toward strong-arming you into leaving your family and your possessions, she says. “They’re extremists.”
If wary of organized religion, she still believes in God. “God has pulled me through where I’ve failed,” she says.
“Where Are They Now?” is a Monday column that updates readers on local newsmakers from the past.