My name is Gretchen W. This is my story about my 25-year experience in what I once thought was an exciting “New Testament” church in Omaha, Nebraska. This “church,” I found out in 2003, turned out to be a cult. My experience there was so personally devastating that I will not give many details but will speak generally.
I found an article on the Internet that explains the eight criteria of a cult by Robert Lifton in everyday terms. I have used this article as a backdrop for my personal testimony, because my experience in the Geftakys Assembly fits these cult criteria perfectly.
I must explain that for 25 years I was totally committed and in support of this church. I gave my whole life to this group, and it is nothing short of a miracle that God broke the power of deception that held my family and me tight in its grip. We have gotten much healing, mostly through prayer, determination and professional counseling to deprogram us from the brainwashing that occurred.
My purpose in writing my story is that others may be helped and encouraged. If there is someone reading this that is still blinded by the deception of the Assembly, my prayer is that their spiritual eyes will be opened like the blind man whom Jesus healed. I also want to expose the leaders of the Assembly in Omaha, Nebraska, to the end that this group will never be able to prey on an unsuspecting public again.
Here, then, is the definition of a cult that describes the group I was part of:
A destructive group is a highly manipulative group or
organization, which exploits its members and can cause emotional,
financial and physical harm. It dictates, in an absolute manner, the
behavior, thoughts and emotions of its followers. Coercion and
manipulation techniques are used to transform the new recruit into a
loyal, obedient and subservient member.
Destructive groups claim a special status, for themselves or their
leader that usually sets them in opposition to mainline society and/or
the family. Destructive groups conceal their real nature and goals from
prospective members by adopting deceptive behavior in order to attract
I was 18 years old when I met people from the Assembly, called “the saints”, in Omaha. My experience with them has changed my life forever. I remember walking on the UNO College campus in September and seeing students standing by the stairs handing out tracts about the Bible.
Later two young men came up to me and preached the gospel to me in front of the Student Center. I told them I didn’t need what they were talking about, but I read their tract as I walked away. At the end of the tract were the following words, “‘He that has the Son has life and he that has not the Son has not life.'” Do you have the Son?” “No,” I thought to myself, as I threw the tract away. But those words kept coming back to me over the next few months.
In December, Dave Zach asked my boyfriend, along with some of his friends, to come hear someone named Brother George Geftakys speak at someone’s home. They invited me to come along, too. I was nervous, because I knew God was pulling at my heart to accept him. I was pretty hard-hearted towards spiritual things – I knew I didn’t have God in my life.
I was raised in a home by good Christian parents; I knew about God, but hadn’t made a personal commitment to Christ. I knew I needed him and felt this was possibly my last opportunity to make a personal commitment to Jesus. I prayed that no matter what, God would save me the next day. I went to the Bible meeting with my friends and found myself laughing at George’s strange words and antics. I thought he was ridiculous.
After the meeting, a few people came up to talk to me, among them Nancy Zach. They told me how I needed to personally accept Christ as my Savior. I knew that was true, but wasn’t ready right then. Nancy said to me, “When you do commit your life to the Lord, give me a call.”
Later that night when I was alone the Lord reminded me that I needed him and truly did want to believe and commit myself to him from my heart, not just acknowledge him intellectually. I dedicated my life to Him that night and it was an incredible experience for me. I knew for the first time that I was going to heaven, that Jesus was really alive and that He was my friend, Savior and Lord.
I called Nancy the next day and told her how I was now “born-again.” She was very happy for me, and this began a “friendship” where she trained me to think like this group of people I’d met at George’s meeting.