Hephzibah House Journal

Hephzibah House Journal
Susan Grotte's journal from her experience as a student at Hephzibah House, told in short-story form.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Angela Guest-Jones: Survivor!

My name is Angela Guest-Jones. I am divorced but kept my exes names since I have had it since I was 19 years old, and for the sake of my children.

Where do I start? My parents were saved and started going to church when I was 6 years old. Not long after going to the church my brother and I started going to the private school. I loved that church and school. My family was happy and everything seemed great. When I was 14 there was a church split and my dads friend talked him into going to Metro Baptist. Of course we started the school there. I had twin sisters that were born when I was 13 so there were over a year old when we left our old church.

Practically overnight I was no longer allowed to wear pants, hangout with some of my friends, especially guy friends, no longer listen to any music other than the churches and so on. My family argued a lot more and it seemed to be falling apart. You cant tell a 14 year old after all these years that all these things are bad and expect then not to rebel when their family was happier before we got into a cult like Baptist Church. I now go to a Baptist church and they preach these things but they do not force then on you. These are convictions and a person has to have their own convictions. My parents realize a lot of things should have been done different and it has proven to be better for my sisters, Thank God. I would never want them to have to go thru the things that I did.

I was an all A and B student and cleaned my parents house, did laundry, cared for my sisters etc…I was rebellious in my attitude and was a little boy crazy and liked rock music. The typical teenager rebellion. In no way did I think I deserved or needed to go to a school like HH. My parents now admit they were talked into it and should not have abandoned me and pushed me off on someone else and the fact that things changed so drastically so fast could have been the cause of some of my rebellion.

I remember the day I went to HH very clearly. I was supposed to be going to a volleyball tournament at school and my dad and his friend from church said they were taking me to school that day because my dad needed the car. I used to drive my brother and I to school. I didn’t see my mom that morning and she usually was up. Didn’t thin twice about it. When my dad passed the school I was asking why. That’s when he told me that he was taking me to HH. It was a long drive. My mom packed food and a letter that she didn’t want to do this. I didn’t know till I got that my mom never signed the papers and they took me ahead of a lot of girls because I was 17. I tried to run several times but they weren’t going to let it happen. We stopped at some Dr.’s office and I was told I was getting a pelvic exam. I refused it and to my memory they still signed my release papers. That was the Doctor that sees the HH girls.

When I got there Ron Williams and his wife were out of town. I was talked to by Pastor Don his son. I remember Heather taking me into a shower and I had to strip in front of her while they took all my jewelry and everything else that I could not have. I was in this strange place and was naked in front of a stranger. I felt like I was in a Nazi prison camp or something. I didn’t even get to say goodbye to my dad because I was begging him not to leave me there. I remember seeing my dad crying. I was not told of any rules as far as I can remember, unless I just blocked it out. I don’t remember a lot of things there and didn’t until I read some of the other girls stories. I think I blocked it out but deep in my mind I know these things are the cause of some problems in my life today.

I was taken downstairs into the dungeon is what I call it. I was told to sit at the first table. I saw Katrina and said hi because I did not know that I wasn’t allowed to talk to her. I had to label all of my things and read this big book and then I finally started to get it. I was so depressed and didn’t eat much at all. I was given my food back twice and started eating so I wouldn’t have to do that. I only ate ¼ portions though and they made me write that on my menu. We had to write what we ate and our BM’s were recorded.

I remember not having a period there for over 3 months at least and then I bled so heavily I think it may have been a miscarriage.

I was not there because I was lazy and did not have a hard time getting the chores done right. I was a neat freak, always have and always will be. I think that they wanted us to fail though because I would do my best and when we swept the bedroom they would take paper and wave it under the bed, if one little piece of dust flew up, you failed and would not eat. I don’t remember protein drinks either. I only remember chicken broth. I think they were actually ticked that I caught on and just found reasons to fail me. I learned their ways pretty quick and got on the garden crew.

I remember that we had to write home every week and if they didn’t like what we said we got our letter back till they liked it and all my mail coming in was blacked out if they didn’t want me to see what was said. I couldn’t tell my parents what was going on there, they made sure of it. Our 10-minute monthly phone calls were monitored and we would be in big trouble if we tried to say anything "wrong".

I don’t know how long it was before my first visit but I do remember that I was not feeling well and my front tooth was in sever pain and pain shot up every time I ate or anything jarred it. I told them about it but they said nothing. My face was swollen by time my parents came to see me and my eyes were a little black. I had an abscess. I wrote a note to give to my parents and hid it in my bra. I decided not to give it to them because I was thinking that if they sent me here then they must agree with them and if they gave it to the staff then I would get a beating. I flushed it down the toilet after they left.

I had somehow managed to avoid getting a beating up to that point. I remember acting like everything was so great and Miss Saylor was saying I was so sweet and all that…. My parents got them to take me to the dentist though. I was so sick I couldn’t even think about running. I had to lay up in the dark closet in the school on a mattress and they drilled a hole in my tooth for the infection that caused my face to swell up could drain out. I ate broth for 2 weeks at least. I was thin when I got there and by that point I was anorexic looking.

I was always ahead in school and they thought that I would not be able to get done by time I was 18 but I was used to the system they had there-it was what we had in my first Christian school. I worked hard and even did college prep because I was determined to get out of there in December when I was 18 and with a diploma.

I remember some good days and they were only because of Aaron. He used to take me and one other girl sometimes to help him and Daniel out. We would do all sorts of things like fixing the buildings and gutting deer. They would come play volleyball and stuff with us as well. I think that this is why I got my beating one day. I was doing what I was told, doing my chores, my schoolwork, memorizing my scripture, and really had no reason for the beating. The Williams were out of town of course and Miss Emory and Miss Saylor took me up there and when I asked why I was getting the "spanking" Miss Emory said, "Oh, just the general attitude."

I was told to lay on the floor and they put the chairs over my head and feet and then Heather I believe is the one who was hitting me. I didn’t cry so I got more. I didn’t count but I know I was in pain and by this time I was very thin so that made it worse. I tried to go to the bathroom to see my bruises but Emory wouldn’t let me. I still have back problems to this day and sciatica from my low back being hurt there.

I remember the day before my birthday. I was planning on how I was going to tell them I was leaving and they had no more rights over me since I was 18. I was looking at the chore list that day as well and want on it. I was so scared that I was being taken off the garden crew. I found out soon enough that my parents were there to get me on December 21, 1989. I was taken out when the girls were doing choir rehearsal or something so I never got to say goodbye.

The first thing I did when I got in the car was grab a bottle of pepsi that they had there, and then I started crying. My parents told me that they were trying to get me out before that because they could tell something wasn’t right when they came to visit me and when I told them about the note they said they would have taken me then. My mom said my dad fasted a lot when I first got there and he gave up sweets while I was there because he loves sweets and was so sad when he saw my menu.

I was there from January 6, 1989 till December 20, 1989. I cannot imagine having to stay as long as the other girls did. I have enough problems from the short time I was there.

There are so many crazy and weird things that went on there and can be read on the blogs and stories on the website. I remember the 3 minute showers and if they were so obsessed with how dirty we were why would they do that. Remember how we were never praised for what we did right, only what we did wrong. I still have problems with negativity today.

I have had female problems since I left there. I had a cone biopsy when I was 20 and had difficulty getting pregnant. I had difficult labor and I have already had a hysterectomy almost 4 years ago. I am 36 years old. I do have 2 wonderful girls and they are the most precious things in the world to me. They know I love them and tell them everyday. They are strong and smart and have turned out well despite going thru a difficult time when I divorced my ex. I have problems with relationships and know what I want but always end up picking the bad guy and don’t really know why. I am considering going to counseling when I get out of nursing school because I want to meet the right man and fall in love. I guess I know that I need it but just think I can handle it on my own.

I still go to church on Sunday am and believe in God but I did before I went there. I hated church for a while because of what I saw there. I thought how could these people say they are Christians and do what they do to these girls. I don’t see anywhere in the Bible where God says to humiliate and bring down and beat a child. He wants us to be loved and nurtured and spanked properly as a child. My pastor says spanking beyond 5 or 6 years old is pointless. If you don’t have control by then you have to use other methods like taking things away and stuff like that. Beating a teenager only brings more rebellion and hatred and pushes them away from God.

I know that all the things I read are true. I was there. I lived it and have to live with the after effects everyday of my life. I know that the Williams are Christians believe in salvation and God but I don’t feel like they are helping girls at all. They are hurting them emotionally and physically for the rest of their lives.

I could go on and on and I know this is a long story but it doesn’t even begin to tell all the things that happened there. I only pray that this website and these stories can make a difference and that no girl has to go through what we girls at HH did.