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From Chapter 1

The Minister's Mustang

After church, we would pile into the minister's Mustang. It was a '66 stick-shift, and one of us always had to sit in the middle and scrunch up our knees in between the bucket-seats. He would crack a joke about how he was going to put his stick between our legs.

We giggled. All of us. None of us ever knew what to say. He was the minister, and we were just giggly girls.

I think that's how it started.

I look back and see how lurid that was. But as kids, we didn't see it. If anything, we felt cool.

None of us smoked. None of us drank. We were church kids. So what we did to feel cool was pile in the car with the minister and laugh at his jokes. In hindsight, cigarettes and alcohol would have been a lot safer.

On my 16th birthday, I babysat all day for the Ganzer kids, and when their mom got home, I headed over to the church parsonage on my bike. Eddie Dunagan, the youth and education minister, had invited a bunch of girls from the church to a sort of impromptu birthday party. I was excited. The last time anyone gave me a birthday party was when I was seven.

It wasn't much of a party. There wasn't any cake, and we didn't play croquet like Eddie said we would. Instead, he brought out a football.

Over and over again, I wound up face down on the ground with Eddie on top of me. He was about 8 inches taller than me, and weighed a lot more, but somehow he couldn't manage to just pull the flag.

It felt awful. He was all over me and always slow getting off me. But I didn't want to be a wuss. Besides, everyone else seemed to be having a good time. I didn't want to whine.

Is that when I became prey? Is that when it started?

I look back and search my memories, but I still can't quite figure out exactly when it started.

The kids in the youth group used to play Twister. Though he was older and bigger, Eddie often played too. Somehow, every time my turn came, Eddie would step in, and the next thing I knew, he would be all over me. Maybe that's when it started. Maybe that's when I went from being just a church-kid to being sexual prey. But of course, it was just a game.

Maybe it started when my dad had back surgery. Eddie offered to let my sisters and me sleep at his house while my mom stayed overnight at the hospital. Three of us slept in a double bed with my youngest sister in the middle. Did he leer at me while I slept? Or worse?

Was there ever anything at that church that was just good and clean and wholesome? Or was every bit of it some piece of the minister's set-up for sexual abuse?

Every memory I have is tainted - every Sunday School class, every retreat, every Bible drill, every camp-out, every mission trip, every choir trip, every revival, every Vacation Bible School, every prayer group, every ping-pong game - all of it.

----- [Snip] -----

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From Chapter 3

Moving In on the Prey

"I heard the police were at your house, Christa."

It was Eddie Dunagan, the youth and education minister. I had just finished my piano lesson and was getting a drink at the water fountain in back of the sanctuary when he came up behind me. I managed to swallow without choking, but I didn't know what to say. I knew it was wrong of me to have called the police.

Eddie said he wanted to talk to me and told me to come into his office.

I sat there and started bawling. I had never talked about my Dad's temper with anyone, not even my closest friends. But Eddie asked questions, and I answered them, and he seemed to care. In some ways, it was a relief to talk about things.

Eddie said he wanted me to come talk with him every Sunday, in between my piano lesson and the start of choir practice. But he said not to tell anyone. "It would probably just make your parents mad if they knew you were talking about them."

That made perfect sense to me. Besides I wouldn't have told my parents anyway. They had way too many other problems than to worry about me.

Weeks went by. I liked the attention, and I began to feel more and more comfortable with Eddie.

After church youth events, he started taking me home last. He would drive around in the dark and talk about all sorts of things. Mostly I just listened while he talked about what great things he was going to do for God. But sometimes he veered onto other topics.

Once he told me I reminded him of Barbarella.

Then he showed me a picture of the movie poster with Jane Fonda. I didn't know what to say. I just giggled.

"Did you go to see this?" I asked. "I mean...what kind of movie is it?"

He looked at me and laughed. "It's about sex in space, and it's a really good movie."

Even in the dark, I'm sure he saw me blushing because then he started lecturing me about how sex was a gift from God.

"There's no need for you to get all nervous about it."

But I was nervous. That was probably the first time I had ever heard the word "sex" spoken out loud, except for during health class at school.

After that, he started reading to me sometimes from the Song of Solomon. He told me that I too had "doves' eyes," and a neck like "a tower of ivory."

When he started talking about "breasts like clusters of grapes," I was embarrassed to even hear the word "breasts" spoken out loud. But I didn't know what to think. After all, it was in the Bible. It was God's word.

----- [Snip] -----

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From Chapter 5

With God as a Weapon

After that first night, church events often ended up with him driving me out on a dark road. Or sometimes he would circle back to the closed-up church and take me into the sanctuary. It always seemed wrong to be there. But he said the love we shared was sacred, and so the sanctuary was the perfect place.

Sometimes when a new family joined the church, Eddie would recommend me as a babysitter and tell them how good I was with his own young son. Then whenever someone hired me, he would badger me to put the kids to bed early, and he would stop by. Once he even told me to move the clock forward so that I could fool the kids into going to bed sooner. And I did it.

One weekend, he drove a bunch of us girls out to Hardin-Simmons, a Baptist school in Abilene. We drove back late at night, and he put the seats flat in the back of the station wagon so Jane, Barbara and Donna could lie down and go to sleep. I stayed in the front seat.

He drove with one hand on the wheel and one hand messing with me. I was terrified one of the other girls would lift her head and see something. But he just kept shushing me.

So many times I tried to understand.

"We're already married in God's eyes," he proclaimed. "It's pre-ordained."

"But you're already married to Patsy."

"Christa, God has predetermined that we are to be together. It's already written in His plan, and He will make a way for it to happen. Your task is to live by faith and to stop fighting it. His ways aren't our ways, and it's not for us to try to understand."

He told me about how men in the Bible often had more than one wife and even had concubines. I knew that was true, but I still just didn't understand.

"I've prayed long and hard about this, Christa. God wants you to be a helpmate for me. He wouldn't make me feel this way if He didn't intend for you to be with me."

Then he said the three words I could never argue against.

"It's God's will."

That was what he said over and over again, week after week after week.

He often combined it with one of his favorite verses, which he always said with a preacher-style roll on the "know."

"We know that all things work together for good to them that love God and who are called according to his purpose."

Then he would launch into a mini-sermon.

"Christa, you should know this by now. You're called of God, and this is your predetermined purpose. You need to start trusting that God will take care of it and will make all things work together. You have to live by faith. You have to trust that it's all part of His plan."

I was stubborn and kept trying to understand. But he said it was sinful of me, and he admonished me.

"Lean not unto thine own understanding," he quoted Proverbs.

Dozens of times, that verse rang in my ears.

God was testing me, he said, and God wanted to see whether I would continue to insist on my own way, or whether I would be willing to trust in Him and "live by faith."

"Think of Abraham - think of Moses - think of Noah. Do you think what God wanted made sense to them?" He pointed out how God was able to use these men in great ways because they had the faith to do whatever God wanted even when they couldn't understand it.

He threw in Mary, too. "Where would we all be if Mary hadn't trusted God even when her special role was something she couldn't understand?"

I thought about that one quite a lot. I wanted to serve God, and it's certainly true that faith is the very essence of things not understood. I kept trying to ponder it all in my heart, just like Mary did.

I loved God and wanted only to do whatever God called me to do. My faith was pure, true and absolute. Ultimately, I believed it all, every bit of it. My one and only heart's desire was to know God's will and do God's will.

Nevertheless, as things escalated, I would still reflexively balk sometimes. I couldn't tell him that he had bad breath, and so I would just try to turn my face away. But then there was all his poking and probing. And sometimes he bruised up my breasts. It hurt.

His touch wasn't caressing. But of course, back then, I didn't know that because I didn't have any idea what a caress would feel like. It's not as if I had any basis for comparison. It's only in looking backwards that I realize how brutish he was. At the time, I just figured it was what men did.

Besides, whenever I balked, he would invariably chastise me with "Oh ye of little faith."

----- [Snip] -----

Whenever I was compliant, Eddie always ended things by telling me how much God loved me.

I yearned for those words: "God loves you, Christa."

Sometimes I sang hymns in my head. My favorite was this one:

Have thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the potter, I am the clay;
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

That was pretty much me, "yielded and still," and waiting for God to mold me to his will.

Eddie always said that God had chosen me for something special. I guess I really wanted to believe that. Doesn't every kid want to think they're special?

Besides, who was I to question a man of God? It wasn't my place. My role was to be submissive.

He said it was all part of God's plan, and that God would bless me forever for putting my faith and trust in Him.

So, like the good Baptist girl I was, I deferred to male pastoral authority. It was the biblical way. "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves, for they watch over your souls."

I guess you could say that, sip by sip, I drank the Kool-aid.

As time went by, I began to actually feel special. I thought I was downright lucky to have been chosen by God for such a special role as the helpmate for a great man of God who would do wonderful things for God. I began to sing "I surrender all" with a new fervor: "All to Jesus I surrender, Lord, I give myself to thee; Fill me with Thy love and power, Let Thy blessing fall on me."

When Eddie stressed the importance of keeping my special role secret, he said it was because others were less mature in their faith and wouldn't understand. With juvenile arrogance, I felt proud to be a more mature believer.

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