Karen Schless Pressley - Personal Testimony

Three years ago, a chapter closed in my life which still seems unbelievable to me. How this happened was due to God�s grace--and to this day, I stand in awe of His transforming power and love.

I had been wandering in a wilderness for about 40 years, making my own way. It stands to reason that this would be the case since my heart was unguarded. I had no anchor to truth in my life, which had made me vulnerable to false doctrines. In 1998, I finally left the group that I had been a part of for the previous 16 years--the Church of Scientology. Some say the Church of Scientology is a cult, while others call it a false religion. But the commitment is total and departure from it is not permitted without experiencing traumatic repercussions.

For 9 of my 16 years in Scientology, my husband Peter and I lived in a remote southern California desert valley with 800 other dedicated staffers at the International Management headquarters. Our "base" was enclosed by security fences with barbed wire. We were bussed to our offices, wore quasi-military naval style uniforms, could not watch TV, could not go onto the internet or have personal computers or telephones, and spent 16 hours a day working at our jobs under dictatorial leadership with no time for family life. Women staffers were not allowed to have children and remain on staff. Those who had come onto staff with children (prior to that rule) lived separately from their children and only saw them about every two weeks. Their children were housed about 10 miles away in a remote ranch adjacent to an Indian reservation called "Happy Valley", and were supervised by Scientology staff. Parents and children rarely saw each other. Scientology security staff received and read our mail before we received it to ensure that no "external influences" like friends, family or business associates were trying to affect us or sway us against Scientology in any way. Security also monitored our phone calls from friends and family to "protect" us from being influenced by the calls, and to ensure that we did not disclose any confidential information about Scientology affairs to our callers.

Why did I tolerate these controls and violations of my own human rights? We believed our dedication was the greatest good that we could to do help mankind and bring total freedom through Scientology to the world. When I pledged my life to working for Scientology in 1986, I didn�t realize what was in store for us. When I started taking Scientology courses I had no way of knowing that what seemed to be helpful life improvement-type courses would ever lead to the bizarre things I would later find out on their "confidential upper levels."

Prior to working for Scientology, Peter and I worked hard in our careers in the entertainment business. He was a talented songwriter and had some successful hit songs including "On the Wings of Love". I was a clothes designer and was building up my clientele in Hollywood. When we first moved to LA, some musicians told Peter that if he wanted to remove creative blocks in his career, he should try Scientology which a lot of artists were finding helpful. We got involved in the early �80�s and that escalated to joining staff in 1986. At that point we gave up our careers, home, contact with family and friends, and became totally saturated with our new life in Scientology.

I had been raised a Catholic. My mother�s heart�s desire was for us to be raised in a good home and live a good life. My father had become a Catholic so that he could marry my mother, though this was not otherwise his faith by choice. There was no real presence of God in our home or lives through the week and we only came in contact with "religion" on Sundays. Around the age of 11, I told my parents I didn�t want to be involved in the Catholic church anymore because I didn�t agree that there should be anyone between a person and God, referring to the priests who took confessions and gave forgiveness.

From that point, I was spiritually adrift. My only connections to religion were occasional visits to church on Christmas and Easter. I sailed into drugs and sex in my mid-teens. I went to college during the Vietnam War era at Ohio State University and then Bowling Green State University. My friends were involved in war protests and questioned God�s existence. We concluded there is no truth and there are no absolutes. My first marriage at age 18 ended in divorce in my early twenties, with my husband signing himself into a drug rehab clinic after having an affair.

In the late �70�s while living in Houston, I met Peter, who became my husband in 1979. His father had been an atheist and his mother was a Methodist. Peter had no religious convictions; if anything, he was closer to believing like his father and was scornful of having personal beliefs because "truth" seemed rather vague and religion seemed "uncool." When we got married, we chose to have a Methodist minister to marry us, and while we had no religious convictions, we spoke Christian vows. We were together nearly 21 years.

During our later years as Scientology staff, Peter had become somewhat disillusioned about our life in Scientology like me, but not to the extent I was. I worked in senior management and saw things "behind the scenes" which I couldn�t live with and didn�t want to be associated with. As a musician within the Scientology film production division, he lived in a different world and I could not get him to believe what I saw, which I felt were reasons we needed to get out of Scientology, and start life over again.

By 1998 I could no longer live with many things I knew about there. I knew I had to leave but was petrified, as I had tried to leave twice before and failed, coerced into returning to our confidential base location and then made to do a prison-like "rehabilitation program" to get back into good graces with Scientology again. Each time I returned I hoped to salvage our marriage. But at this last attempt at leaving, I knew there was a chance that if I left, Peter may not follow me.

The night I thought about leaving, I felt panic stricken and sick, swimming in confusion as if everything was spinning around me, anxiety washed over me about losing everything that I had known, including my husband of 20 years.

What happened next was something I did not understand at the time, and it wasn�t until six months later that I would actually come to understand it fully. But at that moment when I felt like the bottom was falling out in my world, as I stood right there at my desk surrounded by Scientologists busy at their work, I was halted within the depths of my soul by a small, still voice totally unfamiliar to me. I wondered if I was hearing things. I felt a sense of calming, as if all my fears were being washed away, as if someone reached into my heart and soul and just lifted my fears and anxieties from me. "You need to be with God. You need to leave here...you will be okay." I didn�t know God, wasn�t looking for him, yet I knew that a loving hand had reached out across a chasm and pulled me to safety.

The following day, on August 1, 1998 I escaped with a few clothes thrown in a laundry basket and $48 in my wallet. I didn�t know God, but nevertheless it seemed he was taking care of all details. I contacted a business acquaintance who, a few months prior, had told me he believed in God. That was the connection between us now. Within hours, he arranged for everything I needed to fly home to my mother�s in Georgia. He wasn�t a Christian, but a member of the Ba�hai faith. When I asked how I could repay him, he replied "If God only uses me once in my life to help another, then let this be the time."

Once I moved in with my mother, I was reclusive for the next six months. My mother tried to witness to me by sharing her faith, but I didn�t want anything to do with organized religion, saviors, truth, or promises of any kind. We went to a church at Christmas to hear some music and the choir�s lyrics touched me, especially seeing several hundred people proclaiming their love for God from the choir loft.

In January I started attending First Baptist Church of Woodstock with her, and by February I was going on my own. During this time, I was hearing the preacher, Pastor Johnny Hunt, read from the Bible for the first time in my life. Over those two months, I was hearing the book of Joshua. One day in February, God used Pastor Johnny in my life to bear witness to the fact that the Bible is truth, as the Word of God. I perceived that Pastor Johnny was filled with the Holy Spirit--and I wanted that. I desired to personally know God, and feel this love in my heart that I was hearing about, but I still resisted. I became aware that I had been rebelling against God my whole life, and that even though it was God who delivered me out of Scientology and brought me to a safe place, and then brought me to this church and revealed himself to me through his Word, I still resisted. I could not let go of my fears of trusting another, I had been so badly betrayed by the false doctrine of Scientology and had lost my life to it.

But God did not let go of me. As I listened to the scriptures how God was bringing his people out of bondage and to the promised land, God was transforming my heart as he was bringing me out of the bondage of the false doctrine I had been in. I knew now that I could not "save" myself, contrary to what Scientology teaches. On March 14th, 1999 as I listened to the people being told "choose this day whom you will serve", I was right there with them and I made my choice, I chose to turn from my ways and ask His forgiveness for my sins--and follow the one, true, Almighty God--I surrendered my life to Christ!

My first desire was to be obedient and I got baptized that night. He filled me with an overwhelming, immeasurable amount of love, and I will never get over what God�s son did for me. It was his supernatural power that was able to transform my heart and release me from the entrapment that I had been in as a Scientologist.

To surrender my life to Christ was exactly the opposite of how I had been living, which was in total enmity with God. While I was living that way, I did not know that I had been working against God or even worshipping other gods. Scientology had taught me that they were the only road to truth, the only way to total spiritual freedom. I had been taught that I had lived many lifetimes and would live many more, and that it was up to me to attain total knowledge of my own spirituality and that I could become an immortal being through Scientology. The depth of this deception and falsehood is indescribable, but God�s Word is truly a sword and is totally able to cut through lies and bring truth. I know now that all the unrest I felt in Scientology over the years while I tried to get out several times, God was at work in me. But my eyes were scaled and I was blind and deaf to the truth.

His love and power which transformed me has changed my life forever and I am passionate about telling this story to both Christians and Scientologists, and tell of God�s transforming power!

It was not until I had accepted Christ as my personal Lord and Savior when I found out that my mother and her friends in her Senior Sunday school class had been praying for me for nearly a year priorly. My mother had gotten saved when she was 74 years old. She had been raised a Catholic, but after moving to Georgia and attending FBCW with a new friend, she realized she never had a personal relationship with Christ! She got saved and joined a Sunday school class, and began to pray for my deliverance from Scientology. About a year later, that finally happened!

I believe it takes a miracle from God to cut through the thorns of false doctrine that choke out so many people entrapped in cults and false religions. But that�s what God�s Word is--there is wonder working power in the blood of the Lamb! Those who don�t know Him think the message of the Cross is foolishness, I had been one of those people.

Since my salvation, only what is done for Christ is all that matters to me. A trembling heart and soul is becoming a servant bold and courageous! I testify that He removes scales from eyes and gives sight and a whole new life. He has blessed me with a new and godly husband whom I share my love for God with. He has opened many doors for me as a witness for Him, and that is my passion.

I now work at the North American Mission Board in Direct Evangelism. I am also enrolled in New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in the Women�s Ministry Certificate Program, as well as Liberty University to complete my undergraduate degree in Christian Education. I am writing a book about my testimony and God�s transforming power, which is planned to be released Spring of 2002. I have been blessed with opportunities to teach about Scientology and the Christian response to their doctrine, and to share my testimony with other churches, ladies retreats and Sunday school classes. My life is His and I thank Him for my new life and pray for endless opportunities to share His story with others who could come to know Him.

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