Rose’s Tale: Part Seventeen of My Life Inside the Narrowgate Cult at Messiah College
Editor Note: This is Rose’s story. This was compiled from several interviews, and shared with her permission.
I attended my first Narrowgate meeting in the fall of 1994. I was a new Freshman at Messiah, and wasn’t adapting to college life the best. Two people had invited me to check out Narrowgate, and so I did. Interestingly enough, the two people who had invited me stopped attending a short time later. I was amazed at how warm and welcoming everyone was at Narrowgate. I was also very drawn to the lively worship style. I became almost immediately enamored, and started rearranging other things in my schedule so I wouldn’t miss a meeting. Any free time I should have spent studying, I instead spent with the group. Though I was an honor student in High School, my academic life suffered and my grades started to decline.
The summer after my Freshman year, I was invited to live with the girls from Narrowgate at the Dillsburg house.
Editor note: some of the girls were house-sitting for a professor who went away for the summer; this was the same house Pooky moved into partway through the Summer of 1995, as spoken about in Chapter Two: Flashpoint.
That Summer, I received a letter from Messiah stating that I was being placed on academic probation for the following semester. I was devastated because my scholarships were dependent on receiving good grades. Because of my grades, I lost my scholarships – and as a result, I did not have enough money to come back to college, and was going to have to move back home. I was extremely upset and depressed, and I locked myself in my bedroom. Someone called Liam, and he came over to talk to me. I remember being in the garage, just him and I, and he was giving me a pep talk. He told me things like “Don’t worry you don’t need college, we will take care of you. It will all be OK. Messiah is full of crap, anyway.”
And so I got a job at a local daycare where one of the Narrowgate members worked, and rented a room from one of the married couples in the group. I also helped as a nanny with their young children. This was the same couple who rented out their basement to Pooky. I later got a job as store manager at a retail store in the Capital City Mall. I did not have my drivers’ license, and so Mason would drive me to and from work. At this time, the group was strongly encouraging us to become a couple. One day, after he had picked me up from work, Mason just pulled over and told me I had to learn to drive. And so he made drive back home while he coached me. He continued teaching me, and I got my driver’s license soon after. I also bought my first car – a used 1989 Plymouth Horizon.
At this time, I didn’t fully buy into Liam’s theology and was wrestling with some doubts. I wasn’t coming to all the meetings, maybe once or twice a month, since I was working a lot of the time. And so after the couple that I was living with got evicted from their house, I left Narrowgate and moved back home to live with my parents. They had not been happy with my attending Narrowgate, and wanted me to move back home. This was around the time some of the parents had already started talking to each other about concerns of cult-like behavior. The retail store I was working for transferred me to the local branch store near my parent’s house, and so I kept my job.
Though I had left Narrowgate, I was still in touch with some of the people in the group. One day, out of the blue, Liam came to my job and asked to take me to lunch. He brought me a stuffed animal of some kind, and a bracelet. He told me that things had changed, that he received a “new revelation” (The Answer) and that I had to come back to Narrowgate. By the end of lunch he had me convinced to leave everything behind and rejoin Narrowgate. I left the manager keys on the counter at the store and walked out on my job.
I didn’t realize until much later after I had time to process that when Liam was alone with me and brought me gifts that he was “grooming” me. I was incredibly disgusted. I’m pretty sure at the time he was giving little gifts to other single women in the group, not just me.
Editor note: Grooming is a technique used by predators to prepare victims for future sexual abuse. This particular grooming technique Rose experienced is commonly called “Love Bombing”, where an abuser showers someone with affection, gifts and promises, so as to keep the victim in an abusive relationship.
Then a group of people led by Mia (I don’t remember who else came but it was several people) drove me to my parents’ home to get my stuff. While they were in the living room talking to my parents, Mia and I were sneaking my stuff out the back door. I only packed a few things that I needed, some clothes and my stereo, and a few precious things like pictures. I was moved into the cabin out in the woods with Mia and Sophia, but Mia was hardly ever there. This was about the time she started moving from house to house to live with different couples in Narrowgate.
My parents were very hurt and upset that I just left. They didn’t know what to do, and kind of panicked. I didn’t know this until later, but after not hearing from me for 3 weeks, my parents filed a missing person claim so the cops were looking for me. Somehow Liam always seemed to find out where the police were, and whisked me away from one place to the next. One time the cops came to the apartment at Delbrook, and while Oliver was talking to them at the front door, Liam was sneaking me out the bedroom window into Mia’s waiting car. When I look back on a lot of this stuff now, it seems like something you’d watch in a movie – it’s so incredible. The level of manipulation is just crazy – how did we fall for thinking all this was all right? When the police finally did catch up with me, there wasn’t anything they could do. I was legally an adult, and was in the group of my own free will. The police officer asked me to please contact my Mother, she really needs to know that I am all right.
About this time, they started emptying out apartments and moving single people in with married couples. When Liam and Noah went through the cabin in the woods, they got rid of all my stuff – I literally had nothing but the clothes on my back. Then they decided I should go live with Noah and Olivia in their Enola apartment. This was ok, except for one thing: Liam told Noah to take me shopping for new underwear, which was incredibly awkward.
Editor note: in Chapter Eleven: Armageddon, there was a meeting in the Delbrook Apartment where Liam went around to everyone in the room, who had to convince Liam that they were in total submission to the latest teachings of the group. This resulted in the knife incident with Charlotte. We commonly refer to that event as “Hazing Night.”
I was present for hazing night. I was sitting with Mason, because we were attempting to patch our relationship at the time. No one really messed with us (Mason and Rose) much – it seemed like the event was orchestrated to target those who had problems with the group. I remember feeling more and more horrified as the things being said got more and more awful. Though I personally was not attacked that I remember, I was afraid to speak out about the things that were happening. When Charlotte started screaming, and Liam handed her a knife and said “kill me, go ahead – God will just send someone to replace me”, I hid my head under a blanket – I was absolutely terrified.
I think I first started realizing that Narrowgate was a cult after hazing night. I had a lot of internal conflict with things that were being taught, but also knew that if I said anything about my doubts, I’d be kicked to the curb. Narrowgate was all I had left – my friends, family, personal possessions had all been taken from me.
Editor note: in Chapter Thirteen: The Storm, Narrowgate blew apart as a result of a “new revelation” from Liam about marriage. We commonly refer to this event as “D-Day.” Rose was a first-hand witness to this “new revelation” and immediately warned the entire group. Six people (the Final Six) accepted Liam’s “new revelation” about marriage, while the majority of us thankfully did not. Without Rose’s quick reaction in warning the group, that “Final Six” count most certainly would have been much higher.
I officially left Narrowgate on D-Day. The coach from Mia’s Bible Quiz team heard about Narrowgate, I guess from some of the parents. He drove to the area and tried to intervene. Mia and I were taking a walk around the Delbrook apartment complex, and he walked up to us and asked if he could pray for us. Mia got really angry, and stormed off. Though I wanted to run away, I found myself saying that yes he could pray for me. I think at that moment he prayed is when the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to a lot of what was happening. Something in my frame of mind seemed to loosen up and I knew something was very wrong with Narrowgate. I was still so confused, but felt like I had more clarity. I ticked off a lot of people when I went back to the apartment and started questioning a lot of things. No one wanted to hear about my questions, so I left the apartment in Delbrook and drove back to Noah and Olivia’s apartment in Enola where I was living.
That is when all heck broke loose.
I arrived at Noah and Olivia’s apartment in Enola, and walked in the door at the bottom of the stairs. I could hear Liam talking a mile a minute upstairs, he was raving. I stopped where I was, to listen. I heard Liam telling Noah and Olivia that he had received a revelation: marriage was not of God, everyone had gotten it all wrong. God never intended for any two people to be bound together forever. He said that they had to get a divorce. From now on we were all going to intermingle. God would tell Liam who should be placed together at the time.
I had been standing at the bottom of the stairs listening, they didn’t know I was there. I absolutely snapped. I hadn’t spent my entire life saving myself for Marriage for someone to tell me he was going to pass me around like a bag of pretzels.
I ran upstairs and got in Liam’s face and screamed at him. It was totally the Holy Spirit in me – I got right up in his face, and though I was terrified of him, the words came out anyway. I told him he was crazy and that he’d lost his mind. What I feel was a demonic presence revealed itself at this point. I watched Liam’s face change into something truly evil or unworldly – he turned into a demon, and it told me to leave. I ran out the door and when out in the street, I looked back at the apartment. I saw Liam looking out the window at me. His face was still transformed into a horrendous monster. I was so terrified – I got in my car and fled for my life.
At that point, I went to Emma and Liam’s apartment in Delbrook. A large majority of the group was there hanging out. I went directly to Emma in the bedroom, and told her everything that had just happened. She knew immediately in her spirit what was happening. She became in fear for her life, and immediately started packing to get her and the baby somewhere safely away. She came in the living room to talk to the others, but no one wanted to believe what had happened. That’s when she and Pooky packed up to leave.
I told everybody else everything I’d heard, but nobody wanted to believe me. But Emma knew: as soon as I told her, she knew it was the truth. But no one else wanted to listen.
After Pooky and Emma left the apartment, I glanced into Liam’s office and saw my stereo – it was one of my possessions that I thought was thrown out when they gutted the apartment in the woods. I was so mad! I marched into the office, and ripped the stereo speakers down from off the wall. If Liam kept my stereo for himself, what else had he kept? I then started looking around for some of my other personal possessions. I also found my credit cards, which Liam said had been thrown away. I later found out he had maxed them all out. I also found my car keys. When I tried to leave, Mason and Oliver tried to physically block my way and keep me from leaving. Mason yelled at me that if I leave, I would go to hell. I yelled back at him that I guess I was going to hell, then. I told them I was done, and I shoved my way out the door. I got in my car and drove off.
I was scared, I had no idea where to go or what to do. I didn’t know who I could trust any more – my whole world of Narrowgate was shattered. I drove to a nearby railroad bridge and got out of my car. I stood there for a long time. My mind was crushed, my heart was crushed, and I stood there thinking about jumping in front of a train and ending it all. I didn’t care about anything anymore. It was there that Elijah found me. He (Elijah) was so sweet to me, I think he realized how broken I was. He very gently coaxed me from the edge. He gently took me in his arms and helped me to the car. He took me to Isabella & Benjamin’s apartment and said he was going to Enola to confront Liam. I begged him not to go, begged him to please stay with me. But he left, and never came back. At some point after that, I completely shut down and blacked out. I don’t remember anything that happened for almost the next 24 hours. I was totally suicidal, and my whole body just shut down.
I don’t remember much about Narrowgate after D-Day, except being convinced things had to end.
Healing after Narrowgate was very slow for me. I didn’t trust anyone, including myself. I spent a couple months staying with Robert & Annette. No expectation, no questions – just time for healing. I remember several times I had terrible nightmares, or “Night Terrors.” I would wake up terrified and frozen, and I would feel an evil presence near me. I couldn’t move or do anything.
When I was ready, I went back home. I tried going to church, but I was so empty inside. At one point, someone put me in touch with a local pastor in Camp Hill. I talked to him on the phone about what happened in Narrowgate. He was so caring and understanding, and took the time to pray with me over the phone. He recommended that I read Piercing the Darkness (by Frank Peretti). That book really helped me process Narrowgate and start my journey towards healing. Though it was fiction, the reality of the spiritual world he wrote about was strangely comforting. I could imagine the events of that book taking place – because I lived through something very similar. This book helped me to see both the bad, and the good in spirituality. I eventually found my way back to church and my family, but trust is still an issue and always will be. I’m very wary of anything prophetic or even Pentecostal. My views are now much more simplified, and I still have trust issues.
I felt pressured constantly in Narrowgate to drop out of school. Then once I actually dropped out of school, I felt constantly pressured to get together with/ marry Mason, who if I’m being honest, I was never attracted to in a romantic way. I wanted to be his friend. He had a lot of issues and his anger caused me a lot of mental anguish. But anytime I tried to distance myself, I was made to feel guilty about it.
The hardest part of Narrowgate was dealing with my feelings for Mason. Regarding Mason’s death, nobody knows how broken my heart was, I feel partially responsible for him committing suicide. The last time I saw him, he was still trying to suggest we have a romantic relationship and I just wasn’t into it. We had always stayed friends and talked – but after I rejected him, he never spoke to me again. He committed suicide about six years later.
I absolutely feel that Narrowgate affected my ability to think for or trust in myself. I grew up in a very legalistic Fundamentalist Assemblies of God church. I was not allowed to wear makeup or get my ears pierced. Though I attended a public school, I had to wear dresses to any church and youth group functions. Purity Culture was all the rage. Social Dancing was not allowed – it led to s-e-x. They taught that different races were not supposed to mix (inter-marry). The transition from my church growing up to the Narrowgate cult was very similar. I went directly from being controlled by the environment I grew up in, to being controlled by Narrowgate. I had no sense of self and who I really was until many years later.
If I learned one lesson from being in Narrowgate, it was how to speak up. This took a lot of counseling and self-healing, but I found my voice. I stopped letting others speak for me. I learned to not be silent. I finally learned to be myself. When I turned 30, I went through a rebellious phase. I did some things I’m not proud of, but one thing I am proud of is getting my tattoo. It’s a band of shooting stars. To me it symbolizes freedom and dreams. Mostly dreams. No one can ever steal your dreams from you unless you let them.
(to be continued)
Narrowgate Blog Series: Part One; Part Two; Part Three; Part Four; Part Five; Part Six; Part Seven; Part Eight; Part Nine; Part Ten; Part Eleven; Part Twelve; Part Thirteen; Part Fourteen; Part Fifteen; Part Sixteen; Part Seventeen
Good for you for sharing your story! It couldn’t have been easy. You did so well to see through it and get out.