I was very much controlled by an addiction to crack cocaine, so much so--that in the end, I actually stole my mother's wedding ring.
It was at this vulnerable and pathetic state that I decided to enter a Victory Outreach men's home.
My mother put me on a bus with a one way ticket. I entered the home, and the first thing that happened was, of course, I got "prayed in" to the home. The pastor kept pushing on my forehead, over and over, until I finally (consciously) "fell over" so I could get the ceremony over with. Then I was told I was a "big baby" and that I needed to "be delivered" from the "foul spirit of rebellion", which of course I believed, based on my recent disgusting behavior while under the influence of cocaine.
[In my opinion] the men in the home literally have no time to even think an independent thought. I thought it was a "Christian rehabilitation" program, but what [it seems like to me is a] ... controlling [group].
Here is an example of a day there:
5:00 AM: Wake up, complete with drill instructor like yelling by the "head staff" member--another men's home member.
5:00 to 5:15 AM: 15 men have to shower. 15 men who live on the floor in the sweltering heat of an attic room in an old house in a ghetto.
5:15 AM: Prayer. You pray until you are told to stop. You are basically fed the words to pray by the fact that the men who have been there the longest pray the loudest, and "lay hands" on the newer men, encouraging them to "pray in agreement" with them. Such prayers ALWAYS include the "blessing" of VO founder Pastor Sonny and his family, "serving" the home pastor "without question" and "dying to self".
Note: While "dying to self" is indeed a Christian virtue, it needs to be noted that at Victory Outreach, "dying to self" implicitly [appears to mean] to blindly obey EVERYTHING the Victory Outreach leaders say--without question or hesitation. To disobey means you are "contending with the Spirit of God". This basically leads men to devote their entire lives to Victory Outreach, [often] living in...poverty and establishing men's homes throughout the country--while the Victory Outreach elders and Pastor Sonny live in [relative] splendor and luxury.
The men who "strive for the prize", those who devote their lives to VO after surviving the [what I consider] brainwashing of the men's home, are held as examples of "Christian perfection", while those who do not are called the "sons of disobedience", which of course leads to fear and paranoia--because if you are kicked out or leave before they tell you, you can, you believe you are "serving Satan".
Breakfast: After Morning Prayer, they sing and eat breakfast. That is, IF that day hasn't been declared a "day of fasting". The last week I was there, they fasted four days out of seven, which made me physically weak.
Daily work: After breakfast: about half of the men in my home went to an amusement park where they worked concession booths. The men see none of the money, of course, and they are also not served lunch. This is considered to be a "sacrifice to the Lord".
Dinner: After the work day is finished, usually ten to twelve hours, the men return home to pray for an hour and then eat dinner.
Evening work: Evening work: After dinner, [we were] ... told to "hit the streets"--this usually meant selling tickets to upcoming Victory Outreach fundraising events. The last week I was there, they were planning a Christian rap concert featuring "Preachers in the Hood". We were out until two in the morning, on an average, returning home and sleeping until 5 AM and then our day began again.
The combination of exhaustion and heat dehydration from long work days in the humid Ohio weather, the extensive "fasting" (in other words systematic starvation), and chronic sleep deprivation leads the men to look and act like zombies.
Any "bible study" has to be "tested" by the pastor. In other words, if your study of the Word leads you to different conclusions than that of the pastor for Victory Outreach, you [may be] ... told to "forget that lie from the Devil". This is why you see the men at Victory Outreach carrying their bibles everywhere, but NEVER see them reading them. And if they DO read them, notice that it is never in a systematic way--they just open them up and read along wherever, memorizing nothing unless the pastor tells them to.
I was kicked out for "disobedience", of course, because I was too physically drained to wake up one morning. I was sent packing with three heavy bags of luggage into one of the fiercest ghettos with no money and no means to contact my family. Naturally, I was robbed of all of my baggage, which included every article of clothing I own as well as my Dake Study Bible and all of my bible study books (which I was not allowed to read while I was there).
I write this only to warn others. The bible says--"Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty". The bible over and over says that we are not to live in "bondage" and "fear", and that employers are to pay workers their fair wages. These are just a few of the things that Victory Outreach blindly ignored. I pray that no one ever has to go through what I went through.