They Told Me my Daughter Had Joined a Cult

Bebe Nicholson

When she moved to the farm, I tried not to worry.

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We thought our daughter was off to a good start in college. Her two best friends from high school were attending the same college, and they were all sharing a suite.

When we hugged her goodbye, she had settled happily into her dorm room and already knew her way around campus.

I didn’t worry too much when she failed a subject. She had been a good student in high school, but this was college, which was a big adjustment.

I didn’t worry much when the phone calls home grew few and far between, either. College kids were busy. They didn’t think as much about their parents as we thought about them because they were trying to find their own way in the world.

I was a little perturbed when she decided not to come home for the summer.

“I’ve got a job and want to stay here,” she said, sounding happy and confident. “I’ll pay my own way.”

A vague uneasiness stirred in the pit of my stomach. My daughter had always been strong-willed, but she was also sensible.

She and her father clashed a lot because they were so much alike, but she and I had always gotten along. I was easygoing and tended to let a lot of things go, assuring myself during her various difficult stages that “this too shall pass.”

Let it Go. It's Just a Phase

During her high school years, in order to keep our house from becoming a battleground, I would frequently say to my husband, “Let it go. She’s just going through a phase.”

But alarm bells rang and my uneasiness became full-blown when she called at the end of the summer to tell us she was moving out of the dorm to live on a farm. Was this just another phase, or was it something I should worry about?

“I love it here! I’ve been on the farm all summer and it’s so peaceful! There’s a community of people who really care about each other and we all attend church on the farm,” she said while I tried to remain level-headed.

Next we got a call from her ex roommate. “Your daughter has joined a cult. I thought you’d want to know,” the roommate told us.

I was aware that my daughter and the roommate, her former best friend, had grown apart. “She’s so snobbish now, just because she made the riding team and I didn’t,” my daughter had told me while she was still living in the dorm. “She dumped me for all her horseback riding buddies, and they act superior.”

It broke my heart that my daughter didn’t make the riding team and her former friends were ignoring her, but I figured she would make new friends and move on. I never expected her to leave campus and move to a farm.

My husband was livid. “I’m yanking her out of school! I’m not paying for her to live in some commune!”

I tried to talk him into taking a “wait and see” attitude, because I knew our daughter well enough to believe that if we tried to tell her what to do, she would do the exact opposite. During our disagreement about what course of action to take, she invited us to attend the farm church.

The Church on the Farm

Rumors were flying around my church that our daughter was in a cult. The ex-roommate had evidently called our youth pastor to fill him in on the news. When the youth pastor approached me about it, I rushed to my daughter’s defense.

“She’s fine,” I snapped, cutting off further conversation. Despite my daughter’s recent actions, I had an innate trust in her common sense. I also had very negative feelings toward the friends who had dumped her.

My husband and I agreed we would attend the church on the farm before deciding whether to take her out of college.

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We got up early the next Sunday and drove a couple of hours, arriving at the farm early. Our daughter was in some sort of church class that preceded the service, so my husband and I decided to sit in the car and wait until she came out to get us.

As I looked around, my anxiety levels soared. We had visited the farm before, when we discovered our daughter was going to be living there. My husband had taken an instant dislike to the owner, who was also the “preacher.”

“He’s a fake. I don’t trust him,” he said.

I wasn’t sure what to think. The farm was a pretty place, picturesque with quaint cottages dotting a rolling countryside. Everybody who lived in those cottages attended the “farm” church, which increased my uneasiness.

As we were waiting for my daughter to come out, I picked up a Bible that had been left in the car and thumbed through it, trying to find something to occupy my thoughts. I immediately turned to this verse: “There is a way that seems right to a man but leads to death.”

The verse meant nothing to me and didn’t calm my fears.

The longer I sat in the car, the more I worried. Was my precious child really in a cult? I wanted to know. I had to know! Were we losing her to some bizarre religous group that would turn her away from us forever?

If you’re a Christian, you might not agree with what I prayed next. If you’re not a Christian, you will probably wonder why I prayed at all. But I’m going to tell you what happened and you can decide for yourself.

A Desperate Prayer and a Divine Answer

My own belief is that I prayed a desperate prayer and received a divine answer.

“Lord, I need to know if my daughter is in a cult. If this farm is a good experience for her, confirm it by having the exact scripture verse I just read repeated at some point during the church service.”

At this point my daughter emerged from the building and hurried over to greet us. “Thanks for coming! I appreciate it!” She looked so beautiful with her glowing smile that my heart ached.

We followed her into the church, which was a rustic cabin with several rows of folding chairs. The regular preacher, the one my husband didn’t like, was out of town. Preaching in his place was a good-looking young man with a ponytail and an earring in one ear.

The service began, and the first words out of the young man’s mouth were, “There is a way that seems right to a man but leads to death.”

These were the exact words I had read in the car. My confirmation.

Call me superstitious if you want. Chalk it up to coincidence if you don’t believe. To me, the God of the universe had heard the desperate cry of a worried mother and had given me a wonderful confirmation that my daughter was going to be all right.

My daughter ended up marrying the good-looking young man who gave the sermon that day. They’ve been married 21 years and have five kids, two of them adopted from foster care.

The farm eventually went bankrupt, all the people who live there moved away, and the farm was sold.

My daughter and her family now attend a nondenominational church about 20 minutes from where they live. We didn’t take her out of college, and she earned a degree in Animal Science, which has helped her run her own farm.

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I've worked as editor, newspaper reporter, freelance writer, and book publisher. My writing includes lifestyle, humor, travel, relationship, family, politics, faith and health articles, along with three published books. In my various careers, I've been a journalist, retail manager, nonprofit director, flight attendant, freelancer and mom. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and Medium.

Alpharetta, GA
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