Sunday, November 27, 2011

At stay at the Shepherds Hill Farm (From

This story was originally written on a webpage created to provide statements for a GAO hearing in 2007. The address is and it waits for your statement if you believe that your stay at a boarding school included unfair treatment or even abuse. All rights and credits goes to the Anonymous contributor, who posted the original story on


I, _____ [Anonymous]_____________, declare and state as follows:
  1. 1. [Shepherds Hill Farm]..
  2. 2. [2200 Price Road, Martin, GA 30557 ]
  3. 3. [01/02 to 01/05]
When I lived at home with my family I grew up hanging out with older kids; kids who my father, and other parents of the neighborhood viewed as trouble makers. We mainly hung out and smoked pot, drank occasionally and hung around the neighborhood. When I was younger I was sent to a boarding school in Stone Mountain, GA by the name of Gables Academy. It was actually a very good school for the most part. However, I was a problem child of sorts. I never did anything serious but I would talk back to teachers, complain, smoke pot when I was home on break, but never anything serious. One of the “counselors” named Sean who stayed with the boys during the day and night never liked me much and often yelled in my face and insulted me. One day I was standing on the porch with a couple other students minding my own business, as I see Sean walking up to the porch with the PE teacher. I hear Sean say to the PE teacher “Hey, watch this” and laugh a little. He then walked up to me on the porch and unexpectedly punched me in the side of the head, knocking me to the ground and causing my vision to fade to black for a couple of seconds. I got up and ran into my room and locked myself in. The next day Sean took me behind a trailer, broke down into tears and begged me to not go to the authorities and get him in trouble, because he would lose his wife, his job and go to jail, and have his life ruined. Within a short time after that (I believe a week or so) I was told I was being expelled and sent to Shepherds Hill Farm. Shepherds Hill Farm was a wilderness christian therapy program owned by the owner of Gables Academy as far as I understand, for the students that Gables could no longer handle. Very soon after I arrived at SHF I was told that SHF and Gables Academy split ties and were no longer together. I believe this may have been done to try and distance themselves from the incident of Sean hitting me, but I do not know for certain. My father (now deceased) was a Greek Orthodox priest and Trace Embry(owner of SHF) is somewhat of a preacher and presents himself as a Godly man, so I believe Trace was able to use this to connect and manipulate my father with. I believe Trace convinced my father that this would be a safe healthy environment, that would bring me closer to god, away from the older supposed drug addicts who were my friends and I would get an education. I believe my father thought it was similar to monasteries in Greece. However my father never saw what went on past the facade at the top of the hill. He never saw the wood shacks we built deep in the woods and lived in with no electricity or running water or any type of entertainment or source of true self expression, he never saw the horrible horrible education they forced on us, and that I was against but still given. When I arrived I was brought to the porch of a house in the middle of the country with acers of land. It smelt like flowers and I will admit was very appealing to the eyes. Trace Embry sat me down as staff and he went through all my belongings picking out what I could and could not have. Trace began to ask me about myself and my history and informed me about the school and how it was run. He told me my clothes were demonic and other silly nonsense that I tried to ignore. I was feeling extremely angry, depressed, hopeless, abandoned (though I later learned my mother never wanted me in the program and this greatly worried Trace Embry) and scared. Trace told me to go into the “school house” which was a trailer a few feet away with a counselor “teaching” without accreditation. I was introduced to the class and sat down. As Trace left the room I said under my breath “what a jackass.” The “teacher” heard me and went running, and yelling for Trace after him. Trace came running back into the school building with paddle. He bent me over in front of the class and gave me a swat. I cussed and said “What the fuck?” He bent me over and gave me another swat. I started to walk back to my seat and he grabbed me and yanked me towards him and bent me over and gave me another swat, and told me “you hug me after you receive a swat!” I said “No, why would I hug a person who just hit me?” He hit me again and began to give me special meals. “Tell me your sorry” he would say and I replied “Why?” He would say “ok thats a week of special meals”, anytime I said why after that I got another week. In the meantime two girls began crying and went outside with two counselors. I received somewhere between a month and a half of special meals and two and a half months of special meals. Special meals are when you are feed a cold can of beans and a can of some type of greens with water. The food they normally feed the students is food that is picked up from food banks and other places similar where they do not have to pay for it, or pay very very little. They would get cartons of 2-3 day expired milk from the milk packaging facility to give to us. The food quality was horrible and it in no way met the requirements of nutrition we would have needed for the amount of strenuous manual labor we did near 24/7. We were told that special meals were a healthy vegan diet and was very good for us. That is absolute bs, vegans eat a large variety of foods in order to meet their daily intake and often take supplements and or vitamins as well; they do not simply eat a can of beans and a can of beats each day. That is food deprivation and one of the many forms of abuse they offer for $58,900 annually. I was punished for eating toothpaste after being on special meals for so long because I craved flavor so bad and was so hungry. Other students were caught eating dog food while on special meals. One boy by the name of Bobby (I will get to more on him later) was nearly always on special meals, and looked like a skeleton. He would often get caught stealing food or snacks out of the kitchen or somewhere and would be punished and given more special meals. One day the child was put in a room alone with nothing else. The counselor places candy bars around him in a circle and told Bobby “we know how many candy bars are here, if any are missing when we come back in two hours you will be punished.” All of the other students laughed. When we came back 2 hours later, several candy bars were missing. Bobby cried and screamed and denied it but he was beaten and given more special meals. When he went home for Christmas break Trace told his parents to continue giving him special meals for Christmas. They did, however Bobby was caught eating a horse biscuit and was sent back to the farm early. We were not allowed to look at or make any type of communication with anyone of the opposite sex. We were also not allowed to talk to other students unless staff was with us. We were only allowed to talk to the staff and the camp owners. All ingoing and outgoing mail and phone calls were monitored. We had no electricity, no running water, no communication with the outside world or anything “secular”, we lived in giant wooden huts that we built ourselves with hand saws and axes and no building knowledge. The “counselors” had no experience nor qualification to do their jobs they also received no training. They were college students, high school students and a couple higher ups who had college degrees but no qualification for what they did. We performed manual labor for hours upon hours in all climates from blistering heat, to snow and or rain. Homosexuals and those of different religions (mainly just me) were singled out and picked on and made to look like evil people but to be pitted and not trusted. If you visit you can see a picture of one of the huts we built and lived in. believe that Trace Embry is a twisted sick man who used his good way with words and the bible, to abuse children and rob parents and families of $58,900 a year. I believe he is a threat to children, to parents, and family's and by extension voting and all of society and the future. Trace and his wife are sick people who are leading a cult and harming hundreds and hundreds of innoncent people. No one deserves to be treated the way I was treated at SHF; treated like some scumbag would treat a dog. I have horrible anxiety and nervousness. I have a hard time being around authority figures because they frighten me inside very much. I have talked to other former students of SHF, from around when I went. They agree to be in a class action law suit against SHF. Some of them have had to undergo VERY MUCH therapy and real, professional help to heal the wounds left on them by SHF and Trace. I really hope you can help me or at least help get the word out about SHF so that other ex students may come forward. This place absolutely needs to be investigated and shut down. At first all the students would be opposed to the farm and what they did. However over time they all began to go along with it. Soon enough they all enjoyed it for the most part and proclaimed the farm was helping, loving and saving them. They all wanted to be baptized. The bible was continuously used to validate every single thing they did. Trace uses his great way with words, and his knowledge of the bible to justify what he does while at the same time tricking parents and kids. He constantly preaches about how great he is and how love is not what most people think. Love according to Trace is punishing kids and abusing them. To Trace using sleep deprivation, food deprivation, humiliation, brain washing, child slave labor, encouraging racism and homophobia, physically beating children is all doing what the Lord wants and calls for and is the true way to love someone. If you go to and listen to their podcast for Nov 19, you will hear some of Traces very strange views. One day at the farm after Trace finished preaches I raised my hand and I said “You are brainwashing us”, Trace smiled at me and replied “Yes we are! We are brainwashing you in the blood of the lamb!” Everyone laughed and shook their heads at me in agreeing with Trace. On the podcast for Nov 19 he says that very thing. That he is “brainwashing kids in the blood of Jesus” In the Nov 19 podcast he also describes an event where a child tried to escape at a mall from her mother while visiting her and they had to restrain her and bring her back to SHF. She was told they did it out of love and for Jesus and she agreed. I saw this on the Heal legal page- “Certain official agencies have stated that the “escort services” provided by these programs constitutes kidnapping and those providing this type of service may be prosecuted on felony charges for kidnapping. Contact the FBI to report crimes of kidnapping. “ I went home at one point and I thought I would not have to go back to the farm. However, my father gave me a drug test and I failed it for THC. I refused to go back to the farm. In the morning I woke up to two very large men walking in my room. I noticed my father driving off and leaving the house. I said “Who are you!” and they threw a pair of pants at me and told me to put them on. They said “We are bounty hunters to take you back to Shepherds Hill Farm.” They told me I could come calmly or they could cuff my hands and feet. I figured I better not fight the police so I went with them calmly. I made a post on the Richard Dawkins web forum about medical misinformation that Trace has on his blog. He encourages parents to take children off medication and provides misinformation about certain psychological conditions and has zero tolerance to give advice on medication or to take his students off their medication. He had talked students out of taking all types of medicine including anti-seizure medicine. I witnessed two students have what appeared to be seizures. Shaking on the ground foaming at the mouth, Trace and his staff held the children down and prayed for demons to leave them. The thread I made on the Richard Dawkins forum was picked up by someone named Peter Harrison who made a blog on his website titled “Shepherds Hill Farm - The Great Child Abuse Secret” on Trace replied a few times telling us how great he was and how much smarter he was. It soon turned into me listing allegations of child abuse, this enraged Trace however he ignored the allegations over and over again and simply told me I was suffering THC delusions (that does not exist) or was evil or possessed by demons. He told us we were all evil atheist doing satans work trying to shut down his farm and that we needed Jesus in us. Here I will post the list of some of the abusive things that happened while there. I say abusive because my parents paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for what Trace told them would be a safe, non threatening, therapeutic wilderness program that would help and heal me. SHF instead has left me with psychological wounds that I have suffered from for many years, they did not help me one tiny tiny bit, anything positive that I gained while there was due to me being strong and overcoming the oppresive environment. I have talked to many other students (ones who were told “its your fault for being raped you whore” basically in front of the whole school and other things) and it has taken them years and years of REAL therapy to overcome the wounds they gained while there. My father was tricked into taking out his life insurance policy to pay for my tuition. My father is now dead and my brother, I and my mother received nothing because he gave it all to Trace. My mother is on disability can not work and has only disability for income (very little). I repeatedly told my father, Trace and other staff that I wished to leave and wanted to die. I told them I would rather be in jail that in SHF but I was kept there. Trace has parents sign over parental guardianship to him so he can tell us “everything we do to you is legal. I own you and your parents agree to this.” He would also say “Besides who would believe you, a troubled drug addict teen or me, an owner of a successful program and an ex cop and preacher?” Trace would tell our parents that whenever kids get there they will tell their parents they want to leave and everything will be fine if they let them come home. Trace told them “do not believe this, they are trying to control and manipulate you.” If someone told me “if your kid tells you I abused them don't believe it.” I would probably either punch them in the face or call the police. I never wanted to be there. I repeatedly said I wanted to leave. My mother called Social Services while I was there but no one would go to SHF and investigate. If they did they would only be shown the top of the camp and not where children live and the things they do and undergo every day for usually 2 years. My parents were never shown any of the horrible things, only the good fake part. At the top of the school is Traces house and some other trailers, however a mile down into the forest is the boys camp and half a mile or more is the girls. The Greek Orthodox priest who was friends with my dad that came to see me was never showed the horrible part or what it was like. The entire time I was there I dreamed of some type of organization or group of people that I could contact and that would believe and help me. The only thing I could think of would be an anarchist organization however I knew nothing about them or how to contact one, especially with no electricity or contact with the outside world. I had no idea groups like HEAL, ISAC and Caftey existed. We were continuously told we were minors and belonged to Trace and had 0 rights or civil liberties. I was even forced to go to church. I told them I was against it and did not wish to enter in their Church as it was against my beliefs and religious beliefs. They told me to bad and made me go anyway. This is what I was told any time I brought up the bill of rights or legal matters. I was a slave and prisoner against my will for no crimes, they knew it and knew that I knew it but couldn't do anything. Thank science they exist and are doing what they do! They are great people! Here I will copy paste the list of abusive things I made on Richard Dawkins forum.
  1. 1."Special Meals"- I was placed on something termed by the farm as "special meals" for a month and a half. I was feed a can of beens (a can of some type of vegetable for dinner) and bread a piece of fruit and water everyday for a month and a half. SHF claims this is a healthy vegan diet. It just does not taste good because it is punishment. Vegans eat a much much wider variety of foods in order to get the vitamins and protein their body requires. They usually take some type of vitamin or supplement as well.
  2. Child in river- There was a student at SHF by the name of Bobby who would wet his bed. Without getting outside medical advice from an unbiased professional doctor, or psychiatrist. Instead they assumed the child was just wetting his bed out of disobedience and in order to cause havoc. Their cure? Make the child strip to his underwear in front of all his peers and bathe in the river. It was extremely extremely cold outside. He would then be made to carry his mattress a mile up hill to wash it, with or without help from staff or peers. Also, they made the kid wear a diaper. I do not know if they forced him to or not but I remember seeing him walking around in nothing but a diaper. Students would make fun of him calling him "Gandhi" because he looked like a skeleton(from months of food deprivation and taunting with candy bars for hours), wore a diaper, and carried a walking stick.
  3. Horse allergy- I am allergic to horses. One day a counselor made everyone ride horses. I told the counselor that "I would like to, but I am allergic to horses", the counselor said "No! You just do not want to participate! You will ride the horse or you will receive a swat(paddle)". Being threatened I got on the horse. I broke out in hives, students and the camp nurse said I looked green and I was having difficulty breathing. The counselor apologized but that does not change the fact of what was done and the danger he placed me in.
  4. Paddling- Students were spanked with a paddle. Some had bruises that lasted a week or more. We would be spanked for anything from asking "why?" after being told to do something or saying "no." If we did not hug Trace after he paddled us we would receive another swat. Why would someone want to hug someone that just hit you?
  5. Brainwashing- They would take our books or not allow us to have them if they were deemed in appropriate. This includes mainly religious texts other then the bible or anything christian and nearly any type of secular book. They completely controlled our sensory input. They admitted themselves that they were brainwashing us, “brainwashing you in the lamb of the blood!” yuck and weird!
  6. Contacting our parents- When arriving to the farm we were allowed no contact with out parents for the first few months whatsoever. After this we were allowed to write letter and receive them from only our parents. However they would be censored before coming in or out. They would read them and tell us to take things out or change things if they were deemed inappropriate,
  7. Children building unsafe structures- 13 year old kids with no construction knowledge were made to build unsafe structures to live in. We would cut the trees down ourselves with hand saws and axes all without electricity or running water.
  8. Tuition- Our parents paid a tuition that was higher then the tuition to most universities in the U.S. Yet we were feed food they got from food banks for free or next to nothing. I remember the counselor taking us to the milk plant nearby, where we would be given crates of their day or usually two day old milk for free because it was expired and going to be thrown away. We were then given this milk for food/drink. We had no running water, no electricity, lived in wooden huts we built with our own hands without electricity and with rusty hand saws. Not to mention the special meals, which were even weaker.
  9. "School"- Their "school" is now accredited. In their "science" classes we were indoctrinated with the christian story. We were forced to watch Kent Hovind videos, as if he and all his "theorys" have not already been debunked. We were taught the world was 2000 years old and created by God. That is as absurd to me as teaching in a science class that gravity does not exist, but is actually god holding everyone down with his finger . I also at one point had to explain to my science teacher what plate tectonics were. He had never heard of such a thing, and thought I made it up...until another student said she learned the same thing in a real school.
  10. Absurd accusations- The half way house at the farm was covered in flies during the summer. One day Trace wanted to talk with me one on one outside of the half way house. We sat and talked about Christianity. I of course was extremely dirty , sweaty, and smelly. After all I had been living in the woods and doing hard manual labor all day, with a shower twice a week. Trace on the other hand lived in a house and looked and smelled as if he had just come out the shower. He asked me if according to biblical terms would I rather be called a fool or a wise man? I replied a fool because the bible is rubbish to me. He replied " Ya know Anon, it's very interesting to me that all the flies are landing on you and none on me. Do you know that the devil in the bible is called Beelzebub-the lord of flies!" Later on when Trace had every student in the program and every counselor in a room together he was preaching to us. He went on and suddenly started to describe our private conversation to everyone. He said "Anon willingly would be called a fool instead of a wise-man." He then told everyone about the fly thing. He said that he believes I could be possessed by demons or Beelzebub. This was humiliating to say the least, and hardly humble at all on his part. Later a counselor came to me and told me that he thought the fly thing was absurd and silly. He said the flys were landing on you Anon because you live in the woods, haven't bathed in days and are extremely dirty..unlike Trace. Another child was sent to SHF after being raped at her highschool. Trace asked her if she knew what a whore was. She replied “someone who sleeps around with everyone?” Trace responded “Yes ,, dont you think you fit the bill?” and I believe then punished her.
  11. Queers, homos and fags!- Trace would very often make jokes about gays, and homosexuals and "going to brown town” (saintly words, I know! He sure is the next St. Nektarios!) that I assume would be extremely offense to homosexuals. He taught it was sinful, wrong, evil and unnatural.
  12. Medical misinformation- It seems to me and everyone else Trace has been debunked on his Anhedonia claims, and insists on providing dangerous medical misinformation on his website.
  13. Prayer instead of medical attention- A child once was being disobedient. The child then suddenly collapsed and had what appeared to, my eyes, be a seizure (I do not know for certain, I am no doctor). The staff simply held him down got in a circle and prayed for the demons to leave him. Later the staff told us the student had green (or some color) foam coming from his mouth as he convulsed. The student soon stopped and went back to normal. Prayer cured him, we were told. This sounds similar to the story that has been in the news lately. The one where the child had diabetes and the family got around and prayed for the child instead of calling an ambulance, except in this case the child died and the parents were sentenced to prison.
  14. Parental alienation syndrome- Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), consisting of the manipulation of children by the custodial parent, who incessantly tries to turn them against the other parent by arousing in them feelings of hatred and contempt for the target parent, as explained in the book Marital Conflicts, Divorce, and Children's Development (Conflictos matrimoniales, divorcio y desarrollo de los hijos, edited by Piramide), by professors Jose Canton Duarte, Ma Rosario Cortes Arboleda, and Ma Dolores Justicia Diaz, from the Department of Evolutionary and Educational Psychology of the University of Granada. This was repeatedly done to students. Thank God the students usually took great offense to this. We would be told our parents had failed us or had enabled us to make us even worse. We were told most of our parents needed to be in the program just as much if not more then we did. Trace also acted as if my mother was insane because she placed such a big influence on humility within the Christian religion, was against SHF and wanted me to come home and not bei n the program.

    Parental Alienation Syndrome Suffered By 1 Out Of 4 Children Involved In A Divorce (Medical News Today)
  15. Medical attention- Teens were encouraged to stop taking their medication. Nearly everyone was on medications though. Some were talked into discontinuing their meds. These kids off of their medication sleep/slept around axes and saws and sludgehammers every night. I also witnessed people be taken off of anti seizure medicine and held down and prayed for while having seizures and foaming at the mouth. My parents requested that I be taken to a dermatologist for my acne outbreaks. Months later (much to late) I was then talked out of taking acutane, by the camp “nurse”. My acne got much much worse, without the acutane. When I left the farm years later I had acne and scars all over my face. My mother took me to a dermatologist who told me that I should had taken acutane years before and I wouldn't have any scars. He then prescribed me acutane and I have not had any acne outbreak in years sense.

    I once woke up during the winter and I could not move my neck whatsoever. I told the staff and they took me to the camp “nurse” a quack who lived in a trailer on campus because her daughter went to school there and she wanted to be close to her. The nurse simply told me to put a neck brace on. I put it on and I could not move my neck up, down or to the sides for nearly an entire month. I do not know why this happened but I suspect it could have been something very serious and that I should have been taken to a real doctor.
I give HEAL, ISAC and Caftey permission to use this statement. I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct. Executed on _____November 23______________, 2009. ________________________________ [Anonymous] [Contact me through] [] [] SPECIAL NOTE: STATUTE DOES NOT REQUIRE NOTARY] References: Datasheet about the boarding school at Fornits Home for Wayward Web Fora The original statement on

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A stay at the Hephzibah House (

This story was originally written on a webpage created to provide statements for a GAO hearing in 2007. The address is and it waits for your statement if you believe that your stay at a boarding school included unfair treatment or even abuse. All rights and credits goes to the annonymous contributor, who posted the original story on

When I was 14 years old my parents decided to take me to “Hephzibah House” in Winona Lake, Indiana, where I would stay for 15 months. N

ow, twelve years later, the nightmare and memories that were “Hephzibah House” only bring me pain and hurt as I remember my stay there.

When I was just a little girl of eight years, my brother began sexually abusing me. This abuse continued for about a year, despite my pleas to my parents that this was happening, and me begging my parents to believe me and to help me. I was so sad that my parents never believed me, that even after the abuse stopped, I never felt safe again in my own house.

I grew bitter and angry and hurt as the months and years followed that my own mother and father never even once believed me. This bitterness resulted in constant fights between my family and me and ultimately led to my decision to run away. I only wanted to find peace and safety somewhere.

I was not sexually active, I had not tried drugs or alcohol and was actually very active in the Mormon LDS church at the time – this being my only salvation and my only safe place I knew. My parents decided the LDS church was a cult and didn’t want me to attend it. In the end, the constant tension and my parents’ twisted views led them to the conclusion that “something needed to be done” to “fix me”.

Remember, from the very onset of my victimization of sexual abuse at age eight, they never believed me and only sought to berate me and exile me emotionally from the family. One day, my father and grandfather told me we would be taking a nice little trip just for me, together - to get away. I had no idea that this “trip” would be to Indiana and that I was going to be left at a boarding school for fifteen months. Had I known what I was about to experience, I would have run away to save my own life.

Upon my arrival, the realization that I was going not be going back home with my family left me feeling absolute shock, betrayal, fear of the unknown, and a desperate terror of what was to lay ahead. I was taken to an office in the front of the house with my father, grandfather, and “Pastor Williams”. Pastor Williams started explaining the rules of “Hephzibah House” and he and my father were reviewing some sort of documents that apparently my father had already signed - giving them full custody of me for fifteen months! I was cold. Time stood still and I felt as though I was watching myself from outside my own body, that this was truly unreal in some way, and that it would magically stop. I felt tingling in my hands and feet, and this tingling started to creep further and further up my arms and legs. I thought I was going to literally faint.

When Pastor Williams started talking about corporal punishment, I had had enough. Pastor Williams went on to say that corporal punishment was legal in the state of Indiana. I bolted upright and started running for the door saying under my breath that I was not going to stay at this nut house! When I reached the door I realized it was bolted - all the way up the door - and that I was locked in! I desperately looked around for my Grandfather, I trusted him and I knew he would save me, but he was gone! Only twelve years later did I learn that my trust was well placed that day – my mother recently told me that as I was screaming to be saved, my Grandfather had been forced to the outside of the building that was “Hephzibah House” and was locked out!

Pastor Williams then called all his six sons in the room who circled around me and held me down as Mrs .Williams began beating me with a huge stick they called the “rod of god”. I started screaming – I thought this was the end, that I was going to be beaten to death, and prayed for the end to come quickly. I was then handed over to Pastor Williams himself who also began beating me with this long rod from the top of my body to my knees. The pain was unbearable! Oh God – the pain – and my heart was exploding in a desperate sadness as I watched my own father being ordered by Pastor Williams to take the rod and help beat me with it. My father seemed to almost be afraid of Pastor Williams, and he seemed disoriented, so with tears streaming down his face, he raised the rod in the air and meekly spanked me on my behind 5 or 10 times. Pastor Williams shouted over my desperate screams that my father “had raised a selfish spoiled daughter and that he would go to hell if he did not use the rod of god” - then my father dropped the rod and left the room, sobbing. At this point, numbness set in. I didn’t feel the pain any longer…I couldn’t even scream, my voice was hoarse and my throat in pain…I just waited to die.

The next thing I remembered was that my father was gone and I was taken to a shower where I was stripped of all my personal clothes and given a Hephzibah house uniform. While I was in the shower I realized that my entire body was covered in bruises and I was locked up with no way out. The next few weeks were agony for me as it hurt to sleep or sit. I was filled with hate and anger. For the next fifteen months I refused to yield to Pastor Williams’ fanatical “Baptist” teachings, teachings that in my opinion stripped the spirit of God and Christ himself from the very Bible that the “Pastor” read from.

The next fifteen months would bring a string of abuses to us in ways I could never have imagined, before or since. “Talking lists” - where the communication was to exclude anything from my past life and past friends. These “lists” at the school would have 1-2 girls on them that I would be allowed to talk too as long it was in the presence of a staff member. Nothing was EVER private. Any form of communication to other girls such as eye contact, using hand motions, anything - would result in “demerits”. Too many demerits would lead to a loss of privileges: no food, three minute showers, having to wear your uniform to church which would show the public that you were a “bad girl”, being shadowed by another girl 24/7, to being beaten by the “rod of God”.

Each day we would have to write on a “BM” board if we had “pooped” or not in the toilet, and then were forced to write down on the board what our “poop” was like – was it large, small or medium? Was it diarrhea? Did we only pee? Not only was this a public shame, but our most intimate bodily functions were displayed for all the girls too see. I never did understand the reasoning for this.

Every week we were allowed to write one letter to our parents and our home Pastor on Sunday. These letters were censored and if we did not write what we were told, the letter would be trashed. My parents and pastor were allowed to write to me, but many of mothers letters were “blacked out”. Every three months my parents were allowed to come visit. These visits would be inside of the building and we would have a staff member present to watch what we would say to each other. If anything was said out of context of their “approved” communications, the visits would be cut short and I wouldn’t see my parents for another three months.

The depression from Hephzibah House was overwhelming. Many girls remember a bucket where you would put your dirty period pads, although I do not remember this bucket. This leads me to believe that I may have stopped my period during my time there, which was very common among the girls. Monday through Friday we would attend school which was taught by the PACE curriculum which I really didn’t know anything about. I know it’s a Christian series of books that you have to complete in a sequence to get to the “next level”. Because I love learning and reading I threw myself in these books hoping to make myself forget for just a few minutes how much I hated Hephzibah House and my life.

Wednesday nights, Sunday morning and Sunday nights consisted of church. The church sermons were filled with the terror of hell and burning forever if we did not convert and give our lives over to God. Pastor Williams brought a sense of fear and dread for death. The sermons left you feeling scared of the world and the ways of the world. I remember a church sermon where Pastor Williams spoke of the Rod of God and how important it was that the mothers and fathers need to hide these rods from social services and the police because they didn’t understand the ways of biblical teaching and those of God. Another sermon was given shortly after I got there about Mormonism and how Mormons were going to burn in Hell. Pastor Williams told me they had burned my Book of Mormon. Another day I remember it was “free time”, a time we could sew or do projects or write home, and a new girl had arrived. I heard her screams of terror and of pain and I knew she was being beaten. Tears fell down my face silently as I prayed earnestly for God to be with her. How I hated Pastor Williams!

The remaining months began to go by quickly as I learned how to become a survivor and how to deal with Hephzibah House without receiving demerits and/or having any attention paid to me. I told Pastor Williams I wanted to be baptized in hopes that this could get me home and out of his private hell.

On my 15th month, to the day, I was called upstairs where my parents were there to pick me up. I wasn’t allowed to say good bye to anyone or anything. My things had already been packed and were waiting for me. I don’t remember the drive home all the way back to Virginia. So many things I think I blacked out in my mind. After a few weeks at home, I realized how bad Hephzibah House really was. I recently had a conversation with my mother for the first time in twelve years about Hephzibah House. She broke out crying saying she tried to have them let me go home but because they had signed me over to them that there was nothing they could do. My mother said she tried to contact the Winona Lake Police but that they said Hephzibah House was a good school!

Now, twelve years later the pain and hurt that comes with the memories of Hephzibah House will not go away. I am now a mother, college graduate, a successful realtor and soon a real estate broker! Yet with all my accomplishments and success in life I can not seem to forget Hephzibah House. The nightmares still come…and as I lay alone at night in my bedroom, I still hear the screaming of myself and the other girls in my mind…I still see my father sobbing…I still see Pastor Williams and I am afraid…and I wonder…how can this kind of pure evil exist in our world, and in our own country? I hope this testimony will help another mother not send her daughter to this school or other schools like this. I hope that if there is another girl that went to this school and has these memories that she realizes she is not alone. We are SURVIVORS and I hope that we can band together to help our country see what is going on here and to shut them down once and for all!

Datasheet about the boarding school at Fornits Home for Wayward Web Fora
The original statement on

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Kerry Keenan at Mission Mountain School (

This story was originally written on a webpage created to provide statements for a GAO hearing in 2007. The address is and it waits for your statement if you believe that your stay at a boarding school included unfair treatment or even abuse. All rights and credits goes to the author Kerry Keenan, who posted the original story on

To whom it concern: I was a student at Mission Mountain School in Condon, Montana from June of 1995 until December of 1996.

I was a troubled youth and my parents felt that this was a good place for me. They have since apologized for sending me there and they have told me that they regret their decision.

When I arrived at MMS, I was quickly deemed the problem girl. I was scapegoated by many staff, but primarily by John Mercer, Colleen Mercer, Mike Finn and Deb Finn. The other girls were rewarded with praise when they would find issues about me to bring to those staff members. At group therapy, Mike Finn once pulled me off the ground by my shorts until my shorts and underwear were up my rear end and I was physically pulled into a building.

I was not allowed to read books, go to school, or participate with the rest of the group. Instead, I was forced to dig a countless number of stumps out of the ground for the majority of my six month stay. I also built them a new fence for their driveway, a corral for the horses that the students NEVER rode, and a fence around the horse area. I was fed the same amount of food as the other students and quickly lost enough weight so that I no longer got my period. I was not allowed to attend any classes with the other girls. This "work crew" experience put me one year behind in school when I returned home to California.

At the time I arrived at MMS, I was told by a doctor to use an inhaler when I needed to do so. The staff would not let me use the inhaler. There were several occasions in which I could not breathe and I was told by staff that I was "faking it". The staff members also used the students as their own personal gardeners and handymen. We would go to John Mercer's house, or Mike Finn's house to cut down trees, remove old growth, etc.

Not only was I physically abused at MMS, but there was also a great deal of emotional abuse. I was told that my parents were alcoholics (which they are not) and that I was a bad kid. No matter how hard I would try, the staff would always tell me that I was doing something wrong. I was not allowed contact my parents by phone on a regular basis. I believe that I talked to them 4 times the entire 6 months I stayed there. There were often times that when my parents were allowed to call MMS, I would not be allowed to talk to them. The staff would tell me that I was a sociopath and diagnosed me with multiple disorders, such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Bi Polar Disorder. None of these diagnosis were proven to be accurate or true. The staff were not even qualified to make ANY diagnoses!

I was constantly told that I was a problem, a slut, and hopeless. When I would make any attempt to behave or act the way that they wanted, it was never good enough. They took many opportunities to make an example out of me for the other girls. I was also told that I had an eating disorder. They never went into great detail with their "diagnosis" but it was always something new. I was not ever given one-on-one therapy with a qualified and certified therapist.

The other girls at the school were rewarded when they would tell the staff something that I had "done" or not "done". The staff would give these girls extra privileges and praise them in front of the entire school population. This created a scapegoating atmosphere. It was unhealthy, unhappy, and generally abusive. There were other girls I saw who had been given unreasonable tasks as punishment or "therapy". Some girls were taken "off talk" as I had been taken "off reading". They were not allowed to talk to anyone or they would be punished. One girl had to carry rocks with her constantly. This was an extremely heavy load and she had to bring them on 40 mile bike trips, cross country skiing expeditions and every other place to which she went. It was supposed to represent her burden and issues that were dragging her down, but it caused bruising all over her back.

MMS was the lowest time in my life. I would like to take this opportunity to say that there was one staff member who seemed to have my best interest at heart. I remember that his name was Gary, and he was the only staff member that would not unfairly punish me or use physical force with me.

Now I am a teacher in California. I am married, a college graduate, and a successful member of society. MMS called me a sociopath and kicked me out after 6 months. I thank God every day that I was kicked out of there.

Red Cliff Ascent (which was the next program that I was sent to) saved my life. While I attended that program, MMS had told my family that if I did well, I would be allowed to come back. I was left at Red Cliff Ascent, a survival wilderness boot camp, for 83 days while they made the decision not to take me back. I lived outside from Christmas Eve of 1995 until the end of March of 1996.

At the time, I perceived completing MMS and making them happy to be my only ticket back home. When I was told that I would not return, I was scared and worried about what would come next. Well, I went home because my father could see such a huge difference from the time I left MMS to the time he picked me up at Red Cliff. I was not told I would be sent away until Christmas Eve; that day I was excited about the next day's celebration. Instead, I spent my 14th Christmas with people who I did not know in a different state. I feel that although this may not be classified as emotional abuse, it was just one more punishment that I did not deserve.

I am not saying that I was a well behaved or an easy child, but I do feel that I, and many other girls, were abused and mistreated at MMS. They advertise themselves as a qualified treatment facility. That is just not the case. I would warn any parent thinking of sending their daughter to MMS to think twice.

I still have nightmares involving John Mercer. His "power" in the school was undeniable and he used it every chance that he had. I know that I have many scars from my time at MMS, physically and emotionally. I would like to ask the government to take a closer look at these treatment facilities for troubled kids. These places, especially in Montana, need some regulation to make them safe. There needs to be rules about who is on staff and what actions they are allowed to take. The safety of these kids needs to be evaluated. All staff should be qualified, educated, and trained in the field of psychology. There is not any reason why another girl should be forced to go through the experience that I went through.


Kerry Keenan

Datasheet from the Fornits Home for Wayward Web Fora
The original statement
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...