Below is a story by a former Church member of her VM experience during the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake .
The PR of RCS is currently at an all-time low. As Mike Rinder so succinctly stated during a recent interview with Jeffrey Augustine, 2015 is going to be a year of pain for the Church.
With multiple court cases, negative media articles, the imminent release of two major tell-all documentaries and an explosive book by Tony Ortega scheduled for release in May, this year is not starting well for the church. Much discussion has taken place about how the church is going to react. Speculation is that they will try bolster their PR by diverting attention onto “good works” by various ABLE and 4D campaigns.
Which brings us to the VM program. When the VM Handbook was released in the late 70’s, the intention was delivery of basic SCN Technology at a grass-roots level. The idea was to train people from far-flung areas who in turn would return to their communities and train others. Thus the VM tech could be spread far and wide in remote areas not easily reachable by orgs.
Instead, over the years (and particularly when DM cottoned onto the fact that the VM program was yet another vehicle to amass fortunes for the IAS), the original purpose of the VM program was re-positioned as a “Disaster response” activity. Incredibly, even the official VM website states “The Scientology Volunteer Ministers Corps is an embracive program of the Church of Scientology to provide community service, disaster relief and emergency response”.
This story is a prime example of how the VM program has become nothing more than a PR-hype activity with attention on getting good photo-ops that can be used in future events to illicit more money from unsuspecting parishioners. And so the hamster wheel continues…….
On with the story:
My experience as a Volunteer Minister
My name is Teresa Marks, I am Australian but lived in South Africa whilst studying Scientology where I met my husband Daniel. I was not a Scientologist very long, but in those 3 years I attested to the state of Clear, completed most of my basic courses, PTS/SP and student hat. I was pretty dedicated as you can see, and was working hard to achieve OT.
This is my experience alone, I am in no way judging other VM missions and other peoples experience.
I am sure you have all seen the promo for Volunteer Ministers; it goes a little something like this…
A Volunteer Minister, the first to arrive at any disaster and the last to leave, they perform miracles, they are known as the ‘ones that get the job done’. National leaders, police officials, members of parliament welcome VM’s with open arms. No problem is too small, drug problems, marriage problems… we are the largest independent relief force on earth…
Bloody fantastic isn’t it?… Well this is my experience…
I was always pretty impressed with the VM missions that I saw at events, it appeared as though they really were welcomed with open arms by Mayors, Chief of Police and other important members of the community. They were the storm troopers in yellow shirts always ready for action, superheros that are at disasters within minutes, will go where no man has been before and take on any job no matter how big or small.
There was an earthquake on the 22nd of February 2011 in Christchurch New Zealand that killed 185 people. I was quick to put my hand up to go when I heard they were looking for volunteers and was told my flight and other expenses were covered by the IAS, so I flew from Johannesburg to Christchurch. I arrived late one night and by 6.00 am I was up and ready to go for a 14 hour shift. I worked long days but I didn’t care, I truly wanted to do whatever I could to help these people with no agenda.
Apparently a fellow VM from New Zealand knew someone in the main operation centre and managed to get us in there on the condition that we stayed outside on the veranda. We had a few tables set up and hunted all day to get people to come out and have an assist. Some were intrigued, some were trying to be polite and others just looked at us like we were nuts. We did get a little cheeky and tried to sneak our tables back inside but due to some technical difficulties our cloaking device had malfunctioned and we were soon banished back outside.
I think it was my second or third night when I woke in the middle of the night to find an SO member standing at the end of my bed, he just stood there like a statue and I felt like that poor guy Micah from the Paranormal Activity as his possessed girlfriend stood by the bed for hours just staring at him. What was he waiting for, me to grab him and drag him into my bed for a warm embrace? This SO member was such a prick he gave everyone a hard time and treated us like we were pond scum. I was glad when he was shipped off to Japan after their earthquake.
We managed to weasel our way into the base camp where all of the emergency workers from all over the world were camped out. We told them we offered something similar to a massage to get in there but unlike the real massage therapists there who had a line up out the door, we had to hunt once again. We were met mostly with disinterest and at times curiosity and from my own observations, only about 1 in 10 thought it was great, the rest couldn’t wait to get out of there.
I watched as other VM’s preyed on uniform, preferably the highest rank they could find and ask to have a photo with them. I would just cringe as I watched a female VM flirt and ask to wear the Policeman’s hat while putting her arm around him for the photo. All taken of course by the official SO photographer, who was always on hand for those special Kodak moments.
Photo after photo with uniforms, it was not about them being so impressed with what we did and wanting a memento of the occasion, it was purely them being polite. I have an extremely well-functioning bullshit meter thanks to a long policing career and their gratitude was not genuine. The whole episode was just embarrassing. I could read their faces and we were nothing more than an annoyance and embarrassment.
Then one day we were asked to pack up our tables and take a hike as allegedly an experienced VM who was also OT had touched a female police officer inappropriately. So I tracked down this person’s senior who told me as long as we left quietly and don’t return he would not take the matter further.
The main operation centre was pumping with the Mayor, high ranking police and other emergency services from around the world all there to offer support. I was confronted by the Mayor’s wife on one occasion who made it very clear she was not happy we were there and I should not bother trying to recruit her, the local current affair show also warned people of our presence so I would have to say we were not welcomed with open arms!
As if our presence couldn’t get any worse, what do I see coming out of the shadows but an SO member strutting his stuff wearing a hard hat, reflective vest and a nice new back pack. Seriously, you need to wear a hard had in the safe zone like a knob, oh that’s right it’s free!
If you couldn’t find VM’s just go over to the where the equipment was being issued, they almost needed a cart to haul their goods away! “Go over and get whatever you want, it’s all free”, they say. Really, we are that desperate for anything free that we would be willing to take it away from the emergency workers that desperately needed it!
VM’s were walking around with rain coats, vests, back packs, steel capped boots, whatever they could get their greasy little hands on. There was also a sense of entitlement from some of them as if it was just in-flow after all of their out-flow. This did not sit well with me so I made it my mission to get them returned. I asked the person in charge of issuing of equipment how the supply was, “we are getting very low”, he tells me. I ask if it would help if items that were not needed or being used could be returned. “Absolutely”, he said. That was my next mission which made me super popular!
Each day we were required to keep stats of how many assists, people helped, trained etc., which was recorded very generously. I recall giving training to one group of people who thought it was a bit of a joke and after talking among themselves just walked out, only a couple of people remained that were interested in what we were doing.
I also felt the need to contact all local Scientologists to see if they were ok and needed any help. Every call was the same and I was met with defensiveness and silence as if they were waiting for the real reason I was calling. I quickly learnt to start each call with “I am not a staff member, I do not want your money, I do not want to sell you anything and I am not trying to confirm you for an event, I really want to know if you are ok and need any help”.
I have heard Albert DeBeer the ED of Joburg Org call people that did not donate at fundraisers as “useless eaters” or something similar, well that is exactly what we all were in New Zealand. Using up resources and eating food provided for the real workers and the OT who worked his arse off by flowing theta for hours by sitting on the wall outside, so job well done I guess…
Well that is my experience as a VM that started putting those nails in the coffin. I am now free of the church and their control.
Something can be done about it…
Yeah, just leave!
– Teresa Marks