What an exorcism at 12 taught me about money

If you read about my background, you know that I didn’t exactly have a cookie-cutter childhood.

If I wasn’t posting to this blog anonymously, I would have sensored out the majority of details about how we grew up, because much of it is so bizarre.

Since I am using a fake name, I am more comfortable sharing some of the stranger childhood memories.

So this story from my childhood is a little odd, but I realized now that it truly did shape my perspective on earning and saving money.

The other night, my sister (the one I lived with in high school) was hanging out at my house while my husband cooked dinner.

We were swapping childhood memories, and she brought up that time that one of the top group leaders decided we were both demon possessed.

This story was always amusing to us, because it represented how illogical the cult leaders were. Now, 19 years later, we still find the whole thing hilarious. My sister was laughing so hard, she could barely explain to my husband what an exorcism in the group entailed.  

My sister, the trouble maker:

All throughout my childhood, I absolutely worshipped the ground my sister walked on. She was almost 3 years older than me, and light years ahead of terms of coolness.

Everything daring I did as a child and then teenager, I’m 99% certain I did because I was trying to be like her.

We look nothing alike, I guess because we’re only half-sisters. She’s blond with green eyes, while I have olive skin with dark features.

I’m almost 5’3, and have a tiny, petite frame. She towers over me at over 5’11.

In the cult, I was always much more careful to fly under the radar, while she was always getting punished for breaking the rules.

My sister truly took shit from no one, and stood up for all of us kids growing up.

I remember when I was 8, a guy much older than me tried to assault me, and my sister smashed a large glass bottle over his head.

She was 11!!!

This type of behavior was completely unheard of for a child in our group.

Exorcisms in the Cult:

So when we lived in Thailand, there was this ‘shepherd’ who visited our commune frequently. Basically, this title was given to a person in the cult who has the power to dictate absolutely EVERY aspect of your life.  

This guy managed almost all of the communes in Asia, but he visited our home a lot as it was a central hub for group leadership.

Every man, woman, and child in our home seemed to either worship or fear him.

No one ever disrespected or disobeyed him.

To this day, my mom maintains that she saw him walk through a concrete wall. We still can’t figure out if she’s blatantly lying or if her mind actually deceived her into thinking that this man was capable of defying the laws of science.

Unfortunately, I really think it’s the latter. THAT was the mental power that the group held over her, and over thousands of otherwise intelligent people.

Anyway, in the cult, there were a number of crimes that could warrant an exorcism.

Crimes could range from not appearing to believe in God hard enough, to complaining about what was served for dinner that night.

Exorcisms could be mild (even comical) events or incredibly traumatic experiences.

The severity depended on who was delivering it, how old the kid was receiving it, and what the process entailed.

I had managed to get through most of my childhood without experiencing one, but my sister was a seasoned expert.

How the cult made money:

So when I was 12, my sister and I found ourselves in a room surrounded by adults with extremely grave expressions on their faces.

Our heinous crime was that earlier that day, I had told my sister, with tears streaming down my face, how much it upset me to have go ‘door to door’.

She listened to how much it bothered me, and ended up convincing me to refuse to go. She even said she would stay back, if I did.

Door to door was what the group called soliciting donations from homeowners or businesses. We would pass out cult literature and talk about God, but the conversation was centered around asking for money.

It was nothing more than begging, and using us kids as bait to get money. We’d done this for the group ever since I can remember and I’d always HATED every minute of it.

We did this for hours almost every day, and I can’t even explain how soul crushing it was.

The majority of the time people would slam their doors in anger or yell at us to get jobs.

When people DID actually give us money, I remember always getting the biggest knot in the pit of my stomach. I felt so guilty that we had to lie to people to get them to donate to us.

I always felt that we were a cruel insult to people who truly had no other means but to beg.

The vast majority of adults within our group were perfectly capable of earning their own money.

Instead of learning a trade or furthering their education to build a career, they spent hours every day lying to innocent people and asking them to donate to a completely fake missionary cause.

Worse, they used us kids as part of their money-making scheme.

We were always scraping by, living in poverty in the group. We could barely make ends meet because no one in the group wanted to do real work.

Watch out world, we have the devil in us!

Anyway, my sister told this guy, as my mom watched in horror, that we wouldn’t be asking for donations anymore.

I remember his face absolutely contorting with rage. He slammed a Bible down so hard on the table, I thought I was going to pass out just from the sound.

He decided that we both must be demon possessed, and that an exorcism was needed straight away.


Long story short, we spent 4 days getting exorcised of all of our demons.

This entailed getting quarantined into a room, while the shepherd led the adults in praying over us and prophesying profusely.

My ridiculous mom even rolled on the ground and started convulsing when she felt the presence of Satan most.

After praying, we had to read writings from our cult leader about why working for the ‘System’ was evil. We had to promise to continue to ask for donations for the group.

The 4 days passed by quickly, and all in all, it was extremely mild in the grand scheme of exorcisms. My sister went through some truly traumatic ones, and this was a joke compared to those.

I think the only reason why I wasn’t more upset at the time, was because my sister was with me and she didn’t seem bothered by it at all.

I also think we learned to laugh off wacky events through our childhood as a defense mechanism since we had no control over any of it.

Now, almost 19 years later, we still can’t believe the crazy things we went through. My sister, especially, finds the exorcism story side-splitting hilarious.

How my perspective on money was shaped by an exorcism:

As absurd as this exorcism was, I realized looking back that this was a turning point in shaping my perspective on money in a completely different way from how I was raised to view it in the cult.

This was the point in time when I decided that I desperately wanted to earn my own money.

  1. I never wanted to rely on someone else to support me, directly or indirectly.
  2. Earning money in a meaningful and respectable way turned out to be extremely important to me.
  3. Lying to strangers about my lifestyle just so I could mooch off of their hard-earned income wasn’t acceptable to me, even as a child.
  4. I knew I didn’t want to work forever. I wanted to eventually accumulate enough money so that I could retire one day.

My sister left the group shortly afterwards at 16, and I left 2 years later when I turned 14. I’m grateful to her for pushing me to defy authority when it was unethical and illogical.  I wouldn’t be where I am in my life if I didn’t have her as a badass role model.

When I reach FI in a few years, I guess it’ll be cool to be one of the few who can say with absolute sincerity that an exorcism helped me reach that point ;o)


7 thoughts on “What an exorcism at 12 taught me about money

  1. I think we might have grown up in the same cult! Was it the Children of God (the Family)? My parents left in early 80’s when things got really weird. I’m sorry your kept you in!

  2. Your stories are badass girl! I was blown away reading about your childhood and how you left the cult. I’m sure you guys will pay off your debt in no time. Keep rocking

  3. Hi Ava!

    I grew up in the Family, too. My experience wasn’t as rough as yours, but I know exactly what you’re talking about. My brothers and I laugh about the insanity (and are pretty intense about money), too.

    Interestingly enough, of my 7 siblings, those of us who spent the most time inside have, for the most part, done better for ourselves than the ones who got out at a younger age. I’m working toward financial independence, too.

    Congratulations on all you’ve achieved, and good luck with all your plans.

    I’d love to get involved with helping kids escape oppressive religious organizations, too.

    1. Hi Almond,

      Congrats on working toward financial independence!! That’s truly incredible considering where we came from :o)

      That’s interesting that those in your family that got out at an older age, are actually doing better than the ones that left when younger.

      It was the opposite for us – the ones who stayed in longer had a much rougher transition.

      I think the geographical location of where kids leave the group from also makes an enormous difference.

      I have friends from the group who grew up in the US, who (thankfully) skipped all of the horrific parts that my sisters experienced.

      Some of them had parents that let them attend public school for years before actually leaving, and a couple had part-time jobs. They transitioned much easier than we did. I wish their experience was the norm!

      I’m REALLY glad you’re out of the group. I wish you all the best!!

  4. Hey Ava. I found your blog from Budgets are Sexy. Holy crap this story brings back memories! I grew up in the Family back when it was called the Children of God. It sounds like you had it bad but I might have actually had it worse, probably because I’m a lot older. Some of the stuff I experienced was so traumatic, it still keeps me up at night almost 30 years later. Best of luck with your plans and congrats on getting out.

    1. Hi Windy,

      I’m really sorry to hear about the trauma :o(

      I know what you mean about having it worse in the group because you were older! Some of the stuff my older sisters went through, I have no doubt would have destroyed me completely had I experienced it.

      I’m SO sorry you’re still reliving it all. I hope you have someone you trust that you can talk to about what you went through?

      I wish you all the best!

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