Bettina – From 1993 to 2000
June 7, 2015
To Whom It May Concern,
My name is Bettina, I am 36, have been married to my husband Adam, for 8 years, am a stay at home mother of 3, whom I homeschool, and a stepmother to an 11 year old. I currently am not involved in any part of IBLP’s ministries and haven’t been for over 15 years, however, during a period of my teen years, Bill Gothard was my legal guardian. I wanted to write this letter in response to the accusations made toward Bill Gothard.
Over the last couple of years, I have reconnected with some people that I once knew during my time with the ministry and one of the first questions I am asked is if I am one of the individuals whom anonymously accused Bill Gothard, through another website, of which I am not, but this caused me to look farther into the matter. After much reading and a couple of conversations with friends I had during my time at the ministry, I decided to call Mr. Gothard to discuss the accusations, because though we had spoken several times during the process, he had never mentioned them. During that conversation he asked me if I had ever felt that he had been sexually inappropriate with me, to which I said then and say now, not in any way, and I realized during that call, that I would be doing a great injustice by not sharing my perspective, because as Mr. Gothard said to me on the phone, “Over the years, Bettina, I have probably spent more one on one time with you than any other young woman you would know,” and I feel he is right. I would know now, and would have known then, if he were a sexual predator or even sexually inappropriate.
I am not intending to call anyone a “liar”, we all have our own stories, perceptions and perspectives, and I can only tell what I know and my own perspective. Bill Gothard was my legal guardian, one of 3 people that I was able to turn to for fatherly advice. I gain nothing for writing this and I do not write this out of blind adoration for Bill Gothard. I want to write this because it simply is the right thing to do and as I continue this letter, I would like to give a brief background of myself and what led me to IBLP, share some thoughts of my time with IBLP, hopefully debunk some of the accusations made against Bill Gothard and lastly, shed light at why I think he is often misunderstood and taken out of context.
I was raised in a non-ATI family by my grandmother mainly, though my mother was present, she was a young mother and not extremely attentive and my father abandoned me. At age 13 my grandmother died and my newly married mother did not want the responsibility of being a parent. I was left to fend for myself, as she did not work but also rarely left her bedroom. I took care of myself, prepared and took myself to school and made all of my own meals, with the exception of when I ate lunch at school. As things became worse, she purchased a refrigerator and microwave for her bedroom which she kept stocked with soda and microwaveable foods. However, she left the main refrigerator almost bare. We had little contact, she made no attempt to be concerned for my schooling or if I had appropriate clothes or accessories. I was declining in all areas and essentially going hungry. When I confronted her as to why she was isolated and eating what, at the time, I would have considered a feast while I was also isolated, eating rice with ketchup, she became irate. As this particular situation escalated, she became abusive and after some time, to her shock, I defended myself, to which she immediately called the police, having me arrested for assault.
After the above incident I was taken to a juvenile justice complex and given a court date, at which my mother declared she wanted little to do with me and eventually relinquished her parental rights. Judge James Payne became the judge that oversaw my situation and I believe he felt empathy for me, taking interest in my case and personal welfare. During this same time, though I was completely unaware that Bill Gothard and IBLP had recently purchased a hotel in Indianapolis, and was invited by the city to help trouble youth.
While I was at the juvenile justice complex, I met with a couple who worked at the Indianapolis Training Center, and then later I met with Bill Gothard himself. He explained how he wanted to help me and how he wanted to become my legal guardian. I was one of the first of what would later be called “Leaders in Training,” to arrive at the Indianapolis Training Center, in fact several times, I was told I was the guinea pig for the whole program. During my time at ITC I grew quite close to the couple that ran the facility, but also to Mr. Gothard and though he spent a significant amount of time in Oakbrook, he called me regularly and blocked out time to visit with me when he was in Indianapolis. Sadly, my mother was not happy with my new situation, claiming she would have never relinquished her parental rights had she known that they would be given to a religious organization. She even contacted the newspapers in town with her reaction.
During the ages of 13 to 19, I spent big blocks of time at ITC, spent a year at Headquarters, traveled to Moscow, spent several months in the Northwoods and it was during these times, I spent much time with Mr. Gothard. The times we spent together differed. Sometimes it was ministry related, other times were not. There were times when I was simply sad and he would send others out so we could talk. There were other times when we would be talking or I would be helping him open mail and we both would decide that we wanted pie or frozen yogurt and then make a trip to Baker’s Square or TCBY. There were times at Headquarters when I could not sleep and would see Mr. Gothard’s office lights on. I would make my way over in sweatpants, t-shirt and ponytail only to have him offer me a soda and candy, while we chatted. I have sat next to him on planes, traveled with him in his van, I have fallen asleep on the couch in his office and spent time with him while visiting his mother. I have spent holidays with him in Moscow, the Northwoods, Indianapolis and Headquarters, with minimal staff and usually together until he had to make announcements or give direction to others that were there, and since leaving the ministry, I have gone back to visit him on some Easters and Thanksgivings.
Some of these times we were accompanied by a male assistant when I saw Bill Gothard have fun and enjoy time with. Like the time the 3 of us were traveling in the van and it was decided to watch a VCR tape of bull riding. Other times Mr. Gothard and I spent time alone. We talked about the ministry, my family, his family, the future, the past, one time on a plane while I was watching “It’s a Wonderful Life”, he asked me to explain it to him.
There was never a time, not once, where I felt that Mr. Gothard was being inappropriate in any way toward me. He told me many times that my eyes were beautiful and that they were windows to my soul, but I took that as a very kind compliment and I heard Mr. Gothard also tell a gentlemen that he had kind eyes and how he could gather much insights from them.
I cared about and valued Bill Gothard as the person and still do, not as the man that started and ran the Institute in Basic Life Principles. It seems to me that others valued him because he was the head of a ministry that they or their parents held dear. There were people that would line up at seminars to get his autograph as if he were their city’s quarterback and I think many people put him on a pedestal putting too much weight on his opinions, which was not something he sought out. I think many people don’t understand that he just doesn’t live in this world, he sees right through it and has made this life a preface to the next and in doing so has made himself very vulnerable to being taken out of context or seen inappropriately. I can see how a young woman, away from home, being around a man who her parents probably hold dear and in a certain circle is/was as “famous” as Jay Cutler, could hear or take a comment about her hair or dress or eyes mistakenly. Many of the young men and women he asked to see on a regular basis were those that he saw potential in. I remember him telling me on several occasions about so and so and why he thought they had potential. It wasn’t sexual, it wasn’t about anything other than helping them achieve their best so in return they could help the Lord’s kingdom.
Bill Gothard is many things but sexually inappropriate is not one of them! Beyond the copious amounts of time I spent with him, I valued and trusted fanatically the 3 male assistants that Mr. Gothard had while I was involved in the ministry. I know with certainty that they would not have seen any impropriety and that they were in fact with Mr. Gothard too much to not themselves have stepped forward.
Bill Gothard is fallible, as we all are. Being a Christian or the head of a ministry does not absolve him from the imperfection we all suffer. Being as close as he and I were once and knowing my family situation, it hurt a great deal when I decided to leave Headquarters, that I almost became out of sight, out of mind. I say “almost” because we did keep in touch a few times a year, sometimes visiting on holidays but it was as if he knew I could take care of myself and let me go. Coming back to the idea that he doesn’t see this world, he only sees the implications of this world on the next, relationships just aren’t to him what they are to most. I often think of the example C.S Lewis gives in The Four Loves, about how, while in heaven, we will be so caught up in the perfect love that God has for us, that our dearest loved ones on earth will merely be a face in a crowd, that is how Bill Gothard sees this world and the relationships in it, in my opinion. That is not a view that sits well with this world’s view but it is the view of a man whose goal is to get as many into God’s kingdom as possible.
I know that Mr. Gothard’s legalistic views are often brought up in conjunction with these matters and I have to leave that argument for those that are far wiser than me but I do know that many of the things that he was and is judged for are decisions that weren’t even made by him. For instance the idea of the young women wearing skirts, was in fact, a board decision. It seems to me that many of the individuals that are complaining about their time with the ministry seem to hold bitterness toward their parents and Bill Gothard for something they feel they missed out on in their adolescence or for feeling the pressure of not meeting Mr. Gothard’s expectations, when in fact, many of the “expectations” weren’t coming from him at all.
I completely agree that there was some pressure to fit a certain standard within the ministry but I believe much of the pressure was wrongly put upon the young men and women by senior staff members, who were trying to make Mr. Gothard happy based on a perceived or vocalized preference, not an actual demand. Most individuals would concur that Mr. Gothard prefers the look of women to include long curls and though he had preferences toward men’s looks as well, as the question is about his inappropriate behavior with women, let’s focus there. I believe it was a look he preferred because visiting international leaders told him how much they respected the Headquarter’s girls with longer hair. That became part of the uniform that he wanted his ministry to show to the world, much in the way President Reagan wanted the United States to be the shining city for the world. I believe Mr. Gothard wants the ministry to be that shining beacon to the world and that included the bright eyes, flowing hair, crisp pressed suits and so on. Once during my time at headquarters, to be defiant, I chopped my hair off to ear length and when Mr. Gothard saw it, he only chuckled, asked if everything was alright and I never heard another thing about it.
I was a child in need with no parents to give any reports to and yet I was not exploited or sexually damaged by Mr. Gothard and I firmly believe that if any inappropriateness or impropriety were to take place, I would have been the prime candidate as I had no parents, family or individual outside of the ministry checking on my welfare, and though we haven’t always seen eye to eye on certain things, I can say that he has always wanted the best for me, for those who were entrusted to him, those who chose to serve with IBLP and those he wanted to serve. I don’t begin to know what impact this letter will make but I do hope that when all is done, more light is shed on such a dark issue.
Linda - From 1971 to 1980
Linda attended a Basic Seminar in 1971. What she learned during that week transformed her life and gave her a strong desire to grow in the Lord and serve Him. She worked on the Headquarters staff for 9 years. Her joy in the Lord was very evident to everyone who worked with her. For the past eighteen years Linda has been a busy pastor’s wife. She is able to give wise counsel to troubled youth and their parents.
To Whom it May Concern,
I worked at the Oak Brook Headquarters of the Institute in Basic Life Principles from November of 1971 through May of 1980. During many of those years I worked in the Northwoods for one or two weeks a month. The other times I worked at Oak Brook and also traveled to work on registration teams in various cities where the Basic Seminars were held. I was busy and totally fulfilled as a young woman, but my greatest joy was that I was serving my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through this ministry. I knew He had called me to this work.
Everything that Bill taught me was consistent with what I had learned throughout my life at my evangelical church. Many from my church attended the Basic Seminars and they were thrilled to learn that I had been asked to join the staff.
During my tenure, I had many opportunities to work closely with Bill Gothard. During all these times I can honestly say that Bill never ever touched me in an inappropriate way. We had a Godly and loving brotherly friendship. Bill proved himself to me over and over again. Actually no proving was necessary because we had a quiet understanding that we were both serving the Lord.
Bill Gothard loved all the staff in the same way. None of my staff colleagues ever indicated to me that Bill’s behavior with us as individuals was inappropriate in any way. I am making this statement in response to allegations that I have read on the internet. Since I have first-hand experience, I want the truth to be known.
I also want the truth to be known about what took place in the Northwoods prior to 1980, since I was a part of the staff up there as well as at the Headquarters. I can say definitely that Bill Gothard was not aware of the misconduct that was secretly going on. All of us staff girls were very close to each other because we lived together. Even we did not know what was happening to each other. We were each sworn to secrecy with the promise of marriage. If we who were with each other all the time did not know, how could we expect Bill to know. When he did finally understand what had been happening, he was broken hearted and in deep grief.
Ginger - From 1984 to 1991
When Ginger arrived at the Headquarters she had many hurts and heartaches from previous years. After listening to them, I suggested: Ginger, you have a lot of challenges to overcome. However, in seven years every cell in your body will be replaced. You will be a new person. What if you would dedicate the next seven years to the Lord for single service so that you would also be a new person on the inside.
During those years, Ginger became a very Godly young lady. When she prayed, it seemed like Jesus was right there listening to her. After seven years her parents asked her to take care of an aged grandparent. She did not want to leave but she knew it was right to obey her parents even at the age of 32. While taking care of her grandparent, she met a godly handsome single chaplain who had just returned from overseas duty. They got married and God has given them seven children–one for each year that she served the Lord.
To Whom it May Concern,
My name is Ginger, and I had the opportunity to serve as Correspondence Secretary to Mr. Bill Gothard from 1984 to 1991. I then left to care for a grandparent. At that time I met and married Mark, a Navy chaplain just returned from wartime service.
During my seven years as Mr. Gothard’s secretary, I experienced him as a wise supervisor who expected and taught me to give my professional best. He always treated me with respect and cared for my welfare. His personal behavior was impeccable. Not ever once did I experience any private attitude or action that was contrary to what he publicly taught.
During my time as Mr. Gothard’s secretary, I often took his dictation at his Oak Brook office, in a bus, and in other locations.
There was never a time when Mr. Gothard allowed us to be alone. He always ensured at least one other person be present. Because Mr. Gothard treated me with utmost respect and professionalism, I always felt safe and free to enjoy my work and life. I was there to do a job – to answer as many letters as possible, giving the sender a heartfelt response to the needs that were presented.
Mr. Gothard felt that every letter was important and deserved the best answer possible.
I was also a House Leader to many apprenticeship, college-age students during my time at Headquarters. I am, by nature (and spiritual-giftedness), a sensitive, merciful and compassionate person. I am certain that if Mr. Gothard had mistreated any of “my” girls while I was at Headquarters, I would have soon been aware of the problem. I would not have hesitated to bring it to the attention of the proper authorities, including the parents. I would have left immediately!
My seven years at IBLP Headquarters, working closely with Mr. Gothard and with so many young ladies and young men, were such a joy! I arrived as a youthful 24-year-old needing life training as well as work, and left at age 32 for marriage, family with seven children, and a demanding military life, well equipped for it all by the timeless, life-changing principles of God’s Word that Mr. Gothard taught so well.
As I look back now on my full life—praying for ever more fruitfulness and fulfillment to come!—I feel that so much of my fulfillment is due to my time with Mr. Gothard. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t think back on my days at Headquarters, thanking God for each one.
Actually, I don’t think I would even be alive today if my mother’s hair dresser had not sent me to my first Basic Seminar in Tampa, Florida.
Ginger’s husband is now a professor at a prominent Seminary, and Ginger is having the opportunity of counseling both younger and older women with what she learned during her single years.
Her husband writes: “Ginger and I remain deeply grateful for our personal relationship with you. You have been a great blessing in our lives. We found each other and bonded in lifetime love, much through your tender care.
Our own seven children, and at least thirty others whose parents we influenced, have been brought to God’s way of life through your teachings. What an amazing, awesome thing!”
Joanna - From 1990 to 1992
Joanna – From 1991 to 1993
Joanna came to the Headquarters during the year that we were preparing to send a large team to Russia, and to other nations. She traveled with the group to these nations. Joanna was very diligent and competent in her responsibilities and was well liked by the rest of the staff. Her dedication to the Lord was a quality that caught the attention of a staff fellow who later became her husband. God has given them eight sons and daughters.
Several months ago Joanna explained a physical problem that she had been experiencing for many years. Here is her letter:
Dear Mr. Gothard,
Since 1990 I have had pain at various times in my jaw. Last fall it became intense despite several remedies that the dentist tried. I bought a devise that I could bite on to relieve the pain. After I bought all that I could find in town, the store owner told me that they had been discontinued. I was on my last stash when I called you.
I had been taking Advil every day to get through the homeschooling. I bit on the plastic devise constantly. I stopped using my right hand for typing or the phone because the pain went all the way up to my ear and jaw, and down to my shoulder. I was just thinking that this pain would be forever. I had my husband rub my neck all the time, and I used a heating pad at night for relief.
So when you asked me how I was, and I told you about my condition, you prayed that God would heal me. The next day, I realized that the pain was gone, I even cried out in my house: “Hey, I’m not using my bite thing, and I don’t have pain! My jaw isn’t tight.” So, what happened is that God completely set my jaw in line to where the problem is gone!
So, thank you for praying and for not giving up all these years. I know after being there with you for 2 years right next to your office, sitting by you on planes, at meals, and fixing dinner for you at night, you never did anything that was inappropriate. You loved everyone and wanted to encourage them with smiles and kindness. You never made me feel weird at all. I was 20. You were older than my own dad. I felt like you cared about my life. You helped me so much. I could go on forever and maybe one day I can write more, but I love you and so does my family. We will see you one day soon I hope.
Helen - From 1992 to 2002
When the Chairman of the Moscow Department of Education saw the outstanding qualities in the young people whom we brought to Russia, she exclaimed: “What I see here is what I want all my students to be like, and I will do whatever it takes to make this happen.” She then asked me to select and train Russian students who would help her achieve this goal.
When I met Helen, I immediately saw in her the qualities that we were looking for. So I invited her to come to the Moscow Training Center. During the next ten years, she not only served at the Center, but also earned a degree at the University of Moscow, which qualified her to be the assistant to the director of our college. Helen also served in the international department at the Oak Brook Headquarters, at the Indianapolis Training Center, and on two trips to Taiwan
To Whom it May Concern,
I met Bill Gothard when he and hundreds of ATI students came to Moscow, Russia in the early 1990’s. At that time I was 15 years old. The first time we met, Bill gave me a vision of what my life could be like by loving the Lord Jesus Christ and serving Him. I became a believer in the Lord, and so did my father and other members in my family.
In 1992, I was invited to come to the Headquarters. This was an exciting opportunity for me. For the next ten years I served at the Headquarters and at the Moscow Training Center. During those years Bill Gothard encouraged me, trained me, and showed the greatest respect for me as a young lady.
I want every ATI student to know that I am grateful for your part in helping me receive salvation in Christ. I thank God for each one of you, but it deeply disappoints me that some of you are defining Bill Gothard in the way that you have. I am confident that his motives were and are sincere, and the sacrifice of his life demonstrates the kind of person that I have known during those ten years and beyond.
I am now happily married to a wonderful man. We have three children whom we are raising up to love Jesus and serve Him. I continue to consider Bill Gothard as a close friend and mentor. I will always be grateful for his great influence in my walk with God. Sincerely,
Footnote: Helen actually met Jim when she was sixteen years old. I had asked Jim to join our group to go to Moscow. She was instantly attracted to him but during the next ten years of her single service, she did not see him, then God brought them together, when she was 26 and he was 32, they married the next year.
Lorena - From 2010 to 2014
Ten years ago, I was invited to visit Lorena’s orphanage. When I saw all the orphans I wanted to help every single one of them to learn about the love of the Lord and His way of life. Therefore, I offered to give six months of training to about twenty five of their top orphans. Lorena was one of those whom they chose for this training. Here is her story.
To Whom It May Concern,
My name is Lorena and I am 27 years old. I first met Mr Gothard in February of 2005 when he visited my orphanage in Mexico. I will never forget that day. He met with our directors and offered to train 25 of our outstanding orphans in Character and in the English language. He would cover all the expenses.
There were 400 in my orphanage. The person in charge of choosing the orphans decided to send 25 of the ones who had the worst behavior rather than the best. This decision made me qualified to go.
When I was told that I was chosen, I had a hard time believing it. I immediately said yes! Not just because I wanted to go to the United States, but because I was so hungry and desperate to know God’s love for me.
When we arrived in America we went to the Indianapolis Training Center. There I received the best spiritual training I have ever had. It completely transformed my life. I clearly remember my first appointment with Mr. Gothard. He asked me about my relationship with my parents. I said “My parents don’t love me, that is why they left me at an orphanage.” At that moment I experienced a deep bitterness in my heart against my parents. We talked about it and he showed me how I could forgive them and be reconciled to them.
I thought to myself, “This is the most impossible thing I have ever heard.” During the previous eighteen years they have never visited me in the orphanage. However, as I learned of God’s love for me I became a believer in Christ and also forgave my parents.
Six months later when I returned to Mexico, I had a whole new perspective on life. I had found my identity in my relationship with Jesus Christ. I contacted my mother and we started a reconciliation process as mother and daughter. During my time in Mexico I kept in touch with Mr. Gothard and in February of 2010 I became a member of the Headquarters staff. I had the opportunity and honor to be personally trained by Mr. Gothard and learn more about the ways of God.
During my time at the Headquarters, Mr. Gothard always showed a godly behavior toward me. He was very respectful of me and everyone around me. I would tell him that he was my spiritual father because that is what he is, and for the rest of my life I will always be grateful to him for believing in me and investing in my life.
Today, because of his investment I am traveling to other parts of the world to bring hope to those who need it. I am sharing with them the Biblical principles that changed my life for Jesus Christ which I learned through Bill Gothard,
Sara - From 2009 to 2011
Sara – From 2009 to 2011
When I learned that Sara had been going through deep depression for several weeks, I called her father to see if I could be of help. Sara recalls “we were shocked and amazed, as we felt like this was just like a miracle from heaven.” I learned that Sara had been planning for a wedding and was crushed when it was called off. Her father informed me that her birthday was the next day, so I suggested that he fly her to the Headquarters so that we could help her celebrate it. She ended up staying for about two years. Here is her story.
Dear Mr. Gothard,
I am so very, very grateful and humbled by the fact that God used you in my life to lift me up when I was down and so discouraged. You helped bring me comfort and peace during one of the most difficult times of my life. God used you to demonstrate Christ’s unselfish love in such a way that blew me away! During my time at Headquarters, I was blessed beyond measure.
You gave self-sacrificially and for that I thank you. I grew under your teaching and example. I was given numerous opportunities to serve the Lord in capacities I would have never even dreamed of. Who would have thought that a heart-broken gal from a little city would be able to travel to numerous states and serve at conferences, or be able to disciple many single gals on different Journeys, or even be able to make deep connecting friendships with Godly youth that will hopefully remain for many years to come? And who would have thought that a dream of mine would be fulfilled after some 10+ years – that of going and serving in another country!
All of this happened because of God’s mercy and goodness being shown through you and the ministry of IBLP. When I look back at my time at hq and abroad, it was one of the most special times of my life!
So all in all, Mr Gothard, thank you for remaining strong. Thank you for being who you are in Jesus Christ. Thank you for giving your life to the Lord and His work. Thank you for blessing me.You have impacted my life in such a good and righteous way! I will be eternally grateful! And I certainly hope that God will allow our paths to cross again in the future! Thank you,
During the past year, God brought His choice of a husband into Sara’s life. She explains that this marriage was totally of the Lord. She had a perfect peace from the Lord, and all the parents were in full approval. She now states with great joy: “He is the perfect man for me. God knew exactly what I needed and fulfilled it”
Olivia - From 2009 to 2012
Olivia – From 2009 to 2012
One day, Olivia’s mother called in deep distress. She had been praying for a long time that her daughter would get free from a very evil young man who was abusing her. She asked me if I could help her, so I sent an email to Olivia saying: “If you ever want to get free, give me a call.” On the next Mother’s Day she called and wanted freedom. The next day her mother flew her to the Headquarters. However, there was a strong emotional bonding with this abuser. This would take time and God’s power to break.
To Whom it May Concern
Working at the Headquarters of IBLP with Bill Gothard was one of the most positive and life-changing experiences I have ever had. I have always felt that Bill Gothard has a heart for those that others have discarded as useless, damaged or helpless. Sadly, those were the words that many used to describe me before I had the opportunity to begin the journey of healing and recovery with IBLP.
Before going to hq my life was in a continuous downward spiral. I was suicidal, being abused, and suffering from severe post-traumatic stress. I hated myself. I felt that there was no hope for my future, and I wanted to end my life.
Any glimmer of hope was drowned out by depression, and the constant bombardment of negative thoughts and self rejection that was hammered into my mind by my abuser. I found myself returning to my abuser over and over again as many victims of abuse do, only to have the situation become so intensely worse that I was forced to leave for fear of being murdered. Anyone who has dealt with abuse can understand the struggle that was constantly within me.
When I finally made a decision with all the confidence and self-preservation that I had within me to escape from the abuse, I called Bill Gothard. This was my first step to healing and recovery. At this point in my life, no one except my parents believed in me. Having a Godly father figure accept me and dedicate his time and staff to my recovery was more wonderful than I can explain. If it were not for Bill Gothard and his loving staff, I most likely would not be here today, or simply a shadow of who I am today.
I do know that there are thousands of people, including myself, that would not be experiencing the freedom and happiness I experience every single day, if it were not for Bill Gothard and his dedication to serving God.
I love my life; I am no longer that suicidal, afraid, and destroyed youth I once was. A full recovery from the pain of the past took more years than I care to say, but the first two years were sparked by the determination and love that Bill Gothard and his staff showed toward helping me. When I think back to the time that I spent with IBLP and especially Bill Gothard, I am left with a smile. I still keep in contact with Bill and feel that he will always be a spiritual father figure to me. All that he has done for me will never be forgotten.