This is a worrying account of someone who worked for Ken Ham for Answers in Genesis
I make no comment and let Ella speak for herself. I have lifted her facebook article.
I am not impressed but have great respect for Ella. Sadly it does not surprise me
At times Christians are far better at doing the work of the devil than that of Jesus Christ – and it is not limited to Creationists
To those who know me and love me,
An open letter on the harm that I received since 2015 from Answers in Genesis and other entities, having biblically attempted to resolve what happened to me by following both Matthew 18 and any protocols necessary for proper reconciliation.
My purpose in writing this is that SILENCE PROLONGS ABUSE, and I can no longer be silent. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke
Before I continue to say what happened, I will emphasize how I’ve attempted to biblically address Answers in Genesis:
During my time at AiG, I worked as hard as possible so that when the time came for me to speak, I would have proven my diligence and willingness to work in whatever way was needed. I originally believed that Ken Ham DID NOT know the toxic nature of AiG, but during my employment I discovered that the toxic culture of AiG goes all the way to Ken, and there is no intention of changing the burnout and bullying culture that is AiG – Ken is in fact an active part of it. After leaving AiG, I had the opportunity to speak to some board members about the state of AiG, and I did so in an objective manner that identified the necessary changes from a business standpoint, without bringing my individual pain into it. Greater and more knowledgeable people than myself have also made attempts to voice the same concerns at AiG, and suddenly left under mysterious circumstances. Quite some time has passed, and I know for a fact that nothing has changed. Google “answers in genesis workplace reviews” or talk to people still employed there, asking for an honest answer and not just “it’s great”.
Herein begins a summary of my life since 2015.
In 2015 I moved away from Northern Michigan to work at the Christian organization Answers in Genesis. During my nearly 2.25 years of employment, I worked in or with every single existing department, starting in Guest Services as Museum Host and over 9 months becoming competent in all five departments associated with that position, then moving to Point of Sale for 8 months (during which time the Ark was opened), then moving to Human Resources for 11 months.
During my time there I witnessed rank partiality and favoritism, nepotism, inconsistent or non-existent communication, bullying, and spiritual abuse – as in, guilt is used as a motivator because AiG is “doing the Lord’s work, and who are you to stand in the way of that?” When people proactively try to speak up to change the culture and pace for the better, staff meetings emphasizing “submission to authority” ensue or, in some cases, people are pushed/bullied out of the organization.
Lest you say “that’s just businesses everywhere these days”, AiG has set itself up as a pillar of Christianity, and as such, is held to a higher standard. It claims to stand on the authority of God’s Word, yet the leadership fails to treat people with basic Christian values, unless you are part of the echo chamber. If you conform to AiG, then you probably really enjoy your job besides the workload. The leadership lacks accountability and abuses its authority, effectively making said echo chamber.
Ken has built his legacy on the bones of employees he has knowingly driven into the ground. If you were to make an illustration of it, it would look similar to Dan Lietha’s “Garden of Eden on Skeletons” cartoon.
AiG overextends itself in every department, or attempts to do so unless lower management staunchly holds back the higher-ups’ demands, yet AiG is chronically short-staffed, leading to people sacrificing a work-life balance while being paid ministry pay, notoriously much lower than the value of equivalent jobs in other companies. People need either time or money in return for employment, and those who come to AiG knowing they will be on lower pay are usually under such high work expectations that many continue to work while scheduled to be off (e.g. weekends, holidays) or on vacation, instead of focusing on their families or regular lives. The turnover rate is astronomical, which they really can’t afford considering that people who agree with their statement of faith are already a niche group. It’s also an expectation to immediately respond to anything considered “urgent”, often forcing people to prioritize AiG over the needs of the employee, their family, and/or their church. AiG lauds itself as a family-oriented organization, yet that doesn’t seem to apply to those actually employed by AiG, especially those working at the Attractions who are required to work Sundays – which is an issue in itself. If AiG truly trusts God to bring people to salvation, there should be no reason for AiG to be open on Sundays, which would allow the employees to rest and be strengthened by their communities and families, and be active in their churches.
Ken Ham wrote a book “Already Gone” about young people leaving the churches, but the irony is, HE is the reason his employees are already gone from their own churches.
The “work of the Lord” has become greater than the Lord of the work.
My first role, beginning in August 2015, was as a Museum Host which worked in five departments – Guest Services (including Admissions, working the ticketing counter), Petting Zoo, Housekeeping, Retail, and Food Services. I learned each department quickly and was flexible enough to work in any one of them. My capability led to me being asked to serve as Temporary Floor Coordinator over the entire Creation Museum Guest Services on two separate occasions, even though other people had worked there longer and knew more than I. It was while working as a Museum Host that I began to identify the organizational silos, bullying, mismanagement and partiality.
The second department in which I worked, Point of Sale (POS) was created only months before the Ark opened, and it consisted of only three people including myself who, during the 40 Days & 40 Nights extended hours when the Ark first opened, needed to cover a 12 hour day at the Museum and an 18 hour day at the Ark. We were working roughly 65-80 hours a week, on salary. The artists and fabricators, among many others, were required to work those kinds of hours for weeks and months longer than we were, so it was a lot of salary abuse.
The obvious question is, why does anyone stay?
Because you love your team, and you have hope that things will change, and you believe in the mission of AiG, and some opportunities are genuinely really cool. So you tough it out another day, which becomes a week, which becomes months and years. This also means that many ex-employees who have been hurt and/or burned out by AiG remain silent out of respect for what AiG produces, and/or out of fear of appearing to have “sour grapes”. There is also a fear that they will be thrown under the bus, like AiG did to the young man in the Oklahoma University incident.
It’s more important that AiG maintain its facade than value people in a godly manner. Unfortunately, AiG is not interested in changing.
The first seventeen months in Kentucky, I lived with a woman who turned out to be emotionally abusive, and I don’t say that lightly. She was passive aggressive, controlling, manipulative, critical, and unkind, except when it pleased her not to be, like when company came over, or we were at church. She verbally tore me down and also put down and criticized my family, but then would put money in the last entries in my journal (which means she was reading it). There’s a subtle method of abuse called “gaslighting” where a controlling person constantly invalidates the other person, saying “you didn’t say that/do that” “you didn’t understand me” “I didn’t mean it, you took it wrong” sort of things, which creates mind games in order to keep the other person confused and “controlled”. I was constantly walking on eggshells because I didn’t know whether to expect niceness or her to go off on me. She justified her behavior by saying “you have to submit to me because when you’re married you’ll have to submit to a husband this way.” Not only is that scripture taken out of context, but more importantly husbands are commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the Church – Jesus DIED for the Church – and didn’t use His authority to abuse or control or manipulate.
I went through two separate rounds of Biblical counseling in order to step away from the damage that was done by her and another entity I’ll mention in a moment, and I tried to talk to her many times about what she did, but to no avail. This includes a few months ago reaching out to one of my biblical counselors to see if I had to try to reconcile any more, since that woman I had lived with is currently the head of children’s ministry at Grace Fellowship Church in Union, KY. I didn’t receive a conclusive response.
Because of her, and the long hours at work, in 2016 I began sleeping in my SUV at the Ark property, or spending the night in the Creation Museum basement (the now-demolished Last Adam theater), or sleeping at a friend’s house near work. Due to the long hours and lack of finances (salary, no overtime pay) I was unable to look for new housing nor could I have afforded the usual down payment required for an apartment. Also, NKY is known for drug and sex trafficking so I didn’t find it wise to grocery shop in the wee morning hours while exhausted, since I would get off at midnight or later. I couldn’t ask friends for help because they were almost as burnt out as I was, since they too were participating in 40 Days/40 Nights.
Also, being new to the area, I had attended Truth Community Church in Milford, OH, on the word of acquaintances at work. It turned out later that Tcomm (as it’s known) is actually considered a cult because of how it treats people. Not knowing this at the time, I accepted it at face value and began listening to discern whether I would remain there. The pastor’s family invited me into their lives, and the oldest daughter seemed to befriend me. However, when it became clear that I differed theologically (having just stepped away from my hometown and family, I was officially figuring out what I believed and making my faith my own) they began to push me out of the church. I thought the oldest daughter was genuinely my friend, so I took her out for coffee to ask what was wrong. She told me that she believed I was a manipulative, divisive, grace abusing liar. To say I was deeply hurt is putting it mildly. It turned out she was partly motivated by jealousy since she wanted the man I was dating at the time.
I left that church to attend another one, but during 40 Days/40 Nights we had to be at work often before noon, leaving very little time for church on Sundays, and Tcomm was consistently expository so I attempted to go there during those strenuous weeks/months. I gave the benefit of the doubt that the pastor’s daughter was acting out of jealousy and that her behavior was not condoned by her parents, so I asked to speak to them (since the daughter had now publicly shunned me). I met with the pastor’s wife at the Chipotle on Mall Rd, where she proceeded to treat me as an already-condemned criminal, not interested in my side of the story. They had conflated such things as me saying “I hate purple” and then wearing a purple shirtdress, as me lying. Those were the kind of claims against me. The pastor’s wife told me the elders would “come to a decision” about me. After the meeting I wanted to throw up because of the lack of kindness and empathy. This is while living with the abusive woman, being horribly homesick, being quite hungry most of the time from overwork, and working 65-80 hours a week.
My family back in Michigan, whom I’m very close with, was in the middle of an intense season wrapping up building some houses, so it was difficult for me to communicate what was going on. I was incredibly homesick but if I had left during 40 Days/40 Nights and the period of time directly afterward, the already insane workload would’ve increased exponentially on my two coworkers. I wanted to “get through the worst of it” to support them. Unfortunately at AiG, “the worst of it” is often just a small step up from what is considered “normal”, putting constant intense pressure on employees year-round, leaving no margin for emergencies or truly urgent seasons.
I continued to do my best to follow Matthew 18 in regards to Truth Community Church, so I met with the pastor and one of the elders of Tcomm at the end of July ‘16. They told me the elders had found me “untrustworthy”, and when I asked why, they said it was “private elder business” and wouldn’t tell me. If I had indeed committed some sin, it would’ve been their prerogative as Christian leaders to not only scripturally point it out, but also walk with me through it or provide counseling since I had a willing heart to learn and grow. Instead, I was not allowed to attend any events put on by Tcomm, nor step foot on the property. Side note – churches are public places of worship, they don’t actually have a right to treat non-members that way. One of the elders stood up for me and was forced to leave and lie about why they had to go – saying it was for “family reasons”. I warned some of my friends about the true nature of the church, but they believed the lies about me told by leadership, and deserted me.
Two years later, some of those ex-friends realized I was right and apologized to me. A pastor in the Ohio area found out what happened to me, found out that Tcomm has actually treated MULTIPLE people and families in the same manner as they did me, and spoke to one of the Tcomm elders about it – but he blew it off as “private elder business, you don’t understand all the details.” So Tcomm continues in unrepentant sin, abusing their leadership and role as shepherds.
It was during this time of overwork, exhaustion, spiritual and emotional emptiness, and hunger from not having sufficient time to provide for myself, that one night as I sat on the 3rd deck of the Ark completely alone (the shifts went to midnight or later, after all) that I realized that my family was so busy; my coworkers and I stretched so thin we rarely saw each other; I was sleeping in my car or at work because I hated going to the house where I lived; that I realized I could have walked off the top of the Ark and my absence would not have been noticed for days. I didn’t “want it all to end”, I just was so tired and empty in every way that I simply wanted to fade away and be with Jesus. Jesus knew me and loved me, I was wanted by Him even if no one else wanted me, He valued me even if AiG or Tcomm or some of my friends didn’t. I prayed through that and kept moving forward, but that was the deepest moment of my depression, and I was unable to fully continue healing from all of these things until now, here in New Zealand, nearly three years later.
I write that because those who know me, know that I’m a consistently joyful person, so for me to reach that point of depression shows the severity of what was happening.
In December of 2016 I fully realized beyond doubt that the woman I lived with was emotionally abusive, and I prayed for the opportunity to leave. I began packing the day she left to go to Florida for two weeks over Christmas, and on Christmas Eve God provided housing for me. Within a week I moved, and I was completely gone from her house within an hour before she walked through the door from her return flight.
During the next eleven months I learned Human Resources from the ground up while also trying to recover from all of the above, while still facing ex-friends/coworkers who thought I was a liar and treated me as such, and people who were bullying me both at work and outside of work. I began going through biblical counseling at this time because I know that Jesus Christ gives the ability to overcome ALL of these things. It’s a process, but it’s possible. Anyone who sees my life and reads my instagram or Facebook posts can see that I have tried to live victoriously through all of this. At this time I was also ministering to people walking through their own grief by taking them canoeing or teaching them art (metalworking/jewelrymaking), and trying to encourage AiG staff with departmental ice cream sandwich days paid for out of my own pocket.
I was excited for Human Resources because I knew 85-90 percent of 1,000 employees by name, usually knowing their job, department, and some interesting fact about them as well. Because I had been “in the trenches” during the opening of the Ark, people trusted me. I purposely tried to give people time and attention, and listen to them because there’s a massive deficit of that at AiG. I also refused to show partiality – Attractions staff (Creation Museum, Ark Encounter) are the grassroots of AiG, but are often considered lowest priority and have the fewest “perks”, the most difficult hours, and often the most stressful jobs dealing with guests, weather, animals, and/or the ups and downs of food service. If they call in sick, they know their coworkers will have to bear their part of the already heavy load, so people often didn’t call in sick even when they should have. I hoped that by “paying my dues” and accumulating as much knowledge as I could, I could possibly help the employees and take the pressure off those intense situations through eventual organizational changes.
In the spring and fall, before kids are out of school and able to work, there’s a big “crunch time” when the Ark and Museum have a large upswing in guests, and because of already being shortstaffed, office employees are pulled from the back to serve at peak times like the first few hours in the morning and lunchtime when employees need to be relieved to go eat. Because I was competent in the five Museum Host departments (housekeeping, food services, petting zoo, retail, guest services) Ken Ham had specifically told the managers that I was eligible to be pulled from my HR job to work in any of those departments. Because of the overwork during 40 Days/40 Nights, I put specific boundaries in place.
My stipulations were: The department wanting me to work would have to email my manager and myself 24 hours in advance; I would have to see if my schedule accommodated it; and I had the ability to say yes or no. This protected me from trying to put too much in my day or overpromising, and it also allowed me to have the right clothes or preparation etc since each department had different requirements.
What follows is an extremely personal example of the lack of employee value. I share it because if I had been a seasonal employee instead of Human Resources, the incident would most likely have been completely unnoticed:
In September 2017, I was going to help with an indoor air-conditioned workshop at 10 am. I was wearing clothes appropriate for the cold offices, and I was scheduled to be done at noon. When I got to work one of my coworkers told me that Ken had “thrown a fit this morning because not all the food venues were open“ (due to being short-staffed), so I was being sent out to run the lemonade stand at the Museum. (I’d been popular out there previously because I’d been singing and friendly and did a good job – I’d even received a note about it).
Being told to go to the lemonade stand did NOT honor my 24 hour rule which protected me. I was not dressed for outdoors, and I didn’t have the right clothes with me either. That day was one of the hottest it had been all year, and there had been multiple weather alerts because the heat index was so high that the elderly and pets were cautioned to stay indoors. The job required me to stand on asphalt in almost direct sun from 10 am to 2 pm. Not only that, I usually ate double or triple breakfasts before I worked in food services because I was constantly hungry, in part because I hadn’t recovered my health from the stress of 40 Day/40 Nights. I told my coworker all those things, and asked if I ABSOLUTELY had to switch to the lemonade stand. She said she went to ask the Museum Director and he said yes, Ella has to be at the lemonade stand.
I submitted to that. I went out there, in clothes that were too hot, without the proper amount of food that I usually eat, to fill the role just like a seasonal employee would – I didn’t “pull rank”. It was not going to end well. I looked my coworker in the eyes and said all of those things to her.
Standing on asphalt at the lemonade stand in the sun, while serving guests, while also troubleshooting my point of sale station (turns out the heat had fried the receipt printer, if I remember correctly) all took its toll. At 1:30 I radio’d to ask if I could be relieved for lunch, but I could hear the busyness in the background as the cafe staff member asked me if I could wait. I knew they wouldn’t have asked me if they didn’t really need me to, so I waited. I had been constantly drinking water trying to stop overheating, and because I was so hot I was becoming discombobulated, while not knowing that drinking that much water on an empty stomach causes nausea.
I was finally relieved and proceeded to be extremely sick, both hot and cold at once and trying to cool down and warm up from my body going into shock, but I couldn’t throw up because I had nothing to throw up. I tried to get to my office where I could essentially “break down” in peace without bothering anyone, but right at my office door I ran into Ken Ham, Mark Looy, Officer Joe Niemeyer, and some others. They attempted to joke with me but I was crying, so they asked what was wrong. I told them I’d been scheduled for an indoor workshop but had been told to work in the heat out at the lemonade stand, and now I was going to be sick.
So if anyone doubts whether Ken knows the consequences of his arbitrary decisions, he does.
This was the absolute worst case scenario for me, because at that time I had been working with one of my mentors to develop a powerpoint to pitch to administration about handling and preventing the burnout culture I saw everywhere (and was a danger of becoming a casualty myself), and I was hoping to use my experience to make a solid presentation. Having a physical breakdown (no matter how justified) was the LAST thing I wanted to do. However, it showed me that they are fully aware of what’s going on, and they make no efforts to change.
Soon after that, my manager and I met to discuss me transferring to a different department since I was becoming miserable in HR from both the way it allowed treatment of employees and the type of work involved, even though I was giving 150% effort. However, the department I was most qualified for was closed to me because of nepotism, bullying, and illegal discrimination because I’m a woman (later, another woman was also denied an interview for that department simply on the basis of being a woman). It was at this time that the bullying I’d already been receiving escalated, both at work and outside of work.
In November ‘17 we had the staff Christmas Party put on by HR, and since I’m naturally an event organizer, it was the most fun I’d had in months, even though I was showing signs of burnout. I was also worried because I had to choose a department to transfer into by the end of November, but I knew that the best department for me was closed to me, so I didn’t know what I was going to do.
I needn’t have worried. The morning after the Christmas Party, I received news that one of my younger sisters was suddenly diagnosed with thyroid cancer, so I moved home as soon as possible. When I got home, my body crashed from all the stress and trauma finally catching up to me, and I’ve been on and off bedrest for 18 months now, even here in New Zealand. If you’ve seen me cheerfully living my life out and about, it’s been between long days in bed doing nothing, sometimes with blindness migraines completely incapacitating me.
I apologize if my words come across harshly. I’m not angry or bitter, and I’m happy to be out of that situation and finally healing. I’m simply telling the truth, and it’s the unfortunate hard truth. I haven’t wanted to write any of this, and have held off for a long time, yet there are many people like me who walk in silence and undeserved shame, burdened by how they’ve been hurt, and unable to speak about it so that they can truly heal.
SILENCE PROLONGS ABUSE. AiG and Truth Community Church have been approached in the biblical manner by more knowledgeable and wiser people than me about what they’re doing, and haven’t changed. It’s sin, and I’m calling it for what it is.
Thank you to all of you who have loved me with sincere hearts during the last nearly four years, giving time and love and kindness when I needed it most. Thank you for patience and understanding and gentleness, especially to those who’ve helped me verbally process this crud in order to get through it. And given hugs. Your love overwhelms me. The small miracles of joy and love that God has granted during the last four years are a story unto itself, as this excerpt is only ⅓ of all that’s happened.