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You have about one chance to say something, if you say anything at all.

Dear Prudence,

I’m a mom to three young children. We have a new babysitter that has been coming a few times a month for about six months now. She is very sweet and has been great with the kids who absolutely love her. She is 18 and about to graduate high school. We usually chat for a bit when she comes. She told me she is not planning to go to college and instead is doing an international youth mission program starting in December. I was curious about it, so I did a quick online search on the program and it is…not good. It’s often described as a cult and there are lots of traumatizing stories from people who went through it.

I’m not worried about my kids; I am usually home when she’s here and know what’s going on. So I feel like it’s probably none of my business, but I’m a worrier and therefore am worried about her. She was homeschooled, is very involved in her evangelical church, and seems somewhat naive. On the other hand, she has a phone and internet, and it wasn’t exactly hard to find information about this program, so she must be aware of the bad stuff(?). Would it be weird to say something to her? She’s so excited about it, I doubt I would change her mind. But it also feels disingenuous to be encouraging.

—Please Don’t Join a Cult

Re: You have about one chance to say something, if you say anything at all.

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    banana468banana468 member
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    "Oh you shared that you're part of  X program.  Have you talked to other people who have been in it?  I've only seen the horror stories posted online and it would be great to hear from those who have positive experiences."  


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    Wacky timing for me, lol!  I discovered a Hulu show last night called "Cult Justice" and watched the first two episodes.  In a nutshell, it's about cult leaders who committed crimes against their members and went to jail.  Lots of horror stories, especially against children.

    "Home-schooled" and "youth mission" (related to religion) are always a red flag for me.  I would feel compelled to say something, but that wasn't directly against the program.  A careful choice of words.  I think it's best to not attack the program directly, because then she may not listen to anything else.

    Encourage her to talk about what she wants to do after the mission.  The pluses of being older that you can think more independently and "choose your own path".  Know the "themes" of the traumatic experiences others have had and give a general warning.  Like, "Don't get too isolated and too swept up in the mission! Make sure to keep in touch with your parents and friends."
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    levioosalevioosa member
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    I would say something. She might be too swept up in the church to take much stock of it. But knowing there are other people who are concerned might be help for her to have an out too. I always knew there was something in me that didn't sit right with all of it, but I'm so glad I had other friends and perspectives around me. I didn't always agree and in my youth there was definitely a savior complex that went with "trying to live right and show them the way," but it took me out of the echo chamber I lived in. I still have those friendships and I value and appreciate the perspective they provided. It was also some reaaaaal cognitive dissonance that happened knowing what great people they were, but apparently they were destined for hell because of a disagreement in one thing? 


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