Psalm 147:3

By Martha Layton

Psalm 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. 

I am going to tell you a story, one that is very hard for me to share. I've actually delayed typing my story up until the last minute, which is not at all like me. It brings up every painful memory that I've tried so hard to forget. It's a story where I feel like at each stage of my life, little bits and pieces of my heart were ripped out of me and thrown onto the ground. But do not feel bad for me. This is not only a sad story but a story of hope. One of conquering fears, anxiety, and depression. A story with a very happy ending. 

I grew up following the teachings of a man called William Branham, also known as the Message. Most of the Message groups followed William Branham directly and his words were their absolute. My dad, however, always had a way of taking everything to the next level and that's where my story begins. Picture this: a dark room with a faded light. It's a place that is only found on an old country road of Indiana. I was 4 years old. I can still remember the smell and feelings that I felt that night. My dad thought that he was a prophet. He said that he was one of the 7 Thunders. He got that from The Book of Revelations where it prophecies about 7 Thunders uttering their voices and my dad believed he was one of them. He believed that it was his job to proclaim Joseph Branham, William Branham’s son, as the second coming of Christ. This is one of many shameful parts of my life, but I feel like it must be shared in order to understand my dad’s state of mind. In that dark room was my father, my mother, and my four siblings. He told us that God had a special message for us. He told us that God wanted us to get naked and pray in a circle together. We proceeded to strip off our clothes and then the lights were turned out. I know I was only four, but I felt a sense of embarrassment having to strip off in front of my dad and brother. As we begin to pray my brother decided to touch me sexually for the very first time. I was very confused but didn't say anything in fear of interrupting the prayer and drawing attention to myself. A chunk of my heart was ripped from me that day.

My mom and dad got divorced after that at some point. I went through countless sexual encounters with my brother where I would just close my eyes and pretend I was in a different place picking flowers until he was done performing whatever he wanted to do. My older sister decided to do the same thing to me. Only she involved her friends and would make my younger sister and I perform sexual acts on them. My mother was never home and her boyfriends also decided that it was okay to use my body. Again, parts of my heart were stolen.

When I was around 9 years old, my mother decided that she didn't want me and my baby sister anymore. She kept my older sister and abandoned us to the foster care system. I will not go into detail about the things we suffered through in the foster care system because this story is more about the traumas faced in the Message. My dad finally received custody of us. He decided to take us out of school with a promise to homeschool us, and a bunch of other promises that he never intended to keep. That was the day we traveled very far away from everything we ever knew.  We now went from having a home to living in a van in the middle of nowhere. We moved from state to state, running from police for reasons I didn’t know. We were made to listen to this prophet, William Branham. We were made to wear skirts to our ankles, and we were not allowed to wear makeup, pants, earrings, show our toes, or cut our hair. I was taken out of school in 6th grade and was told I would never need an education because it was of the devil. My dad told me any man I would marry would work and take care of me.

We didn't have any social interactions with anyone else except when we would go to flea markets where my dad would sell things. Even then, it was very limited. We would sneak R. L. Stine books and basically lived in R. L. Stine's world. When my dad would find these books, he burned them and threatened to turn me over to the devil so the devil could “get me and torture me”.  We didn't have proper places to bathe and would often smell like sewer rats. We were also made to get rid of our toys and Barbies. We played with shampoo bottles and pretended they were people. We wandered around from church to church on the back roads of Kentucky. My dad was looking for a wife. The wife he was looking for had to be a 16 or 17-year-old virgin because he said a prophet needed someone who was pure. He went after multiple teenagers. 

I never knew what having a period was because we were not allowed to talk about that or changes that my body was going through. At the age of 13, and for the rest of my days, my dad would call me worthless, fat, ugly, lazy, and stupid. He said if anyone should ever ask to marry me I should say ‘yes’ because no one else would ever want me. Branham told us that women were lower than pigs and my dad took it to the next level of making oinking noises every time I ate. 

Here’s a list of other detrimental things that happened in my life because of the Message:

  • My dad got kicked out of every Message church he ever attended. 
  • My dad would march around my sister's house at 3 a.m. in the morning with a trumpet telling her to get rid of her television which he called a "hellavision". 
  • We were made to live in a caboose train. 
  • Every time we made a friend we were made to move. 
  • My dad would visit the Voice of God Recordings every year and would paint “Joseph is Lord” on the side of his van or motorhome. He even worshiped Joseph on multiple occasions and Joseph did nothing to stop it, but only replied “Thank you, brother”. 
  • My dad printed endless amounts of flyers with our photos on it so that everyone knew we were the family that proclaimed Joseph was God. We were shunned by so many people that were in the Message. 
  • I tried running away and committing suicide multiple times. 

By the time I was 18 years old, I met a man in a Message church named Matt. I only knew him for 3 months before he asked me to marry him. I remembered what my dad said about no one wanting me and I agreed to marry him with a sinking heart. He secretly took me away from my family and my friends to an old country church where I was forced to marry him. I remember feeling so lost and hurt because I didn't love this man, but I believed that no one else would ever want me. My heart again felt like it was being ripped out of my chest and I cried. We had a son and I buried myself into raising him because I could not stand the sight of my husband. Shortly after my first son was born, we had twin boys. That's when the abuse began. He started calling me ugly, fat, and stupid. He began raping me. No matter how much I cried and begged, he wouldn’t stop. I remember reverting back to my childhood where I pretend like I was in a different place until he was finished. 

I finally got brave enough to tell a Message pastor about my abuse. I was told that my body was my husband's and that he could do whatever he wanted. I suffered that way for 2 years before I tried small things to get him to divorce me. I tried cutting my hair, wearing makeup, and wearing pants just so that he would divorce me. He ended up calling my dad and pastors and they would pray the demons off of me. I finally did the only thing left that I could do. I cheated on my husband. I again had the demons prayed off me and they talked about forgiving me, but it finally ended in divorce. 

When I left on my own, I had no education and no work experience. I volunteered until I finally got a job and survived on my own. 2 years later I met a Pentecostal man, got pregnant by him, and had another son. We had the ideal relationship for 2 years. We started listening to Message tapes. I believe the Message pushed him over the edge. I was beaten, thrown out naked into the streets, choked, and almost killed. God protected me and I escaped. 

A few years later I met a wonderful man that was not in the Message. He believed in me and still let me continue to follow the Message even though he didn't agree with any of it. It was the first time that I have ever heard someone tell me I was smart, beautiful, and made to feel like I was worth loving. He showed me love and kindness like I had never felt it before. With each passing day I felt a little piece of my heart becoming restored. He encouraged me to get my GED. When I passed my exams I cried for days because I had always believed that I was stupid. Again, another piece of my heart was restored. Maybe I wasn’t so stupid after all. Unfortunately, I tried pounding the Message into is head for 4 years. We watched a video of John Collins discussing the lies of William Branham. I felt sorry for John because I felt he must not have been the Bride of Christ since he didn’t understand God’s prophet. That video by Collins helped him see that Branham was false and I left him for the Message. 

I found so many discrepancies and lies in the Message. I had never questioned them before because I was threatened that I would get cancer and die. I found a website called “Seek The Truth”. I was terrified and begged for God not to give me cancer for questioning Branham. That same John Collins and others who had gotten out of the Message took time and effort to line up the lies and discrepancies of the Message. Thank you Jesus! I finally was set free of the Message 5 years ago. Since then I have had to learn social skills, how to cook, how to do things for myself outside of the Message, make new friends, trust others, and relearn the entire Bible. 

I enrolled in college, graduated with honors, and earned my Associates of Science in Networking Systems Administration. I couldn’t even enjoy graduating because thoughts of the Message, my dad, and ex-husband telling me it was of the devil. 

I started attending Calvary Chapel here in Arizona where I sat under their teachings for about 2 years and scrutinized everything they would say to make sure it was right and lined up with the Bible. I was so surprised after every service because the sermons were so simple to understand. It also made me mad. Branham always added his own stuff and twisted everything he taught. Imagine the freedom I felt as I could learn God's Word for the first time without things being added to it. I felt like a bird who had just been released out of a cage. I gave my life to Christ in 2015. I got re-baptized. The excitement I had for Christ was overwhelming!

My heart has been slowly restored piece by piece by Christ who is my only Hope! I now have amazing friends, a church family, a stable home, and the best part: my freedom! I urge anyone still weighed down by the heavy burden of the Message to please seek the truth so that you too can have this wonderful gift of freedom in Christ, a true peace that passes all understanding, and your heart restored.