Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Minnesota Couple Fights to Retain Home/Business after Leaving Church

I spent my teen years living in Southeast Minnesota. It's been 20 years, but I still consider that area of the country to be my "home." That's why I was surprised to learn about a cult-like church called Maranatha which has operated amidst secrecy in Spring Grove, MN, since the early 70s.

Six years ago, two of the founding members left the church. Marantha's leader claimed that the church owned the couple's home and logging business, which has left this couple with nothing. They are currently suing to claim their personal and business property so that they can sell it all and move on.

The testimony description is fascinating. Check this out:
And, just this month in a small Houston County courtroom exposed the lifestyle they once followed so closely.  Testimony of financial and family secrets, along with beatings and punishment, all the Solum’s say at the hands of the man they once considered their spiritual leader.

It all began with such promise for the Solum’s.  In the early ’70s, the young couple who once wanted to be missionaries instead chose to stay in their hometown. With three other couples, they formed Maranatha. They picked a close friend, Tom Tollefsrud, to be their pastor...
 
The families all lived in separate homes but by the rules Tollefsrud set, like to homeschool their children, share bank accounts, and involve him in every decision they made, from what furniture to buy to what to wear...
Karl managed Maranatha’s logging company while Suzanne raised their five boys at home but over the years the Solums say the man they looked to as their leader began to change. “He became less and less in contact with other Christians and we became more isolated as a group,” Suzanne said.

There were no more Sunday services; only meetings that the men could attend. “It’s easy for us to look at that now and see that. At the time you’re not seeing that. We should have,” Suzanne said...

The Solums testified to one night when Tollefsrud brought his wife to their house after they’d been fighting in their own home. “He got up and said pull the couch out and have her sleep behind the couch and the next day she’s going into the garage,” Suzanne recalled. The Solums said they did as they were told.  Tollefsrud’s wife spent a week on their gravel garage floor with only water to drink.  When questioned by the judge, Tollefsrud said it was her idea to spend time in silent retreat.  Tollefsrud admitted to breaking the jaw of one Maranatha member to “teach him a lesson.”
On another occasion when former members say Tollefsrud beat them because he didn’t think they were taking him seriously. 
One of the comments in the linked article indicates that the Solums own their home and business free and clear. However, the claim is that Tollefsrud is "fighting this in court... to send a message to the existing members of the cult that this is what they'll go through" if they ever leave Maranatha.

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