Just the Facts
My father, David Fear, committed suicide in
1984. In 2013, after reading the book The
Cult That Snapped by Karl Kahler and
corresponding with the author, I decided to finally ask my mom about the
details surrounding my dad's death, which had previously been inconsequential
to me. I discovered that his suicide was directly connected to the organization
I was born and raised into, The Way International. The following is a
result of my thorough research, which included conversations with family,
former Way followers and a former reporter for The Traverse City Record Eagle.
In 1984, in Traverse City, Michigan, my
dad earned his living running his own painting business and
found his purpose in life as a faithful follower of The Way International.
My mom, his wife of nine years and also a faithful believer, stayed at
home taking care of me, age two, while my brother, age five, went to
school. In an effort to cut housing costs, in August of ‘84, a man with
the highly respected position of Way Corps, Fred Calfior, moved in with my
family. My parents had plans to go through Way Corps training
the following year, so, as apprentice corps, they would work very closely
with Calfior while he led by example as a trained "man of God."
My father generously allowed Calfior to
live in our home as he prolonged his search for full-time
employment. With plenty of spare time at the
house it didn't take Calfior long to seduce my mom and
engage in an affair with her.
In mid-November of 1984, less than three
months after moving into our home, Calfior spoke disparagingly about my
father to his overseer, the Michigan state coordinator,
Pat Strauhal. It was obvious to Strauhal that he was having an
affair with my mom. Strauhal immediately moved Calfior out of
our house and had my parents drive downstate to meet him in
St. Johns, Michigan, for a meeting. They discussed the
affair and made plans for counseling with a Way couple that had
experience with matters of infidelity. Located in the suburbs of Detroit, about
a four-hour drive from Traverse City, my parents met with the couple two or
three times over the course of about six weeks.
Only days after Califor's departure my
parents did an interview for the religious section of The Traverse City Record
Eagle. It had been set up by Calfior in an effort to drum up
publicity for The Way. My dad, fresh from learning of the affair, did his
best to sell The Way to the reporter, Carol Fouts. He deflected the accusation
that it was a destructive cult and spoke of "love motivated" individuals
living lives "not encased in fear."
Despite being removed from our home due to of
the affair, Calfior attempted to maintain his liaison with my
mom. A couple of weeks after he left he called my mom to tell
her how he still held his position of respect in The Way and was just
reassigned elsewhere. In an effort to reconcile with my dad, my mom told him of
My dad's sister and her young
family were also involved with The Way in Traverse City at that
time. Upon being informed of Calfior's call to my mom, my aunt and uncle
were upset to learn about his maintained Way Corps status. They also felt
like his continued intrusion into my parent's marriage was like kicking my dad
when he was already down. Concerned for my dad's well-being, my
aunt sought help. Much to her regret now, she went to the only
counsel that she trusted at the time-"the man of God" for the state, Pat
Strauhal. She called his office and spoke to an assistant who she feels
blew her off. It was reiterated to her what my dad had already been
told during Way counseling with my mom: he was to "renew his
mind" and "get over it." As far as my aunt knows there was no follow-up with my
On the night of December 22, 1984, about
six weeks after Calfior left, my parents got into a heated
quarrel. My dad pulled out a pistol, got my mom's attention and shot
himself directly in his heart, ending his life. My brother and I (now ages six
and three) slept through the yelling, gunfire, and ambulance.
On December 26th, what would have been my
dad's 30th birthday, Pat Stauhal traveled to Traverse City to perform
the funeral service. Two weeks after the funeral, without a word to
the believers in Traverse City, Strauhal and his family moved to New York to
take a new position in The Way.
Coincidentally, Ms. Fouts, the reporter, had answered
the phone when my dad's obituary was called into the Record Eagle. My dad
had seemed so confident and self-assured during her interview; his
cause of death shocked her. After completing her thorough research,
on April 12th, 1985, The Record Eagle published her article
"The Way: Bible research, fellowship or cult?" which questioned the
doctrine and practices of The Way. On the same page she also had a column,
"Way research challenges my beliefs," with personal reflections on
the impact my father's suicide had on her.
My aunt and uncle, believing the affair was an
isolated incident, took over leadership of Traverse City for The
Way. So when my uncle read
Ms. Fouts' article he contacted The Way's headquarters in New Knoxville,
Ohio. Their public relations department advised him on how to respond to the
bad press. Much to my uncle's embarrassment now, his rebuttal included,
"Yes, there are those that fall short of the goals and standards that we would
like to see, [but] each individual is responsible for what they do in their own
life..." My aunt and uncle moved from Traverse City not long after it was
published and severed their ties with The Way.
My mom carried out the plans she and my dad
had made to enter the Way Corps. Near the end of the summer in 1985,
a year after Fred Calfior moved into our home, my mom took my brother and
me into the 12th Family
Corps program at The Way's Rome City, Indiana, campus.
My mom never pursued professional counseling
or was offered any by The Way International concerning what she witnessed with
my dad's death. She did her best to move on with her life, only talking about
my dad if my brother or I brought him up. As I grew up in The Way I learned
that the past was not important and people who committed suicide were
selfish and possessed by devil spirits, namely, the spirit of
I was told of the Record Eagle articles by my
aunt and uncle in 2013. I found them in the archives of the Traverse City library.
It was there that I encountered the first words of compassion about my dad
and reconsidered what I had been taught about his suicide. Carol
Fouts wrote, "There must have been much pain under his mask of assurance,
pain that hurt enough that he would take his own life."
While I was researching my past I reconnected
with a Way couple that had known my family in Traverse City and were supposed
to move in with us after Fred Calfior left. They had not been informed of the
reasons for Calfior's sudden exit, my dad's unexpected death, or the lack
of notice of Pat Strauhal's departure from the state, all which occurred
within two months' time. As a result, they had concluded that Traverse City was
"the Devil's playground."
When I spoke to Pat Strauhal on the
phone in 2013 he explained his sudden relocation as planned, how far
in advance was not clarified. He commented on "farewell
letters" from the Michigan believers that he stumbled
upon just days before I contacted him. He said he did not
make it to the Traverse City letters or think of my family
Upon connecting with
Carol Fouts, now Carol Rose, she shared with me that "the
experience of The Way, your parents, and your dad's death were life changing
for me and is never far from my memory."
I contacted Fred Calfior
through email earlier this year and, upon realizing who I was, his only
response was, "To say the least, I am surprised to hear from
you. With all my heart, I wish for you and your family the best life in
all ways." He would not reply to any polite inquiries about his time
in Traverse City.
I no longer support The Way International or
consider that my dad was selfish, possessed by devil spirits or insignificant
to me. I am still searching for the full story of his life so that I may better
understand him and, therefore, myself.
Adam Hirschfeld got 4 years jail time and 12 years (concurrent) probation. The dude has a restitution order of $4.6 .....MILLION. (actually it is a little less than that now, he submitted a check today for $251.000)
The judge started out with "I have been to this rodeo before" and went on to say something along the lines of (paraphrased)- "almost all these investment fraud cases start out with the 'guru' seeking money from family friends and church members. People with whom there is a shared faith. Last I looked, the bible says thou shalt not STEAL, thou shalt not LIE. Mr. Hirschfeld, you did BOTH, and even after you knew your investment plan was on the rocks, what did you do? You lied some more, you stole some more. When you had the opportunity to tell your investors that you had lost their money, you sent them false quarterly statements indicating a profit, when in fact you had lost their money and never made any for them in any month of the program. Yours is a tale of years of deceit. You owe these people $.6 million dollars...that is a LOT of money."
The victims' statements spoken to the court were heart wrenching tales of the devastation Hirschfeld put upon his investors. Lost homes, businesses and relationships. People misled by this salesman who misrepresented his license and certifications He could have sold PFAL to the pope is the impression I got. As one said, the spiral of financial devastation they have gone through has impacted people far beyond the 100 or so investors. They almost all had thought of him as a trusted friend. A smart kid who loved God and the Word, and who wanted to help them reach their financial goals.
One said Adam had spoken of how God had blessed him so much and he was living the dream, and he wanted to help others to realize their dreams too. The problem was, he lied to them about his qualifications, and about his successes. He also told them he would not make anything except a percentage of their profits. It turns out according to the prosecutor that he and Tori got a little over $1 million from it, even though no investor made a dime, so there was another of Adam's lies.
The prevailing sense I got was that most thought Hirschfeld did not start out to steal, but his pride or whatever prevented him from facing up to the people whose money he had lost. Being "caught in the headlights" was mentioned a couple of times. Instead of informing his victims that things were not going as planned, (a risk many acknowledged they knew was possible), he told them things were going great and they were making often 8% a month. He coaxed more into the web of deceit, and urged some of the initial ones to invest more, quitting their jobs so they could tap into their 401(k)s. There were some horrid stories told today.
Speaking on behalf of Adam Hirschfeld were I believe his father? (I walked in after the name was given), Phyliss Giles (Tori's mother), two people from his fellowship (including the fellowship coordinator), and a guy named Gustav something who flew in from Wash DC., and of course his wife Victoria. They spoke of how Adam never planned to hurt anyone, how he loved God and the Word, and how he has turned over a new leaf. They pleaded to allow Adam to be on some sort of work release so he could fashion a repayment plan from his new business. They spoke of how sad it would be for his young child to be without her father. They said he was a good man and a caring husband and father.
The judge took all this into account, but seemed to rely on the probation department's report which declared Adam's business plan and its outline as to how he could make restitution was largely speculative and without hard evidence to point to its likely success. They had written that it seemed like Adam's new business plan was much too similar to the old one which bilked a hundred people out of their retirement funds, savings, their kid's college funds and their homes. They were concerned that following it was too likely to yield a whole new crop of victims.
Adam may not serve the full 4 years, with time off for good behavior and with some credits for turning himself in and pleading guilty.
Note: This is one of a series of articles putting together the money trail in the Adam Hirschfeld case.
VRH1 – Received 3.7 Million Dollars.
This company owned Xeric Oil & Gas (The word Xeric refers to a dry well) with field partners/Co-owners
Ron St. John (not licensed) and
Tim Collier (not licensed).
Shawn Ambrose (not licensed), who co-managed CMA Advising with Hirschfeld (not licensed) managed Xeric’s assets.
Other members of the project team were
Gustavson & Associates, LLC
Kendall, Koenig & Osner, LLP
Kevin Johnson from Holland & Hart (Kevin claims to not know anything and said Hirschfeld was not authorized to use his name.)
Investments were actually accepted by A. Hirschfeld and his wife, Victoria, general partners to VRH1 (she was not licensed either.) There were approximately 110 investors
Vision Stone Fund = Received 2.1 Million. This company was owned by Hirschfeld and Carrington Fisk (not licensed). HF Capital Management was the general partner and this company was registered to Phyllis Giles, wife of Rev. Paul Giles and mother-in-law to Hirschfeld. There were approximately 26 investors.
1.3 Million dollars was traced directly back to Hirschfeld's bank account.
200,000 was paid out to others as commission for soliciting investors (these people were not licensed either). They included Dahn Walker and Don Clemmer from Kansas. They also included Thomas and Brian Nelson (Colorado?). Possibly Juliena Mock.
1.8 million was funneled to VRH & FSF for other investments/oil & gas.
1.3 Million was issued in relation to trading foreign currency.
2005-2008, Fund Manager VisionStone Fund, Paragon Petroleum Group Managed $2.5 million pooled equity oil and gas acquisition and development partnership with over 30,000 acres and 42 well bores in Texas, Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado.
He also says he is a member of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners
To follow the current discussions on our forums, click here
Hayes Gahagan contacted me recently. When you Google his name, Greasespot Cafe shows quite highly in the search. He wanted to make a statement about his involvement and how you can find out recent news about him.
For those who visit your site, I would like to make a brief statement and a request:
My involvement with The Way Ministry began in 1974 and ended quite abruptly in 1978, almost within hours after I had the privilege of running and losing a campaign as an Independent Conservative for the U.S. Senate.
No matter what anyone may say for better or worse about The Way Ministry or Hayes Gahagan, the fact is that our gracious Lord and Savior used a PFAL grad to reach out and touch a wretch like me with the Word of Salvation. For this, I shall be eternally grateful.
For any of your visitors who may be interested, please refer them to hayesgahagan.wordpress.com for my testimony and other information about my life and family.
Author’s note: This is a memoir: a work of memory, imagination, and some journalism in that it tells of actual people and places, many recognizable to anyone familiar with The Way InternationalTM or Rollins College. Events in some cases have been combined or contracted to tell this story. Names of people other than Way leaders and the Rollins College professor have been changed.
Are you someone questioning the value of Biblical research done by The Way International (TWI) or groups run by former Way followers? I am. If you are, then what I have to say may interest you.
I visit with Kristen Skedgell and we talk about her life in TWI, her marriage, depression and Victor Paul Wierwille.
Date posted: 2008-06-11
For the 8th anniversary of GS cafe, I have a very special guest. He was the third trunk coordinator of The Way International during the biggest expansion of The Way. He also served as a Corps Coordinator.We talk about the last days in the life of VP Wierwille. And then through the reading of the Passing of the Patriarch onto the events that led to the 37 page letter sent to the Board of Trustees in early 1987.
Date posted: 2008-04-20
Kristen got involved with the Way International in New York in 1970. She was an avid supporter and was one of a number of people featured in an article in Life Magazine, The Groovy Christians of Rye. As the years went on, she got more involved and entered the Way Corps. And got married.
Her book, Losing the Way, deals with her life in the Way. From her spiritual hunger, she was led down a road of Manipulation and Abuse, until her dramatic escape.
This interview deals with the early part of her memoir. She has a blog which you can find at http://losingtheway.blogspot.com/
Date posted: 2008-02-20
Discussion of interview
The Way International has once again brought legal action against another religious organization, forcing them to change their church's name.
According to The Cincinnati Post, The Way, a Baptist church located in Grant County, Kentucky:
But another setback came in August, when attorneys for
The Way International wrote to Howe demanding that the church change
Followers of the international group consider themselves Christians, but hold some beliefs outside orthodox Christianity. According to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, they believe Jesus is God's son, but not God.
This is a podcast done about a month or so ago. We discuss the law of believing
Date posted: 2007-09-28
Many groups teach a form of “believing,” sometimes called the “faith
message,” “word-faith” or “the law of believing.” Of the many
variations of this teaching, one of the most damaging is “the Law of
Believing” taught by The Way International and its late founder Victor
Like Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland and some other teachers,
Wierwille teaches “believing equals receiving.” In other words,
whatever you believe will indeed happen. One of their favorite verses
is Mark 11:23-24:
“Jesus said, ‘Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain,
“Be taken up and cast into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart,
but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for
him.... believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
Wierwille called this “believing equals receiving.” When you truly believe, you will receive what you believe.
Mark 11 highlights an important Biblical principle: faith is an
essential part of the Christian life. As Hebrews 11:6 adds, ”without
faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him
must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly
(from the CFF website www.cffm.org)
TROY - The Rev. John F. Shroyer, 65, of Tipp City,
Ohio, fell asleep Saturday, Aug. 25, 2007, after a
brief illness and is awaiting the return of Christ.
He was born Feb. 1, 1942, in New Bremen, to the late,
Harold Levester Shroyer and Wilhelmine Clara (Topp)
He is survived by his loving wife of 44 years, Mary
Lou (Watkins) Shroyer; his sons and daughters-in-law,
Jeff and Tonia Shroyer and their children, Katie,
Courtney and Kristen of Tipp City, and Randy and Lisa
Shroyer and their children, Matthew, Morgan and Mitchell
of Sidney; brothers and
Jerry and Doris Shroyer of St. Marys and Danny and
Donna Shroyer of New Bremen; and sister and brother-in-law,
Elaine and Troy Watkins of Sidney.
He was a 1960 graduate of New Bremen High School and
furthered his education at Bluffton College and the
Dayton Art Institute. John, along with his wife, Mary
Lou, have given 40 years of faithful service to God's
people. He was the founder and pastor of the Christian
Family Fellowship Ministry of Tipp City. He also ministered
and taught extensively throughout the United States
and many foreign countries.
may call from 3-7 p.m. Tuesday at the Baird Funeral
Home, Troy, with a service following at 7 p.m. at
the funeral home, with the Wayne Clapp officiating.
A Sunday morning fellowship and memorial will be
at 10:30 a.m. September 9th at the Christian Family
Fellowship Ministry, Tipp City.
Contributions may be made to the
Christian Family Fellowship Ministry, 1575 St. Rt.
571, West, Tipp City, OH 45371.
Friends may also express condolences to the family
Thanks and God bless,
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