Fayetteville Woman Leaves Church of Wells in TX, Returns to #NWArk

KNWA/KFTA (via KETK) — Catherine Grove, 28, has left the Church of Wells and has reunited with her family in Arkansas. The nursing student disappeared from her home in Fayetteville on July 2, 2013 to join the Church of Wells, which many refer to as a cult.

According to Angelina County Sheriff’s Office Captain Alton Lenderman, Catherine left Lufkin for Fayetteville, Arkansas, with her father Andy around 2:00 a.m. Friday, April 3.

Investigators say Grove left Wells around 9:30 p.m. Thursday when a passerby spotter her walking on U.S. 69. The woman stopped to talk to her and recognized Catherine from past media reports. For years, Catherine’s parents have pleaded with her to leave the Church and return home to Arkansas.

Capt. Lenderman says Catherine herself called 911 to request a ride from deputies.

After arriving at the Sheriff’s Office, Lenderman says Catherine requested to go to a women’s shelter, but did not meet a specific criteria to qualify. Catherine then agreed to call her parents in order to find a safe place.

Lenderman stated his office was not there to get involved with the situation, but to make sure Catherine was safe and doing what she wanted.

“We would do whatever she wanted to do, we would help her in any way,” said lenderman. “I just wanted her to trust me and I wasn’t going to do anything she didn’t want to.”

Catherine’s father Andy happened to be in Denton, Texas, at the time, so he came to see her. The two spoke in private, but she still refused to leave.

At this point, Lenderman said he knew she didn’t want to return to the Church of Wells and stepped in to speak with Catherine on a personal level.

“I told her a father is always a father and a daughter is always a daughter. Nothing changes that,” Lenderman said.

There was still one more problem. Andy had another passenger with him to help make the long drive. Once all parties had agreed for only Catherine and her father to drive back, the two began their journey home to Arkansas.

Sheriff Greg Sanches said Lenderman’s training was pivotal in keeping Catherine from leaving, as she had done in the past.

“He is very versed in how to deal with people. I think that was a very important part of this to give her time and be patient,” said Sanches.

Lenderman said Catherine spoke very little, but did leave with some parting words.

“She said she couldn’t help me, I didn’t know God and that I never would.” Lenderman said. “She was just very disturbed, and I didn’t want to disrespect her beliefs at that moment.”

Andy and Catherine’s mother Patricia have been praying and advocating for their daughter’s return for nearly two years.

It is almost a year to the day when our sister station KETK last spoke to Catherine at the annual Wells Homecoming Parade. According to witnesses and authorities who attended last year’s celebration, members of the Church of Wells, who have been described as a cult by the surrounding communities, began taunting young children who were riding on floats during the parade.

The members reportedly began shouting, “You’re going to hell,” to the kids and that is when a parent of one of the children said they took matters into their own hands. Punches were thrown and the squabble ultimately had to be broken up by law enforcement.

“If you watch any of our preaching videos, you’ll find that it is not our manner to “taunt,” church leader Jacob Gardner tells our sister station KETK.”With hearts full of love and desire for men to be saved, we pour out our hearts with instruction of how they can be saved and turn from their sins to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. We were not merely telling the people,”You’re going to hell!” of you actually only watch the only video produced of last year’s parade, you’ll see that we were actually telling them that Christ (and we) loves them and desires them to be saved!”

Friday morning, Catherine’s mother’s Facebook page has been flooded with congratulatory messages and words of encouragement.

Patricia posted the following after what was surely an emotional evening:

“Dear friends we see your posts, your messages, your prayers, thank you, Our hearts rejoice. At this time our family is taking this time to maintain our privacy as our prayers are answered during this beautiful Easter celebration of our Lord’s death and resurrection on the cross of Calvary.

Psalm 23 “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”

The Church of Wells is an evangelical run by three “elders,” Ryan Ringnald, Jacob Gardner, and Sean Morris.

Regarding Catherine’s departure, Gardner tells KETK they don’t know what was in her heart and why she left.
“We are saddened that she was unwilling to take the help we offered in getting her where she desired to go,” claimed Gardner. “The most important thing to us is, that wherever she is, she would be a true witness of Jesus Christ again, seeing as her family needs the Lord. We are praying for Catherine and desire her to not harden her heart against God any further. As a pastor, I will stand before God one day soon to give an account for how I have pastored her soul, I have diligently sought in all of my dealings with her over these past two years to live in light of that reality… To this God is my witness.”

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