A 14-year old Dauphin County girl said she thought she was going to die Wednesday night when two men with apparent guns raided a church meeting. She later found out that it was a learning exercise carried out by the church youth group.
The mother of the young girl did not want to reveal their names. The teenager does not belong to the Glad Tidings Assembly of God church in Lower Swatara Township, but she decided to go to a youth meeting Wednesday night with a friend who told her the meetings were fun.
She said it was fun until two men burst into the room with what appeared to be guns. She said they put pillow cases over some of the people's heads and put them into a van.
“They pulled my chair out from underneath me and then they told me to get on the ground,” the girl said as she broke down in tears. “And I was the first person to go into the van. I had my hands behind my back they said 'just do as I say and you won't be hurt.'”
The teens were taken to the pastor's house, where it appeared he was being assaulted.
Eventually, the girl said the adults in charge told the students that it was a staged event.
Church officials said it was intended to teach students about some of the things people of faith go through in other countries on a daily basis and that it was meant to have shock value.
“There are people in other countries that live under this environment on a regular daily basis,” Pastor John Lanza said. “They're not warned that their persecutors are coming in.”
Church pastors said they never had any indication that the young girl was in such distress.
“They heard me crying,” said the girl, who has visible bruises on her legs, which she said stemmed from the event. “Why not right then and there tell us it was a joke when you see me crying?”
“In fact, I'm pretty sure she was laughing at some point and having fun with the other students,” youth pastor Andrew Jordan said. “I can't confirm that, but that's what I've heard from friends of hers that were there.”
The girl's mother called Lower Swatara Township police, who told her they're investigating. Church officials said they've done this type of exercise before and have never had anyone react like this.