Eagle Bend mother tells family’s story of extracting son from cult
By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
Although Geneva Paulson had wondered over the years whether she should write a book about her family’s experience pulling her son out of a cult, the time never seemed right.
Until a fall weekend in 2010, that is, when she found herself telling the story to friends.
“The story just tumbled out in great detail,” Geneva said. “I started writing the book the next day on the way home.”
Once she got home, she pulled out the journals she had kept during the week of deprogramming in December 1988. She found the cult awareness materials she had acquired — information which had helped convince Geneva and her husband, Roger, that their son, Randy, had been snared by a cult.
Randy had joined the Navy in 1985. After a matter of months, the Paulsons noticed that Randy’s letters were changing, and his phone calls to them were different.
“I had an odd, funny feeling as moms…. do when something is not right with their child,” Geneva wrote in the book.
Her fears increased after Roger spent a week with Randy in Virginia and saw first-hand his blind loyalty to the church group he belonged to.
After researching cults and speaking with those more knowledgeable, the Paulsons realized they needed to take action to rescue their son.
The cult allowed him to come home for Christmas, so plans were made to conduct the exit counseling the week after Christmas. The Paulsons’ two other sons, daughter and son-in-law would be there too.
Randy was literally kidnapped by his own family and taken to a relative’s remote cabin in Northern Minnesota, where they were joined by two professional exit counselors. They had packed food, clothing, bedding — everything they would all need for that week.
“Nothing happened without God’s intervention,” Geneva said. “We knew our prayers were being answered while we were going through it, but it wasn’t until we put it all together in the book that we could see how it all worked out. There are things we couldn’t possibly have done on our own.”
“I started writing about a boy, his family and a cult and the story became more about God’s guidance,” she said.
In the short months since “Rescuing Randy” became available in October, Geneva has already heard of circumstances where the book has helped someone.
“Her idea when she started the book was to help people,” said Roger.
“I don’t think anyone realizes how traumatic it is for a family to go through something like this,” Geneva said. “We thought our family was close; then something like this happened and it was amazing how the bond grew. We’ve all worked through it now, and can actually talk about it without tears.”
The man who had been hired to do the farm chores during the week of Randy’s deprogramming was visiting with Roger recently. Having read the book, he was surprised to learn the whole story.
“He hadn’t known what was happening at the time,” Roger said. “We couldn’t tell anyone for fear the cult leader would find Randy and take him back.”
Professional exit counselor David Clark, who helped Randy in 1988, has read the book.
“He is in full agreement with what is in the book,” said Geneva. “He travels all around the world doing this.”
“No one wants to admit they were duped,” Randy said. “But if God could be glorified and people could be helped through this book, then I was OK with my personal life being exposed.”
“If people find themselves in any situation where they feel powerless to know what to do, don’t be afraid to ask for help,” said Geneva.
“What we went through — it could happen to any family, any faith, anybody,” said Roger.
“I’m thankful for such a good ending,” Randy said. “Thankful that they had the courage to intervene.”
“Rescuing Randy” can be found at Hidden Treasure in Sauk Centre, An Open Book in Wadena, The Mustard Seed in Alexandria and Staples Bakery in Eagle Bend.