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Andy and Patty Grove are searching the streets of the tiny town of Wells, Texas for their 27-year-old daughter, Catherine. Last year she left home in Arkansas and joined a group called the Church of Wells – she never even told her parents she was leaving.
For months and months producers have been trying every possible way, phone calls, Facebook - to reach the so-called elders of the Church of Wells - three very young men – and to see if they would come on camera to answer some questions regarding the criticisms about their church.
The members of the church are mostly affluent, young and tend to be from devout Christian families, as is true of the leaders.
There is elder Jake garner, recently arrested for preaching on the grounds of a high school, Ryan Ringald, a former fraternity brother at Baylor University in Texas, and elder Sean Morris, 27, the one many consider to be the true leader. There is a lumberyard owned by members of the church right next to a gas station - which is really the only business in the small town.
ABC News producers tried to get Sean and Jake to speak on record – but the boys eventually asked the crew to leave.
Fred Stoughton, whose son Brett is a member, has been trying to reconnect with him for years. There was no communication, and Stoughton describes it almost like a death in the family.
Members of the church and women wearing prairie dresses walk the streets. Nonmembers are eager to share their opinions. How do the locals feel about the Church of Wells? “Can't stand it,” said one local woman.
Neighbors have similar complaints. “You live right next door to a lot of these guys?” asked ABC News’ Dan Harris.
“Yeah,” said Billy Bird. “They're weird.”
“Do you worry about how this all ends up?” Harris asks.
“Yeah, yeah. We worry about what their motivations are,” said Bird. “I mean, what is their ultimate goal?What are they doing here?”
“How do people around here refer to the group?” Harris asks.
“As a cult,” Bird replies.
The church insists they are not a cult – but the families desperate to get in contact with their loved ones, disagree.Society & CultureReligion & Beliefs
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