Confrontation between parents, Wells church leads to community meeting

Church of Wells elders: Ryan Ringnald and Jake Gardner
Church of Wells elders: Ryan Ringnald and Jake Gardner
Patty and Andy Grove, Catherine's parents
Patty and Andy Grove, Catherine's parents

WELLS, TX (KTRE) - For the past 9 weeks, an Arkansas family has been camped in Wells, waiting and hoping to catch a glimpse of their 26-year-old daughter. Now, they're holding a meeting to get the community to help them.

Catherine Grove has been missing since July, but it's not what you would think.

"She said 'mom and dad. I'm in Wells, Texas. Don't worry about me. I'm with a group of people that are taking good care of me,'" Patty Grove said.

Nine weeks ago, Grove, 26, left her Arkansas dorm room with nothing more than her apartment keys.

"We just know that our gut feeling is that this is not OK," Patty Grove said. "Like I said strange men that tell young girls, unmarried girls not to speak to their moms and dads is not OK and that's just the bottom line."

Upset and scared, Catherine's parents drove from Arkansas, hoping to find their daughter.

That's when they found out their daughter was living with members of the Church of Wells -- a church some residents call a cult.

"She said 'I see now that I am lost' and we said 'Catherine you're lost?' and it was a long conversation and I said 'Well Catherine when are you going to know you're saved?'" Patty Grove said. "She pointed her finger at Ryan Ringnald and said 'He will tell me when I'm saved.'"

But Ryan Ringnald, an elder for the church, says he nor any human can tell another person that their soul is saved. That's an act of God.

"She wants the Bible to confirm that," Ringnald said. "And the main thing in scripture that God says is that if you are not saved and if you have been lost so Catherine believe she has been lost--she is a slave to sin."

The elders say that everything people are saying about them--that they are a cult, and that Catherine is being held against her will -- is nothing more than lies.

"Well, it's slander. It's from a heart that is not right, that is not charitable. I mean, they are saying we are running an undercover human trafficking--they are saying all manner of lies across the town that have absolutely no ground," Jake Gardner, an elder, said.

Gardner says they have given Catherine's parents every opportunity to see and speak to their daughter.

But they do believe that severing ties with one's past life is the best way to save one's soul.

"When Christ calls a man and if he has his allegiance to his family first of all or to his job first of all or to his earthly possessions and riches first of all that allegiance needs to be cut. It must be severed or that man cannot truly bow the knee in worship and adoration and true service to the Lord Jesus Christ," Gardner said.

When asked about rumors that they are marrying the women in their group off, the elders had to take a moment to go off the record to pray. Gardner said he would answer any questions we had about their church, and their believes, but didn't immediately respond to the question because he needed time to seek council on how to continue.

"Can we just go off the record for the moment? Just put it on pause," Gardner said.

They say Catherine is not in any danger. They say they have given the Groves every opportunity to see their daughter, but the Groves have refused.

"If it were my daughter, I would break through any curse, I would break through any trespassing warning. I would get in there to see her alone. If she's calling me saying I want to meet with you alone, they have an a ulterior motive," Gardner said.

The Groves will be hosting a meeting for Catherine tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church in Wells.

Anyone is invited except members of the Church of Wells.

The Baptist church in Wells will also be present at the meeting.

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