Updated: Jul 2, 2022
Lighthouse International Group Statement: Mel Francis
This is an updated version of the testimony I sent to the Daily Mail in response to the allegations made against Lighthouse. None of it they chose to print.
I’ve been working with Lighthouse International, my mentors Kris Deichler, Gillian Watson and Paul Waugh for 3 years and their support changed my life. I began with workshops and then started 1-to-1 life and business mentoring sessions before becoming a part time associate after 10 months and then a full time associate in March 2021.
Ever since my involvement, and particularly after my associateship investment - which I had considered long and hard and had felt like it was going to be the best decision for me to invest in my growth and development which I have been consistently proven correct about - I received huge opposition and backlash from my family and some ‘friends’. I felt that no one really understood why I was taking my growth so seriously and willing to invest in it in such a dedicated way, despite the fact that I had previously been in therapy for a year and previously in my teens. The mentoring sessions I was receiving at Lighthouse were helping me enormously with a huge number of personal challenges, with anxieties and neuroses healing gradually every day, sometimes spending hours on the phone with me pro bono whilst I was in a bad place.
I had only sought out the advice of a few trusted friends when I was deliberating over investing and those friends were very supportive and encouraging. I wrote a plan, I got organised and I researched. After a month of deliberation, everything confirmed my decision. But others including my family thought I was being scammed and ‘manipulated financially’. I considered this allegation very carefully, I asked questions and was satisfied with my findings. I was benefitting so much in my life from mentoring so personally I knew that this wasn’t the case and thought, at the time, that they were only saying that because they weren’t experiencing the benefits and maybe they’d understand one day. From the beginning though, their behaviour made me feel like I needed to prove to them that this was helping me. Even though I did not answer to them and I had nothing to prove to them.
Eventually, when I didn’t quit, my family and some other friends became extremely derogatory about my decision. Some friends cut me out of their lives, some shouted at me, family members started interrogating me and speaking behind my back, all claiming ‘concern’ and that they were only doing it because they were “worried about me”, saying “I’m only doing this because I love you,” all whilst causing me great emotional and mental distress.
My parents went through an extremely bitter, long and expensive divorce from 2006 to 2012. It had a really devastating impact on me as a 12 year old through into my teens and adulthood. When they moved away to France when I was 15, leaving me to live with an uncle and aunt, I struggled with my mental and emotional health, depression, anxiety and self-destructive and sabotaging behaviour. My relationship with both parents was strained and challenging as a result of their lack of parenting and their damaging and/or selfish behaviour. Sometimes things were better, but we never worked through it as a family as we ought to, there was still so much bitterness and hurt on both sides.
The lowest points in my parents and other members of my family’s behaviour have included being coercively controlling of me and my life decisions, telling me what I should or shouldn’t do, marginalising me and minimising my feelings and manipulating me for their own wants and desires, betraying my trust, or just completely ignoring what I say and not being respectful, stonewalling (being ignored until I would yield) or verbal abuse (being called a “bitch”, “lazy”, “ungrateful” or using profanity as part of emotional coercion e.g. “I hope you feel f***ing guilty…”) I tried many times over the years to engage with them in open dialogue to improve the relationship and to address all these things but the attempts were either unsuccessful, short term or ignored.
From October 2020 when I moved in with my sister until March 2021 when I moved out, I was constantly badgered, questioned and smothered by my family. In March 2021 in particular, around the time when some online trolling of Lighthouse began, their behaviour in person and on the phone (as my parents live abroad) intensified greatly, as I believe they were being fuelled by the false allegations written online, to further criticise my choices in life and work. And I didn’t know why they were doing it - overall, I was stronger, happier, healthier, more thoughtful, more humble, more reflective, working through challenges, etc. Their ‘worries’ every single time always seemed to come down to money, which I wasn’t worried about (and it was my money) and I thought it was simply none of their business. Yet my financial affairs were being spoken about behind my back openly even to the children in the family. It seemed like because they were reading this stuff online, that they felt they had reason to behave like they did, even though it was all based on lies and falsehoods.
I was recovering from surgery at the time for a health condition (I had 5 surgeries in 2021, 9 in the last 5 years. I worked out that in the last 15 months, I spent about 20 weeks recovering from surgeries in total). The online trolling had become in-person trolling as well and it was completely unbearable and caused me a great deal of stress, and pain, both physically and emotionally. I cannot describe the pain I was in and how helpless I felt that those who were supposed to be closest to me were turning on me, calling it ‘care’ and hashing out their drama when I was physically so broken. Other than one family member, I am yet to receive apologies for this disgusting behaviour.
Lighthouse supported me to get out of that damaging environment, helped me to find my own apartment and supported me with bills later in the year when I was unable to work due to my illness. I started to properly heal and Lighthouse continues to support my recovery and my mental health whilst I have fought back with them against the trolls and the continuous harassment of calls, messages, emails and unannounced and unwelcome visits to my apartment by my sister. I tried to write letters to my family to address the fundamental issues in our relationship that had been going on for years, but these were ignored (bar one) and when I responded to their persistent messages asking for answers to the questions I raised in my letters, I was dismissed.
In August 2021, a policeman showed up at my door after an anonymous call was made to my bank by a ‘member of the public’ that they had concerns I was being “financially exploited”. The information provided to the police, the motivation to make a call with that allegation and knowing how I had been harassed by my family, left me to assume that this call was made by my family. It also came a few days after I had messaged a number of them to stay away from the online smear campaign. I have given my family months to give up, move on, get bored, have a change of heart, take a step in the right direction by answering my letters, not to mention the hours I spent in conversations with them explaining to them why I was at Lighthouse, how it was helping me, how I was growing, the difference I know I can make by becoming someone with the character and competence to stand up to adversity.
I learned that being successful to any degree is not about climbing up some corporate ladder or ticking off boxes of what “stuff” you have in your life. It’s about who you are, how you treat people, how you handle problems, the level of truth you can tolerate and how much responsibility you are prepared to shoulder and how you learn from challenges and setbacks. You don’t learn that from a degree, you learn that from life and from people. The opportunity to be a part of Lighthouse and to serve in this community is a conscious and meticulously examined decision to intensify that learning. I am here in the right place for me, for the right reasons and I have a right to that as much as anyone has a right to pursue their passion to help others.
However destructive the trolls and ex-partners have falsely claimed Lighthouse to be, it is a lie and nothing in comparison to the physical and emotional stress I have personally experienced as a result of their malicious and unlawful campaign and the trickle down effect it has had for those like me who have families who behaved in toxic and destructive ways. I feel very passionately for all of those struggling with trolling who do not have the support that I do, I suspect some don’t survive it.
I want my testimony to ring loud and clear to those who have decided in their bias and prejudice that they think they can judge, destroy and defame Lighthouse, Paul Waugh, Kris Deichler, or anyone else here and their families. Truth prevails over tyranny and healing happens when your body, heart and soul finally gets what it needs. To say I have been ‘manipulated’, ‘controlled’, ‘brainwashed’ or ‘instrumentalised’ is a very convenient story because it means that my testimony can be dismissed as some kind of ‘propaganda’. But my testimony matters; I’m telling the truth and I can back it up. I have recorded my journey here meticulously over 3 years and would submit all my evidence in a court of law or submitted for psychiatric evaluation if, for whatever reason, that was necessary. That might be an inconvenient truth to some, but the truth is the truth.
Thankfully, with the help of my faith in God and the support of Lighthouse, I am on the mend and it’s looking very possible I may no longer need surgeries, and Lighthouse have been with me every step of the way through their care and love.